(These pieces are the harmless ramblings of an intelligent, well-educated and well-travelled man and they are read and enjoyed by many. It is advisable to avoid over analysing in the name of political correctness. The ramblings are generally well informed and amusing but there is no malice intended. The ramblings have been published on the website for four years and have taken up a significant amount of storage which has affected the editing of the website. For this reason the original text has been deleted for most of the pieces but has been stored for access for those who may wish to visit the earlier thoughts of Mr Rugge - Price.
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We Brits are in a bit of a pickle right now so it’s no coincidence that this week was the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. At the time this took place I was a mere four months old and so too young to be able to watch it, but I took great interest in subsequent aerial battles over the next few years.
The Regiment must have been stationed somewhere in the south of the Country, in an area that the incoming enemy bombers would have to fly over in order to get to their target city.
On one occasion, hearing the overhead rumble, I scampered out on to the barrack square to watch the spitfires attack the enemy formation. Imagine the scene above me, bombers droning on while Our Boys dived in and out of the column firing all the time, what patriotic young man wouldn’t want to watch! It was Boys Own gone balmy!
I was oblivious to the fact that spent rounds and shell cases were spattering all around me, but Regimental Sergeant Major Hinds saw me and ran out to pick me up. The last thing he needed was me splattered all over his precious Square.
View in the rear-view mirror of a Heinkel bomber
I’m pleased to see that a Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Squadron will honour Dame Vera Lynn with a fly past at her funeral. She deserves every moment of it.
As the opening up from Lockdown continues we have begun getting DFDs (Down for the Day, in case you’ve forgotten) but so far in very small numbers. I would imagine that most sensible folk are wary of crowds and will probably be so for a while yet. The pubs are serving food but given the small number gathering at the feeding trough, there cannot be much profit, but at least they are open and as always, the show must go on even if we can’t all watch it.
Have you noticed the lovely little hand painted stones being left around the village, underneath there’s a notice “Orford Rocks on Facebook”.
If you find one, move it to a new spot!
In the more upmarket American coastal areas like Massachusetts or Connecticut and parts of Rhode Island, visiting Coneheads are now called DFDs, ‘Down for the Day’ visitors arriving after the Covid D Lockdown easing.
Having seen the tsunami of DFDs in Bournemouth and Clacton, it just shows that there are times when we, in Orford, can be truly thankful for the smelly and muddy shores of the Ore.
What was even more hideous were the vast amounts of garbage left by the DFDs, not just plastic bottles and paper, but piles of human poo as well.
Now we all know the feeling, if yer gotta go, yer gotta go! But might you not have considered that in your pre trip planning? And yes, portable potties proliferate, just check out Karryable Khazees on Amazon!
Britain is listed as one of the dirtiest Countries in the World, which is very shaming, when you consider some other countries that you thought might qualify for this award.
One hundred and twenty two tonnes of cigarette related garbage are picked up every day in the U.K., now add in plastic bottles, beer cans and takeaway food cartons etc and you have some idea just how we came out top in the Litter League!
There’s a tendency to blame the young, and yes many are scruffy, but so are some of their parents.
If you are awarded Community service as a punishment, why not dress up the guilty in orange jumpsuits and made to clear up trash? The public shame might deter many.
To Mask or not to Mask that is the question..
On our first of many upcoming trips to the Royal Brompton Hospital yesterday, we discovered that face masks obliterated any possible chance of clear and understandable speech on our iPhone, it’s all cloth-eared speak , and the sounds reminded me of my mates, the Clangers, on children’s TV.
However, everyone in the Hospital had them on, and I suppose we are being a tad lax in Orford now that all the DFDs are about to arrive, so I’m going to wear one, I just need to get the right colour.
Judging by some of my latest paintings, I’m beginning to drift off into the mist, maybe they are telling me something, but I can’t remember what!
I expect that most of you are looking forward to The Lockdown End of Term celebrations with much glee and excitement, the ability to see family and friends in person rather than on Zoom. Notice I didn’t say “loved ones’ it’s a real yucky saying.
You will be going shopping for exciting eatables rather than deliveries from local shops or Ocado; or you will be able go to the beach; have a meal in the pub with others and swap your horrible histories of Lockdown with old mates. That will surely be an exciting topic!
The world is almost your oyster again, nearly but not quite.
Well then, spare my Mrs and me a thought, me old China, cos we ain’t goin nowhere fast it seems.
Paula’s fortnightly hospital treatments that are now beginning again, and NHS rules require us both to be Covid tested every fourteen days before we can gain admittance to the Royal Brompton Hospital for her treatment to take place. That means we are permanently isolating and this could well be ad infinitum unless a vaccine is found to work. So you may never see us again, other than a possible passing glimpse as we drive by in our own “bubble within in a car” with a queenie-like royal wave. As Private Fraser said ‘We’re Doomed Laddie” and while Vera Lynn’s death is extremely sad, the words she sung, “We’ll meet again don’t know where, don’t know when......” are beginning to have new foreboding concept for both of us.
Just to check on the Covid testing system I visited the Ipswich Copdock Drive Thru, time spent in reconnaissance is rarely wasted was our old Army Battle cry.
They are very efficient and helpful especially when dealing with a deaf old fart like me. To start with all windows, have to be shut tight so that means I can’t hear diddlysquat.
A nice masked young lady technician appeared at the window and was clearly speaking to me, but even with hearing aids I couldn’t hear her so I pointed to both ears and then made a throat cutting gesture and went to wind down the window but she gesticulated violently not to do so.
She went away and came back and showed me a phone number to call which was her of course, standing not a couple feet away.
After a few false starts, we made phone contact and then she slid a plastic package thru to me via a partially opened window(?!)
Inside was a test kit, a swab, a vial of pink liquid and a form with a bar code which I filled in, that is, after frantically searching the floor of the car for a pen.
I did the swab of tonsils and nose and was instructed to put it in the little vial which duly did, and then I was told to break off most of the swab stick in order to be able to replace the little red cap. All of this possible by mime and gesticulating by her!
All this test paraphernalia was balanced precariously on my knee, and in trying to break the stick, the red top disappeared under the passenger seat, gone for ever in the grunge.
So, the lady went to get another vial and we eventually got it done, but now I had a full vial of liquid left with no top and she didn’t want it back!
So, I poured it on the floor, but by this time the temperature inside the car was close to boiling point even by my standards, far too hot for anyone, with breathing difficulties like my Mrs.
So, I drove away having deposited my sample in collection bin and got lost in the back area of the Copdock Drive thru shopping area and eventually ended up at Pizza Express. At my ripe old age nowt’s ever simple or straightforward it seems.
Meanwhile Black Life Matters is entering a new phase regarding history and statues and more.
The British have their hands dirtied by slavery, but they are by no means the only ones. Romans and Greeks had slaves too, as did Chinese and Egyptians just to name a few, how do you think the Pyramids got built?
However, you can only apologise once for historical misdeeds, and after all is said and done, those happenings were just part of the status quo of that particular period in time. If you want the Rhodes statue down, fair enough, but you can’t then use any of the funding from him to pay for scholarships in his name surely!
The Black Lives cry here is very different from that in America. Here we, who have been on the land for millennials, look upon most immigrants as people who endanger our way of life, take our jobs, ruin the local neighbourhood, lower house values etc. Having all been here for Centuries, anyone from anywhere else is automatically “suspicious”, for according to our dear old Norland nanny. “For all you know we could all be murdered in our beds one night!
But if it weren’t for the exodus of Indian families from Kenya to Britain in the late sixties, we wouldn’t have the 24/7 corner shops that suddenly became open. Previously old Arkwright’s local shop, (Ronnie Barker) closed for an hour at lunchtime and then again promptly at 4.30 each day; 1pm on Saturday, and of course never opened on a Sunday!
So look what they brought us, shopping 24/7. In the USA, everyone is an immigrant, black, white, coffee, brown, yellow or whatever, and the only inhabitants on the land already were the Native Indians but it seems they don’t count!
Today’s Jim Crows from the South still carry a deep bitterness from their Civil War defeat that doesn’t seem to be ebbing at all while most of the black families have been there much longer than most of the whiteys, and none of them have been there very long when compared to us here.
But the division is still wider than the Atlantic Ocean and I don’t see the tide ebbing in my lifetime.
Jeremy Rugge-Price June
On the day of the Grand Jury hearing I took the subway down to Federal Plaza. It would be a Pinocchio to say I wasn’t nervous, I’m about to be questioned by the FBI in open court about the Mafia, and the accused are going to be sitting there in cuffs and under armed guard!
As I entered the building there were many people crowded around the elevators, so I asked a lady if she knew what floor the Grand Jury was on, and she told me it was the ninth. When the elevator arrived, I was the only person that got in, which seemed a trifle odd. New Yorkers are renowned for queue barging.
Outside the courtroom I was briefed by the two FBI lads on the questions they would be asking and then they ushered me into the Lion’s Den.
There were the two prisoners under the eye of federal guards, the Jury and the Court Officials. I was the absolute centre of everyone’s attention and having been sworn in, the questions were put to me to identify the two men by pointing at them which I nervously did, and that was followed by my evidence. In three minutes, it was done and dusted and the Court dismissed.
The prisoners were led out in handcuffs by the Feds, and in the process, they passed within two feet of where I was sitting, hoping that the floor would collapse and take me with it. Just as they did so the Mafia Boss turned to me and said.
“Jeremy, none of this has anything to do with you so don’t worry. You have always behaved like a gentleman to me and I appreciate that. I owe you a favour, should you ever have the need, thank you for your kindnesses.”
JOHN GOTTI, known as TEFLON DON The Godfather of New York Mafia
With that ‘favour ‘now in place I really thought my troubles were over as I got into the elevator and pressed the button to go down.
On arrival at ground level the doors opened and all the same people still there, but this time several rushed at me with microphones shouting ‘What did you say to the Grand Jury....etc.’ They were all NYC TV reporters.
I pressed the ninth floor and shot back up whence I had come from.
How in tarnation was I going to elude this horror, my name, face etc would be all over the news programs and daily press and that thought scared the hell out of me, not only would it put my family in the spot light, but my Green Card status wasn’t yet in place.
I had a brain wave, a rarity in my life, and called Fred. Now my friend Fred was a member of the NYC SWAT TEAM, and I employed him in the late evenings when he moonlighted as security for the restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights. He was also a qualified plumber in his spare time!
Not a problem he said. “When the elevator hits the ground floor, run straight for the doors and down the steps, turn left for the subway and jog along, not too fast as the reporters will follow you with mikes, but the cameramen can’t as their equipment is too heavy. As you get to the steps down to the subway, bend down with both arms pulled back behind you, then with a quick underhand sweeping movement, bring them forward sharply and as you do you will catch up the electrical cords from the mikes to the camera and so disconnect them, end of program!”
So I descended once more and was met with a bevy of reporters but obeyed Fred’s instructions and low and behold it worked So ended my life with the Mafia, but I still am owed one, so don’t cross me!
NB. YOU WILL NOTE I NEVER MENTIONED HIS NAME AT ANY STAGE IN MY WRITINGS.
I’m holding my Mafia story till next week to address, briefly, the unrest over George Floyd’s untimely and unnecessary death.
I won’t dwell on the riots other than to say much of the burning in US Cities was instigated by right wing white extremists as usual, and in London many of the whiteys were full time protesters, again plus ça change!
You must admit she don’t ‘alf look like a professional protester, it’s clearly her day and night job.
All of the resentment has been smouldering, not just for decades, but for centuries, on both sides of the Atlantic and will, no doubt, continue to do so once the flames are extinguished. You cannot eradicate racism overnight unfortunately, especially when some in the seat of power continue to blatantly lie. Just take the remarks made yesterday by Barr, the Attorney General of the United States of America.
“There was no correlation between our plan of moving the perimeter by one block and the President going over to the church”
Personally I hope that Barr is eventually disbarred in the upcoming lawsuits that have been lodged by the ACLU and others.
But what about the Indigenous Peoples of the World? They have suffered even worse than the Brothers have, Dude.
In America, the Native Indian Tribes, Australian Aborigines, Canadian Inuits who have been the target of sustained mistreatments by the Government and in particular, the RCMP, the Uyghurs in China and Russia, Khurds, Mongols and Mayans to name just a few.
All of these peoples are forgotten every time there is a racial rumbling around the Globe. Many racist actions have continuously been carried out by successive Governments around the World against Indigenous Peoples and they always seem to be left out in the ensuing legislation after a melee.
Our Pump St Bakery acknowledged the slavery connected to chocolate and so did Ben & Jerry’s , good for them but I still love choccy ice cream.
In my youth, I don’t think the Brothers featured much in Suffolk, but in 1957, on my first trip as a seaman, we docked to unload cargo in Capetown. The following night three of us went ashore, and walking out of the docks, we saw an Afrikaans Cop beating a black guy with a stick, so we pulled him off, resulting in more plods arriving and us being locked up (not down) in the Nick for the night.
Next week I’m in Court with the Mafia
Although by the eighties, the NY Mafia families were no longer disposing of their enemies with Tommy gun fire and the assassinations had almost disappeared, when John Gotti, known as Teflon Don, wiped out Paul Casteleano outside a steakhouse in ‘85 in order to take over the Gambino Family.
This was a reminder to all not to cross the Boss, but our daily dealings carried on as normal, or so I thought they did!
Our daily consumption of fish and seafood was huge and very expensive and it all came through one Mafia controlled supplier.
Each morning, a young Canadian who was a friend of our owner, went down to the market and gave our order. It would be delivered soon after along with the invoice and he would be paid there and then.
The next morning the same guy would give the money, less his commission, to the fishmonger. All straight forward and clean or so we thought, but as I said it only takes one idiot to upset the cart.
One day the two fish company truck drivers came in and asked if we had seen this guy as they hadn’t been paid for two weeks. Not good!
I sent them up to our book keeper and they were paid up to date. On the way out, I asked if they knew where this guy was and they both grinned and winked.
They found him later that day and filleted half a pound of flesh from both his thighs. He fled to Canada that evening, His problem? a rolled up dollar bill and white powder.
There was a restaurant called Rao’s on 114th St off 1st Avenue - you are now in Harlem - which was a famous Mafia joint, and we once went to eat there as the guest of a great friend who worked in the British Embassy and was very high ranking in the SIS. The food wasn’t good and there were only five tables, but no worries our end.
One day a smartly dressed fella asked to see me, he was about my age, very dapper and quietly spoken. He said I had been highly recommended to him and asked if he could reservation for two at lunch and would I show him where that might be, as he wanted to be able to converse with his friend without being overheard. I showed him exactly where he would be sitting, and he added that every time his secretary called to make a reservation could I ensure it was always the same table, which I confirmed. He thanked me and handed me a hundred dollar bill.
He used this table probably twice a month, always with the same guest, (who didn’t dress nearly so well) and always tipped me the same amount.
Two years later I was an assistant manager at the Barbizon Hotel on Lexington Avenue and 59th Street. The front desk clerk called me and said there were two FBI agents in the lobby who wanted to talk to me, so I had them sent up to my office.
The two agents came in and sat down opposite me and I had some coffee sent up. They confirmed that I had worked at Joanna and asked if I would mind going through a book of mug shots of felons or wanted perpetrators. It didn’t take long to find the two diners, one was a head honcho from Chicago and the other a NYC commissioner for parking meters in the five Manhattan boroughs. The City contract for this was ginormous and of course, the Mafia won it through a corrupt deal.
Each time they had lunch, hundreds of thousands of dollars were changing hands in the gents.
They asked if I would come down to the Federal Courthouse building and give evidence to a Grand Jury. The ‘ask’ was done very politely but I had no option.
Morganthaul, the Manhattan DA, was in the middle of a huge criminal investigation into the parking scandal and every media outlet was following it very closely, and the pair I had recognised were in custody of the FBI already.
I expressed my concerns about my wife and child, given that this was a Mafia case, but they assured me I was covered.
Next week I come face to face in court with the Mafia
It seems that with an autoimmune deficiency, My Mrs & me are unlikely to be de Lockdowned any time soon, so it’s time for something new, and having just watched De Niro in ‘The Irishman’ I decided to write about something entirely different, my business relationship with the real Mafia of New York. I don’t suppose many of you will have had that privilege!
To most of the World, especially here in England, the Mafia means Al Capone, Bugsy Malone, even Marlon Brando in the Godfather and now you can add to that the Irishman with Robert de Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, with Tommy gun shoot outs and corpses along the streets. Yes there are the occasional personal eliminations between the Families but the real Mafia has another side, the legitimate business entity. In the eighties I lived in New York City and ran a Downtown restaurant called Joanna, on 14th Street near Union Square, which seated two hundred and fifty people at one sitting and was decorated to resemble La Coupole in Paris.
It was the first of its kind in the City and was open 24/7. There was a very long bar, and banquet seats and tables surrounded by ceiling high decorative columns. It was a huge success from day one, especially as it was situated in an area of fashion houses, photographers and publishers. Lunch was a regular power house of all the above and many even had their own regular table reservations on a daily basis.
In the evening at dinner, the Whos Who of Manhattan packed the joint and most nights we did five hundred covers, and reservations were de rigueur. That’s a whole lotta food and booze to be served to a whole lotta folk!
I had a crew of twenty waiters and waitresses but as the AIDS epidemic swept through New York, many of the former died sadly. My waitresses were all good looking girls, but very professional in their job and rarely were there any complaints. Anyone clicking their fingers for attention got short shrift with my full backing.
Now, as you can imagine, this all took much managing, waiters, the Chef and his brigade, barmen, cleaners, and of course back of house book keeping.
Add to that the constant daily ordering of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, wine and spirits, laundry and last but by no means least, garbage disposal, all of which made us a very valued customer to all our suppliers and each and everyone needed constant monitoring to ensure we got the best produce.
Each company I dealt with was under New York Mafia control, and our final contracts were agreed with the head of that particular Family.
Take the daily garbage collection as a sample, that was controlled by the Genovese family, while laundry was in the hands of the Gambino family, Carmine Romano ran the Fulton fish market and so on. The five families, Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese controlled the five Manhattan boroughs and NewYork State and were aligned with the Big Bosses in Chicago and Buffalo. They also controlled the Unions across the board, but that was not our concern.
So if the laundry truck had ‘Initial Towel Service’ written on the side, it was still controlled by a Family, if the garbage truck was labelled Manhattan Garbage, it mattered not as the Gambino family were in charge.
Doing business with them was no different from normal, I would set up a meeting, a junior capo would come in and we would arrange the contract to fit our requirements, and when done he would leave with a draft agreement.
Shortly after, I would get a call from the company to say that I could expect the Boss who would be would bring the contract for signing. He would arrive in a limo, we would sit and have a pleasant chat, the contract was never mentioned, drink our espressos and that was that, other than should I have a problem I was to call him direct.
They were always charming, very well dressed and had good manners, I think they appreciated talking with a Saville Row suited Brit with a nefarious background of jobs.
Like most things in life though, however well you try to plan, there is always going to be someone or something who will screw it up for you and that could mean Multo Aggravamento to those involved.
More on that next week
Mr & Mrs Cone-Head and all their little Cone-Heads There have been many articles, letters and programs about the varied symptoms of Lockdown over the past months, some are serious, some are ridiculous and some are funny. The most serious, horrific and gripping was the BBC2 Hospital program on the Covid chaos in the Royal Free Hospital, the next is Oldies with medical problems while their NHS treatment is suspended, ridiculous are the City dwellers stuck in their country homes - they don’t know how lucky they are - and last but by no means least, but the funniest, children with home schooling, but so far none about ice cream.
In fact that’s not the case as the Cone Heads showed off their nasty side all too clearly in Cape Cod, Massachusetts last week.
An ice cream stall vendor opened up as local Lockdown restrictions were eased, long queues formed, especially with social distancing, and at the point of purchase, the vendor’s teenager daughter was doing her best to help her Dad, but naturally, the going was slow.
It didn’t take long for the desperate Cone Heads to take out their frustration of having to wait for their next “fix’ by shouting vile comments at her.
Her Dad said he’d never heard such vitriolic and hurtful comments so he closed up shop and went home.
Next weekend is Bank Holiday and our quiet little village could well be inundated with Cone Heads and window gawpers. The former desperately needing a sugar fix while the latter will peer in through our windows in the hopes that there is a body lying on the floor.
Now for the Thursday evening Applause, our village is right there every week, and their clapping reminds my feeble brain that it’s that time of the week again, this last time I had to go out with just me undies on or I’d have missed it. Nobody batted an eyelid!
I would like to add to the NHS beneficiaries, our hard earned local workers, butcher, baker, fishing folk and the General Store under command of Sue. They have made our lives positively easy under confinement and our sincere thanks to them all.
I was just about to finish this Rambling but discovered a Z Car parked by my garage, and two lovely lady Plods investigating mysterious comings and goings. I was able to ensure them that all was well. We discussed the Lycra Louts selfishly riding around the countryside regardless of infecting others.
Apparently they’ve had more complaints about them than any other over the past months. So I’m far from the only one who hates them.
While it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is right now, we all have to remember VE Day and what it stands for. It would be worth telling the all the younger generations what it meant to this Country, both the people and the Armed Forces.
Many civilians, across the Country and especially in certain cities and towns, Coventry, London and Southampton for example, had suffered from the bombing raids even up to the very end with V2s, and so to realise it was all done and dusted was almost unbelievable and the celebrations were huge.
I have no idea where us three brothers were at that time but our Dad hadn’t come home permanently as yet.
I know many of our generation keep harking back to them “War Days” but there did seem to be more discipline within the masses, but of course many men and women had been in the Armed Forces, the Land Army, who were all female, ambulance drivers, air raid wardens, even the Home Guard.
We went from this on the Beaches
To this on our streets, Children celebrating and ‘Knees up Mother Brown”
There has been much ado on the ‘ether’ from dentists recently, and let’s face it, there’s nowt much worse than toothache any day, so enduring it while marooned, as we are, must be living hell.
But self-dentistry is a way out! I pulled out one of my own back teeth last year, and the resulting loss of agony was extremely satisfying. So, if in doubt, pull it out! is my philosophy.
Many are getting ants in their pants about being locked up, but none so idiotic as some in the Southern States of the US, burly fatties toting automatic rifles on the streets confronting hospital personnel in blue swabs.
Most of these morons are the descendants of British drunks, prostitutes and those that didn’t or wouldn’t work, who were rounded up in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by the authorities and shipped out to the new colonies like Virginia and the Carolinas.
This was based around the thought that once there, they would be forced to work or starve. Naturally it didn’t work, and nor did they, as the imported slaves did all the work. They were called White Trash back then, and still are today.
Judging by the puerile response to those needing work in the U.K. during these troubling days, it’s no wonder the farmers imported 30,000 Poles etc.
Plus, ca change here it seems!
The words below are from an article in the Sunday Telegraph, and as one from a military family, Father - D-Day, youngest son Iraq and Afghanistan and me in Malaya - I’m delighted to see our training has been of use.
It also appears that the NHS logistics and distribution system is “knackered” and totally useless, they are wonderful medical souls but lacking in much needed Quartermaster training, Why are our Armed Forces continuously belittled by every Government yet when the sh*t hits the fan, who do they turn to?
JRP WEEK VIII
Over the past weeks of “Home Alone” there have been many Facebook and Instagram posts about how to keep busy while in this enforced hibernation.
Some do puzzles, others are forever cooking, especially those with kids at home, some read while others twiddle their thumbs. Me? Well I’m heading back to second childhood, so my day starts with a game called Hunt the Hearing Aids, but before I can begin I have to find my glasses to be able to see the tiny earpieces!
I know some wise ass is going to say why don’t you put it in the same place each night, of course I should, but that would require me being able to remember to do that in the first place so that’s a non sequitur.
I have so many special hiding places around the house that I’ve no idea as to where they all are.
During term time at boarding school, we had the calendar of daily events on the wall, and we crossed out each day as we crept like tortoises towards the end of term, it was called a Chuff Chart, and it heralded the long awaited approach of freedom Judging by Government ideas for the present never-end of term situation, the likes of us Old Crocks could be housebound for months to come. We could paper the living room walls with our chart. Tant Pis!
Those amongst you who read my recent Ramblings epistle of life at sea will know I am an inveterate volunteer, or rather, was once. Presently I can’t help at all which is causing me much angst, and it’s due to pre existing medical and immune system problems. I wish that I could be out there helping like so many of our Orfordians are, all I can do is say thanks to you all and know that “We’ll meet again don’t know where don't know when....”
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky
All I ask is a tall ship and the stars to steer her by,
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a clear call and a wild call, that cannot be denied.
Apologies to John Masefield
SS Clan Cumming Built in Glasgow in 1946
Length 478 feet Gross Tonnes 10,000
Dakar, Lobito, Walvis Bay,
Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London Durban, Mozambique, Dar Es Salaam, Mombasa, Mogadishu, Aden, Port Said, Algiers, Dublin, Tilbury.
Dakar, St Helena, Cape Town, East London Colombo, Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Pondicherri Aden, Port Said, Tilbury .
Port Said, Aden, Mauritius, Colombo, Calcutta Madras, Bombay, Aden, Port Said Tilbury
(one month in Calcutta while hull chipped and repainted three months in Colombo due to dock strike)
Before launching into ALL AT SEA, it is probably best to describe life as it once was in the British Merchant Navy, far away from that of today.
For many previous generations we, the Brits, amassed a vast merchant fleet that reached just about every corner of the Globe, not unnatural since we are an Island Nation and seafarers abound around our coastlines.
During World War II it was our lifeline for just about everything from food to raw materials and even then, there were times when we were very close to being totally cut off during the early years of Admiral Donitz’s U-boat War in the Atlantic. It was convoys of unarmed merchant ships and their crews that battled massive gales and threats of torpedoes from the German Wolf packs that saved us.
While I’m at it, the Arctic Convoys to Murmansk also deserve a mention, PQ17 being one where these sailors battled it out alone with no Royal Navy escort at all, the freezing conditions that they had to overcome are legend, and if you are at all interested in the sea, well worth reading about.
In all cases, Atlantic or Arctic, those sailors that had to abandon ship stood very little chance of being picked up out of the water; the Standing Order dictated that “no ship will stop to pick up survivors under any circumstances”. Sometimes there was a rescue vessel, a mere trawler, at the rear of the convoy, but often as not they either drowned or died in a lifeboat. On one patrol, an American destroyer came upon a lifeboat in mid Atlantic, it had the remains of a red sail rigged, an officer sitting at the helm and five other sailors in the boat. The Destroyer altered course to pick them up, but it was only at close quarters they realised that the clothed bodies were actually skeletons. In honour of the boat’s skeleton crew, the Americans left them alone, to sail on to Eternity.
Looking back through the ages, merchant sailors have always been regarded by the British Nation as the lowest of the low, the drunken dregs of society, scum of the earth. I suppose because they were seen frequenting bars and brothels around the fringes of our commercial ports, lurching about, drunk and disorderly as charged. Considering the condition of some ships, the merciless hardships and unforgiving elements of the Ocean, not forgetting the 24/7 working day, it’s really hardly surprising they are often drunk. Yet, these ‘vile’ creatures will all be back on board when the ship sails again.
The everyday life of the Merchant Navy back in 1957 was very different from today’s maritime World in almost every aspect, and so let’s begin with the actual vessels themselves.
The average ocean-going cargo vessel today is about 50,000 tonnes, going way on up. Back then they were around 10,000 tonnes, very much smaller, about quarter the size, about the same difference as a Chelsea Tractor to an articulated truck. As to speed, Full Ahead today is about 25/30 knots, whereas our top speed was 12 knots, and that’s with the wind behind us and with every rivet straining.
Crews today number about ten to fifteen people including the captain, officers, engine and deck crew. Ours was much bigger, Captain and three deck officers, Chief Engineer and five officers, wireless operator known as Sparky, Chief Steward and six men, Chippie the carpenter, plus four helmsmen, fifteen deck crew, ten engine crew, and five cooks, a total of fifty or more souls altogether.
We had six lifeboats with oars but today there is but one big motor lifeboat per vessel.
All cargo today is carried in containers on the main deck, but in 1957 a container wasn’t even a glint in some inventor’s eye and so our cargo was stacked in five hatches, each with three deck levels. The only cargo ever carried on deck would be railway engines and carriages, railway lines or huge 200-ton generators, all too large to be in a ship’s hold.
Everything else was either in boxes, such as whisky or wine, or large cardboard boxes. It might be toothpaste, Children’s toys, paint, tableware, refrigerators, glassware, soap powder, anything or everything used in our daily lives. Cars went in the hold, lashed down to the deck; you name it we carried it there. Take a truck load of whisky for example; it would be carried by truck from distillery to dock warehouse, unloaded and restacked. When the ship was ready to load, the cases would be assembled on the dockside and stevedores would fill a cargo net with about twenty cases at a time which would then be lifted by crane or the ships derricks and deposited into a specific hold where an eight man crew of dockers would stow it away for the voyage.
Ships were loaded according to weight and the various foreign ports on the itinerary.
The procedure was long and required much manpower both on the dock and the ship, and if we were loading all five hatches, the total dock and stevedore requirements would be forty on the vessel and another forty on the dock, then add in the crane drivers, hatch foreman, the overall gaffer, and last but by no means least, a retired docker for each ship, his sole job being to make the tea for his mates.
You couldn’t become a docker unless your Dad was or had been one, it was a completely closed shop, and boy oh boy, were they powerful and their Union could play havoc if it needed to.
Communication was totally different as well. There were no satellites whizzing around the Universe whatsoever, imagine a world without the internet! or if you are under twenty-one maybe you can’t?
To communicate with Head Office the other side of the World, messages were sent by Morse code, tapped out by Sparky on his keypad; the same with other ships, but an Aldiss lamp could be used over a few miles if visibility allowed.
The Royal Navy would always use the Aldiss light to ask, “What Ship”. When passing us and the speed at which they flashed was very fast, and we had to reply as fast as possible or receive a dressing down!
The weather was also a factor; around the British coast the shipping forecast was issued every four hours, but in far flung parts of the world there was nothing to warn you of impending horrors.
So, every British ship had to send back a localised weather report every twelve hours. The report was sent by Morse code to the Metrological HQ situated in Portishead near Bristol.
Here the information was sorted, compiled and put into a global weather format which was broadcast over a special wavelength for ships all over the Oceans of the World. A similar strategy today is maintained by weather reports from commercial aircraft all over the World.
So, it was truly a strange world entirely on its own and, in all reality, a very tough one that required total teamwork from everyone from the Captain on down to the lowest seaman. At often times, the lives of the entire crew could depend upon the shoulders of one man doing his job to the best of his ability, making sure that no corners were cut to save time or effort.
There was another bonus to life back then, the dreaded Health and Safety did not exist, but common sense prevailed.
It would be fair to say that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth and, in due course will, no doubt, shuffle off this mortal coil clutching the Grim Reaper with one hand and with a wooden ladle in the other!
That being said it might seem a little strange that having been born with the advantages of wealth, I should choose to join the Merchant Navy about which I knew absolutely nothing. I admit at one point wanting to go to Dartmouth, but fuzzy maths torpedoed that idea by the age of fifteen as I never actually passed a maths exam in my entire life.
Ever since being a small child, I had visions of joining the army and becoming a soldier just like my Father. In our early years garden games at Langham would often find me and my brothers all dressed up as squaddies with old battledress uniforms that we purloined when staying with Dad.
In my last year at Harrow I was always very envious of those who had already left and now were dressed in uniform whenever they visited the school, even though they were actually doing their compulsory two-year National Service stint.
It was this envy, combined with constant and disastrous academic reports, rubber stamped each time with “could try harder,” that urged me into leaving the school very early in my seventeenth year. I have to admit to being thoroughly idle which was not helped by dyslexia, a disorder yet to be recognised by anyone, and certainly not Harrow schoolmasters. I scraped by with three O levels, history, English and English literature, rather a waste of good money!
I had imagined that I would be automatically going to Sandhurst and then onto the 13th /18th Royal Hussars and a life in the Army. Had I been savvy enough at the time, I would have realised there were two reasons why this could never come to pass. Firstly, my Father had just taken over command of the Regiment in Malaya and to have a son as a junior officer while commanding could be complicated; and secondly candidates for Sandhurst were required to have five O levels including Maths and French. However, this hurdle went straight past me quite unseen until pointed out to me by Tom, my stepfather.
Obviously quite some discussion had taken place between Dad, Ma and Tom, and major decisions had been made on my behalf although entirely bereft of any consultation with yours truly. I was informed that an interview had been arranged for me at the head office of the British & Commonwealth Shipping Company at 3 St Mary’s Axe in the City of London.
The interview would be conducted by the Chief Superintendent of Shipping for the Company. The Chief Super is the senior captain of the company fleet who will have spent a lifetime at sea, and is then placed in charge of all the ships and crews for both Union Castle and Clan Line These two fleets made up the shipping conglomerate of British & Commonwealth Shipping Co Ltd.
Union Castle were Royal Mail passenger ships that went to South Africa while Clan Line were dry cargo ships voyaging to Africa, Australia, India and any island in between. In total the fleet was some thirty ships plying the Oceans of the World.
At this point it is worth noting that our family connections to anything remotely nautical, be it Royal or Merchant Navy, or even sailing, were absolutely nil. Ma and Tom had crossed the Atlantic on the RMS Queen Mary and had also been to Cape Town on the Windsor Castle. In both cases they travelled as VIP’s and as such were comfortably accommodated in a first-class stateroom and would have been nightly guests at the Captain’s dinner table.
At dinner they would have been entertained by senior officers of the ship, all of whom would have been immaculately dressed in whatever the climate dictated, blues or starched whites, and well versed in table manners and small talk with upper crust passengers.
These two voyages were the only time my mother caught a glimpse of life on the ocean wave and all she saw was the crème de la crème of the Merchant Marine, and thus she presumed this life would suit her son admirably.
CLAN LINE HOUSE FLAG
Having now secured my berth in British & Commonwealth Shipping Company, I retired to Langham to await my fate, and it came via a letter containing a clothing list, and a rather small one at that. Blue and tropical white uniforms, a naval cap with the Company badge plus two blue overalls and a white submariner’s sweater and that was that.
Now Mummy Darling had been the recipient of many a clothing list over the past ten years, from both our preparatory school, then followed by Harrow for all three of us brothers, and the paucity of this list clearly worried her.
In the late fifties our Merchant Fleet was at its prime and the Red Duster (Ensign) could be seen in ports the World over and most people that joined the Merchant Navy were not financially well off, so would use the naval outfitters that could be found in the areas around our big commercial ports, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and London to name just a few. There, uniforms new and used could be purchased at bargain prices, but our Ma was quite oblivious of this fact, so she and I went to the only nautical tailor she knew, Gieves & Sons in Saville Row.
Gieves, by Royal Appointment, had been outfitting the Royal Navy for two centuries, not only First Sea Lords and the entirety of the Admiralty, but several Monarchs of the Realm, including the late King George IV, V and VI, Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, as well as several foreign Kings and Potentates, but I doubt they had rarely, if ever, dealt with a raw midshipman from the Merchant Navy crossing their hallowed portals.
On entering we were ushered up to the second floor, the Naval Uniform Department, where we were greeted by a salesman. My mother handed him the list and said that she thought it was a little on the light side.
“Fear not, Madam, we shall ensure your son has everything he needs, could you tell me where he might be sailing to in the coming year?
No doubt, he was on a small sales commission and realised he had just stumbled across Captain Hook’s treasure chest, it was his lucky day. Blue uniforms, whites and khakis for the tropics, shirts, socks, an officer’s cap with Company badge, we went on and on. When he felt he needed to increase the sales pressure he would drop in remarks like.
“They are all wearing this particular cloth now, Madam, it keeps the cold out when on night watch”.
So, we added a doeskin bridge coat to the pile. Doeskin is a particularly heavy blue cloth, very expensive, almost waterproof and certainly wind proof, but only worn by senior Captains R.N. and above, certainly not a snivelling Snottie.
A week later a telegram arrived at Langham directing me to join my ship, the S.S. Clan Cumming, in Royal Albert Docks, Tilbury by 1500hrs next Monday.
Now I profess I had absolutely no clue as to what I was about to do, I didn’t even know what a cargo ship looked like other than in World War II convoy pictures and yes, I was becoming quite scared of the whole performance, but had I known what lay over the horizon I would have had to change my underpants every day if not hourly!
Hartley, the chauffeur, and I left Langham in the maroon Rolls Bentley, the back seat and boot stuffed with two large sea bags, one trunk, two suitcases and an attaché case.
Just to ram it home to the proletariat, there was an Asprey's silver racehorse mounted on the bonnet and the jockey was painted in my Stepfather’s racing colours, maroon and white; just the sort of thing needed to impress the dockers!
I have chipped rust, scrubbed, sandpapered, and painted every surface you can see.
The Bentley purred gently to a halt besides the towering black hull of the Clan Cumming in Royal Albert dock Tilbury. This was no gleaming passenger ship of the Cunard Line but a dirty old cargo ship of 10,000 tonnes busily unloading jute and tea from Ceylon and India. The dust, noise and smell was obvious as soon as I opened the car door; my problem was I had to get on board to begin my new life, and to say that I had butterflies was a gross understatement, there was a swarm of locusts in my gut and I was absolutely terrified.
There is, within most of us, an inner backbone of stamina which kicks in at times like these, so however much we might want to retreat in the face of dreaded unknown horrors that lie ahead, somehow we manage to buckle our belts one notch tighter and move forward without showing the turbulent fear that lurks beneath.
I was dressed in a grey flannel suit, shirt and tie as I walked up the gangway, every step bringing me nearer to my nemesis, I imagine that I was probably the only soul wearing a bespoke suit in the entire dockland. As I cleared the rails all I could see was a scenario of utter confusion to a landlubber like me; coils of thick rope, wire hawsers, blocks and tackles, all snaking across the deck, hatch covers, tarpaulins, while guy ropes for the derricks hung like big nooses, swinging from side to side. The noise was ear shattering as the ship’s steam winches clattered, hissed and roared while hauling cargo bales of jute out of a large black orifice in the centre of the ship, number four hatch to be precise; it was a scene of pure and utter bedlam.
What I could not see was any form of ship’s officer or uniformed body anywhere, in fact there were only two people visible. One, dressed in a boiler suit and tweed cap was peering intently down the cargo hatch with his right arm extended up in the air, whilst all the while twiddling this hand at the same time, for what exactly I had no idea, maybe he was beseeching God for peace and quiet. The other, in a greasy tweed jacket and Kangol cap, appeared totally unconcerned with all that was happening, so I made my way over to him. I told him I was a cadet joining this ship and what should I do now! He took one long look at me from head to toe, I was obviously not a normal sight in his average working day!
He asked me where my gear was and together, we walked over to the ship’s side. There I pointed down to the dockside where Hartley was standing by the Bentley whilst beside him was a huge pile of sea trunks and bags. My newfound mate took one look at all this and turning to me said, “Gawd Almighty Nelson yer needs elp!”
How embarrassing was that!
Some fifteen minutes later, with his help I was ensconced in a small cabin with one porthole, three bunks and a few drawers, plus a small built in desk. It turned out my Good Shepherd was the chief stevedore in charge of the four gangs of dockers working the ship and he had been a Chief Petty Officer in the RN during the War, which is why he recognised a very raw and green snottie when he saw one.
As it was my sea going gear occupied the entire deck space of the cabin with me standing trapped in the centre. Here I stood for about ten minutes, welded to the deck with fear and trembling when suddenly, the cabin door opened, and the third mate kick-started my Naval career! “Joinyermatedoonthewhuskylocka!” was the order given in broad Glaswegian, much of which I didn’t comprehend at all, for not only did I not know my mate nor had any clue as to where the whisky locker was, but regardless of that I quickly got changed into uniform and headed out to find both.
As I stepped into the large alleyway that ran under the boat deck, I was confronted by an old geezer with, but a few yellow teeth left in his mouth, he was pointing at a small hot water boiler on the bulkhead.
“Ere Hornblower, if that there f***in boiler ain’t f***in workin in foive fuckin minute I’ll be tellin t’Gaffer and ‘e will call em all ‘art on fuckin strike, Mate!”
A Strike no less, forget Nelson and Hornblower, my nautical career was about to be over before we had even left the dock, all because of a non-working water heater that enabled him to make tea for all the dockers, what on earth was I to do?
At that precise moment God spoke aloud, but in a broad Glaswegian accent:
“Dinnie fash yer sen ye old git”
It was a tall thin guy in an oily white boiler suit, the Fifth Engineer Officer, Jonny, with a huge steel Stillson in his right hand. He ‘tapped’ the little boiler with his Stillson and with a few gurgles it kicked into action: the strike was over!
(a Stillson is an extra-large adjustable spanner for those who have never used one).
Jonny became one of my closest mates, he was a boy from the Gorbals in Glasgow, which at the time was a dodgy place to go unless you had family there. Jonny was known as a ‘ Heid Case” , that is a method of fighting whereby with both hands, you grab your unsuspecting opponent by the lapels, and jerk him towards yourself while at the same time you “‘heid’ him on the nose with your forehead. It’s very effective and if you’re the enemy it’s all over as your nose is broken, agony is king, and blood is pouring down your front.
Some weeks later, in the port of Dakar, West Africa, we both went ashore to mail our letters home in the Post Office. I went straight to the mail clerk window and sent my letter home while Jonny went to a side desk and began to write some post cards.
I left him there and said to join me down the street at a cafe when he was done. In due course he appeared but was wearing a very expensive pair of tortoiseshell dark glasses. I asked him where he got them and how much they had cost.
“Aye, w’ull they wus on the wee shelf when ah started wi me carrds, and they was still there when ah were dun, de yer ken, so it were best ah took em as there were nay folk around to gie them to’.
I asked to see them and when I put them on, all I could see was blurred outlines, they were special lenses.
‘Tha dinna matter, Mate, they just look bonnie, de yer ken!’
In the fifties the British Merchant Navy was still at its apex, and the ships of our various Shipping Lines could be seen the World over. It was a well-trained body of officers and men, envied by many other Countries.
Anyone serving in the Merchant Marine was exempt from doing the two years National Service in the Armed Forces, but that didn’t lower the standards in any way.
Ships such as ours in the Clan Line fleet were cargo liners, that is to say, unlike the many tramp steamers that roamed the Oceans of the World searching for a cargo here, there and everywhere, we had specific routes that we followed; ours was the African and Indian continent and any islands en route and Australia.
We had the Captain and three deck officers, a wireless operator, chief steward and carpenter plus us three cadets, and all of whom were British.
Down below in the cavernous six decks that comprised the engine room there was the Chief and five engineer officers, mainly Jocks, otherwise all the rest of the crew were lascars both on deck and down below. Each voyage would be about three to four months duration and you earned one days leave per week, plus a day for any Sunday spent at sea, my pay was £9 per month.
The cargoes we carried ranged from toothpaste and toys to railway lines, railway engines and carriages, whisky and gin, Guinness, cars. refrigerators and various household goods and even a 150-ton generator. We were a heavy lift ship capable of loading and unloading heavy goods by our heavy lift derrick on the foredeck. Items such as rail rolling stock were carried on the deck, open to the elements and lashed down with wire hawsers and blocks.
Pilfering was rife amongst dock gangs wherever we were, which is why one of us had to be present in the hold when spirits were being handled, and even then, it was impossible to stop an experienced docker where whisky was concerned.
The Clean Air Act had not been introduced, so dockyards and the surrounding streets of houses, pubs and shops were dismal, dirty and dusty and normally, areas of much poverty. The fumes from big ships, tugs of all shapes and sizes, railway yards with coal burning steam shunters, plus the overall dust and dirt that goes along with all this activity made for a very smog filled air pollution problem, one that pervaded into every aspect and corner of our daily life as well as the surrounding habitats.
At no previous time in my existence had I ever been exposed to what is best described as “life on the lower deck”. By that I mean not only the people but the conditions in which they lived and worked every day of their lives, a thousand miles or more away from those I was accustomed to.
Dockyards were dangerous, noisy and dirty places: dangerous from the point of a huge mass of moving machinery, cranes with huge loads swinging overhead, dockside tractors towing cargo, shunting of railway loads, the hustle and bustle and commotion creating a constant roar of many different types of machines and machinery, all combining to make it a very dusty and unsafe place for the casual observer. This was about as far removed from the peace and quiet of my home life and I needed all my wits about me to absorb it all, stay connected and learn from everything happening around me. In foreign ports you could add to this, the very real possibility of being stabbed and robbed.
The language on the ship, mostly blue, with different accents and dialects, including Urdu and Hindi, all needed to be understood so not to have to say “what” each time, while deftly ensuring my posh “society” accent didn’t emerge during the conversations.
The difference in class was much more pronounced in our speech back then as opposed to the mixed background accent used by many today, and of course, to be able to understand a Geordie, Scouse or Brummy took listening skills par excellence, while understanding those with Glaswegian heritage needed a good interpreter at the best of times. Luckily, I have an ear for accents, and this has proved extremely useful on many occasions since, especially later on when dealing with troopers with heavy Barnsley dialects.
While it must have been obvious to many that my background was very different from theirs, provided I could do the job as well, if not better, then I was accepted as an equal, not only in work but also play. During the next few weeks there were many nights in the local boozers, and those down the Mile End Road were the best of all, much singing at the “Mike” long before karaoke was ever thought of. And so I began the transition from a spoiled little toff to a man of all seasons and backgrounds which stood me in good stead for my chequered life yet to come and it was an experience for which I am eternally grateful for having being given the opportunity to learn.
The friends I made during this next three years were those you could rely on when the shit hits the fan, as it so often did during my life, unlike those “friends “ in later years who, once I went broke, walked off and didn’t want to know me.
Over the next two weeks we sailed first to Hamburg, unloaded more tea, then northbound around the British coast until we reached Glasgow our home port.
The voyage around the UK is a criss cross of shipping lanes going everywhere, plus a plethora of trawlers who tend to take little notice of the international rules of the road, so cadets are required on watch around the clock, four on and four off day and night continuously.
When you have been used to a lifetime of sleep for eight hours or more every single night since birth, this is a hard nut to crack. Seeing as how we had to shit, shower and shave as well as scoff when off watch, it meant that there was never the possibility of more than three hours sleep at one time, ere you were woken once again, to get back the bridge and on watch.
There was no more “good morning master Jeremy’ from Mabel who used to wake me at Langham with a cuppa; rather it was a rude ‘gie yer feet on deck, yus got fuftin minutes and dinna awa kippen agin like yon last time!’
(Learning to understand Glaswegian was of the utmost importance for one used to hearing only the Queens English spoken.)
It was an unforgivable sin to be late by even half a minute on watch, as for all of us, sleep was like gold dust. I wondered whether I would ever not be tired again by the time we tied up alongside at King George V dock in Glasgow.
Over the next three years I sailed to India and the ports of Bombay, Madras, Pondicherry and Calcutta and then Colombo Ceylon, Mauritius, Madagascar and around Africa again, stopping at Dakar, Lobito in Portuguese West Africa, Walvis Bay in Namibia, then St Helena, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban in South Africa; then up the East African coast via Beira, Dar Es Salaam and Mombasa, to Aden, Port Said and north through the Egyptian Canal.
In Europe we would load and unload in Tilbury, London Glasgow and Birkenhead, as well as Hamburg and Dublin.
In port we worked day shifts only, 0630 to 1700hrs with breaks for breakfast and lunch. While in tropical and warm water ports, much of this time was spent over the side on a single plank supported by a rope either end while painting the black hull.
I can remember doing this in Columbo Harbour, mere feet above the water while huge sharks cruised beneath us ten feet below, but work didn’t stop, Health and Safety was not even a gleam in someone’s eye as yet, and anyway what was the problem!
Once we left Tilbury, we steamed over to the Rhine Estuary en route for Hamburg and as we approached the swept channel that lead into the Rhine - there were still vast mine fields left over from the War that had not been picked up - the fog came in and, with the amount of shipping and barges in a such a confined space going in all directions, the Relief Skipper ordered the wheel hard over towards the mined area and to prepare to anchor!
The Second Mate, who is always the ship’s navigator, pointed out the mine field indicated on the chart, but the Old Man replied.
“Mister, we’ll be a darned sight safer anchored in there than in this mess” and anchor we did till the fog cleared.
We spent a couple of days in Hamburg and the Amsterdam before returning to Glasgow, our home port. By now my energy levels had gathered a second wind and I was beginning to find my new lifestyle really very exciting and interesting and I loved the idea of being a seaman despite only just crossing the North Sea.
We were due to spend ten days in Glasgow loading a new cargo, and life settled into day work and evenings in the pub. Cadets are not supposed to drink at sea or in port, but as far as the latter where concerned, it seemed that nobody paid any attention as long as we could do the work at 0630 the next morning.
We would gather in one scrubby little boozer near the dock gates and settle in for the evening. The consumption rate was impressive, as each round was finished another would be bought seemingly without end. My part of the table would be covered in full pint glasses while everyone else’s were empties; I never have been able to put it away at such speed, not then and not later.
You could guarantee that the early morning shift of dockers that came on board reeking of beer every day, yet they worked their way through to five pm without a moan.
The Second Engineer was a big bloke from Aberdeen, and he had a girl in most U.K. ports, particularly Glasgow. This one was called Aggie and was a staff nurse at Glasgow General.
On our last night there, he organised a party on board for his fellow engineers, the third Mate and us two cadets. It was his invitation on the phone that impressed me, I never forgot it.
“Aye, we hav’n a wee party tomorrow evening and I’d like youse to come, aye....abut six thirty...aye..... and Aggie, why don’t ye ask some of yer friends too, but listen Aggie, if they dinna do a turn in the sack, dinnie ask them, do ye ken”
Life had changed a wee bit.
Our last port was Birkenhead, a really down and dirty place, poverty ruled supreme, and the pub was even scruffier than Glasgow, but what did it matter, we weren’t on a sightseeing tour, and my rate of downing pints hadn’t got any better, and anyway, the less time I had to spend peeing in the dirty smelly urine soaked urinals the better!
Our ship had six wooden lifeboats on the boat deck above us, one had a motor and the others just sails and oars. I was put in charge of number four boat on the starboard side, only because I had told the Chief Officer I could sail single handed.
Each boat had two sealed water containers and two of basic tinned food supplies, plus a box of tinned Carnation milk, all of which were sewn into canvas containers. I was detailed to get out all the masts and sails and lay them out on the boat deck for an inspection by a Board of Trade official. I laid them out as instructed beside each boat but discovered that most of the sails had big holes where the rats had chewed them, so I nipped below to tell the Mate.
He climbed up to check them, and told me to roll them up so the holes didn’t show, ‘cos if the official saw the holes we would not be allowed to sail and that would be a very expensive hold up, and the fault would be his. I rolled them up real quick.
Our last day was fast approaching and I hadn’t given a moment’s thought to life at home, for I was working a very long day, plus a hangover every morning besides which, ten years at boarding school had rid me of any form of homesickness. My first day at boarding school, aged seven, I had cried for almost all the day, but I never cried again during my entire schooldays.
Each time a big ship enters or leaves port, the whole deck crew is ordered to their particular station, mine was down aft on a catwalk over the poop deck. From here I could see everything that was happening with the mooring ropes and was responsible for relaying messages to and from the Second Mate, who was in charge of the stern party down aft, to the bridge by an internal telephone system.
As we left the Mersey the following day, we slowed briefly to transfer the pilot back to his cutter, and then with the propellers thrashing below me on the stern catwalk, the white wake streamed away into the distance where I could see the famous outline of the Liver Building fading from view, we were at last outward bound and would be gone for the next four months.
The previous day I had phoned home to say goodbye and my last words were “See you in four months”. There was no way to communicate with home from now on except by airmail letters.
At sea we resumed day work once we were clear of shipping lanes and for the first time I found myself able to look around three hundred and sixty degrees and see absolutely nothing but sea, something that I began to relish over the next three years, just us and the Ocean, it’s a lure that pulls you in and never goes away.
As the week progressed, we passed Cape Finistere and headed on south towards the Equator each day it became warmer, blue uniforms gave way to whites on watch while we worked on deck in just a pair of shorts.
As we crossed the Equator I spent the day renewing food in the lifeboats and just listening to the wake rush by and watching the waves endlessly rising and falling, and I realised how lucky I was, school and lessons I had hated, but working with my hands in these conditions was all I could ask for.
Often there were several flying fish on the foredeck each day, they would have had to clear at least fifteen feet to get over the rails, the ship’s cat always devoured them before they began to smell.
By the time we approached Cape Town we were in the area of the Roaring Forties, a weather system that flows almost uninterrupted around the Globe and even on a calm day the swell is vast, a slow incline to about fifty feet, and spread over anything up to a mile from crest to crest, but on a bad day it’s awe inspiring just to watch each enormous wave approach and calmly lift the entire ship fifty feet up and then down the far side, we hardly felt the movement on board.
Around Africa all the dock gangs were black, Portuguese West Africa, Namibia and Cape Town where Apartheid still ruled the “natives”.
The most brutal were the Portuguese and following shortly behind by Afrikaans and Cape Coloured. We got into an argument with two Afrikaans policemen who were beating a black fellow just outside the dockyard gates. Within seconds other Merchant seaman joined in, regardless of race and the cops retired hurt! But police reinforcements had us in the nick for the night.
One afternoon we rescued a penguin from the dock, he was covered in oil and grime and we hauled him up onto the afterdeck. His white waistcoat was almost black, so the skipper told us to wash him down and feed him. After a good scrubbing with Omo clothes washing powder, he looked quite different and began to eat little fish we caught in a mozzy net.
To ensure Percy’s safety we carried him up onto the Officers deck and here he remained, using the deck area for exercise and the end of the Third Mate’s bunk to sleep standing up
When we left Cape Town, we were heading North so Percy would have to disembark but where? Luckily, we saw a whaler going South for the Antarctic so, both ships stopped, and they rowed over and collected Percy.
While we were unloading in Cape Town one of our tasks was to try and restrict the huge amount of pilfering by the dockers down each hold, and this required trying to cover four hatches between two of us. The magnitude of items stolen was mind boggling.
They used a variety of tricks to hide their thievery, a favourite was to clear a space behind stacked cargo and open up crates behind this cover, the stolen goods would then be concealed about their person as they went ashore.
We would approach a hatch and look down, if it looked suspicious then one of us would go down into the hold and break up the plot. Each hold has three decks of storage, upper, middle and lower and each deck is about fifteen feet in height.
One day they were working the tween deck (middle) when I walked across the open hatch on a steel cross beam about four inches in width. Halfway across I must have lost my footing as the next I remember is waking up in a hospital bed.
I asked a nurse what I was doing here, and she replied that I had fallen thirty feet down a hold and was awaiting x-rays once I was awake. I knew nothing of this but discovered it was still the same day, and I knew we were sailing for Port Elizabeth that night!
When the nurse popped out, I grabbed my dirty shirt and shorts and scarpered back to the ship where I explained to the Old Man that I had been discharged. Anything was better than being left in a foreign port thousands of miles from home.
Years later, as medical science progressed, an MRI discovered two bent discs!?
The rest of the voyage took in the East African coast and Madagascar then on to Dar Es Salaam. Here we had a rare Sunday in port so went ashore to swim off the huge beach there and was no one in sight and four of us had a great time diving off the reef some two hundred yards from the shore. On our way back in we could see a figure frantically waving his arms; it turned out to be the padre from the local Seaman’s Mission. Apparently, there were many sharks swimming around the reef, hence the total absence of others swimming!
We sailed up to Aden and haggled with the bumboat salesmen, anything from a camera to a corkscrew, you name it, they had it.
“Spezial Prise for you Meestar, I give you spezial prise” was the cry from each and every one of them, as they sent up a basket with the goods inside for your perusal. Once you had established a price, you went over to the other side of the ship and asked for the same item. When this fellow gave you his “best prise” you told him that the guy the other side was a few pounds cheaper, and so on etc.
Then through the Suez Canal and out into the Med and home some three and a half months later, but before the U.K. we had to unload some cargo in Dublin, our first “green” port since leaving Birkenhead.
That night we all went ashore and after the pub went on to a local dance hall. It was packed, with almost every table full, so we sat down and continued drinking. At some point the band appeared to play a tune we didn’t know, but seeing as how everyone was standing still, I quickly realised it was the Irish National Anthem. We all stood up except the third mate who was pissed out of his mind, all he could do was mutter “ fook the Irish “ which, judging by the murderous faces at the table next to us, had been clearly overheard.
Luckily their Anthem has several verses which gave us time to hatch an escape and evasion plot. As the Orchestra played the final notes, two people dragged the Third out down the stairs, two others went to get two taxis and the rest of us held the incandescent Irish hordes at bay at the top of the wide staircase by wielding chairs at them
Once the taxis arrived, we belted down the stairs and hightailed it for the docks. Within minutes you could see cars following us with horns blaring and irate Micks clinging on to the windows; there was definitely a sense of Keystone Cops about the chase until we swept through the dockyard gates and safety.
Had they caught us we would have been lynched.
From there it was but a short haul to Avonmouth where I was paid off and sent on three weeks leave. My first night back home, there were several people staying for Newmarket Race week, my stepfather being an owner as well as a Steward of the Jockey Club.
Having changed into my dinner jacket for dinner, my Ma pigeon-holed me before I went downstairs and whispered
“Darling, could you possible loose the Glaswegian accent before dinner as no one understands a word you say!”
Having spent the previous four months with many Glaswegians what could I say?
The spoilt school boy that had left Langham was no longer, I had returned a young man fully educated in the ungodly ways of the wicked World, and after a few days at home, realised I needed to cut the home ties and spend a few days in London with old school mates and obviously the many young ladies who were “doing the Season” . A deep suntan and a smart naval uniform did wonders!
Rats were a constant problem everywhere, despite rat guards placed on the mooring lines. If you were loading tea in Bombay, the whole of the dockside was covered in tea leaves and they could thrive in that environment; no doubt they came aboard in the cargo slings, even at times running up the gangway or the big mooring ropes. The ship’s cats did what they could but when you consider some of the Indian crew kept rats alive, in the coiled mooring ropes, as fresh meat - I kid you not - they stood little chance of pest control.
One voyage we were due to be dry docked in Calcutta for three weeks while the ships bottom was repainted. Before this took place the rodent officer, an extremely smart uniformed Sikh, came aboard to de-rat the entire ship while we were still afloat. On his orders all rat guards were removed, all water-tight doors, bulkheads and hatches opened, the hatches were already empty of cargo. In other words, total freedom of access or exit throughout the entire ship.
He then asked for a live one to be caught and to be brought to him by the gangway, which took me a mere five minutes to achieve.
Meanwhile his platoon of workers had cordoned off our entire area on the dock with nets and we could see they were all armed with clubs. The Boss Wallah took the cage with the rat in and placed it facing down the gangway; then he poured fuel on it, set it alight and the rat began screaming. After a few minutes’ rats began to come out of almost everywhere. At this point he opened the cage door and it ran howling down to the dock where it continued to burn and scream.
There were now rats streaming out from nests all over the ship. Some ran down the gangway, others down the mooring lines while many just went over the side into the dock where the filthy scum covered water would poison anyone, let alone rats. His point team mopped up those that were caught in the nets and half an hour later it was all over, one of the most efficient exterminations ever seen.
My comment about the state of the water in the dock was true enough as the poor over indulged third mate, from the ship ahead of us, fell off the little taxi type sampan on his way back to his ship a few nights later. He never came up and was found floating under the stern of the ship a day later. RIP.
Alcohol was banned for us cadets on board, but the officers could have a couple of beers if they wanted. On shore it was a different kettle of fish. Bars and nightclubs were our stamping grounds, the rumour of a girl in every port didn’t hold up, although I did have a few around the Cape and even one in Mauritius. Brothels were a waste of money as far as we were concerned.
Having said that the third mate had that particular urge in Mombasa of all places. He had a habit of getting totally blithering and ending up in trouble, so two of us always went with him to keep him out of trouble, the areas around docklands are not safe unless you are in numbers.
In the tropical heat the smell of unwashed bodies would have deterred most guys, but he was very determined, and he duly disappeared upstairs. Suddenly a heavy pounding on the door was followed by a loud voice proclaiming, “Open up Military Police”.
Windows could be heard opening as swearing squaddies baled out. The madam opened the door and came face to face with large red-capped MP sergeant and two corporals. He immediately demanded my ID card. When I showed him my merchant navy card, he said thank god for that and sat down and we had a long chat about Blighty while his subordinates chased all the squaddies out. It was an off-limits joint to British troops, but Merchant seaman were regarded by the white colonials as one of the lowest forms of life, so we didn’t matter.
It so happened that my stepfather was a director of Crosse & Blackwell. The company had agents all round Africa and they must have been told that one of their director’s sons was a-visiting. Several times I was asked to go to a buffet dinner party at their respective homes. This was always difficult as one had to go from a rough and ready lifestyle, full of colourful language, to the correct and socially conscious living rooms of the very PC colonials. To switch instantaneously after months at sea was no easy task.
They would all turn out in Sunday best for the event and any daughters would be groomed to meet the director’s stepson, images of promotion looming before them!
It didn’t take long for them to discover not only was I not actually a first-class passenger off the liner in the dock but even worse I was a ghastly crew member off a cargo ship. Quickly daughters were herded to one end of the room while I was kettled by the men at the other.
My worst recollection of this type of thing was in Calcutta where my UK girlfriend had written to one of her ex schoolmates asking her to look after me there, her father was the managing director of some large UK corporation in Calcutta. I was collected by a limo from the ship and driven to a large and imposing house in the best area of the city. The daughter, on realising I was a merchant seaman, clearly wished she had never asked me and didn’t want to associate with me at all, so her father took me under his wing.
He and I had three enormous pink gins before we all went off to a dinner party with some neighbourly Americans. There I consumed another three large tumblers of dry martini before dinner was announced. We entered this very grand dining room with the table laid a la Downton Abbey plus an imposing turbaned bearer standing behind each chair. My personal bearer pulled out the chair for me and apparently, I slid, rigidly at attention, under the table where I passed out.
The plan had been to stay with the family for the three weeks while we were in dry dock; but when I woke up the next morning back in the house and in a bed wearing my jim jams, I decided that cowardice wasn’t in my make up, so went down to breakfast.
As I entered the dining room, mine Host was sitting there by himself, having sent everyone out before I appeared.
“Good morning Jeremy, how’s the head, I must say I’m glad to see someone else that likes pink gins!”
Drinking wasn’t the only past time when ashore as was the case in St. Helena, a small volcanic island fifteen hundred miles out into the mid-Atlantic off West Africa. It is the island where Napoleon was exiled and died.
In those days they but had one ship per month bringing everything from mail to medical supplies, gasoline to groceries. The population is a coffee coloured mixture, all quite charming and very hospitable. The harbour is just an area for small boats, protected by a sea wall, so we had to anchor outside. The volcanic rock rose vertically about three hundred feet above the Harbour and at the top was a collection of stone buildings, a prison which needed no wire fences!
Old Nappy wasn’t the only political exile to be interned there, for when we arrived, three foreigners were residing up in the prison with permission from her majesty’s government.
As we anchored a Royal Navy destroyer was just leaving. It had brought a QC all the way from England to hear the appeal of one of the inmates. The latter had failed in his quest and the QC was returning to the UK, all expenses being paid by the prisoner, so he must have been rich!
It turned out that he wasn’t the only internee on the island. Walking back down the stony main street to the harbour we were asked to have tea with a very ancient white man, the first we had come across on our walk. His little house was no more than a corrugated iron hut, extremely neat and tidy with a photo of the Queen and Prince Philip either end.
It transpired that at the young age of sixteen he had been part of a very successful Boer commando and had been captured by General Kitchener’s troops.
He was sentenced to exile and shipped to St. Helena. A few years later he had married a local and the South African order of Apartheid prevented him from returning to the Cape, he was ninety-three.
I was very impressed to meet a Boer war prisoner, but it wasn’t the end of the island’s surprises. I was coxswain of the motorboat running the crew ashore and my final trip a small boy came running down the jetty just as we were casting off. He asked me if I could take a letter to his father as the mail boat would be another month in getting there. It turned out his dad was butler to Sir Anthony Nutting, a cabinet member at the time; it seems that there were strange and wonderful connections in such a tiny out of the way island.
In a lifestyle which was so packed full of new places and events, it came as a surprise that we should find ourselves suffering from boredom, but it happened. We left Mombasa and the east African coast bound for Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. It was a week’s steam across the Indian Ocean and as always, the old man had plotted our landfall, due at 0830 the next morning. However about fifteen minutes before time we began to see mastheads on the horizon, first one, then three, then a whole mass of them, it looked like a war time convoy. There were in fact over fifty ships anchored outside Colombo Harbour due to a dock strike and some had been there for over a month. The harbourmaster signalled us to take up an anchorage position and await instructions.
Wait we did, for four weeks in fact, for as we had not being cleared by port health or customs we were not allowed ashore, yet had the misery of seeing the shore lights from the city every night, it was all too enticing. Around us lay other cargo ships, similarly “on the hook” awaiting the great day of being summoned by the Harbour Master’s signal lamp.
Occasionally we got mail and fresh fruit by boat. It was blistering hot and the Mate, taking the opportunity of an empty deck, had us painting it black. The paint actually bubbled as it was applied. We ran out of most things and the chief steward was getting quite worried by the drain on his resources.
After three weeks, when you had cereal for breakfast and then added the milk, the weevils, about thirty or forty for a normal sized plate, came floating to the surface, if it was cornflakes, they were golden if you had All-bran they were brown. There were so many that fishing them out wasn’t an option, you just ate them.
The surface on the boat deck was teak and required constant cleaning and attention, Nelson’s jacktars were for ever scrubbing the decks with holystone bricks and then washing them down; nothing has changed since then as I now knew all too well, since the boat deck was my responsibility. On our final week out there, the chief steward decided to check the spud locker. This was a wooden structure on the boat deck, some eight feet tall and contained sacks of potatoes. The galley crew emptied it out and apart from the top two bags, it was all putrid mush and stank.
This really screwed up my deck and I wasn’t best pleased. I told him I would wash it all over the side with a fire hose to which he replied that his boat crew, all stewards and cooks, would use a small hose and those bits that remained and were still whole, we would be eating!
It was a great relief all round when we were allowed into the docks the next week to unload and we all went for a fresh curry.
Although there are many out there who have done far more dangerous and daring deeds, I have met one only one other who has been through a similar maritime situation to mine. Linda Greenlaw, from Ile au Haut Maine, now a famous author, was the captain of the swordfish boat Hannah Boden that was fishing off St. Georges bank when the Perfect Storm approached in 1991.
She was the last person to speak with the fishing boat Andrea Gail before the latter rolled over with the loss of all hands. The Perfect Storm, as it came to be known, was about as bad as it can get in that part of the world, yet the winds were only recorded at about 80mph gusting to 100mph and wave heights were of about thirty to forty feet, it was a classic hurricane registering Force 12 on the Beaumont scale.
Much more is known about storms at sea nowadays due to the technology of meteorological research. In 1958 there were no satellites flying in the stratosphere to obtain world weather situations, forecasts were obtained by radio messages and daily reports from British shipping around the world such as the S.S. Clan Cumming.
The weather forecast at sea has an enormous impact on the daily lives of sailors and the ships they sail in, so when an impending hurricane warning was received by “Sparky” our wireless operator, the news travelled throughout the ship with alacrity but no alarm.
For many years the Beaufort Scale has laid down the statistics for storms so that Force 1 is flat calm with no wind; a gale is calibrated at Force 8 and a hurricane at Force 12. In the legend it states that force 12 has winds of up to eighty miles per hour gusting to 100 mph and wave heights of 30ft cresting to 40ft, but as yet in 1957 there was no reference for any monstrous maelstrom larger than force 12.
However, our skipper, who had spent his entire life at sea including Atlantic convoys in WWII, calculated that the typhoon we encountered in the Bay of Bengal on that voyage was off the top end of the Beaufort Scale at about force 14.
It is therefore interesting to note in the past decade the World’s meteorological authorities have upgraded storms in this particular area (only) of the Indian Ocean to include Force 14 with a wind of 140 mph gusting to 180mph, and with waves of 60 to 100 feet.
To put some reality behind that, imagine standing in front of a eight story building - with 12ft high ceilings, ninety six feet in all - that is the size of the waves that I could see approaching the ship at about forty miles per hour.
At the time we were steaming across the Bay of Bengal from Calcutta to Mauritius. I had already been at sea for two years, so I was quite well versed in gales and storms, including the giant swells to be found down in the Roaring Forties south of Cape Town. Down there trough to trough can be anything up to a mile long while the gradual swell height is probably only forty feet.
However, a hurricane, or typhoon as they are known in this part of the World, was an entirely novel experience and one I won’t ever forget, yet nor would I have missed it for anything. It was the Disney ride of a lifetime and this is what I am going to tell you about.
It is now sixty plus years since this all happened, I was eighteen at the time, but the memories of it don’t fade. All wave and wind conditions I mention were those that entered into the rough copy of the ships daily log so they are not figments of my imagination and old age, but actual weather statistics passed back by our radio operator to the Meteorological HQ at Portishead near Bristol.
The reason British ships did this was to supply weather conditions around the Globe on a twenty-four-hour basis. From this they were able to issue forecasts to shipping as well as the news programs, nobody had heard of satellites back then.
The day in question was very hot as per usual and the sea resembled a large flat and oily pond with not a breath of wind. The news of the coming typhoon had flashed through the ship very quickly.
A sense of foreboding encompassed the whole crew, it wasn’t fear but more a feeling of uncertainty as to what extremes we were going to encounter over the next forty-eight hours. However, there was no time to dwell on it as much had to be done before it arrived.
Everything that could move or break loose was lashed down, hatch tarpaulins were checked and rechecked; life lines were rigged on the afterdeck to allow the lascar engine room crew to get to their places of duty; fiddles (three inch metal flaps) were placed around the galley stove to ensure the cooks were not scalded by hurtling cauldrons of boiling water. Similar fiddles were attached to the mess tabletops to stop plates of curry slopping into one’s lap while tables and chairs were chained to the mess deck.
As helmsmen we would be working in pairs on the wheel from midnight onwards for the duration of the storm, i.e. four hours on and four hours off. This was necessary as the constant mental strain and physical effort required to keep the ship from being battered off course would be extremely hard and wearisome. It would require maximum brute strength just holding the ships’ wheel steady, let alone remain standing on the heaving and rolling deck. Were the bow to be allowed to bear off with the fierce wind and giant waves, the ship would broach and be broadsided to the extreme elements of wind and waves. We would capsize and sink in just a manner of minutes and the chances of recovery in such conditions were a flat zero.
Throughout the morning the sun baked the deck too hot to touch while the flat oily ocean sparkled with all innocence with barely a ripple; it seemed very strange to be preparing for a mammoth storm in such idyllic surroundings. Then, towards noon, an enormous twenty-foot swell suddenly rolled in from nowhere without warning, but as yet still no wind. This swell is a precursor of the impending hurricane and can travel up to five hundred miles in advance of the storm at a speed of anything up to forty miles per hour.
The length from crest to crest is vast and a little disconcerting since there is no wind, just this huge but gently sloping swell running beneath the surface of the oily sea. It is as though some giant monster was moving down in the deep.
Soon the horizon began to change colour into a yellow and purple hued haze that appeared to be sitting on the surface of the ocean so that sky and sea were as one colour with no defining horizon; the sun gathered a huge opaque ring around itself as contrails of wispy cloud scudded overhead.
The enormity of the pending storm and this strange light created a feeling of purpose even amongst the most seasoned members of the crew, yet there was no feeling of doom or fright. It was abundantly clear that by looking ahead there was no way of escaping that which lay in store for us. It was obviously going to be exceedingly uncomfortable and very dangerous for a day or two.
The light breezes, which had begun wafting in from all directions suddenly picked up in strength to about force 6. The sky was growing darker by the minute and across the horizon everything was completely jet black; this is called the Hurricane Bar. It is very foreboding to see as it stretches right across the horizon and is the colour of coal. It was now to clear to one and all that the almighty was going to smite us very hard in due course.
With everything secured fast, all we could do was wait and watch the evil looking maelstrom build up ahead of us; it was a little unnerving but I never considered at any point that we would not make it out the other side; yet, even today, many ships much larger than we were, disappear without trace or distress signal.
The wind increased to about force eight, gale force, and thirty foot waves began to crest and break on top of the now huge fifty foot swells; yes I mean exactly that; a fifty foot swell with a thirty foot cresting wave on top, eighty feet in all. Black clouds swirled out of the gloom ahead and then, without any warning, the whole world went dark as night and with an ear-shattering roar, the typhoon was upon us.
The wind howled at hurricane strength of over 150 mph and screamed like a banshee through the rigging. Speech was impossible as words were whipped away. By this time, we were cavorting all over the place, pitching and tossing from bow to stern while rolling side to side through an arc of about 40 degrees.
We altered course to take the brunt of the wind ten degrees from off the port bow, the reason for this was twofold, it would ensure that neither the bow nor the stern were out of the water at the same time, for were that to happen continuously it would eventually break the ship in two.
Secondly it was to enable the chief engineer to shut off power to both the props each time they came out of the water when the resistance was dramatically reduced so the engines raced out of control. This constant racing of the screws could damage and bend the long prop shafts and were that to happen we could lose steerageway, turn broadside to the waves and capsize. So, by design, corkscrewing through the waves we went. It is an uncomfortable motion and one that eventually gives you a headache after a day or so.
Getting to and from watch on the bridge became an exercise in balance, strength, and agility, as it required climbing up three outside companionways from the main deck. Even on the lee-side not only were you chucked around like clothes in the washing machine due to the ships movement, but there was also the immense strength of the wind trying to loosen your grip on the rails and hurl you overboard; while the continuous salt spray stung like sharp needles. Inside the bridge it was impossible to hear anyone speak without shouting and very necessary to hang on to something for dear life lest you be hurled across the bridge into the bulkheads.
Our skipper said it was the worse he had ever seen and told Sparky to broadcast a weather warning to other ships and shore stations in the vicinity. In that report it was logged that the wind was gusting over one hundred and eighty miles per hour and that the waves were an average of seventy feet, cresting to ninety or a hundred.
The typhoon was off the top of the Beaufort Scale at Force 12, the old man estimated we were in a Force 14 which in today’s weather would make it a Force 5 hurricane, about as big as it ever gets. Steering was a constant grim battle with nature as the wind was shunting the ship about 30 degrees off course all the time and with each huge wave thundering into the bow, it just added to the difficulty of keeping the ship’s head roughly on course. The jarring thud, as each wave hit, could be felt and heard throughout the entire vessel, even in the deafening roar down in the engine room.
It was absolutely essential to keep a weather eye out for the rogue waves, which tend to come in pairs from any direction other than the given direction of the storm
The wind in a hurricane or typhoon was going anti-clockwise all the time in concentric circles but the sea and swell cannot react as quickly to that change. Every so often several waves will combine into one and in doing so will travel on a different course, oblique to the direction of the main swell. Thus, while watching the incoming wave from ahead, the duty officer and lookouts must give due warning to the helmsman of a vast mountain of water coming at the ship from a totally different direction. On the wheel, the helmsman’s vision is limited to a forty-five-degree arc from the bows to the beam either side, but no rear-view mirrors are available!
When rogue waves do arrive, they are mega monstrous and capable of knocking down a large ship down in one go. As I said before, a eight-story house in London gives you some idea of the size of the wave you are staring at, some ninety feet of black solid water, snakes of writhing spumes climbing up the face with twenty feet of white foam cresting and curling over as though it was going to consume the whole ship. In a storm such as this there is no fixed time scale for this to happen, but one rogue wave every fifteen minutes would be about par for the course.
At night there is no chance of the helmsman seeing anything in the dark, wave and sky are one vast black hole so seeing an incoming wave is not possible unless you manage to get a glimpse of the vast foaming crest ahead.
Today oceanography has proved these rogue waves to be a regular event in the oceans of the world and a super tanker or large container ship is lost every month somewhere in the oceans of the world without any SOS warnings being received from the doomed vessel. You are here one minute and the next all gone to Davy Jones locker.
In order to give my readers some idea of the nonstop motion that is now taking place, let us imagine you are standing on a raised platform twenty-foot square with a fixed wooden wheel to hold on to, while, all the time, keeping one eye on the compass and the other on the waves.
The platform is permanently going up and down like an express elevator for about one hundred and ten feet. At the same time, it is tipping forward and backward through an angle of fifteen degrees, that being the forward motion of the ship standing on the bridge.
Now add to that the twenty-five-degree rolling motion to either side to create the corkscrew motion and you begin to get the feel of just how difficult this is to merely stand up, let alone walk!
Should you wish to step outside onto the exposed deck then add a few more ingredients to the mix; a 140/180 mph wind trying to blast you off your feet with the spray blinding and stinging your face like stones. The catatonic roar of the ocean and the screaming banshee of the wind through the rigging is more than deafening; you cannot stand up on deck without holding on to a fixed object such as a stanchion or rail.
Walking required careful timing as every time the bow dropped, your feet were left in mid-air which allowed the wind to grab hold and spin you sideways; then the deck would rise up again and hit your feet, jarring the knees each time.
If you were crossing the fifty feet of open deck from our accommodation to the bridge superstructure, either to go on watch or to eat in the saloon, then you have to add in the fact that the seas were sweeping clear over the deck and so hundreds of gallons of water were sloshing to and fro as you made your way forward. Put that all together in the blender and switch on; there you have it, that was our life for the next forty-eight hours, whether you were working, eating or sleeping.
Living with this upheaval was a feat in itself. Eating required much concentration if you didn’t want a lap full of hot Balti curry or scalding tea; sleeping was fine as long as you wedged your body in the bunk with extra padding and anyway, fatigue was a such a major player in this game that sleep was very easy to come by.
Since writing this I have read the account of the captain of the S.S. Leicester that was caught in such a storm off Bermuda many years ago, the ship was about the same tonnage as we were.
She took a rogue wave on the beam, the cargo shifted, and she was abandoned with a sixty- degree list to port. The captain was washed overboard from the wing of the bridge forty feet above the main deck and then back again with the next wave. Judging by the figures he quotes; I have not embellished mine in any way!
The next morning the wind dropped right away, and the sun came out; we were now in the eye of the storm. The silence and sun were quite eerie as we cavorted through the giant swell, while all around the horizon the black sky remained menacing and omnipresent. This was a constant reminder that the forces of Nature hadn’t finished with us yet and, after the interval, we were about to watch the second half of the performance and were still hours away from the final curtain.
Several hours later we were back in the maelstrom. I do not know why, but often as not the backside of a hurricane is stronger than the front and this was the case with us.
As a helmsman steering the ship, we stood on a small grid platform behind the wheel with the magnetic compass in our front and the gyro compass readout gauge at eye level by our heads. It was the latter by which we steered. One eye was kept on the gyro compass while the other peered out through the bridge windows at the driving spume and rain for the incoming waves. You could only see one wave ahead as everything else behind it was blocked out, but at least it gave a thirty second warning to apply the necessary wheel corrections. The spray was washing right over the flying bridge above us which also restricted forward vision. The flying bridge, itself, was sixty feet above sea level!
At night, however it was much harder as the only warning was when you saw the crest of the wave high above you just before it crashed over the bow. It was at times like these that the worry of rogue waves became scary. Once or twice we were hit on the port quarter which laid us over at an angle of 35 degrees, that was a little disconcerting as I remember.
Dawn gave us about another twelve hours before we cleared the outer reaches of the storm and it was at that point that a small problem arose that needed immediate action.
VOLUNTEER IF YOU DARE
Below the raised deck of the bow or fo’c’slehead as it is known, there were several large lock ups, one was the chippy’s workshop, another the bosun’s store and the third, a paint store. Here behind an iron grid were about twenty-five-gallon drums of paint that the chief officer stored to repaint the ship before we arrived back to port in Tilbury.
Every line cargo ship must appear “ship shape and Bristol” fashion on arrival back in the UK. It is the chief officer’s task to ensure that happens or the Company Shipping Superintendent, an ex-captain himself, will be having a few words in his ear!
From the bridge it could be seen that these drums had broken loose and were being hurled back and forth by the violent movement of the ship. That in itself didn’t constitute a danger, just a big mess if they bust open. What did cause much concern was that there were also gallon canisters of kerosene, turpentine, white spirit and other inflammable liquids stored here as well.
Any of these could be easily ignited by a spark from one of the paint drums hitting the bulkheads. Rough weather is one thing but a fire at sea is every seaman’s worst nightmare.
The captain decided they had to be lashed down ASAP and as the deck crew were unable to get forward from their accommodation down aft, two cadets were going to have to get the job done.
The dangers of being washed overboard were obvious to all as the foredeck was continuously being swept from port to starboard by a foaming mass of white water. The captain asked for volunteers but made it very clear he would not order anyone out there under these conditions.
I have always been a sucker for a challenge and this time proved to be no exception to the rule. One other cadet decided he wanted to go with me as well. We made our own decision not to wear Board of Trade life jackets as they would restrict our movements besides which there was absolutely zero chance of being picked up or ever seen again were we to be washed over the side.
A plan was devised whereby the third mate would unclip the dog clips of the storm door on the leeward side of the main deck, we would then make our way forward while under constant observation from the bridge. When all was done, we would hand signal the bridge that we were ready to come back and, only on their return signal, would run for the storm door which would be opened, letting us through to safety. Whilst working under the overhang of the foredeck we would be quite safe from wind and waves! It was the best we could do in the given circumstances.
We gathered some rope lashings and, on the word, go, the 3rd Mate unlatched the dog clips and opened the bulkhead door, the full force of the storm slammed straight into us. We were now crossing an open deck sometimes just a mere four feet above the boiling sea with wind, wave and spray doing its best to knock us down.
The violent movement of the ship made our journey across the sixty-foot open deck very tricky indeed and, after staggering up the heaving deck, we eventually reached the lee of the raised foc’stle. The five-gallon paint drums were careening to and fro across the locker at an alarming speed and were extremely painful when they made contact, so we had to take care not to get a leg or arm broken in the process.
Up here the movement of the ship was much more pronounced than midships; the bow was rising and falling over 120 feet as well as rolling through a thirty degree arc, so it was nearly impossible to maintain one’s balance let alone move heavy paint drums about and lash them down.
Once the bow reached the summit it would plunge straight down, and our bodies and drums were left suspended in mid-air before crashing down in a painful pile on the deck. Communication between us was by sign language due to the orchestra playing Dante’s Inferno of roaring seas, screaming wind, with the percussion being the thunderous and shuddering crash of huge waves hurling themselves at the bow, a mere few inches from our heads. The overall catatonic concerto of chaos and confusion was mind-boggling.
It took us about fifteen minutes to lash everything down tight, and we were both physically and mentally exhausted, with many cuts and bruises. Now we had to confront the perilous dash back down the open foredeck to the storm door on the bridge housing. We couldn’t see the waves from our position under the overhang of the foredeck but reckoned that once we hit a trough and felt the bows rising up, it should be a good time to run back.
The bows were going up and down at an incredible rate, and just standing there and holding on with both hands was difficult enough so once we got onto the exposed deck and the howling wind we were going to have to move fast, if fast is even the right word.
On seeing the thumbs up from the Bridge, we both ran like hares, but never saw the wave coming inboard over the rails. We were hit hard and swept off our feet. My mate was washed clear over number 2 hatch and was saved by the ship’s rails on the starboard side while I slammed into the large port winch aft of number two hatch. A soft landing no less!
Both of us were knocked out but our mishap had been watched from the bridge and we were pulled quickly to safety. After the proverbial cup of tea and a change of clothes we sat down and joined the ongoing poker school that had been our off-watch mainstay during the hurricane.
Later that day we were asked to stand by one of our older sister ships who was beginning to get cracks in her afterdeck. There was immense power in those waves and looking back now, had we had lifejackets on it would have been a total waste of time!
As to seasickness, nobody suffered from it at all and anyway it required maximum effort and concentration just to hold on to whatever was going to keep oneself in place while doing your job.
Later that evening the sun came out and it was all was over.
In the ensuing years I have witnessed another five hurricanes whilst living in the US but
none, including the Perfect Storm measured up to the wrath and might of this one.
Never underestimate the power of the sea, it is immense, relentless and ruthless beyond all
On my final voyage, we were homeward bound from Calcutta and I wrote a letter from there saying how much I was looking forward to getting home after an arduous trip. On arrival at Port Said I received a letter from my mother, in it she stated that she had left Langham, our home, for good, leaving behind husband, two small children and us.
You can imagine just how devastating that was, suddenly I was homeless. Luckily the previous three years had taught me to stand on my own two feet and in the process had toughened me up considerably. even so it had some unfortunate repercussions in time.
Looking back on those years, I had learned how the rest of the world lived, especially my fellow Brits, learned what team work and hard graft was all about and as a result, gave the required backbone to be able pushed myself to extremes at times when there was little else but oneself to do it, learned more about the sea and the immense power it contained , and all the while, had a whale of a time.
I learned to understand and use dialects from across our Country which was just as well as the next five years in the Army I was surrounded by a plethora of Barnsley Boys, they were great lads, and enormous fun to be with. Ay Up thee!
It’s just a pity that more young people don’t get the chance to do something like this nowadays, it is also quite a coincidence that I first learned to sail in 1949 under the guidance of the great Jumbo who lived on Iken Cliffs and here I am again seventy years later, living in Orford.
Jeremy Rugge-Price April ‘20
The recent hurricane Dorian that decimated the islands of Abaco and Freeport in the Bahamas was a Category 5, the same strength as the Cyclone we experienced in 1958 in the Indian Ocean.
I discovered last week that three of our extended family have caught Coronavirus but all are back in their feet, strangely they were all young!
Being locked down, alone in an apartment or a small house with several kids must be difficult so we are lucky that there is our garden and the forest around us. The latter makes dog walks possible whilst the former is being transformed under the orders of “She who must be Obeyed”. A great friend of ours, Trish, has her favourite rake while Paula has her clippers, and woe betide if you should even touch them.
Another aspect of daily life is washing up. In order to save essentials, we are not using our dishwasher every day, and so dishes, pots and pans are now hand washed in the kitchen sink, and therein lies the rub! Dishwashing never was my strong point and so I come in for a fair amount of stick over my efforts.
“Don’t tell me you washed this, obviously you can’t see!”
So, I include this comment from a Correspondent in the Daily Telegraph which makes the point much better than me.
Meanwhile Orford continues on daily, tractors trundle by from dawn to dusk, you can’t lock a good farmer down! Delivery vans deliver and Ian, our stalwart postman waves at us through the window. The Village food shops, and the wonderful people manning them, are a credit to behold.
As her Majesty said, “We’ll Meet Again”
Jeremy Rugge Price
Orford, as a trading port, has been involved in an infectious plague once before, during the Black Death in 1347 in fact.
In 1347, twelve trading vessels arrived in Messina, Sicily. Many on board were already dead whilst others, all Spotty Muldoons and very sick with putrid and suppurating black sores all over their bodies, were ordered back to sea, but to no avail, the Black Death had arrived in Europe, having started originally in China some 2000 years previously. The plague had gradually worked its way west via overland trade routes such as the Silk Road connecting East to West and later by ocean going trading ships.
Not much change there, for trading vessels, read commercial aircraft and cruise ships!
Many considered it to be the Wrath of God and the only cure was heavy duty penance for forgiveness. As per usual, Europe’s Jewish population took a severe bashing, whilst here some males took to self-flagellation, touring in a group from town to town and beating themselves in the town square which they repeated three times a day before moving on to the next town. There were no PC plods to stop and fine them back then.
Having been beaten at school, I cannot recommend it, it hurts, and by the way I think Orford’s Old Stocks are in the church right now, maybe they need to be got out?
This lockdown is more than likely, going to take longer than the original estimates, but that is no reason for despair as there are a myriad of online courses, covering just about everything from cooking aubergines, the only veg left on many supermarket shelves, to tips on car maintenance. One of the latter is to remind you to move your vehicle every few days otherwise you will ruin your tyres for ever.
It is also best to keep a sense of humour in troubled times, those of us that have a military background know this very well, and while man cannot live by laughs alone, it does help dispel gloom and despondency.
I read today that Celia Walden, married to the dreaded Piers Morgan, lost one of her cell phones to her eight-year-old daughter. Yesterday Celia received a call from a helium sounding voice. “Can I speak to Elise please.” She asked who was speaking and the voice just repeated the question, so she ran downstairs to tell daughter Elise, who was standing with a ‘phone stuck to her ear. “This is for you” Celia said “Not now Mum, can’t you see I’m on another call”
Jeremy RP April 1
Paula and I are now entering our fourth week of isolation, we started early, low immune system being one of our pre-existing reasons, but due to the massive support from neighbours and local shops, we are plodding along fine.
Orford shops, the General Store, Pump St Bakery, The Meat Shed, Pinneys and last but by no means least, the Clinic, are all to be given a huge Orford Clap, and that goes especially to all those individuals working in these places.
Both pubs are doing takeout meals, while, as of now, farmers and fishermen are hard at it. Then there are the individuals delivering food orders, others driving to supermarkets to shop for those who can’t.
Thank you one and all.
There is no end in sight as yet, and it could get tougher down the pike; I would recommend that you read Bill Gates’s recent forecast for the virus, he may be talking about the US, but it is a good description of what could happen here, vis a vis big cities and the countryside.
Meanwhile a few pics of life in the trenches
A wee lassie helps her Ma clean the bathroom
Easter Hols and schools are out, so normally this would be a time to welcome our visitors but, given the present public problems of gathering in maddening crowds, it’s probably not the best idea, but whether Mr & Mrs Joe Pee and all their little Peas will wish to hunker down amongst the mountain of bog rolls in their semi, is up for grabs right now and only time will tell.
Therein lies a problem, for our Council Kharzis are definitely not fit for purpose right now I’m talking about cleanliness overall, never mind the fact that a roll of the actual Andrex won’t last past the first potty session. I have cleaned many an ablution in my time as a recruit in basic training in the late 1959. At Barnard Castle Camp, our communal Khazi block housed twenty loos and a long smelly yellow wall of urinals for 100 men, and it required two recruits to scrub out each day. The smallest bit of brown would quickly let you down and meant you had to clean the whole block the next morning at 0500hrs. This also included polishing the copper piping and brass taps as well.
I mention this as I don’t suppose many Orfordians have had the opportunity to watch the East Suffolk Khazi Cleaner in action, but as I’m down there every early morning, I have cast my expert eye on his operation. He dismounts from his truck, walks into the Ladies, comes out again in less than a minute and repeats the same in the Gents, then climbs back in the truck and drives off. At no time is there anything in either hand in terms of cleansing equipment, maybe he just wipes it down with bare hands! So, dear readers, these loos are about to become ‘Crxp & Collect” distribution points. May I suggest you stay clear and stay well.
JEREMY R P
There go my Bog Rolls Greedy Arsxholx
So now we are both interned for the foreseeable future, our combined ages and health problems deem it most necessary, although we may be seen driving to various wooded parts to walk Ace each day.
Thankfully our esteemed Council already instigated the village emergency delivery system.
It’s abundantly clear Boris has lost the plot, and as for “herd immunity” I hope he included himself!
Until recently, I had been looking forward to March, it’s my birthday month and this year is a real biggie, I will have been around for four score years as of the 23rd of March, provided Connie D doesn’t get me between now and then! It’s a thought that gave rise to my past and varied brushes with Old Father Time. It’s not all been plain sailing, five times I have had some very near misses as the Grim Reaper tried to scythe my feet from under me.
It began in the autumn of 1944 when a V2 rocket landed a hundred yards away from the cottage where we were living, in June. Our Dad had gone off to Normandy so we had been moved out of our billet in Hampshire. On that particular night, my dear brothers and I were, truly, home alone. Ma had gone off to a night club in London to dance the night away, and our carer, a sixteen year old girl, had put us in bed and then left for an away match with a USAAF Sergeant - I saw his stripes when he peaked around the bedroom door to say goodnight - so the three of us were grabbing a few zedz in the dark when all the mullioned windows blew in accompanied by an ear splitting explosion. I was sick in the bed and so had to lie in it for hours while my brothers in the next room cried. But of course, no one came. Our Ma was the first back as daylight approached!
The second was when, aged eleven, I lost a kidney due to a riding accident; there was no mark other than a red welt where it kicked me, so I was sent to rest on my bed in the east Wing under the care of our Norland Nanny. About an hour later I needed a wee, but it came out as blood which I found curious, so when “Nanny dear” came to see me I told her. The sxxt hit the fan and I was whistled of to Newmarket Hospital in an old US Army ambulance with the wailing siren going full blast, I was most impressed. I didn’t actually know just how close I was to walking off the stage till years later as, apparently, I weren’t supposed to survive the day.
Seven years later old King Neptune nearly dragged me down to Davy Jones Locker! As an eighteen-year-old deckhand on a ten thousand tonne cargo ship, I volunteered to go out on the open foredeck with a mate and lash down some items that had broken loose. The only trouble was we were in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane in the Indian Ocean at the time, and the Captain’s daily log showed waves from 75 to 100 feet and winds of 180 mph gusting over 200. As we were going back down the foredeck, a freak wave picked us up and we were definitely going overboard but luckily hit a cast iron steam winch on the way out, which knocked us out but saved our lives.
Nine months later on the same ship I fell exactly 35 feet down an open cargo hatch while we were unloading in Cape Town. I regained consciousness in the hospital with a nurse staring at me. She told me what had happened and said to keep absolutely still while she fetched the Doc as an X-ray had shown I had two battered vertebrae. As soon as she left the room, and knowing the ship was sailing that night, I grabbed my shorts and shoes and bolted back on board.
The fifth was in Rio de Janeiro, when I was one of the drivers in the World Cup Rally. We were swimming off Ipanema Beach when I got cramp, one friend held me up while the other swam for help, but the former had to let go as he got cramp too. I had been up and down three times and had ceased fighting to stay afloat - the film of life was on the screen - when I was pulled back up to the surface by two teenagers.
The last was a shooting accident some fifty years ago, when an eminent QC tried to shoot two low partridges and shot me instead, on the left side of my face and shoulder. If either bird had swerved left in flight, I would have taken both barrels. He was dug in, six foot under, a few months later but I can assure you, I had nothing to do with it.
So, you see, you must all take good care of yourself if you wish to remain above ground, especially with this Connie D around, methinks old Whu Flun Dung has a few things to answer for!
My guess is we’ll have rationing soon, so it’s back to where I began in 1940.
By the way, the Loo Roll Crisis, as a country we are the biggest exporter of soft loo paper in the World, bet you didn’t know that!
There is a cherry tree that has been in full blossom for the past two weeks, the daffodils are out and our lawn needs cutting and yet it’s still February. So apart from The Idiot Genius Trump, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see Climate Change is here to stay, and we all have to do our bit. What we don’t need is extinction rebellion making trouble for the public and the police as they just did in Cambridge, digging up a garden lawn and putting up roadblocks that even stopped ambulances from going thru. My suggestion for them would be that once arrested, they should be given a punishment (under guard,) of verge cleaning on our Country’s roads. This policy is used in the US to good effect and prisoners in orange suits and shackles can be seen picking up rubbish. As we have some of the most disgusting highway verges in Europe, it would help make the Britain greener. After all, that’s what XR is all about, isn’t it? The XR public relations is a disaster and a senior Plod is on record as saying that the more extreme, visible and vocal XR activists are those who are seen at almost every other ‘PC cause celebre’ protest around the Country, as it’s their regular day job. One of the problems is that Plod is scared of arresting them in case they sue! This is Politically Correctness gone totally cockamamie, and it doesn’t stop there. Activist vegans are feeling empowered by a recent judicial decision, now they demand a separate shelf in the office refrigerator and cannot be sent to any public event that involves animals, such as camel racing, pig sticking or donkey derbies, not even the crab races here on the Quay.
The Luck of the Irish - One of the lesser known Brexit Day plots was that of the IRA to blow up a large truck on a ferry traveling to the U.K. at precisely the hour of Brexit Leave time. The ensuing loss of life would have been catastrophic and might well have sunk the whole ship, but for the fact that the Irish plotters put the bomb in a truck that wasn’t being used! T’be shure, dey wus arl lookin de same! Plus ca change there, methinks. Did you hear the one about......etc.
Time Out - Interesting article in the Telegraph today from one of my favourite ladies, Alison Pearson. It addresses the nationwide problem of our doctors’ appointments, allowing for just a single symptom to be addressed per ten-minute visit. She mentions several cases where people had suffered much more dangerously as a result of this restriction. When one of the more elderly, like me, are called in by the Doc, it takes a couple of minutes to get up, shuffle into the office and sit down again, so duffers like me are already down to 7.5 mins and that’s before I try and remember what a came here for!
Workers Unite - Mrs Patel has suggested that the thousands of British unemployed will pick up the slack when EU workers are sent home! Dream baby dream, they don’t wanna work! Minimum wage and zero hours contract, not exactly encouraging. Remember my old Mates Alf and Bert that used to fill our potholes every winter, well the council street sweeper machine was here last month, but it was now driven by Drago and guided by Stefan, they did a good job but once they have gone back to Rumania, who’s gonna take up the slack?
Meghan the Manipulator - The latest ‘essay’ from Mrs Sussex shows that she is the power behind Harry’s throne. I’m beginning to feel sorry for him, one day he’s gonna wake up and sniff the coffee, and there won’t be sugar in it.
Floral Tribute - Last week a lady had to attend a wedding and then a funeral on the same day, so she had a special floral hat made. The wedding was fine but before the funeral she lost the hat, only to see it pass by on top of the coffin!
Truth is stranger - Coronavirus Quarantine China erected two hospitals, some 2500 beds, in two weeks. Lincoln County Hospital did this in a day! The bad part there is no heat or running water.
Jeremy Rugge-Price Feb 20
The fireworks of New Year’s Eve had hardly spluttered into oblivion in the night sky, when Donald the Demented pulverised General Soleimani into a rare hamburger at Baghdad’s airport.
The more worrying thought is that President Chump has his finger on the Nuclear Red Button. Shortly thereafter, the Iranians fired back, which was quickly followed by the much-touted Revolutionary Guard shooting down a Ukraine passenger jet; so much for their aircraft recognition skills.
Just as I was catching my breath, Harry and his wife threw a hissy fit with their exposure to the Media, and she left for Canada rather than face the music, I suspect that advice came from Meghan’s PR advisors in California. Poor Harry, like bunnies in the headlights, I think he has caught a dose of Meghanmatosis. As is well known in most military planning, once over the start line, chaos looms, and so it did with this Megxit plot, as their first action in Canada was to warn the Canuck media not to take pictures; talk about out of the fire and straight into the frying pan!
In the long haul, Harry could be facing an even more public oriented fate for little Archie. Mrs Sussex is looking for an agent to handle her future Hollywood career, while the Palace has let it be known that the side door isn’t locked!I don’t like the look of it!
That was all a frantic and fraught beginning to the year, but there is always some good to find amongst the chaos, and in this case all news of Brexit was well and truly buried somewhere in the back pages.
Over the Christmas holidays I saw selfies on Instagram of my friends and followers either schussing down the mountain side or absorbing rays on sun drenched beaches. All the things I loved to do once upon a time, but now only possible in my dreams. Actually, my dream skiing has much improved, I no longer hear cries of “Bend ze knees” or “Keep ze skis togezza”, as I nonchalantly skim down a double black run.
In past dreams I often used to fly, but now it’s better to keep my feet on the ground, or at least while I’m still above it, and anyway, when I turn up at the Pearly Gates, JC is hardly likely to hand me a pair of Angels wings, I’ll be told to get a shovel from the stores and report to the boiler room to hump coal to keep the fires burning. There again he might he have done away with fossil fuel?
Orford, at this time of year, is wonderful, peace reigns, no queues in the Bakery and you can park virtually anywhere, or at least you will be able to until April. Suffolk Council is sending meter maids to patrol our streets and lanes, residents and cone heads alike are going to be at their mercy. That is going to be quite testing for some of us, but a disaster for summer visitors who park anywhere and everywhere, regardless of no parking signage. There is a rumour that some of the Square parking is going to be for residents only, that’s a great idea if it works, and how about a space on the Quay for fishermen unloading, our poor Harbourmaster is going to be extremely busy with the overload.
In order for this to work, the meter maids and men will need to be here on Saturday and Sunday at peak hours around 2pm, so that removes most Brits from doing it, I wonder where they will recruit the team?
But there is worse news than that as the waves are now breaking around the actual lighthouse tower, the safety wall in front having been washed away. It will be a very sad day when the tower begins to collapse and disappears from view. Like many an ancient mariner, I have travelled the Oceans of the World and was guided safely by their beams of light. RIP
I see some vegan activists are at it again, they don’t like handling our new plastic money, cos it’s got some pig fat in there somewhere. Gadzooks, Shades of the Indian Mutiny, What! Personally, I prefer Gunga Din any day.
I watched the Holocaust programmes on Auschwitz and Belsen this week, I was stationed near Belsen in the ‘60’s. There was a very strange atmosphere all around the forest, and although only the guardhouse still remained standing, there were no birds or animals and when you let your dog out of the car, his hackles went up immediately.
Here in Suffolk we have a new record, Plump, a small owl, was found sitting by a ditch and on approach she just stood there. She had noshed so many meeces, (plural for mice) that her weight prohibited take off. After a spell of rehab in the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, she lost a few grams and is now back on Mouse Patrol. I’m thinking of checking in there myself!
Finally Charlie Cooper: I was talking to a mate of mine in the Quay early this morning as the dawn peeped over the Lighthouse, and he said what a cheerful bloke he had been, despite years of painful adversity, and I totally agree with that sentiment. There were times that he and I would meet around the Square, and his humour and bonhomie shined through.
Charlie, from an Old Harrovian, Floreat Etona and now rest without pain.
Jeremy Rugge-Price Jan 20
The TV news programmes are full of pictures of vast firework displays around the globe heralding the New Year in. Sadly there was no photo of the happenings in Orford. In fact, had I not been on one of my many nocturnal jaunts to the Thomas Crapper China Bowl, I would probably have missed it myself.
As per normal, we were both tucked up and away in the Land of Nod by 8.30. A few hours later just as I got to the loo, there was a Snap, Crackle and Pop as three fireworks went off, followed by silence and I realised it was already 2020. Time is not of the essence in Orford, so over the next thirty minutes there were similar small “noises off” in the distance, the occasional snap and crackle and the odd pop, it was a bit like waiting for the other shoe to drop, but eventually all was quiet.
20/20 are the optical figures for clear vision, I just hope some of the World’s leaders have it, cos there are one or more that have blinkers on, including old “I know Wind’ Trump. Incidentally, if you missed his speech on Wind, may I recommend you read it. On one side it’s hilarious, but on the other you have to remember that this demented old windbag has his finger on the nuclear button!
So off we go into the future, who knows what it will bring.
As to New Year Resolutions,
1 Vegans, please just eat your cabbage quietly,
2 XR, stop sniffing glue and annoying those who work for a living and have to travel to do so.
3 LBGTA2Z, Your act is over played and over done, so shut up.
4 Bring back the cane for young criminals, a little sharpener sets you straight.
So there you have it, it’s 2020 whether you like it or not
Deck the Halls with Plastic Holly Falalala la, lala lala
‘Tis time to use your hard earned lolly Falalala la, lala lala
Christmas is a time for spending6 Falalala la lala lala
Provided that the Bank is lending Falalala la lala lala
Click and Buy is here to stay Falalala....
No shopping in the Mall all day Falalala............
Yer going to ‘ave to spend a lot Falalala.....
Just max out every card you’ve got Falalala....
Dad wants socks and Sis wants nickers Falalala La.....
Yer little Bro wants Star Wars Stickers Falalala...
“Yer took me teef!” Gumms Auntie Flo Falalala...
When yer snogged me neath the mistletoe Falalala ....
All topped up with port and brandy Falalala..
Some vomit bags might come in handy.. Falalala...
So gird yer loins and please don’t moan Falalala.....
Yer gotta year to pay the loan Falalala la, lala lala
A CHRISTMAS TALE OF TWO SMALL CHILDREN
The creation of Father Christmas originated in Germany over a century ago, and now he is an international figure of fame and goodwill, bringing much excitement and joy to little children spread across the Globe. Presents Lists are made and dispatched to the Present Factory where the gnarled little elves toil away on zero hour contracts for months on end. Come Christmas Eve when they are done and dusted, Grumpy and his gang repair to McDonalds for a Happy Meal, Pizza Express is no longer a venue for ‘onourable elves!
Meanwhile Old Father C orbits the Globe in his carbon free Deliveroo sleigh , actually I’m not sure about the carbon free bit as reindeer are renowned for their farting capabilities!, while millions of small people are eagerly awaiting his arrival, and, as the level of anticipation and excitement grows there is a good chance of the thrill of some small people reaching the ‘pee in yer pants proportions’ and a small plaintive voice saying “Ma I’ve done a wee wee”
There were two such small children at Langham Hall, near Bury St.Eds, our family home, namely my half brother and sister, and both were in a fever of excitement as Christmas Eve approached.
Our stepfather decided to go all out for it and hired a wonderful Father Christmas outfit from Bermans, costumier “par excellence” to the Royal Ballet, International film studios and more, it was a glorious red and white costume with a wonderful bushy white beard.
At the designated bewitching hour we all foregathered by the Christmas Tree in the big drawing room, and then one of the large French windows was opened and as we all peered outside, all we could see was a cold, dark and windy night. We could also see the stone paved terrace by the house, and on the far side of this terrace was a drop of two feet into a large sunken rose garden.
Meanwhile and Father Christmas had taken up station some thirty yards to the left of all this, camouflaged behind a small cherry tree.
At precisely 6pm, Uncle John shone his big car flashlight out into the night, it was just like a searchlight beam of an anti aircraft battery from a decade ago.
‘Oh look.’ He said. ‘ I think I can see something moving over there” Both children stared into the blackness, a tiny tinge of the unknown creeping into their small minds.
Meanwhile, out in the dark night, Old Father Christmas was in deep doo, the wintry cold wind had blown the end of his beard into a low branch of the tree, and he couldn’t free it, and was struggling frantically to get disengage from the tree, the white fur in his sleeve ends could be seen frantically flailing about in the dark night, it was as though Father Christmas was having a fisticuff fight with someone.
Then suddenly he broke free and staggered back, picked up his sack, and began to approach the house.
Back in the drawing room, none of these wild and frantic actions had escaped his erstwhile young fans, and my young half brother was now clinging desperately to Nanny while his sister had taken refuge under the tree, but they were both still watching!
What came next won’t ever be forgotten by the family.
Because of the searchlight shining directly in his face, Father Christmas couldn’t see a foot in front of him, and knew full well that there was a two foot drop somewhere to his front. Were he to fall headlong into this pit and break a leg, it might well be a cause for much blubbing.
As a result of the hidden minefield, he was now taking very slow gargantuan and galumphing steps in our direction, wobbling from side to side while shouting words we couldn’t hear because of the wind, ( “turn that bloody torch off”). But “le piece de resistance” was his beard and red hat; due to the force required to disentangle from said cherry tree, they had both slipped fifteen degrees anti clockwise , so now his beard stuck out horizontally from his left ear while the red hat did the same from the right ear.
Father Christmas had morphed into some gruesome gremlin of the night .
Put that all together in the minds of the young children, and you have a wild red monster staggering towards you out of the dark yelling his head off and, all the while, with long red and white pointed objects sticking out either side of his head, and what’s even worse, it appears to be coming to get you.
With screams they both fled back to the nursery wing, terrified beyond all reason, and it took Nanny quite some time to get them to calm down and sleep.
Two whisky and sodas later, accompanied by much giggling, Father Christmas and his lighting technician declared the whole event to have been be a resounding success.
For two ex Guards Officers from World War 2, the plot wasn’t perhaps the best, and they should have remembered that once you pass the Start Line, all plans are void.
Jeremy Rugge-Price Christmas ‘19
The following emails relate to a small campaign I am managing on behalf of our neighbours and their unfortunate chicken. Please do whatever you can to help as the efforts of the Lord Lieutenant may not be sufficient to stop the slaughter.
Last month we went for four days to a little place called Morgat in Brittany, the last time I was there was in 1949 and every subsequent summer till 1954. I’m thrilled to say that it was every bit as delightful today as it was then and that’s a rarity nowadays. A little fishing and sailing port with a huge sandy beach, and a cloudless sky for four days. This was a real R&R holiday, as opposed to the working trips to Maine, and was much needed after a four-year gap. All we had to worry about was where and what to eat, langoustine, moules, soup de poisson, and last but by no means least, deux boules de glacé aux chocolate or tarte aux pommes each evening! We were also the sole English couple there, which in today’s World, gives Morgat a five-star rating.
To be fair, people of any and every nation, when herding on holidaying, are dreadful, and as Brits we are top of the Premier League!
Now we are back to Brexit, Extinction Rebellion and Impeachment. In our house we don’t do Brexit, it’s gone beyond the realm of fantasy whereas with the upcoming Trump impeachment palava imploding within the White House, there’s never a dull moment. With his shoot-from-the-hip tweeting incriminating him more each hour of the day and night, while his own lawyer, Rudy the Mouth, runs amok with fantasy and little or no aforethought, while his Chief of Staff tries to eat his hat. Who knows, maybe they will end up in the same cell!
Then there is the herd of Extinction Rebellion. That there is a problem is in no doubt whatsoever and something must happen to slow down the Global Warming. Apart from He of “unmatched wisdom” presently squatting in the White House, I think we are all agreed upon that, but not necessarily as XR expounded. I’m sure that most of the protesters are sensible people, or so they seem that is, apart from the obsessive anti meat vegan, anti-establishment and anti-capitalist activists gathered amongst their numbers. But the methods the XR are using to promote their cause, have been a PR disaster of mega proportions, akin to that of Moses and the Red Sea! The disruption caused to ambulances, commuters and workers, roads and transport in general, annoyed and infuriated everyone. To begin with XR cast all came by car, bus or train, more carbon emissions. If they had marched all the way as the miners did from across the Country, it would have meant much more. Given the scarcity of police officers nationwide, plus the high rise in stabbings due to County line drug gangs, the XR passive non action requiring at least two Plods to carry away each protester is totally misguided and ridiculous, besides creating a police budget of gargantuan proportions. I would drag ‘em away by their bootstraps on the basis that banging their heads on the tarmac might knock some common sense into their heads. As to those clowns that glue themselves to buildings, roads, trains and even to each other, in fact especially the latter, let them remain stuck to the tarmac or each other for a minimum of twenty-four hours. They will soon become wet and very smelly, and what’s even better, they can’t use loo paper cos their hands are glued!
As I said, there is a Worldwide problem of Climate Change, but XR activists don’t, or won’t, acknowledge that industry and science is way ahead of them in this field, and that it’s big business, plus shareholders, who are leading the way via technology. But there are still some of us around that grew up in an age where we didn’t have that “little green bag”. As small children back in the forties, our dirty and smelly nappies were washed daily by hand and hung on the line. So, if yours were stuffed in the garbage bin, don’t blame me for global warming!
There was a recent Panorama program that involved one journalist, one climate/carbon footprint expert, and a family of four, Dad, Mum and two kids. In one month, they reduced their Carbon footprint through changes in food, heating and transport and in the one-hour Panorama programme, showed how to achieve this and it was explained very simply and straightforwardly. Something which XR, in their thousands, have failed to do since they began their herd revolt.
Then there is the Canadian trans cyclist. Having swapped his manhood for female attire, Mr/Ms. McKinnon declared it was his/her “human right” to compete in women’s professional cycling events! Bollocks to that Mate, to allow that would ruin all professional sports for good. If you want to be a They that’s fine, but go play with your own Theys, perhaps a They LBTGXYZ Olympics of their very own would be the answer.
I look forward to entering my eightieth year in 2020, and as you will gather, have little time for the PC propaganda. In the days and nights when the skies were lit up by searchlights while anti-aircraft guns and bombs shattered the silent night, we all pulled together.
Today it seems we are besieged by herds of nerds.
“Beam me up Scotty”
Oct 22 ‘19
Important Notice for Cone Heads
Farmers, particularly those who raise livestock, are suffering huge losses due to “Midnight Rustlers”. In our area it’s mainly piggies that are pinched while in the more hilly districts of the U.K., it’s the sheep that go missing, not just one but in hundreds. It’s big time money for meat these days, despite the “fatwa” issued by the austere Head of Goldsmiths, London University, her dictat is the removal of beef from the undergraduates’ menu. Where’s the Beef! Her reasons are founded in carbon emissions from the herd. Well, if I have to eat cabbage and beans instead, my daily personal carbon emissions are capable of blowing away anything a few cows can do, and you don’t want to be downwind either!
As far as the masses are concerned, there are many degrees of separation as to what actually takes place on farms today. In some big cities, New York for example, there is a petting zoo in Harlem containing a few cows that the Young Bruvs can see and even touch, in order that they might understand from whence cometh the “white stuff” in the carton, Yo, Bruv, y’know what ah mean!
If you think that is crazy, try this:
A young checkout counter clerk was recently presented with a box of loose tea leaves. On being told what it was and how you make tea with it, he said.” Oh, I see, when you get home you fill up the teabags yourself”?
Our local Latitude Festival came under fire from many, including the RSPCA, the media and the Wailing Wallies of the Loony Fringe, for displaying sheep of many colours, on the basis that it did them harm! Joseph, he of the multi coloured Coat fame, would have been gobsmacked by the hues on display and I’ve no doubt that Little Bo Peep would also have found these multi coloured sheep to be utterly orgasmic. Anyway, farmers have been dying sheep for years, not only to help with lambing but to deter sneaky sheep nappers!
A friend of mine once had similar trouble on his land in the Welsh Border Country, so he had a chat with the Commanding Officer of the SAS at their barracks in nearby Hereford. A rumour was leaked in the locality that the land was being used for training exercises by the SAS. In fact, they didn’t but from that moment on nobody dared trespass.
T’aint only the folk we are missing here this summer, we seem to have fewer flies, which is a blessing. Normally the fly paper hanging in the kitchen is adorned with hundreds of tiny insects, known in Maine as No Seeums. Very apt description, but this year, no see um!*
It’s comforting to know that Her Majesty has exactly the same opinion of our present pusillanimous politicians as the rest of us. In the words of the great Terry Thomas, ‘What an absolute Shower!’
The young children that come here every summer are a delight to behold and a pleasure to see, many are grandchildren of long-term Orford residents. Of an evening, the Rec playing field is host to many sports, football, tennis, rounders, and even mini badminton. The other evening two seven-year olds were having little success in getting the shuttlecock over the mini net while their respective mums stood by chatting endlessly, totally oblivious to the low standard of play, par for the course, of course! Now I’ve never played the game, but it was abundantly clear a little instruction was needed, and after a few minutes of one on one they were beginning to get the hang of the game with the occasional rally over the net.
All this sporting activity is good to behold but the other side of the tracks, events are not improving. The multitude of stabbings, many by young teenagers, that haunt the country are not good. There are plenty of reasons why it is happening, and again, many ways that are being put forward to containing and stopping it, but none appear to be working. My personal suggestions don’t just lock ‘em up for a few months, it’s utterly pointless, I would suggest six strokes of a heavy-duty cane for each stab. As I well remember from my own youth, FEAR is a great deterrent. By the way, the best way of thrashing is with a right back hander, you achieve more sting that way! I’m a supporter of human rights but, let’s face it, this country has gone soft, wishy washy and lost the plot in the schools and streets. There is very little PT or sports and too much interference by pushy parents and other “do good” nosy Parkers. Even the Bible says it very clearly, “Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child”, I’ve no doubt it’s in the Koran too, so it includes our Moslem Brethren as well. Gee whizz, in my prep school, the six inch long wooden blackboard erasers that went whizzing around the classroom were a weapon of choice by our Maths master, a fast bowler for Kent; while the Latin master had a scratch handicap in tweaking both ears at the same time, which is far more painful than wash boarding; and then there was our French teacher, the indomitable Miss Vickers, who had escaped from the clutches of the Wehrmacht in Normandy, (no mean feat for a five foot high fifty year old), so she had that “ ve haf vays of making you shut up” skills and they were enough to silence Hitler! Were you stupid enough to continue she just came straight to your desk and hit you, VERY HARD! Game, Set and Match. You gotta get em while they’re young, a short, sharp and painful lesson does wonders for the mind and cleanses the soul!
There was an article in the Telegraph by Dr Tony Sewell, an expert in this field, in which he states that the Police and Teachers have lost their ‘authority’ within the community, so add loss of parental control to that and the main sources of good behaviour and respect have been removed from our culture. He proved it is possible to rectify this in school by the introduction of rules, routines and uniforms within the Borough of Hackney, where school ratings went from being some of the worst in the country to now being in the best category. So, there is hope yet.
Speak of the Devil, I just watched a small boy, about seven, refuse to do what his Mum wanted and stamping his foot while shouting “I don’t wanna and I’m not gonna anyway!, Two minutes later he was doing exactly as she had asked. The inducement? She bought him an ice cream! Rutting Rhinos, a good clip round the ear’ole wouldn’t half sharpen him up.
Well August Bank Holiday has come and gone, the Flower Show, the Market Square Bun fight and the Orford Dinghy Race. Mr & Mrs Joe Public and all their little Publics, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all came flooding in, perspiring profusely from every pore. There was a report from an Essex beach of air pollution and people having severe breathing difficulties, the cause was put down to a local fuel spill, but I suspect they had temporarily O/D’d on severe wafts of B/O.
PS. * I wus wrong, cos now I see um plenty!
Our summer is jogging along, but very slowly, we seem to have lost our flavour of the month in Orford: no doubt that will thrill a few local stick-in-the-muds, but it don’t ‘elp the bottom line of our retail businesses.
It is, after all, these few months that help most fill their coffers and should that not happen, it will be to the detriment of all of us. However, the saying “build and they will come” often comes true, and there’s lots of building afoot, and with new houses yet to come, including Laura’s new pumps when the Four Horsemen of Orford are done with the developer.
Perhaps it is a good thing that all is still relatively quiet, for it gives one time to deal with other very important matters that bubble to the surface every so often. The latest involves a topiary chicken that resides in a neighbour’s garden, she’s been there quite a while and never bothered a soul, she doesn’t even cluck loudly at dawn, but when her comb grows too big, she does stick her beak out a bit into the path. I received an email from the very nice Scottish couple that own the house and chicken. They had been sent a note by the Suffolk County Highways Dept., asking them to “lop of her head” as she was partially blocking the path. As they were in Scotland, they asked if I and other friends could help them in postponing the beheading of this lovely chicken on Death Row.
I immediately wrote to Ms Reasoning (yes, you couldn’t make that up) in the Highways Dept. with the heading “Headless Chicken” and asked for a deferment for the old bird who, by now, had been christened Mrs Cluck by one of her many supporters. The next day my incoming email box was full of cries of fowl play and so Paula and I went out to pay the old girl a visit, and sure enough, Old Ma Cluck was looking a tad bedraggled and much in need of a “perm and set.” So, we set about her barnet with the hedge clippers and now she’s looking much more perky, but that’s not the end of it, Clucky is on Instagram and Facebook, and support is flowing in daily. Mrs Cluck is admired by many, especially children, so what prompted this Grumpy Grinch to do such a fowl deed.
We were both saddened by the death of Ruth, she was a friend and a lovely lady and we both will miss her as will many others in the Village.
On the TV programme, “Who do you think you are?”, Kate Winslet declared fervently how simply AWFUL it would have been had she discovered that her forbears came from the wealthy or aristocracy, beggar the thought Girl! Personally, I’m only too glad that my ancient ancestors had a bob or two, Ceinogs the Welsh coinage was called, but they were in very short supply, so most household bills were paid with cattle, Mrs Moo being the everyday currency. These Welsh ancestors of ours were responsible for some of today’s international monetary terms: in Welsh, Chattels = cattle = capital; or the Latin equivalent: pecus = cattle = pecuniary; and you all thought we were just gormless Taffies who could do nowt but sing!
So it came to pass, many moons ago, that I was born, luckily with a rather tarnished golden spoon in my mouth, but as I approach the time to drive down the Highway to Hell, I will be presenting myself at the exit for the Pearly Gates with a wooden spoon clutched firmly in my cold arthritic fingers.
Boris’s Bobbies, all twenty thousand of them, will be much welcomed back on the Beat in due course, but hopefully they will all be re-enlistments. I say that cos some new recruits are turning out to be problematic potential plods at the Police Academy. They are astounded that they have to work weekends, and some are not happy with dealing with “Confrontation” situations! I would imagine that, on hearing this news, Bert the Burglar prebooked his next year’s holiday in Benidorm. I wonder what Dixon of Dock Green would say.
On the subject of rich and poor, I often wonder whether some of our Chancellors, Home Secretaries and the like, both past and present, have any idea just how tough it is to live “below the salt”. As a Downing Street dweller, you are actually guarded by several Plods at the gates, so no worries about being burgled, they even escort you to work and back, no way you’re gonna get mugged by Yamaha Yobbos or Moped Muggers. You are able to afford private health care, so you don’t have to wait six months or more for a clinical assessment nor call 999, only to be told you’re in a queue for an ambulance, wait years on a Council list for housing, or argue with the DWP about entitlement.
All of the above are the results of the drastic cost cutting across the board that have dire consequences on those clinging desperately to the bottom rung by their fingernails.
There have been copious letters in the press about the Straits of Hormuz and how are we to defend our tankers. One asked why H.M.S. Montrose couldn’t get there quicker? Hang about mate, this is an old lady of twenty-seven years with four hundred thousand miles on the clock! I’ve no doubt her Captain had the Telegraph on Full Ahead, and, had there been rivets, I’ve no doubt they would have popped. This morning the gallant Admiral West made a case for our two huge Aircraft Carriers being part of the British Fleet. As of now one is still being built and the other has sprung a leak! so they are not available should the Iranian Speed Boats sally forth again. Over 80 % of our destroyers and frigates are in long term dry dock, thus they are not fit for duty either! So, in all reality, we don’t actually have a Fleet at all, possibly just enough ships to call it a Naval Squadron at best. So, I think Admiral Nelson’s comment “I see no ships” is more accurate than Admiral West. However, don’t blame the Navy, Messrs. Brown, Osborne and Eeyore are the culprits.
This evening, July 20th, I heard the squeals and giggles of some little children playing in a nearby garden, that means Summer is here at last. There was more this morning when the Mum was heard loud and clear, “Children, have you all cleaned your teeth, Alice, Michael, DID you hear what I said!” The arrival of children for Summer hols is always a good sign, there are the young and very keen sailors bicycling up and down from the yacht club, then there are the mini bikers and tiny scooter people in multi-colour helmets, all of whom rarely, if ever, draw breath while driving, (I wonder who taught them that?) and then, of course, those for whom the holidays are a chance to begin to build their future financial careers.
An industrious little group of girls set up a souk type stall by the bakery, (best foot traffic spot in the entire village!) selling small stones with pictures painted on one side, yours for 20p or three for 50p.
I bought two, and on the way back down to the Quay, showed them a superior version I bought in Brittany. It was a little dragon with two tiny pebbles for eyes, and I pointed out that if they did this then they could charge a pound. Eyes lit up and so the magic stones have been upgraded to deal with their clientele. Later that afternoon, one of the young team of Stone merchants biked down to the gallery with a donation to the RNLI. now that’s a class act.
PS. Thanks to all who petitioned the Highways Dept on behalf of Mrs Cluck, especially the Raisin family.
Rumour has it she might live to lay another egg.
Ever since being banished to my prep school in 1947, at the tender age of seven and a half, I’ve never been good at long goodbyes, but some are harder than others. Saying a final farewell to David and Christine Murdoch will be sad, not only for both of us but also for many in our village and parishes surrounding us that are within the parochial parish boundaries.
The good deeds they have done are too many to mention, it mattered not whether you were a church goer or not, they were both always there to ensure and comfort us when it was needed, and, as a serial sinner, I can vouch for that!
We wish them every happiness and a peaceful life in Sussex.
We spent a few days in Camden, Maine, recently. There the fields and roadsides were full of beautiful blue lupines, and, judging by the sudden arrival of the migrating Conehead Tribe, summer had arrived. I have to own up to joining them in their quest, for there is no better ice cream than Wild Maine Blueberry. I could slurp it forever!
For those of you who are new Orford residents, the Coneheads, them wot slurps ice cream , are an itinerant tribe that rush like lemmings to Coastal resorts each summer, and on arrival here, can be seen queuing in the rain for the chance to slurp an ice cream. They originated in Camden Maine, but are now to be found slurping away down by the Quay in summer months.
Speaking of which, I hope that, by the time you are reading this, our summer has indeed arrived, sans les deluges! Many newspapers are touting a blistering heat wave of unprecedented biblical proportions, no sign of it in my local weather app. Much Ado about Nowt, as usual.
Like Orford, Camden relies on teenagers out of school to help man, or girl as the case maybe, the many summer jobs in shops and restaurants, but this year it appears the teenage malaise of doing nothing has crept in and everyone is feeling the pinch. One Camden restaurant has been unable to open for lack of staff.
This indifference to earning money is relatively new in America, for past decades the “summer job” has been part of the growing up rite of passage. I’m glad to see that around here the local teenagers are still hard at it.
I was talking to a fellow fossil the other day, he and his Mrs grew up in Liverpool during the war, and he described the huge bombing raid in 1941. They heard the sirens and hid in the cellar, then the world caved in as the house was hit. Luckily no one was hurt and later that morning they were playing footie in the street while the ARP pulled out the dead. As he said, life had to go on.
Were we tougher back then? Perhaps we were, I don’t remember anyone saying they didn’t want to work, the question never actually came up, However the Troopers in our Regiment, many from Barnsley who’s Das had been “Doon Pit” could tell a tale or two about yesteryear: Ee lad, Ah tell youse, these yong blokes today, they don’t knaw how lucky they is. When we wus nippers, it were so cold in our ‘ouse that when us Da chewed ‘is peppermints, we warmed us ‘ands on his breath!
One other item I’ve noticed is the abundance of poppies everywhere, in some places it resembles a scarlet swathe across the countryside. On the Seventy Fifth Anniversary of D-Day, is this a poignant poppy reminder?
There are places I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better, some have gone, and some remain
All these places have their moment with lovers and friends I can still recall
Some are dead and some are living, in my life, I’ve loved them all.
In a village such as ours, there are more than just a handful of crinklies and wrinklies, in fact we’ve got all sorts, the odd antediluvian or cantankerous curmudgeon and a quorum of venerable and ageing fossils like me, and many of us suffer from the occasional memory lapse, known as the Curse of The Crumblies! As one of the aforementioned, I watched Vicky Maclure - DI Fleming from AC 12 in Line of Duty, in case you have forgotten already (!) - and her Dementia Choir going through rehearsals for a public TV performance, folk of all ages, male and female, whose daily lives had been curtailed into oblivion by loss of memory, Vicky’s Nan had previously suffered from dementia.
But there they all were, singing away together in unison, and not just “Roll out the Barrel” but words from new songs in the rehearsal weeks. Amongst them was a thirty one year old father of two, ever ebbing away from his children a little more each day, he had been a one-time drummer in a band but now couldn’t keep the beat any more, yet within minutes he was able to play the drum in time to the music; then there was a lady who suddenly remembered how to play the piano after a ten year dementia absence on tinkling the ivories, she accompanied the choir, and the singers, and you could see from the smiles on their faces, that suddenly they were all back in the moment, and loving every second of that moment.
The experiments being carried out by Professor Sebastian Crutch from University College, London, and Dr. Lauren Gascoyne of Nottingham University had participants wired up for further research into dementia, and although music can’t cure this from happening, it is abundantly clear from the results that there is a connection. It showed on the scans that neutrons in the brain, which previously had not responded to any other incentives, did respond immediately to music. The final concert with an audience of two thousand people in The Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham was a huge success but at the same time very poignant to watch, especially with the song Vicky chose, “In My Life” a Beatles Classic. The idea was brave, brilliant and hugely beneficial to those with memory problems and is one that should be repeated around the Country, especially in places like here with its ageing population.
As I wander daily through our local forests with Ace, I do the Teddy Bears Picnic hum “If you go down to the woods today, be sure of a BIG surprise” just in case I forget where I parked the car! Some years ago, I issued instructions to my wife and my family to ensure that once I go doolally, those looking after me recharge my iPad batteries every day so that I can listen to my music. On the other side of the coin, some remarks from those who are losing it, can be very amusing, and if you can’t laugh then I pity you.
My Step Grandma had a few corkers;
A large dinner party where the topic was the sudden demise of a mutual friend who had recently died after a thrombosis. At a gap in the conversation she said, “Poor David, he had a tombola, you know!’
Being driven home from London, the car was approaching Bury St Eds and the huge sugar beet factory hove into view, with two tall chimneys belting out clouds of steam: “Oh Good Lord, the Abbey is on fire!”
By the way, for those of you who benefit from the loss of pain by using CBD oil, try eating local shrimp! It’s a proven fact that cocaine has been found in Suffolk shrimp of late. Pinney’s, here I come! The lady in the fish shop told me “Stuff ‘em up yer nose Darlin, don’t eat em!” And oh yes, I nearly forgot, the Company that produces the best CBD oil in the U.K. is based in the one-time sleepy village of Elmswell in Suffolk, near where I grew up. Seems we are way ahead of the entire Country when it comes to County Lines!
As another Cone Head Slurping Season is about to commence, the question of Summer Parking swims into focus yet again: the Market Square at a total standstill due to over parking; the Quay Street car park bulging at the seams, the Quay itself swamped with cars parked for hours, their owners duly attending them at all times (!) and our little localised problem with tractors unable to get to the fields either via the Square or by Munday’s Lane.
In previous years I’ve placed cones in the narrow part, but these are swiped by a local, surprise, surprise! This year I’m trying something new, a little ditty requesting they park elsewhere.
If it’s here you wanna park,
In the day or after dark,
You’ll block our farmers right of way,
from sowing seeds or cutting hay.
For tractors now are giant machines,
much wider than they’ve ever been,
So all we ask, with due good grace,
please go find another space.
There is, in fact, a relatively simple answer, put a legal Eastern Suffolk Council sign on the Castle Close brick wall. Our esteemed Council Ladies in the Town Hall have asked politely if this could be done as they already have the required sign, but the “good” Burghers that live behind the wall won’t allow it?! Not exactly communal spirit, rather more a touch of ‘I’m all right Jack, pull up the ladder!’
Finally, I had to dispose of some glass jars yesterday, the first bin had bottle necks protruding from the top, so I moved to the second one and this time, opened the bin lid - Holy Moly - it was practically full as well, so I checked the rest of ‘em! Ninety percent of the empty bottles were Châteaux Sans Jambes or Prosecco Putanata, so it can be said that old habits die hard here, and I suppose it helps swirl memories around the brain cells.
Mrs May it’s time for you to scarper,
The Country won’t approve your Brexit Deal
No more votes now, pack yer bags now
We’ve made it clear enough, it ain’t your place to stay
(with apologies to Herman’s Hermits!)
As I begin my next Rambling, it’s eight pm on Easter Monday, the village is silent, many locals a’bed, the cone heads are gone and all’s well.
That was a very sunny Easter holiday and it was lovely to see and hear small children all around, some in strollers, hermetically sealed from the sun’s rays, (it must get awful hot and sweaty in there!) some suitably helmeted youngsters on bikes and teenie females on teenie scooters pushing along Quay Street. I always find it fascinating that the latter scoot along whilst talking nonstop, it’s easy to see, later in life, where the fair sex gets their driving skills from.
It’s often the remarks of children that are astoundingly down to earth:
A small scooter lady. ‘Oh, look Mummy, the Ice Cream man is here, I’m going to have a chocolate one!”
Harassed Mum, trying to keep her eyes on three small people spread out over some twenty five yards of roadway as cars and Lycra Bikas hurtle past.
“No Alice, you haven’t had your lunch yet, “
“But Mummy, I told you I didn’t want to have lunch today so you see I can have an ice cream!”
It would seem the Silly Season has arrived now, somewhat ahead of schedule. The Extinction Rebellion has the right goal in mind, I do worry about my grandchildren and what sort of World will they have to live in? However, their tactics, with which I disagree, are probably annoying more folk than gaining new recruits, and seem to produce some strange bedfellows.
An aged fossil just like me was just one example. Having somehow managed to climb on top of a train, no mean feat given his age of 83, he then glued himself to the roof. When he was duly arrested and brought before the Beak, he was asked his age and nationality, he answered that he didn’t recognise “nationality”, why then did he hold a British passport?
Then there’s Mrs Totty Thompson, shouting the odds from the bridge of the good ship Pink Potty about how she has personally been to the ends of the earth and witnessed all the climate changes happening. If you add in the frequent flier miles, she amassed to do all this, onto those from the flight from California just to attend The Rally, her huge carbon footprint is more than most individuals will achieve in a lifetime.
The huge army of Plods did a great job, and I fully approved of the pair that danced a jig, not only was it very similar to the jig I do every morning when trying to put on my pants, but it also showed a very human streak, contrary to the opinion of Mrs Dick, the Chief Plod. However, If I were PC Plod, I would leave the Glu-Ites stuck fast to doors, windows and trains for a few days, why not wait till they want a wee or a poo! Those “gallant” few, who glued themselves together in a line outside the Bank of England, after a day or two, would leave much more than a Carbon Footprint!
I’m heartened to see that our Four Horsemen For “Friends” are making much headway vis a vis a village garage to include pumps and small pickings as were supplied by Laura. It would be wonderful to have our casual meeting place back as well as the pumps, Bon Chance Gentlemen.
As a Generation War Baby, born in 1940, today’s world becomes more intimidating day by day when it comes to IT and that unknown world within my iPad. Now the utility companies like EON, BT etc. Send me emails telling me my monthly account can be viewed on line, but if you can’t remember your password you are stumped unless you can navigate your way through a mine field of questions to reset the effing thing. But I don’t want to reset it, I just want the old one I always had. Resetting it means I’ll never remember it again, and don’t suggest I write it down somewhere, cos I’ll never remember where I put the piece of paper, it’s a non sequitur.
Recently I had reason to ask the DVLA a couple of questions, it would have been easier and quicker to drive to Swansea and ask them, and I still don’t know the answer.
Last week I asked the new East Suffolk Council a question by email; the automated response told me that my query would be answered in due course, but they were experiencing difficulties and it might be six weeks before I heard from them!
Maybe they have forgotten their password too!
ps Interesting letter from a geophysicist in today’s paper,
“CO2 levels have little to do with Global Warming!”
A week ago, there were many news items about the Viking cruise ship that was in serious trouble off the Norwegian coast, with images of passengers being bowled over together with chairs and tables. For non-sailors this must have been very scary, not only because they had no control over what was happening, but also the incessant and terrifying roar of wind and waves which just added the right background atmosphere for Dante’s Inferno.
Yet the actual storm conditions weren’t more than gale force 9 or possibly 10, the winds were 60mph and the waves 25 ft. high. That’s rough but the ship was 47,000 tonnes and seven hundred and fifty feet long so that shouldn’t be a problem, but the situation was made worse by the fact that she was lying broadside to wind and waves due to lack of power.
So yes, for passengers this would indeed, be frightening
In 1958 I was part of the crew of the cargo ship, SS Clan Cumming, a mere 10,000 tonnes gross weight, and 450 ft in length. We were steaming from Mauritius to Calcutta and encountered a Force 14 Typhoon in the Bay of Bengal, which, for you that are sailors, is the only part of the World where Force 14 is registered by world weather stations.
The wind was 150 to 180mph, the swell over eighty feet and the cresting tops to each wave another twenty feet, so one hundred feet in total. I was an eighteen-year-old and one of four helmsmen on the ship. From my position on the wheel I could see the monstrous waves bearing down above us, but there wasn’t time to be frightened, I had to concentrate on keeping the bows on course, or else we would be broached and would be swamped.
The real motion we were going thru was enormous as described in the reality check below. Even off watch eating and playing cards required “Sea Legs”,
A Reality Check
Just imagine you are standing on a raised platform twenty-foot by sixteen with just the wooden ship’s wheel to hold on to.
The platform is going up and down like an express elevator for one hundred and ten feet permanently, while at the same time it is tipping forward and backward through an arc of fifteen degrees from the horizontal, that being the pitch and toss motion of the ship when standing on the bridge.
Now add to that the twenty-five-degree rolling motion to either side and this creates the corkscrew motion of the ship and you begin to get the feel of just how difficult this is to merely stand up let alone walk!
The above movements are happening at the same time without any pause.
Should you wish to step outside onto the exposed deck then add a few more ingredients to the mix; a 140/180 mph wind trying to blast you off your feet with the spray blinding and stinging your face like stones. The catatonic roar of the ocean and the screaming banshee of the wind through the rigging is more than deafening; you cannot stand up without holding on to a fixed object such as a stanchion or rail.
Walking required careful timing as every time the bow dropped, your feet were left in mid-air which allowed the wind to grab hold and spin you sideways; then the deck would rise up again and hit your feet, jarring the knees each time.
If you were crossing the fifty feet of open deck from our accommodation to the bridge superstructure, either to go on watch or to eat in the saloon, then you have to add in the fact that the seas were sweeping clear over the deck and so hundreds of gallons of water were sloshing to and fro, knee deep, as you made your way forward. Put that all together in the blender and switch on; there you have it, that was our life for the next forty-eight hours.
Living with this upheaval was a feat in itself. Eating required much concentration if you didn’t want a lap full of hot Balti curry or scalding tea; sleeping was fine as long as you wedged your body in the bunk with extra padding and anyway, fatigue was a such a major player in this game that sleep was very easy to come by.
This went on for forty-six hours without any form of let up, other than a brief three hours in the eye of the storm when the wind dropped but the sea didn’t.
That is a Perfect Storm!
It’s a human trait to wonder just where you will end up when your dead. I expect to go down below and fear that JC will sign me on to the SS Eternal Damnation, a cruise ship to Hell, with five thousand passengers on board,
God what an awful thought! I can’t believe people pay good money for being incarcerated on a floating hulk, they are not ships in the true sense of the word. However, it’s not the ship I mind so much as the multitude of the masses on board, restricted to the common areas of the vessel and the enforced nonstop gaiety. To me that’s far worse than any Hurricane.
Meanwhile here in Orford, the usual unnecessary bickering goes on from those who hate to see anything change for the better. The new, but much needed, signs warning pedestrians of no footpath on Quay St near the church has them wittering away in the wings.
Methinks they are suffering from Acute Canute Disorder!
As I write this, we are in the middle of the February heat wave and the temperature outside is 12C, it’s strange but wonderful at the same time and we even had some cone heads slurping away at the weekend. Yet at the back of my mind is that old Jock saying, “Nay cast a cloot till May is oot”, and I so haven’t packed away my winter long johns just yet, as yer dinna ken wots roond the bend! I wish they had meant the PM.
Like most of my generation, memory isn’t our strong point, and losing things we really need is a daily event. Today I lost one of my hearing aids, or earphones as I call ‘em. We spent several hours moving furniture, checking pockets, looking in the car, etc. etc, and as it was getting past our 8pm bedtime we called it a day. As I was getting myself ready to crash out, I found it, ‘twas in my ear! C’est la Vie!
The news that the planning application for the houses on the Friends garage site has been withdrawn is excellent, the Power of the People spoke out loud and clear. On top of that is the added bonus that a group of locals, Orford’s Four Musketeers, have instigated discussions on a new pump and shop site! So, what was originally a “Dies Horribilus” when Friends had to close, could well turn out to be a “Dies Magna” in days to come.
The builders working on Quay House are stripping away the grey screening which is exposing some lovely red brick, and if left like that it would be really much prettier. It appears much interior work is being done as well, including a large basement and work won’t be finished this summer. Great job no doubt, but has anyone told the new owners it could all be underwater in twenty years?
In my last Rambling I mentioned a few anecdotes from my younger days and the people involved, among those are the various butlers that my parents had, all of whom were numbered amongst our best friends. Being a butler is no easy task, and in the days of Mr Carson of Downton Abbey, his immediate team was swelled in number by under-butlers, boot boys and even one to stock up wood and coal buckets around the house. But by the time I was a nipper, the poor old butler was all on his own some, laying the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving the food at each meal, and clearing the table each time, seven days a week. In addition, there was all the silver to be cleaned, cutlery and silver salvers, large ornate trophy cups and centrepieces, even ash trays, mustard pots and salt cellars, a never-ending task that was a bit like painting the Forth Bridge. There was the wine to be decanted, port and brandy decanters refilled, all of which generally required a quick taste test to ensure nothing had corked overnight, quite heavy on the liver, that last task. Then there were the clothes and shoes of the Master of the house, plus those of any male guests staying at the time. This necessitated the brushing of suits and dinner jackets and laying them out on a chair for the owner to get dressed, and of course the packing and unpacking of male guests’ suitcases. As I said, no easy task and not one for the faint hearted.
Our first Butler, Archer, was a wonderful fellow with a bulbous red nose the colour of vintage port, and he was a best pal to us three brothers. Archer had a habit of forgetting to pack an item of guests apparel and, eventually, was warned to mend his ways. One day my Stepfather and Uncle were on the last hole of the Royal Worlington Golf Course, some fifteen miles away, when they espied Archer peddling furiously down the road with a large paper parcel in his wicker basket. “It’s Mr John’s dressing gown sir, he left in the bathroom” was his excuse as he stood by the 9th green. As he mounted his bike for the return trip, my Stepfather said to him. “We will be eight for dinner, Arthur, not six, make sure you are back in time “. He was.
For reasons I know not why, butlers and nannies are generally at loggerheads, and this was much the case at Langham Hall. One sunny afternoon, Nanny was walking out of the front drive, with our younger half brother Charlie in a very smart perambulator, and as she started down the little road to the village, lo and behold, Archer hove into view. He was wobbling and weaving his way up the narrow road on his green Raleigh bicycle, making his way back from a post prandial visit to the village hostelry. As he passed Nanny, he gallantly took one hand off the handlebars and waved with gusto, which given his condition, was a fatal move. He promptly swerved towards the deep ditch at the roadside and, dressed in his butler’s uniform, striped trousers and all, fell headlong into the ditch. He didn’t hurt himself but in his inebriated state with his legs waving like an upturned beetle and head buried at the bottom of the ditch, he was completely stuck and unable to extricate himself. His eventual recovery was undertaken by the chauffeur, Hartley, who had been notified of Archer’s ditched demise by Nanny. Archer was “On Parade” a few hours later serving dinner, naturally.
As you may have realised, I led a very protected life as a boy, but next week I come face to face with the real world; watch this space!
I have just posted a new website for my work, both here and in the US.
I am on the way to being a pseudo vegan by default, not design, due to my becoming a toothless old twat, my meat-masticating molars have bitten the dust and are no longer a part of me. Luckily there’s still shepherd’s pie and hamburgers to be had, although due to some ridiculous Health and Safety law, British eating houses can’t cook a rare hamburger unless the meat is certified. So, what you get is a piece of meat that resembles the leather heel of a shoe in both appearance, taste and texture, completely and utterly uneatable.
I read an article the other day which commented on the posh accents of boys who had been educated at Eton and Harrow and went on to describe how they felt it necessary to alter their accents to hide this fact from their peers in everyday life. My World War 2 generation never had this problem as everyone had to do two years National Service; whether you were posh or pleb mattered not a jot, because for four weeks we all suffered together in the same melting pot of Basic Training, cheek by jowl with Cockney teddy boys, Glaswegian “heed” cases, Brummies, Geordies and Scousers.
However, my first notion of a country dialect was here in Suffolk. Our home, Langham Hall, (above) was situated midway between Bury St. Eds and Stowmarket, a beautiful William and Mary house sitting in one hundred and fifty acres of parkland with thirteen acres of garden. I mention this only to show how totally cut off from the Wide World we actually were while growing up. There was no mains electricity within the tiny village of Langham and we made our own power by a huge coal fired engine that acted as a generator, it resembled a traction engine without wheels. Most of the living in staff came from other parts of the Country, but the gardeners, all three of them, were from the tiny village of Langham, just a mile away. There were only fifty inhabitants of the village, and apart from three who had fought in the war, thirteen had been by bus, Fridays only, to Bury St Eds and the rest hadn’t been anywhere outside a three-mile radius.
It was pure Suffolk back then.
The head gardener was John Frost, known as Freezer by one and all, and he had been bending over potting plants and veggies for so long that he couldn’t stand up straight when talking to you. This meant you couldn’t see his face under his old flat hat and that made his words quite difficult to understand, especially with his broad Suffolk accent.
On one occasion he appeared in my Stepfather’s study and said. “It’s Burrd Sir, ee’s gorn!”
Not understanding what he meant, my Stepfather replied. “What do you mean, where’s he gone to?”
“Ee be loyin in them there roses, and ee be gorn!”
They both went off together to the walled rose garden and sure enough, Old Bird was definitely “gorn”, for there he was, stretched out with his boots on under a rose bush, stiff as a poker.
One of our favourites was the Cook, a lovely lady, whose daughter, Mabel, had been born a tad mentally disabled or with a screw loose as we boys used to called it in those unenlightened times, but she helped with the washing up and the laundry, both of which were hugely considerable in volume. One day it was discovered that the dear Mabel was four months pregnant, and given the near isolation in which our house was placed, the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question was, ‘oo were the Dad? As the months wore on and she grew in stature, the question remained uppermost in everyone’s mind, and there were several large wagers amongst the staff. She was taken into Bury for the birth and lo and behold, out popped a mini Chinaman, Sum Ting Wong. (Say it quickly) The Truth was outed, we had a weekly delivery of clean, and a collection of dirty, laundry and the van driver was Chinese, clearly, up to some Widow Twanky (Hanky Panky) in the back of his van, amongst the dirty sheets; Ah So
Life at Langham was rarely ever dull and as young boys, these people were our best friends, especially “Hart” the chauffeur and Arthur the Butler, but more about them next month.
In March of this year I will be entering my eightieth year, and like many of this age, the tendency to ramble on and reminisce is quite normal, but the difficulty lies in trying to remember what you are actually wittering on about. This is sometimes a problem of mind-bending proportions as I continue to write my life’s Ramblings from birth to the present day.
As the time for checking in my baggage draws ever closer, I sometimes wonder where my e-ticket destination will be, next to the boiler in the basement is the most likely I think, but then you never know as is shown in one of the little histoires I have included in my tome.
In my early teens, our family and those of our many Pilkington cousins all went together for our summer holidays to Le Grand Hotel de le Mer in Morgat, Brittany. The hotel was right on the sandy beach and at times the waves came right up to the steps of the hotel veranda. We kids, some twenty four strong aged between two and fifteen, ate at our own table while our parents sat together, well removed from the Gaderene Swine. The difference was that the Vin Rose flowed like Victoria Falls at theirs while pomme frites and ice cream abounded at ours. One of the parents was a lovely man called Roger Mortimer, a former Coldstream Guards Officer who was captured at Dunkirk while lying unconscious, all his men having been killed, he then became a Prisoner of War for five years. Roger went on to become the racing correspondent for the Sunday Times and was a wonderful man with an enormous sense of humour and the written word, as was seen in the book written by his son Charlie, “Letters from My Father.”
One day after a particularly liquid lunch, Roger came down the steps onto the beach, put down a towel and promptly went off to the land of Nod. There he lay, immobile, for some two hours, his lily-white skin gradually turning the colour of under done filet steak. Just as the tide began to draw closer to his toes, a bevy of Jeune Mademoiselles, in skimpy bathing costumes, came strolling down the beach. Coming across this prone burnt body they stopped and gathered around Roger. At that precise moment a wave touched his toes and he woke up. His first sight was of many bronzed and beautiful legs and thighs stretching up to the Heavens “I looked up and seeing all of these gorgeous legs, I thought, My God, I’m dead already and this must be heaven!”
So, you see, you never can tell.
There’s some scuttlebutt floating around the lower deck that a new sheriff recently rode into town! No less than a lady Copper, supposedly of some senior rank, who has taken up residence in Ferry Lane. In light of the fact that our lovely PCSO ladies have recently fallen foul of budgetary constraints, this could, indeed, be good news for us Wurzel Gummidges.
When I was a whipper snapper, if you needed Z cars, you didn’t dial 999, just a single 0 got you the local operator, who probably lived in the nearby village anyway. Once she answered you asked to be through to PC I Catchem, or Ian, dependant on who you were. On being summoned, he would mount his sturdy Raleigh bicycle and peddle sedately down our front drive to find out what was amiss.
Given the many problems our Plods are having today I wonder if our newly arrived member of the Suffolk Constabulary will oblige likewise today, I can’t wait to hear her dulcet tones of “Allo Allo, wots goin on ‘ere then”.
Ian wasn’t just a copper, he was a fine beater on the home shoot and could deliver a mean googlie during the cricket season.
Finally, my Sunday paper tells me that a vegan diet would slash greenhouse gases, and it might well be so. However, if I increase my daily consumption of veggies, I could personally put a stop to that ever happening. What’s more, our little area of England is on record for some of the highest scores when it comes to ammonia released by the local porkie farms, so I think I’ll leave vegans to chew the cud while I nosh on bangers and burgers.
‘‘Tis another year under my belt, and that time, yet again, when resolutions are made for the new year, I have but one and that’s to have a proper sun and sea holiday before it’s too late.
Along with sailing and skiing it was always a favourite of mine to mess about on a beach and I haven’t done that now for over a decade, so that’s my New Year Resolution done and dusted.
I don’t have any “do without” resolutions, I’m way past that age but however there are several people I could do without ever seeing or hearing about ever again, Mrs “let me be clear” heads the list while vegan and LBGT “activists” are next and Big mouth Blair is in third place.
Those I want to hear more from are Jezza who is single handedly keeping the Tories in power, Trump whose tweets are going to cause him to self destruct, and finally Mueller and his findings.
What will I miss in the coming year, Laura and her team, it’s a travesty.
A Happy New Year to everyone.
Until recently I had been looking forward to Christmas, I always do as I’m child at heart and the thought of a stuffed stocking at the end of my bed has never faded nearly eighty years on. Yet the dour news of the demise of Friends Garage next month has shocked the entire village of Orford, and put a big black cloud over us.
However at the Council meeting in the Village Hall last night there was Much Binding In The Marsh between many of our village elders and the Council over the future outcome. One of the more compelling speeches was from our “Senior Service” resident Mike Finney, reminding one and all of the past debacle of moving the Village shop when action that was taken was too little and too late, and gave us the urgent warning regarding the necessity to form a small but diligent group to pursue the facts and ensure that our needs are met in any future commercial garage site, “ Before Its Too Late!.”
It was clear that everyone there was reading the same chapter but not necessarily the same page, the Council appeared to be somewhat loathe to put up any funds to support a possible village joint enterprise at this time, perhaps they might reconsider if the idea floats in due course?
One aspect in all this that wasn’t mentioned was the personal position of those who run and operate the garage. Its not just the pumps, it’s not just the MOT, it’s not the repairs, it’s not the motor oil, screen wash and coolant, it’s not even the shop filled with bird food, dog food, compost, plants and seeds, light bulbs, white spirit, masking tape, fresh eggs, cold drinks and ice creams, logs, butane bottles, bikes for hire and many other necessities required in our daily village life, for all of that is replaceable, it’s the Oracle herself, it’s Laura, it’s our Minister of Information, it is the very beating heart of Orford that’s being surgically removed, and that’s what has upset everyone.
There’s rarely a time that you pull in to Friends Garage to fill up one’s car, that there isn’t someone from either Orford, Butley, Chillesford, Iken and Sudbourne waiting in the forecourt to have a natter with, it’s the central hub of our local villages from where information and news flows and spreads out across our section of the Peninsula and in reverse, locals from the other five villages flood in to use the garage amenities, and as such it’s irreplaceable. All of this before one even considers the great team that work there and the undeniable factor that Friends has been operational in this location, in one form or another be it coal and coke to a fully fledged motor repair shop, for more than a hundred years, and recently our esteemed Laura Gillespie was awarded the B.E.M. for services to the Community but now this possible development has removed her livelihood in the single stroke of a pen.
As a Community, we owe Laura and vote of thanks and appreciation for all she has done for us!
A Century of service to Orford in so very many ways, only to be unceremoniously kicked out to make room for some horrible looking houses, but then I suppose this was probably inevitable.
But despite everything everyone said at the meeting, in the final analysis just how many of these houses will be put on Airbnb for holiday rental?
What also appears inevitable is that according to Government future coastal flood plans, much of this whole area will be joining Dunwich-Under-the-Sea by 2030.
Glug Glug Glug!
An addendum to this Rambling
I find it very difficult to believe that the garage enterprise never ever made a profit, it sounded like Fake News to me, forty years and not a bean?
Someone who has lived here all their life tells me it’s not true; I can’t put down here what was actually said, it would be bleeped out
We just returned from our annual visit to the US which, ever since the War of Independence back in 1812, has been known as the Land of The Free. Under the presidency of trump, (with a small tee,) it is now called the Land of Me!
Old age has but few perks, a free TV licence still being one of them as of now, but it also brings on a few unseen problems whilst traveling abroad, hiring a car being one of them, I was charged almost double as I was an old duffer. Another old age problem is the long-term suffering from extreme jet lag, there was a time when I was flying the Atlantic regularly on business, and often had to go from the airport to a meeting regardless of the time change, but here I am almost a week after getting back home, still reeling from the after effects. In fact, by day two of our trip, the Wife and I resembled Mr & Mrs Magoo, wandering around not knowing what we were supposed to be doing or, more importantly, where the hell we were going as we drove around areas of Portland Maine that neither of us had ever seen or been before despite the fact it was her home town!
I think I’m restricting future travel to merely channel crossings and even that restricted to ferries only, I can’t be doing with the likes of Easy Jet or Ryan Air, cattle get more respect than their passengers.
It would appear that readers of my Ramblings are spread far and wide across the Globe, with my Grandchildren living in both Sydney and Cape Town I assumed this was already the case, but what self-respecting teenager would read what Grandpa says?
I just received a long communication from a retired couple in Canada who are already “regular readers”. They are trying to trace their ancestry across the Seas, much of which is in Scotland, God forbid they find a connection to Sturgeon, the wee mealie mouthed lassie presently ruling the Picts! Apparently, the name Rugge-Price peeked their interest, and why not indeed, but who do we think we are we?
Price the Prince no less, Taffies galore and Celtic to the core!
According to our family tree, authenticated by the College of Arms, our ancestor was the Prince (Chieftain or Brigand Boss?) of one of the fifteen Celtic tribes that made up the Welsh populace. No doubt rape and pillage were the cries of the unfortunates who fell foul of him but #MeToos didn’t exist back then. Eventually the family married into the Tudor dynasty and the rest, of course, is history!
Talking of #Metoos, last week there was the British Reality Star who was arrested for drunk driving; she refused the offer of a Breathalyser on the basis that her new “puffed up” lips couldn’t fit around the breathalyser nozzle!!
In bygone days I had a mate or two who lived in Harlem NYC, can you imagine one of them being asked to use a breathalyser by a New York Cop for DWI “Ma lips is too big Bro”
I went to a funeral in Weymouth of an old Regimental mate last week. We first met in Ipoh, Malaya in 1960, he was a trooper and I was green 2Lt. He eventually rose to the rank of Major, but by that time I was long gone to America. Ten years ago, we rekindled that friendship at a Regimental Reunion. There were many Old Coms at his service and it was lovely once more to hear that Yorkshire greeting “Ey oop thee” as we all came together and, as they say In Barnsley, “Ee were a good lad” and that he certainly was.
While still in military mode, my dear Brother’s village of Eastern Royal in Wiltshire is putting on a vaudeville show to commemorate the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month of 1918, i.e. the end of World War 1. I think that’s a brilliant idea and only wish we were doing something similar to honour those bygone but not forgotten men. This day, Sunday 11th 2018 is probably the most important day of this year. Does anyone know who went from here?
According to Mrs Letme Makeitclear, we have reached the end of austerity which is a great sound bite but from where I’m sitting, deaf as a post, “Nowt’s happening”.
And then Eeyore Hammond recently declared that our “High Street shops cannot be preserved in Aspic”.
He obviously eats at the top table, for Aspic is formed from the juice of meat and veggies and was used in preserving the shape of moulded dishes served up to the Ruling Classes. I doubt very much that it was ever served to any of those sitting “beneath the salt”
I’ve experienced both ends of the “Have and Have Not” spectrum during my lifetime and while the above-mentioned Pols are both hard working people, I wonder if they actually know the price of a pint of milk?
There’s a lot of folk out here that are really coal and coke and with nowt to eat in the old Mother Hubbard
Ah well, Next Year in Marienbad perhaps?