Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008



When you’re old, it takes twice as long to look half as good. (Anon)


Recently I came across the receipt for my father’s purchase of the house we moved to in 1936. £455 was what he paid with the additional £13.16/8 legal expenses. 18 years later he sold it for £1550.

The house was one of six in a small cul-de-sac just a few minutes walk from the main street of our town. From the front we looked out on to the playing fields of a secondary school and the Forth and Clyde Canal which in those days carried a fair amount of traffic.

In the bungalow next to us lived a man who today would be described as “physically challenged”. He held a senior post with the town council and was frequently driven to and from his office by employees of a local bus company. Strange but true - sometimes a bus would be sent for him, and the driver would have the unenviable job of reversing the whole length of the avenue.

During the war, when the air raid siren sounded at night, my father would help our neighbour to get dressed, and assist him and his wife to the shelter. One night we were awakened by shouts from next door. There had been no air raid warning, but, when my father investigated, he found our neighbour and his wife in their nightclothes standing in the front garden. She was shouting “There’s been a gas attack!”
Needless to say, there was no such thing, and we didn’t ever find out what had alarmed them.

His wife was a nervous person, and was quite concerned at the number of boats passing along the canal crewed by foreigners. They were of course allies of ours, but she couldn’t be convinced that they weren’t German spies.

Among the folks who made use of the air raid shelter, was a very nice family from the adjacent road - father, mother and son. The boy, who would be about 7 or 8 years old, had suffered from hydrocephalus, and because of his very big head was confined to a wheelchair.

I recall my mother commenting on the fact that in that shelter were two people, our neighbour and this boy, who needed special love and care, and how sad to see them seeking safety from the evils of war.



George Jaap, my great-grandfather was born in 1834 at Coatbridge. He married Jean Armour on 15th September 1865 at Kilmarnock, and died on 3rd June 1908 at Kirkintilloch.


Some more memories from long ago -

I REMEMBER my mother taking down my trousers and spanking me because I had said a Bad Word. And what was that word? It was “bitch“. Another word which resulted in punishment was “liar”. And then there was that word which the minister kept shouting from the pulpit. That word was "Christ" - a very bad word in the playground. Since then, I don't think I've ever used the name "Jesus Christ" preferring just Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus the Messiah.

I REMEMBER that, when I was 12, I first experienced playing the piano for people singing. The occasion was a recital by my aunt’s pupils in a local hall, and at the end of the evening I had to play for God Save the King. No one had warned me that audiences are always slow in getting to their feet for the National Anthem, and usually drag a good bit behind the accompaniment. Quite nerve-wracking!

I REMEMBER two elderly sisters who lived in a small avenue a few hundred yards away. This was in the 1930s and so it was quite a surprise when they bought a car. It was said that it had been specially adapted, so that it required both of them to drive the vehicle. Was that likely?

I REMEMBER the only time I got the belt. Before starting secondary school proper, my class spent six months at a junior secondary where one particular teacher was very strict. We had been well warned about him of course, but I was caught out one day when the boy sitting immediately behind me tried to attract my attention. I turned round to face him, and we both got the belt. That boy went to America where he has for many years been a famous evangelist. I never ever forgave him!!!

I REMEMBER that, as a senior pupil at secondary school, I had to take turns to firewatch. Two of us would stay overnight sleeping in the Domestic Science Room, our task being to alert the authorities should enemy action result in a fire. One night my friend and I decided to demonstrate the principle of the siphon, using the two large metal washtubs and a length of hose. The experiment had to be abandoned when we lost control. The rest of the night was spent mopping up.



The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse 1849-1917


For a good few years Rita and I were church organists, and of course our duties included taking the weekly choir practice. Those few verses by an unknown writer rang a bell with me. They should be sung to the tune of “Immortal, invisible, God only wise”.

Immortal, invisible, God only knows
How tenors and basses, sopranos, altos
At service on Sundays are rarely the same
As those who on Thursday to choir practice came.

Unready, unable to sight-read the notes,
Nor counting, nor blending, they tighten their throats.
The descant so piercing is soaring above
The melody only a mother could love.

They have a choir master, but no one knows why
No one in the choir deigns to turn him an eye.
It’s clear by his waving, he wants them to look,
But each of them stands with his nose in the book.

Despite the offences, the music rings out,
The folks in the pews are enraptured no doubt.
Their faces are blissful, their thoughts are so deep,
But it is no wonder, for they are asleep.


Finally here is a quartet of young Japanese girls, Waka - flute, Yui - violin, Mariko - cello, and Keiko - keyboards, who produce some wonderful music. Calling themselves Vanilla Mood, they’ve made quite a reputation for themselves around the world.


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