Local Hero – Captain John Perrin

I am reblogging this from Rich’s site for the interest of all my American readers. You might like to know that your servicemen who died in Britain in WW2 are not forgotten, and they are honoured and respected by this country. Just like this brave man.

Please read the original post to see two photos.

Richard Lakin's Blog

The memorial you can see below is just a few hundred metres from where I grew up. Although it’s close to junction 14 of the M6 there are beautiful farm fields, spinneys and streams nearby. I ran and hid and splashed in these fields, punctured tyres, suffered nettle rashes, all the usual.

What I didn’t know was that on 4 July 1944 a Mustang P-51D had crashed into a wheat-field here, close to Home Farm and the brilliantly named Sleeper’s Spinney.

USAAF pilot Captain Perrin – an ‘ace’ fighter who had shot down five German aircraft – was delivering the Mustang to Cambridgeshire when something went wrong and the plane was seen to catch fire. Heroically Capt. Perrin did not eject and stayed at his controls to avoid crashing into the populated North End of Stafford, avoiding schools, houses and a hospital.

Sadly, the New Jersey-born pilot died in the…

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A Nostalgic Journey

One of my local friends in Beetley sent me a link to this (silent) cine-film clip from 1968. It shows a train journey from Dereham Station into the city of Norwich. At the time, the line had been threatened with closure, and was eventually closed. You can still take the shorter train journey from Dereham to Wymondham, but only on special heritage days run by a volunteer preservation society.

I still think of 1968 as being very modern and progressive. But looking at this film, it feels as if it could have been shot not that long after WW2.

This is the text that accompanies the film on Facebook, posted by Russell Walker.

Video clip ‘Threat of Closure’ which shows a train journey from Dereham to Norwich Thorpe via Wymondham in 1968. Duration 10m 7s, no audio.
Edward Thorp, known as ‘Chib’, an undertaker from Leigh on Sea, spent his weekends throughout the year documenting the rail routes in East Anglia with wife Edna and their dog Micky. Chib always took along his 8mm camera, a good supply of Kodachrome film, and a tape recorder, to document their trips. On this journey Thorp travels from Dereham Central, passing through Yaxham, Thuxton, Hardingham, Kimberley, Wymondham, and Hethersett, arriving at Norwich Thorpe Station. The title ‘Threat of Closure’ refers, presumably, to the cuts made to many rural rail routes and train services following the Beeching Report.’

A Perception Of Height

This is a sign I have never really had to bother about.

I am only 5 feet 7 inches tall. Below average height in Europe, where I would be 1.7 metres. I have spent my life being shorter than almost all other men I have encountered, and many of the women I have met too. I first really noticed the difference when I was about 13 years old, and realised a girl I really liked was taller than me. Well, she was on the Netball Team, so I should have known. By the time I had grown to my full height, I was disappointed that I would be stuck with that for the rest of my life.

As I reached my late teens and was dating girls, I started to hate high-heeled shoes too. Some girls who were shorter than me immediately became taller once wearing shoes to go on a date. When I got to the pub with her, I became obsessed with trying to find another male shorter than me, so I wouldn’t be the shortest guy in the place.

Then I started work, and had to commute on public transport for a while. I could never see past any man standing nearby, and had to learn to count the stops, so I knew when to get off. Going to the cinema or theatre was a pain too, as if another man sat in front of me, it usually meant I had to watch the film or show with my head cranked to one side, so I could see over his shoulder.

Being short in Central London in the late 1960s wasn’t great either. Taller blokes (so almost all of them) would enjoy baiting me, or intimidating me. I had to develop a serious ‘attitude’ to avoid being pushed around or ridiculed. My long-term girlfriend at the time was almost as tall as me, so once she added heeled boots or shoes, I found myself having to glance up at her. She didn’t mind the difference, but I did.

But it does have some benefits. I have never hit my head on a car roof when getting in and out. I didn’t have to bend my knees up to my chin to be able to drive a car, and I could always find shoes and trousers in my size too. And I wasn’t ‘really short’. Not like some of the local boys who never got past 5 feet 2. I would have felt really sorry for them, and suggested they seek a career as a jockey, had it not been for the fact that most of them developed a real ‘little-man’ attitude, and became very aggressive. Presumably for self-protection.

It seemed that I was often a sucker for punishment too. My second wife was almost 6 feet tall in her bare feet, so with shoes on, she literally towered above me. The photos of our wedding look like she is escorting her little brother to a function. She didn’t mind our height difference at all. But I did.

Luckily, nobody ever made much of a fuss about it. I was never called ‘Little Pete’. In fact, I was far more likely to be called ‘Grumpy Pete’. Nobody ever called me ‘Shorty’, ‘Tich’, or ‘Half-Pint’. There were times I wondered if I was making too much of it. But then there were those signs, like the one above. As I walked under them, I didn’t dip down, or duck my head. Everyone else had to of course, including my ex-wife.

Over the decades, it came to matter less. I arrived in Beetley, retired from work, and stopped bothering about my height.

Then one day last year, I was walking with two lady dog-walkers over at Beetley Meadows. I know them well, and we often walk our dogs together. A small tree had fallen across the path, creating a kind of arch of its branches. As we walked through, I ducked under. Turning to wait for the two ladies, I saw one of them chuckling. I asked her what was funny, thinking I had missed a joke.

“You ducked under the branches, Pete. There was no need, they cleared your head by a mile. How tall do you think you are?”

Holidays and Travel: Rome 2002

With lockdown making us all wish we could be somewhere else, I am reblogging this 2013 post about a short trip to Rome. David and Jude have seen it before, but it may well be new to most of you.

beetleypete

I had never been to Italy. Despite a lifelong interest in all things Roman, as well as a passing regard for Marco Polo, Garibaldi’s Redshirts, and a fascination with the nefarious exploits of Brigate Rosse during the 1970’s, I had never set foot on the land that also produced the wines I loved so much; Barolo, Barbera D’Asti, and Chianti.

Julie was well aware of my love of Roman History, and my somewhat morbid obsession with the arenas, and the gladiatorial combats fought within them. With my fiftieth birthday coming up, in March 2002, she arranged a ‘short break’ holiday to Rome, as her gift to me. It remains one of the best gifts that I have ever received, and this is the tale of our trip to the Eternal City.

Even the chosen hotel was to be a delight. The Art Deco Hotel, close to the Central Station, so…

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Film nostalgia

After a brief exchange on Twitter earlier, I decided to reblog this 2015 post about one of my favourite films. Apologies to those of you who have already seen it.

beetleypete

(This is about the 1967 film, not the 2013 remake.)

When I first saw the film ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, I was fifteen years old. I liked it so much, I went to see it again the following week. I didn’t know a lot about Warren Beatty or Faye Dunaway at the time. I had never heard of Estelle Parsons, Gene Wilder, or Gene Hackman either. I thought I recognised the strange face of Michael J. Pollard, but I didn’t know where I might have seen it. The man playing the Texas Ranger was Denver Pyle, and I knew him immediately, from old westerns. The same applied to Dub Taylor, who played the father of C.W. Moss in the film.

I had been going to the cinema for as long as I was old enough to sit up straight in the seat. I had seen all kinds of films…

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Pub Signs for the 21st Century

As any UK readers know, pub signs have been a long tradition in this country. For those of you who have never visited Britain, here are two examples.

With many pubs being bought out by large companies, corporate names have fast become the norm, and our towns and high streets have seen the old signs disappearing fast.

I thought it might be time for some new names for pubs, to better reflect our changing society, and our dependence on electronics in this century. As I have limited artistic skills, I have not attempted to draw them. Instead, I offer only some name suggestions that could be developed into signs by someone with good graphics skills.

And if anyone does that, remember where it originated!

If there was a pub in Beetley, I would like it to be called this.

THE BLOG AND DOG

For those of you hooked on Internet dating apps, how about this name?

THE SWIPE RIGHT

Compulsive mobile phone users might enjoy a drink in this place.

THE OUT OF BATTERY

Twitter users would have this obvious watering hole.

THE RETWEET

Anyone foolish enough to have already bought an all-electric car might like to stop for a beer here.

THE CHARGING POINT

Those phone users still on pay-as-you go options might like to meet up with others at their pub of choice.

THE TOP UP

Six selections for you, to get your minds ticking over.

Please add your own in the comments.

Talking To My Dad

I slept in late on Friday morning. Something had woken me up earlier, probably the gales, and I didn’t get back to sleep until almost 6 am. That meant I was still asleep at 10:45, when Julie decided to come in and wake me up.

As soon as I was old enough to have an opinion, I didn’t get on that well with my Dad. By the time I was twelve years old, he was working away a lot, as a sales and promotion executive for a record company. When he got home late on Friday nights, he seemed to resent the fact that my Mum and me had coped well enough without him all week, and his frequent absences made us grow closer together.

When I was fifteen, he moved us out of London to a house in Kent, as he felt our rented flat was too ‘down market’ for him in his new job. A year later, when I turned sixteen, he bought me a used car, even though I was too young to drive it legally. He liked to boast to people about that. He had become a rather boastful man, taking any opportunity to name-drop the various stars of the record business that he had dealings with.

By the time I left school, we were hardly speaking. Despite that, he got me a job through one of his contacts, selling records. That was so he could tell anyone who would listen that I got the job because of him, and not because I was any good at it. When I was nineteen, I moved out and shared with friends, mainly to avoid having to be around him.

Then not long before my twenty-fourth birthday, he left my Mum, saying that he believed he was in a mid-life crisis, and needed his own space to think. We knew there was another woman of course, and it didn’t take too long to discover who she was, and where they were living. I never spoke to him again after that, and he died when I was thirty-seven.

With that in mind, it was very strange to be dreaming that I was talking to him last night. He was in another room, and calling to me to bring various things in to him. When my wife came in to wake me up because I had overslept, as I opened my eyes to look at her, my Dad’s voice seem to be coming from her mouth. It was the end of a dream, no doubt. That moment when you wake up feeling as if you have been ripped from another place.

A place that seemed very real. As real as the reality of waking up in my bedroom this morning.

‘Where I’m From’

This theme about composing a poem based on where you are from and grew up has generated some wonderful writing.
This is the original, on which to base your own attempt.

Where I’m From
George Ella Lyon

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree

American blogger, Maggie, has just published her own story as a poem.
https://fromcavewalls.wordpress.com/2020/02/02/where-im-from-a-crowdsourced-poem/

I have no skill at poetry, but gave it a go anyway. If you want to try too, then send me a link to your poem in the comments, or just include it there.

Where I’m From.
Pete Johnson.

I am from hot pavements on a city’s summer streets
and frozen pipes in the winter

I am from flying ants emerging through cracks in the slabs
and the rainstorms that followed their departure

I am from the faces of men drinking beer to forget the war they had just fought
and the women with hands red from washing and scrubbing

I am from an outside toilet with newspaper squares on a nail
and the scary fat spiders that lived in the corners

I am from men being men
and women holding families together

I am from eating leftovers during the week
and learning how to make do

I am from limited expectations
and knowing your place

I am from respecting your elders
and doing that without having to be told

I am from where family came first
and nobody ever questioned why that was

I am from places that are still the same
and a time when they were very different

What I Don’t Miss About The 1970s

I was 18 years old in 1970, and 25 when I got married in 1977.
By the end of that decade, I was already an EMT in London.
It is easy to look back with fondness at some things from that era.
But I am also reminded of what was not so good in Britain at the time..

The awful sliced white bread.

The Christmas Gifts.

State of the Art portable televisions.

What was on those televisions for most of the day, and after midnight.

Some of the sweets.
(Mostly good)

(Mostly not so good)

The ‘long-bonnet’ British Leyland Mini.

Police Officers getting off the beat, and into silly-looking patrol cars.

Limited options for ‘eating out’.

Fashionable clothing for men.

The 1960s were pretty cool, as well as ‘Swinging’ of course.
But something went badly wrong on the 1st of January, 1970.