Life With Mabel: Part Twenty-Eight

This is the twenty-eighth part of a fiction serial, in 740 words.

The week in Scarborough went well. The caravan was very nice, and considering they only needed one bed, very roomy too. They walked along the seafront, played Bingo, went to the cinema the only afternoon it rained, and spent most of the rest of the time in bed. Elsie really was up for it. Mabel couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been. On the way home on the coach, Elsie had come to a decision.

“Once my mum has gone, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t stop over at mine sometimes. Terry won’t care, all he does is watch telly anyway. And with mum being diagnosed last month, it’s not going to be too long”. Mabel was confused. Elsie hadn’t mentioned anything about her mum all week, so she asked her what was up. “Colon cancer. She left it too late, so they say it’s inoperable. Won’t be long before she has to go in for terminal care, so she tells me”. Mabel nodded. Elsie was a hard woman, and showed no emotion at all.

Elsie’s mum lasted six weeks, most of that spent in hospital. Mabel went to the funeral out of respect, even though she had only met the old girl once. They had a few drinks in a pub after, and Terry and Elsie were both speculating about the insurance money. Mabel listened in, but didn’t comment. “Mum told me it is ten grand, Terry. That’s enough for your driving lessons, and getting you a small car. You’ll have to run me around though, no saying you’re too busy watching your programmes”.

Not long after that, Terry got his car. It was only a four-door Fiesta though, and a few years old too. Elsie wasn’t about to spend too much money on him, seeing as he had never worked. And Elsie got a full-time job, working in the baker’s five days a week from eight until four. She was able to give up the waitressing, and was better off than she had been in years. As for Terry, he still played the system. If there was an illness, he had it, whether physical or psychological. When they tried to cut his benefits, he claimed to be depressed and suicidal. After he spent a week in a psychiatric hospital in Cambridge, the authorities gave up on him and resumed his benefits. They even paid Elsie some money to be his carer, which stunned Mabel.

But the sleepovers at Elsie’s really made a difference. No worries about Reg coming home unexpectedly, and Terry didn’t seem to care less that they both slept in the same room. All he did was to watch telly and eat. It must have been obvious to a blind man what they were up to, but Terry was so made up about his car and resumed benefits, he never once mentioned it. And Reg didn’t care either. He had been made secretary of the golf club, and was hoping to become chairman soon. It was all he ever talked about, despite Derek having developed Angina, so no longer bothering to go to the club. Reg had a new best friend, Malcolm. Malcolm was single, and lived with his widower dad. Whenever she stayed over at Elsie’s, Reg and Malcolm seemed to have something planned too.

He made chairman two years later, greatly helped by Malcolm. “I’ve got my own car park space, reserved for the chairman. Can you believe that, Mabel love?” It seemed to her that it had become less about playing golf, and more about small town politics. But that same year he was promoted again. The railways were changing, and Reg was ahead of the game. They made him Operations Manager for the whole of Eastern England, and his salary doubled. “We have never been so well off, Mabel love. You sure you want to keep on working?”

Mabel was sure she didn’t. She had enough years in for a decent pension, and there were so many rumours about Woolworth’s closing down their operation in Britain. So she grabbed at his offer. “If you’re sure, Reg? Okay, I will hand in my month’s notice tomorrow”. They said they were sorry to see her go, and the manager told her that the pension would not be released until she reached sixty. But she resigned anyway

She took Elsie with her to her leaving party. Reg was staying overnight in Norfolk, for work.

“Time To Die”

Ever since I saw the original ‘Blade Runner’ in a cinema in London, I have been obsessed with the soliloquy of one of the characters. Rutger Hauer plays Roy Batty, an android with a designated life span who realises that it is his time to die. The scene is forever memorable, and the film is still number one in my top ten of all the films I have ever seen.

How cool is that?

After watching the film in 1982, ( I was 30 years old) I really wanted to know when it was my ‘Time to die’.

Now I am older, I think that would be a very bad idea.

Would anyone else actually want to know the exact date of their death? Let me know in the comments.

Life With Mabel: Part Twenty-Seven

This is the twenty-seventh part of a fiction serial, in 720 words.

As it turned out, Molly White made the decision for her daughter. Unable to speak, she was still able to write, so when Mabel told her she was going to take her to live with them in Huntingdon, she made a writing motion with her hand. Reg handed her a pen and opened his diary at the back for her to write on. The message was clear.

‘Not your house. Your life. Not mine. Home is OK’. Mabel asked her outright. “So you would sooner go into the care home than live with us, mum?” Molly nodded vigorously, and managed a crooked smile to confirm her wishes.

As Reg drove them home that evening, Mabel had to admit to being overwhelmingly relieved. Having to care for her mum for however long she lived was not a prospect she had been relishing, but she would have done that had the decision gone the other way. Reg was obviously happy too. “I wil drive you down to see her whenever you want, Mabel. Promise”.

So the move went ahead, and she felt rather grand in the spanking new bungalow. Reg employed a local company to do the painting and wallpapering before the carpets went down, owned by another one of his golf club friends who gave him a good price. She took a week’s holiday from Woolworth’s to get it all arranged as she wanted, then Elsie came round as usual on the Sunday, keen to christen the new bed in Mabel’s room.

Elsie also had some ideas to discuss, mainly about trips and holidays. “I was thinking we could go on some coach trips, Mabel. Nobody thinks anything of two women friends sharing a room, and I have seen some advertised for nice spots in Yorkshire, or Devon if you prefer. They are not expensive, and I can pay my way”. One good thing about Elsie, even though she knew Reg and Mabel were well off, she never once asked for a penny from her friend, or expected her to pay more than half for anything they did. “And next summer I thought we could get a caravan in Scarborough for a week. Reg won’t object, and we can spend some extra time together with no work or distractions”.

By the end of the month, they had a coach trip to Devon to look forward to, and had booked a caravan for the following summer, within walking distance of the beach at Scarborough.

But Mabel couldn’t go on the coach trip to Devon, because her mum died two days before. Elsie understood, but went anyway. “No point wasting two tickets”. Mabel and Reg had to pay for the cremation and service, and drive down to South London on the day. They were the only mourners, along with an African woman who worked at the care home. She had only come along in case nobody was there to see mum off. Mabel cried a bit on the drive home. She wasn’t really crying for her mum, but because all she had left in the world now was Reg and Elsie.

Still, she now had Scarborough to look forward to.

Molly White had left her daughter some life insurance money. It was only one thousand pounds, but must have seemed a lot to her. She had paid the insurance man every week at the doorstep, and he had ticked off the payments in her little book. Other than the money, there were some framed photos that were boxed up by the home. She agreed to pay to have them posted to her. In the box was her mum’s wedding ring, a rolled-gold bracelet that dad had given her the day they got married, the four photos, and mum’s false teeth.

Sitting looking in the box made Mabel sob loudly. That was the sum of her mum’s entire life, right there. Reg felt sorry for her. “Don’t bother cooking tonight, Mabel love. I will go and get us fish and chips. Why don’t you have a glass of Port? Make it a large one”. She had two large ones before he got back with their dinner.

After they had eaten, Mabel poured her third large Port.

“I’m not ending up like mum, Reg. Not never, I tell you. I won’t end up like that”.

England In Colour: 1924-1926

Taken over two years, this uncredited photographer captured London life and other (unmentioned) parts of England using early colour film.

You will notice the same large car in some of the photos, with a distinctive mascot at the front. It was the occupants of this car that took all of the photos.

Hiking In The countryside.

A seaside holiday town and its funfair.

Barges were still used extensively on a network of canals. Goods were transported on them all around the country, and the Bargees and their families lived on them.

Filling up at a petrol station in rural England.

The centre of a small county town.

Old and new transport passing on a country road.

Small boys and a pet cat.


A busy street market in the capital.

A policeman directing traffic consisting mostly of taxis and buses.

A view of Trafalgar Square.

The southern approach to Tower Bridge. (Near where I lived as a child.)

London Bridge. (Much more traffic there these days.)

Women and children outside a small shop, somewhere in London.

The busy Port of London, just west of Tower Bridge. The barges used to line up from one side of the Thames to the other.

Life With Mabel: Part Twenty-Six

This is the twenty-sixth part of a fiction serial, in 812 words.

As she was drying herself in the bathroom, something occurred to Mabel. She had not been keeping up with the increase in house prices, but what Reg had said was the cost of the new house semed remarkably cheap to her. So she went downstairs in her dressing gown to speak to him about that.

He was eating a cheese and tomato sandwich sitting in his armchair, and reacted to Mabel’s question with a smile.

“Where’ve you been, Mabel love? Of course that’s not the total price. Houses are going up a lot, and that’s just the price for the building plot The finished bunglaow will double that, but our house is worth quite a bit too, and we can get a small mortgage for the difference, pay it off over fifteen years”. Mabel hadn’t been expecting to have a mortgage in her forties, but the idea of that new bungalow in the nice part of town really appealed to her.

“Okay, Reg. As long as the payments are reasonable, let’s do it. I will be coming to the solicitor to make sure my name goes on the deeds though”. Reg looked a bit hurt that she had said that, but he was so keen to improve his status in the town, he let that go. “I will see my builder friend at the golf club next week, get it all sorted. You can talk to Mr Walker and get our house on the market once we know the completion date of the build”.

While he was in such a good mood, Mabel added something.

“By the way, I have a nice new friend, Elsie Hughes. I met her at the cinema the other day, and we are going to be good friends, I’m sure. And before you complain, I can tell you she is not your sort of person. She works as a waitress, and has a son. But she’s not married”. Reg actually looked relieved. “That’s nice for you, Mabel love. You can get out and about a bit now, be good for you to have some company”.

The next few months were good ones for Mabel. She saw Elsie most Sundays, and they went to the cinema at least once a week too, whatever was showing. Her and Reg paid visits to the building site, and were able to choose the kitchen units, and the configuration of the bungalow to their own taste. Or Mabel’s taste at least, as Reg had little say in her decisions. They saved some money by having the garage attached to the house instead of being separate, and chose a wrap-around garden instead of a large one at the back.

She was getting used to the differences between Elsie and Winnie. There wasn’t the same affection, and never any mention of love, but the rest was far better, and more satisfying. People started to accept them as mature friends. The women at work asked Mabel what her and Elsie had done over the weekend, and she finally met Elsie’s mum and son. She couldn’t take to the boy though. He was spoiled rotten, and despite being in his late teens, he didn’t do any work.

Elsie made excuses for him, saying he had nervous problems, or his weight affected his ability to do certain jobs. Mabel could see through the lazy young man, but kept her opinions to herself. Reg met Elsie one day too, when she was invited round before the move to the new house. He seemed to be afraid of her, and made an excuse to go and see Derek about something.

Not long after, their house was sold, for much more than they had expected. The mortgage was going to be very small on the new bungalow, and easily affordable with Reg’s last pay rise. They got a moving date, and ordered some new furniture. Mabel was happy. A nice new home, a new lover, and everything going smoothly with Reg.

Then just before they were due to move, Mabel received bad news from London, and Reg received news he didn’t like.

Her dad had died, and the same week, her mum had a stroke. Reg got a wedding invitation as his mum was marrying her fancy man. Their world was turned upside down overnight, and they had to take time off to go to her dad’s funeral. With her mum unable to cope alone, they were going to have to put her into an old people’s home, or Mabel would have to take her in. Reg refused to attend his mum’s wedding, cutting off all ties with her. Mabel was sad, and not only because her dad had died. It was awful to see her mum in such a state. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t walk properly, and would need round the clock care.

Everything had been going so well too.

Early Colour Photographs From Around The World: 1911-1927

I found these early photographs taken using colour processing of film. They are not ‘colourised’ later, but actual colour prints. I had no idea that the ‘Autochrome’ technique existed over 100 years ago.

Paris, 1914.

A Mongolian girl in traditional dress, 1913.

The Pyramids and The Sphinx. Cairo, 1914.

A German family in the Black Forest, 1911.

A Buddhist Lama in Beijing, China. 1913.

Jaipur, India. 1926.

Girl in a kimono. Japan, 1927.

A family outside their apartment in Paris, 1913.

Religious leaders in Lahore, Pakistan, (Then still in India) 1914.

Lyon, France. 1920.

Inner Mongolia, 1912.

A market in Serbia, 1913.

Ethnic Armenians in Istanbul, Turkey. 1914.

Serbian women in traditional dress, 1913.

A market in Sarajevo, Bosnia. 1913.

Girls in Poland, 1914.

Life With Mabel: Part Twenty-Five

This is the twenty-fifth part of a fiction serial, in 740 words.

Elsie Hughes was not much like Winnie. She wasn’t one for sitting chatting, or watching television. Her style was to go straight up into the bedroom and get on with it. But she was much more experienced than Winnie, and Mabel was breathless after the tricks Elsie used on her. There wasn’t much of a pause before she wanted to start again, but long enough for Mabel to find out more about her.

“My dad was in the Air Force from the early days. He was a sergeant mechanic, so we got moved around a lot. I was born in Wales where my parents came from, but don’t remember it. I was still very young when we got moved to Lincolnshire, that’s where I went to school. Then when the war started, we were moved to Oakington, and that’s how I ended up in Cambridgeshire to start with. I always hated boys, rough and unattractive. But what could you do? back then there was no outlet for a girl like me, and I couldn’t exactly tell my parents I fancied girls. Reckon they would have locked me up”.

At that point, she stopped talking, and started the love-making all over again.

Mabel was thrilled, but exhausted when it was all over. Elsie didn’t seem satisfied, and stayed in bed chatting for a while. “I could only see one way out of it, getting pregnant, and having a man who had to marry me. But my mistake was choosing a Yank. He was keen enough to do the business, but when I told him I was expecting, he suddenly disappeared. I always thought he must have put in for a transfer back to the States. And he was probably married over there. But my mum knew I was up the duff, and wouldn’t hear of me trying to get rid of it. Terry was born in fifty-one, and mum took us in. Dad was already in hospital with lung cancer by then. Mum told him all those fags would kill him, and they did.”

She paused again, and Mabel knew what to expect. The woman was insatiable. Not a bad thing, after such a long dry spell.

Before she left for home, Elsie accepted a glass of Port in the living room, and continued her story.

“Once dad was gone, mum lived on his RAF pension, and a few cleaning jobs. I was working as a waitress wherever I could get a job, and between us we raised Terry as best we could. I tried looking for girlfriends, but it was bloody hard. Even the ones I knew were interested wouldn’t give in to their desires. I had to get buses into Cambridge to try my luck with the girl students at the colleges there. I had some good nights, but they were mostly bad. Mum had applied to the council for a three bed house, and they finaly offered us one here in Huntingdon when Terry started school. I managed to get full-time waitressing work at a hotel, and mum cared for Terry in the evenings. We are still there now, all these years later. Anyway, I had better go, Mabel. I wanted to say that I am glad we have found each other”.

Feeling worn out after three sessions, Mabel had a long bath. She was still soaking in it when Reg came home from the golf club.

“Mabel love, I have just had a good tip from a local councillor at the golf club. They are building some lovely three-bed bungalows in a cul-de-sac just up the road. We could buy one off-plan, no questions asked. It’s up to you, but I reckon we could get almost two grand for this house, and you wouldn’t need much more to buy one of those new builds. They are detached, and all have garages and a good sized garden. Two thousand seven hundred if we act now. What do you reckon, love? They might be more than three thousand if we wait until they are officially released”.

She shouted through the bathroom door.

“Tell them yes, Reg. I fancy a bungalow with a garage and good garden. By the time we sell this place, we won’t have that much more to find. I will give you the money for the deposit next week”.

Onec he had gone back downstairs, she thought about her time with Elsie. And that made her tingle all over.

Sunday Musings After A Time Change

The clocks went forward here last night, so we technically lost one hour’s sleep. I got up just after 8, only to remember that it was just after 9. I will be playing ‘catch-up’ on that hour all day now.


The past week has been characterised by gusty, often gale-force winds. Although not cold, they have been very annoying. Rattling fences and gates overnight, tipping over unattended wheelie bins, and showering everywhere with dislodged twigs and small branches. On top of that, they have affected TV reception from our roof aerial, and the main transmitter in Central Norfolk. Fortunately, I had many films and other programmes stored on my PVR, so was able to relax and watch something in the evenings.


Ollie has had to have another week of ear-gel treatment, after shaking his head violently last Sunday evening. He took it well for a change, and I stopped it last night as the head-shaking was much reduced. He has had a good week, seeing lots of his canine friends on our walks, and playing with them in a manner belying his old age.


My wife has spent the week in Turkey, with one of her twin daughters. She is coming home tomorrow, and tells me that she has been homesick, and missing me and Ollie. But they have had a rare undisturbed week of being together, and that has to be a good thing. I just did my first-ever video call with her. She is sitting on a sunny beach, drinking fresh juice next to the sea. A stark contrast from this morning in Beetley.


Ollie and I have spent the week together quite happily, and I have been eating things my that wife doesn’t enjoy, as well as watching sub-titled films that do not interest her.


I hope that you all enjoy the last Sunday of March, and like me, look forward to better weather very soon.


Life With Mabel: Part Twenty-Four

This is the twenty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 773 words.

Almost a month after her fortieth birthday, Mabel was in the office at work when one of the salesgirls came in. “Can you come out and see a customer, please? She wants to change a blouse, but it has been worn and is dirty. I told her no, so she asked to see my supervisor”.

The customer was standing at the back of the shop, still holding the blouse in question. Mabel guessed she was a little older than her, but she was smartly dressed, and wearing heavy make-up. She gave the woman her best smile. “How may I help you, Madam?” The blouse was pushed into her face. “I opened this yesterday to wear it for work, and the collar was all dirty. I couldn’t get back in with it yesterday, so I have brought it to return today”.

Mabel examined the garment, noting a dark line inside the collar indicating it had been worn more than once, or that it might have been made my some kind of make-up. But when she looked back at the woman, she was tongue tied. She was getting that look. The look that only women like Winnie and Mabel recognised. And that look made her heart beat faster, and completely changed what she had been about to say.

“Would you like to change it for a new one, or do you require a refund?”. The woman’s face softened. “Oh, a refund please. I am intending to go to the cinema on Friday evening. There’s a good film on and I want the money for my ticket and some ice cream”. Then she held out her hand, and gently squeezed Mabel’s arm.

“Thank you for being so kind”. Despite the obvious look of disapproval on the face of the salesgirl, she told her to arrange the refund. Then she stood watching as the woman left the shop with her money. If she looked back, that would confirm what she thought.

She looked back. And she winked too.

Before Reg left for work on Friday, Mabel stopped him as he picked up his briefcase. “I’m going to the pictures tonight, Reg. You get your fish and chips, I will have something later.” Reg was fine with that. “Okay, Mabel love. I might drive down to the golf club on my way home, have a bar snack there, and a few drinks with Derek”.

After work on Friday, Mabel went home and changed into something nice. She did her hair and make-up, and walked back into town. Outside the cinema, a small queue was forming for the evening performance. Sure enough, the woman was there, second in the line. She smiled when she saw Mabel, and called out to her. “Saved your place love, come up here”. After they had bought their tickets for the circle, the woman took her to one side of the auditorium doors.

“My name’s Elsie, Elsie Hughes. You okay to sit at the back of the circle, love?” Mabel nodded. “I’m Mabel, let’s sit anywhere you like”. When they got settled high up in the circle, there was nobody next to them. The closest people were sitting at least four rows in front. Mabel realised she didn’t even know what the film was, but she really didn’t care. Elsie leaned in close to her, whispering. “Thanks for helping me out with that blouse. I’ve been working as a part-time waitress for pin money, and didn’t have time to wash it. Sorry and all that, but I have a disabled son to keep, and I’m hard up. I was so glad it was you, I know we are the same, I saw it as soon as you came out from the back of the shop”.

They had their overcoats over their laps, and Elsie hardly waited for the film to start before sliding her hand up Mabel’s skirt. It felt like Winnie all over again. Mabel had waited for so long, she thought she might pass out with the pleasure. They had ice cream during the intermission, and when the film started again, Mabel returned the favour. By the time the film had finished, she couldn’t even remember what it was, or what had happened in the story.

Outside on the High Street, Elsie was direct. “I go this way. Can I come to yours another time? No good at my place, as my son is always around. What about you, can we make it happen”. Mabel was excited. “Sundays are good. My husband goes to the golf club at ten, and he rarely gets home until after dinner”.

The she gave Elsie her address.

Vending Machines You Didn’t Know You Needed

Milk vending machine in London, England, circa 1931.

A man has his boots cleaned by an automatic penny-in-the-slot boot-polishing machine, circa 1907.

A vending machine sells fruit in London, England, circa 1929.

A woman operating the first vending machine in Britain to sell potatoes at a greengrocer’s shop at Chelsea, London, on Oct. 22, 1962. The machine provided a round-the-clock service.

Three women enjoy soup from a Campbell’s Soup vending machine in their office, 1950s. One woman opens a can of soup with a floor-mounted can opener.

At the Second Automatic Vending Exhibition in London, a woman helps herself to a vending machine-mixed whisky and soda on Feb. 15, 1960.

A vending machine selling clocks in Berlin, Germany, circa 1963.

A woman buys a carton of milk from a vending machine, U.K. May 1960.
(I used these. They were around until the late 1970s.)

Coal machine distributor in England.

Two women try out the first nylon tights vending machine in Paris, circa 1965.

Vending machine selling hot sausages presented at the industries fair in Berlin, Germany, circa 1954.

A woman getting a pint of draught bitter from a vending machine, circa 1960s.

An English man demonstrates an egg vending machine at the gate of his farm on Sep. 9, 1963.