Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – My Time Machine by Beetley Pete


Welcome to the new series of Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newseries-pot-luck-and-do-you-trust-me/

Another post from Beetley Pete… also know as Pete Johnson who blogs from Norfolk about a number of interesting subjects including life working for the ambulance service and his adventures with the lovely Ollie…this week a post from 2013… but it will take you back a lot further than that!…..

My Time Machine by Beetley Pete

When I was still in primary school, aged about 10, I read the book ‘The Time Machine’, by H.G. Wells. The character in the book, which was actually written in 1895, showing remarkable prescience by Wells of many future ideas and concepts, uses his machine to travel forward in time. I was disappointed by this aspect of the story. I thought that it would be much better to travel back, and to experience things from the past, making history come to life. In my young mind, I imagined all the events that I could return to, and confirm the lurid tales of history. Custer’s Last Stand, The execution of Charles 1st, even the crucifixion of Jesus, were just some of the scenes I placed myself in.

As the years passed, I often played this mental game, and would ask others what they would do, given the chance to use such a time-travelling device. I was normally unsurprised by the results. Most young men wanted to see famous sporting events; The Four Minute Mile, Boxing Championships, or a famous cricket victory, were often cited. Others, more inclined to warlike notions, wanted to be on the beach on D-Day, see the parachute drop at Arnhem, or watch the English archers at Agincourt. As real life became more like science fiction, with space travel common, medical advances never believed possible, and supersonic jets flying the world, the idea of the game grew stale, and was placed on a metaphorical shelf, somewhere at the back of my mind.

Last month, I noticed that the original 1960 film of the book was showing on TV. I never liked the film much. I thought Rod Taylor was a strange choice for the starring role, and the whole production had a stagey, studio feel about it. I had no intention of watching it, but it did serve to rekindle the idea of the old game, removing it from the shelf, and projecting it back to the forefront of my thoughts. I also remembered one of the many ‘rules’ that applied. Only two goes in the machine. Otherwise, you could go anywhere, see anything, and as many times as you liked. Users of ‘my’ time machine could do no harm, and would also come to no harm. They would be able to communicate in the language or dialect of the day, and would not catch, or give, any disease. They could spend 24 hours in the chosen place, or return sooner, if necessary or desirable to do so. They would have something valuable that would serve as acceptable currency, and would dress appropriately to the period, before departure.

I had a long think about this childish game. What if I could do it now? Where would I choose to go, for my two excursions through time? It has taken me a long time to decide. I rejected many times and places as too obvious, and others as too unrewarding, or obscure. I finally settled on both time periods and locations, then decided that I would write this post about the whole idea. Perhaps you will consider it too, and let me know what you would choose to do with your two chances.

My first trip would be to Rome. In 80AD, The Colosseum ( or to give it its real name, The Flavian Amphitheatre) was opened, with inaugural games lasting almost 100 days. This amazing structure has held a lifetime fascination for me. I have been to see it, just once, in 2002, on a trip to Rome for my 50th birthday. It did not let me down. Despite age and decrepitude, the imposing presence of this building left me speechless with admiration. Once inside, it was easy to imagine the crowds, the spectacles, and the sheer scale of the whole thing, against the backdrop of the city at its peak. Of course, I do not condone the pointless slaughter of thousands of animals, and the fights to the death by gladiators, or the barbaric executions of criminals, all of which took place there. But these are the sensibilities of modern man, who shops at a supermarket, enjoys reasonably good health, and is generally sheltered from the struggle of survival. Life in the Roman Empire over 1,900 years ago, was a very different thing to what we understand today.

No other society has ever used this practice of ‘games’ to appease the masses, or to gain favour with the ruling classes. It was uniquely Roman, and was paid for by individuals, not the state. They would spend fortunes to stage these shows, often going into debt for years, or becoming bankrupt, to seek election, to reinforce their place in the hierarchy, or just to celebrate a military victory. Those attending got in for free, and most were given time off from work to attend as well. The games had a religious aspect, and reinforced historical legends, as well as advertising the strength and greatness of Rome, and its Gods, to the known world.

They were an industry, supplying wild beasts from all over the Empire, mercenaries to fight in battles, slaves to provide all the necessary labour, and gladiators to fight for the admiration of the crowd. That crowd was knowledgeable, and partisan. They would follow types of gladiators, some preferring the Retiarius, with his net and trident, symbolising a fisherman. Others would support his sometime adversary, the Murmillo, who would be armed with a heavy sword and shield, his head protected by a large helmet, bearing a fish motif. If the men were not fighting well, the crowd would soon notice, and make their annoyance known. They also loved to see re-enactments of famous battles, or legendary encounters between man and beast, and good shows like this would make the person sponsoring the games very popular.

So, arriving in good time in my machine, I join the crowd heading to the Flavian Amphitheatre. It is hot, dusty, and incredibly smelly. However, once we arrive, and eventually take our seats, strictly allotted by social class and official standing, we are shaded by the huge canvas canopies, moved into place by sailors, and altered as the sun changes direction. There are cooling sprays of water, humidifying the air, and settling the dust of the arena, and they are perfumed with flowers and scents, to sweeten the air inside too. There will be speeches from the dignitary sponsoring the games, as well as a distribution of bread, and cheap wine, to further impress the crowd. Trumpeters announce each event, and musicians play in the intervals. Numerous hawkers move around the tiered rows of seats, selling sweets, cakes, and fresh water, an expensive indulgence. In the corridors surrounding the entrances, all manner of services are on offer, from dentistry to prostitution. Communal toilets are plentiful, and cleaned and serviced by slaves, who will bring you sponges to clean yourself, if need be.

The morning session of the games begins with the stampeding of beasts. Many are simply killed by archers or spear-men from the sides. All the animals are terrified, by the bright light of the sun in the arena, after hours of darkness below, and by the tremendous noise of the roaring crowd. They would never have seen such exotic animals outside of the arena. There were no zoos, no TV documentaries, and few indigenous animals of interest. Now, they could see zebras, buffalo, alligators, large cats, giraffes, and all manner of unusual birds, all together in one place; and all being killed, in a variety of ways. On next, the Bestiarii, specialist animal fighters. These men would take on the animals in single combat, or in larger groups against a lot of animals, and were often unpaid, simply trying to show their bravery. Some unarmed prisoners might also be sent out, with the intention that they would be killed by the animals, as a form of public execution. There would then be a break in the proceedings, allowing some of the audience to rest, others to have lunch, or just socialise with friends in the crowd, and to avoid the hottest part of the day.

When the games resumed later in the afternoon, the main event would attract a full house, which in the Flavian Amphitheatre, could be up to 60,000 spectators. (Though some historians suggest even more, up to 85,000) They all wanted to see the gladiatorial combats. Not only did they have their favourite types, they also supported individuals, well-known men who had survived many contests, becoming celebrities in the process. There would be gambling on the outcome of the matches, fan clubs, swooning females, and chants of support; all still familiar today, at football matches, or pop concerts. The early show would begin with large numbers of lower-ranking gladiators, sometimes as many as 50 pairs fighting at once, moving around the arena, to afford a good view to all, at some stage in the proceedings. After this was over, the dead cleared away, and the sand refreshed, there would be a ‘comic’ interlude. This could involve any number of bizarre scenarios, that would have amused the Romans of the day. They might have a contest between gladiators who wore solid helmets, without any eye openings. These ‘blind’ combatants would lurch around, swinging wildly at their opponents, egged on by a jeering crowd, in their version of ‘look behind you’. Other untrained gladiators would be pushed out onto the sand, poorly armed, and tied together by ropes, often having to be branded with hot irons to make them fight to the death.

The end of this day of games is approaching, and smaller groups of gladiators appear on the sand. The crowd goes wild. These are the stars of the show. Their owners have been paid a small fortune for their appearance, and if they do well today, and survive the fighting, the men will be rewarded with good food, wine, and a willing woman. They may even get the chance to service a lady of quality, and receive gifts, to add to their savings. These men are very different from those who have gone before. Professional, incredibly fit, and brimming with confidence and bravado, they appear fearless, under their flamboyant armour and stylised headgear. Each pair fight for much longer, and with much greater skill than the earlier contestants. If they please the crowd, they might be spared if they lose the fight, though that would be rare. The watchers yell the names of their favourites, even arguing and fighting amongst themselves, when a much-admired man falls. They gasp at skillful moves, and moan when someone receives a serious injury; or rise to a tremendous cheer when a champion is once again victorious.

As the day draws to a close, people begin to leave early, to avoid the rush. The last few fighters complete their matches, men dying unnoticed by the departing throng. There will be many more days of games to come. More slaughter and executions, some larger battles, and other chances to see the celebrities in action. Time for them to get home, avoiding the robbers, pickpockets, and unsavoury characters of the night. Time for me to get back into my machine, and return to the present, having experienced something I have wondered about my whole life.

My second trip in the Time Machine is much more mundane, but no less satisfying. I would go back to Friday 7th June, 2013. In possession of the winning numbers from last night’s unclaimed Euromillions Lottery, I would buy a ticket at my local shop, and wait to claim the 100,000,000 Euros on Saturday morning. That might even be enough to build a real Time Machine.

©Pete Johnson 2013

About Pete Johnson (Beetley Pete)

Hi everyone. For those of you who already know me, you will need read no further. For anyone else…

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my seven year old Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

Update.

I am updating this info on the 26th of March, 2019. Ollie is now seven years old, and is still a great dog to own. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 2,330 articles. I currently write a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. Fiction has also become a regular feature, especially long serials. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

Over the past couple of years, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular. I have had my blogging ups and downs; attracted some followers, both loyal and fickle, and gained a great deal from the whole process. I have written articles that were published on other blogs and websites, as well as trying my hand at more than 100 fictional stories. I am pleased to report that I have had two of these published in a magazine.

If you are considering starting a blog, I would suggest you give it a try. I really would. It may not change your life; but then again, it just might.

Get in touch with Pete

Blog: https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beetleypete

My thanks to Pete for allowing me to delve into his archives.. I recommend you head over and do some delving of your own…plenty to read. More posts over the next two Wednesdays

 

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #PotLuck – Thinking Aloud – #Blindness by Beetley Pete


Welcome to the series of Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/smorgasbord-posts-from-your-archives-newseries-pot-luck-and-do-you-trust-me/

Our next guest is Beetley Pete… also known as Pete Johnson who blogs from Norfolk about a number of interesting subjects including life working for the ambulance service and his adventures with the lovely Ollie…This week a post that Pete wrote about an encounter in London with a man who was blind.

Thinking Aloud – Blindness by Beetley Pete

We were woken unusually early this morning, by someone repeatedly ringing my mobile phone. It is a standing joke that nobody ever rings it, unless they are trying to sell me something, or have the wrong number. It was an unknown caller, and they had left a voicemail message. My first thought was that it must be bad news, to call so early, so I played the message with some trepidation. It was a courier company, trying to collect a box from a Filipino lady called Marina. They needed directions to her house. So, a wrong number.

That had awakened me from a deep sleep, in the middle of an intense dream. I was back working in an ambulance in London, having a conversation with a patient I met a few times over the years. The dream was replaying a conversation I had with that man, and was like watching a video recording of us both, around 1986, as we were travelling to hospital.

We had been called to a man who lived not far from the base. We were given a diagnosis of unstable Diabetes, and told that the caller was a man in his sixties, who felt unwell with low blood sugar. The door was opened with a click by a remote button, and I walked in with my bag of equipment. I found the man dressed and standing, ready to go with us. He knew about his condition, and had already eaten a sugary sweet, hoping to hold off the problem until we got to the casualty department. As he turned, I was startled to see that he had no eyes, just short eyelids half-covering empty sockets. I had heard of this condition of being born without an eye, or eyes, but had never encountered someone it had affected. (it is called Anopthalmia, and is present in just 1 in 100,000 births.)

He put on some sunglasses, and I helped him to the ambulance. I had long been fascinated by the problems of blindness, but especially interested in people who had never seen anything. I wondered how he perceived the world, and whether it was true if other senses developed beyond the normal to compensate in any way. Having been sighted, then going blind later, is one thing. At least memory will supply some details for you to hang on to. But never having seen anything has to be a lot to deal with. As it is usual in an ambulance to discuss things not normally brought up in polite conversation, I asked him about it, and he was happy to talk about it, mainly because most people avoided the subject out of respect.

He was born in the 1920s, to a young single-parent mother. He used the old term ‘Out of wedlock’. Not only was her situation difficult, the appearance of a baby son without eyes was too much for her to cope with. She gave the baby away, and he was brought up in a home for unwanted children, later transferring to a residential facility for the blind, on the outskirts of London. He received a basic education, and was later trained in the use of Braille to read books, and use a specially adapted typewriter. During WW2, at the age of seventeen, he got a job with the Civil Service, as a clerk/typist, and stayed there until he retired, aged sixty. He told me he had never married, and never so much as kissed a girl. His pleasure in life came from reading books in Braille, and listening to the radio. He had never been to the cinema, or owned a television. I was keen to ask him about his perceptions, and also about the daily difficulties he had encountered, and still did.

Transport was an obvious issue. He had been shown how to get around his small flat, which had been provided at low rent, by the City Corporation. Also how to get to the nearest bus stop, so he could get to work. But he had no idea what number bus had arrived, and had to ask others at the stop. If there was nobody around, he would have to shout at the conductor, and ask the bus number. Back then, coins were distinctive, and banknotes issued in different sizes, so he coped alright with money. But he was annoyed that he frequently stepped in dog mess on the pavement, as he couldn’t see it. I had never thought of that. He had obviously adapted well, and as he told me “I didn’t know any different. That is how I live, because I had no option to do otherwise”.

I went on to ask about other senses. He said that his hearing was in the normal range, but his sense of smell was acute. He could recognise people by their individual smell, if he had already met them, and even tell different races, without hearing them talk. He remarked that my colleague was probably West Indian, though he obviously hadn’t seen him, and had heard few words from him. This was accurate, as my crew mate was from Barbados originally, though spoke with a London accent. He could judge someone’s height easily, from the direction of their voice, and whether or not he felt their breath on his face. I asked about if he could picture something in his mind, if it was described to him in detail. He said that the picture in his mind would be very different to what was being described, and it would be almost impossible for him to tell me what he saw in his head. He gave me an example, which I have never forgotten.

“Describe snow to me”.
I thought for a moment.
“It falls from the sky..”
He stopped me.
“I have never seen the sky”.
“Its white”.
“What’s white?”
“It has small flakes, like tiny crystals”.
“What are flakes? What are crystals?”
“It is cold”.
“I know that, because I have touched it”.
“It accumulates on the ground, looks like cotton wool”.
“What’s cotton wool?”
He held up a hand to stop the questions. He had made his point, and I understood.
I can feel the cold, and hear the crunching underfoot. I also feel it’s slippery when I am walking. But I can never picture it in the same way as you. That’s impossible”.

I wanted to ask many more questions, but we had arrived at the hospital. I had an increased respect for blind people, and had enjoyed a fascinating conversation.

I got to meet him a few more times over the years, and the second time I walked into his flat, before I had spoken a word, he smiled and said, “You’re the man who asks the questions”.

I was dreaming about that this morning, and wanted to tell you.

©Beetley Pete 2018

About Pete Johnson (Beetley Pete)

Hi everyone. For those of you who already know me, you will need read no further. For anyone else…

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my seven year old Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

Update.

I am updating this info on the 26th of March, 2019. Ollie is now seven years old, and is still a great dog to own. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 2,330 articles. I currently write a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. Fiction has also become a regular feature, especially long serials. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

Over the past couple of years, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular. I have had my blogging ups and downs; attracted some followers, both loyal and fickle, and gained a great deal from the whole process. I have written articles that were published on other blogs and websites, as well as trying my hand at more than 100 fictional stories. I am pleased to report that I have had two of these published in a magazine.

If you are considering starting a blog, I would suggest you give it a try. I really would. It may not change your life; but then again, it just might.

Get in touch with Pete

Blog: https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beetleypete

My thanks to Pete for allowing me to delve into his archives.. I recommend you head over and do some delving of your own…plenty to read. More posts over the next three Wednesdays..

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – Nice Christmas? by Pete Johnson


I hope you have had an amazing time over the last few days. Pete Johnson shares a post from his archives from 2015 on his thoughts on the Christmas he had just experienced.

Nice Christmas? by Pete Johnson

As soon as the calendar hits the 27th of December, the above greeting becomes the standard conversational opening gambit, here in the UK. Everyone from your next-door neighbour, to the lady at the checkout, will immediately inquire, “Nice Christmas?”

Answering this seasonal greeting is an art in itself. The last thing that they want to hear is that you had a bad Christmas, or didn’t even bother to celebrate it. They have no interest in the presents you received, or those you bought for others. They don’t care if the turkey was ruined, or you were held up in traffic somewhere. It is just something to say. Over the years, you learn that the accepted response is very simple. You answer something like, “Yes, thanks, it was very busy.” Or, ” I was glad when it was over, but it was nice to see everyone.” Avoid at all costs the leading reply, “Very nice thanks, how about you?” They may not know the rules, and you could be in for a detailed list of events and happenings lasting much longer than you anticipated.

The beetleypete Christmas was busier than usual, as you are asking…

We had a constant run, from Christmas Eve, through to the 28th. Calling in on neighbours, family staying over, and nine for dinner on the 27th. A house full of presents, toys, and guests, including our very lively one-year old grandson. This didn’t leave much time for blogging, so no posts until now, and replies and comments have been few and far between too. There were some successes. A huge inflatable bed, purchased to save people sleeping on sofas, actually behaved itself, and worked. It inflated itself electronically when required, and deflated in the same fashion too. Yesterday, it even packed away into the bag supplied, with no need for fits of temper.

The turkey cooked to perfection, and we managed to serve everyone dinner at the agreed time, with no disasters. Despite purchasing what I was sure would be too much food, we were surprisingly left with very little, and the leftover turkey will make a nice curry tomorrow. My presents were all of a high standard. I was pleased to receive ‘Amy'(2015) on DVD, as well as ‘Wooden Crosses'(1932) on Blu-Ray. I will look forward to watching them, after the end of the festive season. I was also lucky to be given some very nice wines, including some Port, a personal favourite. Arguments and disagreements were minimal, and soon forgotten, and even all the driving and travel arrangements of our guests went without a hitch. If this all sounds too good to be true, you might be asking yourself if there were any downsides. That’s where Ollie comes in.

Ollie might tell you (if he could talk) that having lots of guests might be alright for a while, but then it starts to wear him out. Especially when one of them is at the same height, and follows him around at all times. His normal resting spots are occupied by toys, doors he likes to lie across keep being opened, and his normal routine is completely upside down. On the plus side, he has definitely had more treats, and feasted on turkey scraps too. He has had a few late nights, but his walks have stayed the same, and his mealtimes haven’t been affected. Some of the rooms he likes to investigate have had their doors closed, which he has found disconcerting, and his morning sleeps have just not been possible. But he is still young, and will enjoy the peace, when it returns.

Well, that’s Christmas 2015 done and dusted. A quiet New Year’s Eve is on the agenda, hopefully. As you might guess, I do have one question to ask all of you, and feel free to reply in the comments.

Nice Christmas?

©Pete Johnson 2015

I do hope you will regale and inundate us with your Christmas triumphs and woes in the comments.. thanks to Pete for opening that particular can of worms…..

About Pete Johnson

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working in a local bank, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my four year old Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

I am updating this info on the 6th of July, 2017.

Ollie is now five years old, and is still a great dog to own. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 1330 articles. I currently write a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I also post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

During the past year, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular.

I have had my blogging ups and downs; attracted some followers, both loyal and fickle, and gained a great deal from the whole process. I have written articles that were published on other blogs and websites, as well as trying my hand at more than 60 fictional stories. I am pleased to report that I have had two of these published in a magazine.

If you are considering starting a blog, I would suggest you give it a try. I really would. It may not change your life; but then again, it just might.

Get in touch with Pete

Blog: https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beetleypete

I am sure you have enjoyed this post as much as I have and I hope you will consider commenting and sharing… and heading over to Pete’s blog where you will find even more of his entertaining posts. thanks Sally

The new series of Posts from Your Archives will be starting in January so keep your eyes open for the introductory post. Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – Christmas Past by Pete Johnson


Delighted to welcome Pete Johnson back with two posts for the Christmas archive series..one this week and the other just after the big day. Today Pete shares the happy memories of his childhood Christmas day, and also those which have been less happy and more stressful since. I do empathise having been in a similar situation. and we need to remember that when we are dispensing festive cheer, to remember those who are not as commitment free as we are.

Christmas Past by Pete Johnson

I have to confess to not being a great fan of the annual festive season, at least not in adult life.

When I was younger, I anticipated the avalanche of gifts, as any child would. I used to equally enjoy the celebrations at my grandparents’ house, where the whole extended family would congregate. This was a real old-fashioned Christmas; everyone eating together on long trestle tables, the women busy in the kitchen, the men recovering from a lunchtime drinking session in the local pub. In the evening, a seafood tea would be served, to line the stomachs for the return to the pub, later followed by a family party, carpets rolled up and stored away, to avoid damaging them.

The parlour would get a rare use during these few days. This decorated and adorned large room that was almost never entered at other times, as life was lived in the kitchen and scullery of the house most days. Souvenirs from military travels overseas, or shell-covered trinkets from seaside towns nearer home. They all fascinated me as a child, and this was an opportunity to examine them. The upright piano had pride of place in the corner. My aunt could play, and the semi-professional pianist from the pub would also come and help, after closing time. The party would be based around the piano, with everyone singing the standards of the day, drinking and laughing until it was almost light outside.

Us children would have long been in bed by then. Beds covered in piles of heavy overcoats, fur stoles smelling of perfume, the unheated rooms and unfamiliar beds, added to the raucous partying, all made sleep hard to find. Eyes stinging from tobacco smoke, bodies fuelled with too much food and sugary drinks, it was such a unique time, and something to really look forward to.

Then I grew up. My Dad left home, and suddenly there was Mum to worry about. The large family was now a little smaller, and spread further afield, no longer all living within the same small area of London. I soon had girlfriends’ families to consider, followed by in-laws after marriage. The planning became a chore, the distances involved greater, and trying to please everyone in the space of a few days was a puzzle that I couldn’t be bothered to solve. With Mum on her own, the main Christmas Day meal always had to be taken at her house, at her insistence. She didn’t like to travel anywhere, to be in an unfamiliar house, but didn’t care who else had to.

Thus began decades of uncomfortable meals, eaten on laps, television blaring. Surrounded by pet dogs and cats, food overcooked and unappetising. I went every year. She was on her own, so what else could I do? Some wives and girlfriends tagged along, others chose to spend the time with their own families. This created atmosphere and tension, and ended up spoiling the day for everyone. Everyone except Mum, of course. I mean no criticism of her. She only understood family at Christmas, and just her own family at that. She decided that she had done her partying, travelling to relatives, and served her time helping to prepare food, and clean up after a lot of very drunk men. I couldn’t blame her for that.

During all this, I worked shifts for over thirty years, always desperate to get the day off, like everyone else. Sometimes, I had to work. Up all night, then over to Mum’s on three hours sleep, and back into work at 10 pm that night. Hardly conducive to feeling festive. Then Mum got much older. She spent her first Christmas in hospital in the year 2000, and almost every year after that was spent visiting her on a ward, or sitting in the relatives’ room in the emergency department, as she fought for her life on a trolley bed somewhere. Calling ambulances just as dinner was served, getting home at some unearthly hour, once they decided to admit her. Not her fault of course, she was ill. Christmas made her worse, it seems. Perhaps worrying about sending cards, getting the dinner right, or whether or not I could spend the whole day there. Any increase in her stress levels exacerbated her condition.

I began to hate this time of year, and to dread it coming around. By the time November appeared on the calendar, I was posting cards and wrapping presents. Anything to get it over and done with as soon as possible. Since Mum died in 2012, I have lived in Norfolk, and been able to spend the time at our own home. There is less stress, and life is undoubtedly easier. Maybe one day, I might learn to love Christmas again. Who knows?

©PeteJohnson 2015

I am sure you will join me in wishing Pete another Norfolk Christmas that is as good as those he has already celebrated.

About Pete Johnson

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working in a local bank, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my four year old Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

I am updating this info on the 6th of July, 2017.

Ollie is now five years old, and is still a great dog to own. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 1330 articles. I currently write a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I also post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

During the past year, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular.

I have had my blogging ups and downs; attracted some followers, both loyal and fickle, and gained a great deal from the whole process. I have written articles that were published on other blogs and websites, as well as trying my hand at more than 60 fictional stories. I am pleased to report that I have had two of these published in a magazine.

If you are considering starting a blog, I would suggest you give it a try. I really would. It may not change your life; but then again, it just might.

Get in touch with Pete

Blog: https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beetleypete

I am sure you have enjoyed this post as much as I have and I hope you will consider commenting and sharing… and heading over to Pete’s blog where you will find even more of his entertaining posts. thanks Sally

 

There will be another series of Posts from Your Archives in the New Year… keep an eye open for the submission details after Christmas. Thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord – Posts from Your Archives – Back to the Future by Pete Johnson


Back by popular demand… Pete Johnson with another of his entertaining posts this time a retrospective look at what programmes such as Tomorrow’s World which ran from 1965 to 2003 promised we would have today!

Back to the future by Pete Johnson

Whatever happened to the Future? You know, the one that we were promised by the scientists and TV programmes years ago. When I was young, we were assured that it was only a matter of time before we would be holidaying on Mars. Televisions would be the size of a wall, and the images would be holographic. Food would never be a problem again, so no starvation would exist anywhere in the world. The boffins assured us, that using soya bean and seaweed as a base, they would be able to supply everyone with nutritious pellets of spongy substance, to which we could add any flavour we desired. Close your eyes, chew your pellet, and it tastes like steak and chips, or fresh lobster. And all at minimal cost too. The delicious food supplement would be delivered by a robot butler, who would take care of all the household chores, personal grooming, and administrative tasks. The working day would not be too challenging, involving little more than some relaxed video conferencing. Any undesirable job would be taken on by yet more robots, who would presumably be dealing with sewage and rubbish collections behind some shiny chrome fence.

Travel and transportation would be problem free as well. Cars would be powered by small nuclear engines. They would never need re-fuelling, and would drive themselves on metal paths, guided by computers that would never allow a collision. You just had to sit in the cabin, and relax until you arrived. Trains would run on magnetic monorail systems. They would achieve incredible speeds, and be unaffected by any weather conditions, always arriving safely, and on time. Driven by robots or computers, human error would be eliminated from all Public Transport, so it would be 100% safe. Aircraft would be the size of shopping malls. New technology would make it possible to fly the Atlantic in a couple of hours, or a trip to Australia in a working day. Ships would be giant hovercrafts, or huge hydrofoils. Either way, they would be untroubled by heavy seas, making light of long journeys across oceans.

Medical advances would mean that everyone would live to almost 150, or even just never die. Drugs would cure everything, replacement joints would be popped in during painless procedures. Everything would be renewed. Failing eyesight dealt with by the implantation of tiny cameras, deafness by tiny microphones, and so on. It seemed every news broadcast told of some new wonder that would make everything great,’in the future’.

Then there was TV’s ‘Tomorrow’s World’. This was like an unleashed Prophet. Raymond Baxter and his gang pontificating on the latest inventions with great authority, and sufficient gravitas, to make a youngster believe it would all be happening soon. We had already had dogs in space, monkeys in space, Telstar, Sputnik, then a man in space. Nothing seemed impossible to my 13 year old imagination. I had never even been in an aircraft, yet it seemed second nature to me to imagine travelling to school by personal jet pack, or planning a trip to Jupiter. By the time I was 17, there was Concorde, reducing flight time across the Atlantic. A year later, there was the first Jumbo Jet, adding lots more passengers but not going any faster. Travel by sea diminished, except for cheap cruising that brought floating holidays to the masses, and ferry services that have changed little in my lifetime. Hovercrafts appeared in small numbers but never did cope with heavy seas, or provide a real alternative to existing shipping.

By the year 2000, fantastic scientific predictions were few and far between. All the effort was now concentrated on warnings about Global Warming, melting ice caps, and the shortage of fossil fuels. I was then 48. I had still not had that trip to Mars, and the car I was driving had fuel injection but was otherwise little different to the first car I had driven in 1969. People were still starving, still dying of cancer and malaria. Mind you, the telly screens were getting bigger, though still not a hologram the size of one wall. By 2003, ‘Tomorrow’s World’ was finally cancelled by the BBC. Perhaps they realised that all those things that they kept telling us about were never going to happen. It was already ‘Tomorrow’ anyway.

So, what did we get? Aerosols, Teflon coating, solar panels, some wind farms. They did actually produce some electric cars and hybrid system cars but most are unaffordable to ordinary people, or totally impractical for everyday use. Air travel is slower, more congested, and less attractive than ever. It is cheaper though, but that’s all. Concorde and the Jumbo Jet have been consigned to museums, no replacements announced. Traffic doesn’t flow smoothly on electrically guided steel paths, and accidents are still a part of everyday travel, on any system. The age that people die is higher, though only by a couple of years. Disease is not eradicated. In fact, a stay in hospital can be more dangerous than ever, with the possibility of contracting new infections. We are not enjoying pellets of delicious flavours for our evening meal. Instead, we got Turkey Twizzlers, Chicken Nuggets, and Big Macs. They did manage to make mica protein and soya bean look like sausages, mince, or burgers. They can’t make them taste like them though.

We did get the Internet, and mobile phones. It would be churlish to argue about such advances, especially as I am using one of them to write this. I’ll have a go though. Despite all the benefits of the Internet and mobile phones and their associated computer pastimes, games, Facebook, Twitter etc. It has come at some cost. Reading and writing has lost popularity. Young people don’t ‘play out’ so much anymore, preferring the allure of killing aliens or playing a role in front of the TV. The assumption that everyone has access to a computer, or mobile phone, has marginalised a large section of society, those that have access to neither, or do not understand how to use them. Basics like spelling have vanished overnight, to be replaced by American versions, courtesy of Microsoft, or worse still, ‘text speak’. Younger people spell check everything, not bothering to learn how to spell it correctly in the first place. Information is delivered in digestible bite sized chunks, and personal communication has been reduced to this too, for a whole generation that know no better, and have no interest in finding out. Camera images are now stored on digital media. Cheaper perhaps, and with the instant fix of immediate viewing. However, manipulation and enhancement software now means that we have no idea if the image we are seeing is true or not.

The TV screens are still getting bigger. I have a friend who has one that is -almost- the size of one wall. No holograms though. More channels with less quality content, constant repeats and ‘Reality TV’. Telly may be perceived as being poor quality in the 1960’s/1970’s but there was ‘Armchair Theatre’, ‘Play for Today’, ‘Callan’, ‘Public Eye’, and many other excellent British dramas. Some have been recycled for the modern generation. ‘Emergency Ward 10’ has become ‘Casualty ‘ and ‘Holby City’. ‘Z Cars’ became ‘The Bill’ and many other Police based dramas. No new ideas really.

I suppose the moral of the story is ‘Ignore the boffins’. They used to tell people in the 1940’s that smoking was good for your health, and would improve respiration. Carrots are good to combat cancer, aren’t they? Red wine is good for your heart. Hang on though, red wine is bad for your liver isn’t it? I’m sure I read that somewhere. They just don’t know what they are talking about. It is just so much waffle and rubbish to justify their jobs, salaries, and grants. You will die when you die, get fat if you decide to eat too much, probably get cancer if you smoke but also probably get it if you don’t; just in a different part of the body. This is all common sense, historical fact, and observation.

Goodbye boffins, you let me down on the future and I just don’t believe you anymore.

©Pete Johnson 2012

About Pete Johnson

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working in a local bank, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my four year old Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

I am updating this info on the 6th of July, 2017.

Ollie is now five years old, and is still a great dog to own. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 1330 articles. I currently write a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I also post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

During the past year, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular.

I have had my blogging ups and downs; attracted some followers, both loyal and fickle, and gained a great deal from the whole process. I have written articles that were published on other blogs and websites, as well as trying my hand at more than 60 fictional stories. I am pleased to report that I have had two of these published in a magazine.

If you are considering starting a blog, I would suggest you give it a try. I really would. It may not change your life; but then again, it just might.

Get in touch with Pete

Blog: https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beetleypete

I am sure you have enjoyed this post as much as I have and I hope you will consider commenting and sharing… and heading over to Pete’s blog where you will find even more of his entertaining posts. thanks Sally

If you would like to participate in this series of Posts from your Archives here are the details.

All of us have posts that sit idle in our archive with perhaps a handful of visits from readers who are browsing on our blog. But I would like to offer you the opportunity to share some of your posts that you feel would be enjoyed by a different audience.. Mine.

Apart from sharing your post, I will of course share your bio, any book links, social media and of course your blog so that readers can head over and enjoy your more recent hard work.

If you are interested all I need is the links to those posts you are interested in sharing (three or four) and then I will take it from there. Most of you have already sent me your links but if we have just met I may come back to you. sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Look forward to hearing from you and thanks for dropping in .. Sally

Posts from Your Archives – A Good Education by Pete Johnson


I recently invited you to share some of your posts from your archives. It is a way of giving your earlier or favourite posts a chance to be read by a different audience. Mine. Details of how you can participate is at the end of the post.

Every Tuesday for the last few weeks I have been sharing some posts from the archives of Pete Johnson.. also known as Beetley Pete. Today Pete looks at his education in a Secondary Modern school which was a new concept in the mid to late 1960s.  Apart from the formal education of an O’level syllabus, Pete also recalls the other lessons that he absorbed which he carried forward when he left school.

A Good Education by Pete Johnson

I confess that I know little of the school system today. I am aware that many teachers are unhappy, that exam results are possibly being manipulated, and Department of Education targets seem to be the driving force behind teaching. I also see that standards of spelling, literacy, numeracy, and general knowledge have fallen, and students rely heavily on the Internet for information that they might once have learned. University degrees have lost their status and potential graduates now have to face the prospect of years of debt ahead of them.

Things have changed, of that there can be little doubt. There is a distinct lack of Historical knowledge, and little regard for the relevance of the subject. Geography, and geographical awareness, has reached a low, to the extent that many young people could not place themselves on a World map. I do not have statistics to support these claims, but I have to look no further than conversations with people in their teens, and up to their twenties, and with teachers, to confirm my worst fears. I have no answers, and no solutions to offer either. However, I can reflect on my own, comparatively simple education, and consider myself fortunate.

I came from a working-class district of London, and went to a conventional primary school from the age of 5, in 1957. By the time I left that school, aged 11, I could read well, spell quite complex words, and recite my times table up to the number 13. Much of this learning was by rote, a form of repetition, and copying; but it worked well, and stood me in good stead for the rest of my life. This was before even a ballpoint pen was commonplace, and we wrote with nib pens, using open inkwells, built into the school desks. Calculators were unknown, and audio-visual aids were limited to charts, maps, and occasional slide shows. We were also expected to behave properly, and to show respect to our teachers, and fellow pupils. By the time we left to go to secondary school, we were mostly well-grounded in all the basics necessary to continue our further education. There were a few exceptions. The odd, feral boy, refusing to be taught, or even to regularly attend school, and some unpleasant characters, mostly bullies, who had made a very early choice of the wrong path in life. For most of us, we moved on, looking forward to the challenge of new surroundings, new people, and different subjects.

At that time, the most common choices for secondary education were the Secondary Modern School, or the Grammar School. The latter was only accessible to those who had passed the 11 Plus exam, and had a good report from junior school. It was considered the destination of choice for the keener and brighter students, or for those wanting to go on to Higher Education later. The prospect of going to a University would never really have occurred to me, or my contemporaries at that time. People like us just did not do that, and we did not know anyone, friend or family, who had ever been to one. I did not relish either of these options. Despite passing the 11 Plus, and doing fairly well, I had no interest in Grammar Schools, or Secondary Modern Schools for that matter. This was for the simple reason that all the available options were single-sex schools only, and I felt that going to an all boys school was limiting. Despite having little or no experience of girls, something told me that a mixed school would provide a better educational environment, as well as giving me the opportunity to find out more about the opposite sex!

This left me with one option, at least the only one within reasonable travelling distance; Walworth School, which was a Comprehensive School, a relatively new concept at that time. Formed in 1946, it was one of the first five schools to launch the Comprehensive Education System in London. It was a mixed school, on two sites, both of which were conveniently within walking distance of my home, which was just south of the Old Kent Road. I discovered that almost none of my former classmates in junior school were considering going there, opting for the nearby Secondary Modern in most cases. I would have to face the new school alone, and try to make new friends.

The most immediate difference in my new school was the teachers. It was evident from the first day, that these were a different breed from the ones that I had known before. There was also homework, of course, which still came as a shock, even though I was aware that it would be expected of me. Then there was the confusion of being in such a large institution, with more than a thousand pupils on the two sites, and of being aware that I was completely at sea, with timetables, different classrooms, and a maze of stairwells and corridors to navigate. By this time, the inkwells had gone, and I had a nice fountain pen, as well as a ruler, protractor, a set of compasses, and a shiny new satchel to keep it all in. I also had a uniform. It was a distinctive burgundy blazer, with tie, cap, grey trousers, and a raincoat too. I was well and truly all set.

In case you are wondering, I do not intend to give a day-to day account of my schooling from 1963-1969. Besides taking too long, my memory is no longer reliable enough. I have called this post ‘A good education’, and I will try to explain why I believe that I had one. It was all about the teachers. At Walworth at that time, they fell into two distinct categories. There were the older ones, the sort you expected to get. Big on discipline, somewhat jaded, mostly unmarried, not great communicators. Then there were the younger ones, some of whom were only 10 years older than us. They wore relatively fashionable clothes, they were interested in music and films, they talked to you as if you were a person in your own right, and they gave you personal responsibility, not just a list of rules. They genuinely made you feel valued, far from just being a face in a crowd. Perhaps more importantly, for children from a working-class background, they had expectations of you, and a hope that you would do well.

To this end, they made the lessons more interesting, with vibrant discussion, and allowance of opinions. There were School Journeys, not just to the Home Counties, but to France, and other places we considered exotic at the time. We had film shows during lessons, slide shows, science labs, and metal and wood workshops. Sport could not be catered for in the inner-city location, so we were sent to Dulwich playing fields on coaches, and later to the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace, for ‘fancy’ sports, like Badminton, or Swimming in the Olympic class pool. As I was useless at Football and Cricket, I was allowed to play Hockey, a sport formerly reserved for women and girls only. Music was encouraged, and we were able to choose instruments outside of the conventional, with tutors brought in to teach us. There was drama, visits to theatres and cinemas, French films for those studying the language, and ‘Assistants’ employed, to help with foreign language vocabulary. This may not seem much to the modern reader, but it was heaven to me at the age of 13. When we studied History, as well as the necessary, somewhat dry learning of dates, people, and places, we also discussed the politics of the period, and the relevant affects on our lives at that time.

This was amazing stuff. Nobody had ever cared before. What people like us thought had never mattered. After all, we were destined to be the Dock-Workers, Printers, Tradesmen, and Manual Labourers of Society, so the rest was of little consequence. Suddenly, all that had changed. We had a purpose, our future was important, we could do anything we wanted, be the best that we could be, and this new breed of teacher was there to make it happen. Of course, there was still the GCE O Level syllabus to contend with, as well as all the homework, and the lessons you were not that good at. (In my case, Maths). But all that did not seem to matter anymore, as someone finally believed in you, treated you as an equal in most respects, and encouraged you to improve your lot in life. I cannot stress how important this was, and you may have to put it into a historical context to really appreciate it, but you must believe me when I say that this was life changing. I would certainly not be writing this blog, or reflecting on a relatively successful life, were it not for those few teachers. I owe them a great deal, more than they will ever know.

Some aspects of school were hugely different then. There were few pupils from a different ethnic, or religious background. With perhaps five exceptions during my time at Walworth, all of the students were from white, Anglo-Saxon families, and predominantly from the immediate area around the school buildings. I don’t recall any of the teachers being from London. Most were from middle-class, comfortable backgrounds, and from all over the UK. They were from Yorkshire, Wales, Scotland, The Midlands, and from the better parts of the counties in the south. Perhaps they had a vocation, to come to a poor area of London, and teach the working classes. Maybe they just couldn’t get a job where they came from, or they just wanted to escape to the Capital, in the heyday of the swinging sixties. It doesn’t matter, it is unimportant. I choose to believe that most of them had the best intentions. Whether this is the case or not, I benefited from their choice by reaping the rewards of their wisdom, their attitudes, and their sincerity. I am pleased to call some of them friends to this day, and still have great affection and respect for those that I lost touch with, or have since died.

I did not really do a great deal academically, as a result of all this. In fact, it could be said that I was a disappointment to some. I left school at the age of 17, in 1969, after taking my O levels, and did not go on to take the A levels that I was studying for, or achieve a place at University. I had reasons at the time, that are irrelevant now. What I was left with was an inquiring mind, a love of books and reading, and an interest in politics, history, and current affairs. I had a respect for my fellow man and woman, a sense of justice and fairness, and a lifelong desire to do the right thing.

That’s what I call a good education.
©Pete Johnson 2017

About Pete Johnson

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working in a local bank, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my four year old Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

I am updating this info on the 6th of July, 2017.

Ollie is now five years old, and is still a great dog to own. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 1330 articles. I currently write a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I also post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

During the past year, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular.

I have had my blogging ups and downs; attracted some followers, both loyal and fickle, and gained a great deal from the whole process. I have written articles that were published on other blogs and websites, as well as trying my hand at more than 60 fictional stories. I am pleased to report that I have had two of these published in a magazine.

If you are considering starting a blog, I would suggest you give it a try. I really would. It may not change your life; but then again, it just might.

Get in touch with Pete

Blog: https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beetleypete

I am sure you have enjoyed this post as much as I have and I hope you will consider commenting and sharing… and heading over to Pete’s blog where you will find even more of his entertaining posts. thanks Sally

If you would like to participate in this series of Posts from your Archives here are the details.

All of us have posts that sit idle in our archive with perhaps a handful of visits from readers who are browsing on our blog. But I would like to offer you the opportunity to share some of your posts that you feel would be enjoyed by a different audience.. Mine.

Apart from sharing your post, I will of course share your bio, any book links, social media and of course your blog so that readers can head over and enjoy your more recent hard work.

If you are interested all I need is the links to those posts you are interested in sharing (three or four) and then I will take it from there. Most of you have already sent me your links but if we have just met I may come back to you. sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Look forward to hearing from you and thanks for dropping in .. Sally

Posts from Your Archives – A la recherche du temps perdu by Pete Johnson


I recently invited you to share some of your posts from your archives. It is a way of giving your earlier or favourite posts a chance to be read by a different audience. Mine. Details of how you can participate is at the end of the post.

Every Tuesday for the last few weeks I have been sharing some posts from the archives of Pete Johnson.. also known as Beetley Pete. Today Pete, who has shared some wonderful stories as well as some of the less enjoyable aspects of his childhood, such as drowning, takes of the rose colour glasses and reflects on the reality of life in the 1950s and 1960s.

A la recherche du temps perdu by Pete Johnson

With apologies to Marcel Proust for stealing his title, I confess to a lot of time spent in remembrance of things past. Not just lately, but for much of my life. Even as a man in my twenties, I constantly reflected on my childhood, and my early school years, developing a habit of looking back that I never lost. I was caught up in a chain of nostalgia, from which I found it difficult to escape. When I got to secondary school, I pined for my primary school, and less pressure. Once I left school and started work, I really regretted leaving education, and thought about those last few years at school with great fondness. Every job seemed better than the one that followed it, and I managed to conveniently forget my reasons for wanting to move on in the first place.

During a convivial dinner party that we were hosting during the late 1970s, I was asked by a guest, “If you could choose to live anywhere, where would that be?” I replied without hesitation, “In my past, I was happy there.” This was a thoughtless remark, most unflattering to my wife at the time of course, and left an uncomfortable atmosphere at the table. After many moves, broken marriages, and failed relationships, I still carried this obsession with me, like an unwanted blemish. I convinced myself repeatedly that things were better ‘then’, whenever that was. I had taken the natural tendency for fond reminiscence, and turned it into a philosophy.

I have now moved away from London, retired from work, and married for the third time. It has taken over sixty years for me to shake off this unhealthy desire to spend my life looking back, and to take off the rose-tinted glasses that I habitually wore when doing so. I cannot deny that a part of me still looks back. The difference is that I now do so with a much more considered and realistic eye. Standing back from the personal recollections, I can see things as an observer might, and realise that it was all far from rosy. It is so simple to remember good things, and put away the less attractive aspects of a past life into a sealed compartment in your mind. Time to open it up; it is long overdue.

Primary school was not great. Inkwells, strict teachers, rote learning, and hard discipline, including being caned. Being made to stand in a corner, cleaning blackboards, or awaiting the pleasure of the head teacher, nervously perched on a chair outside their office. Gangs in the playground; choose the wrong side, and suffer for it. Do well in lessons, and though you may receive the praise of teacher, you are derided by your less academic class-mates.

Secondary school was a great improvement, I was very lucky there. But it wasn’t for everyone. Be a little educationally backward, have unfortunate physical features, or fail to be accepted in a group, and you had a lonely and depressing life. Run the gauntlet of the kids from the ‘tough’ schools on the way home; get your uniform torn, or your cap and bag thrown over the railway line. The bad parts often overshadowed the good. Less pleasurable memories, easy to discard.

And it was always cold in winter. Homes heated by one coal fire, sometimes supplemented by smelly paraffin heaters. Pipes frozen, hot water scarce, and legs and fingers freezing in clothing inadequate for protection. The air quality was so poor, that we often had to wear smog masks for the short trips to and from school. One outside toilet provided for two families sharing a house. Using this in all weathers, perched on a high seat, terrified of the huge spiders, trying to go as fast as possible. Baths once a week, in water shared by your parents; and later, shivering in bed, yearning for sleep to make you forget the cold.

Life for the working classes was predestined. Years of hard labour, followed by an early death for most of the men. They sought refuge from hardship in cigarettes and alcohol, and unbridled pleasure at the weekends. There were lots of widows then; not so many now, at least at a young age. Home ownership was unknown, and there was little chance to escape the financial chains of your class, outside of crime. There was a general acceptance of your lot in life, and a degree of resolution that stifled hope.

Despite living in London in the so-called ‘swinging sixties’, things had not really changed a great deal since the end of the war. Except for the cinema, entertainment was mostly left to you to make it yourself. There were only two channels on the television, if you could afford one, and the only games were on flat boards, using cards and counters. There were some sports clubs and youth clubs, the Cubs and Scouts, Brownies and Guides; but they were regimented, and felt like being at school.

Unlike many families, we had a car, so got to go on trips out, and an annual holiday, but it wasn’t for everyone. Work was available, and it paid just enough to keep you where you should be, without too many grand aspirations. Politicians paid little regard to the needs of the ordinary people, and the Police could do anything they wanted to you, and frequently did.

Even Doctors talked to you as if you were a servant, and made you feel grateful that they had taken their valuable time to inspect your ailment. If you made it to hospital, it was one step above being in a prison. No sitting on the bed. ‘In or out but never on.’ Lights out at an early hour, no talking, and patrolling night nurses making sure that you were not disruptive.

Then came the 1970s. Workers found their voice at last, and things slowly started to change. We had moved to a house with central heating, and unlimited hot water. Colour TV arrived, and with it, a new channel. Foreign holidays became the norm, for ordinary people, on better salaries. Home ownership increased, and the middle class merged with the working class, into something that has never had a satisfactory name. This wasn’t all ideal of course. It bred conservatism, and greed for profit. There was confrontation, and the inevitable strikes. It left a legacy of fewer council homes, diminishing employment prospects, and disaffected youth.

But it was still a lot better than what preceded it, take it from me. Without the romance of revolution and dissent, and that ubiquitous rose-tinted eye-wear, the reality is that the past was hard. By comparison. life is a lot easier now.

I will still reflect of course. I will often think that this or that, was better ‘then’. That is my nature. The reality is that my life was never better than it is now. I have a devoted and loving wife, a nice home in the countryside, and no work responsibilities. I live in peace and quiet for the first time in my life, and I can anticipate that my last years will be more peaceful and happier than I could ever have expected. I doubt that I will ever look back to a better time than this.

©Pete Johnson 2017

About Pete Johnson

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working in a local bank, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my four year old Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

I am updating this info on the 6th of July, 2017.

Ollie is now five years old, and is still a great dog to own. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 1330 articles. I currently write a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I also post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

During the past year, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular.

I have had my blogging ups and downs; attracted some followers, both loyal and fickle, and gained a great deal from the whole process. I have written articles that were published on other blogs and websites, as well as trying my hand at more than 60 fictional stories. I am pleased to report that I have had two of these published in a magazine.

If you are considering starting a blog, I would suggest you give it a try. I really would. It may not change your life; but then again, it just might.

Get in touch with Pete

Blog: https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beetleypete

I am sure you have enjoyed this post as much as I have and I hope you will consider commenting and sharing… and heading over to Pete’s blog where you will find even more of his entertaining posts. thanks Sally

If you would like to participate in this series of Posts from your Archives here are the details.

All of us have posts that sit idle in our archive with perhaps a handful of visits from readers who are browsing on our blog. But I would like to offer you the opportunity to share some of your posts that you feel would be enjoyed by a different audience.. Mine.

Apart from sharing your post, I will of course share your bio, any book links, social media and of course your blog so that readers can head over and enjoy your more recent hard work.

If you are interested all I need is the links to those posts you are interested in sharing (three or four) and then I will take it from there. Most of you have already sent me your links but if we have just met I may come back to you. sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Look forward to hearing from you and thanks for dropping in .. Sally

Here are Pete Johnson’s posts so far in his series.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/posts-from-your-archives-pete-johnson-with-not-waving-but-drowning/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/posts-from-your-archives-guest-pete-johnson-with-bermondsey-summers/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/09/19/post-from-your-archives-guest-pete-johnson-with-ollies-gang/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/new-series-posts-from-your-archives-guest-pete-johnson-with-going-to-the-pictures/

 

 

Posts from Your Archives – Pete Johnson with Not Waving but Drowning


Not Waving but Drowning – Pete Johnson

Stevie Smith wrote this famous poem, in 1957. If you have never heard of it, here is a link; http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/not-waving-but-drowning/

I did not become aware of this poem until the 1970s, and considered it to be a fine piece of work. More than that, it had a connection for me, that even now, is painful to recall. I must start by saying, by way of a disclaimer, that many of the events recounted in this post were told to me later, by my parents. (Though despite my youth at the time, I do actually remember the main occurrence, as if it happened yesterday). This also applies to the exact geography of the location, a place I have never visited since, and which may well have changed, over time.

In the year that this poem was published, I was five years old. Though hard to imagine now, I had a mop of blonde curly hair, and an angelic face, set off by blue-green eyes. Looks-wise, I was at my peak; this is the best it was ever going to get. We were living in South London, within sight of the local docks, and as a family, we were happy. At least I thought so, but I was only five. My Dad worked as a carpenter then, making tea-chests and packing cases, in a workshop in nearby Deptford. Mum worked in the biscuit factory a few doors from our house, as a book-keeper in the office. I had not yet started school, and was due to go to the local primary, after their summer break was over. We lived in the upper rooms of a terraced house, and our landlady, a kindly widow, occupied the ground floor. It could be very hot in Central London, during the summer, and it was nice that my Mum and Dad often thought of places to go, to escape that heat.

As well as family holidays in Jaywick, a chalet town on the Essex coast, we also had a regular holiday to Cornwall, staying with a bachelor uncle in Penryn. He had been in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War, and had some fascinating stories to tell. He wasn’t really an uncle, more like a second cousin, on my Dad’s side, but I really liked him. However, those longer holidays were expensive, and involved tedious, frustrating drives, as there were no motorways until 1963; and not for many years after that, to the South-West.

To escape the humidity of the city for the day, usually on a Sunday, we would drive out to somewhere nearer London, like Box Hill, in Surrey, Epping Forest, in Essex, or Yalding, in Kent. These were more manageable as day trips, although traffic jams were as common then, and just as bad, as they are now. My Dad had a car, something of a rarity in our area in those days. It was a 1938 Wolseley, which had once been a Police car. Despite its age, the car was kept running by almost daily maintenance, and lots of love and devotion. It had back doors that opened the ‘wrong’ way, so an awning could be erected across the gap, which we could sit under. Inside, it had an internal string roof lining, which was used to store items to keep to hand, for the journey.

I was a bad traveller then, and could easily be car sick after less than twenty minutes driving. However, that didn’t put me off, and I always looked forward to our excursions. One hot day, Mum told me that we were going to go to Yalding, where we could relax by the river, and have a picnic on the grass. We always took a picnic, as there were few cafes around, and they were a little too expensive for us to use anyway. As well as food, we also had a paraffin stove and small kettle, for tea making, and milk would be taken in a thermos flask, to keep it cool. On arrival, we parked alongside many other cars, on the grassy area, right next to the river. (By coincidence, this area has featured heavily on the news since Christmas, as it has been badly flooded). Next to the parking area, the river was shallow, and led up to a weir. After the weir, the water is much deeper, and there is a waterfall effect, caused by the water rushing over the obstruction.

I had been allowed to take my toy boat. This was a wooden boat, made by my Dad, and it had a fairly large sail. This boat floated well, and I had previously sailed it on the pond, in the local park. After a family paddle, Mum prepared the picnic, and we all sat and ate. It was getting hotter, probably almost thirty degrees, and my parents were relaxing on the grass, tired after a long week at work. I was too young to sit still for too long, and returned to play with my boat, in the shallow water. Mum told me to stay where she could see me, and lay back on her blanket. I was enjoying the cold water on my bare legs, and the progress of my sailing boat, in the fast-flowing river. I started to follow it, as it built up speed, until I had walked a considerable distance from where I had started, near the family car. The exact period of elapsed time I am unsure of, but it was long enough for my Mum to have looked up, and to realise that I was not there.

She woke my dad, and told him that I was nowhere to be seen. They began to run around the area, which was filled with day-trippers, enjoying the sunshine. They asked everyone if they had seen a small boy, with a distinctive mop of almost white curls. Panic began to set in, when nobody could recall seeing me, or anyone like me. They went somewhere where announcements could be made, over a loud speaker system; possibly a First-Aid tent, or a Police point, I have no way of knowing now. Meanwhile, I was following my boat. I was too young to understand what a weir was, or to even notice the warning signs. I just wanted to catch my sailing boat, before it got too far from my reach, and became lost. I increased my speed in the water, and reached forward, in an attempt to grab it.

Although I was only five, I have two distinct memories of that year. One was starting school that September, being left by my Mum, and not wanting to go off with the teacher. This is the other one, and I can see it in flashback anytime, at will. My legs went from under me, and I had the sensation of sliding. Not falling, but sliding, just like on a slide at the local park. I went straight down into the deeper water, and it covered me immediately. There was no time to be alarmed, to panic, or to cry out. I was looking up, the sun bright but hazy through the water above me. There was no spluttering, no fighting for breath. I was swallowing though, as water seemed to be filling my mouth and stomach, I just kept swallowing. Every time I did, there was more water, and so it continued, for what seemed an eternity. Then there was a feeling of great peace. At that moment, I wasn’t scared, and could see clearly around me. The surface seemed to be a long way off, and there was total silence. Then it went dark. If that was death, it wasn’t as scary as you might imagine.

My next memory was of being on my back, coughing. Someone was covering me in something that felt rough and scratchy, and it was suddenly very noisy again. A man stood nearby, shivering, and soaking wet all over. Men were asking me questions, constantly repeating things that I couldn’t understand. I was lifted onto a stretcher, and my Mum appeared, wild-eyed and mad looking, most unlike her usual self. Some time passed, before I was aware of anything else. I was in a bed, but it wasn’t my bed. I was covered with scratchy covers again, and couldn’t move, they were so tight. Everything else was a blur, and I was told it all later, when I was able to understand. I remembered being under the water though, and I never found my boat.

I had wandered some way off from my starting point. It had been a while before my Mum noticed that I had gone, and the frantic searching had taken some time. On the bridge, or possibly beside it, a man had been fishing. As was the style of the day, he was fully dressed, in jacket, tie, and trousers. He had suddenly noticed a little boy, because of the white curly hair. The boy seemed to be running onto the top of the weir, and then disappeared under the water. This selfless man discarded his rod and line, and without thinking, jumped straight in, to rescue me. Helped by others on the bank, he got me out onto the side. Like most men at that time, he had seen some service in the war, and immediately knew that I was dead. I had drowned, and I didn’t even know. I had no heartbeat, and I wasn’t breathing. My lips were blue, and my body was floppy and lifeless.

With the help of a first-aid trained person, the angler attempted to bring me back from the abyss. The resuscitation protocols during the 1950s were very different from those practiced today. The generally accepted technique was to move the arms back and forth above the head, in a rowing action. This stimulated the ribs to move, assisting breathing, and also helped the lungs and stomach to expel any water. (Many years later, when training in the Ambulance Service, I was still taught these techniques. They were known by the inventors’ names, Silvester-Brosch, and Holger Neilsen.)

When this failed to revive me, they simply turned me over, and moved my ribs manually, which eventually resulted in most of the water coming out, and I started to breathe soon after. The period must have been mercifully short, as there was no long-lasting damage. By now, my parents were still no closer to finding me. They had gone the opposite way, and had no idea that I was so close to the weir. A police car toured the picnic grounds, asking if anyone had lost a child, and we were eventually reunited. My Dad told me, a long time later, that the soaking wet fisherman had retrieved a sodden packet of cigarettes from his jacket, and attempted to light one. Flushed with gratitude, my dad gave him his own cigarettes, almost a full packet. He never got the life-saver’s name, something both my parents always regretted.

I was taken to hospital in Maidstone, the county town about five miles from where I had drowned. I was kept under observation there, but I don’t know for how long, as I am sure that I was home later that night, in the dark. Perhaps not, memory plays tricks sometimes. I made the local London newspaper, the Evening Star. A small corner, telling how a London boy drowned on a day trip to Kent, and was saved by an angler. When my Mum died, I found this cutting in her possessions, saved lovingly, for fifty-five years. I was never once told off about this incident. Never scolded, or warned not to wander off. I believe that my parents always felt that they were to blame, and their guilt stopped them from admonishing me.

I never really felt comfortable in deep water after that day. And I have never learned how to swim.

An amazing story that must have been difficult to write I would imagine, even after all this time. My thanks to Pete for sharing.

© Pete Johnson

About Pete Johnson

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working in a local bank, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my four year old Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

I am updating this info on the 6th of July, 2017.

Ollie is now five years old, and is still a great dog to own. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 1330 articles. I currently write a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I also post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

During the past year, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular.

I have had my blogging ups and downs; attracted some followers, both loyal and fickle, and gained a great deal from the whole process. I have written articles that were published on other blogs and websites, as well as trying my hand at more than 60 fictional stories. I am pleased to report that I have had two of these published in a magazine.

If you are considering starting a blog, I would suggest you give it a try. I really would. It may not change your life; but then again, it just might.

Get in touch with Pete

Blog: https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beetleypete

How to share your archived posts here on Smorgasbord

I am sure you have enjoyed this post as much as I have and I hope you will consider commenting and sharing… and heading over to Pete’s blog where you will find even more of his entertaining posts. thanks Sally

If you would like to participate in this series of Posts from your Archives here are the details.

All of us have posts that sit idle in our archive with perhaps a handful of visits from readers who are browsing on our blog. But I would like to offer you the opportunity to share some of your posts that you feel would be enjoyed by a different audience.. Mine.

Apart from sharing your post, I will of course share your bio, any book links, social media and of course your blog so that readers can head over and enjoy your more recent hard work.

If you are interested all I need is the links to those posts you are interested in sharing (three of four as a start to see if you enjoy the experience) and then I will take it from there. Most of you have already sent me your links but if we have just met I may come back to you. sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Look forward to hearing from you and thanks for dropping in .. Sally

Posts from your Archives – Guest Pete Johnson with Bermondsey Summers


Bermondsey summers  August 9, 2013 ~ beetleypete

What is it about memory, that makes us remember summers as being better in our youth? Ask most people about the weather, and they will almost always agree that the summer was better when they were young. Six weeks of unbroken sun, school holidays spent outside, with perhaps the occasional thundery shower, that helped to clear the air. Given that this might span a time period from 1958, to 1998, it cannot really have any basis in fact. Although I do not have the real statistics to hand, (and cannot be bothered to look them up) I am sure that we didn’t always have fabulous summers, with weeks of Mediterranean heat, and unbroken blue skies. So why is it that this is how I remember them?

Before we moved to Kent, when I was fifteen years old, I spent my summers on the streets of Bermondsey, a South London district, close to the River Thames. There may have been a two-week family holiday, usually to Cornwall, and there were also weekends in Essex, staying at my Nan’s caravan, but mostly, it was ‘playing out’ with mates. This was sometimes on the still-present bomb sites, derelict areas caused by wartime raids, and often near my Nan’s house, where we played various games on the pavements, and in the roads. We might also venture into Southwark Park, where there was a good play area, with a climbing net over a sandpit, and a large roundabout. In the other direction, the smaller St James’s park boasted an unusual slide, with a closed-in top, resembling a wooden fort. I might also wander down to the river, where the busy docks were then still working flat out, and look at the huge cargo ships, spinning cranes, and passing river traffic. This might involve slipping past the Dock Police, who were supposed to stop us going in, or just going to Cherry Garden pier, with direct access to the riverside, where we could play at low tide. Once out, we rarely returned home until the agreed deadline; if we needed to pee, we did it up a tree, and we had our pocket money, for any drinks or snacks that we wanted.

The most enduring memory, whether false or not, is of good weather that enabled us to play, however and whenever we wanted. We played cricket, with pieces of wood, and any ball we could find. Football of course, with old boxes for goalposts, and if there were not enough of us to make up teams, then it was up against a wall, or one in goal, with the ‘three goals and in’ rule applying. We would always assume the identity of the star players of the day, and would argue, until allowed to keep our choice. The playmates were generally neighbours, and any other kids who just happened to be hanging about, as we rarely ventured outside our world, the small borough that was Bermondsey. I should add, that until I was eight, I actually lived in Rotherhithe, so should include this adjacent borough too; though the difference was marginal, as you only had to cross a road, to be in one or the other.

Being boys (there were rarely girls, except sisters who had to be looked after) we liked to play at war. Although the Second World War was fresh to us, and we still had the evidence in the bomb-sites, we did not restrict ourselves. We also liked to pretend to be knights in armour, using all sorts of adapted implements and household items to simulate medieval attire. We would go to the local ‘shop that sold everything’, and buy garden canes, one long, and many short. They were affordable with our small amounts of pocket money, and with some old string obtained from anywhere, they magically transformed into bows and arrows. With these, we could be the English archers at Agincourt (we had all seen Henry V), or just as easily become fierce Apache warriors, opposing the U.S. Cavalry. Toy guns, discussed at length in another post, would be prized in these conflicts, and those not lucky enough to have some, made do with suitably shaped pieces of wood or metal. At times, there could be as many as thirty of us on each side; one group defending an area, the other attacking with screams and whoops. These battles were not without their casualties. Stones and bricks were often thrown, and the large numbers of flying ‘arrows’ also caused eye injuries. Even if you survived the skirmish, you could be sure of scraped knees, scuffed shoes, and torn clothing. Nobody got an ambulance though, or a trip to the hospital. You went home, to get Germolene on your scrapes, and a telling off for spoiling your clothes, before getting out again, as soon as possible, to rejoin the fray.

I can still feel the heat, even now. The pavements felt uncomfortably hot when you sat down. Dogs dozed outside houses, grumpy if approached. Ants were everywhere, and sometimes, huge numbers of winged ants would emerge, their desire to fly off sparked by the increasing temperature. You were always thirsty. The parks had water fountains, operated by pushing a plunger, and then you had to try to drink from it, craning your head awkwardly. Older fountains had large metal cups, attached by chains. They were probably unhygienic, but the water always tasted fresh from them. If all else failed, you would knock on any door, and ask for a drink of water, from a complete stranger. It was never denied, as it was a very different world then. If you had money, you could buy a drink, or better still, an Ice Pole or a Jubbly. Ice Poles were long tubes of frozen, flavoured water, encased in a polythene shell. You bit off the top, and pushed the pole up as you ate it. Jubblies were even better, but cost 3d. They resembled a pyramid, and were really frozen solid. They contained a tasty orange ice, and were in a waxy cardboard container. Peeling off one corner, the Jubbly would appear, and could be slid in and out, as required. Even in the full heat of summer, they would last a long time, and were a great refreshment.

When I moved to the new maisonette in Bermondsey, aged eight, we had communal gardens. These became my new playground. With the other kids from the flats, of all ages, we would play in the wartime air-raid shelters, on the older estate opposite. As we had a ground and first floor, we would leap from the stairwell halfway up, pretending to be parachutists at Arnhem. With earth and grass to include in our games, we would dig out tiny trenches, and place our toy soldiers in them. We even poured water into them, to simulate the mud we had seen in the films. A good game like this could involve up to six kids, with a few hundred toy soldiers, in an impressive trench network that we kept going for days, if not weeks, on end. When I got a bike, a whole new world of summer play opened up for me. We would cruise around in large numbers, pretending to be fighter planes, attacking each other with loud machine-gun noises, covering a good few miles each day. Other times, we would ‘obtain’ broom handles, and stage elaborate jousting contests, slavishly following all the rules, just as we had seen in the films. Pedalling rapidly towards each other, we fearlessly clashed our broom handle ‘lances’; if someone fell off their bike, the other boy would get off also, and continue the contest with wooden swords. And it was still hot, always hot.

This was pretty much how it carried on, until I became too old for play, and started to read, or listen to music in my bedroom instead. By the time we moved to Kent, I had stopped noticing the heat of the summers, but I vividly remember the open doors, to let in air, and the sound of the younger kids, out playing until past 9pm, enjoying the warmth. Nothing will persuade me that those summers are a myth, or just a rose-tinted memory.

©PeteJohnson

About Pete Johnson

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working in a local bank, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my four year old Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

I am updating this info on the 6th of July, 2017.

Ollie is now five years old, and is still a great dog to own. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 1330 articles. I currently write a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I also post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

During the past year, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular.

I have had my blogging ups and downs; attracted some followers, both loyal and fickle, and gained a great deal from the whole process. I have written articles that were published on other blogs and websites, as well as trying my hand at more than 60 fictional stories. I am pleased to report that I have had two of these published in a magazine.

If you are considering starting a blog, I would suggest you give it a try. I really would. It may not change your life; but then again, it just might.

Get in touch with Pete

Blog: https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beetleypete

Next week Pete shares stories of Bermondsey Summers

I am sure you have enjoyed this post as much as I have and I hope you will consider commenting and sharing… and heading over to Pete’s blog where you will find even more of his entertaining posts. thanks Sally

If you would like to participate in this series of Posts from your Archives here are the details.

All of us have posts that sit idle in our archive with perhaps a handful of visits from readers who are browsing on our blog. But I would like to offer you the opportunity to share some of your posts that you feel would be enjoyed by a different audience.. Mine.

Apart from sharing your post, I will of course share your bio, any book links, social media and of course your blog so that readers can head over and enjoy your more recent hard work.

If you are interested all I need is the links to those posts you are interested in sharing (three of four as a start to see if you enjoy the experience) and then I will take it from there. Most of you have already sent me your links but if we have just met I may come back to you. sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Look forward to hearing from you.

Post from your Archives – Guest Pete Johnson with Ollie’s Gang


Ollie’s Gang September 16, 2014 ~ beetleypete

 

Despite a short holiday in Kent, our dog Ollie is happiest at home. He misses the river, and his familiar circuit around Beetley Meadows, the woods, or Mill Lane. He misses the scent trails of deer, moles, rabbits, and squirrels, and the remembered aromas of his best friends. I could take him to the same place every day, for the rest of his life, and he would be happy. He doesn’t need pastures new, trips to the seaside, or visits to old and interesting places. He is a creature of habit, and that habit suits him down to the ground. When we got home last week, and I took him across to the meadows, he scampered off as excited as the first time he ever went out. It was a pleasure to see him so enthusiastic and happy.

He misses his friends. Since his first foray into the bigger world outside of our house, he has sought the company of other dogs. Luckily, a group of us tend to walk our dogs at the same time, in the late afternoon, so he is usually guaranteed to have some company, at least during weekdays. At times, there can be up to eight of us walking the circuit, all the different dogs running around together, enjoying the short time as a pack, their instinct telling them that this is the natural way. Each dog has its routines, its place in the hierarchy, and its preferred method of play. Some avoid the water, most plunge in happily. Some swim well and enthusiastically; others, like Ollie, just wade. If there is nobody around when we get over there, Ollie will constantly scan the most-used entrances, desperate to see one of the gang arriving. At times, he will actually cry, until another pal appears. As soon as he scents the familiar smell, or sees the owner in the distance, he will tear off towards them, all cares forgotten.

They are an-ill matched group on first sight. Ollie all wrinkles and curly tail, tiny Toby the Jack Russell, a relentless ball of energy, accomplished catcher of anything, and lover of balls or sticks. Oban, the slim, shy black Labrador. Gentle-natured, a little afraid of strange dogs, but always pleased to run with his friends. He is never happier than when he is carrying a huge stick, preferably at the rear of the group, occasionally tantalising the others with it, then running off before they can grab it. He is most definitely Ollie’s best friend, and they are very happy to stay at each other’s houses, or walk together all day. Big Spike, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, though younger than all the others, towers above them, in height and strength. He can knock Toby over with ease, and if he wants a stick or a ball, he always gets it. And keeps it. Ollie tries to dominate the youngster, and if you didn’t know better, you would think that they were fighting. But their tails are wagging; it is just rough play.

This core trio of the gang are often joined by Bruno, the black Pug. He is a great character, snuffling along, fighting for breath, tiny legs that won’t allow him to keep up with the others. So small, he can pass underneath Spike, he is as tough as the others really. At least in his own mind. Buddy the black terrier will usually be around. He is ball-obsessed, and has no interest in walking around with the others. They might get his ball. Buster is a Lhasa Apso with attitude. Smartly-trimmed, alert and ready for action, he has decided he doesn’t like Ollie. As his owners give Ollie small treats, Buster gets jealous, and very grumpy. He doesn’t mind smaller dogs, but he is not happy around the larger animals. So, he doesn’t join in, but he is usually there, to be quickly sniffed, and checked out by the others. Big Rocky, the Newfoundland cross, is a huge dog. He has a nice nature, and loves to play with the others. He can flatten Ollie with one paw, and often does. Unfortunately, he was a rescue dog, so cannot be let off his lead. Nonetheless, he manages to play remarkably well, on a long extension. Bracken the Springer doesn’t concern herself too much with the gang. She is too busy putting up pheasants, and other wildfowl, her instincts overriding any desire to play.

Ozzie the Bedlington, and Millie the Spaniel are always walked together. Their owners are friends, and usually appear towards the end of our walk. Millie loves strokes and fuss, and she has the most wonderfully soft wrinkly ears. Unfortunately, Ozzie has issues with constant barking, and after a while, he can set your ears ringing. Sometimes, he has to wear a special collar that his owner ‘buzzes’, to stop his incessant yaps. Little Lola, the tiny and gorgeous heart-breaker of the group. She is a Shih Tzu, with adorable eyes, a soft curly coat, and a love of strokes and cuddles. The boys are very interested in her of course, but she lets them know when their attentions are not welcome, with a snarl and a snap. There are many others. The twin Poodles, the two Shelties, bad-tempered Duncan the retriever; once a friend, now aggressive and lonely. New arrivals are frequent. Spock the Alsatian pup, only fourteen weeks old, ready for anything. The nasty terrier, owned by a family recently moved to the area. So angry, it cannot be let off the lead, and snarls and screams at every other dog, from 200 yards away. Poppy the Patterdale, all jumping and friendly, loves everyone, and every dog too.

We have lost some over the years sadly. Barley the Spaniel, who had to be put to sleep after suffering arthritic hips. The little Westie, savaged and killed by a rogue greyhound. Gem, the blind Labrador, moved away to Birmingham, and old Max the Jack Russel, who lived with Toby, finally reaching the end of a long and happy life. Some have to be avoided at all costs. The aforementioned greyhound, now always muzzled. Billy the Terrier, so aggressive he will bite any dog. Stan the Spaniel, who decides who he does and doesn’t like, and attacks accordingly. Generally though, it is a happy gang, and Ollie is sure that it is his gang. We won’t tell him otherwise.

©PeteJohnson 2014

About Pete Johnson

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working in a local bank, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my four year old Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

I am updating this info on the 6th of July, 2017.

Ollie is now five years old, and is still a great dog to own. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 1330 articles. I currently write a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I also post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

During the past year, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular.

I have had my blogging ups and downs; attracted some followers, both loyal and fickle, and gained a great deal from the whole process. I have written articles that were published on other blogs and websites, as well as trying my hand at more than 60 fictional stories. I am pleased to report that I have had two of these published in a magazine.

If you are considering starting a blog, I would suggest you give it a try. I really would. It may not change your life; but then again, it just might.

Get in touch with Pete

Blog: https://beetleypete.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beetleypete

Next week Pete shares stories of Bermondsey Summers

I am sure you have enjoyed this post as much as I have and I hope you will consider commenting and sharing… and heading over to Pete’s blog where you will find even more of his entertaining posts. thanks Sally

If you would like to participate in this series of Posts from your Archives here are the details.

All of us have posts that sit idle in our archive with perhaps a handful of visits from readers who are browsing on our blog. But I would like to offer you the opportunity to share some of your posts that you feel would be enjoyed by a different audience.. Mine.

Apart from sharing your post, I will of course share your bio, any book links, social media and of course your blog so that readers can head over and enjoy your more recent hard work.

If you are interested all I need is the links to those posts you are interested in sharing (three of four as a start to see if you enjoy the experience) and then I will take it from there. Most of you have already sent me your links but if we have just met I may come back to you. sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Look forward to hearing from you.