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.

Life With Mabel: Part Twenty-Three

This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 762 words.

The Swinging Sixties passed Mabel by. Life with Reg had settled into a routine, and the new car had made trips down to see both sets of parents more comfortable. Reg had been right about doing well by the time he was thirty. Assitant Project Manager became Operations Manager, along with another big pay rise, and a company car, a Rover. Reg had to sell the Zephyr, but got a surprisingly good amount for it, which he duly gave to Mabel, as she had paid for it in the first place.

He discovered a new hobby too. With his fishing gear tucked away in the loft, he joined the golf club. “All the managerial types are members, Mabel love. It’s the ideal place to socialise with people of the same sort.” His increased pay meant he could afford the set of golf clubs and membership fees, though he had to pay someone to show him how to play it first. She accompanied him to a social evening there once, but the wives of the other men all looked down their noses at her. Probably because she worked in Woolworth’s, was her conclusion.

Simon and Helen still lived next door, though as expected, they had never become firm friends. But they did have a baby, a little girl they named Olivia. She was almost nine now, and she reminded Mabel of little Denise, and how grown up she would be. It wasn’t that the neighbours were not friendly, they just liked to live quietly. When Mabel had first told Helen about the best Butcher in town, she had laughed. “Butcher? Oh no, we don’t eat meat, we are vegetarian”. And they didn’t own a television either. When Reg ordered a modern replacement for Winnie’s old set, Mabel mentioned it to Helen. She was dismissive. “They don’t interest us, I’m afraid. We read books, or listen to music on the record player”.

Funny people, Mabel thought.

They still had that old French car too, and Simon drove it to work every day. Reg was amazed it was still running. “Has to be ancient now. You only have to listen to the racket it makes”. After Olivia was born, Helen gave up her job in London, and did part-time accounting for a company in the town. They dropped all the books off at her house, and collected them when she had finished. But it was a mark of just how little they knew about their neighbours that Mabel didn’t even know who she was working for.

With her fortieth birthday coming up, Mabel mainly sat alone waiting for Reg to get home, or when he was at the golf club. Her dad was ill, and her mum worn out looking after him. Harry Price had died the year before, dropped dead from a heart attack on his way to get the Sunday paper. They went down for the funeral, and Edna was remarkably chirpy. “It’s the way he would have wanted to go”. Not long after that, she went on a coach trip around the Italian lakes, flush with Harry’s insurance money. According to Reg, she had a fancy man now. He wasn’t happy about that. “Mum’s showing herself up. He’s only about fifty, they say. Don’t know what she’s thinking of”.

Other times, she wallowed in the fond memories of her short time with Winnie. The stolen kisses, the secret smiles, and those nights when they let go to passion. Reg wanted to take her to some restaurant in Cambridge for her fortieth. “It’s the bees knees, Mabel love. Derek told me the menu is in French, and everything”. Derek was Reg’s new pal at the golf club, married to Henrietta, the snootiest of the wives. He was retired, so she had no idea what him and Reg could have in common. She nipped the idea of that restaurant in the bud.

“Seeing as neither of us can speak French, and our favourite dinner is fish and chips, I can’t see the point of going to some fancy-pants place in Cambridge. Everyone will be looking at us, Reg. That’s not our sort of place”. His face flushed, and he got grumpy. “Maybe not your kind of place, but I’m managerial now, and I’ve been abroad. The waiter will tell us what the French means, I’m sure”. She wasn’t having it. “Well if Derek likes it so much, you take him. I ain’t going, and that’s an end to it”.

With that, she switched on the telly and ignored him for the rest of the evening.

Guest Post: Medical Advice From Gavin

Gavin has good advice about the prevention of choking on food, using his many years of experience in the Ambulance Service in London, and New Zealand.

Hi folks, 2 things I feared most when I was in the ambulance service. One was asthma & the other similar was choking. I was the first in NZ to teach the Heimlich manoeuvre & got into trouble for it. I’m pleased to see in the video in the news story courtesy of Wellington Free, they have brought it back.

(This is not the video clip mentioned, just an illustration of the technique-Pete.)

Some advice
Never sneak up on someone while they are eating or give them a fright, such as saying HI by slapping them on the back. Eat small bites of steak and not chewy bits – no need to be polite, spit them out. And don’t forget Oranges. The meat on that is a regular choker as the acid can make you gulp. For children, eating oranges like we did at half time is safest, not peeled or Mandarins are better.

Only advanced paramedics have the equipment & can do cricothyroid punctures, certainly not in rural areas. An off duty doctor would struggle without the right gear but a midwife did it successfully in the Hawkes Bay a few years ago.

Life With Mabel: Part Twenty-Two

This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 746 words.

Although she hadn’t noticed anyone viewing the house, Mabel received a call about an offer. Still not used to having a phone, it always made her jump when it rang. It was the younger Mr Walker. He had set the asking price at seventeen fifty, though Mabel thought that was outrageous. “Things have changed in the short time since you bought your house, Mrs Price. The property market is booming, and home ownership is all the rage, Yes, I know that’s too much, but it gives us room to accept lower offers”.

He sounded very cheery.

“We have a good offer, Mrs Price. The couple have a mortgage agreed, and the required cash deposit. They are professionals too. He is a teacher in Cambridge, and his wife is an accountant for a publishing company in London. They have asked for the curtains and all flooring to remain, and their offer is fifteen hundred. Non-negotiable, so they say. But I am happy to haggle, if you woud like me to”. Mabel didn’t want to get into that.

“Accept the offer, Mr Walker. That sounds very fair to me. The curtains and carpets and lino will remain, as well as all other fixtures and fittings”. He sounded very pleased. “I will give them the good news, and take the house off the market. Thanks for your good judgement”.

Some six weeks later, Mabel came home from work to see the removal men packing away next door. The sale had all gone smoothly, overseen by Mr Colyer. She had had to go to his office to sign some paperwork and hand over the keys, and he had advised her it would all go through officially on the day she saw the removal van. After giving them an hour to do whatever they were doing, she went and knocked on the door. The man who answered had a beard, needed a haircut, and was wearing corduroy trousers. She introduced herself as both the vendor, and his new next door neighbour. He was very friendly.

“Come in and meet my wife. My name is Simon, Simon Telfer, and my wife is Helen”. The woman who walked through from the kitchen was very thin. Mabel would have described her as ‘very skinny’. Her hair was very long, and her flowered dress had a pattern of yellow daisies on a dark green background. Reg would have called them Beatniks. They were almost certainly both older than her, but Mabel felt old in their company. Mabel asked if she could get them some tea, perhaps some biscuits too.

Helen was grinning. “Oh no, we don’t drink tea, and we don’t eat biscuits. They are all sugar and fat you know, Mabel”. Mabel thought they were posh, and a bit strange. What did you drink, if not tea? And who cared if biscuits were sugary? That’s what made them taste nice. So she told them about bin collection days, and where the good shops were in the town. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that they weren’t interested, so politely took her leave.

“Well, I am only next door, if you want to ask me anything. I work in Woolworth’s, so you might see me in there”.

Waiting for Reg to get home, Mabel was beginning to regret selling Winnie’s house. The new neighbours were nice enough, but it was clear they were not her sort of people.

Reg came in, smiling. “I see the people next door have got a foreign car, a Citroen. It’s parked right outside, so must be theirs. Left-hand drive too. Maybe they are French?” As he ate his sausage, eggs, and chips, Mabel told him about Simon and Helen. He shook his head. “A beard, you say? And corduroys? I reckon they are probably Beatniks. I bet they love poetry too. Oh well, let them get on with it, we could’ve got worse neighbours, even if they are not our sort of people”.

That night as Reg settled in front of the television, Mabel was still feeling sad. Winnie would not have wanted Beatniks to be living in her house, she was sure of that. In bed that night, she remembered those nights of passion and affection she had shared with Winnie, and secrely confessed to herself that she had been hoping for a housewife a lot like herself to buy the house next door.

But nothing was ever going to happen with Helen, she knew that for sure.

London In Colour 1970-1971: The Photos Of David Wisdom

David Wisdom took these pictures in 1970 and 1971 while he was sharing a luxury flat in Holly Hill, Hampstead with a group of friends from Vancouver. He was born in post-war England to a couple of touring actors of the repertory stage. In 1952 he moved to Vancouver with his parents, and has spent most of his life there.

All photos © David Wisdom

Evangelical street preachers in Trafalgar Square.

Primrose Gardens. An up-market area in North London.

A fashionable woman attracting attention on Kings Road, Chelsea.

Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park. Traditionally a place where people would promote their beliefs in public.

A seasonal funfair in North London.

Street busker with his trained parrot. The bird would hold the cup for any donation money.

Elderly shoppers at a busy street market.

The last shop trading in Stepney Green.