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

Monday, October 27, 2008





If we could be twice young and twice old we could correct all our mistakes. (Euripides)



In an earlier blog I said that my fellow-pupils in primary school were generally well behaved. That was true also in secondary, although sometimes we were high-spirited and ready for a bit of nonsense.

There were quite a number of teachers with whom we would never consider stepping out of line. However, the science teacher was a poor old soul (he seemed very old to us), and a favourite ploy with some boys (not me, sir) was to turn on a Bunsen burner and blow into it. The result was that the burner which the old fellow was using to demonstrate an experiment, would go out. On another occasion someone attached an iron clamp to the back of his jacket, and he strolled round the classroom with it hanging like a tail behind.

If any of my classmates ever played truant, I wasn’t aware of it. I must tell you however that some of us for a time managed to “plunk” gym. Nobody really enjoyed the gym periods, for we seemed to spend most of the time running round the room. I think the idea was mine, and one day 2 of 3 of us, instead of attending, went to a rarely used small room next to the ladies staff room where we passed the time doing homework. We weren’t missed and the following week more boys joined us in our little hideaway.

This continued and the number of escapees grew each week. It bacame obvious that the gym teacher wasn’t interested in whether we attended or not. It was also obvious that the more people who gather in a small room, the noisier it will be. The din was heard in the ladies staff room, questions were asked, and unsatisfactory answers given. Surprisingly no punishment followed (I think the Head knew that the gym teacher was really no use), but from then on we had to attend the gym class.


This still life is “Apples and Jar” by Samuel Peploe 1871-1935. Born in Edinburgh he was one of the four Scottish Colourists.
Last week one of his paintings was sold for £529,250.



I’ve been told that I could talk before I could walk. My mother used to recall the occasion we were visiting a friend’s home. The lady took me up in her arms, and pointing out the window towards the railway said, “Look, there’s a choo-choo”. To which I replied, “No, no! That’s a train!”

When I was about 10 or 11, I produced my first blog - 8 handwritten pages of drawings, jokes, short stories, puzzles and family news. My magazine must have had a name, but I’ve no idea what it was. Members of my mother’s family were persuaded to part with a penny for the privilege of borrowing it for a few days, and it was such a success that I followed it up with a second edition even better than the first. It was returned to me with the front cover marked where egg yolk had been spilled.
I was upset! I was horrified! I was blazing mad!
I produced no more.

A few years later my next major opus was to be an opera. The short overture was quickly completed - a very sombre beginning on double basses which merged unexpectedly into a bright 6/8 march. The first scene was a forest glade where a boy and his sister would have a duet followed by a minuet-like dance. And that’s as far as I got. The unfinished song began with the boy -”O sister dear, come o-o-over here”. Thankfully I can’t remember any more.

For many years Lou Preager and his band were the main attraction at Hammersmith Palais de Danse, from where they made regular broadcasts. In 1945 in collaboration with the BBC he organised a “Write A Song” contest with a major prize for the winner. By that time I had made up quite a few tunes, and I thought “This is my big chance!”
I chose one of my compositions, tidied it up a bit and wrote it down on manuscript as neatly as I could. My effort was a slow waltz called “You’re not to blame” (with words which I’ve no intention of quoting here), and I sent it off.

Yes, that was the last I heard of it! What was the song that won? A quick waltz written by two middle-aged ladies Eily Beadell and Nell Tollerton. Here it is, sung by Paul Rich with the Lou Preagar band.




A mother was washing her baby one night,
The poor little thing was a terrible sight,
The poor little thing was so skinny and thin,
It was really a skeleton covered with skin.

The mother she turned for the soap on the rack,
She was only a minute but when she got back,
The baby was gone and in anguish she cried
“O where is my baby?” and the angels replied:

“Your baby’s gone down the plug-hole,
Your baby’s gone down the plug,
The poor little thing was so skinny and thin
It should have been washed in a jug”.



This photo of my father’s family was probably taken about 1916

Back Row: John b1900, my father Robert b1893, Charlie (Charlotte) b1896, George b1892, and Jean b1898
Front Row: Lizzie (Elizabeth) b1905, Grandma (Charlotte) b1865, Walter b1910, Grandpa (John) b1868 and Isa (Isobel) b1900
John and Isa were twins -the only twins that I know of in the wider family.
Have you noticed that my father and Charlie have their pinkies linked?


Finally, looking forward to Guy Fawkes Night and Bonfires, a cautionary limerick written by Herbert Langford Reed, 1889-1954

There was a young man of Herne Bay
Who was making some fireworks one day,
But he dropped his cigar
In a gunpowder jar,
There WAS a young man of Herne Bay.


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