AS CHILDREN, my sister and I always enjoyed our weekly visit to our maternal grandparents’ house. There was always plenty to do there, and very often one or two aunts would be willing to play with us.
Going to the other grandparents’ house was a different matter however. There we sat, unseen and unheard, till, probably at my father’s suggestion, (he was very proud of our accomplishments), we were asked to play a piece on the piano. That done, we would revert to our role as silent guests.
Now, I knew that there were two brilliant things in that house which would have entertained two children for hours, and I’ve no doubt that, if I had had the courage to ask for them, they would have been forthcoming.
The first resembled a pair of binoculars, but, when you inserted one of a series of coloured cards into a slot on the side, and looked through the lenses, a wonderful real-life scene appeared. Magic! And the second was a glove puppet with a monkey head. Wonderful!
What happened to those desirable objects, I don’t know. It’s true that I did acquire a precious item from that house, a book which I cherished for many years. It was a Chatterbox Annual which had probably been given to one of my uncles when he was a boy.
Unlike any of the later children’s Annuals, this was a very big book (some years they had over 400 pages) which attempted to be both educational and entertaining. The illustrations were excellent, and this particular edition had a famous painting which fascinated me - “The Boyhood of Raleigh” by John Everett Millais 1826-1896.
Now, at that time I hadn’t heard of Raleigh, but I used to invent stories to explain all the pictures, and I was sure that this one was about Treasure Island.
JO STAFFORD 1917-2008
I was never great fan of Vera Lynn, much preferring Anne Shelton. Among the Americans it was much more difficult to choose a No 1 favourite, but certainly the name of Jo Stafford would be among the top ten.
When her death was announced a fortnight ago, it was a surprise to learn that she was 90 years old. Her first ambition had been to become an opera singer but that was not to be, and her early entry into show business was with her two sisters in a vocal trio. When they disbanded she joined a new group “The Pied Pipers” who later found fame with the Tommy Dorsey Band. With the co-operation of her musical director/husband Paul Weston, Jo’s popularity as a solo singer was soon widespread on both sides of the Atlantic. She became semi-retired in 1966, but of course her records and CDs are still extremely popular today.
In EIGHTY PLUS on 13th July I referred to the widespread Temperance movement in Scotland in the early part of the 2oth century. I’ve just come across this little gem which I’m delighted to share with you. It was written in the 4th century BC by Eubulus.
THE BENEFITS AND MISUSE OF ALCOHOL
Three cups of wine a prudent man may take,
The first of these for constitution’s sake.
The second to the girl he loves the best,
The third and last to lull him to his rest.
Then home to bed - but, if a fourth he pours,
That is the cup of folly and not ours.
Loud noisy talking on the fifth attends,
The sixth breeds feuds and falling out of friends.
Seven begets blows and faces stained with gore,
Eight, and the watch patrol breaks ope the door.
Mad with the ninth, another cup goes round,
And the swilled sot drops senseless to the ground.
As usual, a quotation for all those who are EIGHTY PLUS -
As I approve of a youth that has something of the old man in him, so I am no less pleased with an old man that has something of the youth. He that follows this rule may be old in body, but can never be so in mind. (Cicero)