Sunday, 12 November 2017

WHAT'S IN A NAME? ARE YOU KIDDING? A LIKELY STORY...



"Why are you called 'Kid'?  Is it because you act like one?"

If I had a pound for every time I've been asked that, I'd have - well, I'd have a pound actually, so I don't suppose there's really too much interest in the topic.  However, I have to fill this blog with something, so - assuming you'll all bear with me in yet another act of shameless self-indulgence - I shall address the issue in the forlorn hope that anybody even remotely cares.

There was a period during my early teenage years when I called everyone "kid".  It was short, snappy, and it meant never having to worry about remembering people's names.  One day, I ran into a pal of mine in the company of a group of his friends.  Anticipating my familiar, well-worn greeting, he thought he'd get in first in a daring act of mockery at my little peccadillo.  (Feel free to supply your own amusing rejoinder to that last sentence.)  "Hi Kid!" he said with a cheeky grin upon his smug countenance, immensely satisfied with himself for - in his mind - 'beating me to the punch'.


His pals were unaware of his intended 'irony' however, and merely assumed it to be my nickname.  But ours is a drama decreed by the fates to be acted out (always loved that line by LARRY LIEBER);  I subsequently became friendly with that little group, who - in their innocence - always referred to me by that appellation.  And so the name stuck and I've been known as "Kid" - to them and to others - ever since.

But whence came the habit which led to me effectively naming myself?  Why did I call people "kid" to begin with?  I'm glad I pretended you asked.  You see, back in the early 1970s, there was a brilliant comedy show called WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE LIKELY LADS, starring JAMES BOLAM and RODNEY BEWES.  In fact, as they had alternating billing from week to week, if you re-read that last sentence, reverse the order of their names so that I don't hear from their agents or solicitors.

Although the programme was a comedy, it also had pathos, poignancy and profundity - otherwise known as the three Ps.  During the course of their frequent nostalgia-laden soliloquies, the characters often addressed each other as "kid" or "kidda".  In my devotion to the programme and my desire to emulate the two main characters, I soon adopted the practice of referring to everyone I knew (and even some I didn't) as "kidda", which resulted in some fairly puzzled looks.  That's because the words "kidda" and "kidder" sound pretty similar when pronounced with a lazy Glaswegian accent, and this made folks think I was accusing them of pulling my leg in some way.


"Kidder?" they'd say in a slightly bewildered manner (likewise mispronouncing it as "kidda") - "Kiddin' about what?"  Well, it didn't take me too long to realize that adopting the shorter option - "kid" - would avoid any unnecessary confusion amongst my sturdy band of companions and free me from having to endlessly explain myself.  It could've been far worse, as I'd once been in the habit of exclaiming "Jings, man!" in response to anything of even a vaguely interesting or surprising nature.

This inevitably led to all my friends and acquaintances calling me "Jings-Man" every time I appeared on the horizon.  Fortunately, I soon dropped the use of this 'oath' (doubtless acquired from reading too many BROONS and OOR WULLIE strips in The SUNDAY POST) and thus escaped any longterm association with the name which could've resulted in lasting damage to my delicate sensibilities.  I much prefer being called "Kid" - or "Sir", even.  (In fact, now that I come to think about it, "Master" is good as well.)

And there you have it!  The hitherto secret origin of how I gained my teenage nickname which has remained with me to this day.  And you also have an object lesson in the art of writing something about nothing - but you should only ever do so if your very life depends on it, so I have absolutely no excuse.

Monday, 30 October 2017

PART TWELVE OF SCHOOLTIME SCANDALS: TRIPS, TEACHERS & TEARS...


The incident described occurred just to the left
(and out of sight) beyond the closed fire door

When I was a lad at primary school, there was a boy in my class by the name of Euan (maybe Ewan) Sheperd, who giggled like a girl and was slightly effete.  I never realised it back then, but looking back many years later, it struck me that such was the case.  Euan may well be a big manly man now, but it would come as no great surprise to me to learn that he made the journey to Denmark at the earliest opportunity after leaving school.

But Euan isn't the star of this post - his is nothing more than a cameo role in this true tale from the dim and distant days of my childhood, when I was only about 8 years old.  Euan and myself were part of the double line of pupils waiting at the foot of the stairs one day, ready to ascend to the rooms above.  One of us accidentally tripped as the line started to move, placing us slightly out-of-step with our fellows, and Euan emitted a giggle.  Suddenly, Mr. Halliburton, descended upon us and violently yanked us from the ranks.

Pushing us against a wall, he started to shout at us, and was either going to belt us or give us 'lines'.  (Can't recall with certainty after so many years - it was one or the other.)  I'd had an encounter with Halliburton before (see here) and was determined not to let him intimidate me.  "I'm going to tell my dad about you!" I declared, and started to move towards the door leading to the playground.  (I lived at the top of the road, so my house was nearby.)  He grabbed me by the lapels and pushed me back against the wall, glaring at me menacingly.

At this point Euan burst into tears, eliciting a look of contempt from Mr. Halliburton, who then eyed us while he deliberated his next move.  An internal struggle seemed to be taking place - then he ordered "Get to your class!"  As Euan moved off, Halliburton pulled me back, lowered his voice and muttered "Don't ever threaten me with your father again."  Yeah, that'd be right - adults wouldn't put up with his p*sh, but kids could be easily intimidated.  Except for me that is.

I caught up with Euan as he dabbed his tears away with the back of his hands.  He forced out a giggle - "Hee hee - that always works" he whimpered, sheepishly and unconvincingly.  Yeah, sure - but even so it was no excuse to abandon dignity and self-respect.  However, Mr. Halliburton never tried to bully me or lay his hands on me again in all my remaining time at primary.  That's what I call a result!

Next:  Another tale about the tears of Euan.

SCHOOLTIME SCANDALS - PART ELEVEN: DINNERTIMES CAN BE DANGEROUS...


The teacher's table sat in front of (and parallel to) the stage

I was rather shy and introverted as a primary school pupil and didn't mix well with my fellows.  Back in my day, it was the practice to pair off with a classmate when en route to anywhere in the school by saying "Take!", and clasping the hand of the favoured (or simply available) choice of partner before making our way (in a double-filed line) to which- ever part of the school we were led by the teacher.

One day (in 1966), the bell rang for dinner, and the playground emptied as the throng of kids made its way into the corridor outside the dining hall, pairing off while awaiting permission to enter.  (I'm unsure why we were in the playground at dinnertime, but we were.  Perhaps we were the second wave of hungry diners that day.)

Anyway, I hung back because I didn't have a pupil to pair off with - for two reasons.  Firstly, no one picked me, and secondly, I was just too shy to put myself forward.  My brother found me lurking in the corridor and enquired why I wasn't in the hall filling my face.  I explained my situation and he took me to see Mr. Curry, the janitor.  Wishing to avoid embarrassing me by saying "He's too shy to go into the hall by himself", he just said  "He was at the far end of the playground and didn't hear the dinner-bell."

Mr. Curry took me to the door of the hall, opened it and actually whistled to the teachers sat at the 'top table'. Mr. Halliburton, the depute head looked over, and Mr. Curry nodded at me in a contemptuous manner.  "Didn't hear the bell," he explained as  Mr. Halliburton came over, in a tone which suggested "a likely story".

Without saying a word, Mr. Halliburton grabbed me by the back of my collar and, no exaggeration, my feet barely scuffed the stairs as he ascended to his classroom on the top floor.  There, he administered several strokes of 'the strap', with such severity I had the wind knocked out of me.  Then he dragged me back down to the hall and said to one of the dinner ladies "Give this boy his food!"

Ignore the doorway on your left.  It was the doorway to the side of
it on your right from which Mr. Curry hailed Mr. Halliburton

I'll choose my next words very carefully.

What a nasty, sadistic b*st*rd!  No sympathy, no empathy, no clue about how to deal with kids who were a bit self-conscious or introverted.  How he was ever allowed to be a teacher, never mind a headmaster (as he later became) remains a complete mystery to me.  I met him at various times in my teenage and adult years, and though I was always perfectly polite to him, I never forgot the appalling way he had punished my 7 year-old self for merely being a bit shy and lacking in confidence.  Schoolkids today don't know just how fortunate they are, that's for sure.

One of his two sons was in my class in secondary school, and I always felt a bit sorry for him.  Not that he was a sad individual or anything like that, but I have the impression that he copped a fair bit of grief simply for being his father's son.  Mr. Halliburton hadn't been well-liked by quite a number of pupils, and poor Neville would've had that situation to deal with, unfortunately.  Probably the opposite of his primary school days I imagine, when none of his classmates would've dared touch him for fear of incurring his pater's sadistic and unholy wrath.

I last saw Mr. Halliburton around 9 years or so ago, but he was pretty ancient and I'd be surprised (though undismayed) to learn that he's yet alive.  If it's not already happened, it won't be long until it's Mr. Halliburton's turn to see 'The Headmaster'.  I'm not so bitter over my experience though, that I'd begrudge him being accorded the understanding, insight, and mercy that he seemed incapable of displaying towards his unfortunate pupils.

Hey, maybe I'm a better person than I thought.

******

Incidentally, there's a subsequent incident involving Mr. Halliburton where I defied his attempt to punish me again.  I'll tell you all about it another time.
     

Friday, 18 August 2017

MYSTERIES, MUSINGS, & MEANDERINGS...



In previous posts I've bored you all rigid with ponderous ponderings on the nature of time, as well as rambling reminiscences of my childhood and how I've never been quite able to comprehend how I went to bed one night as a teenager and woke up what seems like the very next day as the grumpy curmudgeon I am now.  Well, the bad news is that it's more of the same, I'm afraid.

As a child I was always looking backward.  When I moved from the first house I remember (but not the first I lived in), I made little pilgrimages to my old street to look at my former abode and derive some comfort from the familiarity of its presence.  What's odd about this over-developed sense of nostalgia is that I only lived three or four minutes away and was a mere five and a half years old.  Wow!  Not even six and already hankering after the 'good old days'.


This compulsion to revisit the past has been a prominent feature of my personality all through my life to this very day.  I recently added photographs of the views from the windows of my previous houses to my screensaver facility so that I can again gaze on familiar scenes whenever the mood takes me.  At the click of a key I can re-experience any one of several landscapes that once met me when I drew back the curtains in the morning at various stages in my life.

However, there was one particular house (the third after the aforementioned ones above) I lived in for several years that I didn't miss 'til over a dozen years after moving out (and two houses down the line) and I've often wondered as to the reasons for this 'delayed reaction'.  If you're interested (or aren't currently engaged in watching paint dry), feel free to join me as I explore the possible explanation for the curious complexity which has puzzled me for many a long year.


When I moved from the house in question (back in 1972), my life still revolved to a great degree around the neighbourhood it was situated in.  I continued to attend the school just across the road from it for another two and a half years.  I still went to Summer and Christmas fayres in the church at the top of the street, and my mother dutifully trotted along to the Sunday services every week, even though there was another congregation of the same denomination just around the corner from our new home.  (In fact, it was from this group that the one my mother went to had sprung.)  My friends all lived near or around my old domicile and I continued to frequent the area for quite a few years after.

It wasn't unusual for me to come home from school (and later, work), have my tea, and then return to my previous neighbourhood to hang about the local shopping centre (about thirty seconds away from my old front door) with my pals.  Perhaps that explains why I wasn't consumed with the same rabid pangs of nostalgia I nursed for previous houses;  I saw it so often that I simply never had a chance to miss it.  The ambiance of the house was preserved in our new home by the presence of the same furniture we'd had in every place we'd ever lived in - plus, our new house was similar in many respects to the first one I remembered, hence it conjured up a feeling of familiarity that pre-dated the dwelling we had just recently vacated.


It wasn't until we had again moved house (in 1983) and were ensconced in yet another new residence that I gradually started to miss the one we had quit way back in 1972. What's strange about this was that I was simultaneously wallowing in nostalgic notions for the homestead we had just left (to say nothing of the ones which preceded them both), so it certainly can't be denied that I was spoilt for choice when it came to such sentimental self-indulgence.  Maybe I'm just greedy?

Perhaps another reason I only started to miss this particular house when I did had something to do with running into an old classmate from primary school in the neighbourhood shops across from my old home in 1984 or '85.   ALEX LOWE by name, and as fine and decent a bloke as you could ever hope to meet.  We exchanged greetings, enquired after one another's well-being, and then Alex asked:  "Are you still living across the road?", nodding in the direction of my previous abode.  He was surprised to learn that I'd moved away about twelve or thirteen years earlier, and it made me wonder how many other people I knew still thought I lived in a place I'd left almost half my life away at that point.


Talking of Alex (and veering wildly off topic), I hope he won't mind me recounting that he once appeared in our secondary school play as a fairy, uttering the immortal lines:  "I'm a fairy, bright and gay, helping others every day!"  I don't recall anything else about that play, but Alex's turn got such a huge laugh on the night that everyone remembered it - and constantly quoted the lines back to him in lisping, falsetto voice over the course of the next few terms.  (I know I did, little bastich that I was.)  He always took it in good humour, being the fine fellow he is.

I'd planned to expand the scope of this topic and try and explore (in an epic exercise in tedium) wider themes than I actually have.  For example, what it is that draws us to our past and connects us to where we came from, and whether or not it has any bearing on the direction we take in life.  Can a house in which we once stayed shape our perceptions of ourselves, or would we be precisely the same as we are regardless of the bricks and mortar which shield us from the elements?  However, the realisation has now dawned on me that it's simply too big a concept to concisely and competently capture within the confines of a blog post - in an interesting and entertaining way, at least.


I'll have to content myself with the hope (slim as it may be) that I may have prompted some readers to indulge in a little quiet contemplation of whatever memories reside within the repositories of their own minds.

Or, failing that, helped cure them of their insomnia.


Sunday, 30 April 2017

CHILDHOOD CAPERS - CHAPTER THREE: THE 'AMAZING' UNCLE WILLIE...



I used to have an uncle;  nothing unusual about that - lots
of folk have uncles.  I had more than one uncle of course, but it's
one in particular I'm going to talk about today.  Let's call him Uncle
Willie - mainly because that was his name.  Although, in the interests
of historical accuracy, it behooves me to admit that I'm unsure whether
he was an 'actual' uncle or merely an 'honorary' one, in that convenient
bracket that older male relatives are placed when it's not known exact-
ly what their title should be.  He never struck me as a very nice man to
be frank, and he was eventually sectioned under the mental health
act for beating up his wife - who, unsurprisingly, happened to be
my aunt.  They were both quite elderly when all this was
going on, which is all rather tragic I suppose.

I remember being through in Edinburgh with my family
back in the late '60s, visiting one of my father's sisters (another
aunt), and Uncle Willie and his wife were there too.  We all left at the
same time and I remember Uncle Willie put his hand in his pocket and
slipped some coins into the hands of my other aunt's kids.  I was sur-
prised to see this act of generosity, because he'd never done that
with me or my brother.  I liked him even less after that.

Uncle Willie was a bit of a blowhard.  Full of tall tales and
unlikely stories designed to portray himself in the most flattering
light.  Anything anyone else had ever done, he'd done first or done
better - and sometimes even both.  He and his wife were visiting our
house one night, and he took the opportunity to regale my brother
and myself with tales of how fit he was and how he was able to
expand his chest to nigh Olympian proportions.

He could see from our expressions that we remained un-
convinced (nor were we much interested, truth be told) so he in-
sisted on demonstrating his 'amazing ability'.  At first he stood in a
stooped position with his chest as far back towards his spine as pos-
sible, then slowly stood up, thrusting his chest out as far as he could
and, arching his back while leaning forward, attempted to create the
impression that he'd achieved his stated goal.  When he was finished,
he proudly announced:  "Mabel, I've just expanded my chest by 11
and a half inches!"  He hadn't of course, all he'd done is made a
tit of himself.   We were too polite to say so, but we had a
good laugh at him after he'd left.

 I'm glad I've no nieces and nephews, because at least I know
I can never be regarded with derision or disdain in the way that
me and my brother discreetly regarded Uncle Willie.  So I suppose
the moral of this story is that if you want your young relatives to be
left with a good impression of you when you're gone, then you
should avoid trying to impress them while you're here.

Monday, 13 February 2017

MAN IS A DOG'S WORST FRIEND...



Not long after our dog TARA died, a friend asked me to
look after his four-legged friend for a while, so I did.  Two weeks
after my doggie-sitting term had ended, I bought a puppy, ZARA,
who was the final dog out of three that my family had over a nearly
26 year period.  Let me tell you something - people who don't like
dogs - or any animals in fact - and are untouched by an animal's
death, are unnatural.  There's something missing in them and
they're very probably latent serial killers.

But that's another subject.  When Zara was a few months
old and still in the process of getting her jags, I was sitting in the
vet's one evening and a dog could be heard whining behind a door.
The vet came out to speak to me, and I caught a glimpse of a black
dog which must've been tethered to a table leg or something.  As I
was speaking with the vet, the whining increased and the dog start-
ed scratching at the door and yelping.  I asked what was wrong
with it and the vet replied "It's getting put to sleep."

Anyway, after my business was completed, I made my
way home feeling a little sorry for the dog, but too delighted with
my own pup to dwell on it.  A few years later, I ran into a friend, who
mentioned that he'd been given the very canine that I'd once looked
after, because its owner couldn't keep it any more.  "What happened
to it?" I asked him.  "I had to get it put down because..."  I forget the
reasons why, but I asked him where he'd taken the poor dog, and,
sure enough, it was the very vet's where I'd taken Zara for
her course of injections.

I checked the timeline with him and it matched.  It was then I
realized that the poor creature had been the dog behind the door,
and must have recognized my scent or my voice - hence its frantic
scratching, whining and yelping in an attempt to be rescued from
what it must have sensed was its final fate.  And I had failed it,
and it had gone to its end unloved and unwanted.

Looking back now, I'm not sure what I could have done, if
anything, but it still bothers me every now and again to this day.
I'd only looked after it for a fortnight or so, and it wasn't as if it was
'my' dog, but that poor creature must've hoped I'd rescue it and I let
it down, unaware of its identity 'though I'd been.  Humans are often
pretty useless when it counts, and I was found amongst that par-
ticular number on that sad and pitiful day.  Alas, I no longer
even recall the doomed dog's name.

Regrets?  I've had a few...and this was one of them.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

GARDENS OF THE MIND...



was passing my former house in an old neighbourhood
 yesterday and, acting on impulse, decided to 'catch a swatch'
at the back garden.  I was saddened to see that the clothes poles
and lawn were gone, and that the garden had been re-slabbed to
cover the whole area.  It was a bit of a shock as the last time
I'd seen it, it was pretty much as it had been in my day.

I'm glad I'd managed to get photographs of the garden
back in 1988 and again in 1991, and preserved it as it used to
be in the halcyon days of my childhood.  For 20-odd years after
we'd flitted, the house and gardens (front and back) had remain-
ed mostly as I recalled them, but since then several significant
changes have been made, and things as I'd known them are
now a mere echo in the hallowed halls of history.

If I were ever to win the Lottery, I'd buy every house in
which I've ever lived and restore them as much as possible
to their former glory.  In a completely self-indulgent wallow in
nostalgia, I thought I'd take another walk around my old garden
and permit you to accompany me.  It wasn't much, but it was
mine - and shall forever remain so in the mystic bands of
memory.  Now, follow me - the past is this way.










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