THIS WEEK’S QUOTATION
I'm very pleased with each advancing year. It stems back to when I was forty. I was a bit upset about reaching that milestone, but an older friend consoled me. 'Don't complain about growing old - many people don’t have that privilege'. (Earl Warren)
TOYS AND PASTIMES - Part One
Some fathers, clever with their hands, were able to make things like stilts for their children and “bogies” constructed out of a wooden box and four pram wheels. I doubt if my father could have managed anything like that, although he once made a kite which succeeded in staying airborne for a couple of minutes.
A few boys in our street went to the local blacksmith who made a “girr” (hoop) and “cleek” (iron rod) for them. There was very little traffic where we lived and so the place was ideal for running with those toys.
Searching for good chestnuts was a popular pastimes in autumn, but I don’t think I ever played conkers and although I had a collection of marbles I can’t remember playing “bools” with them.
My Saturday penny often went to buy another toy soldier for my tin fort. Made of metal, about 4cm in height, they were brightly painted - black busbies, red jackets and dark blue trousers. Unusually the fort was also home to one or two cowboys and a red Indian.
Like most boys at that time, I had a number of Dinky Toys. Modelled on real cars, vans, lorries and buses, those were much more expensive than the soldiers, and so it was only occasionally that one was added to my collection.
When playing with toys, I had a vivid imagination. While my pals all knelt down and pushed their little cars along the pavement, I remained standing, holding my car at eye level, for I could clearly see the imaginary road along which my car was speeding.
Both Rita and I were pretty good at “make believe”. When very small, she would sit for ages on the floor playing with papers and telling stories aloud to herself. As for me, a couple of clothes pegs (not the kind with metal hinges) could become people, the little round bit being the head and the two prongs their legs. Also if one of the pegs was fitted in to the other at right angles, the result was an aeroplane.
When I was very small, I could content myself with an old biscuit tin full of discarded buttons, arranging them in different patterns on the carpet.
Who needs toys if you have a good imagination?
This is where we lived from 1927 till 1936, our first house was through the door on the right, ground floor left, and then middle floor right through the door on the left. The building to the right is our primary school.
DOON THE WATTER
In the years between the wars most people living in the Glasgow area took their holidays on the Clyde coast, and seaside resorts like Largs, Ardrossan, Saltcoats, Troon, Prestwick, Ayr and Girvan were very busy during mid-July for the Glasgow Fair Holiday period.
My mother’s family for a few years around 1930 rented a house in Prestwick, and my grandparents, uncles and aunts, getting their holidays at different times, would come and go during the month of July. So for Rita and I, it was always fun to have uncles and aunts to play with.
Going on holiday would entail a great deal of preparation for Mother. Our luggage which, as well as clothes for all weathers, would contain towels, medicines, food, favourite toys, was uplifted by the railway lorry a few days earlier, and, if everything went to plan, would be waiting for us at our holiday home.
On the morning of our departure, Rita and I would be very excited indeed. We were going to be on TWO trains. And remember, they were steam trains in those days, huge, and noisy and terribly thrilling for children. There were no corridors in those trains, and that could be a bit of a problem for an excited little boy!!!
One summer there were aeroplane flights from the sands, and huge crowds would stand on the promenade watching them take off and land. Of course I wanted to have a flight, and, in a weak moment, my father (definitely without my mother’s approval) agreed to take me up. However days went passed and there was always an excuse for putting it off.
Eventually, on our last full day at Prestwick, my father had run out of excuses, and he and I joined the waiting queue on the sands. The plane was a single-propeller bi-plane with 2 cockpits - the pilot (a girl) was in the one behind, and the passenger one, just big enough to seat the two of us, in front.
I suppose the flight would last for 10-15 minutes. I can tell you that it was a very thrilling but scary experience for both of us, but it was much more frightening for Mother who was standing with Rita, watching from down below.
This plane is similar to the one in which we had our flight.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE?
When I was small, there would have been a different answer each time the question was asked.
If I had been to the doctor’s, I would want to be a doctor. If I had been to Glasgow in the bus, my answer would have been “bus driver”. If I had been to the cinema, it would have been “film star”. And so on.
By the time I got to secondary school however, my mind was made up - to be a musician was what I wanted. I knew it was useless suggesting this to my parents, for they had already decided that I should go into one of the recognised professions.
In 1943 I left school with a Scottish Higher Leaving Certificate, which included three Highers - English, Latin and French, and two Lowers - History and Arithmetic. My father had been persuaded by a schoolmaster friend of his that Dentistry was an excellent career and so, despite the fact that my own headmaster advised against it, the decision was made and I was enrolled as a Dental student.
Although I had dropped Science as a subject after Third Year at school, I succeeded in passing the Chemistry and Physics exams, and was coping all right with Anatomy and Physiology. It was a different story with the practical side of dentistry, and it was quite a relief when my call-up papers came through.
There followed two years in the RAF as a dental assistant/part-time musician. Apart from initial training, my whole time in the Service was spent at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, where I continued my music as pianist in the Station Concert Party and in a six-piece dance band.
The Brize Rhythm Group: Ray Raynor - drums, Pete Davis - string bass, Vic Hardingham - guitar, Pete Munro - vocals, Spencer Dunmore - trumpet, and myself - piano.
CLICKING FOR CHARITY
For many years now, I have begun my day on the computer by logging on to the Ecology Fund website. By clicking half-a-dozen times, I’m making a donation to a Fund which is helping to save rainforests and endangered wilderness. So far I personally have saved more than 5 acres.
I then log on to the Hunger Site and my click results in a sponsor donating a cup of food. From the top of the Hunger Site page, you can access 5 more charity sites, Breast Cancer, Child Health, Literacy, Rainforest and Animal Rescue, and by clicking at the relevant place on each one you are making donations at no cost to yourself.
The two addresses are :-
Finally, here is The Ashokan Farewell, a very beautiful melody played by Mairead Nesbitt who plays violin in the girls’ vocal group called CELTIC WOMAN. It was composed by an American folk musician Jay Ungar in 1982 and has something of a Scottish flavour about it.