Thursday, 24 November 2022


The above picture-frame hangs in my hall above the kitchen door and shows two photos each of the three dogs we had (at different times) from January 1973 to November 1998.  The first was PRINCE (1 & 2), the second was TARA (3 & 4), and the third was ZARA (5 & 6).  The interesting thing about these photos is that they were all taken within a few feet of each other in the same area of the same back garden over a period of 20-plus years.

Let's number the top pics 1-3 and the lower ones 4-6.  So going from left to right, pics 1 & 2 (Prince) are on the path seen behind Tara in pic 4, and pic 5 (Zara) is on the path to the right (our pov) of pic 4, which is in front of the doorway seen in pic 3 (Tara).  Pic 6 (Zara in her kennel) is on the left (our pov) of pic 3, and was a different kennel to Tara's, but in the same place that her's once occupied.  (Still with me?)  "So what?" you may be wondering.

Well, we moved to another house in a different neighbourhood in 1983, where Tara lived for the last three years of her life.  A month after she died, I bought Zara (who was born a month before Tara passed, so their lives overlapped), and a year after that, we moved back to our previous house.  That means there was a gap of just over four years between Tara and Zara living in the same house, so photos of them (and Prince) on the same few feet of pathway of the same garden is somehow very satisfying and significant to me.

The dogs never met one another, but they all knew and played in the same garden, and 'posed' for photos, each being captured for posterity within the same few feet of space.  How fitting, therefore, that their images are now housed in the same picture frame, almost as if they all shared the garden at one and the same time.  Perhaps their spirits romp about together out there, the best of pals, and greet me a with a ghostly bark of welcome whenever I go out to fill the birdfeeders every morning.

Anyway, do you have a similar pictorial reminder of any dogs or pets you may've once had, and does it make you smile fondly whenever your eyes fall upon it?  Tell all in the comments section.

Monday, 29 August 2022


I don't remember the precise year - or even the month, come to that.  June or July perhaps?  Whether I was yet a schoolboy or had left my educational environs is another thing beyond my ability to recall.  At a guess I'd say it might've been around the mid-'70s upwards, but I couldn't swear to it.  I do remember it was a sunny Saturday, maybe late morning or early afternoon, and I was making my way down to the local town centre, which took me past a church in between my house and the shops.

On the path leading from the church, I saw my father, coming in my direction and carrying a stool-type piece of furniture he'd just acquired from a jumble sale in the church hall.  He asked me if I'd carry it home for him, but I was eager to get to the shops and so resisted his invitation.  It would mean retracing my steps home and starting again from scratch, and as I was already at least halfway to my intended destination, it wasn't a delay I was prepared to undergo.

The stool wasn't heavy, but my father wasn't exactly what you'd call a healthy specimen, so had I been a good and dutiful son, I'd have obliged him.  But no, I was eager to be off on my adventures, so my father had to carry his burden home by himself.  Yes, I was a bit of a b@st@rd, wasn't I?  Anyway, my father survived his trek, and the stool ended up in my bedroom, though whether he'd bought it with that intention or had just succumbed to a whim with no thought as to where the item would go is lost to history.

Over quarter of a century ago, I re-upholstered the 'lid' of the stool with a material that matched the original and restored its appearance to that which it had before it came into my possession.  It still sits in my bedroom and whenever I look at it, I feel a pang of guilt at my callous cold-heartedness in not being prepared to (slightly) inconvenience myself by carrying it home for my father.

Funny the effect time has, isn't it?  I'd like to think its passage has made we wiser and even kinder (though I doubt the latter), and that, were I to have that moment again, I would acquiesce to my father's request and spare him the effort of trudging home with the load on his own.  True, he could have stopped and rested whenever he felt the need to and taken the weight off his feet by sitting on the stool, but I take no comfort from that realisation and still feel like a bad 'un for being so selfish.

Decades later, the 'sins' of the past yet haunt me and hold me to account.  And perhaps that's just how it should be if there's to be any kind of justice in the world for missed opportunities of acts of kindness and decency.

Sunday, 23 January 2022


"A promise made is a debt unpaid" is an old but true saying, and I recently fulfilled a promise (and paid a debt) over a whopping 50-plus years after making it.  I told you in a previous post how my neighbours, Robert and Elaine, back around 1969-1970, gave me a Santa Claus cake-topper I'd coveted, for which I'd promised them a Christmas selection box in exchange.  That was the deal I'd proposed, but because they asked for time to consider, I thought they weren't going to go for it - until said Santa, wrapped in Christmas paper, was pushed through my letterbox five or ten minutes later.  In the meantime, me and my brother had scoffed most of the contents, leaving only a Bounty bar to complete my side of the bargain.  As I chapped their door and shamefacedly handed it across, I promised I'd give them a full selection box at the earliest opportunity.

There's another old saying - "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions", and I never did get around to fulfilling my promise and upholding my side of the deal before we flitted sometime after.  It always bothered me slightly, and I was determined, one day, to do the right thing, but the years came and went without me ever doing so.  Sadly, Robert died at the beginning of last year, but (on the run-up to Christmas) I got his widow's and sister's addresses from a mutual friend and sent each of them a small selection box (with an explanatory note) to finally fulfil my long-ago promise.  They were nothing fancy or expensive, merely a modest token to show I hadn't forgotten and, if I'm honest, to ease my conscience by doing what I should've done over 50 years ago.  I regard the two selection boxes as two halves of the same one, as obviously the original promised item would've been divided between Robert and Elaine.

So am I blowing my own trumpet here and seeking recognition for finally doing the right thing?  Not a bit of it, because taking over 50 years to do it puts me in a bad light more than a good one, but I do feel a bit of a weight has been lifted from my shoulders after several decades.  Hopefully, Robert's widow and his sister will appreciate the thought behind the gesture, and recognise it as my attempt to make good on a never-quite-forgotten promise that took far too long to complete.  And hopefully Robert is looking down and saying with a wink and a smile, "Good on ye, Gordie, I knew you wouldn't let us down in the end."  So here's to Robert - I was thinking of him at Christmas and fondly reminiscing about when we were kids with forever seemingly ahead of us. 

Do any of you have any unfulfilled promises you once made that nag at your conscience?  And do you still fully intend to make good on them one day?  Alleviate some of your guilt by sharing them with your fellow Mellows in the comments section.

Sunday, 16 January 2022


The house with the lit-up windows and dark door was mine

I was in a local chip shop one night around a year or so ago, waiting on a fish being freshly fried, and the woman who served me lived in the very same neighbourhood that my family moved to from Glasgow back in 1960.  She'd been there since 1959 - 60 years, even though she's younger than me, and only just flitted to a nearby flat last November.  My family stayed in our house for about 4 years, before moving down the road to another street, and then we moved to another neighbourhood around 15 months later.  The assistant and me fell to mentioning a few names that used to live in 'our' street, and there's a couple who still inhabit the same house as they did back then, though their kids flew the nest years ago.

That set me thinking to what it must be like for grown up children to visit the family home where they grew up and from which their parents have never moved, and it made me a little envious.  It must surely be like revisiting the past, seeing familiar ornaments and pictures, etc.  My history in my current house only goes back 47 years (but seems nowhere near as long as that), and I began to wonder (as I've done before) what it would've been like had we never flitted in 1964 and I was yet living in that first house instead of my present one.  My pre-teenage childhood is spread over three houses, but what would it have been like if it had only ever been one?

Would my perceptions be different because every toy and comic I ever bought growing up would be associated with one house and neighbourhood as opposed to three?  (And same goes for TV programmes.)  As I've said before in another post, it somehow seems that I had three childhoods instead of just one, and though I'd be loath to have to relinquish that feeling (and the memories of the accompanying experiences, as well as friends I might never have met), the idea of one single childhood appeals to me in some indefinable way.

Is it because that, as a mere five year-old child, I thought I'd live in that first house forever (which, in my youthful ignorance, is what I unconsciously assumed) and resented being prematurely plucked from it?  Could it be a desire to finally fulfil a then-unfolding fate that was denied to me by moving, or is it something else entirely?  Is it because I want to again set my step upon 'the road not taken' due to detours in other directions cropping up along the way and leading me off-track? Did my life unfold the way it was intended to (for those who believe in predestination), or was it flung to the winds, to fall where it will?

Who can say?  Not me, as I have difficulty even articulating my nebulous thoughts in a precise way, but hopefully I've managed to convey at least a sense of what I was aiming at.  Got any thoughts on the matter, fellow Mellows?  Ever wonder how your life might've turned out had you never moved elsewhere as a kid, or changed schools, or this or that had never happened - or something else had?  Express yourselves in the comments section.


Incidentally, the assistant told me her family had moved into the house when she was only around 3 months old, the scheme having been only recently completed, so it's likely that my family were also the first tenants in our house.  It gives me a good feeling to know that we were the first family to live in what was our first house in a New Town, having lived in a tenement in Glasgow's West End prior to that, and I feel even more 'connected' to the house than previously.  Every other house - bar the one we lived in from 1983-'87, where we were also the first residents - we were the second family to live there.  (Not that I feel they were any less 'mine' for that.)

Wednesday, 5 January 2022


Calendar illustration for January

And now it's time for a deeply depressing descent into the depths of the doldrums, as I regale you all with yet another anaemic anecdote that's sure to arouse your apathy (if that's not a contradiction in terms) and have you reaching for the Diazepam to dampen your despair at my rambling reminiscences.  (Don't you just love loads of awesome alliteration?  I know I do.)

On my wall hangs a 1985 calendar, which I purchased from a bookshop in Portsmouth back in the month of January or February of that very year.  It's a The Wind In The Willows calendar, featuring the iconic illustrations of Ernest H. Shepard, and for a month or three, it hung above the tiled fireplace of the bedsit room in which I was based at the time, travelling up to London twice a week whilst freelancing for IPC.

The calendar in March 1985

That tiled fireplace was a relic of another era, conjuring up images of the '50s or '60s when such a feature was commonplace in most houses in Britain.  I could just imagine families huddled around the roaring flames, trying to heat their cold bones on dark wintry nights, whilst listening to the radio and supping cups of Bovril or Horlicks.  (Yucchh!)  Not so in my case however; the fireplace was empty, and a sheet of hardboard covered the recess where the grate should've been.

That year ('85), it snowed in Portsmouth.  Nothing more than a light fall covering the streets for two or three days, before turning to slush and then disappearing, but you'd have thought it was a calamity of immense proportions.  "The worst snow we've had since 1963!" was the common cry of complaint from the locals.  I imagined the date to be a rough 'guesstimate', chosen merely because it was the closest approximation anyone could remember.  Imagine my surprise then, when, 20-odd years later, I heard a radio weather forecaster confirm the year of 1963 as indeed one of the worst on record for that particular part of the country (and the rest of Great Britain too, as it happens).

A scan of the calendar today

All I can say is that we Scots must be a hardy lot, as such a light snowfall for so short a period wouldn't have been a big deal to us.  If anything, we'd have been disappointed that it hadn't been heavier and longer-lasting.  However, let's not mock the English for being wimps - they can't help it.  (He said, in a deeply caring, affectionate and non-xenophobic way.)

Anyway, what has all this to do with anything?  Just this: As I type these words, it's snowing* outside, and glancing at that calendar reminds me of when it hung on the wall of a bedsit in Fratton on a similar kind of evening nearly 30 years ago. The fireplace gave forth no heat back then, but recalling that room today, with the selfsame calendar hanging on my present wall, the embers of memory cast a warm glow that envelops me in its radiant embrace. 

(*Or it was when I first wrote this.  It is frosty outside though.)

Sunday, 5 December 2021


When you're in your early 20s, you feel as if you've been around forever and can't even conceive of a time when you didn't exist.  You know there was, of course, but it just doesn't feel like it.  (The same thing could probably be said whatever age you happen to be - at least in my own experience.)  I'd lived in five different houses by the time I was 20, and due to the furniture being the same from house-to-house, they all had pretty much the same ambience.  In memory, therefore, those houses (the four I remember anyway, as I was only one-and-a-half when we moved from the first one) are preserved in amber, as there were no significant changes in their furnishings during our time of residence in them.  (The occasional addition, but no deletions.)

When I first moved to my current home it was the same, but eventually (several years in) some furniture was disposed of and replaced, and the house now no longer preserves the 'vibe' it once had, the interiors having evolved a different look and feel to that of my earliest years here.  It now has a different 'personality' (while still retaining a few remnants of its old one), and its current ambiance no longer precisely matches that of any of our previous residences.  I therefore often find myself casting my mind back to earlier times, which isn't difficult considering the sheer volume of replacement toys, books, comics, and records I've managed to obtain that remind me of my early days.

When my gaze falls upon those doppelganger items from yesteryear, I find myself yearning to return to those times and places, and since the majority of my collection reminds me of one house in particular, I tend to find the notion of one day moving back there quite an attractive proposition, because they'd all be 'at home'.  The only trouble with that though, is that I'd be bound to miss the houses before and after whenever I looked at items that preceded and followed my residence in the home under discussion.  So while I'd feel I belonged there whenever I looked at a replacement comic or toy I originally owned at the time, I'd most likely feel out of place when I looked at a comic or toy from a later time in a subsequent house.

As I've said before somewhere, it's a case of missing what you don't have, but if you reacquire it, you then miss something else.  I miss my previous houses because I no longer live in them, but if I were to move back to one, I'd miss the others - including the one I currently inhabit.  That's why I moved back here 34 years ago after living elsewhere for over four years, having previously stayed here for 11 - I missed it and wanted to try and turn the clock back.  Now, strangely, I even miss the house I left to return here, though I didn't at the time - it took around 17 or 18 years for that feeling to finally kick in.

Anyway, I began this post several hours ago before getting distracted by other things, so I've now forgotten precisely where I intended to go with this.  All I know is that whenever I look at one group of toys or comics, the prospect of again living in the house I inhabited when I first got them seems extremely appealing to me, but having lived in a number of houses in my lifetime, I feel the same way about every former abode whenever I look at or handle other groups of items first acquired during my terms of residence in them.

I suppose posts like this aren't fair on you poor Mellows, due to the fact that if I don't quite know what I'm trying to say, then you can't be expected to either.  Hopefully you'll be able to make something out of it.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021


Isn't it strange how the 'backdrop' to your life can change without you being aware of it until after-the-fact?  Example: There's a fella and his wife lived in the flats around the corner from me (same street) for at least 35 years, possibly longer.  He was there when we moved back to the neighbourhood after four years away, and for all I know he might've been there when we still lived here the first time.

The pair of us were part of the local doggie-walking club in the late '80s until either the dogs or the owners gradually died.  Out of about 14 of us, maybe only about four yet survive (all the dogs are gone), though me and Martin (as he's called) were the only two still in the area.  I'd often run into him when he was out walking his new (relatively-speaking) pooch, or when one of us was going to, while the other was coming back from, the local shops.

Anyway, last week I was sitting on a bench in the shopping area, scoffing a soft buttered roll with link sausages and fried onions (yum), when I spotted Martin and hailed him.  During the course of our chat, imagine my surprise when he told me that he and his wife had moved from their flat to a house in another neighbourhood quite a distance away around five weeks or so before.

Subconsciously, I'd yet imagined he and his dog were still traversing around the local environs when, in fact, his daily routine now unfolded somewhere else entirely, and that it was unlikely that either of us would run into the other when heading to or back from the shops.  But there was even worse news to come.  After being in their new house for only around three weeks or thereabouts, Martin came home one day to find his wife Isobel dead from a massive heart attack.

Sadly, I didn't know her very well (only saw her a handful of times in 34-odd years), but what a bummer, eh?  He's no longer in the flat where he and his wife brought up their kids and made many happy memories, but he's now in a house where he was denied the time to make any meaningful new memories before she was so suddenly and cruelly taken from him.

I prefer to think that Martin still lives around the corner from me and is yet exercising his doggie around the neighbourhood, and whenever I look out of my window, I sort of imagine I've just missed spotting him by seconds.  That way I can pretend that everything is as it's always been (for the last several years at least) and that the friendly face of a decent bloke is still out there to say hello to, instead of in another neighbourhood that I'm unlikely ever to visit.

Two more long-term residents in the street are soon to flit from it, and I'm beginning to feel isolated from friendly faces that have been part of my everyday existence for decades.  It's no fun seeing them all moving (or slipping) away, especially as I well-remember when my family was the new one 'on the block'.  That feeling is long-gone, but somehow I find myself wishing I could re-experience it - without having to flit somewhere else in order to do it though.

Any of you fellow-Mellows ever feel the same?  Or am I just bonkers?  And spare a thought for Martin, eh?

Monday, 31 May 2021


The street in which I live is a long, winding, twisting, turning snake of a street with nearly 200 homes in it.  Towards the late '70s, I had two friends who lived in the street, but nearer the beginning than I was.  In fact, one lived in number one, the other half-a-dozen houses further up from him.  Neither of them live there now, having moved out decades ago, but their parents (then, with the passing of time, a parent in each case) continued to inhabit their long-term domiciles.

Last year, the father who lived in number one sadly passed away.  He was a very well-educated and extremely intelligent man and whenever he saw me, he'd say "Hello Kid" (yes, even my friends' parents usually addressed me by that singular appellation), and I'd stop and have a blether with him.  Sometimes, on my way to the shops, I'd chap his door to see if he needed anything, but his family, though no longer in residence, usually made sure he was well looked after, so there was only one occasion when I was of use to him for a couple of items of shopping.

Anyway, since he died, whenever I've been passing his house, I've always looked over and given a nod in its direction, just out of respect for him.  Yesterday, however, I saw a 'sold' sign at the entrance, which surprised me as I'd never seen the 'for sale' sign that would normally have preceded it.  It's sad that my slight historical connection to the house has come to an end now that it's passed into the possession of another owner, but I don't think I'll ever be able to pass it without giving it a nod of acknowledgement when I do.

Today, I went around with my camera and snapped a few photos of the front and back, as it's unlikely I'll ever again set foot on the path and steps leading up to the front door.  Casting my mind back, it was in one of the bedrooms of the house that I scored my first '180' at darts sometime around 1982, and I well remember the apoplectic fit my friend's brother had in frustration at me gubbing him at the game he seemingly thought he was superior at.  And maybe he was, but not on that particular day.  Ah, happy memories.

However, I'm becoming all too aware that, with the passing of time, more and more familiar places are passing beyond my reach - or disappearing altogether - and it's a sombre and scary reminder that all things must pass, and that eventually there'll be little or no signposts to my youth left to take comfort from.  I used to be able to visit my old primary schools whenever there was a jumble sale, but they were demolished around 6 or 7 years ago, so I can no longer walk the halls of youthful academia.  Friends have moved or died, so I can no longer revisit the interiors of their houses I was so familiar with when I was a kid or teenager.

I don't know about you, but I miss being able to reconnect with certain aspects of my past due to people or places no longer existing, or for whatever reason it might be that prevents me doing so - like a friend's familiar house now belonging to someone else.  Previously, I knew that if I wanted to chap the door of the house under discussion, I'd be made welcome and given a cup of tea and a biccie.  The fact I knew I could meant that I didn't avail myself of such hospitality as often as I might have, but now that it's forever beyond me makes me kind of sad.

Any of you feel the same way when such things happen to you, or am I just a great big overly-sentimental wussy-boy who should toughen up and just get on with things?  Make your feelings known.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021


You may recall me telling you about a former neighbour (Robert Baird) passing away from Covid-19 recently, and I've just been informed tonight that the person who told me (another former neighbour from the same street) has also passed away, though it doesn't seem to have been Covid-related.  Kenny Tierney was his name, affectionately known as 'Wee Barra', and whenever he saw me in the local shopping centre, he always took the time to stop and have a wee blether.

Ironically, Kenny used to live directly across the back from Robert's house when I lived in the area (and for a few years after I flitted in 1972, Robert's family relocating to Essex around '76), and it's sad to think that I'll never see either Kenny or Robert ever again.  Hopefully they're playing a game of football together somewhere 'up there'.

So condolences to Kenny's family, friends, and colleagues.  It sounds like a cliche, but he was liked by everyone and the world is a poorer place for his passing.  I've borrowed a photo from his Facebook page, and also included a photo of him, his dad, and his brother back in the '60s, which he himself supplied me with a few years back when I was doing a post about his dad.  Rest in peace, wee man.

And below (left to right) is me, Robert Fortune, Tony Tierney, my brother, and Kenny (kneeling).  Photo taken by Kenny's and Tony's dad in the '60s, when the neighbourhood was the best it's ever been.

Thursday, 14 January 2021


Robert Baird - R.I.P.

We called him 'Bimbo' when he was a kid.  Whether he was nicknamed after the Jim Reeves song or the nursery comic for children, well - if anyone ever asked him its origin, I never got to hear about it.  He was in my primary school class (though not secondary as I went a year ahead of him), and was also my next door neighbour from 1965 until 1972 when I moved to another part of town.  I occasionally saw him around our secondary school (which I yet attended even after vacating the area), but couldn't say with any precision when sight of him ceased.  It was many years later that I learned he and his family had moved to England not long after* we'd flitted, and I'm told he eventually did very well for himself in a high-level position at BP.

(*Update: A friend of his says that he moved to Essex in 1976, though I'm unsure whether that was straight from Scotland or from somewhere else down south.  I'll have to check.)

A few months back, he joined a Facebook group for our old school and we exchanged a few friendly messages.  I was surprised that he remembered me to be honest, and he even recalled my brother's name.  He didn't remain a member for long (couple of days maybe), due to some others complaining about photographs of our old primary school building being posted, though the group's founder didn't mind as it as it increased participation among the members.  What was their gripe?  That it was a site for former pupils of that particular secondary school, not a primary one, even though many of the pupils had come from the same primary.  Robert didn't like the pettiness, so he quit.

So it had been at least 44 or 45 years since I'd last seen Robert before we exchanged comments on that FB group, and because I was informed yesterday by a former mutual neighbour that Robert died on January 2nd from Covid-19 after being diagnosed in early December, I'm so glad we were able to reconnect - even if it was only for a handful of messages and for such a short time.  My memories of when I lived next to him are uppermost in my mind at the moment, and as I last saw him when he was yet a young teenager, that's how I remember him.  He did return on visits from time-to-time as he had relatives and friends here, but if I ever saw him as an adult - possibly while walking past one another in the local shopping centre - I never recognised him.

And now I want to tell you a story.  I can no longer say with certainty whether it was at the tail-end of my primary school years or at the beginning of my secondary ones (I suspect the latter), but Robert and his sister Elaine had a Santa Claus cake-topper, which I instantly coveted on sight when I was in their house one night on the run-up to Christmas.  They were resistant to the idea of parting with it, but I said I'd give them a selection box in exchange and they said they'd think it over.  About 10 minutes later, said Santa was pushed through my letterbox wrapped in a bit of Christmas paper.  Unfortunately, not being hopeful of them accepting my offer, my brother and myself had already started work on the selection box's contents.

Oo-er, what was I to do?  I chapped their door and gave them a surviving Bounty bar (and possibly another choccy bar, a Milky Way maybe), explaining what had happened and promising to make it up to them later.  What's that they say about good intentions?  Somehow I never managed to get around to it before we flitted, but for years now, I've been planning to find out his address and post a selection box to him with a little note saying 'debt paid'.  Alas, now I never will, as that damned Covid-19 has taken him from his family and friends (and former neighbours) much too soon.

Y'know, for years after flitting from our old neighbourhood, I assumed he was still living there, because, as I said earlier, I didn't know he'd moved until many years later.  Below is a photo of him as he looked when I last saw him, taken from a school 'wallet' of classmates given to me by a friend to copy a good number of years ago.  The photo which heads the post is from Robert's own Facebook page (hope his family won't mind me borrowing it), and I note with interest that his last entry to it was made on the 14th June 2020.  I find that strangely significant in some indefinable way, because we moved from our old neighbourhood on 14th June 1972, exactly 48 years before his final FB contribution.

It would've been good to see and speak to him again at some point, and, if there's an afterlife, maybe it'll happen when I depart this mortal vale of tears.  In the meantime, Robert, hope you're at peace, and don't forget - I still owe you a Christmas selection box.  Hard to believe you're no longer around, except in my memories and a couple of photographs in my possession.  Rest in peace, wee Bimbo, and condolences to all those you loved and who loved you back.


Isn't it strange how people from so far back in your childhood who you haven't seen or spoken to in decades still resonate down through the years and can affect you when you learn they're gone? 


Tuesday, 27 October 2020


All images copyright relevant owners

Recently, I dug out a few books from my bedroom cupboard and started 'tarting up' the dust-jackets in a bid to make them more cosmetically presentable.  This involved the application of a special 'repair' tape on the inside of rips and tears, then a bit of colour-touching on the outside to disguise the 'seams'.  Some of these books I've had since I was a child (though they started off as my brother's), and they'd been in their less-than-perfect condition for decades, having been acquired when I lived in another house in a different neighbourhood.  (And in one case, even earlier.)

Consequently, it should come as no surprise to anyone to learn that I mainly associated them with that previous house, even though they 'inhabited' it for only a handful of years at the most and have spent far longer in my current residence.  Having a tendency towards introspection of the trivial, I assumed that I connected them more with my former abode (and that particular period of my life) because they were in essentially the same condition as back then, and perhaps also because I'd mainly overlooked them in subsequent years.

Funny thing is, working on the dust-jackets has 'updated' them in my mind and they no longer seem like mere remnants or reminders of the past, but a relevant part of the present as well.  They belong to 'now' as well as 'then', and halcyon days of childhood seem far closer than you'd think they had a right to.  It's a bit like if I were to look into a mirror today and found that my current reflection was the same as it had been many years ago, if that makes any sense to you.  (As opposed to looking at an old photo of yourself showing how you used to be.)  An imperfect analogy I know, but you're smart enough to get my drift.

In short, what I'm trying to say is that the books are no longer isolated in (or restricted to) an ill-lit 'museum' storage compartment at the back of my mind, but now also inhabit (figuratively-speaking of course) the new front 'extension' which is bright, airy, and thoroughly modern in every way.  But will that impression last?  Who knows, but even if it's short-lived, it's nice to know and enjoy the books as a current experience and not just a long-ago one.

This one's a recent replacement for my original

No dust-jacket - tidied up the boards

Sunday, 12 July 2020


"You wanna get nuts? Let's get nuts!" said MICHAEL KEATON to JACK NICHOLSON in the 1989 BATMAN movie, and ADAM WEST said it again in the 2016 BATMAN: The RETURN Of The CAPED CRUSADERS dvd animated film.  Guess what?  I'm saying it again now.  Why?  Basically, because some of the subjects I write about are a bit 'nutty', in the sense that nobody else, it seems to me, would ever think of putting digits to keyboard in order to warble on about anything resembling some of the things that so fascinate me from time-to-time.

Case in point: Over 30 years ago, I had a friend who lived in a top floor flat about 5 minutes around the corner from me.  He had a three piece suite, but he considered one armchair surplus to requirements, so exchanged it with me (along with some cash) for a video player/recorder I had.  The armchair moved into my back room, and I'm sometimes astounded to think that I've now had it for far longer than the family three-piece suite I grew up with for what seems like an eternity in memory.

I had another pal who often sat on that chair when he visited, and last year, he actually bought the flat that the armchair had originally come from.  Not from the other guy I knew, as he'd sold it on long before that, but isn't that weird?  Pal #2 had gone from sitting on the chair to living in the flat that the chair had come from, without ever thinking of how 'Twilight Zone'-ish the situation is - in my mind anyway.  It even took me a while to realise how bizarre a 'coincidence' it happens to be.  It's weird how seemingly random events connect up in a way that we would never imagine unless or until they actually happen.

Can you think of a similarly odd situation that's happened to you, or is it just me who reads too much significance into ordinary, everyday, pedestrian events?  You can let me know in the comments section.  Incidentally, that's a generic armchair in the above pic, as mine is covered in stuff and I can't take a good photo of it at the moment.  (I will when I can.)

Monday, 6 July 2020


In all seven family homes (counting the one we inhabited twice four years apart as two separate ones) in which I've lived over the decades, on the upstairs landing has stood the above ALADDINIQUE paraffin heater.  A good many years back, I discovered the envelope with the pamphlet and paraphernalia inside that had been sent to our tenement apartment in the West End of Glasgow, but I don't think I ever paid any particular attention to the postmark on the envelope - September 19th 1957.

That means it predates me as I hadn't yet been born, and when I was, I was too young to remember our Glasgow abode when I eventually became aware of my surroundings.  That didn't happen until we were ensconced in our first house in a New Town, and I remember the heater from that point on.  The last time I recall it being used was during the power cuts of the 1970s, along with a couple of paraffin lamps (which I also still have), but it's served merely as an ornament of sorts since then.  Obviously it could be pressed into service again were there ever to be another power cut.

There's something reassuringly familiar about seeing it parked next to the bathroom door (its spot in all our New Town houses) when I trot, barefooted, along the landing on my way to perform the hallowed 'ceremony of evacuation' of bladder or/and bowels.  I'd miss it if it wasn't there - it's like a silent sentinel that stands guard in the night.  Anyway, I thought I'd share some of the images from the contents of the envelope as they speak so eloquently of a vanished age.  The instructions show a bit of wear and tear, but the rest of the contents look almost new (though dated).

Thursday, 25 June 2020


Here's a curious-but-true tale.  First, though, you may remember me telling you all about my father's lockup in an earlier post (here).  It now seems that I was previously misinformed as to who was storing their car there, as I recently discovered that it wasn't someone in another row of terraces (as I'd been told), but the present tenant of my former house.  As I understand it, he rents my father's old lockup from either his neighbour or the current owner of my family's old abode, so I'll have to double-check what the situation actually is - purely to satisfy my own curiosity as I hate being bewildered.

However, forget all that - it's not really what this post is about.  No, it's about the 7 of spades.  Eh?  Well, you see, while along in my former neighbourhood a few weeks back, quite by chance I got to talking to the guy who now lives in my old house, without knowing he lived there until he chanced to mention it.  Naturally I was astounded by the coincidence.  I happened to mention that I harboured the suspicion that my brother may have left something in a space under the boards of one of the cupboards in what used to be my parents' room, and the guy said he'd take a look.  Anyway, he did, and though he didn't find what I was hoping for, he did find something.

And that something was the 7 of spades playing card you see in the above pic.  I can't say with absolute certainty whether my brother left it there, or one of the subsequent tenants after we flitted, but I prefer to think it comes from my family's time in the house (or maybe even before).  What I find significant, however, is that the house number is 77, and the face of the playing card sports a 7 in two corners - which is 77 if you have an imagination like mine.  Now, you may consider such things inconsequential, but little things like that make a great impression on me.

So that's me got one more souvenir of a childhood home I was happy in for nearly 7 years.  In fact, we moved out on the 14th day (which the more astute of you will immediately spot is two 7s.) of the 7th month of the 7th year, so the playing card continues the tradition of 7s connected to my former residence.

Anyone else find that interesting, or am I on my own (again)?

Since first publishing this post, I've been unable to shake the feeling that this card is familiar to me.  I now seem to have a vague memory of seeing it in the space under the cupboard boards when I lived in the house all those years ago.  Memory or imagination?  What do you think? 

Sunday, 21 June 2020


I was lying on top of my bed earlier, dozing (something I do a lot of these days), and it's surprising what one's mind can turn to in a semi-somnambulistic state. My thoughts turned to a bed that I owned from around the mid to the late '80s, one which one of my friends had put a deposit on, but then decided he didn't need (or want).  He'd seen it in a local shop, and it was going for a silly price because one of the support slats was broken, so he put down a deposit on it and intended to pay the balance when he could afford it - then changed his mind.

The broken slat didn't bother me, because I knew I could replace it with not much bother, so I gave my pal his deposit amount (£5 I think) and paid the outstanding tenner (told you it was cheap) to the shop.  That's how my second bedroom of the house my family was living in at the time became a bedroom in fact and not just in name.  A couple or so years later, my family returned to our previous house, and the spare bed took up residence in the room I used as a studio.  However, space was tight because of all the stuff I'd acquired over that couple of years, and the larger of the two rooms was slightly smaller than in the other house.

Meanwhile, my friend had moved into a flat with his girlfriend and their baby boy. They had a cot (if I remember rightly), but thinking ahead, they decided it would be nice to get a bed for their son that he could grow into.  I said he could have the bed I'd bought in his stead, and thus it passed into the possession of its original intended owner.  Fate, or what?  I no longer recall whether I gave it to him gratis or he reimbursed my initial outlay, but it was satisfying to see the bed united with the very person who'd originally planned to buy it.  (I kept the headboard I'd chosen and paid for separately, and it's on standby just in case I ever need it.)

Sometimes, though, my mind returns to when it resided in my second bedroom of the house I lived in when I first bought it, and I recall lying in it at night as the wind blew through the trees at the side of an adjacent field, and the rain lashed the window of my cozy, comfortable little room as I huddled under the blankets, impervious to the external elements that raged beyond.  Who doesn't love nights like that when they're snuggled up safe in bed, eh?

(Incidentally, that's not the actual bed in the photo - just a generic stand-in.)

Saturday, 20 June 2020


Sunday was sort of an anniversary for me, in that it was 48 years ago that I first moved into the house in which I now reside.  (Not the one above, which is just for illustration purposes.)  June 14th 1972, which was a Wednesday, though we should actually have flitted on Monday 12th, which was when our official tenancy commencement date took effect.  I presume it was arranging removal vans for both properties (it was a mutual exchange) on the same day which accounts for the hold-up.  We lived here for 11 years before moving to another house in another neighbourhood, where we lived for just over 4 years, before moving back to this one. Regular, long-term readers of my other blog already know all this, of course, having read it (too) many times before in previous posts.

48 years, eh?  How can that be possible?  I don't even feel like I'm 48, so how can I have moved into this house that same length of time ago?  I've pondered before about how staying in the same place you've lived since you were 13 up into advanced adulthood can make your teenage years seem closer to you and not so far distant, but that can have its drawbacks as well as its advantages.  You see, when the gap between 13 and 60-plus seems like the blink of an eye through one end of Time's telescope, it likewise seems the same from the other - moreso when all those years have been lived in the same house.

Under normal circumstances, most people will have lived in a number of houses and neighbourhoods (even countries in some cases) between youth and their later years, so there have been regular interruptions in continuity to distinguish the different events over the course of their lives.  Add to that different jobs, relation-ships, marriage, kids and grandkids, and there are numerous signposts to measure how things have unfolded over the years.  That doesn't really apply in my case. With the exception of that 4 year blip, my life is pretty much the same as it's always been since I was a youth, making 48 years feel like one big 'now' as opposed to a collection of various little 'then's.

To someone else, 48 years ago may seem like an eternity away, due to the fact that they've crammed multiple and varied experiences into their life, whereas, to someone like me, who hasn't, 48 years doesn't feel like being very long ago at all. (Well, sometimes it does - depends on how I'm feeling I suppose.)  How does it feel for you, if you're old enough to encompass 48 years into your span thus far?  Was it a 'forever' ago, or does it appear much more recent than that?

I've always derived a certain measure of comfort from obtaining comics, books and toys (and houses?) I had as a kid, because then the time in which I originally owned them doesn't seem that far away.  However, perhaps things from our past belong in the past and should stay there so that we have a more realistic concept of the passage of time.  When too many items from the past also form our present, the span between them seems almost non-existent, resulting in the illusion that we've gone from child to pensioner faster than a fart from The Flash!  (Hey, I just had to squeeze that in somewhere.)  

Another 'anniversary' is looming, in that on August 1st I'll have been back in this house for 33 years.  The official tenancy commencement date was August 4th 1987, which was a Tuesday, so we moved in early this time, on the Saturday. Funnily enough, this August 1st will also be a Saturday, so I suppose things have come full circle. I've now been back for 33 years, but, despite being exactly 3 times the duration of my first term of 11 years in the '70s and early '80s, it seems nowhere near as long. I don't think I'll ever be able to get my head around paradoxes like that.

Anyway, I know this post has been another extremely self-indulgent wallow in personal nostalgia, but if you'd like to comment on my meandering musings, feel free to do so - you know where.

Sunday, 31 May 2020


I finally decorated my back room a few years back.  I say 'finally' because it actually took me about 29 years to start it, and then it was months of hanging a couple of strips of wallpaper every few weeks 'til it was finished.  Because of a medical condition, I tire easily, and I just didn't have the stamina to apply myself to the task with any energy or enthusiasm.  Therefore, it was a bit here and there when I could.  And I was absolutely knackered at the end of it, let me tell you.

The room used to be my brother's, mainly, when we stayed here the first time around.  I say 'mainly' because we shared it for quite a few months when my room suffered from damp during the winter months, and there was a period when we swapped for a while, so the room was 'officially' mine as well.  As regular readers of my other blog will know (and lost the will to live at my continual re-telling), we flitted to another house after eleven years, then moved back (sans brother) four-plus years later.  Along with my old room, I also commandeered my sibling's former sleeping quarters.

Yeah, big deal, you say, get to the point.  Well, while I was in the long, slow, arduous process of trying to hang a few strips of wallpaper, I found staples embedded in various spots in the walls, where my brother had affixed all his heavy metal posters back in the '70s.  I decided to leave them there (after flattening them into the wall with a hammer), as, having been there for more than 40 years, I didn't have the heart to remove them.  Long after I'm less than a memory, these old staples will likely still be there, a permanent testament to the fact of my family's presence in this house down through the decades.

I've touched on this subject before, but it amazes me to think that we always leave our mark on wherever we've lived, even if we don't realise it at the time.  When I revisted a former dwelling sixteen years after having moved out, I was surprised by just how many 'markers' of our time there yet remained.  Wallpaper, tiles, lowered ceilings, marks where fluorescent lights had been, etc., it was all comfortably familiar to me, as if we'd never been away.  And when we returned to the house in which I now reside, our departed doggie's scratches in the back door were there to welcome us and remind us of our prior occupation.

We all leave our mark behind us, however trivial, and regardless of whether we intend to or not.  What feature of any of your former homes will attest to you once having lived there long after you've gone?

Saturday, 8 February 2020


Anyone who's read The WIND In The WILLOWS by author KENNETH GRAHAME will surely be familiar with the chapter entitled DULCE DOMUM, in which MOLE and RATTY are returning home over the fields (after a day out with their friend OTTER) one winter evening near Christmas.  Suddenly, Mole senses his own home which he'd 'abandoned' months before to stay with Ratty (come now, we won't be having any of that kind of innuendo - their relationship is purely platonic), and feels compelled to visit it again.  It's a very touching episode, and speaks about the importance of having one's own place to return to, and the comfort which can be derived from being able to reconnect with one's 'roots'.

I feel like that about every house I've ever lived in.  They call to me, plead with me to return for a visit and relive the memories associated with the times I stayed there during my childhood.  I've mentioned before that, whenever I'm in any of my former neighbourhoods, I almost feel that I could stroll up the pathway to whichever old home it happens to be, insert my key in the lock, and go inside to find everything as it was in 'my day'.  It's an instinct.  I recall that, late one dark night in '83 or '84, I was walking my dog TARA (not to be confused with her successor ZARA) along one of my old streets, when she turned in at the steps of the house we'd left several months before, glanced 'round to see if I'd caught up, and made to ascend the few steps to the pathway leading up to the door.  Instinct (and memory) y'see.  She seemed slightly confused when I walked past and called her to my side.

Like I said, it feels like the most natural thing in the world to me to walk up the path to any of my former abodes as if I still inhabited them, presumably due to a similar 'instinct' to that which animals possess.  (At least, that was my defence in court when I was charged with several counts of attempted burglary.  Relax, I'm joking.  I just claimed it was a case of mistaken identity.)

Tonight, I again felt the 'summons' to revisit the house and area where I lived between 1965 and '72, and I was all ready to do so when I remembered how many changes had occurred in the last 30 years (which seems like only 3 or 4 to me). The alterations had taken place incrementally over a prolonged period, until they eventually overwhelmed some aspects of the street and the surrounding environs, to such an extent that revisiting is not entirely the happy experience it used to be. I want to see the place as it was in my day, not the place it's since become, and which sours things for me to an extent.

So I resisted the call, and instead entered the past via the portal of modern technology - namely my computer.  I have large folders of photos (and some video footage) of how the area used to be in younger and better days, the same as when I lived there, and I found my 'virtual' visit almost as satisfying as my actual ones before the face of the landscape had been altered, in many ways, almost beyond recognition.

Any fellow Mellows ever do this sort of thing, or am I the lone inmate in an asylum of my own construction?  ("Trapped... in a world he DID make!" would perhaps be the comicbook subtitle.)  Feel free to say I'm bonkers in the comments section - but be polite about it.  (You know what a sensitive soul I am.)


What's that - the title of this post?  It'a a line from the first paragraph of Dulce Domum.  Give it a read - you'll enjoy it.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020


One day back in the late '60s, my father brought home a book for me which contained various children's stories. The book wasn't new, so he'd most likely bought it in a jumble sale or 'The Barras'.  Amongst the tales within its pages were The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Little Red Hen, one about two kids looking after a hedgehog, and The King's Horse. (Or it may've been The King's Bell.)  There were others of course, but these are the ones I remember.

My favourite story was The King's Horse (or Bell), which was about a King who installed a bell in the town square, for any of his subjects to ring in order to obtain justice in matters where they had been wronged.  The way I remember it, the King had a horse who, when it was no longer of use to him, was turned out into the street to fend for itself.  One cold winter's night, the bell is heard ringing in the square, and when the King turns up to see who needs his help, is ashamed to see that he himself is the guilty party, is overcome with remorse, and the horse returns to its comfy stable to live happily ever after.

The tale is based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem The Bell Of Atri, which has been rewritten as a prose story more than once, I believe.  However, in the original version, the horse doesn't belong to the King, but a knight (or soldier), so I'm left to wonder if I might be mis-remembering the details, or a little artistic license had been taken with events in order to provide an ironic ending to the tale. (Y'know, King who wants justice for others is himself guilty of inflicting an injustice on another - in this case his horse.)

So fellow Mellows, the call goes out. Have any of you ever read the version I remember, or owned the book of which I speak?  If any of you actually have the book, I'd be prepared to purchase it for a more than reasonable price.  You know where the comments section is.

Sunday, 26 January 2020


Chances are, dear readers, that you've moved house at least once in your life.  Do you remember the evening before flitting, and the morning (or afternoon) you arrived at your new home?  I do - in all my houses but the second one.  I no longer recall actually leaving the house, but I do very much remember arriving at our new home, the third one.  Why do I ask?

For quite a while after moving into a new house, one's repertoire of memories is still very much anchored in the previous one.  On your first day in a new home, if you wish to recall anything that happened more than a day ago, your recollection of any event is set in the time of your former home, for however long you happened to be there.  Was it five years - ten?  Then, as I say, most of your accessible memories are rooted in your old house, not your new one.

What am I on about you may be wondering?  Well, I sort of feel that, until you can cast your mind back any significant amount of time and it's a memory of something that occurred in your current residence, then it's almost like you're still living in your old one and haven't yet fully 'acclimatised' to the change.  I'm maybe overstating things to make my point, but it's perhaps not 'til the balance of memories of both houses is at least equal that you've fully settled in.

What I'm trying to suggest is that, when the majority of your recollections are based in a different location, in an unconscious sort of way you're still living there. It's a bit like your partner dying (or you getting divorced) and you marrying someone new soon after.  The day after your wedding, you can't think of your spouse beyond that point without it being your previous one.  It takes a while to build up a new stock of memories so that when you think back any length of time, your new spouse is part of the picture.

Okay, I'm stating the obvious in order to prepare you for the ground along which we're headed, which is this.  Sometimes, when I wake in the morning, because it's the same room I slept in when I was 13, it's easy to imagine that it's my first day in that room.  Meaning it's only the day before that I was sleeping in my old room, making the time I resided in my former home feel much more immediate and recent than it is, which I find comforting.  It feels like my time in that former home, and therefore my childhood, is no further away than the day before.

That feeling is fleeting and only lasts 'til I see the old man in the mirror staring back at me, but for a brief instant, a cherished moment in time is resurrected and it feels like I'm not so far removed from it.  Trust me, that's mainly a good feeling - until it passes and reality once again reminds me of the cold, hard facts of life.

Friday, 18 October 2019


Here's a strange story for you, one that I suddenly just remembered while looking at the photo in a previous post (click here).  I'll say why in a moment, but the tale I'm thinking of dates back to 1964 or '65, when I was going home for my dinner at noon one day, and saw a 'rag and bone' man parked outside the primary school gates.  No horse and cart like STEPTOE & SON, but a blue or grey van with the back doors swung open to display his wares.  I enquired how long he was going to be there and he replied that he'd be 'on site' for the whole dinner hour.  So I ran home, had my grub, and asked my mother whether she had anything she didn't want that I could give to the rag and bone man.  Usually, all you got was a balloon on a stick, so they were actually not so much rag and bone men as 'con the kids out of stuff that's worth money' men, but my mother gave me one of her old coats to swap for a balloon.

It was a blue coat if I recall rightly, and off I set to school with it, but a funny thing happened on the way to the cruel place of confinement that tortures children with enforced learning that they neither want or need.  (Am I showing a prejudice here?) I started to feel sorry for the coat, and shame at my cold and callous attitude in being prepared to part with it.  I'd once felt like this before when a toy metal bus I owned suddenly separated in two because of a loose rivet.  I flung the bus on the grass and walked away, but was then overcome with a sudden remorse and rushed back and reclaimed it.  I felt like a parent abandoning a child, and the feeling was too much to bear.  It was the same with this coat - I simply couldn't give away a 'member of the family' to a stranger, so it sat under my desk until 3 o'clock and then I took it back home with me.

So cut to a few years later and another house or two down the line.  I heard a rag and bone man blowing his horn and rushed to ask if my mother had anything she didn't want.  I think it was another coat (maybe even the same one), so I ran out of the house just in time to see the van driving away.  I followed it on foot as best as I could - for quite a length in fact, but it got away from me.  If you look at the photo in the post at the link above, you'll see a bus stop in the distance, and it was around there or just past it that I gave up the chase.  (Bear in mind that the photo was taken from my bedroom window and you'll realise just how far it was I trekked.) As I trudged back along the road, I felt a sudden sense of relief, as I realised that, once again, I wouldn't have been able to part with the item of clothing my mother had given me anyway, so I wasn't too downhearted.

Even today, I find it extremely difficult to part with things because it's almost like I'm rejecting them, and that's not something I want to be responsible for inflicting even on inanimate objects.  Who knows what deep-rooted psychological reasons are responsible for me being this way.  Maybe the time my dad took me for a run in the car miles out of town, gave me money and asked me to go buy a newspaper, and then drove off as I entered the shop - well, maybe that has something to do with it, who knows?  (Pick your jaw up off the floor, you gullible ninny - I'm only kidding of course.)  Being a collector, I sometimes replace comics with better-condition ones, but it's extremely difficult passing on (or selling) the lesser-condition items to someone else, and I can only do it (and even then reluctantly) if I haven't had it too long.

So readers - do you have any strange peccadilloes that you don't quite understand, but feel yourself in thrall to and are unable to resist?  If you'd care to share, you know where the comments section is.
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