Category Archives: Family

168. What I did in my summer holidays…

1. This summer, I wittered on a bit…

“I’ve got this clear memory of being at school – it must have been more than 65 years ago – and our teacher said something about Parkinson’s. I went home and asked my mum what it was. She frowned a little, then told me it was a brand of cigarettes. So when the teacher asked the next day what we remembered about Parkinson’s…”

There is a chortle across the room from the thirty-odd Rotarians who are listening to Colin thanking me for my first ‘after-lunch’ speech. They seem an affable bunch of chaps – they are all chaps, so just me and the waitress holding up the distaff side of things. Which is a slightly strange experience, vaguely reminiscent of taking Physics A Level.

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167. Blue, blue, my Elsan’s blue…

“Is Mrs Vestibule coming to camp?” asks an Elfin, over the washing-up.

I’m at the other end of the trestle tables, in arm to arm combat with a hefty pan which is coated with industrial quantities of baked bean sauce. So the question is picked up by Brian’s mate, Graham, who has taken a week’s leave from pen-pushing at the Civic Centre to be here, washing dishes in a cold, wet field with the Woodcraft Folk.

“No, she’s afraid of camping.” The entire rota group stops to gawp at this news. As does Sheila.

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164. Rage against the machine…

“Now, when someone joins the department you write their name, date of birth and reference number on this card.  It’s called an M11.”  I nod and try to look intelligent.  It’s my first proper graduate job and I’m being shown the ropes by an old hand in the staffing department.

“What’s the purpose of the card?” I ask.

“Oh, it’s not for us: it’s used by other people in the department.  We just make them and put them into this index box.”

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155. Let us rogate…

I don’t know about you, but what with trying to catch up on Thursday night’s sleep; and with the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; and with the resolution to treat the result as a personal call to arms, I’m right behind with my Rogation Sunday shopping. So here we are again, Rogation Sunday morning and I’ve barely bought my cards, let alone sent them.

Don’t you think it comes around quicker every year?

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154. Your call is important to us…

AnonymousRelative was working for a college teaching English when – just before Christmas – the college was closed and he found himself out of work. He started applying for work: teaching jobs, admin jobs, any sort of job. With his savings fast running out, he signed on for Jobseeker’s Allowance to help him, well, seek jobs. In his neck of the woods, it costs nearly £20 a day to go up to town to look for work. So three days trawling around with CVs pretty much wipes out a week’s JSA. Continue reading →

150. That’s why you’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties…

Aunty Elsie and Aunty Bess are giving me lessons on how to do The Twist. We twist down; we twist up again. Well, shake it up Baby now. There’s standing room only– no, twisting room only – in Aunty Vi’s lounge because The Family – Pa’s family, that is – certainly know how to throw a party.

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141. Waugh and peace…

Unable to sleep the other night, I started listening to a wireless programme about Evelyn Waugh and the writing of his first novel – “Decline and Fall.” He was a strange cove to be sure – and, of course, married someone who was also called Evelyn. It must have made the arrangement of Secret Santa presents a complete nightmare.

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133. Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams…

“What I most remember about Great-Gran’s were the mangles in the garden,” said LittleBro, as we were chatting this afternoon. “I was told that they were for the hens. It’s only recently that I’ve realised it was the chicken food that was mangled and not the actual chickens.”

For me, Great Gran’s was a garden with hollyhocks above my head. An outside loo with a wide, wooden seat and paper on a string. Ginger biscuits, a budgerigar and Dr Who.

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119. Ssshh!

And on the subject of Family Planning, did you know that Marie Stopes disinherited her son because he married someone whom she considered to have ‘inferior traits’, namely poor eyesight? You did? I only heard the other day, whilst listening to an old In Our Time. It had passed me by completely, Marie Stopes being a eugenicist. Another hero bites the dust.

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114. This shall be for a bond between us…

Flossie came in with the other children, about ten minutes before the end of Meeting. For a while she squirmed on a lap. Then, she wriggled free and crawled across the centre of the Meeting House to the feet of an elderly Quaker. His shoes had enticingly long laces, textured brown leather, solid stitching. It all needed close examination and she stretched out her hand to pull at the lace.

The look on her face was that of pure wonder. For the rest of the Meeting, she was absorbed in exploring the footwear of assorted, obliging Quakers. And we were equally absorbed in watching her.

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