Sunday, 5 December 2021

RAMBLING REFLECTIONS OF THE RATHER REMOTE KIND...


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

A DIMINISHING BACKDROP OF DAY-TO-DAY LIFE...


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

I HAVE OFTEN WALKED DOWN THIS STREET BEFORE...


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

KENNY TIERNEY ('WEE BARRA') - R.I.P.


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

EVERYBODY NEEDS GOOD NEIGHBOURS...

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? 

 
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