Nice Times (7)

When I was an EMT, I often had to work New Year’s Eve night duty, one of the busiest shifts of the year for ambulances in London. During one shift, we bought a bottle of champagne in a local shop. When we got into our local casualty department just before midnight, we opened the champagne in the tea room, and poured small measures into paper cups for the nurses and doctors on duty. Just after the clock passed twelve, we carried them out on a tray and passed them around, shouting “Happy New Year” to each nurse or doctor in turn. (We didn’t drink any) Then it was back out into the busy night, but it had been a nice moment indeed.

My mum and I owned a large long-haired German Shepherd dog, Skipper. We had him from a tiny pup, and he grew into a huge dog. When I got married, he stayed with my mum, and almost fifteen years later, he was living with her in a small flat in Peckham. One day, she rang me to tell me he couldn’t stand up, and his back legs did not seem to be working. She couldn’t take him out, and he wouldn’t eat anything, or drink any water. I drove over to see her, and could see that poor Skipper was close to the end. I rang the Vet and asked him to come out to put our dog to sleep. He agreed to do so, if we paid an exhorbitant extra charge, and came just over an hour later. My mum was too upset to stay in the room, but I sat on the floor with Skipper’s head in my lap as the Vet injected him. Our old dog looked up at me as he died, and I stroked his head. As sad as it was, that was nice for me, to be there for Skipper in his final moments.

On the day that I resigned from the London Ambulance Service to work for the police, I had to go into the main station at Fulham and hand my letter over to the Station Officer. She was an experienced Paramedic who had swapped operational duties for being a manager. I had been the union representative for many years, and we had experienced some run-ins and confrontational moments previously. But that morning, she genuinely tried to persuade me to stay on. When I declined, she thanked me for all my service, for being a fair but firm union man, and stood up to shake my hand. We had worked as adversaries, but left the room as friends.

After I had retired and moved to Norfolk, I spent a long time working as a volunteer for the the Fire Service. I would drive around installing smoke alarms, talking to various groups, and attending school fire safety displays. I had to ring the elderly or disabled people who qualified for the free smoke alarms, and arrange my own appointments. One day, I rang an very old lady who lived in a small village about eight miles from Beetley, and she agreed for me to go to her house the next morning at eleven. She was walking using a frame on wheels, and her back was very bent from age and arthritis. I changed her old defunct smoke alarm for a new one, and showed her how it worked. As I was leaving, she presented me with a small Victoria Sponge cake she had made for me, saying “I got up at six this morning to make it fresh for you”. A lovely old lady.

Nice Times (6)

On Holiday in Kenya, 1983. We attended an ‘African Cultural Evening’ staged at the hotel in Mombasa. There were dancers and music, then they produced snakes to be stroked or avoided, depending on your fears. But the best bit for me was when one of the dancers put a live Chameleon on my arm. I have always loved those fascinating creatures, and I watched as it made its way up my shoulder, and eventually sat happily on my head. I can still feel the sensation of it climbing slowly.

I took my mum to one of the most expensive Chinese retaurants in London, the Feng Shang floating Chinese junk, on the Regent’s Canal. https://www.fengshang.co.uk/ My mum always claimed to hate the taste of garlic, yet she devoured garlic prawns and Singapore noodles, before exclaiming they were “Delicious!” The Chinese staff showed great respect for her because of her age, and were very attentive. She had no idea how much that meal cost, but I wouldn’t have cared if it had been ten times more expensive, as she relished the atmosphere for every second she was there.

My last visit to Paris, in the 1990s. We went up a few stages of the Eiffel Tower, took a river trip along The Seine, and we were staying with my dear friend Francoise, who lived in a smart apartment near the centre. When it came time to go home, Francoise had already left for work, and we needed a taxi to take us to get the Eurostar at the Gare Du Nord. I used her phone to call the cab rank, and requested the taxi in very good French. My (second ex) wife looked at me as if I had just split the atom, and said, “You sounded so French”. She was actually surprised when the taxi arrived ten minutes later.

Leaving Ollie at the local Vet when he had just had the tip of his tail bitten off, and needed an operation. The Vet nurse came to get him, and as she led him away on his lead, he stopped and looked round at me. I said, “Good boy, Ollie, you will be okay”, and he trotted off with her, trusting what I had told him. Despite being worried for him, the fact that he had trusted me brought tears to my eyes.

Distant Memories (3)

The early memory flashbacks I wrote about recently have slowed down. However, some came to me late yesterday, as I was settling down to sleep.

A metal spinning top, brightly coloured. It worked by pushing down on a knob at the top, and would spin for a long time if the rachet caught properly. I remember this toy from when I was older, but last night’s memory was perhaps the first time I was given it. Sitting on the floor, my dad kneeling in front of me pushing the top to make it spin. I can feel my mouth wide with a big smile.

Being given a ride on a man’s shoulder’s. Not my dad, probably my uncle, mum’s brother-in-law, judging from his thick black hair that I am holding onto. He runs across the room, and I feel very high up. An old glass lampshade is in front of me, and I can see dead insects inside the large illuminated bowl. He swerves just in time so my head doesn’t hit it.

There is a gold-coloured fire-guard in front of a glowing coal fire. I am either sitting or crawling, and I grab the edge of it. I can feel the heat as it burns the edges of my fingers, then I am swept up, to be carried away somewhere by my mum.

Just fleeting seconds of my life, and all as real as if they happened this morning.

Guest Post: Darlene Foster

I am very happy to present a guest post from the lovely Darlene Foster. Blogger, and published author of the popular ‘Amanda’ series of books, Darlene is from Canada, and lives in Spain.

Babies and Blizzards
By Darlene Foster

I remember when my brother, Timothy, was born. It had been a typical cold and snowy prairie winter with blizzards creating impassable road conditions. Mom expected the third member of our family to arrive in early February. Dad was concerned that the inclement weather might stop him from getting her to the hospital sixty miles away, when the time came. So he took mom and my younger brother, Lorne to stay with our grandparents in the city well before her due date. Since I had school, I stayed with my great-aunt and great-uncle in the small town near our farm.

I was excited about this as I loved Aunt Elsie and Uncle Ed. They treated me well, Aunt Elsie was a great cook and I could walk to school with my older, and therefore much cooler, second cousins.

In their living room stood a cabinet full of amazing books. I would sit in front of it and stare at the titles. Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, A Tale of Two Cities, Robinson Crusoe and other classics. I so wanted to read those books behind the glass doors. I still remember the day when Aunt Elsie said that if I was very careful, I could read one of the books. Believe me, I was extremely careful. Eventually over the years I read every one of those books in that cabinet.

The baby took longer to come than mom thought but finally, on February 10th, she delivered a chubby little boy. Dad drove into the city to see her and reported back that mommy and baby were doing great. She even wrote me a letter and sent it back with dad. Apparently, my other brother was being spoiled by grandma and grandpa. We expected mom, my brother and the new baby to be home in a week.

But, as luck would have it, the day she was released from the hospital, another terrible blizzard blew up and the road to the city was closed to traffic. Grandpa picked mom and baby Timmy up from the hospital and took them back to their place. I was disappointed because Lorne got to see the new baby before I did.

The weather stayed nasty for another week and vehicles were not getting through. Mom had been gone for a month now and I missed her, even though I enjoyed staying in town with my aunt, uncle and cousins. In the city, Mom grew homesick, missing me and dad.

When I returned from school one cold but sunny day, Aunt Elsie told me to keep my coat on and watch for a surprise. Not much later, an old fashioned, covered sleigh pulled by two large draft horses plodded down the road through the glistening snow.

Dad shouted, “Whoa!” The horses stopped in front of my aunt and uncle’s house. Dad let go of the reins, jumped down from the seat in front and with a wide grin, opened the door to the sleigh. Inside sat my mother in a hooded red woollen coat trimmed in rabbit fur, smiling from ear to ear. In her arms, she held a baby bundled up in many blankets.
“In you get,” said dad. “We’re all going home.”

Dad had borrowed the sleigh from a neighbour in order to get his wife back home.

It was a magical moment for a little girl to see her mom and baby brother delivered in a horse-drawn sleigh. Straight from a storybook. It’s one of my fondest memories.

To connect with Darlene and to find out more about her life and her books, please follow these links.

Website: http://www.darlenefoster.ca

Blog: https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

Twitter: Darlene Foster (@supermegawoman) / Twitter

Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/Darlene-Foster/e/B003XGQPHA/

Goodreads: Darlene Foster (Author of Amanda in Arabia) | Goodreads

Distant Memories (2)

Here are some more of these childhood memories from when I was very young. They are still appearing randomly, as brief flashbacks in my mind.

A young woman, or perhaps a girl, is dangling a thick plait or pigtail close to my face. I think I am in a pram, looking up. Her hair is very dark, and this feels like a memory I have had previously. But this time, I reach up and grab the thick hair. I can sense how big it is in my tiny hand, and actually feel the weave of the plait in my fingers.

I am sitting on a floor. It is simple wooden floorboards, painted black. I can see the heads of old nails in the corners of the wood. I move across to a threadbare rug, to retrieve a wooden toy car. As I grab it, it moves further away, and I have to follow it until it is stopped by the leg of a chair.

My dad is watching television. Something happens to make him jump up and shout out loud. That startles me as I am playing, but then I smile because he is happy.
(I think this must have been a football match, but can’t be sure. My dad bought a TV in 1953, when I was one year old.)

Walking awkwardly toward my mum. Her arms are outstreched, as if to catch me. She is kneeling on the floor, and wearing her glasses. I feel myself falling, and then she scoops me up into her arms.

An older female friend or relative arrives in the room. She is wearing a fur coat, and smells very strongly of perfume. She reaches down, picks me up easily, and kisses me. The softness of the fur is the first sensation, then I sneeze because of the perfume, and everyone laughs.

In an unfamiliar bed, and feeling incredibly, unbearably hot. I look to my right and see my mum sitting in a chair next to the bed. Her eyes are red and swollen, and she looks different. She turns to someone I can’t see and says, “He’s awake”.

Distant Memories

Recently, distant memories have started to appear in my mind, like watching an old newsreel clip for the briefest time. They are always childhood memories, mere snapshots of when I was very young, little more than a toddler. As I don’t remember many specifics before I started school at the age of five, those earliest memories fascinate me. They show that memory starts much earlier than I had ever considered.

With the benefit of age, I can now place those memories in their time, in their part of my life. Perhaps growing older and being a reflective person makes them more interesting to me. I don’t know the answer, but I do enjoy those ‘time-travel’ momentary flashbacks.

Sometimes they appear as dreams, and at other times pop into my head as I am driving, or walking around with Ollie. They open a window onto my childhood that I had never previously experienced, and I see them as a blessing.

My dad is trying to light a coal fire on a very cold day. My mum is holding me, having wrapped me in a knitted blanket, and the smoke from the fire refusing to catch is coming out into the room. Dad is holding a newspaper across the fireplace, and my mum gets up to open the window slightly, hoping to let the smoke out of the room.

I am holding a wooden toy. I don’t know what toy it is, but I can feel the wood. My dad enters the room with a towel around his neck and looks down at me, smiling. I hold whatever it is up to him, showing it to him as if he has never seen it before.

Mum is singing to me. I don’t know the song, but I am enjoying listening to it. She is smoking a cigarette, and I am fascinated by the long ash at the end. It grows longer and longer, and I am sure it will fall onto the chair.

A warm day, probably at the seaside on holiday. Mum is holding me as we sit on a small fairground ride. We are astride a wooden animal, perhaps a horse, and the ride is rotating slowly. She tells me to look at my dad, and he has a camera to his face, taking our photo.

I am in the small back garden of my maternal grandparents’ house. My grandfather reaches out to stop me stumbling, taking my hand. He shows me a handful of runner beans he has just picked. I can smell the earth in the garden.

I hope I continue to get many more of these distant memories. I like them a lot.

Selling Yourself: The Last Part

The final episode (that I had forgotten about) of my history of jobs before I became an EMT. No more after this, I promise!

beetleypete

This is the final episode in what has become a seven-part saga relating my experiences in numerous selling jobs. As I come to the end of this part of my history, it has occurred to me that I have now covered on this blog a great deal of my working life; also all three marriages, as well as my day to day life at the moment.

I have commented on countless films, and quite a lot of music, as well as voicing my opinions about world events, domestic politics, and other issues. Almost 330 posts, which I have to look back on, to even remember what I wrote at the time. Am I running out of things to write about? I have lived for sixty-one years, and almost covered that life so far. I will have to hope that this is not the case, and search my memory. I may…

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Selling Yourself: Part Six

Another reblog from 2013, continuing this series about my early career in sales. I thought it was in 6 parts, but have just rediscovered a last part, which I will post tomorrow. I think only Jude has seen this before.

beetleypete

I hope I am not wearing down my readers, with this unusually long series on my exploits in the world of sales. Judging by figures for the posts, enthusiasm has dimmed somewhat since Part One. There is one more to go after this, and that will take me up to the Ambulance Service. No more selling stories to come after that, I promise.

As I have previously told you, I needed a job, as the shop was not paying enough to save for a future. I saw one advertised locally, and had an idea that I could get it, if I gave a good interview. It was back to sausages and pies, something I at least knew a lot about. My first employer in that field had now been swallowed up, and had become part of the brand leader, who had been my second employer. There was a new number…

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Selling Yourself: Part Five

Part five of a series from 2013. This covers the time when my mother and I ran our own business. For the benefit of non-UK readers, an ‘Off-Licence’ is known elsewhere as a ‘Liquor Store’.

beetleypete

At the end of Part Four, I mentioned two more jobs, both covered previously, in other posts. These are behind us as we continue, and it is now 1976. My next sales venture was back in retail, though in a very different way from before, and for totally different reasons. I have touched on this earlier, in a post I called ‘Looking after Mum’, and I will now go into it in more detail, and if you will forgive me, at considerable length.

When my Dad left, and forced the sale of the marital home, I was working as a taxi driver in Kent, and Mum was working in an office job. I was in my early 20’s, and did not want to be tied to a mortgage at the time, especially one taken out with my own Mum. However, it was highly unlikely that we would have qualified for…

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Nice Times (5)

Ollie was born in the bungalow next door, and since lives with us in a bungalow on one level. When he was less than one year old, we asked our next door neighbours the other side to look after him overnight, so we could go to a wedding in Hertfordshire. We took him into their two-storey house to make sure he would settle there, and he spotted the stairs. Although he had no idea what they were, he ran straight up them immediately, then stood on the landing looking down at us. Then he rushed back down, repeating the process numerous times until he was out of breath. He thought they were a game, like a child on a slide in the park. It was so delightful to see him discovering stairs.

A long weekend in Rome, a present for my 50th birthday and my first time in Italy. On the first morning, we walked from the hotel to see The Colosseum. It was so much better than I had expected, and just took my breath away with its grandeur and history. Standing inside, I pictured the gladiators fighting on the sand of the large arena, and the crowds watching. Some things are more wonderful than you can ever imagine they might be, and that was one of them.

After the break up of my first marriage, I had to basically learn from scratch how to fend for myself. Determined not to fall into bad eating habits like microwave meals and shop-bought pizzas, I bought a copy of Delia Smith’s book, ‘How To Cook’. Following her instructions to the letter, I cooked myself a small joint of pork with roast potatoes, accompanied by red cabbage cooked with apples and spices. I sat and ate it on my own, in the small house I had bought in London’s Docklands development. It was delicious!

In 2000, I had moved from Hertfordshire into my flat near Regent’s Park, in Camden. My (second) ex-wife contacted me and said she was going to be shopping in the west end that Saturday with a friend I knew well, and asked if I would like to meet up. I met them in Soho, at a coffee bar in Old Compton Street that was known for selling delicious cakes. (Amato, sadly since closed down) The late Spring weather was lovely, and I was feeling good. We had a nice chat over coffee and cakes, and when they left, I wandered over to Charing Cross Road to look in some of the second-hand bookshops that the area is famous for. I bought three hardback books, and strolled home to the flat, stopping at a pub in Tottenham Court Road. I sat outside drinking a glass of wine, and flicking through the books I had bought. Happy to be back in the heart of the city.

A year later, in 2001, I made the unexpected decision at the age of 49 to leave the Ambulance Service and go to work for the Metropolitan Police. I had to attend the Police Training Centre in Hendon, and complete an intensive 14-week course. It was a pass or fail course, and I knew that if I didn’t get through I would be out of a job for the first time since my youth. I found it hard, as I was the oldest one in the class, and had very little experience of using computers. But when we had the final crucial examination, I passed in the top half of the group. As I drove home that evening, I felt I had really achieved something.