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

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough. (Groucho Marx)


IN MY YOUNG DAYS I didn’t know anyone who had a phone in their house, and so, if you needed to contact someone, you had to pay them a visit. The result was that there was a great deal of coming and going between friends and relations.

When Jean and I married, the house we moved into had a phone which was on a “party line,” meaning that it was shared with another subscriber. Phone numbers all began with three letters (the first three letters of the relevant telephone exchange) followed by the number. An example for someone living in Kirkintilloch would be KIR 1278.

Of course when phones were first introduced, you had to tell the operator what number you wanted, and she would put you through.

In 1923 the GPO thought it necessary to supply subscribers with instructions on how to use this new gadget, and here they are -


Before passing a call to the exchange the subscriber should wait until he hears the telephonist’s “Number, please?” and then, speaking clearly and distinctly, with the lips almost touching the mouthpiece, he should state the number required - first the name of the exchange, then the number required.

Greater care is necessary in speaking by telephone than is required in ordinary speech. “Three” should be pronounced as “thr-r-ee” with slight rolling “r”, “five” as “fife” emphasising the consonants “f”.

On taking off the receiver, the subscriber should not say “Hullo” or “Who’s there?” but should announce his name. A householder would say “Mr Thomas Brown speaking”, the maidservant would say ”Mr Brown’s house”, Mr Brown at his office would say “Brown and Co., Mr Thomas Brown speaking”, and his clerk would say “Brown and Co.”


“Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion,
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water everywhere
And all the boards did shrink,
Water, water everywhere
Nor any drop to drink”

These words of course are from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Coleridge, a poem I first came across in school. I found it quite thrilling then, (especially the part where the dead sailors all rise up and guide the ship safely home) and I always enjoy reading it again.

I recently came across this drawing which describes the above stanzas. The artist was Gustav Dore (1832-1883) a prolific literary illustrator. A great deal of his work can be seen on the internet, and there are 38 pictures illustrating the poem at


On my EIGHTY PLUS blog posted on October 3rd, I showed a photograph of the Brize Rhythm group, the RAF sextet in which I was the pianist. The trumpet player was Spencer Dunmore who later became a writer of novels based in the world of flying. He emigrated to Canada in 1954.

Apart from his many novels which include “Final Approach”, “Collision”, “Bomb Run“ and “Tower of Strength,” and also a short story collection “Squadron,” I see that Spencer has collaborated with other writers in producing a number of non-fiction books, dealing with military history.

I find it difficult to believe that sixty years have passed since we were playing at dances and concerts. I wonder if he remembers the day he took me to his London home (I think in Muswell Hill) where I saw television for the first time!!!


The Mitchell and Kenyon film company was a pioneer of commercial movies in the UK.
This is a short clip of Jamaica Street, Glasgow in 1901. What astonishes me is how busy the street was, the number of horses and the speed of the traffic. (Just a thought - my father and mother would be aged 7 and 4 then. His parents would be in their 30s, my mother’s in their 20s.)


I like poems that are short, and I found two this week. They’re both excellent. Here’s the first one -

I MEANT TO DO MY WORK TODAY by Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947)

I meant to do my work today -
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand -
So what could I do but laugh and go?


The music I’ve chosen this week is the Finale of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C, played by the young Korean musician Han Na Chang with the Berlin Philharmonic Sinfonietta. (There seems to be some doubt how her first name is spelled - sometimes it appears as it is here, sometimes with a hyphen and sometimes as one word.) Her manner on stage is very unusual. She seems to be sharing a joke with the lead violins.


I'm finishing this week's blog with the other poem -

HAPPY THE MAN by John Dryden (1631-1700)

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call the day his own;
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today,
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine,
Nor Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.


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