Category Archives: Author Sue’s memories

D Day Invoked Memories

Watching the D Day Commemorations encouraged my mum to share some memories I don’t think I have heard before. This is surprising, because she does share a lot of memories – a lot of times (joke Dad).

Mum was aged 14 on D Day. Her own dad, whom she always refers to in a rather Enid-Blyton-esque way as Father (and her mum as Mother), served in both wars. We children called our grandfather Bampy. He started out as Grampy but that was hurriedly changed when we thought it very funny to call him Grumpy.

I don’t know why we called him Grumpy. I don’t remember ever finding him so, although other members of my family may differ in their opinions of him. My memories of the man – a somewhat straight-laced fellow with a military air, who is now long gone, having passed away at the age of 99 – are of sitting on his knee while he pressed his warm, smooth, pocket watch to my ear to hear it tick. Later I recall his delight at my visits from Sheep Country, especially when I brought my new daughter toddling across his threshold (she is 30 now!)

In WW1 Bampy was at Ypres. I have a copy of the Wipers Times brought back by him when his time in the trenches was over. When he got home he stripped off and told Nanna to burn his clothes. He slept outside for some time. Perhaps the peace and birdsong acted as a balm.

In WW2, as an architect, he had a reserved profession so escaped active service. Instead he became part of the  Home Guard.

Because he had military experience he was made a Sergeant and found himself in command of a gaggle of men not unlike those in the 1960s and 70s TV series, Dad’s Army.

From what I can gather, the Home Guard was very similar to its depiction in Dad’s Army. Bampy’s men had little idea of what constituted a platoon, or indeed the meaning of discipline or rules. On one occasion they were given a rifle. I don’t know where it came from but Bampy was responsible for training his men in its use. One man held it to his shoulder and focused his eye through the sight at whatever he was aiming at. The rest of the group gathered around to watch.

At the last minute, one hapless (or is it stupid?) fellow, decided to check the view the gunner would have. He put his head in the line of fire and was shot through the nose.

Simon Drew picked up a tea towel, Simon drew.

On another occasion the platoon was to practice an assault on a neighbouring village. The plan was for Bampy to spend the night in a guest house in the village and creep out at night to meet the rest of his motley band. Don’t ask me why he had to stay in the village, or where the others were. Anyway, at the allotted hour he rose from his bed, dressed in camouflage and tiptoed along the landing, to be confronted by a snarling German Shepherd dog at the bottom of the stairs. This brought the operation to an abrupt end.

The family lived in Burgess Hill, which was within a certain number of miles from the sea. This meant that access was restricted. All the beaches were covered with loops of barbed wire, and some were also dotted with land mines.

Mum went to school outside the zone. She travelled  by train.  When she stepped onto the platform on her way home she was required to show her ID.  Bampy commuted daily to London and was subjected to the same rule. Their ID’s were different . His was for an adult and hers for a child.

Nanna’s sister, Gladys, was married to Clifford, a dim and alcoholic chap who also served on the home front as part of the anti-invasion force. His duty was to watch for enemy ships and planes from a pill box (Who knew there was so much to learn about pill box design?)

 

‘Father’ 2nd from left and Clifford far right. Sorry it’s a bit blurry.

One man stood on the roof while the other, in this case Clifford, remained inside. I don’t know if Clifford was bored, or perhaps he was practising his gun skills, which I doubt  he learned from Bampy. However, Clifford managed to fire his gun through the roof of the pill box, narrowly missing the poor chap above, who was minding his own business studying the horizon.

 

When at home, my mum, as a member of the Girl Guides, would carry out duties to support the war effort. These included delivering local mail and picking up litter. Knowing all these small details helps me to visualise her life and I am grateful that these moving D Day commemorations have allowed me to hear her stories.

Thank you Mum xxx

Luddites and Banking

Do you ever think about how long you have known some of your friends? Whizz and I have been married for 19 years, and my friendship with the couple we visited  the weekend before last, Cop and Tax, predates this by about 20 years.  In other words I have known them twice as long as I have known Whizz. Whizz recently referred to them as old friends of Lil’s, before realising that now, they are old friends of his as well. We are a couple of old gits… It happens.

The weekend with Cop and Tax , was as fabulous as ever. The couple, who many years ago, relinquished their unpopular careers in favour of self-sufficiency,  always provide a stonking dinner and a healthy country pastime. On this occasion the activity was a point to point.

Two Friends, Oil on canvas by Arthur Kurtz ‎

I will digress here to relate a tale about the last point-to-point I attended. It was with friends of Cop – some of the Hooray-Henries mentioned in this: past post. On that occasion, a rider in one of the races was known to my companions.

‘Never bet on him,’ they advised, ‘He always falls off his horse.’ (When I say bet, I’m only talking a couple of quid, probably less in those days). Needless to say, this ‘chap’ didn’t fall off, he stormed home in first place.

File:Cross country with horse and hound (1902) (14596537038).jpg

Cross Country with Horse and Hound, Peer, Frank Sherman, Published in Horse and Hound 1902

It was the memory of that first point-to-point that prompted me to attend an event of which, in truth, I disapprove in terms of its exploitation of animals. I don’t plan to do anything like that again. The occasion offered a viewing of the Grand National later on, but I’m afraid I refused at that jump. To me, the Grand National epitomises the ugly imposition of man(kind?) over its fellow sentient beings. Sorry race goers it is only my opinion and I don’t plan to throw red paint over you.

During my gambling life I have won nothing, hence, I hardly do it. If there’s a sweepstake at work or maybe a raffle, I invariably pick the option that arrives or occurs  last, or doesn’t arrive at all. The best thing I ever won was in a raffle, a bent, patent-plastic  belt. That is, until this point-to-point. For once I backed horses, to win, in three separate races, and two of them, ones with reasonable odds, passed the finish line in first place. Whoop Whoop, £7.50 profit. It may not seem  exciting to you, but it made my day.

Before we left for the races, Cop and Tax provided their usual, delicious, home-produced grub. Over lunch, Tax, at the grinning behest of Cop,  related her recent experience of banking technology.

Someone, I don’t remember whom, had given her a cheque. I imagine most readers will know that outside the Metropolis, banks are a rarity, and should you happen upon one, human cashiers are as common as elephants’ ballet shoes. Tax found herself at the mercy of a machine. She must insert her debit card and enter the amount, sort-code and account-number. This she did, and with a sense of triumph went home, confident that the total would somehow fetch up in her current account.

Days passed and the money did not appear, so she got in touch with a call centre – more buttons to press but at least she could talk to a human. The sum had not arrived, it must be assumed that it was one of those that had disappeared into the ether. Feeling justified in her mistrust of technology, Tax contacted the donor of the cheque, who checked their account to see whether it had been debited and reported back that it had definitely been through the account – in fact it had been through twice, once as a debit and again as a credit.

Poor Tax will never live down having carefully keyed into the bank machine, the account number and sort code on the cheque.

Someone else who will feel a bit silly, is the person who enabled this sign to appear across the country in a well known supermarket.

Stationary stationery!

Child Quote 15

I suppose, really, that Mavis should no longer be called a child, now that she is 18, however she is still my child and this is my blog so I’m continuing the Child Quote theme.

We are in the Easter holidays; both of us at home. This is a rare opportunity for me to have some quality time with Mavis – when she gets up, and doesn’t have her nose pressed to her phone. Today we went out for lunch and then to see The Greatest Showman. The film was not my favourite, but it entertained me enough to keep me awake, and Mavis enjoyed it, which is enough for me.

It was while dining that conversation led to my proposal that, as there was a bit of time, perhaps we could browse around a couple of clothes shops. ‘I feel like a change of look. Give myself a bit of style,’ I said.

‘You already have a style,’ Mavis replied. Aah, was this daughter of mine about to pay me a compliment?

‘Do I?’

‘Yeah, Batty Old Teacher style.’

I paused, thinking that I rather liked the idea of looking a bit batty. ‘I don’t mind looking like a batty teacher,’ I said. ‘Like Mrs Slopes?

‘No,’ Mavis corrected, ‘A batty old teacher. Mrs Slopes looked like a batty teacher, but you look like the kind of teacher that makes the kids wonder if you’re a witch.’

I think I prefer her when she’s ignoring me.

Some funny things have happened at last, involving Christmas

I know it’s a bit late for a Christmas theme but this post has been rumbling round  in my head since that time. Thanks to a watery, chesty virus keeping me from work,  I have the opportunity to put finger to keyboard. It’s a ill wind and all that.

This Christmas was a weird one for my family. We all spent it in ways never experienced before. My sister went to her ‘in laws’, my brother went to his, the only ones he has ever had, as he was married for the first time this summer.

My esteemed parents stayed home alone and indulged, allegedly cheerfully, in roast beef and alcohol.

By the author

Their aloneness (I think I have made up this word) made me a little uneasy.

Someone else who added to my unease was Mavis, who was contracted to work on Boxing Day. This would not have been such a bad thing had Whizz and I not agreed to go to Horace’s, in Canalshire (work it out), for the festive season.

During the run up to Christmas, we all hoped that the Pharmaceutical chain for whom Mavis works, let’s call them ‘Wellies’,  would be able to swing it so she could have the Boxing Day off, but at the last minute, several people who were also working the same shift, handed in their notices and that was that. Mavis was home alone too.

Henny how, on  to some post-Christmas entertainment.

First: I was recruited by my school to take on the task of  being Santa for the littlies (another made up word). I was presented with a beautiful and thankfully elasticated, scarlet velour outfit, and a wig and beard of the bristly, curly variety. I adopted a voice that Whizz, when I tried it out on him, said sounded more like Winston Churchill than Santa, but since I don’t think he has ever conversed with the latter, I took the remark as approbation, and assumed it in my role.

I was led by the head (duh, not my head, the head teacher), to the Foundation class, where I was introduced, amid childish gasps, to about 50 wee ones. I then settled into a side room and the children were called, one at a time 50 of them – to come and tell me what they would like me to bring them on my sleigh. A teacher attended to take photos.

Wow, did I get into role.  I was magnificent with my, ‘Hello little boy and ‘Have you been good?’ and ‘Make sure you leave me a mince pie.’

Unfortunately the combination of Churchill’s voice and a tickly beard became too much for my throat after the thirtieth child. I began to cough. My eyes watered and my nose ran into the pristine moustache, until a teacher had to intervene and suggest I took a comfort break. Poor little kids looked really worried but none seemed to notice that on my return, my voice had become less Churchillian and more Barbara Woodhouse.

Second: At the same time as I was dressed as F.C., Mavis was bemoaning the fact that she was expected to dress as a Pixie for her work as a sales assistant in ‘Wellies’ (No, she didn’t wear wellies, that is the name of the shop. I did tell you before).

On the few days before the big day, she went on the bus – in normal clothes, refusing to draw attention to herself, even though she would be wearing a coat.

During the course of one day, a small but articulate child accosted her.

‘Why aren’t you in the North Pole helping Santa?’ she demanded, clutching her father’s hand.

‘Well,’ replied Mavis, ‘I’m doing a bit of shopping for him.’

‘The child looked puzzled. ‘But you make all the presents…’

‘Ah,’ replied Mavis with lightning wit, ‘He has to buy some because of copyright.’

The father collapsed into guffaws.

I was rather proud of Mavis for this quick thinking.

Third: Nothing to do with my Christmas, but one of our bed and breakfast guests shared this experience over a beer one evening.

He had tickets for the World  Darts Championship – the semi-finals I think. It seems that it is de rigueur to dress up for these occasions and so he wore his faithful Santa hat. This was no ordinary hat, it was remote controlled. At the touch of a button, the top wagged from side to side in time to a Christmas tune. Over the years the tune had worn a bit thin so he had disconnected the sound, but the hat still flopped to left and right at his ‘digital’ command.

It seems that he and his son, took up a position near to a speaker. Every time the commentator yelled, ‘One hundred and eighteeee’, the vibration set off his hat so that it wagged from side to side in excitement. This guy is an engineer, not given to excitable outbursts, but clearly his alter-ego hat had other ideas.

Ooh, here’s the other funny thing: I received a tea towel from my brother and sister in law. I know, not that exciting but it’s very funny. If you don’t think it’s funny you are either too young or you should not be here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.simondrew.co.uk/

Simon Drew picked up a pencil. Simon Drew.

Life is for Learning

You might think that there’s not much left to learn by the time you reach your 60s. Think again. My last couple of years have probably been the most life-changing of all. I suppose that becoming a Nichirin Buddhist has affected that in many ways but this is not intended to be about the benefits of Buddhism. The Buddhism contributes to the self-awareness and thence to happiness and fulfilment and because of that, this post is about creativity and me.

As you know, I am a writer – well, I write, but I also teach children with special educational needs, and run a Bed and Breakfast business on Airbnb, so my writing time is limited.

Our bed and breakfast guests are diverse. Many are inspiring but some, we are pleased to wave goodbye to, and one or two become friends. More about the friends later.

It was our lodger (call him Roger – of course) who started it. He longs for an idyllic life, running a tea room by the sea and selling his paintings to tourists. He and I talk a lot about painting.

Before he started staying with us, I had suppressed my urge to paint, telling myself I didn’t have time for anything else in my life. With Roger’s presence in the house, I have changed my mind. All that talk of landscape and portrait. When I spotted  and an advert in a local magazine for lessons with the inspirational teacher, Lorna Moore, I decided to sign up. What an amazing decision it turned out to be.

I’m not about to be the next Hockney, but I am improving all the time.

The way I have found the extra opportunity in my day, has been to stop watching television. I have also knocked some minor domestic things on the head. I no longer make our bed in the morning – nobody sees it anyway. I run the dishwasher more often and employed a lad to do some gardening for a while at the beginning of the summer. We also pay a dog walker (runner) once a week.

In December I read an article by Jon Westonberg  encouraging readers to make a life plan – duh. How had it taken me this long to recognise the wisdom of his words. Make a list he suggested, and avoid anything that distracts you from it.

I think Jon may be a little younger than I because his list contains 100 items. I’m not saying I’m old but (call me negative …) I don’t believe I have enough years left for 100 things . Here follows my list. It is pinned on my kitchen wall – well, attached by a magnet to a paella pan as a matter of fact. I reckon I have 20 years if I’m lucky assuming I still have all my marbles, which is in the balance as this blog will testify:

  1. Write 4 novels
  2. Get an Art degree
  3. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey
  4. Volunteer at a homeless shelter
  5. Go to Australia
  6. Go to New Zealand
  7. Go to the Galapagos Islands
  8. Go on safari
  9. Find my inner Buddha
  10. Run 2 miles without getting out of breath
  11. Eat at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at the Savoy (This is a no-no as it has closed.)
  12. Lose 1 stone (chanting to change my eating and drinking karma for these three)
  13. Lose another stone
  14. Lose a third stone
  15. Get an article published in a magazine
  16. Get a story published in a magazine
  17. Run a writing course
  18. Sell my books in hard copy
  19. Visit all the houses I’ve ever lived in
  20. Illustrate my books
  21. Work with words

The list – thanks to Jon, and my positive mental attitude – thanks to Nichirin (and me), are the reason for my life-changing couple of years.

Note on my list points 18 – 20.:

20 is ticked for book 1

18 and 19 are in progress

I have regained control over Be Careful What You Wish For, re-edited the content and painted a new cover, inspired by Lorna Moore. This is now uploaded as an eBook (see picture, above, and the paperback version is at the printer’s. Exciting times.

I have decided to enrol on an art degree in 2020, when Mavis has finished her first year at university. Wait? How sensible of me – a sign I am weening myself off knee-jerk decisions. If I’m honest I’m a bit nervous about uni, but I’m gonna do it anyway.

Notes 12 – 14: I’ve lost lots of weight – and regained it. Hmm, keep chanting Lil.

I am living number eight, vicariously through Horace at the moment, who is honeymooning in South Africa.

Number 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A full course is planned for the autumn.

So, lookout world, here I come, limping but determined. Ooh, I nearly forgot the obligatory funny story, Well I thought this was funny anyway:

One of our guests (call him Boatman), who has become a friend, was at the breakfast table and I was telling him about Mavis’s wedding, and the fact that over the course of the weekend I had found 2 raffle tickets in the turn-up of my jeans. I had kept them for a while, mistakenly wondering if they were a sign of impending fortune.

‘The strangest thing I found in my turn-up was a fish,’ he said.

‘A fish?’

‘Yes. Years ago I was tottering home from the pub and I had to use some stepping stones to cross a stream. I missed my footing and stepped into the water. When I got home there was a Stickleback in my turn-up.’

I don’t know why, but I found this very funny. It’s so random, and the word Stickleback was perfectly placed in the story. I’m giggling as I write. Hope you giggle, too.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.