” Use sliced bread”

These were the almost last instructions from my dear late father when, back in 1966, he and my mother were flying off to Norway for what for them was a once in a lifetime holiday. They were leaving me and my elder brother to cope as best we could by ourselves, when he uttered these words I asked, not unreasonable, ” Why? “

“So you don’t cut yourself” was his simple reply, thinking that I was obviously far too young to be wielding a bread knife and that I’d be found lying on the floor soaking up blood from a crusty wholewheat special, when they came back. What this simple sentence did was to illustrate how worried he was that they were going away and leaving us to our own devices and that he and my mother loved us.

When back, we took it as an opportunity to use whenever they went out of the house, even on a small errand, to rub in exactly how funny this was to us. He and my Mum took it in good part and later he used it ironically himself if we were ever going a away. It became a family saying which just meant ” Look after yourself”

On the way back from Norway, my father, then a smoker, took time out in the plane’s loo for a quick drag. One has to remember that these were the days when smoking was the norm, but not on a plane. As he lit up a voice came over the tannoy and barked something in Norwegian. ” Crikey they’ve seen me lighting up” my father thought to himself from his comfortable seated position, quickly extinguished the cigarette and adjusted himself for re-entry into the cabin when the English translation of the Norwegian came over the tannoy: ” You will be pleased to know that England have defeated Germany in the World Cup Final at Wembley in extra time. Well done England!” My father left the cubicle on a cloud of euphoria as well as a little smoke.

Meanwhile back at home my brother and I were probably slicing through a wholemeal in celebration.

Boom, boom!

Posted just over a year ago, brings back memories of how I filled my lockdown time then writing this stuff, and further memories of my family life.

Man with pipe.

I’m sticking this post here from 2017. I’ve not seen this guy since I took the photograph 6 years ago in the middle of Cheltenham. I hope he’s ok. The big store behind him had evaporated since. He had a fine bearing and looking through all my old posts it strikes me that there are too few images of people. I hope to change that now and will be posting my attempts at portrait photos in the weeks to come.

I’m on a learning curve with it, but then I’m on a learning curve with everything.

Hope you like them and this ex guardsmen is a good place to start. The text under the image is what I wrote back in 2017. The feedback from those kind people in comments is also from way back then.

Man with pipeweb

I don’t take many pictures of people and this one is from 2015. I came across it when doing a review of my photos and it seems apt that I should publish it on or near Remembrance Day. I asked the chap with the pipe if he’d mind me taking and using his picture and he was happy enough. I left him my card and he later got in touch as my late father had recently died. It turned out that he too had been a Guardsman. I ought to have spotted it in the bearing and smart turnout. Nice bloke.

I hope he is well, I’ve not seen him since.

Umpire of the Sun

umpire-of-the-sun333

I used to be keen on cricket until struck on the head by a ball when just a callow youth. The result of some fearsome fast bowling by one of my sports teachers, who insisted that I keep wicket in the very small area behind the wicket in the cricket nets. The resulting blow put what looked like an egg on my forehead and I suppose these days would be classed as concussion. All he did was get cross with me for failing to catch his fearsome delivery.

It’s a very sunny day but cold out there today and I came across this little drawing which I plan to finish properly one day, like dozens of others. If it was several degrees warmer it would be a perfect cricketing day so I thought this might put you in mind of summer.

For anyone not familiar with cricket, there are two umpires who oversee the game, one at the bowler’s end and one at mid-on, there you are, you’re lost already. It’s no use going any further explaining to anyone who has no knowledge of the game. I have very little myself, suffice to say that in the old days, the umpires also used to serve as a handy clothes peg, wrapped around with the player’s spare hats and jumpers on what was normally a roasting hot day.

Their job is to adjudicate if a batsman is in, or out, if he was judged out then he had to go off and someone else would come in , until they were judged to be out. If they were judged to be not out then they would stay in. In this particular case the umpire is indicating the result of an appeal and the batsmen is out. Another batsman may now come on and will be in until he is out, unless he succeeds in being not out. Owzat?

 

 This one is from 2017, but just as relevant today. Not a lot of cricket going on at present as the country is just trying to get back to normal and the weather is wet,wet,wet. It’s cold too so jumpers are on. I never did finish this drawing and am not going to promise that I will any more. It will have to do like this. I’m into other projects for the time being like T shirts

Not the weather for them either.

 

 

Builder’s Dashboard.

You know what it is. The deep bit of dashboard in front of the steering wheel awash with old bills, probably unpaid, empty fag packets ( that’s cigarette packs to anyone outside the UK ) , old takeaway wrapping and detritus. In some cases the vehicle is relatively new and the purchase date can be probably ascertained by digging deep and finding the invoice for it deep in the dashboard. Poor chap never has the time to clean it out as he’s off to the next job, not yours, to try and make headway on it before he finishes at 3.00 to get down to Witherspoons. He’ll need to trade it in before too long as driver visibility may be impacted.

If you intend to employ a builder avoid one with builder’s dashboard. He might not turn up anyway, and if he does he won’t finish the job, unless you pay cash up front and even then he might have better options.

Builder Boris, from an earlier posting. I bet he’s not the tidiest bloke on site.

How does he do it?

Another of my portrait shots and unusually in this one my good friend Al Blethyn is facing the camera. He wears well does this fellow. We shared offices for nearly ten years and never a cross word. Unusually in this picture he’s not smiling broadly, which is something we do a lot when we meet. He’s a fine designer with a brilliant feel for type. We are at present collaborating on designing t shirts! Possibly the oldest t shirt designers in the country. Take a look at them here, and you’ll see what I’m on about when it comes to type.

This shot taken recently on the banks of the Wye in Herefordshire where he now lives. An afternoon with him puts my jawline in danger from all the smiling and laughing. We might not agree on everything but we are still looking for the things we don’t generally agree on.

Altogether a very agreeable chap with more hair on his head than he has a right to at his age.

He’s probably asking me if I’ve got that little portrait symbol showing on the camera button

Ron from the Plot

You mighty see a few of these portraits in the next few weeks, so don’t say you were n’t warned. This is Ron and as you can see from the background it was taken when there was very little green around. It was cold but bright, unlike now in May, when it’s cold and very damp.

Ron is one of my fellow plotters and has been working his allotment for a number of years. I have only one instruction to my fellow allotment victims, and that is “Look noble” and they do.

Ron’s potatoes seem to grow at exactly the same rate, each plant being the same size. I wonder if they come out of the ground the same size.

Where’ve you been?

Nowhere. Like everyone else I’ve been nowhere but around where we live.

I’ve also been pretty quiet on the blogging front too. But like a duck in the water I’ve been paddling away. More projects and one in particular has taken quite a bit of my time. I have a habit of never finishing projects and it may well be tricky to get to the end of this blog without drifting off.

That aside I’m determined that my new project will take off and it’s all about t shirts. Odd really, but I never wear them myself, but leapt at the chance to ‘design’ some and get them out there. They’re here

With my good friend Alan we have been rattling out quite a lot of designs. Why do we do it? Because it’s there, and we actually enjoy doing it. I’ve even been advertising them on Facebook.How’s it going? Well, I cannot pretend that we are selling millions. It seems that the easy bit is getting them on a site. Selling them is an entirely other matter.

Getting a celeb to wear one and be photographed in one would be a fine start, but we don’t know any celebs. Social media will help, and we’ve done quite a bit of that, both on Facebook where we have a page, and on Instagram where we have had a lot of likes, but not many people reaching for their wallet.

My son, who is never short of an opinion, suggested designs based on ‘events’ and ventured an idea for a shirt about a recent raid on an armoured van in South Africa. Search “Phone Robbie” on you tube and you can see it. It’s pretty compelling viewing. I spent a tenner on promoting the t shirt on Facebook and it got 7.7k engagements and over a 100 click links to a website. I suspect the links were to You Tube! I may well have been paying for advertising them. You can see the page here.

So at present I am in the danger zone, where I recognise that I might abandon. I’ve done this on other projects and regretted it, so we’ll be sticking in there.

I like the idea of a couple of 70 plus year olds designing t shirts. Why not? It would be even better if it took off, and we are going to try our best to get it to do that. So if I’m a bit quiet on this blog front, you at least know that I’ve not given up on this project.

This design is for kids, and is part of a complete cat alphabet.
This super typographic design by Alan is one of a few on the site,
some people say that typography is a bit of a ‘marginal’ subject for t shirt design, but I think not.
Why pander to populists? Comic Sans won’t happen here as it’s sans humour ( or style)
We’ve done a few on songs that we like and will be developing more as we go.
I suppose that not many younger people will know this song, but for the ones that do, here’s to you.
Spread the word: on your chest

Gracie’s secret.

My mother and father inherited a small cottage in Wales in the 1970s which was formerly the home of my Aunty Gracie. Gracie lived with her sister Mary, in the house for many years, almost all her life. I remember the place well with it’s black cast iron kitchen range in the quite dark back room, usually lit even on the warmest days. We always went to visit the two sisters when we were on holiday in what was my father’s home town. We were allowed to view the parlour: the front room, but not allowed to go into it. I don’t think that they ever really went into it either.

Mary was a little scary for us two small boys as she wore an eye patch, the thought of what was behind the patch did nothing for our nerves. Mary always gave us a penny when we called, pre decimalisation.The other scary item was a glass dome in the hall way which contained stuffed birds. They stared lifelessly at us.

Mary died first and not very long afterwards Gracie. They left the cottage to my father and mother and they loved it. It was no longer scary to us and held only pleasant memories. I was given the glass stuffed bird dome and had it for many years, I brought dried flowers from the Amsterdam flower market ( I used to visit Amsterdam now and again in the 70s, I had an agent there! Yes, I had an agent! ) and put them in place of the birds. Like the birds they gathered dust in the glass dome for quite a few years.

My parents eventually got around to going through a trunk left in the attic of the house. There they came across a collection of baby clothes and what might be called christening robes. It appears that Gracie had fallen pregnant in around 1915. These clothes and robes were intended for the baby. It’s speculated that the baby died. Gracie, then a respected local schoolteacher was shipped out of the town to Ludlow in Shropshire where she was able to teach again. She eventually came back home to Wales but not for a number of years.The event was never spoken of to either my father or his father.

The father of the child, it is presumed, was a soldier, possibly and most likely from the village. There were several postcards of First World War soldiers in the trunk, not all the same man. They had pleasant messages to Gracie written on the backs or were blank. I wonder if the father ever knew he was a father, or if he ever survived the War and then the Flu Pandemic of 1918.

So Gracie had a secret. The only evidence remaining is the christening robes, three of them. Two in cotton and one in what I think is lace. They have been in a cupboard for years now, but we’ve decided to ‘release’ them back into the world where they may be either used or further appreciated. They have gone to our local hospice charity shop where they will try to raise some much needed funds for them from their eBay page. The Robes date from at least 1915 and may well be older than that. They were sadly unused, but kept carefully and are still in excellent condition. I did not want them to spend any longer in a cupboard, they’ve been hidden away for long enough.

I felt that I also needed to get Gracie’s secret out there. I hope she and her sister Mary would have approved. They were both lovely people.

Gracie’s christening robe
Gracie’s lace gown
Grace’s lace gown close up
Gracie’s cotton baby gown

Meat and potato pie from Edgelands

My good friend Steve has let me borrow a book that he thought might suit me. “Edgelands” by poets Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts. I’m not much into poetry but this book is prose. Not quite sure how one writes a book with someone else but they seem to have managed it seamlessly. I’ve really enjoyed it and what shows how good it was that it sent me off in other directions to look for things I knew little about. Including the authors.

If, like me you like to see broken down old sheds, and find beauty in broken down buildings and barns then this is worth a read. It’s an appreciation of the broken bike that finds itself in an unusual place, and how there’s an untold story behind it. Of places where no one really chooses to go. Waste ground and old industrial sites. It took me back to my childhood in the industrial North West, when it was industrial. Walking past a small boat on the Gloucester to Sharpness canal the other day I got a whiff of coal burning and that took me back in an instant, rather like this book.Burning coal: not something one comes across these days. Recent lock down has involved exercise locally and walks to the airport and it’s environs. Here are indeed edgelands. Plenty of broken down sheds, as well as park homes which also count but are generally in very good and tidy order, well cared for and inhabited mainly by elderly people with little means. I’ve spent walking holidays getting more excited by a broken down Volvo truck than the view over the Mediterranean. Discovering a broken down East German Trabant in an olive field in Sardinia was a real highlight for me. So you can see where I’m coming from and these two poets find as much poetry in the subject as I do.

I was also asked this week what my favourite food was when I was a child, and how I got to school. That took me back too. I went to school in what seemed to be a Hilman Minx Police Van, or what they called a ‘shooting brake’ in those days. It was big enough to accommodate a few unbelted 5 and 6 year olds to go to the Barber Bridge Methodists School a mere 5 miles away. We all behaved ourselves as we thought we were being driven by a policeman, but he was probably just a uniformed civilian officer or cadet from the police training school where my father and the other kid’s fathers used to spend their time teaching new recruits the finer points of policing. So I went to and from school in a police car. It’s only struck me now how odd that is.

My father was promoted and the family moved from what was a rural farmland location to the very centre of the then coal industry on the edge of Wigan. He was back at the sharp end. It was there that one night he had to get my Mum to cut off his tie after a shift where a friendly customer had got hold of each end and pulled them in a gesture of defiance. He claims to have introduced the clip on tie to the Lancashire Force as a result. It was in this area and at this time that pubs closed at 10-30pm and anyone on the streets after 11.30 considered a little dodgy. The local pub had a notice in the window “Clara at the Organ” every night. Clara played to the customers and they all knew that if she stopped then two policemen had just walked in to check for underage drinkers. Everyone seemed to be happy with the arrangement.

The new family house was a semi detached set on what might be described as perfect Edgelands. Scrubby ground outside our modest garden picket fence, broken down cars, disused railway embankments and a view of slag heaps. And coal everywhere. We were in a triangle of railway lines with smoke in every direction. It left sooty spots on my mother’s washing. We could see the huge Heinz Bean factory from out scrubby back garden. Apparently my mother cried for 3 weeks when we moved in, but cried for another 3 weeks when we moved again some years later, as she loved the people there so much. My brother and I moved from playing in open fields and streams in the countryside to running around these Edgelands dry and dusty wastelands surrounding the Rag and Bone yard that faced my mother’s kitchen window. This could so easily have been the model for Steptoe and Son, except there was no son, just Arthur and his wife: Destiny. Not her real name but she was keen on attending funerals in the area, she did n’t seem to need an invite. I recall her coming to the kitchen window asking my mother what she ‘were cuking’. “Pastry” Replied my mother. ” I like doing that too” said Destiny ” Gets me nails clean”.

Here I walked to my new school along the streets of Lower Ince, calling at my friend Tom’s house on the way where there was usually time for a quick piece of hot toast done on the banked up coal fire that glowed like a forge in his tiny living room. His dad was a miner so they made sure they used their coal allowance. Central Heating was what you got from porridge.

Each time my father was promoted, he and the family moved. He was promoted a lot. Each time we moved Aunty Winnie made a pie. A meat and potato pie. She’d bring it round to the ‘new’ house and complain about her corset or her feet as she walked up to the front door with large pie in hand. I have no idea how she made it, but these days it might be described as a heady mix of potato chunks and carrot suffused in a dark sauce with delicate chunks of beef topped with a golden crust of home made shortcrust pastry, best consumed with a side of pickled red cabbage: sublime. Edgeland’s best.

If you feel like a trip to the Edgelands you’ll find this a fascinating book and you may discover more about yourself, just like I did.

“Edgelands” Journeys into England’s True Wilderness by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts published by Vintage

Ripped poster on the Bristol Road, Gloucester. An area very like the North West of England.
Truck going nowhere, behind me a fine view of the Mediterranean.
East End of London, where Edgelands is getting gentrified.
Edgeland in Gloucester, some years ago. This is now no more, I think there’s a large Sainsbury Store here
East German Trabant in an olive grove in Sardinia.
My own view of Edgelands from 1991. That’s the closed down corner shop near the flyover and the new one in the Supermarket.

Spring loaded.

Robin burning into song, skylarks and others in the background

Choosing the right place and time to go out for a walk seems to be more important these days than before we were locked in with the key seemingly chucked away somewhere. In this country you can be lucky with the weather and the further north you go the luckier you can be, or not. For instance, if it rains in the Lake District there are days when you can’t see more than a few feet in front of you and you might as well be walking around the old sewage farm close to where you live. At present we have to walk locally and we are very lucky to have some fine locations almost on the doorstep, though I have to admit to some ‘location fatigue’ in relation to walking to the local airport and back.

One of my favourite saunters is to the Red Lion on the banks of the River Severn. Sadly the pub is closed at present, so no promise of a beer. The walk takes you with a lot off ‘up’ to get the heart rate moving, to the top of a hill overlooking a large slab of Gloucestershire, and from there over as far as Wales with the Malvern Hills on the right looking like a large beached whale or two on the horizon. Whales and Wales.

My walking friend: Robin, and I were lucky enough to choose this route on a day last week when the sun shone on us. It was worth every second. Stopping for a tea break before we’d hardly started at the top of the hill was a wise move. After all who wants lukewarm tea and a damp backside down by the river. I’d taken myself a jam sandwich, Robin was in a class slightly higher than me with his fancy hot cross bun, but his looked like he’d sat on it. We’d set off at the start off the afternoon as we stood admiring the 360 degree view all around we mused that we’d made the right decision. Why walk when you can stand and stare with the bonus of a snack. As we stood there, the skies changed constantly and the sun came out gradually. It was quiet with no road noise and just the sound of skylarks starting to get in tune for Spring. A good spot for a song.

Walking down the other side of the hill and down some green lane we both thought that Spring was about to burst forth. It was altogether a super walk. It has almost everything, a hill, a view, tree clumps, water, more water, ponds, bird life, woods, river views, and on the day we were there a lovely early evening light.

I don’t normally post more than one image or two but this walk was worth a few and certainly worth Robin’s rendition. At the time I thought it was quiet in the background, and that he was only competing with the birds, but you can hear a helicopter which disturbed the peace a little later.

Hope you enjoy the post, the tune and the pictures.

End of the walk, looking down the Severn towards Gloucester, it’s round the bend, in both respects!

“I don’t need a watch, I tell the time from the crap TV programmes I’m watching.”.

Same old, same old.

TV is a massive hole that needs to be filled every day. Something the local council have really given up on around here, and probably everywhere. Before the ‘C’ word arrived was no better. Suspension testing holes in the roads were rife.

When we lived in Gloucester the road men used to come by occasionally with a teaspoon of tarmac and add another patch to the already patchy road. It had the look of a grey quilt which had been sewn together over the years, when one big road refurb would have solved the lot. My neighbour used to keep a tin of spray paint for when the surveyors came out to indicate which holes to fill, and when they’d gone, he’d survey it a little more and circle some extra holes. It worked and the men came and filled both the official holes in the road as well as the unofficial. A couple of heavy lorries later it generally all popped out.

So telly is like a lot of these holes in the road. Always needing to be filled, generally not very good and occasionally when some big production is sanctioned: something worthwhile.

In lockdown we’ve probably all been watching too much. Talking to a friend today she said she always knew these days what time it was, by the constant crap on the telly. Nice turn of phrase, I thought.

We were talking about her website which I put together. We use a company that I’ve used for years, I’m what’s called a ‘heritage’ customer, their disruption, not mine. But lately we’ve had problems. Their sites worked using Adobe Flash, and that has been ‘retired’. Sadly the company did not seem ready for it and now nothing works. It has the look and feel of a company in terminal decline. A website company where the customers can’t edit their own websites.

I’m saddened by it, especially as I’ve been recommending them for years. But they’ve just not been mending the holes in the roads, and the result is a bit of a car crash.

Here’s a random picture.

TV Repairman