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

Friday, February 6, 2009



Michael Hardwick who is the father-in-law of our eldest daughter Margaret is seen here receiving his MBE from the Queen in November 2008. A retired headmaster, he has worked with the Bristol Children’s Help Society in a voluntary capacity for 40 years, with 25 of those years as chairman. The purpose of the Society is to provide holidays for underprivileged children in the Bristol area.



In my young day it was certainly the general practice in church-going families to say grace before meals, and as children we were taught a simple one -

God bless our food and make us good,
For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

When we got older, we had to say -

Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything. Amen.

The grown-ups’ grace was something like this -

Heavenly Father,
Accept our thanks for these Thy mercies,
Bless them to our good,
And pardon our sins, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Jean and I continued the custom with our own children, but, as time went on and they grew older, the practice gradually died out. I believe that this has happened in most homes where a couple of generations ago saying grace was considered essential.

And of course as soon as we could talk we were taught our bedtime prayer -

This night as I lie down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
Take me to Heaven for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

When we were a bit older, we had to add a sentence, naming the other members of the family and asking God to bless them.

As a child I was troubled by nightmares, I can clearly remembering adding “God, please don’t let me dream” and repeating it a good many times.

I heard a story of a regular church goer who decided to skip church one Sunday morning to go bear-hunting in the hills. For a while there was no sign of any quarry, but later on, as he was approaching some trees, he was shocked when a big bear suddenly appeared right in front of him. Such was his fright that he dropped his gun and stood rooted to the spot. As the bear charged him, the man fell on his knees and prayed, “O God, I’m really sorry I skipped church this morning. Please forgive me, and grant me just one wish - please make that bear be a Christian bear!” The bear immediately stopped, went down on its knees and said, “Dear God, for what I’m about to receive, may I be truly thankful.“

This painting “Family Saying Grace” is by Antonius Claeissins 1536-1613 of Bruges.



People of my age will remember the twice-daily half-hour broadcasts of non-stop music. Last week I discovered some fascinating facts about the programme and I thought you’d be interested.

There were 16781 broadcasts in all. The series ran from 1940 to 1967 with occasional revivals in the 80s and 90s, although I don’t remember them. Many different bands and orchestras took part in those live broadcasts, and, as the title suggests, the purpose was to keep factory workers happy.

The BBC issued instructions to band leaders, advising them what music was suitable and what was unsuitable. What do you think of this?

“From the point of view of the general listener, we are asking for a bad piece of programme building. There must be as little variation of tempo as possible, the ideal being to maintain the same beat throughout the whole programme. Artistic value must NOT be considered. The aim is to produce something which is monotonous and repetitive.” Music with “predominant rhythm, in sufficient melody or other unsuitable characteristics” was banned, along with numbers that are “too lethargic and unsuited to any speeding up of tempo.” “Deep in the Heart of Texas” was also out, because it was thought that workers would be inclined to beat their hammers and tools in time with the clap-clap-clap-clap parts of the tune. Fortunately band leaders didn’t pay too much attention to those rules.

There was a sad incident connected to “Music While You Work.” Apparently towards the end of one broadcast, the pianist collapsed and fell to the floor where he lay till the programme finished. It was discovered that the poor fellow was dead - he had had a heart attack.

This is a clip of the signature tune “Calling All Workers” which was composed by Eric Coates. The orchestra is the Slovak Radio Orchestra under their English conductor Adrian Leaper. Eric Coates wrote many popular pieces including the Knightsbridge March (“In Town Tonight”), By a Sleepy Lagoon and the Dambusters March.

You can learn more about radio programmes of the distant past at -


I’m finishing this week with Robert Burns. These are two of his love songs that were unknown to me, but I rather liked them.

Oh, leeze me on my wee thing,
My bonnie blithesome wee thing;
Sae lang's I ha'e my wee thing,
I'll think my lot divine.

Though warld’s care we share o’t,
And may see meikle mair o’t,
Wi’ her I’ll blithely bear it,
And ne’er a word repine.

[leeze-me = a phrase of happy endearment, e.g. I’m happy in thee, I’m proud of thee, blessings on thee]


When I think on the happy days
I spent wi’ you, my dearie;
And now what lands between us lie,
How can I be but eerie?

How slow ye move, ye heavy hours,
As ye were wae and weary;
It wasna sae ye glinted by,
When I was wi’ my dearie.

[eerie = lonely. wae = sorrowful. glinted = flashed past]


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