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.

Significant Songs (79)

Reblogging a post from 2015 about a very old song that I love so much. Apologies to those who have seen it previously.
I was thinking about this song today, and it is in my head.

beetleypete

Pennies From Heaven

This song originated as the feature track from the 1936 film of the same name. Originally sung by Bing Crosby in that film, it was later recorded by almost every famous singer since. The list of those who covered the song is too long to write here, but it includes Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughan. For me, this is best heard sung by a ‘crooner’, and the sadness underlying the central message of hope comes over well if it is recorded in a somewhat plaintive tone.

In 1978, the BBC produced a landmark television series of the same title, written by Dennis Potter, and starring Bob Hoskins, Cheryl Campbell, and Gemma Craven. The song featured heavily of course, and the version used was by Arthur Tracy. This was also made into a -best forgotten- Hollywood film adapted by and starring Steve Martin. The TV series…

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Significant Songs (4)

I am reblogging this 2014 post because other than Jude and Sarah, hardly anyone has ever seen it. I still love this record!

beetleypete

Woman Trouble

In the year 2000, I was 48 years old. I had just moved to Camden, and was living alone, for the first time in ages. I had a new car, and like many tracks featured in this series, I heard a record on the radio in that car, that I had had not heard before. I couldn’t keep still in my seat, and found myself jiggling around, oblivious to strange stares from other drivers, in the heavy traffic leading out to Brent Cross. I didn’t really catch the name of the song, as I was too busy humming along to it, and car-dancing like a fool, to listen to the announcement at the end. I wanted to listen to it again, straight away, and felt empty when it had ended.

I had to endure the embarrassment of going into a record shop in Central London the next day…

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Bringing Granddad Home

My maternal grandfather died quite young. He was only around 65 years old. I heard the news of course, and despite being only 12 years old myself, I took it quite well, without getting too upset. As was tradition, he was ‘laid out’ in a coffin in the parlour of the house, and every member of the family was taken to see him. It was the first time I had seen a dead body, and to me he seemed to just be sleeping. He had a short funeral, followed by a burial in Nunhead Cemetery, South London.

Many years later, quite recently in fact, I learned the true circumstances of his death, and how the family ‘brought granddad home’.

He died in Essex, at a place called Heybridge, near the town of Maldon. It was just over fifty miles from his home in the London district of Bermondsey. He and my nan had been enjoying a short holiday in a caravan they had bought some years earlier, to enjoy their retirement weekends and summer breaks. My nan had woken up that morning to find him dead beside her. He was cold, and very white. She had seen enough dead people to know nothing could be done. For many years, he had been receiving treatment for Angina, so it seemed likely a heart attack had taken him during the night.

Back then (1965) it wasn’t usual to ring for an ambulance when someone died. But a death did have to be officially confirmed, usually by the family doctor. It then had to be reported to the Police too. But my nan was fifty miles away from home, so she did something different. She walked to a nearby telephone box, and rang her eldest daughter, my aunt Edie. Edie in turn rang my mum, and then the younger sister, Betty. All three were married, and it was decided that the brothers-in-law would be enlisted to deal with the situation.

Edie’s husband was called Albert, and he had the biggest car. He picked up my dad, and then went to get Betty’s husband, Benjamin. They drove the fifty miles to the caravan through heavy Sunday traffic in east London and the Essex suburbs. When they arrived, they packed up my grandparents’ things, and dressed my dead granddad in his overcoat, to cover his pyjamas. Then they propped him up in the back seat of the car, his head against the window. My dad and Benjamin sat in the back with him, to make sure he stayed upright, and didn’t slip down. With my nan in the front, and Albert driving, they set off for the house in Bermondsey.

Despite encountering some heavy traffic on the return journey, nobody outside the car appeared to notice that anything was amiss. Once back at my nan’s house, they quickly carried granddad inside, then put him into bed in his pyjamas as my nan was telephoning for the doctor. The doctor arrived, and immediately pronounced my granddad dead, knowing nothing of the fiasco surrounding his return from Essex. He was prepared to issue a death certificate with Angina as the cause, and he also notified the Police. Undertakers were called to bring a coffin, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

It seems my nan was afraid that if she rang for help in Essex, granddad’s body would be taken to the mortuary at Colchester Hospital. That might involve a post-mortem examination too. Instead, she relied on her family to do the right thing, and get her husband back home.

It’s one of those, ‘you couldn’t make it up’, stories, and is now a source of great amusement to many of our family members.

Times were different then. They certainly were.

Christmas In An Ambulance

As you probably know, I spent a third of my life as an EMT in Central London. Anyone who worked in that job will tell you that the two busiest days of the year are New Year’s Eve, and Christmas Day.

But why Christmas Day? The shops are closed, and most people are at home opening presents, wearing bad taste jumpers, and anticipating a day of eating, drinking, and watching TV.

For emergency ambulance crews, the day starts with the leftovers of the previous shift. Christmas Eve parties, drunken revellers who had fallen over, some in virtual comas from excessive alcohol consumption. Head injuries, cuts and bruises from fights, maybe broken ankles if the streets were icy. Calls to the Police Station to examine injured prisoners, and all this on top of the everyday medical emergencies that don’t go away just because it is the 25th of December.

Once the presents are open, there are the accidents involving children. Rushing off to try out new rollerblades, skateboards, and cycles, many have sustained injuries not long after breakfast. For some, that will mean a few hours spent in the emergency department of the local hospital, awaiting stitches and Tetanus injections. For the unlucky few, it will result in being on life support in the Intensive Care Unit; worried parents sitting by the bed.

Many people start drinking much earlier on Christmas day. Few of those would usually have alcohol just after breakfast, so by midday they are feeling the effects. As the food comes out of the oven, the calls change to burns, scalds, and deep cuts from carving knives. For those that escape kitchen accidents and settle down for the afternoon, the greater than usual consumption of food becomes the problem.

Wind can be incredibly painful. Though it is not life-threatening, to a family the worse for drink and stress, that sharp pain may be indicative of something more sinister, like a blocked bowel, or perhaps a heart attack. So they call 999, and then get stressed out even more by having to wait longer than usual because we are so busy. For some unfortunates, the combination of alcohol, stress, and over-eating does actually cause a heart attack. Also Diabetic Coma, exacerbation of existing breathing problems like Asthma, or the rupture of an Aortic Aneurysm.

By early afternoon, it is not unusual to be trying to resuscitate people who have literally dropped dead in front of the Christmas Tree. This is usually going on in front of a number of distraught family members, some still holding unopened presents.

The early evening brings its own problems. Calls to people who cannot be roused because they have had so much to drink. Babies and small children put down to rest, then found in situations of medical emergency, like high temperatures or even cot death. Following those dramas, people start to leave for home. This now involves car accidents where the drivers are over the limit from ‘just a couple of drinks’. Their relative insisted they have something before they leave, and that might have been a whole tumbler full of brandy, on top of that ‘couple of glasses’ with dinner. They might be unfamiliar with the area, go the wrong way up a one-way street, or not notice that person who was walking over a pedestrian crossing.

In some cases, the victims are also drunk; sometimes wandering around in the hope of finding a shop open, or deciding to cycle home after having been drinking all day.

For most of you this year, it will be a happy and trouble free day. But when you hear a siren in the distance, or see the blue lights of an ambulance pass your window, now you will now why.