Thursday, 29 September 2016

IS THE WORLD GETTING SMALLER, OR AM I GETTING BIGGER?



Compare the scene above with the one below.  The above
photo was taken circa 1988, the second one was taken today -
from approximately the same pov as the first pic.  Look at how
congested and narrow the street now seems compared to how it
once was.  My town was built to accommodate Glasgow's 'over-
spill' and had large areas of green within and around the town
to make it open and spacious, unlike the confined housing
schemes of the City which had become overcrowded.

The green areas within were part of the plan, but almost
30 years ago were re-designated as 'under-developed land',
which has resulted in them being crammed with just about any
buildings that'll fit.  The town no longer has that open and spa-
cious feel, and I deplore the change.  Where is it all going to
end?  It doesn't look as if it's going to be any time soon.

Planners don't seem to take account of the fact that, if you
build housing on playing fields, there are fewer play areas for
the larger number of kids that will inhabit the area.  More homes
for families to live in, less space for children to play.  Why can't
those who make these sort of decisions see that overcrowding
a neighbourhood that was originally designed and built with
'breathing space' is a recipe for disaster in the future?

Is the same thing happening where you live?  Have
a vent in our comments section and feel better for it.



IF ONLY EVERYTHING OLD WAS NEW AGAIN...



Just around the corner from my house is a block of flats
that's recently had some renovation work carried out (new roof
slates and rough-casting).  One of the paths that leads to the back
of the flats suffered some broken paving slabs in the process
and half of the path was replaced with nice new slabs.

I was struck by how fresh, clean and smooth they were
in comparison to the old ones, and it reminded me of how new
my town used to look back in the 1960s and '70s.  There are two
colours which I used to associate with my town - grey and green.
Grey (a nice light, bright grey) for the buildings, lampposts and
paths, and green for all the grassy areas and fields that
once existed (but now seem to have been built on).

Looking at the surviving half of the original path, it was
old and worn and discoloured, much as large portions of the
town now seem to be.  (And when I catch sight of my reflection,
as I also now seem to be.)   If only the place could recapture that
'fresh and new' look it once had, as too much of it appears a
little shabby and dilapidated compared to years ago.

Is it any wonder that yesterday can often seem
far more appealing than today or tomorrow?

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

CHILDHOOD CAPERS - CHAPTER TWO: 'A STICKY SITUATION'...



I've lived in many houses over the years, but there's one in
which I stayed for around only 15 months back in 1964 and '65.
Curiously, it doesn't seem, in retrospect, that I lived there for any
less duration than houses I inhabited for longer periods, despite the
fact that I had only one Christmas and two birthdays in the place.
And even then, the second birthday (my 7th) fell on the day we
flitted to another house, so I tend to associate that cheerful
event more with my new abode than the old one.

That information doesn't have much to do with the tale
I'm now about to relate, apart from the fact that it transpired in
my short-term domicile mentioned above.  (Just setting the scene
in my mind.)  As I type, it occurs to me that I may have already
recounted this story, but I'll persevere anyway as, even if I
have, it's bound to be new to some of you.

If I remember correctly, #41 was the 'doubler' I bought on the night...
but I had #42 at the same time.  I maybe even bought them together 

My parents were out one night (not a common event), and
an aunt had been drafted in to look after me and my brother.  In an
act of generosity, she gave us two bob each, and we ran around the
corner to CHAMBERS newsagent and spent it.  If I recall correctly,
I bought another copy of an issue of TV21 which I'd already had and
disposed of (I was fascinated by its pristine newness and indulged
myself), and me and my bruv each bought a tube of BRITFIX 77,
a polystyrene 'cement' for plastic model kits, as it always
paid to be prepared.

(Anyone remember Britfix 77?  It was 'THE' glue of the
'60s it seemed, and I'm not exactly sure when it disappeared.
I think I've still got a later tube tucked away somewhere, but the
77 had been dropped by this time, and the design on the tube
was different.  It was made by HUMBROL.)



Anyway, we returned to the house to survey our spoils.  I
snapped the tip off the end of my glue's nozzle and put in a pin,
the customary method used for resealing the tube to prevent the
glue drying up or leaking.  As this was also what my sibling usually
did ('twas he who showed me), I did the same for his tube, thinking I
was being helpful.  He took exception to my act of consideration and
flew into a temper tantrum, throwing the glue on the carpet and
stamping on it.  The result of this was to expel the contents
of the tube directly onto my aunt's black velvety ankle
boots, newly acquired not too long before.

Understandably, being a mere woman (sexist?  Moi?),
she got all emotional and started crying, squealing about the
ruination of her fancy footwear.  "On, my new boots, my new
boots!" she wailed over and over.  "It was Gordon's fault!" my
brother blurted, somewhat disingenuously.  She eventually calmed
down, but my parents had to reimburse her for the cost of the boots
(a fiver).  However, perhaps because she'd been so emotional at the
time of the incident, she only seemed to remember my brother's
attribution of the 'accident' to me (although I was quick to offer
the correct account of events), and it was his version
which was relayed to my parents.

I recall this page from #41 because I cut out the figure
of Steve.  Handy thing having a spare issue, eh?

Some time later, while visiting my gran (my aunt's mother
 obviously), she referred to 'my' crime of ruining the boots, so
obviously it was believed by other members of the family that I'd
been the perpetrator of that particular infraction, not my brother.
Whether they thought I'd been the one who stamped on the glue, or
were simply holding me accountable because they considered my
act of removing the tip (but resealing the tube, remember) as the
provocation for my brother's outburst, I couldn't say with any
certainty.  Not that it matters much as, either way, I was
blamed for something I hadn't actually done.

Consequently, I always detected a certain amount of antip-
athy towards me from that set of relatives, who never seemed
to quite take to me.  They appeared to think the world of my bruv
'though, but then again, he always was an ingratiating little 'sook'
when it came to currying their favour, whereas I didn't actually
give a fig whether they liked me or not.



Still feel the same way actually - as do they.  25-odd years
later, two other aunts (not the one with the boots) 'phoned my
mother, but didn't immediately hang up at their end when the con-
versation finished.  The answerphone was on in case anybody from
IPC called me about work, as my parents found it hard to make out
English accents on the other end of the 'phone, and often forgot to
pass on messages anyway.  The answering machine continued to
record, and what followed was a vicious, vitriolic, slanderous
diatribe about me between the two aunts, which I still
have on tape to this day.

Remind me to tell you the details on a
 future occasion.  It really is a shocker.


Friday, 16 September 2016

THE 'GOOFY' LETTERS...


Mr. TOM TIERNEY and granddaughter STACEY

In November 1965, my family moved into a new neighbour-
hood - new to us, that is.  I can no longer state with any certainty
whether it was on the first or subsequent evening that my brother
and myself met the other local kids, but I do remember one of them
introducing the group to us.  "Hi, I'm Tony and this is my brother
Kenny," said one of them.  Tony was TONY TIERNEY, and it
should come as no surprise to you to learn that his wee brother
shared the same surname.  (This was the '60s remember,
when siblings tended to have the same parents.)

There were others there too, to whom Tony introduced us
in turn, but I no longer recollect the precise roll call.  Probably
ROBERT FORTUNE and GRAHAM BROWN, along with GUS
MARTIN and KENNY McLEOD maybe, but I do seem to recall
there being around four or five in total.  I ran into Gus in Glasgow
a few weeks back, and Kenny called in today to deliver the pics
you see in this post.  Which brings me to the point.

Daughter GERALDINE and her dad

Kenny's father, TOM (who I always called Mr. Tierney)
was a regular letter writer to the local newspaper (and others).
He wrote under the nom de plume of 'GOOFY' and his missives
offered an often whimsical view of life in general, and also opinions
on issues relating specifically to things happening within the town.
His alter-ego enjoyed a certain amount of celebrity status among
a loyal group of readers, whose daily lives were cheered by ex-
posure to his latest thoughts, theories and fancies.  If he were
alive today, he'd doubtless have a blog of his own.

Tom's wife, ALICE.  (Or Mrs. Tierney to me.)  Blackpool 1977

I mentioned him in a previous post a while back, and
Kenny was much touched by the fact, and, I believe, derived
a certain pleasure from seeing his father's literary contributions
receiving public recognition, even on such a low-key outlet as this
blog.  I asked him to provide a photograph or two of his dad so I
could add one to the other post (which I have), but I thought I'd
do another one specifically on Mr. Tierney, as he was such
a fixture of the neighbourhood for so many years.

I have extremely fond memories of living in that neigh-
bourhood -  for nearly seven of the most formative years of
my life.  Most of the friends I know today, I first met back then,
and it's been a source of some surprise to me over the years to
learn just how many of them thought I still lived there many years
after having moved away, so strongly did they associate me with
the place.  Of course, the fact that I was often back in the area
probably helped cement that idea in their minds.

A slightly blurred screen-grab of Mr. Tierney's 'scooter' in his
back garden, shot from my bedroom window in a video I made
of my old house in 1991 - 19 years after I'd moved

There are quite a few folk who remind me of the area,
but none moreso, I guess, than Mr. Tierney.  No doubt he's
putting about on his little scooter in a finer place than this one,
mentally composing his next letter to The Heavenly Times.
And I'll bet they're enjoyed up there every bit as much as they
were down here.  In fact, he's probably been made editor by
now.  So here's to 'Goofy' - he may be gone, but he'll
definitely never be forgotten.

Mr. Tierney, with KENNY & TONY

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN YESTERYEAR...



Once upon a time, in a faraway country called The
Past, there was a shop named MODATOYS.  I don't think
that was  its sole name during its entire lifespan, as a nagging
voice tells me it was also christened TOYTOWN at one stage
and maybe even something else at another.  However, as I
remember it as Modatoys, that's how I'll refer to it now.
(It also sold books, games, and other things.)

The shop opened in the early '70s (if not earlier) and
was around until the late '80s (if not later), and I still have
several items I bought from the place over the years.  A pair
of mini-binoculars (with compass and mirror), The WIND In
The WILLOWS (a hardback and a paperback), TOAD Of
TOAD HALLMOONFLEETTHREE LITTLE GREY
MEN (and its sequel, Three Little Grey Men GO
DOWN The BRIGHT STREAM).

I also have a TWIKI figure from BUCK ROGERS, a
couple of red paintbrushes, two chess sets & boards (differ-
ent sizes), and perhaps one or two other things.  Oh, and the
paperback book you can see at the top of this post - ALICE'S
ADVENTURES In WONDERLAND.  I bought it on a mag-
nificently hot summer's afternoon in 1973 or '74 (so I'd still
have been a schoolboy), and one glance takes me back
to that time quicker than Dr. WHO's TARDIS.

When I leaf through its pages, the shop still exists, my
demolished schools yet stand in their prime, and the 'new
town' in which I live is exactly as it was back then - smaller,
brighter, cleaner, newer.  Everything is as it was, even if only
for a few fleeting moments, but oh, what welcome moments
they are.  I wish I could show you the interior colour photo-
graphs in the book, but I can't open it wide enough to
scan without damaging, and that would never do.

Readers, do you have a book or item that serves the
purpose of a time machine and takes you right back to an
earlier era from which you're loath to depart?  Why not tell
your fellow Mellows about it in the comments section?  Go
on - it's good to share.  So here's to The Past - some-
times it's the only thing to look forward to!


Monday, 22 August 2016

CHILDHOOD CAPERS - CHAPTER ONE...


Image copyright DC COMICS

It was around 1970/'71, and myself and two pals were leaning
on a railing outside a row of apartments above the neighbourhood
shops.  Passing below were three thuggish, slightly older females who
hung around with the local neds.   They glared up at us.  "Whit ur you
f*ckin' lookin' at?"  they trilled in their delicate, girlish way (sarcasm).
"Dunno - the label's fallen off!" I yelled back.  The gauntlet had been
thrown, and the nedettes responded by mounting the stairs, their
Doc Martins pounding the steps in pursuit of ourselves.

I say 'pursuit' because the moment I opened my gob, the other
two legged it and I followed.  These girls were bigger and older than
us, and as hard as nails.  Having been brought up never to hit a 'girl',
we'd have been at a distinct disadvantage trying to defend ourselves
against the furious assault that was surely forthcoming.  We fled
past the front of the apartments towards the door to the in-
terior stairway which led down to the shops below.

We reached the bottom door with a sigh of relief.  Once we
were through that exit, our safety was secure and an inglorious
fate would be avoided.  Alas, 'twas not to be - the door was locked,
being early evening, and that avenue to freedom was denied us.  We
considered going back up the stairs to the first floor offices above the
shops and below the apartments, and using the corridor leading to
the library to escape.  Too late!  We heard the 'girls' on the steps
and realized discovery was imminent.  What to do?

Then I had a brainwave!  The bottom flight of stairs wasn't
closed off, allowing us to seek shelter under them, so I beckoned
my comrades to conceal themselves as I did likewise.  We bunched
together tightly, as the merest glance under the stairway would've re-
vealed our presence, and tried hard not to make a noise.  The nedettes
pushed and pulled at the locked door, then grunted in frustrated rage.
"They must've got out on the first floor!" one snorted.  We expected
them to return to the upper levels again, but they plonked them-
selves down on the steps above us and each lit up a cigarette.

We moved not a muscle and feared even to breathe, lest we
betray ourselves.  After a seeming eternity (but was actually only
a couple of minutes or so), they ascended the stairs and made their
exit, amidst much muttering and detailed descriptions of what damage
they'd inflict if they saw us.  We stayed rigid for a few moments longer,
but once their voices were no longer audible, we exhaled a collective
sigh of relief.  What a narrow escape and we knew it.  I can't recall
any other moment in my life when I felt more alive, every sense
attuned to my surroundings, and I'm sure my two friends felt
the same.  (I wonder if they even remember it now?)

Even today, I think back to that moment and recall how
I felt at the time;  the excitement, the exhilaration, the fear,
and, of course, the sheer relief and gratitude at having survived
a precarious predicament unscathed.  It was like something from
Investigators or a Mission Impossible tale - a truly thrilling
moment that lives on forever in my mind, and reminds me that, once,
my life was more than the uneventful series of events that it is now.  I
felt like James Bond, even 'though, at that time, I'd not yet seen a
Bond film.  However, I knew that anyone who had a real car like
my Corgi Toys Aston Martin must be a cool guy in the face
of danger - much like myself, in fact (he said, modestly), as
the tale I've just related surely testifies.

Okay, so, technically, we ran away from three girls - but
that's only because we didn't want to hurt them.  (Well, that's
my story and I'm darn well sticking to it.  Wanna argue?)


Ever been in a similar situation?  Then let's hear all about it
in the comments section, o fellow mellows.  Spill the beans!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

PART TEN OF SCHOOLTIME SCANDALS - THE LABRADOR 'SAUSAGE' DOG...



Mr. CURRY was the janitor of the second primary
school I attended.  He lived in the end house of the fourth row
down from mine, straight across from the school, and his house
came with the job.  Imagine my surprise when, a year or two after
we'd flitted to a new house and neighbourhood, I noticed that Mr.
Curry had become janitor of the primary school just around the
corner from us.  His house (that again came with the job)
stood in splendid isolation in the school grounds.

Before flitting, I'd been a secondary school pupil for
nearly two years, but Mr. Curry was still a regular sight on
account of him passing my house to or from the pub on the far
side of the shops across the street.  It was therefore a tad strange
when, after we'd flitted, he again became a regular sight to me in
my perambulations around my new neighbourhood, either when
I passed the school on my way to the town centre, or saw him
walking home from his local public house.  He liked a drink,
did Mr. Curry.  Died quite a few years ago now.

Let's now jump back to when I was yet living in my
former neighbourhood and was still a primary school pupil,
sometime around 1968, give or take a year either way.  While
gazing out of the window of the annexe huts across from the main
building one afternoon, I saw Mr. Curry taking a kick at a golden lab-
rador which appeared to be seeking shelter in the doorway.  His
kick may have connected, but I couldn't say with certainty after
all this time.  I was shocked to see an adult behave in such a
heartless manner towards one of man's best friends, and
felt sorry for the poor animal.

The very doorway.  The school was demolished
nearly two years ago.  Photo taken circa 1984

Later that evening, coming back from a pal's house, I
saw that the dog was again sheltering in the school doorway.
Had it been abandoned?  Was it lost?  Or had it tracked down
its young master to the school and was now faithfully waiting for
him to emerge from the building, not realizing that he'd gone home
hours before?  I told my father about the dog, and, along with my
brother, we went down to the school and brought the dog home
with us.  It was a friendly animal, and hungrily scoffed the
cold link sausages we fed it from the fridge.

My father, who worked for the police, arranged for
them to collect the poor dog and house it in their kennels
'til collected by its lawful owners.  He later informed us that the
canine had been claimed, but even at the young age I then was, I
wondered if he was telling us what had actually happened or what
he knew we wanted to hear.  Many years later, I saw inside the
station kennels for strays, and they were the dirtiest, smelliest,
vilest quarters imaginable.  To think that, if the dog wasn't
reunited with its owners, it had spent its last days in
such conditions is awful to contemplate.

I never much liked Mr. Curry after that, 'though, truth to
tell, I hadn't much liked him before, but he fell even further in
my estimation from then on.  Strange thing is, whenever I see
a golden labrador now, I can't help but think of that poor beast
from so long ago, and still find myself hoping that it was a
happy ending all round for the dog and its owners.

Sometimes there are some things we're better
not knowing, don't you think?  Just in case.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

"WHEN GIANTS WALKED THE EARTH!" PART NINE OF SCHOOLTIME SCANDALS...


A bit of photoshop at work here, I believe

don't remember her name, but I do remember what
she looked like.  She taught English (I think) in a room of one
of the annexed huts at the back of my secondary school's main
building.  I don't recall how the topic came up (talking about DAVID
and GOLIATH perhaps), but I suddenly tuned in to what she was
saying when I heard her say that giants had never existed. 

I knew that wasn't necessarily true.  Didn't my ENCYCLO-
PAEDIA BRITANNICA Anthology say otherwise?  You can
bet your last ROLO it did!  Here's part of what it said:

Remains of Giants

January 11.  1613, some masons digging near the ruins of
a castle in Dauphine, France, in a field which (by tradition) had
long been called the giant's field, at the depth of 18 feet discovered a
brick-tomb 30 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 8 feet high;  on which was a
grey stone, with the words Theutobochus cut thereon.  When the tomb
was opened, they found a human skeleton entire, 25 feet and a half long,
10 feet wide across the shoulders, and five feet deep from the breast-
bone to the back.  His teeth were about the size each of an
ox's foot, and his shin bone measured four feet.

It goes on to list other examples, but the one above will
suffice for the purpose of this post.  I couldn't remember the
exact details when I put my hand up to point out her 'error', but
I knew I had the book back home which revealed the rashness of
her claim.  I told her (in the politest of terms, naturally) that (if the
EB accounts were true) she was wrong, but she pooh-poohed my
earnest assertion with the assured, contemptuous manner of the
intellectually superior towards the gullible and superstitious,
and heaped scorn and derision on my head.

The very book I took to school in 1971 or '72

"There's no such thing as giants!  Only the most unedu-
cated of people would ever believe they once existed," she
mocked, dismissing me with a wave.  Next day, I brought in
the very book and showed it to her in front of the class.  As she
read, she paled, then blushed, looking distinctly uncomfortable.
She might be able to look down her nose at me, but the
Encyclopaedia Britannica was a different matter.

She spoke, but her voice was hoarse.  She cleared her
throat, then stuttered and stammered her reply.  "Er, there's
no such thing as giants, but there were tall men.  I never said
that there weren't tall men.  This was obviously just tall man -
a very tall man," she said lamely.  The class sniggered at her
desperate and unconvincing efforts to extricate herself from
an embarrassing situation of her own making.

"Well, 25 and a half feet seems pretty gigantic to
me - but regardless of their exact height, that's what
they called 'very tall men' back then - 'giants'," I said.  "And
what about the other examples?" I continued, triumphant in my
vindication.  "Tall men, just very tall men," she blustered, trying to
cling on to her credibility.  Too late!  It had vanished like a thief in
the night, and yet another teacher had learned the folly of under-
estimating me.  Neds they could deal with, but  I represented an
altogether different kind of challenge - one that they routinely
found themselves ill-equipped to tackle.  (Yeah, you can
feel the ego there, can't you?)

She always tried to avoid my gaze after that.  We both
knew who had come off second-best in our little encounter
and doubtless she didn't want to be reminded of it should
our eyes meet across the classroom.  Teachers, eh?

Famous 'giant' Robert Wadlow

The full extract.  Click to enlarge

******

(What she should have said, of course, was that she
was talking about fairy-tale giants who lived in castles in
the sky, or that the excerpts in the book reflected the know-
ledge and opinions of earlier times, which had since been
supplanted by subsequent discoveries and enlightenment.
However, she wasn't quick-thinking enough for that.)

Monday, 11 April 2016

'TOMORROW' SEEMS EVER CLOSER, 'YESTERDAY' SO VERY FAR AWAY...


The world-famous Nardini's

I took a little trip into the past not long ago and visited Largs
and Millport for the first time since 1971.  It was an experience
that I'm not quite sure how I feel about, nor am I sure whether my un-
certainty is something I can adequately express.  The reason being that
there was enough that was still recognizable to recapture glimpses of my
past, but there had also been a few changes which somewhat prevented
me from being able to fully immerse myself in yesteryear.  If I'd continued
in a state of unawareness of present conditions, the place as it had been
would have remained alive to me forever in the evergreen land of
memory, but now, alas, I'm all too aware that things are no
longer as they once were, which saddens me.

The new pier, buily around five years ago

A new pier, the old war-mine and toy boating pond long-gone,
the paddle-boat pond now used for remote-control model ships, the
amusement arcade on the beach-front converted to other pursuits, the
pier at Millport no longer visited by the ferry (thereby requiring a bus trip
to and from the ferry's 'new' drop-off and pick-up point) - all this and more
took a bit of the shine off my return to the holiday haunts of myself and my
family back in the dim and distant days of 1968, '69 & '71.  I know that my
parents and brother returned at intervals, even if only on day-trips, but
those were experiences in which I never shared, and therefore
my memories are time-locked into a specific period which
remained inviolate - until recently, that is.

A stroll along the seafront

One thing that did please me was finding that the toy shop
in Millport from which I had bought my STEVE ZODIAC and
ZOONY The LAZOON friction-drive JETMOBILE in 1968, was still
in business.  MAPES, it's called, and 'though it had closed for the day
by the time I arrived, I could see from a glance through the windows that
it seemed to be the same inside as it was in my day.  New stock obviously,
but apparently the same general design and layout as on my visit 48 years
previously.  The bus driver informed me that the gentleman who ran the
shop back then (Mr, Mapes, I think it's safe to say) was his next-door
neighbour and that the shop is still family-run today. 

The Waverley - "goin' doon the watter"

So, in some ways a rewarding experience, but in others a dis-
appointing one.  Who knows, perhaps my memories of my recent
visit will eventually recede, and allow my previous fond recollections
to resurface in the ascendant once more;  then Largs and Millport
as they were will live again, allowing me to re-walk their seaside
streets as I knew them when I was a boy.

In the meantime, here's a brief photographic tour
through Largs and Millport as they are today.

The street (or one very much like it in close proximity) where
we stayed in 1971.  Our house was one with an upstairs room
   
Might even have been this one

Formerly the paddle-boat pond...

...now used for remote-control models

Adjoining flower area

Replica Viking ship outside The Vikingar Centre

Amazing the folk you meet in Largs

And now we're in Millport...

...where peace and serenity reign

The narrowest house in the world.  No -
I didn't know it was in Millport either

Mapes - where I bought my jetmobile toy in 1968...

...before hot-footing it back to the pier so as not to miss the ferry

The Royal George Hotel at the pier entrance

A medieval-looking church tower in the distance

The pier where the ferry once  plied its trade - but
not for 40-odd years, according to the bus driver

And here's a little friend I brought back with
me from Largs.  Cute little nipper, ain't he?

FOOTNOTE:  It was an odd feeling to return from Largs
to a different home than the one in which I was living back in '68,
'69 & '71.  So associated is Largs with that particular time in my life,
that I feel I should've gone back to my old house rather than the one
in which I now stay, had my tea, then ran around the field I used to play
in just over the road (which would've been difficult as it no longer exists).
From my present dwelling I only ever holidayed in Blackpool, so had I
revisited there instead, it would've felt more natural to return here.
I now find myself curiously overwhelmed by the sensation that
I'm out-of-step with my proper timeline.  Weird, eh?

Saturday, 12 March 2016

A DOGGIE TALE...


Zara circa December 1987

was in the back garden filling my bird feeders the other day (as I
do every day) and, coming in through the porch door, I spied scratches
in the paintwork on the lower part of the exterior of the kitchen door in
front of me.  I'd seen them before, naturally (many times), but so used
to them am I now that they don't really register with me anymore,
so why they did on this occasion I'm not quite sure.

The scratches had been caused by not just one dog, but three.  First,
PRINCE, a mongrel we'd owned back in the early '70s that looked for
all the world like a 'miniature' German Shepherd;  then TARA, an actual
German Shepherd we owned from around the mid-'70s to 1986.  Finally,
ZARA (another German Shepherd), who I'd bought to replace Tara
when her time had come to an end earlier in the same year.

Zara circa 1987

What's interesting 'though, is that we'd moved away from this house
in 1983, when Tara was eight and a half years old.  Tara died three years
later, which is when I got Zara - and a year after that we moved back to
our previous house (as regular readers will be tired of reading).

So what's interesting about that?  Well, the back door of that other
house likewise has scratches from both Tara and Zara (made when they
were seeking re-entry after being out in the garden 'watering' the plants),
so both houses bear the marks of the same two dogs, but, in the case
of this house, made with a four year gap between them.

It had occurred to me a few years back to fill in the scratches, but
now I don't think I'll ever bother.  It's somehow oddly reassuring to see
the 'footprints' of our three dogs still there after all this time (Zara died
almost eighteen years ago), as fresh as when they were first made.
It's as if Prince, Tara and Zara are still around in some way.

Tara circa 1984

In fact, sometimes, when the wind is howling late at night, I seem
to hear scratching at the back door and a muffled whining, as if some-
thing is seeking shelter from the elements.  My first thought, of course,
is that my ears are playing tricks on me, but then my curiosity kicks in
and I make my way through to the kitchen to check things out.

Whenever I open wide the door, however, only the inky blackness
of the night beyond stares back at me - but the unmistakable smell of
doggie fur hangs in the midnight air, as if I've only just missed a canine
visitor or three wishing to remind me that their spirits yet linger out
in the garden in case I should ever forget them.

Never, my doggie pals - never.

******

   (I'll add a photo of Prince when I can find one.)
    

Saturday, 20 February 2016

THE THINGS WE LEAVE BEHIND...


The row of houses I once lived in

Ofttimes, when we move from one phase of our lives into
another, we do so without a backward glance and with nary a
thought to what we're leaving behind.  For example, when I passed
through the gate of my primary school for the final time, the fact that
it was part of my life that was seemingly gone forever didn't, as far as I
recall, perturb me in the slightest.  Soon, the classrooms and corridors
of my secondary school became the familiar routine of my daily life,
and I'm surprised, looking back today, at just how quickly and
easily I adapted to the change without even realizing it.

The front gate of my old primary school - from the inside

It wasn't until I revisited my old primary a few years later,
after having left secondary and joined the working classes, that
it dawned on me that, in some mysterious, mystical, magical way, I
was still connected to this aspect of my past and, in truth, had never
really parted from it.  You see, not thinking about a thing is not the
same as forgetting it.  The memory yet dwells in our subconscious;
 what we forget is the act of remembering - until, that is, something
suddenly triggers the memory and causes it to erupt in our
minds like an exploding firework.

The toilets - listen to that water trickle

I remember one day a few years back, when I suddenly
caught a whiff of disinfectant and was instantly transported back
to the toilets of my old primary school, where I often used to retire
to during lessons for a bit of peace and quiet in the cool of the tiled
environs, with the sound of gently-gurgling water emanating from the
cubicle cisterns and porcelain urinals.  I felt such a soothing sense
of tranquility there, and it was my very own 'fortress of solitude' for
five minutes at a time whenever the confines of the classroom
became too claustrophobic for me. ( I assume my teacher
simply thought I had a weak bladder.)

I can see my house from here.  The view from my classroom

I've previously mentioned how I felt when I revisited
a former home for the first time since I'd left 16 years before
(which, at the time, was more than half my life away), and it was
practically the same as when I'd left.  As I said in this post,  it was
as if the intervening years and two houses I'd lived in since were only
a dream, and I still felt right at home there.  I'm sure we've all had
the experience of meeting someone we haven't seen or thought
of in years and it's just as if we saw them only a short while
before.  That's how I felt on that particular day.

My former back garden - ah, happy memories

Well, I could labour the point I suppose, with example
after example, but I'm sure you're all smart enough to catch
my drift.  Things we may think we've left behind (whether or not,
at the time, we were even aware of it) come with us without us real-
izing it.  They reside in the caverns of memory, reluctant to let go of
us despite our seeming indifference to them.  Whether it be garden
gates, bedroom carpets, once favourite toys, favoured friends or
whatever, they follow us throughout our lives, just waiting for
an opportune moment to renew the acquaintance.

  Long may it ever be so.