Sunday, September 29, 2019

Blue knickerbockers and the seven dwarfs

Small boys often have a problem learning to control the bladder.  I was no exception and at school was frequently asking to leave the classroom.  Despite teachers and others  knowing this I was often put in a situation which made it impossible.

The earliest I recall was being one of the seven dwarfs in the school pantomime.  Make up your own mind as to which one I was.  Being no more than  toddlers, we had very little part to play but were under strict instructions not to move about or to leave the stage.  By the end of the performance where I stood on the stage of the St. George in the East Town Hall was a very large puddle.

The Catholic Church of St. Patrick had an annual May procession.  Quite a long one, three bands and  all the school children, girls in their white communion dresses and the boys in best clothes.  The May Queen had several attendants including two page boys in blue velvet suits, white stockings and buckled shoes.  No doubt based on Little Lord Fauntleroy.  For some inexplicable reason one year I was chosen to be a page boy.

 The procession took some time  to go around the parish, stopping frequently at the kerbside grottoes put up by the parishioners.  By the time we got back to the church my white stockings were as blue as the knickerbockers.

Even when a little older being an altar boy still presented problems particularly during longer services so the strain of holding myself became too much.  Even after passing out in the side benches on the altar I was still included until on one occasion there was quite an spectacular fall while the Bishop was preaching, so I was not an altar boy again.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

St. Johns Church,Wapping

As a child, between the wars I lived round the corner from the Anglican church of St John of Wapping. Catholic children in those days were told not to go into Protestant churches for fear of eternal damnation.

As usual for children, this morphed into the belief that the devil lived there so that not only did we not go into the church we would cross over to the other side of the road in order not to pass by.

There was also a  churchyard there then with many gravestones but most have now been displaced and the area is a garden, the church itself being bombed during the war, with only the tower remaining.

St. John of Wapping was the parish church for a small area of Wapping which dated back to 1760 and it was in the churchyard here that Robert Hartup Jury, my wife's four times  great grandfather, was buried in 1824. He had been apprenticed as a Lighterman in Wapping in 1773 although born in Maker, Cornwall, married and raised nine children and lived in several addresses in Wapping some of which he owned. Robert also owned several barges at the time of his death as well as a share in a coastal brig.There were several other members of the Jury family buried in the churchyard but there are no signs of their resting places left now.

Needless to say, that as a young boy walking and playing nearby I had no means of knowing about the connection with the Jury family and this church which would occur later.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

We do not exist on Earth

This is a picture of where we live as shown on Google earth!!


And this is how it is.

Its not surprising then that if we give people our postcode to visit us then many, particularly taxi drivers using some satnavs cant find us! 

The Google Earth picture is what the area actually like some five years ago, a former industrial site,  before building work began on the block of apartments and houses that we live in. If we were paranoid then we would be thinking that there is some kind of conspiracy to stop us being found.  Are we on some witness protection programme that we don't know about?  Answers on a postcard please as fortunately the postman knows where we are.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Musical memories

The first time I heard the melody of O Sole Mio was a slightly bawdy song my grandmother used to sing which went something like:

Old Mother Riley
She bought a cow
But to milk it
She didn't know how
She pulled its tail,instead of its tit
Old mother Riley got covered in snow.

My cousin Vicki, who lived in the same house as my grandmother as a girl refused to accept this.  She had never heard our grandmother sing and in any case would not of have sang a song like that.  Well this is not a false memory and anyway I could not have made up words like this at the age of ten.

When one of my older brothers returned from serving in Italy during WW2 he had learned quite a bit of Italian and lots of Italian and Neapolitan songs.
One of his favourites was O Sole Mio which he would play on the piano and any other instrument he could get his hands on, which included a mandolin which I had bought out of curiosity in a second hand shop.

It was only much later that I realised that the tune was the same as Gran's little ditty.

Later on of course there was Elvis with "It's now or never" with essentially the same melody. and then later there were the wonderful renditions of the original song by the three tenors in concert.

Goes to show that there's nothing new.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Roaming the countryside

Over a relatively long life there are a lot of things that have changed. Some for the better,some not.
I don't have much contact with young children these days but I get the impression that they do not have the freedom that we had. Not surprising perhaps with parental concerns about safety, but a bit sad.
Although born in the east end of London I spent several years as a evacuee in Guildford. There from about ten years of age, boys like myself were free to roam about,alone or with just a few mates.  The woods of Stoke park, the downs above the town, stolen train journeys to Clandon or Horsley and the walk back or the bus if we had the fare.
The woods in the park were enemy territory, Sherwood forest or just a place to make camps or climb trees. There was also a old tramp who camped there during the summer in a makeshift tent and cooked his food over a camp fire. There were beech trees in the woods with nuts in the autumn and in the park itself there were several walnut trees.  The taste of a fresh walnut is completely different to the ones bought at Christmas time.

Up on Pewley down there were different attractions: wild apples, crab apples, blackberries and other edibles from trees in the hedgerows like nuts and berries. And of course there were more woods with protection from enemy aircraft or places to ambush the sheriff of Nottingham's men.
Along the footpath alongside the River Wey,  there was a small rock pool below a clear water stream running down from St. Martha's hill.  After a drink from the pool by lying on your stomach, climbing up alongside the stream, at the top of the hill there was a small plantation of bamboo canes. Ideal material for boys with their penknives to fashion bows and arrows.