For as long as I can remember the Christmas in the UK ritual has rarely altered, when a child it would be my family, mum, dad and brother, who used to tramp around to all of our relatives, in the snow in those day and walking all the way, no car. Aunties, uncles, grandparents, there were all visited where we were fed and watered and presents were exchanged, then lugged all the way home. Very rarely the family used to come to us so that we could stay at home by the fire, but not very often, but as I grew up we didn’t do the visiting so much, I had my mates to hang around with. So the sitting in front of the TV watching stuff I normally wouldn’t have had time for was a thing of the past and when in my teens presents were not exchanged as such as those presents became gifts of money instead. This enabled me to spend it something I actually wanted not something I had unwrapped, then feigned delight or pleasure at some useless object, which sometimes was a former present given to the person how now passed it on to me.
Then my own family came along, a boy and a girl, but still the visiting continued but not all one way this time. But the ritual more or less stayed the same, visiting, watered, fed, then lug the presents back home, until 2016 that is. My own children were grown up with families of their own and I announced that I had booked 10 days away, including Christmas Day and Boxing Day (a UK peculiarity) so all the present giving, visiting would be done over a couple of days before we went. We arrived in Spain in a monsoon, it had been like it the day before we arrived and was still like the day after we arrived and it wasn’t like Christmas at all. But after the rain the sun, blue skies and sunshine and a Christmas that seemed very low-key by UK standards. So come Christmas day and the sun shone, and it was in the 20 degrees centigrade area, was this real? Just to visualise Christmas for us this year her are some pictures.
Now for those of you not used to the UK I have to explain that at this time of the year it is usually big coats, woolly hats, scarfs, gloves, and if you are walking about, an umberella is a must. For us, both my wife and I in our late 60’s, this was a revelation. But why wait this long you say, well all sort of reasons, none that I can argue with, our kids, our ageing parents, then our kids kids and it just never happened. Some of you will recognise this resort as being on Spain’s Costa Blanca, Benidorm, a haven for the British, and other nationalities. I have know people come here for 6 weeks at a time, and now I know why, but the Spanish have a different kind of Christmas and it’s not like the Brits at all, in fact I think theirs is around January 6th. Yes we have waited a long time, but it was worth it and no more excuses for not going, our families are grown up with their own families now so our ritual has come to a close. It was strange, no getting away from it, but our 10 days on the Spanish Costa’s went by far too quickly. We have been to Benidorm now in every month of the year and apart from the summer months, where the heat can be oppressive at times, we have experienced wind, rain, sun, but not snow, we have spent days sheltering from the weather and even more days basking in the weather, but this Christmas was both different and special.
Running on from the previous page there is much more and there is some reference to one of the major industries of Hull, and the many tradigies from that industry of deep sea fishing. Many men were lost but now it is another historical subject and there are those who will never forget the sacrifices of these brave men just for people to have their fish and chips.
But things are taking shape and there are alsorts of things in the pipeline for many shows, and displays throughout the year but here is just the start still only a couple of weeks into the year.
Am I proud? You bet, there are art displays in the Ferens Art Gallery and works by Leonard Da Vinci and others in the University Of Hull buildings and most of this stuff is available to see free. I also have to mention that over £20 million of refurbishments in the city centre has taken place and although as of this moment in time is not complete it’s nearly there. After years of neglect by those with the power to do improvements, maybe, just maybe, Hull maybe cool or whatever the term is these days, and all the laughing remarks of the past may be able to be put behind us. It’s a big maybe, but we have a chance and the more people who visit and actually take a look instead of just taking for granted what has been written in the past maybe in for quite a surprise. Hull City Of Culture? Laugh no more.
I am of the older generation, that is, in my 60’s the age group that are thought of as being a bit, shall we say, computer illiterate in today’s world. Well in my case that is not the point, although for many, including my wife that is so in fact she won’t even contemplate touching a keyboard believe me I had tried to coax her. But a lot of this phobia of computers in older people is that they are used to old ways, old ways that worked that is, we have one friend who makes a cheque out regularly to herself to put money from one bank account to another, her mobile, the flip up kind, is more often turned off than on and she is fine with this. But she is not alone in fact when I think about it none of my older friends contemplate today’s computer centric world and the likes of Facebook are just something youngsters play with. But not all older people fall into that category but the older the person the more resistant to computer technology they seem to be.
My own experience stems from my love of gadgets, anything electrical that was new to the market, the early 386 computers with dot matrix printers, the Philip G7000 (Odyssey in the US I believe) games console when everyone else was buying Atari. Digital watches where you had to push a button just to see the display time I was fascinated by the silicon chip in whatever gadget it was placed in. I read stuff in libraries, I didn’t have to pay out a fortune for magazines for a start, and learned about Zilog and Intel not that understood a lot of it, the diagrams of semiconductors were for people with university degrees not someone who built houses for a living but it still fascinated me. And so it continued through the late 80’s, into the 1990’s until this present day and I still read a lot of technical stuff that is over my head but even I have a problem now. Technology is moving so fast it is getting too complicated for me to understand some of the basics of computer technology and I’m not sure I like the direction it is going in.
Sure I used the fruits of the technology, for a start my internet connection is broadband and I have nearly, only nearly, forgotten the nightmares of the dial up modem I used to have where if I was downloading an update for some software or other it only took a telephone call from one of my wife’s friends, which was on the same phone line, to cut me off and a whole download was just about useless, so any serious stuff had to be done after midnight, and You Tube, gimme a break, I couldn’t watch any music video’s without buffering but hey ho. But still the fascination and it still continues to this day but it’s gone in odd direction, gaming is huge but after the initial Philps games machine it never caught on with me, photography has and I saved up for a decent camera after buying at the cheaper end of the spectrum. I tried Fuji the Canon and I can’t fault them the last camera I bought, from E-Bay, was a Canon 350d and now look, you can carry a mobile phone, take a rain check here, your very own phone box in your pocket?
Yes today you can do practically everything, and possibly even more than on my old 386 computer and do it better. You can take better pictures than on my early Fuji camera and not only that send them to anyone on the planet more or less. What you can’t do on your phone these days isn’t worth mentioning and that includes shopping online, banking online, paying with stuff just by waving your phone in front of yet another gadget (a payment terminal usually). But along with this new way of doing things there is a new way for criminal to carry on doing their deeds only these days it all electronic and sometimes you don’t even know it’s been done to you until you look at your bank statements. And now electronics are moving into the home in a big way, seen todays modern TV’s for instance? Amazon have a gadget like a loudspeaker only it has ears, you talk to it and it does your bidding, like phones you talk to them as well and lets not forget robots, they are coming.
Well in fact they have been here for years you only have to look at car assembly plants to see that many repetitive jobs formerly done by humans are now down effortlessly by robots. But robots of another kind, although the don’t move, have been a fact of life for a long long time and even older people have come to accept them, cash machines. At one time the only way to get your money out of the bank was during their opening hours where you queued to see a cashier behind a screen and handed over your passbook. Now if you run short of money you simply slip in your bank card, debit card or whatever and get what you want, with a printed receipt and at any time of day or night. What no one really bothers about anymore is all this stuff is all handled behind the scene’s by computers, albeit clever computers. So what else? Well that’s for another day.
I read a lot of technical stuff about computers, mobile (cell) phones and other gadgets, no I’m not a nerd or technical buff but I do like to read what is happening in these worlds. I read a lot of forums for these gadgets and like a lot of forums what starts off as a genial exchange of thoughts and ideas soon turns into a slanging match free for all. Peoples preferences for a certain type of manufacturer be it Microsoft, Apple, Google, Samsung whatever, starts to exert itself and so any meaningful chat becomes a hopeless cause. Then you get those who are technically more advanced, or appear to be so, than us ‘common’ folk telling us in great details why this phone is better than that phone and how this software is better than another one, and so it goes on.
But one of the overiding factors for me on these forums is how many people buy the latest, phone, tablet, and other stuff from whatever manufacturer when there is obviously nothing wrong with their previous gadget. And I don’t mean stuff costing very little, it is usually the high end stuff costing hundreds of pounds, dollars, euros ect which people pay out everytime a new version of their favourite toy comes along. On one occasion one person had boasted that he had 4 phones from a particular manufacture only to say that he had ordered yet another phone because it was the latest version coming out soon and this version cost around £600, what ??? I can’t help but think that the world has gone a bit haywire, or should I say some inhabitants of this planet have gone haywire as this scenario of buying the latest toy when there is nothing wrong with the previous toy is very common and widespread.
But it is not only high cost gadgets that get discarded with ease it seems, on a slightly different take on this throwaway life it seems that tons of perfectly good food is thrown away every year because it is rejected by our supermarkets in the UK stating that it is the wrong size or shape. The mere thought of all this food that has been planted and grown then harvested only to be thrown away is appalling, I’m not sure if it happends in other countries but for it to happen anywhere is a travesty. And I also read that people now buy clothes after they have worn a certain garment a few times then throw it away, again like phones, not stuff from the cheaper end of the market but classy stuff. Is there no end to this madness?
I am now in that genre of OAP, retired, old git or whatever other euphemism is appropriate for someone who, as it has been said, is in the twilight of their life. All very sobering I must say but how the heck did I get here? I remember being a young lad, in short trousers, and playing with my friends, outside with no tele, internet or any of today’s paraphernalia, and coming back looking like I had been dragged through a hedge backwards. I remember finding out that girls existed and not just football (soccer), now that was different, and I remember the music, oh yes the music the 1960’s (yawn yes I know what you are thinking). But then I remember getting married, children came along and now grandchildren and here I am retired.
Of course its been a long, and often arduous, journey to get where I am today, being at work for over 50 years, not some cushy desk job either, does give you a certain reflection on life the main one being that I am still here to tell it. I understand now why many old people rabbit on about the old days and what’s up with the the young of today blah blah, its not so much a criticism of the young as a sadness of the advent of being older and what used to be. A lot of people of my age find it hard living in today’s world as a lot of the the values of days gone by have gone by if you see what I mean. It,s a new way with most things, and yes the technological stuff I am talking about but take a simple thing like riding on a bus.
Now when I was with my mum and all the seat were occupied I would be required to stand for an older person to sit down, which on the face of things is quite logical, I was young and fairly healthy. But this was the picture a few days back of today’s scenario and I swear I am not joking. Picture a bus and all the seats are taken, mostly by older people, so standing room only and we pull up at a bus stop where a mother and her son, about 10 or 11 years old and playing some sort of game on his gadget, get on the bus. She pays her fare and then for all to hear she shouts ‘Right which one of you is going to let my son sit down (without being too simplistic he looked like he had had one McDonald’s too many) you can’t expect a young lad to stand all the way’.
Some mumbling was heard and to be honest astonishment by most of the passengers but one woman did stand up, she was getting off at the next stop anyway but it doesn’t stop there. I still hold doors open for people to pass through, shops or elsewhere, but I have often had doors left to swing in my face by others, even the simple thing of saying sorry if you accidentally bump into someone is not a done thing these days. But maybe I should shut up and put up with the ways of the world these days, well I don’t have much choice really. Bye bye my old world it was nice to know you as it seemed such a nicer place despite all the crap that went on back then, but that’s another story.
Its been a funny kind of day, I don’t know if you people have the same thing a kind of nostalgic time when you hear a song or something triggers off days gone by. It may be a friend, relative or someone from your past but something clicks inside your head and memories come flooding back. Well in my case it was the death of yet another pop star from my early years when things seemed so much better, probably because I was younger, but none the less it got me thinking, do I fit into today? Now the pop star was not a mega blockbusting star and in fact some of you may never have heard of him, his name was Alvin Stardust, who was originally known as Shane Fenton but whose real name was Bernard Jewry and he sang a kind of what was called bubblegum pop in those days, just sing a long type of stuff, easy listening and easy going and the one I particularly like was a song called I Feel Like Buddy Holly.
The lyrics are very clever and whilst relaxing listening to this song over and over I was transported back to the time when this song was in the charts and it occurred to me that I loved those days. The music the buzz the clothes, an atmosphere of a life worth living but of course it was not all roses, there was death and mayhem around the world but closer to home things were manageable, you bills, mortgage and other stuff were never neglected, well ours were not, and although money wasn’t plentiful we got by. But I look at today and I don’t have that buzz, life has a lot of advantages in the technological sense, the internet for a start that enables me to write this. I’m still married to the same girl and somehow we still have that spark but so much of what I was use to has gone, not least friends and relatives.
I remember that once I wrote a piece about life resembling a jigsaw and not knowing where it was I just typed Jigsaw in my search box and this is what I found. Bear in mind the dates when this was written and I haven’t updated anything since but the outline of the whole thing still remains true.
John Entwistle, bass guitarist of pop group The Who, died on Friday 28th June 2002, just another pop star of the sixties passed into history. No scandal, no drink and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, well not this time anyway, well maybe not. What really is the matter this time is my jigsaw. The pieces are getting lost at such an alarming rate that the picture is becoming unrecognisable What am babbling on about you are saying, and the answer is this. Life.
I likened my life to a jigsaw that at one time was totally complete. The pieces consisted of Mam, Dad, Brother, Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles, Cousins, Friends, and an assortment of hero’s and heroines, and of course girlfriends, the jigsaw was truly huge, but all the pieces were intact. Then I lost a piece, my Granddad actually, the first time I was old enough to understand death, but other than that the fact was that my jigsaw would always have a piece lost no matter how hard I looked for it. I was 14 or 15.
After that the jigsaw stayed complete, minus one piece, until a few years later when piece’s started disappearing on a regular basis and there was nothing I could do about it no matter how much I looked after my jigsaw. Then the day when I lost one of the most important pieces, I could barely look at my jigsaw. My Father had died. Death does rather make you look at your own life but what it doesn’t make you understand is the total indiscrimination of death. Death has no respect for age, or my jigsaw, as pieces I never expected to loose during my lifetime disappeared overnight.
After my Father passed away it was downhill all the way after that. Mother, Aunties, Uncles, In-Laws, nieces, and even some cousins went missing from my jigsaw. Some had reached a fine old age, many unfortunately did not, in fact they reached hardly any age at all in relation to my own. Then I found out about a couple of old schoolmates, the same age as me, but no more. My jigsaw of life was in a sorry state. And so back to John Entwistle, where does he fit in the scheme of things. Well he is another piece of my jigsaw of life that is forever lost and cannot be replaced along with the likes of John Lennon, George Harrison, and other personalities who helped complete my growing up and therefore complete my jigsaw.
There are literally hundreds of people who helped my jigsaw of life become complete over the years, now, sadly, a lot of these people are passing away and so my jigsaw is taking the appearance of more holes than pieces. It’s time to put the remaining pieces of the jigsaw away and keep them in a safe place it’s just too fragile to be messing about with.
Just like life. But wait a moment I have an update to my jigsaw, well that is being rather bland about it but I have lost more pieces, not only that but one of the biggest pieces of all, my best mate Trev Fall. Along with rock star, Maurice Gibb, this big piece was one of the worst pieces I have lost for many a year and now my jigsaw is in a very sorry state. No matter what I do everytime I take out my jigsaw another piece or two is missing. Buy another? No I can never ever replace the jigsaw of life I once had, even if I had all the money in the world, my jigsaw pieces are lost, forever.
Saturday, 29th June 2002.
Updated 14th January 2003.
I am quite proud of that piece I wrote and I could add a few other pieces that have gone missing since but I’ll leave it as it is. And so to my original headline, I don’t fit in, I’m not keen on the music of today although some of it has merit, I still wear jeans and jumper, not trainers just shoes, I don’t smoke, never have, but my circle of friends and family get ever smaller. The internet is good and bad, good is it allows so much to be available from the keyboard and yet I feel that I am being watched constantly by unknown persons. I read of a world in which natural resources are in the hands of few and not always a friendly few. I risk being hacked, stalked, watched, terrorised, scrutinised, and other stuff and my life laid out in a digital world that I have chosen to inhibit.
But beam me back Scotty to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s where I met friends from school, I could approach a girl just for a chat and not be regarded as some pervert. There was drugs but I wasn’t interested, peer pressure had no effect on me, like smoking, cool? give me a break. Drink I did try and did come unstuck a few time in other words I was ill, very ill sometimes. But I got fed up of my head being down the toilet and the contents of my inside being transported into the bowl, drink is ok, in moderation. But now? Jeepers I don’t know where to begin, I have football (soccer) on tap, I use to look forward to one game at week that I went too. Music was Top Of The Pops, BBC if you don’t mind and a portable radio where the sound disappeared sometimes.
Records that were as big as dinner plates then saucers and cost nearly as much as I earned now I have a memory stick that holds fiver thousand song, I’ll put that in figures, 5,000 songs. I have a TV with more channels that I know I have and never watch most of them, things were simpler with just 3. And so it goes on, you get the drift, would I like to be young again in this day and age is what I am really trying to say? And the answer is an emphatic NO, but I would be willing to go back and live those times again, just one more time? I Feel Like Buddy Holly cause its raining in my heart. (Lyrics are copyright by the way I believe Mike Batt) I know I would, but would you?
I have always looked at some pictures of sunset and sunrises and thought, ‘I would love to be able to take some pictures likes these’. Crimson skies with fleeting clouds but I’ve always seemed to miss the occasions near to where I live. But just lately the weather has provided some spectacular sunset and due to various things I was just too late to capture any of the beauty. Then yesterday Saturday 18th October 2014 I got my chance, but true to form nearly missed it, not earth shattering stuff but enough to make me fairly pleased that for once the pictures of a beautiful sunset are my own and not someone else’s no doubt that now the weather will change and the opportunity will be lost.
The last picture captures the sun before its decent over the horizon I had to dash to a footbridge nearby to get a picture over the rooftops. There has been other spectacular sunsets during the past few weeks I have just been unable to catch any on picture, now I have but I feel there is still room for improvement.
Appendix: As I have been tidying up my blogs I have come across some stuff in the draft section that I never published and so in the process have been moving things around deleting things here and there but this is one blog that I still think is relevant today as when I last edited it on April 7th 2012. So today 1st October 2014 I have added a little, completing the editing I suppose but let it finish where I had over 2 years ago.
I listen to various music, although hands up, not today’s stuff, it is all beyond me. They say open your ears to differential styles and you may like what you hear, I don’t, period. Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Justine Bieber and their ilk, have no attraction to me whatsoever, I am a child of the 50’s and 60’s and remain so, resolutely. And so it comes to the title of this blog, and yes I can recall times from my past by certain songs, good times and bad times.
So I think back to the likes of Guy Mitchell, Connie Francis, Mario Lanza and think, ah early years, mum, dad, brother and a radiogram. I can hear the sniggers already, what you say? Well a contraption that was an early music centre if you like, it had a radio, and record player, records being the size of large dinner plates and spun at 78 rpm. They were held on a flimsy piece of a stem of metal and when the record changed it came crashing down onto the turntable and you wondered why it didn’t smash.
The radio had all the stations of the day, usually the BBC, then a miracle, on our tiny Japanese made portable radio’s Radio Luxembourg came on the air, and kept disappearing as well. The signal varied, summer was best by the way, it seemed to be stronger, but the radio station played stuff we wanted to hear, not what our parents liked. Ok not all of our parents stuff was of dubious quality to us young ones, but time was moving on.
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Al Martino didn’t really hold any interest to us, but others did. Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydell, Johnny Tillotson, Brenda Lee, Connie Stevens, Guy Mitchell, but they were all American as was a blockbuster of a guy, a certain Elvis Presley. He moved the goalposts, so to speak, raunchy and punchy, he sang rock n roll like no one else and we were hooked, but he was still American. Step forward one Cliff Richard, a British version of the original, but something we could attach too as our own, even if he was born in India. But Frank, Dean, Al, Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydel, etc all sang ballads, good songs, but not exactly get up and go types of songs. Brenda Lee was not Christened Little Miss Dynamite for nothing, she was, dynamite, singing rock n roll with the best.
But then the wheels came off and they were never put back on again as four lads from Liverpool tore up the script and rewrote the whole pop music business. But one song encapsulates what I am trying to say here, the whole world changed and would stay changed from the period of a ditty little song called Please Please Me, by a group of mopheads called The Beatles.
Not the creepy crawly type, notice the spelling, B E A T as in the music L E S, Beatles as instead of Beetles. Not their first record by the way, oh no, they had been a back up group to an obscure pop star in Germany called Tony Sheridan, with such hits as Ain’t She Sweet, but Please Please Me was written and performed by these four Liverpool lads and all of a sudden the floodgates opened. Stones, Kinks, Billy J Kramer, Gerry And The Pacemakers, Searchers, Fourmost, Yardbirds, Dave Clark Five, the list goes on, and all singing for us.
So the songs came thick and fast, Satisfaction, You Really Got Me, Bits And Pieces, Needles And Pins, You’ll Never Walk Alone, each song a defining moment in our lives, depending on which artist or group you took a fancy too. Oh yes single artists were still on the go, Cliff for a start, and Cat Stevens, PJ Proby, and of course Elvis. But the list of distractions was getting longer, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and other were now on the scene so the list of song were mind blowing.
But what songs exactly? Well here is a rough list of songs that have a significance in my lifeline through the years and although nowhere near complete or compendious its basically a rough guide. From about 8 years old or so, Who’s Sorry Now, Connie Frances, Al Marino, Here In My Heart, and Mario Lanza, I’ll Walk With God and a trumpeter Eddie Calvert, Oh Mine Papa.
Then it got lively, Bill Haley Rock Around The Clock started it but Elvis’s Jailhouse Rock got my attention, as did the Everly Brothers, along with Bobby Vee, Rydel etc, then I was 12 and Ciff Richard and the Shadows were around, good but it was a little while later that Love Me Do appeared, and although not great, it was a start. After that it was all uphill for me and Please Please Me wanted me having a mop top haircut and Beatle suit. From then on the songs just flowed, but I was 13, a teenager, yessssssssss.
I went dancing, dance halls meant girls and the song that coincided with the time I realised what a girl could do to your hormones was one by a group called Billy J Kramer And The Dakotas, the song? Little Children. I saw this girl, queue violins, our eyes met and this song was just about to start. I strode onto the dance floor and embraced this beauty, and nothing else mattered. The record finished but we never noticed, only about 150 other people in the place did, but not us. And so songs were dotted throughout the history of my life, some good, some not so good.
I met my wife and it was The Ballad Of John And Yoko and Tommy Roe, Dizzy, our first child was born and it was Pussycat and Mississippi, Dr Hook A little bit more and in America Barry Manilow I write the songs. For our second child it was Blondie, The Village People, Art Garfunkel, Queen, Bee Gees, a song to remember each occasion vividly. Then my father died when I was 29 and a series was on TV, Grizzly Adams, about a guy and a bear, but it was the theme song that sticks in my mind and still produces a tear even today 32 years later. Maybe was sung by Tom Pace and the words fitted the occasion of the day, by father had been in hospital and I was waiting to take him home, I never did.
I have been sporadic in my post of late and that’s because I don’t think I have much to say well I have but I just don’t know how to say it. Which is odd as I can usually write down my thoughts but I had to admit, and I don’t know if this is a good thing or bad, but a little helping of red vino makes me think better and gets the words out onto print so to speak. And what have I to say this time, well the obvious, time moves on but what concerns me is the way in which technology is being used all around us. There has been stories of governmental snooping on our internet pastimes, Google et al are all harvesting what we say, like what I’m writing now and it is going on with everything connected with the internet, and no one, well a few people, seemed concerned.
In fact people seem to embrace the fact that whatever they write they want the world to know about it and yes I am talking about the biggest talking shop in the world Facebook. But it is not alone and there must be a great part of the worlds population whose lives are there for all to see, good and bad, and they want it that way. I see it with my grandchildren, and even my children, I am left out, I’m not on Facebook so anything that happens in my family I am the last to know. And phones, they are not phones they are mini computers and no one looks up any more they are glued to the ground, well they are looking downwards. My granddaughter can talk to me whilst still sending texts, good job she has unlimited texts on her particular payment model.
At work, in the quest to cut down on paper everything has to be done on computer and only printed out if necessary, which is fine and very noble, save trees and all that but it doesn’t work as most people need a hard copy of what they are doing on the computer, e-mail just doesn’t do hack it. Oh sorry that’s the wrong choice of word as hacking has been big news for a while, none more so than a certain British tabloid being closed down because of alleged hacking of people’s phones, even one young lady who had actually died. But is anyone being held responsible for this act? That’s for the courts to decide and of course plenty of clever lawyers will be employed to, shall we say, their clients are not to blame, no one ever is, look at bankers.
(This post has been lurking in my draft folder and I didn’t realise as I actually wrote it a couple of years ago hence the subject matter may seem a little dated.)