Postcards From Blogging Friends: Part Ten

This will probably be the last in this series for 2019.

I would like to once again thank everyone who took the time and trouble to post the cards to me, and to let you know that this series was incredibly popular. The posts have been some of the most-read during that past year.

Scottish writer and blogger Mary was kind enough to send me two views of her holiday destination, Gomera.
(She has a new book out, here’s a link)
https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com/2019/11/19/marysmithsplace-newbook/



Eddy Winko (made up name) is British blogger who lives in Poland.
He included a postcard in a box of soaps I ordered from his wife.
(Gosia makes wonderful soaps! Here’s a link to those)
https://winkos.co.uk/english/


Looking forward to lots more cards in 2020!

A Random Memory

Wandering around on a cold bright afternoon with Ollie, it often surprises me what pops into my mind.

Once my Mum was in her eighties, and could hardly see, she often spilled things down her clothes as she was eating. On occasion, I would visit her to find her sitting in a top or dress that was obviously quite badly stained. I would point this out, and offer to find her something to change into from her wardrobe. But every time she was adamant that there was nothing there, that her clothing was not stained, and she was fine as she was.

She didn’t have any loss of mental faculties at that time, so I suspect her reluctance to believe me came from a mixture of embarrassment, and natural stubbornness. One evening, I was due to take her to a restaurant to celebrate some occasion. I arrived to find her wearing a rather fancy black outfit that was quite obviously spattered with stains from what she had been eating the last time she had worn it. I mentioned that she might want to change, as many other people would be there, and might wonder why her top had so many marks on it. She became unreasonably angry, and told me that if I was that bothered, she would stay at home.

I took her as she was, feeling sad that a once elegant and immaculate lady was perfectly happy to be seen in food-stained clothes by an assortment of family and friends.

Not long after this twenty year-old memory had been in my head, I saw a fellow dog walker, with her two dogs. One of them jumped up to me a few times, leaving muddy paw prints on my trousers, and then on the sleeve of my coat. She apologised, and told her dog off for jumping up. I assured her it wasn’t a problem. “They are only my dog-walking clothes, don’t worry”.

Maybe it runs in the family?

Postcards From Blogging Friends: Part Nine

Despite the onset of wintry weather, I am pleased to report that blogger’s postcards are still arriving for my collection.

From the warmer climes of Mississippi in America, chuq sent me this peaceful view of that famous mighty river.

British blogger Jude, now residing in Cornwall, sent me this lovely retro Art Deco image from Penzance.

Photo blogger Sue Judd escaped to the warmth of Spain for a while.
She sent me this delightful Flamenco image from Seville.

Fraggle from north-east England had to attend a wedding in Oxfordshire.
She sent me this card of the Cotswold town of Burford.
(Sorry about the focus, probably my eyes)

I am so pleased to still be receiving these cards, and by the response to my original request.

If you haven’t sent me one yet, what are you waiting for?

Favourite Presents Of My Childhood

Christmas is coming on fast. Too fast.
That got me thinking about Christmas presents of my youth, and the fond memories I still have of them.

I was luckier than most. As an only child I got more than my fair share, and on birthdays too.

Sometimes, I even got a present ‘just because’.
I might have won a prize at school, helped out at home, or recovered from an illness.

Thanks once again to the Internet, I can find images of the identical toys that I received.

Fuzzy Felt was a wonderful toy, if you had the imagination to make the best of it. Pre-cut felt shapes could be stuck to the base, creating anything from a flower, to a wild animal.

My Dad made me a wooden castle when I was very young. When it got broken, I got a new plastic one for Christmas.
The great thing about such toys was that you would get the ‘extras’ to use to play with them.
I accumulated a large collection of Knights in Armour, and weapons like medieval catapults that actually fired stones.
The drawbridge and portcullis both went up and down too!

Around the same time, I also got a Farm Set for my birthday.
Within a few months, I had farm animals, tractors, and even a combine harvester!
(The camels and elephant seem rather out of place in this set though)

Along the same lines, there was a Wild West Fort.
This became home to US Cavalry soldiers and cowboys.
They fought great battles against marauding tribes of Indians on horseback.

Being a boy in the late 1950s meant I was given guns as presents.
I loved my ‘Davy Crockett’ pistol.
This was given to me for being ‘brave at the dentist’!
As well as ‘defending The Alamo’, this was also used when I wanted to be a Pirate, or Highwayman.

I later ‘upgraded’, to a Colt 45 Peacemaker that fired caps.
This was give to me in a cowboy holster, and I used to practice my ‘fast draw’.

Summer holidays meant playing outside, and along came the ‘Spud Gun’
Push the end into an ordinary potato, and you could fire a small plug of the vegetable at anyone.
We had some legendary Spud Gun battles, using large baking potatoes ‘borrowed’ from home.
(This image is American, but my one was identical)

Electronics arrived in the form of a Train Set connected to a transformer.
This was my first set, which was added to over time.
I had more track, a turntable, signal box, and a small station too.
Trouble was, my Dad used to take it over, and I ended up watching him.

The racing-car game Scalextric was a real luxury. My set was like the one shown, with contemporary Vanwall cars.
Extras were numerous, including a Pit Lane with buildings, and a Grandstand full of miniature spectators.
Sadly, as with the train set, my Dad usually ended up commandeering both cars!

Over the years, I had hundreds of toy soldiers. But my favourites were the sets of tiny soldiers sold by Airfix.
They were cheap to buy, so I could even add to them with my pocket money.
I think I must have had every set they sold, including US Civil War, Romans and Greeks, and French Foreign Legion and Arabs.
But when I got the Desert Rats and Afrika Corps duo, I built a sandpit in my bedroom, to recreate the battles of the 1940s.

Let me now about your favourite toys, in the comments.

Of A Certain Age

You might have to be of a certain age to appreciate this post.
You might also have to be British, though some of this crosses international borders.

For those of you born after 1980, think of it as a History lesson.

Like listening to music?
No i-tunes back then, not even a soon-to-be-outdated CD to play.
This is how we listened to our music.

Cinema Snacks?
No hot dogs, or buckets of popcorn.
No Tacos, or Wraps.
No two-pint cups of unlimited Coca-Cola.
This was what we had to choose from, displayed during the intermission.

Fancy a Latte or Cappucino?
We didn’t have those then.
We didn’t even have powder or granule instant coffee.
We had this. You poured some of the syrup into your cup, and topped up with boiling water.

Playstation, or X-Box? What’s your favourite game?
How about this? It didn’t need a wireless controller.

Fancy something sweet?
How about a liquorice pipe?
Smoking was cool back then, and there were sweet cigarettes too.

Apps on your smartphone?
Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook?
Maybe you enjoy just texting, with lots of emojis?
Try doing all that on one of these.

Enjoy Ice Cream?
Maybe you like Ben and Jerry’s?
What about flavours? Salted Caramel, or Cookie dough?
This was it, when I was 8 years old.

Foreign Food?
What’s your personal choice?
Pizza? Chinese, Indian, or Thai?
Mexican perhaps, or a nice Fusion.
This is what passed for exciting dining.
It was ‘boiled in the bag’.

Think about this, the next time you are enjoying a home-delivered pizza, watching your friend play Call of Duty as you listen to tunes on your phone.
Remember how lucky you are. 🙂

Cars: My Life On The Road

Strictly speaking, this is a ‘Thinking Aloud On a Sunday’ post, as I woke up imagining (or dreaming) that I was driving the first car I ever owned.
That prompted a search of my memory for the cars that have marked the stages of my life, and also made me realise I have very few (almost no) photos of me with them.

These photos are not of my own vehicles, and have been sourced online.
But I had the same models.

Six months before I was old enough to drive, my Dad came home with a car he had bought for me. He got a deal on it, and didn’t want to chance leaving it until I got my licence.
It was a 1963 Vauxhall Viva HA, and he bought it in 1968.
I thought it was the best thing ever, and on the day I passed my test, I drove it around Central London all afternoon.

(My one was light green)

Two years later, in 1971, I was working as a salesman for a record company. They replaced the vans we had been using with cars, hoping to improve their image.
I got a new Vauxhall Viva HB free of charge, as a company car. Of course, I didn’t own it, and had to give it back when I left.
But it always felt like ‘my car’.

I changed jobs, and was given another company car. This was what we call an ‘Estate Car’ here, known as a Station Wagon in America.
It was a Ford Cortina 1.6, and was really roomy.

(My one was a burgundy colour)

In December of 1973, I decided to add to my income by working part-time as a taxi driver. I couldn’t use the company car of course, so I bought a brand new car to use at weekends as a taxi. It was a Hillman Hunter 1725, and it took me over three years to pay it off. I enjoyed being a taxi driver, so I resigned from my job and did it full-time.

(Mine was dark green)

In 1976, I moved with my Mum to South-West London, where we bought a shop.
Although I didn’t make much money as a shopkeeper, I discovered that we could run a car through the business.
So in 1977, I traded in my old taxi for a 1974 Volvo.
It was a top-of the range model, the 164 TE, with a three-litre engine, an automatic gearbox, and a luxurious leather interior.
I loved that big white car.

As the Volvo got older, it started to cost a small fortune to run.
I had already joined the Ambulance Service by then, and didn’t have much disposable income.
I was using a motorcycle to commute to work, so in 1982, we bought one car to share between us.
It was a six-month old VW Golf. It was white, and dressed up to look like the GTi model in this photo.
Except our one was a cheaper ‘special edition’ that only had the 1300 cc engine.
In the autumn of 1984, the car was destroyed in a motorway accident that almost killed my first wife, and left me with broken fingers.
(She was driving at the time)

With the insurance money from the accident, I let my wife choose the replacement car, and I bought a better motorcycle.
She chose a two-tone Ford Capri 1.6, known as a ‘Cabaret Edition’. It was a pre-registered car that had never been owned, and we got a good deal as it was already one year old.
This was the exact colour of the one we had.

After a hard winter that year, I had decided that I had enough of motorcycles.
So I sold the one I had, and went out to buy a cheap used car for cash.
I came home with a Citroen GS Estate, in the same blue as this photo.
It was the most comfortable car I have ever owned.

When we split up in 1985, my wife kept the Ford. I was having numerous electrical problems with the Citroen by then and decided to change it.
I bought a recent Austin Metro, a very basic car that was cheap to run, with a small 1.0 litre engine. It was red, like the one in the photo.
But I hated that car with a vengeance. It had little power for motorway driving, and was very noisy too.

I still yearned for the ease of an automatic transmission, and a return to a quiet, comfortable car.
Then I found a good deal on a Fiat Regata 1.6 saloon. It was the top model, with an expensive radio/cassette player, a three-speed auto gearbox, and tinted windows.
I loved it.
But then I discovered why it was a good deal. It gave me nothing but trouble.
Electrical issues, bulbs blowing, and then a disastrous water leak. It had to go.

I swallowed my pride, and traded the Fiat in for another Citroen. The new Visa model. Low mileage, in red like the photo, and only the small 1,000cc engine.
But that turned out to be a good decision, as it was a great car.
I drove it across Belgium and France, and used it every day for work too.
I loved it, and it never once let me down.

But London traffic was driving me insane with so many gear changes, and I still hankered after an automatic.
I found a Ford Fiesta 1300 in black, with an early version of their CVT ‘Easydrive’ auto gearbox.
I had a lump in my throat as I waved goodbye to the Citroen.
I should have kept it.
The Fiesta gearbox was indeed smooth, and made life a lot easier for me.
Trouble was, the car still used the unreliable carburetor from the old model, and it constantly broke down.
I found myself taking the thing apart at the roadside on a rainy night in North London, and made the decision to get shot of it.

That went in part-exchange for a brand new Fiat Punto. That had a 1.4 engine, a 5-speed manual shift, and was very light and nippy in traffic.
Despite the issues with the earlier Fiat, this one proved to be really reliable, and I kept it for some time.

(Mine was green)

Then I moved away to the edge of North London, and had to start driving a longer distance into work.
I wanted a more powerful car, and one with an automatic gearbox too.
I discovered an American car that was being imported into the UK, the Chrysler Neon.
This had a powerful two-litre engine, a smooth auto gearbox, and very light power steering.
I found a dark green one for sale in a London dealership. It was out of my price range though.
So I arranged a deal where the Fiat went as the deposit, and I made low payments for 36 months.
At the end of the payment period, I had to pay a lump sum to own the car.
It was a very nice car indeed, though it used a frightening amount of petrol, with around 20 mpg at best.
I still had it when I moved back to Camden, and kept it until Julie moved in. With no need for two cars, and plans to move to Norfolk, it was sold to a friend for cash.

For three years, I used public transport to get to work, or walked. We had Julie’s car if we had to go further afield.
In March 2012, I moved up here, and we got Ollie. I wanted a car with plenty of room for the dog, and was determined to get one with an automatic gearbox too.
So I bought a low-mileage Vauxhall Zafira 1.9 turbo-diesel in silver, with a six-speed auto box. It was already five years old though.
It was the SRi Sport model, well-equipped, and with a huge area at the back for Ollie. It also had an option to use as a 7-seater.

I still have that car. It is now 12 years old, and starting to cost serious money to keep running.
But I do love it still, and have no plans to change it.

Let me know about some of your car memories, in the comments.

Jobs On The Street: Old Photos.

For as long as goods and services have been sold, they have been sold in public, on the street.

From Roman times, up to and including my own childhood, street vendors were an everyday sight on the streets of London.

A ‘Shoe Black’, plying his trade in the 1920s.

A milkman, during the early 1960s.
It was unusual by then to see a man still using a push-cart.
Though our own milkman was still using a horse at the time, that was soon replaced by an electric vehicle.

Hot Chestnuts.
Traditionally a cold-weather, seasonal occupation, these sellers could be seen all over London.

In the summer months, Ice Cream sellers were everywhere.
They rode around the streets until they sold out.
The largest company, Wall’s, had their iconic sign. ‘Stop Me and Buy One’.

Street musicians liked to work in busy shopping areas, passing around a hat after performing.
These two went so far as to transport a harp!

Peanut sellers favoured sporting events, exhibitions, and anywhere they could gurantee a large crowd.
Percy Dalton was the top selling brand of peanuts in shells.

Rag and Bone men originally collected unwanted rags and bones, as their name implies.
By the 1960s, they had branched out into the burgeoning antique market, as you can see from this man’s sign.
They also took away any potentially valuable scrap, including most metals and electrical wiring.

Changes in local laws, food sale regulations, and the growing reluctance of consumers to buy things from street vendors, have now all but consigned them to history.
Street entertainers still flourish though, in the most crowded and popular tourist spots in London. Also as buskers, all over the capital. These days, they have to apply for a licence to perform. Doorstep milk deliveries still exist too, but with most of us buying cheaper milk from supermarkets, their time is almost at an end. You can still buy ice cream from vendors selling it from a motorised vehicle. In places like here in Beetley, they drive around the streets in the summer months, playing tunes through a loudspeaker to announce their presence.

Most former Rag and Bone men graduated into becoming scrap metal merchants. With the public wise to the money to be made from scrap, they now usually have to pay to take away the scrap metal that was once left outside for them to collect for free. As for shoe-blacks, the popularity of trainers and casual shoes meant that few people needed to have their shoes polished anymore. They can still be seen in some business districts, where they have become something of an amusing oddity.