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

Friday, April 24, 2009


This week’s quote:-

In youth the days are short and the years are long. In old age the years are short and the days are long. (Pope Paul VI)

This week’s haiku:-

too old to travel -
far away places are mine
on the internet


IT WAS TOWARDS THE END of the 19th century that four of my father’s uncles went to the USA with the idea of settling there. Two of them Robert and James decided to stay and within a few years their families had joined them.

Today there are Jaaps in different parts of America, and many of them are direct descendants of Robert and James.

Since we created the Jaap website, quite a few of our American cousins have contacted us from time to time, and one in particular sends me most interesting e-mails.

So - a big “Thank You” to Walter for what he sent last week. The message started with this great picture of a 1909 Ford, and was followed by some fascinating statistics showing how Americans lived 100 years ago.

The average life expectancy was 47 years.

Only 14% of homes had a bath.

Only 8% had a phone.

There were only 8,000 cars.

Only 144 miles of paved roads.

In most cities the speed limit was 10 mph.

90% of doctors had no college education.

Most women washed their hair just once a month, and used borax or egg yolk for shampoo.

The main causes of death were pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis, diarrhoea, and heart disease.

2 out of every 10 adults were illiterate.

18% of homes had at least one full-time servant.

More than 95% of births took place at home. (In Scotland I believe that most births took place in the home throughout the 1920s and 30s. I was just reading today that in Holland the trend has been reversed and only a third of births are now taking place in hospital.)

Walter’s message ends with the thought - what will things be like in another 100 years’ time? What, indeed!


THE FIRST TIME I went on holiday without my parents I must have been aged 26. Of course during and immediately after the war holidays were out for most people, and for me those years were followed by the time I spent in the RAF.

My sister Rita and I went on this holiday together and for 6 days we lived on a cargo ship, along with perhaps a dozen other cruise passengers. From Glasgow we sailed down the Clyde over to Ireland where our first port of call was Dublin, then on to Waterford and finally Cork.

We had ample time ashore, for cargo had to be loaded and unloaded at each port. From Dublin we visited the popular resort Bray and from Cork we had two trips - one to Killarney and the other to Barney Castle where Rita kissed the famous Blarney Stone.

No, this isn't Rita! I include this photo just to show the position you need to take to kiss the stone.

I remember the sea was very rough indeed when we left Cork for the homeward journey, and most of us were unwell. When we woke the next morning however, the weather was just perfect and we had a great sail all the way home. Since it was Sunday an ecumenical service was held, conducted by the wireless operator, and guess who played for the hymns?


This is an Irish song I remember singing at Sunday School parties. It was written by the poet and singer Thomas Moore (1779-1852) whose other songs include The Minstrel Boy and the Last Rose of Summer.

Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day
Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy-gifts fading away,
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.

It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofaned by a tear,
That the fervour and faith of a soul can be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear;
No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sun-flower turns on her god, when he sets,
The same look which she turned when he rose.


I’VE BEEN IN IRELAND twice only, the second time was perhaps 10 years ago when Jean I went on a coach tour to Sligo on the west coast.

From Glasgow we travelled to Stranraer, by ferry to Belfast and then through Northern Ireland into the Republic.

One of our day excursions took us to Knock which has become a world-famous tourist attraction since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979. A hundred years earlier there had been many reports of the Virgin Mary along with St. Joseph and St. John appearing to local people. We were surprised at the large number of shops whose windows were absolutely crammed with statuettes, ornaments and religious souvenirs.

When we assembled for breakfast on our final day, we were shocked to learn that the fuel had been siphoned from the tank of our bus. There was considerable delay waiting for the Gardai, and we just made the ferry minutes before it was due to sail.

There are some lovely views in this little video “Portrait of the Emerald Isle”



It would probably be in 1946 just after the end of the War that one of the big music shops in Glasgow opened a recording studio. Of course I thought how exciting it would be to listen to me playing the piano ON A GRAMOPHONE RECORD!

I can’t remember the cost, but I don’t think it would be too expensive. There were a number of sound-proof studios, and the one allocated to me had a lovely grand piano. The engineer explained that the duration of the record would be 3 minutes, and I had one run-through before the actual “take.” On one side I played a medley consisting of Love is All, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Lady be Good, on the other side my own arrangement of Rubenstein’s well-known Melody in F (lots of arpeggios and jazzing up the final 16 bars.)

I don’t know what the record itself was made of - a very hard material which required special needles to play it. I was very proud of my record, the only problem being the fact that I didn’t have a gramophone!!!

In case you’re wondering if I still have it - no, I don’t, and I don’t know where it went. Probably just as well!


Remember this photo from last week’s blog?

The explanation is that I was having very painful back trouble. I had been sitting in that chair, but because of the pain couldn’t get up. What I managed to do was to slide down on to the floor and there I was stuck! Jean brought me a small plate of grapes, and after a while, the pain having eased a bit, I was able to get up. I hope you had a good laugh at my expense!!!



There are many music sites nowadays and I’m always pleased when I find one where you can listen free of charge. This is one where you type in what you’re looking for, and, if the song is reasonably well known, there’s a good chance of it coming up.

If you like looking at paintings, I’d recommend the Art Magick site. There’s a huge number of 19th century pictures available, and, if you sign up (no charge), you’re able to assemble collections of your particular favourites.

This is another unusual picture I found on the internet. Does anyone know what kind of insect this is?


Finally, something a bit different - this short clip features clever hand shadows by Raymond Crowe, and the song “What a wonderful world” with the unmistakable voice of Louis Armstrong.



trinity said...

Hi John!
I'm glad yo visit your blog, and happy to know that you love classical music. I major in classical music, and I find that the number of people who listen to classical music is declining. So it's great to meet a like-minded friend like you. Which genre of classical music and which musical instrument do you prefer?

John said...

Thanks for your comment. I must admit that among my friends and relatives I don't know any who listen to classical music. And yet the UK Classics FM radio station seems to have a big following. Certainly they broadcast just bits and pieces during the day, but from 9pm they play full works. I have very wide tastes - I suppose my favourites are Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Elgar, Vaughan Williams. I played piano and church organ, and am particularly fond of listening to piano music and cello music.