Wednesday, 28 December 2016

HAMMY HOUDINI - HE DEFIED DEATH, BUT ONLY ONCE, ALAS...




When I was - oh, I dunno - around ten I suppose, me and my brother had a pet hamster called (you'll never guess) Hammy.  The name was inevitable, both of us having grown up on TALES Of The RIVERBANK, one of the WATCH WITH MOTHER TV shows for kids.  Hammy had a cage which was sometimes kept in the kitchen, sometimes in the garden cellar.  We would watch in rapt fascination as he raced 'round his wheel for what seemed an absolute age, presumably enjoying himself.  Now I realize it was probably out of frustration and because he was 'stir-crazy'.

One day, my brother announced that Hammy was dead, and with the morbid curiosity that most kids are heir to, we examined the corpse.  Poor Hammy.  We tenderly wrapped him up in a brown paper bag and gingerly laid him in the refuse bin in the back garden, then retired back to the living-room to mourn our departed pet.  But then I had a sudden brainwave.  "Maybe he's only hibernating?" I speculated, so we retrieved Hammy from the bin and laid him before the electric fire in an attempt to revive him.

Sure enough, after a while, Hammy came out of his state of suspended animation and sniffed the air.  What a narrow escape and no mistake.  I'm unsure as to  just how long Hammy was with us after his Lazarus impersonation, but one day I noticed he was missing from his cage in the cellar and a search of the confined space afforded no joy.  Perhaps a week or so later, I found him dead in our watering can (in the cellar), and even today I cringe in horror at the thought of his despair as he waited for a rescue that never came.

I think this time we buried him in the garden instead of the bin, but at least there was absolutely no doubt he was actually dead.  No consolation of course, but thankfully he was spared the awful fate of waking up as he was consigned to the grinding cogs of a bin lorry and meeting, perhaps, an even worse fate than the one which eventually claimed him.

Nearly 50 years later, I still think of Hammy on occasion, and find myself hoping he didn't suffer too much or for too long.  Any Criv-ites out there ever have a childhood pet which they still fondly remember today?  Resurrect them for a brief period by telling us all about them in the comments section.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

THE LIGHT IN THE WINDOW...



Do you remember, as a youngster, making your way home on a dark evening after a day out adventuring, and, as you caught sight of your house, glimpsing the amber glow of the standard lamp in your living-room, penetrating the curtains like a beacon to light your way home?  Do you recall the sudden surge of renewed energy that infused your weary limbs, egging you on as you realised you'd soon be warm and comfy in familiar surroundings?

So do I!  In fact, 33 years ago, after my family had moved to a new house in another neighbourhood, I'd sometimes pass my former domicile on dark nights and trying to recapture that feeling, as I hadn't lived long enough in our new residence to have re-created the experience.  I'd see the light emanating from my previous home and imagine for a moment that I still lived there.  Then the moment would pass and I'd set course for my new abode some distance away, warmed and fortified by memories of earlier times.

Nowadays, I reminisce fondly about that magical experience whenever I pass one of my former homes on a dusky evening, and as I've said elsewhere before, I sometimes feel that I could wander up the path of any of my previous houses, put my key in the lock, and walk in to find everything just as it used to be.  You'll find that it doesn't matter how much you enjoy going out, holidaying abroad, or travelling the world - nothing compares to that sudden electric thrill of recognition on catching that first sight of home and hearth when you return.

Dulce Domum indeed.
  

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 spacious 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 re-capture 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 (though 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 antipathy 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 conversation 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 neighbourhood - new to us, as well as being only two years 'new' itself.  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 exposure 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 neighbourhood -  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 HALLMOON-FLEETTHREE 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 (different 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 magnificently 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 photographs 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 - sometimes 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 down, and the trio of nasty 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 interior 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 revealed 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 themselves 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 a 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 labrador 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' going on here I believe

I 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 can no longer recall how the topic came up (talk-ing 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 ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITAN-NICA 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 brick-tomb 30 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 8 feet high;  on which was 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 breastbone 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 upon my head.

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

"There's no such thing as giants!  Only the most uneducated 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 there weren't tall men.  This was obviously just a tall man - a very tall man," she said lamely.  The class sniggered at her desperate and unconvincing efforts to extricate herself from an embarrassing siyuation 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 underestimating 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 knowledge 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 uncertainty 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, built 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 disappointing 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 longboat outside The VIKINGAR Centre

Amazing the folk you meet in Largs

And we're now 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 (UPDATED)...


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 almost 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 just over seventeen 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 something 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.

******

Finally managed to find some pictures of Prince.  The original photos bear the printed date of July 1974 in the margins, but whether this is when they were taken or developed, I'm unsure.  If the latter, there wouldn't be much of a gap between the two occasions.  Alas, poor Prince.  We only had him for about a year-and-a-half.  In fact, as I've only got three photos of him, I might as well show them all here.




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