Tourist London: A Walk In History

My friend Antony sent me another of the You Tube videos of Joolz presenting one of his very informative walks.

This time, he is walking around some very famous Central London tourist areas, and giving a detailed history in his inimitable style.
(The film is just under 30 minutes long.)

If you have ever wandered around the same places, you may well be interested in the background to them.

Reflections On My Father: A Repost

When I wrote one of my ‘Short Thoughts’ about my dad this week, it reminded me that I am now the same age that he was when he died. In 2014, I wrote a blog post about him, and the difficult relationship I had with him. Very few of you have seen it, so I am reposting it in full today.

His name was Arthur, and he was born in Bermondsey, South London, in 1920. As a young man, he joined the army, and was posted to Woolwich Barracks, home of the Royal Artillery. When he was still just in his teens, the Second World War broke out, and he went to the Kent coast, to operate anti-aircraft guns near Dover. After Japan entered the war in 1941, he volunteered for service in the far east, and was posted to India. Promoted to sergeant, and eventually to Regimental Sergeant Major, he enjoyed a relatively comfortable war. He lived in his own bungalow, and even had servants, who lived under the porch. He went big-game hunting, and played both cricket and football for army teams. He was in charge of Indian troops, and he came to have a great respect for them as soldiers.

During this time, my mother, like many young women during the war, was writing to soldiers overseas. He received one of her letters, and met up with her after the war. At the end of hostilities, he stayed on in India for some time. On the voyage home, he stopped in Durban, and developed a great fondness for the life in South Africa. Arriving back in England, he told how he wanted to join the police force there, and start a new life in the sun. My Mum was having none of it, and refused to consider such a wrench from her family. I don’t think he ever forgave her, but he stayed in London, and they married in 1947.

He found work as a maker of tea-chests and boxes. He was always good with tools, and the work was regular, and reasonably well-paid. He was popular with almost everyone, and had a wide circle of friends, as well as a large extended family. At weekends, they would all meet in local pubs, where he would sing on stage, often accompanied by my uncle. My first memories of him are of a man smelling of hair oil and tobacco, with jet black wavy hair, and an olive complexion.

I didn’t take after him, looking like my Mum’s side of the family. He was dark, and looked continental, easily passing as Jewish, or perhaps of some foreign extraction. There was talk of a Spanish connection way back in the family, but I never could confirm that. He was always smartly dressed, and as far as I was aware then, a good provider. But he wasn’t a settled man. He longed for something more, a better life somewhere.

From early on, I was a great disappointment to him. Somewhat spoilt by my Mum, I did not display the aptitude for sports that he would have liked. I didn’t seem to be able to learn to swim, no matter how hard he tried to teach me, and my abilities at football, or any sport, did not reach his standards. I didn’t ever run fast enough, or act tough enough, for his liking.

My white-blond curly hair and blue-green eyes marked me as one of my Mum’s family, not his. I didn’t realise this of course, and as a child, I thought he was amazing. I watched him work on his car, and studied how he drove it too. He dressed me in suits and ties, and I accompanied him on visits to relatives and friends. When he took us on our annual seaside holidays, he played for hours on the beach, constructing ‘cars’ from sand for me to sit in, or helping me build ambitious castles. Yet still, something inside me always sensed his overriding displeasure with me, and I wanted him to like me more.

As I got older, our relationship grew steadily worse. He often argued with Mum, and I only found out decades later, that she had discovered he was having various affairs with other women. I spent a lot of time in my room, reading books and comics, and writing on an old typewriter. In an effort to get me out of the house, he bought me a bike, and taught me how to ride it. As he did so, he hurt his back, slipping a disc. This was to cause him great pain, and necessitate operations later on. He never let me forget that he did that teaching me how to cycle.

By the time I reached my teens, he tried to get me interested in car mechanics, and various jobs around the house. When I showed little aptitude or interest in such things, he became angry, regularly declaring that I was ‘useless’ and that I always would be. There was some redemption when I did well at school, and he seemed genuinely proud of my exam results. I got the feeling that he resented my academic leanings, and comparative success, but he never let on, if he did.

He would get his own back, by making me help him do jobs and chores. Hard manual labour in the garden, or hours spent in a freezing garage, holding tools or torches as he worked on cars. At some stage, I would invariably do something wrong, or with insufficient enthusiasm, giving him the opportunity to once again exclaim that I was useless, and I might as well leave him to do it alone. One particular evening, he added the words ‘I never wanted kids anyway, you were a mistake I was tricked into.’ I let that go at the time, but it always returned in my thoughts.

By this time, he had changed jobs, and had spent many years working in the record industry. This gave him a boost in social status, and the chance to work away from home a great deal. On his return, he would present me with dozens of records, all the latest hits. But this was more about showing his ability to source this bounty, rather than the genuine desire to give me gifts. Once I was in my twenties, we hardly spoke at all. He was always out, often staying away overnight, and his relationship with Mum had deteriorated noticeably.

When I was nearly 24 years old, Mum told me that she had seen our house up for sale in the local estate agent. She thought it must be a mistake, and confronted him when he got home. He told her that he was moving in with a male colleague, and could no longer live with us. As his was the only name on the deeds of the house, he was entitled to sell it, and would give her half the proceeds. Mum asked me not to get involved. She was so shocked by it all, she didn’t even bother to fight him, and awaited her fate once he left.

Despite the disruption to our life at the time, I was actually pleased to see the back of him. As we suspected, the ‘male colleague’ turned out to be female, and he had rather boringly just left my Mum for another woman, without having the courage to tell her the truth.

A few weeks later, he was returning to collect some things, and his car broke down. He phoned the house, and Mum asked me to collect him from Sidcup, where he had left his car. I didn’t speak to him as I drove him home, and he got a taxi back to his car later, when I was out. I never saw him again, and never spoke to him again, after that day.

In 1989, I received a call from his cousin. He told me that my father was dying in a hospital in Northampton. He had Motor Neurone Disease, and was not expected to last the week. ‘You ought to go and see him’, the cousin suggested. ‘Did he ask me to come?’, I replied. ‘Not as such, but I am sure that he would want to see you’, he insisted.

‘I don’t think so Roy’, was my reply.

A Nostalgic Image

For my birthday on the 16th, my lovely cousin Sue sent me an e-card that contained an old photo of us together.

She suspects it was taken in a very early type of ‘Photo Booth’. I look to be around six years of age, making her almost eight at the time.

That dates it to sometime in 1958. But looking at it now, it looks more like it was taken in 1928. I can only vaguely remember having white-blond, curly hair. Sue and I lived in the same house, her mum was my mum’s older sister, Auntie Edie. We remained very close throughout our lives, and still are today.

I am sometimes criticised for excessive nostalgia, but I freely admit that I adore this old photo.

The Arrogance of Time

A simply wonderful piece of writing from the lovely Cheryl Oreglia. She reflects on life as she grows older, in a way that so many of us can identify with. I urge you to use the link to read the full blog post. You will be glad you did.

Living in the Gap

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” Dr. Seuss

In my remote cocoon, rolled up in a blanket, secured to the double wide chair I used to hate, and now love, gazing out over the expanse of the lake, the steadfast mountain, the “unmentionable” fog, I’m thinking about the arrogance of time and how swiftly we mutate as if a caterpillar from chrysalis to adult.

I am often deceived by the endless charm of time, disguised as a gift, but somehow pompous as a politician whose false assurances serve no one. 

You know what I mean?

The conceit of a system so dedicated to it’s own perpetuation it fails those it’s obligated to assist, one who is incapable of turning back his scrawny…

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My Mum: A Tribute For Mother’s day

Today is Mother’s Day in Britain. I send my greetings to all mums, including my wife who must endure a lockdown day, seeing none of her four children.

In the photo above, my mum is celebrating her 70th birthday. She died in 2012, aged 87. Four days before Mother’s Day that year.

I never missed celebrating that day for her, buying a large card with lots of additonal pages, and a Lindt Easter Egg that she looked forward to every year.

She was a great mum, and worried about me even when she was desperately ill.

Born in 1924, she lived in London throughout WW2. Terrified by the bombing during The Blitz, but still going to work every day. In fact she worked until she was 75 years old, enjoying the company more than she needed the additional income. She loved her family, and she loved all animals, especially her beloved pet dogs and cats.

Not a day goes by when I do not think about her, and miss her.

Violet Johnson. 9th of July, 1924 – 14th of March, 2012. Rest in peace, my beloved mum.

Favourite months

With gales blowing outside, and the local river overflowing its banks, I felt it was a good time to reblog this 2012 post about my favourite months. Only one reader left a like and comment at the time, so it should be new to most of you.

beetleypete

Tomorrow is the first of September, and I always look forward to its arrival. It heralds the end of the summer, and the start of autumn, and is one of my two favourite months, the other being March. This is mainly because March is the month of my birthday, and because it is the end of the winter. I have always enjoyed my birthday. It is personal, unlike Christmas, which is for everyone.

I have always felt that March was a good time to celebrate a birthday. The weather can be surprisingly good sometimes, so it is possible to plan a nice day out, to celebrate. It is far enough away from December, so not caught up in the festive hangover, and equally unaffected by the summer rush for outdoor activities. In England, most places of interest or traditional seaside tourist spots are still closed up, awaiting the season.

This…

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Literary inspirations

At a time when I am finding it impossible to finish reading a book, and also experiencing a slow-down in my desire to write, I thought I would reblog this 2015 post about my love of books, and some recommendations of those I have read in the past. Some of you (Jude, Sue, Cindy, David) have already read it. But since 2015, I have welcomed many new followers.

beetleypete

I have never written about books on this blog. Considering the amount of words I have written about so many other things, this fact has just struck me. It has been a glaring omission, and one I will attempt to rectify with this post. It will not be a series, so don’t worry.

Many blogs on the Internet are about books and literature. Some recommend good new reads, most promote the work of the blogger themselves. Others quote from classical literature, or delve into its origins and meanings. I won’t be doing any of that. Do I write because I used to read, or did I read because I wanted to write? The answer is probably neither of those options. I started writing at school like most of us do, as it is compulsory. But I didn’t read for that reason, I did it for enjoyment, education, and a desire…

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My London: A Short Film

My good friend Antony sent me a link to this 24-minute film about the area of London where we both used to live. He grew up there, and I lived there from 2000-2012.

This is not the London that tourists tend to see, but it is ‘real’ London, and a short walk north of most tourist sites. It is also packed full of interesting history, as you will see if you get time to watch it. Presented by a Londoner who obviously enjoys his city, it took me back to where I lived, the streets I used to walk on every day, and the pubs and restaurants I frequented for the last years of my time in London.

Drummond Street, Albert Street, Delancey Street, The Black Cat Building that I lived so close to, and the bus stop outside the old orphanage where I waited for a bus to work if it was raining too hard to walk there. Mornington Crescent Station, my nearest tube station, just across the road from the flats I used to live in.

It is a sheer delight for me to watch this, and I hope you will too, to discover that there is so much more to London than Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square.

Television Licensing

From 1952, Detector vans like the one shown above were once used to detect TV signals being received in the homes of people who had not bought a licence. The operators were not allowed to force entry to your home, but if you refused to open the door, they were allowed to apply for a search warrant.

If you live in Britain, and want to watch TV, you need a licence to do that. To fund the running costs of the BBC, TV licences were introduced as long ago as 1946, when they cost £2 a year. Current charges are £157.50 per year. However, you can reduce this to £53 for a Black and White only licence. I find it hard to imagine that anyone still only has a B&W TV, but many thousands of B&W licences are still purchased every year.

There are currently some concessions, though there is talk of those being scrapped in the near future.

If you are aged 75 or over, you can apply for a free TV licence, but only if your income is so low that you receive the benefit known as ‘Pension Credit’.

If you are a ‘Registered blind’ person, you can apply for a 50% discount on the cost of the full licence.

If you are a resident of a care home, you can apply for a reduced cost licence of just £7.50 a year.

This rather outdated system looks set to change. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are not covered by the legislation, as they are transmitted over the Internet. Detector vans may no longer roam the streets looking for TV signals coming from your home, but enforcement still exists.

When you buy a television set, your details are supplied to the Licensing Authority. Failure to apply for a licence, or to already have one, will result in a letter being sent. Ignore the letter, and there is a chance that investigators may visit your home to see evidence of TV watching. This might be the presence of a TV aerial or Satellite dish on your roof, or remote controls spotted through a window.

Once this ‘evdence’ has been logged, then you could receive a visit from enforcement officers armed with a warrant to search your home for a compatible TV set. If you have been avoiding paying for a licence, you will be fined up to £1,000, plus administration costs.

On the plus side, this means we get at least three television channels from the BBC that carry no advertising whatsoever. (Except for them advertising their own forthcoming programmes.) But a generation of people who watch mainly streamed content on phones, laptops, and tablets is unlikely to concern itself with that.

Perhaps the TV Licence has had its day? Time will tell.

Lyrically Evocative (32)

I complain a lot, I know. The weather mostly, but other stuff too.

However, I wouldn’t want anyone to ever think that I am not thankful for what I have. A decent home, mortgage-free. A wife to share my life with, and a wonderful dog to be my companion. Enough money to get by, and even save a (little) bit. Relatively good health, even in the midst of a pandemic crisis.

I am better off than so many other people, and I am thankful for that fact.

With that in mind, I was thinking about this song today. I bought the record a long time ago now, (1974) but it often sneaks into my mind.

And never was it more relevant, than in 2021.

Here are the lyrics. I may know nothing about a ‘Gangsta lean’, but I get William’s intention.

Be Thankful for What You Got
William DeVaughn

Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back
You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you got
Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin’ the scene
With a gangsta lean
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back
You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you got
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh
Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back
You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin the scene
With a gangsta lean, wooh
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: William Devaughn
Be Thankful for What You Got lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management

And here he is, singing his own song. (Not live, the original 7-inch single)

Let’s all remember to be thankful what what we have.