Tuesday, 27 October 2020

THESE BOOKS WERE MADE FOR STOCKIN'...

 
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

COME ON IN AND PULL UP A CHAIR...



"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

A LAD UNIQUE (YES, IT'S A PUN)...



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

SEVEN SPADES...



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

A BEDTIME STORY...



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

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY...



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

STAPLES IN THE SANDS OF TIME...



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

PLODDING AT RANDOM ACROSS THE PLOUGH (PLOW TO U.S. READERS)...



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 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 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

DOES THE KING'S HORSE RING A BELL WITH ANYONE...?



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

A MOMENT IN TIME, NOT FAR REMOVED...



Chances are, dear readers, that you've moved house at least once in your life.  Do you remember the night before flitting, and the day 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.

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