The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

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Remember, Remember The 5th Of November….Yes In 1950…Not So Much Now…

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun

As a ten year old South Londoner in 1950 autumn was always my favourite time of year, especially October and November. Autumn fruits on the classroom’s Nature Table, going down to Tooting Bec Common and throwing lumps of wood up at the Horse Chestnut trees to knock down conkers then stringing them and soaking them in brine, ready for the playground gladiatorial contests. Kicking up the leaves on the walk back from school.. Above all the anticipation of Bonfire night and fireworks on November 5th…then the run down to the excitement of Christmas


The last week of October was a half term holiday. The immediate task was making the guy by stuffing some old clothes with newspaper topping up with a scrunched up ball fronted with a paper mask and the whole crowned with an old hat begged borrowed or stolen from someone’s aunt. Then down to Streatham High Road to dump him on the pavement and call out “Penny for the guy” to  passing adults.

The theory was that we could use any money collected to buy fireworks but there was never really enough donated – indeed some sniffy grownups would condemn it as “begging” but we didn’t care. As ten years old adults were an alien breed who rarely impinged on our world unless stirred up, rather like wasps, by some innocent act that threatened to disrupt their mysterious world


Fireworks, of course, were a major subject of discussion – not the “pretty ones” so beloved of mums, aunts and sisters, but the “bangers”. We compared notes on which brand was the most explosive and we tested them in back alleys and secret hideaways. I don’t know if there were restrictions on selling them to youngsters but we were never refused by any shopkeeper.

The greatest excitement was making our own bangers. Would you believe it? We went down to Boots in Streatham and bought Sulphur and Potassium Nitrate. Actually we asked for saltpetre and the helpful chemist told us its proper name….he even told us the quantities to use although he did warn us to take care. He didn’t sell charcoal but told us to go to an art shop further up the road….not much health & safety then….

Charcoal from the art shop which we then ground down to black dust…one third of each ingredient and we had our gunpowder!  Pack it into a cylinder of cardboard or several layers of paper and tie at both ends with string so it looked like a sausage. Then off to the model shop to buy some jetex fuse (normally used to ignite the engines of model aeroplanes and sold in coils of wick in small round tins).  Insert the small length of wick into the end of the sausage, stand clear and await the explosion.

We used them packed into the ground to make small craters or put them in milk bottles or tin cans (Lyles Golden Syrup were the best)…fortunately we were all fairly bright so knew enough to move far away but I am sure slower witted boys could risk some nasty injuries.

Out all day, at someone’s house or down on the common, as long as we were home for lunch or tea parents didn’t seem to worry. The streets and commons and parks were teeming with young boys and girls, running free, maybe irritating adults who would shout and we would run away – but the idea of staying at home all day, being guarded by parents and checked on every half hour? Never..

Another time, another age. Were there paedophiles lurking around waiting to rape us or sell us into slavery? Maybe and I suppose it did happen. But not much was reported and teachers and parents appeared fairly sanguine. Being outside, of course, did make us streetwise  and we seemed to have an internal radar which could distinguish between the well meaning helpful adult and one who was …a little weird

In 1950, 0f course, WW2 (the “war”) was still very much part of family discourse. Fathers and uncles reminisced about their experiences, mums and aunts would talk about the blitz and air raid sirens. There were still some “bomb dumps”, sites where buildings had been damaged by bombs and not yet cleared (glorious adult free playgrounds for us) and “rationing” of sweets, sugar and meat. Parents talked incessantly of “before the war” when you could supposedly buy anything you wanted when you wanted but such a cornucopia meant little to us because it was beyond our experience. We made our own lives with what we had.ever

Now, of course,  you never see kids with a guy in the street – in fact the whole idea of burning Guy Fawkes on a bonfire is probably seen  as being in bad taste and maybe even considered a hate crime. Yet we were quite adamant.

    Remember, remember! 
    The fifth of November, 
    The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
    I know of no reason 
    Why the Gunpowder treason 
    Should ever be forgot! 
    Guy Fawkes and his companions 
    Did the scheme contrive, 
    To blow the King and Parliament 
    All up alive. 
    Threescore barrels, laid below, 
    To prove old England’s overthrow. 
    But, by God’s providence, him they catch, 
    With a dark lantern, lighting a match! 

We believed we were celebrating the defeat of a terrorist plot to destroy king and parliament and impose the rule of Spain and the Inquisition – to us an escape from tyranny similar to 1945 when we had street parties to rejoice in the defeat of another danger (indeed, well into the late 40s many guys possesed a Hitler moustache). Still my mum did remind us that Fawkes, though heavily tortured, had never sneaked on his co-conspirators so in some peculiarly English way we also admired his bravery because, like boys all over, we never liked sneaks or tell tales…

Now the guys have gone, the fireworks are all safely organised, the parks and commons empty. Instead we have the ghastly American import of Halloween, heavily pimped by the retail trade selling themed paraphernalia and an excuse to blackmail fearful pensioners into treating to avoid tricking.

Odd, is it not, that we have substituted the remembrance of a true historical event with the mythological detritus of the occult – a sign of the times?

Maybe being a ten year old in South London in 1950 wasn’t a bad place to be….


pic hat tips  conkers    guy


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posted by david in Personal and have Comments Off on Remember, Remember The 5th Of November….Yes In 1950…Not So Much Now…

Summary Justice…..How Police Constable “Ginger” Dealt With Violent Husbands In 1920s South London….

My dad lived on a tough estate in Brixton when he was a kid in the 1920s. His own father disappeared from the scene very early on so he and his brother and sisters were brought up by his mum. He recalled that quite a few of his friends were in the same position – only the phrase “single mum” had not then been invented.

Working class couples didn’t get divorced but most likely the statistics of separation might have been the same as today. There were also quite a few “common law” wives and “uncles” just living together as “partners” – another word that hadn’t been invented yet.

Wives/mothers tended to stay but some men appeared and disappeared as circumstances changed. That’s not to say that there were not lots of couples who soldiered through together and did their best even through trying times but dysfunctional relationships are not a monopoly of 21st century Britain.

My dad, through his young eyes, saw drunkenness as a familiar facet of everyday life – not amongst his peers but by watching older men staggering out of pubs as they wended their way home through the streets. And, with the drunkenness there was the violence – between men when tempers flared but, more often, the violence inflicted on the women once the men got home.

Levels of accepted behaviour were different in those days. Some men felt they had the right to slap their children and their wives but, as my dad said, there did seem to be an invisible boundary between what was acceptable – and what was not. Using your wife as a punchbag was not right – but few would dare to intervene between man and wife.

Except Ginger….

Ginger was the local bobby and the estate was his beat. He walked it regularly and knew everyone and made sure he was aware of what was going on….”intelligence led policing” is what it would be described as today….Ginger would do it by chatting to mums and kids and shopkeepers and milkmen and postmen and the local publican – and by using his eyes.

My dad said he was big and beefy with butcher’s hands. He could take a joke but was uncompromising if boundaries were crossed. Several times dad or one of his mates would be dragged by the ear to their home and parents informed in no uncertain terms of the appropriate transgression. No parent argued with Ginger – his word was law…Ginger WAS the law.

Ginger exuded authority and never walked away from trouble. He had great physical presence but dad never recalled him actually hitting anyone…..except when some wife had been used too often as a punchbag by her beer sodden husband or “uncle” – then there followed the same ritual.

Ginger would appear outside the house or block of flats, take off his jacket, fold it neatly and place it on the ground. On top would go his helmet and truncheon. He would then roll up his sleeves and go up to the front door and announce “Police – open up”. If nothing happened he would kick it open. Once inside he would hold a fairly one sided discussion with the man. This usually entailed, from visual evidence observed over the next few days, beating six bells out of the man with his bare fists. Ginger would then reappear, put his jacket and helmet back on and proceed down the road in his usual slow ponderous fashion without saying a word.

Nobody thought of going to the police station and complaining. It was rough street justice sanctioned by Ginger’s uniform.

Was it right?

Did it end domestic violence? Probably not – but maybe the thought of being at the receiving end of Ginger’s fists might have made some men hold back their punches…

Does violence resolve violence? Who can tell….

But I do know Ginger’s behaviour made a big impact on my dad, as a youngster, in terms of showing that bad actions could have unpleasant consequences – a kind of down on the street education in the realms of ethics….Ginger as the avenging angel…

It’s easy in our supposedly more enlightened culture to be very sniffy and disapproving of how Ginger went about things – but I suspect that a lot of us feel that in an imperfect world it might be comforting to know that Ginger could well be coming round the corner…

BTW…that is not Ginger in the pic, it’s just how I imagined him to look like…

posted by david in Criminals,Morality,Personal,UK and have Comments Off on Summary Justice…..How Police Constable “Ginger” Dealt With Violent Husbands In 1920s South London….

It’s The Lovely Mrs P’s Birthday Today……

Happy ??th Birthday to my lovely wife……what would I be without you…….

posted by david in Personal and have Comments Off on It’s The Lovely Mrs P’s Birthday Today……

Residents Anger At WSCC Proposal To Amend Parking Restrictions On Street Hill, Worth……

I know we should be concerned about Syria, the euro and lots of other problems across the globe. But in reality it’s almost always local issues, literally at street level, that get us fired up…maybe because we can actually get a handle on what is happening and the direct impact.

Hence my post on January 26th 2011 was a cri de coeur – yet incredibly the gods smiled upon me..until a few days ago…

When we drive out of our road, Allyington Way, we almost always turn right into Street Hill because that way leads to the main road (B2036) and the M23 or Crawley.

A few months ago turning right would have been a little more difficult

Now once we have turned right we drive about 150 yds downhill along this road to the T junction at the bottom

Previously we just hoped and prayed we wouldn’t meet another vehicle coming up the hill

It’s quite a busy little hill because it acts as a cut through to avoid traffic on the main road so you can see how pleased the residents of Allyington Way were when West Sussex County Council published a notice saying they were putting down those double yellow lines to ban parking at any time.

A bit draconian to do that, you might ask?

I don’t think so.

For many years during weekdays only the odd car parked on Street Hill. At weekends church users might fill the road up but rarely for longer than a couple of hours at the most.

The parking problems came with the construction of a nearby industrial estate by the northbound Jct 10A of the M23. Not only did several employees park all day on the hill but it also appeared to be become regularly used as a storage area for vehicles from the car dealership on the estate. Then at other times it was clogged with Sky vans, either from the industrial estate or maybe from meetings at a nearby hotel. The volume of parking often turned the hill during weekdays into a virtual one way street. The double yellow lines have stopped that. Where these vehicles have gone is unclear (a handful still park in the unlined area further up) but they do not appear, on weekdays, to be parking locally.

You can therefore understand why last week we were astonished to receive a notice from West Sussex County Council saying they were going to remove most of the double yellow lines in the first and third pictures above – thus allowing the return of the inconsiderate parking seen in the second and forth pictures.

Straight away we realised that the restoration of the scene in picture 2 would raise serious issues.

Firstly the pedestrian slope onto the pavement on the east side that is just to the north of the entrance to our road would no longer be protected by yellow lines. Since the upper west side of Street Hill has no pavement this means that, as before, pedestrians who need to cross from west to east might well have to squeeze past parked cars and possibly miss that slope completely…hard luck if you are blind, a wheelchair user or have a toddler in a pushchair….or the grass verge is muddy.

Indeed it would really be going against official guidelines because, at present the double yellow lines opposite our road help to reinforce Para 217 of the Highway Code

217: DO NOT park your vehicle or trailer on the road where it would endanger, inconvenience or obstruct pedestrians or other road users. For example, do not stop
• opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction, except in an authorised parking space
• where the kerb has been lowered to help wheelchair users

I know that before the lines were painted weekday parking – and some weekend parking – made a mockery of Para 217 yet the WSCC proposals will allow those inconsiderate drivers to inconvenience local residents once again. It just seems odd that WSCC are quite sanguine about this.

I contacted WSCC and our local WSCC elected member, Councillor Richard Burrett, to find out why. It turned out that a number of people living in Saxon Road about 500yds up the hill had claimed that vehicles would move up closer to them during the week and park in and around their road – what they called “displacement parking”.

Fair enough, I suppose. The sensible option would have been to monitor parking for maybe one year to see if that did happen and then make a further judgement on the results. But for some reason there was panic in County Hall and an amended proposal to black out the lines put forward as a “compromise”

This rather cack handed response has made us very unhappy and we are asking ourselves why a so called compromise would actually restore almost everything we had complained about over several years – and why the views of those living further up the hill should carry such weight.

The joke of it is that there is no evidence that on weekdays there has been any “displacement parking” further up the hill and very little at weekends. This is just a big fat nothingburger.

I’m sorry, WSCC, this is simply not good enough. The people of Allyington Way are very unhappy that the residents of another road appear to be able to convince the county council to amend a Traffic Regulation Order by mere speculation rather than systematic monitoring over a twelve month period.

posted by david in Local politics,Personal,Politics,UK,UK Politics and have Comments Off on Residents Anger At WSCC Proposal To Amend Parking Restrictions On Street Hill, Worth……

With tears in his eyes The Aged P has put his caravan on ebay..

With regrets after 32 continuous years of camping our bones and sinews are telling us to call it a day as far as setting up our own tent or towing a caravan is concerned. We are still happy to enjoy the freedom, fresh air and camaraderie of a campsite via a static caravan or tent after a few hours on autoroute or autostrada but on arrival the most labour intensive activity we intend to undertake will be grabbing some glasses and uncorking the wine…

So our lovely caravan is up for sale…

“2006 Sprite Alpine 4 berth caravan for sale in good condition and owned from new. Full of happy memories and up for sale only because we are moving on in years. Ideal for couple or family with small children. Easy to tow and a dream to set up once on site. It has been well looked after and is now searching for new owners who will also treat it with loving care! BTW no smokers and no dogs have ever entered this ‘van….”

See the rest here

posted by david in Outdoors,Personal and have Comments Off on With tears in his eyes The Aged P has put his caravan on ebay..

Pity The Poor Aged P – Blackberryless For The Next 7 Days….

I am wandering around encircled by a mist of uncertainty and aimlessness. I need therapy. I need The Lovely Mrs P to cuddle me and kiss me better….

My Blackberry has been misbehaving – or, more specifically the scroll button has gone awol and refused to function. It has now been despatched for repair. The helpful young man at O2 says it will go to a UK based “repair facility” but I know that in reality a guy in a loincloth is running across Europe and Asia, through urban hellholes, across scorching deserts and over cloud piercing mountain ranges to deliver it to an inscrutable phonesmith in a secluded village in a far corner of China. Breaking from his study of Confucius and his imparting of the secrets of kung fu to silent acolytes he will conquer the recalcitrant scroll button with sharp blows from the edge of his hand and the perfume from an infusion of lotus blossom.

Meanwhile I must go cold turkey until the loin clothed messenger returns to Crawley Town Centre.

Well, not exactly cold turkey. The chap at O2 revived my ancient steam driven Motorola mobile and, after a frantic search around the house I recovered the appropriate charger so I will have some sort of connection on the move…but, how humiliating, just calls and text…no e mails, no tweets, no BB messenger, no street cred…

Just to think, this time last year I didn’t have a Blackberry. Indeed we used to make rather caustic comments to the younger members of our family about “being on that Blackberry all the time…”

How times and circumstances change…

But, do you know the worst thing about this whole scenario? The Lovely Mrs P’s BB is still working fine and this evening I will have to try to look elsewhere as she checks her e mail, sends her texts and – the unkindest cut of all – SCROLLS around with effortless ease….

BTW – I don’t feel so bad now I realise that a certain member of the royal family shares my pain….

posted by david in Personal and have Comments Off on Pity The Poor Aged P – Blackberryless For The Next 7 Days….

A Family Outing To Bath…..

Last weekend we went down to Somerset to stay with our son and his family in their cottage and I helped him with his new toy.

We went to the lovely city of Bath on Saturday afternoon. It has some quaint, old fashioned shops…

Though I suspect this shop won’t be around for much longer..

..and how long before this pub sign is declared politically incorrect?

But we all enjoyed a meal at Jamie Oliver’s Italian in Bath. The Italian style food was good (we regularly go to Italy so we we have tasted the real thing), the service was fine considering the place was packed out and there was an Italian style kid’s menu for our grandchildren plus crayons and colouring in sheets to keep them occupied. At £30 a head for three courses I’d say it was not overly expensive and, as a bonus, they served Birra Moretti

Ian & Vicky

Oliver & Evie


All in all a nice family outing…

posted by david in Personal and have Comments Off on A Family Outing To Bath…..

Grandma Was So Pleased Other Drivers “Honked For Jesus” Even When She Missed A Green Light…

When you’re my age you get to go to quite a few 70th birthday celebrations. The other day we went to one where the lady in question is part of a large Scottish Catholic family so we had a ceilidh with lots of reels and jigs. The Lovely Mrs P is a keen dancer whereas I have two left feet but a ceilidh is designed for family fun so the dances were easy to follow.

The food was good and the beer and wine free flowing but eventually one of the lady’s sons presented the toast with a loving speech interlaced with wry humour. The lady herself responded with gracious thanks and then said she was going to read out “Grandma’s Letter of Love”

Now although she does have a sense of humour she is also a deeply religious lady so we were expecting something fairly anodyne. Imagine our surprise when she came out with this…

Dear Friend,

The other day I went up to a local Christian bookstore and saw a “Honk If You Love Jesus“ car sticker. I was feeling particularly excited that day because I had just come from a thrilling choir performance, followed by a thunderous prayer meeting, so I bought the sticker and put it in the corner of my rear window.

Am I glad I did! What an uplifting experience followed!

I was stopped at a red light at some road works, just lost in thought about the Lord and how good He is…and I didn’t notice that the light had changed. It is a good thing someone else loves Jesus because if he hadn’t honked, I’d never have noticed! I found that LOTS of people love Jesus! While I was sitting there, the guy behind started honking like crazy, and then he leaned out of his window and screamed, “For the love of GOD! GO! GO! Jesus Christ, GO!”

What an exuberant cheerleader he was for Jesus! Everyone started honking! I just leaned out of my window and started waving and smiling at all these loving people. I even honked my horn a few times to share in the love. One man obviously mistook me for a lady friend because he called me “Millie Rich”….

I saw another man waving in a funny way with two fingers stuck up in the air. When I asked my teenage grandson in the back seat what that meant, he said that it was a Hawaiian good luck sign or something. Well, I’ve never met anyone from Hawaii, so I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign back.

My grandson burst out laughing; why even he was enjoying this religious experience.

A couple of the people were so caught up in the joy of the moment that they got out of their cars and started walking towards me.
I bet they wanted to pray or ask what church I attended, but this is when I noticed the light had changed so I waved and smiled to all my sisters and brothers and drove on through the roadworks.

I noticed I was the only car that got through before the light changed again, and I felt kind of sad that I had to leave them after all the love we had shared, so I slowed the car down, leaned out of the window, and gave them all the Hawaiian good luck sign one last time as I drove away.

Praise the Lord for such wonderful folks!



No need to worry – it went down a storm and I immediately ordered another pint of Spitfire to continue the toast….

posted by david in Humour,Personal,Religion and have Comments Off on Grandma Was So Pleased Other Drivers “Honked For Jesus” Even When She Missed A Green Light…

Snowdrops – Spring Is On The Way……

Snowdrops….the sign that spring is on it’s way. There were huge clumps of them growing on the grass verges in Somerset at the weekend and in our son’s garden…..

posted by david in Gardens,Outdoors,Personal,Pictures and have Comments Off on Snowdrops – Spring Is On The Way……

Yes, I Also Have Been Sorely Tempted To Punch Will Shakespeare On The Nose…

As a former schoolboy (a long time ago) and a teacher (now retired) and an amateur actor (still mumbling) I must confess enjoying a moment of guilty pleasure when I watch that Blackadder clip…

It came to mind when I learned a day or so back that I had just landed myself a part in our amateur theatre group’s Shakespeare spring production of “The Winter’s Tale”….not a particularly big role but, as Private Eye might say, it’s small but perfectly formed…..

I love being involved with a play, be it on or back stage. For a few weeks you are part of a joint endeavour with a group of people for one common purpose. You share all the ups and the downs, the crises and the celebrations, the laughter and the tears. Forget those familiar dividing lines of social intercourse age, sex or experience. You are pitched together like a close family battling the world. Then the set is struck and you go your separate ways. Once or twice the bonds made during a run might hold long after the scripts are filed. But more usually, once the play is done, the connections dissolve and disappear down memory lane.

The Bard, however, raises different issues for he is the broccoli of drama. We are told how good he is for us yet so many leave him on the side of the plate. Amateur groups feel he has to be performed even though quite a few tickets will be left unsold.
Shakespeare is often the amdram equivalent of a loss leader.

But he shouldn’t be. The characters are fascinating. The language is powerful and vivid. The themes are universal. He is part of every school’s curriculum.

We all have studied Shakespeare – and there’s the rub.

He is studied because he is a Good Thing. In school we have all analysed and dissected Billy S like a specimen on a laboratory bench. We have discussed characters, motives, meanings and symbolism, turned over metaphors and deconstructed references and laid bare every bone, muscle and sinew. His words are revered like a biblical text, a scientific hypothesis or a philosophical treatise. There is a vast Shakespeare industry employing thousands of actors, academics and gushing media scribblers and talking heads.

The guy’s works are being adulated to death – so here’s a thought.

Let’s turn off the tap for five years. Embargo the puff pieces. Deep freeze the academics in a cryogenics unit. Remove Stratford’s name from all road signs and sat navs. Ban Billy S from being mentioned in the school classroom. Perform the plays with zero hype. Hang anyone who dares to say “the bard”

Shift his library classification from the doom laden “Literature” to cheap and cheerful “Entertainment” – because that was how he was regarded by the noisy, bawdy riotous townsfolk who watched his plays in Elizabethan and Jacobean London.

As a schoolboy in 1950s England any chance of appreciating Shakespeare was ground out of my consciousness by hour after hour of mind numbing analysis until the very mention of the name would cause my eyes to glaze over and my brain to slip into neutral.

Then one evening in 1955 I went with my bus driver dad for our weekly cinema visit. He had misread the bill and was expecting to see a gangster movie. By the time we realised it was Laurence Olivier’s film of Richard III our tickets had already been purchased so we went in, expecting to be bored to tears.

How wrong we were. It was magical.

At the end, as the final credits rolled the audience in that packed cinema in a working class suburb of South London sat motionless and silent for a few brief moments. Then as we walked out into the night there was a massive buzz as we all began to talk of what we had seen and my dad looked at me and said “That wasn’t the Shakespeare that was hammered into me at school. That film must be the real Shakespeare….what have I been missing all these years?”

So, unlike Blackadder, it’s not the real Will Shakespeare I want to punch on the nose – it’s the polystyrene cultural idol created by the termites of the Shakespeare industry that I would like to target with my custard pie.

Mind you sometimes I do find Colin Firth a tad irritating……

posted by david in Art,Education,Film,History,media,Personal,Theatre and have Comments Off on Yes, I Also Have Been Sorely Tempted To Punch Will Shakespeare On The Nose…

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