A Good Education

When I was away last weekend, I discussed my time at school with a friend who I met there, 58 years ago. That discussion has prompted me to reblog this post. A tribute to my education, originally posted in 2012.

beetleypete

I confess that I know little of the school system today. I am aware that many teachers are unhappy, that exam results are possibly being manipulated, and Department of Education targets seem to be the driving force behind teaching. I also see that standards of spelling, literacy, numeracy, and general knowledge have fallen, and students rely heavily on the Internet for information that they might once have learned. University degrees have lost their status and potential graduates now have to face the prospect of years of debt ahead of them. Things have changed, of that there can be little doubt. There is a distinct lack of Historical knowledge, and little regard for the relevance of the subject. Geography, and geographical awareness, has reached a low, to the extent that many young people could not place themselves on a World map.

I do not have statistics to support these claims, but…

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London Walks: Bermondsey And Rotherhithe

Two more of Joolz’s Guides London walk videos. This time with a very personal connection to beetleypete!
(Each short film is around fifteen minutes long)

The first is a tour of Bermondsey, the district just immediately south and east of Tower Bridge, on the banks of The Thames. We see how the former leather-making district has becme ‘gentrified’ since the 1980s, but all the historic buildings remain. I was born in Bermondsey, and lived there until I was 15, when my parents moved us away to the suburbs. In my youth, the leather industry was still very much in evidence, and the modern-day food markets and smart delicatessens were traditional street markets, and cheap cafes.

The second film features Rotherhithe, which is a continuation of the walk from Bermondsey, along the riverbank to the east. Once again, we see the preserved history, and how docks and warehouses, where my grandfather and my mother worked during WW2, have now been converted into smart (and very expensive) apartments and restaurants. Joolz continues to the famous riverside pubs The Angel and The Mayflower. I moved back to Rotherhithe in 1985, and lived not far from The Mayflower. In fact, I had my second wedding reception in the upstairs restaurant of the pub, in 1989! It has famous connections with The Pilgrim Fathers, and the founding of America.

If anyone is planning a visit to London, watch to the end of the second video. You will see that you can book Joolz for a personalised tour of London, and contact details are shown. I couldn’t think of anyone better to show you around, except me of course!

Video: Another London Walk

My friend Antony has sent me another very interesting video from Joolz, the London tour guide. This time, he walks around Fitzrovia, delving into the fascinating history of the area, and some of the quirky shops and buildings too. I often walked through those streets to get to work, and as I lived close to the Post Office Tower which is seen in the film, it brought back a lot of memories for me.

If you ever visit London, you might never see this district, but it is so close to some of the traditional tourist sights, it is worth a short diversion.

The clip is just over twenty minutes long.

The Letters

A tremendously poignant piece from Cheryl that many of us can relate to. Beautifully written, and full of genuine emotion.

Living in the Gap

“To write is human, to get mail: Devine!” Susan Lendroth

I didn’t know it would be the last letter I would ever write my Mother, that it would never be delivered, and I would not find it until four years after her death.

Have you ever questioned your understanding of time? How it slips by unnoticed until one day you’re given a blatant reminder, emphasizing our limited time, reminding us not to waste a single moment.

My reminder came right from the grave.

As you know there’s a story behind everything, sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are humorous, but behind most of my stories is my mother, because she is the beginning and the end.

I share this story enmeshed in deep emotion that has nowhere to go but onto the page, receive it gently, with the upmost care, I’m a fragile one today.

…There was no…

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Ambulance life

Reblogging a 2012 post that nobody (except A) has seen. It is about my early days as an EMT in London. It is all very different now of course.

beetleypete

For those who read my posts on a regular basis, you may see a pattern appearing in my ‘Ambulance Stories’ category. That pattern is that many of the calls we were sent to, differ greatly from the description given to us by Ambulance Control. This may seem fanciful and affected to the outsider, though I can assure you that all these stories are 100% accurate. Perhaps some explanation of general life as an Ambulanceman in London (at least when I was still in it ) will put some of this into better context.

At the time I joined, the London Ambulance Service was a very different organisation to the one it is today. It was short-staffed, under-funded, and the staff were poorly paid, and did the job with very little equipment. Many of the operational managers were ex-military types, and the uniform reflected this, in being totally unsuitable for the…

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Growing Up

When did you first feel ‘grown up’? Do you remember it as a specific time, or did it happen gradually?

When I was a child, it was a two-word phrase that was used to scold me. “Grow up!” I first remember my dad using it when I was probably seven or eight years of age. He was still saying it the last time I had a conversation with him when I was twenty-four. He never realised just how much time I had spent wanting to grow up.

For most of the twelfth year of my life, I wanted to be thirteen. A teenager was something to aspire to, especially with the expanding freedoms of the 1960s. By the time I was sixteen, I wanted desperately to be seventeen, so I could drive a car. Driving was going to make me into an immediate grown-up, I was convinced of that.

Although a change in the law allowed me to vote when I was eighteen, I couldn’t wait to be twenty-one. That was manhood! Key of the door time. A twenty-one year old was undeniably a man. A grown up. But my twenty-first was something of an anti-climax. It seemed I really had to be twenty-five before my car insurance company would consider me to be a responsible adult, and reduce my high premiums accordingly.

Then I was twenty-five, and got married that same year. I was a married man! Surely that was grown up? But the insurance company didn’t reduce my payments, citing increased costs as the reason to make me keep paying the same amount. Three years later, I was working as an EMT in Central London.

Now I felt really grown up. Driving an emergency ambulance with sirens and flashing lights, arriving at the scenes of terrible accidents and major disasters. It doesn’t get much more grown up than that, believe me. But to my older colleagues, with their additional ten or twenty years of experience, I wasn’t considered to be in the least bit grown up.

Much later, I read about not losing your ‘inner child’. Decades of emergency duties had made me a serious person, someone obsessed with being an adult. I had to try to find that inner child lurking within, or I would be sacrificing a large part of my personality.

It wasn’t easy, I can tell you. But finally, at the age of sixty-nine, I might have found that balance.

I discovered what it means to be grown up.

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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