Thursday, June 24, 2021

Army sport

Until I did my national service I had never seen a game of rugby. Bear in mind that this was in the days before TV.

Whilst doing my military police training we were supposed to have Saturday afternoons free but if the camp rugby team were playing at home then we were obliged to watch. Standing on the edge of a football pitch that did not look like a football pitch and the goalposts were a strange shape as well. Not my idea of a free Saturday afternoon!

And I did not understand what was going on at all. Having played football at school and attended a few professional games I was well aware of the need to keep the ball on the pitch. These rugby players seemed to spend a lot of the time throwing the ball off the pitch and then throwing it back on again. All very strange. 

And then there were the scrums.  A very odd procedure to someone who had not seen the game previously.  The two teams seem to huddle together on the pitch and try to push their opponents until suddenly the ball is thrown into the middle and then kicked out again. Being of a logical bent even in those days I could not work out the point of that. 

After the match, both teams went into the Naafi, got drunk together, and sang bawdy songs.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Come straight home

I am sure that I was not a particularly stupid child but I did not seem to be able to understand the stricture "come straight home from school".  At infants school in Wapping the way home was through the park (now called recreation ground) and there was a playground in the park...How was I expected to bypass the playground and go straight home, even though I knew that my mum was watching from the window of our top floor flat and could see me? 

 Later when we were evacuated to Brighton, the way home went past a monumental mason working in his outside workshop. I got lost in amazement as I watched him chisel out the lettering on a gravestone then later fill it with little lead triangles and then paint over the top. How I wanted to go in and get a closer look and learn how to do it, and the time went by!

 When we moved to Guildford and I was billeted at Shalford which was about two and half miles from school then there were plenty of distractions along the way.   Lewis Carrol's house with illustrations from Alice on the garden entrance: the river Wey ran for quite a long way along the road and at times there were folk rowing there or the water birds to watch.   In the winter months a meadow alongside the river was flooded from a sluice gate in the river and froze. Custom designed for small boys to skate on. 

Living with my mum after running away from my evacuee billets we lived in a small cottage in Trinity churchyard.  At the foot of the stairs leading into the churchyard there was a second hand bookshop which had a box of damaged books available for free.  Always worth a look for a few minutes or more. 
And so it went on.  Going straight home was never an option. 

Friday, April 30, 2021



Rambling is one of those words which have a number of meanings.  When we were young it mostly meant a weekend activity with a group of friends going for a walk in the countryside.  A group of us from the local branch of the Labour Party League of Youth in Lewisham used to go out to Farnborough, Kent to the end of the number 47 bus route and follow one of the walks listed in a small book sold by the Evening news. 

Most of the walks started off by going through the churchyard but then diverged to different walks, some circular  returning to Farnborough, others finished elsewhere like Down or Halstead, mostly at a pub. These were never particularly active outings like keen ramblers seem to do these days with there alpine walking sticks and backpacks.  Ours were  more a country stroll with frequent stops just to loll about in the grass and talk.  We used to do a lot of talking in those days, rather more than groups of similarly aged young people in the twenty-first century. 

 At the end of the day it was usually wend our way home by the next available bus, and if we had been in the pub there was usually some singing including the Red Flag and the the Internationale, much to the consternation of homegoing church goers.  Getting a bus  could be hit and miss on a Sunday evening so the alternative was a walk to the nearest country railway station and the train to one of stations near home depending on which line we were on. The train journey was frequently free as country stations in those days were rarely manned on a Sunday so there was no one to buy a ticket from and at the other end there was no ticket collector either. It didn't seem illegal when there was no one to collect the fares. 

That kind of rambling is for the relatively young and fit.  As you get  older there is a greater inclination to do the other kind were your mind rambles around in a haphazard way, trying to remember a name that escapes  or a memory which is no longer as clear as it used to be.   C'est la vie.

What A Life!

I started researching our family history perhaps 40 years ago and started writing them up some 20 years ago. My first books I printed myself on a laser printer and just sent copies to those family members that I thought might be interested. Later I started having my books printed on Amazon, originally Createspace and now KDP.

I started blogging about 15 years ago about genealogy and family history, odd stories about my research and so on and then started to include small anecdotes from my childhood before the war and as a evacuee from London.

I've written and published some ten books mostly family histories of our ancestors and two detective novels. Some of my family have read what I have written and suggested that I should write my own story.

I am not a great fan of autobiographies so I am reluctant to consider that my own life story is worth a book. Does the world really need another diary of a nobody? I suppose I have had a fairly interesting life, married and raised a family and done a variety of jobs. the archetypal Jack of all trades I suppose. Our travels as a family have taken us to the other side of the world and back, but we do not need another travel book.

I have promised to write my story, if only for the information of my family who have claimed that they know little of my life before they were born. I have started but it is a bit off and on, so many things get in the way. However it has come to me, on my birthday that whilst I am trotting towards the end of my life, my memory is actually galloping away. So many things that I used to remember quite clearly are not just fuzzy but non-existent. So many names and places that I can no longer recall, struggle as I might. So I will have to knuckle down and get it written soon.

Take heed all writers out there. If your story is worth recording then do it now.

Tempus fugit and all that as well as Memento Mori

Saturday, March 27, 2021

WW1 Prisoners of War made to work

Saw a film on TV this week called Land of Mines.  Danish made and tells the story of a group of young German POWs after the end of WW2 being compelled to clear landmines on a Danish beach, with the inevitable consequences.

Reminded me that my cousin Harold Daynton had a similar experience in WW1.  He had been captured near Albert,in France in February 1918  and had been shipped off to Germany.   They were asked to volunteer for work as carpenters and as conditions in the camp were so bad many did so in the hope of better rations.  They were disappointed as then a group of the men where  taken back to battlefields in  France their "carpentry" work job being to locate and make safe booby-trapped buildings which the Allies had vacated in the massive German Attack of 21st march. 
They moved around with their Guards to various locations for different tasks. They apparently got on well with the four Guards who sympathised with their situation but explained how short of food and other vital supplies in Germany  actually were. They stayed with these Guards for the remainder of the war, receiving no rations so living  on what food they could steal or acquire. 

 On 11 November they all shook hands, with the Germans walking eastwards and the 10 British POW’s walking westwards. That took quite a time as they were actually released somewhere in the triangle of  Aachen/Verviers/Maastricht and their long trudge took until late November when they reached Calais. They finally reached England on a ship on December 2nd.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Tell it to the Marines

My Mums uncle, Edward Eder joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry

at the age of 19 in 1881. Served for twelve years in Gibraltar, Malta  and Egypt, including  the Sudan during the Mahdi rebellions but was not involved in the disastrous Siege of Khartoum as far as I can gather.  But he did receive the Egyptian Medal and the Khedive Star so he must have been around somewhere.
Left the Marines in 1894, mostly earned good conduct pay having spent only seven days in the cells which for the army of the time was good going over a period of just over twelve years.

Obviously he  did not settle to civilian life as he signed up again in May 1901 into the Royal Garrison Artillery and remained in until May 1905 spending most of his time in Gibraltar.  

There is a family story that Edward visited his Grandfather in Trieste during his military service but this seems unlikely as the journey from Gibraltar would have taken quite a long time.

When the first world war came along Edward signed up again in October 1915 but was discharged in December as being "unlikely to become an efficient soldier".  

According to his Service record Edward was 5 foot 6 and half inches when he joined in 1881 but was 5 foot nine and half inches in 1894.  Obviously the good life in the Marines. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

The qwerty keyboard and me.

 I have had an association with the qwerty keyboard for something like 72 years and sadly it appears to be coming to an end.  I am still a reasonably competent touch typist but an unexplained damage to my left wrist some four months ago has meant that I have not been able to use my left hand for typing and I think I am l;osing the ability to do so.

Many two finger typists would consider that not to be a problem.  But if you learned touchtyping all those years ago then that is the only way you can type.  The constant repetion of familiar keys when learning to touch type means that the fingers automatically go to the correct key to press without having to think about it.  I think this is called muscle memory consolidation.  Your right hand then  does not necessarily  know where the keys normally pressed by the left are located. 

I tried to use speech recognition software but the skill involved in thinking and talking at the same time is completely diferent to thinking and typing at the same time.  I used to be fairly competent in having my fingers on the keyboard keeping up  with my mental flow when I was writing, say  for instance something like a blog.   But to dictate to the computer and watch the words coming up  on the screen inhibits the thought flow.  At least  does for me.