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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Yes, this is me! My daughter Fiona has named this photo “Happy Dad.”

I REMEMBER when I was very small I was afraid of the black-faced coalman who used to tease me about a girl in the next close.

I REMEMBER the lamplighter with his long pole. I thought he had a great job.

I REMEMBER that every so often buskers would appear in our back-court and sing one or two songs. Housewives would open their windows, throw down coppers and the singer would move on to the next tenement. Sometimes one of them would play a tin whistle or do a dance, and I’m told that before the First World War German bands toured the country entertaining in back-courts.

I REMEMBER the horse-driven vans which visited our street, and the occasion when the horse which pulled the baker’s van fell down. Someone sat on its head as it lay flat on the street, while the baker undid all the belts and straps. Only when that was done was the animal able to get up, unharmed.

I REMEMBER message boys on bicycles. They were usually employed by food shops, and they had the job of delivering what housewives had ordered.

I REMEMBER that in the wintertime we went to school wrapped up in layers of clothing. Boys always wore caps and short trousers; in those days we had to wait till we were 15 or 16 before we got long trousers.

I REMEMBER the old lady who lived in the top floor. It seemed to me that she always wore the same clothes, a long dress down to her ankles and a shawl. Half a dozen times a day she would climb down the stairs with an overweight Scotch terrier under her arm. She would let it wander around the back court for a few minutes and then retrace her steps.


Last week my Eighty Plus blog was mentioned on the Clifford James website
This is what the reviewer said:-

“John keeps us regularly updated on life, the universe and everything in this witty blog. This is a great blog to while away the odd ten minutes, as there is always something thoughtful, informative or entertaining to keep you amused, like his quirky animal photos or his amazing You Tube finds.”


No, neither the baby or the cat are related to me! I found this picture on the net


The other day I saw an advert for a CD called “The Songs that Won the War.” A bit over the top?
Still, I don’t think we can exaggerate the importance of the songs we sang then, and particularly the ones that were written with the war in mind.

Many of them played a big part in boosting our morale - We’re goin’ to hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line, Kiss me goodnight Sergeant-Major, Roll out the barrel, Bless ‘em all, and many, many more.

But there were others, much more serious, in which the words reflected something of the concerns and hopes that people had in those terrible times. Here are the lyrics of two songs from 1940. Even today I still find them very moving.

There are two eyes, such blue eyes a’smiling at me,
Yet they’re lonely as only a woman’s can be,
For I see all her thoughts are somewhere -
Somewhere in France with you.

And she’s talking, she’s talking of no one but you,
She’s so proud, oh so proud of the things you will do,
I can see all her love is somewhere -
Somewhere in France with you.

And when your letters come, they bring a smile, a tear,
Each one a sweet souvenir,
Only one of a million who’ll never complain,
For she knows that the sunshine will follow the rain,
Every beat of her heart will always be
Somewhere in France with you.


My sister and I remember still
A tulip garden by an old Dutch mill,
And the home that was all our own until -
But we don't talk about that.

My sister and I recall once more
The fishing schooners pulling into shore,
And the dog-cart we drove in days before -
But we don't talk about that.

We're learning to forget the fear
That came from a troubled sky.
We're almost happy over here,
But sometimes we wake at night and cry.

My sister and I recall the day
We said goodbye, then we sailed away,
And we think of our friends that had to stay,
But we don't talk about that.


And now here’s a song which looked forward to the time when peace would return -


1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I was wondering if it is at all possible to write a guest post for your blog? I was trying to find your email address on here but could not find it, apologies for posting here. I am a 40 year old man and in my line of work I meet lots of retired people and would love to write a piece about my experience with the retired folk. Please drop me line at