Thursday, 21 August 2014

More contemplation

Quite surprising to find that not having been a very enthusiastic blogger in the past that I now  find myself having  the opportunity to look at life in a more open and positive way and share some past times.  The use of the medium is causing much dismay with lady of the house who has no inclination whatsoever to partake or even learn to use the machinery  to such an extent that observing me and our grandchildren especially entertaining ourselves with the magic of technology generates unsurpassed wrath.  A situation which I understand is not uncommon in the wider world of domestic bliss.  Even as I write this, steam pours out  grandsons, one in Portsmouth, and the other here with me (albeit in an adjoining room), are engaged in a war of attrition with some unknown foreign power on their x boxes.  Frightening to believe that warfare now and in the future is and will be controlled by military powers sitting at x boxes. Since my last effort at blogging there has been much to mull over in the head.  Finding myself being drawn daily towards my roots in St Clears the hub of access to the western delights of Wales little things long lost in the darkness of my brain come leaping out.  The wartime activity around the build up to D Day had been dormant until I was jogged into recalling the thousands of soldiers marching about the locality heading towards Pendine and onwards to Normandy.  There was also the instance of what we called a bulldozer owned by the Americans being used to clear the roads from snowfall, so that must have been wintertime or a late spring.  There was also a great deal of gossip about a young lady who had become dare I say interested in a 'yank' who it seems had camped overnight en route to France.  Apparently the village population increased by one.  The date and year is lost for ever.  My father was a most laid back sort of chap always willing to oblige any call for help even down to digging graves at short notice.  Gave him a hand to complete the job on many occasions totally unaware of the grieving that was happening with the bereaved.  It became a sort of routine task which had to be done never mind the weather.  A bit of gardening here and there; general building here and there; anything of help was never a problem for him.  A heavy pipe smoker of Ringers Superfine there was considerable dismay if there was a shortage on a Sunday when the suppliers were closed, or worse still out of stock and a need to descend to using Franklin as a substitute.  The nerve ends could become quite edgy.  One kept out of the way.  Being of the age that lends itself to reminiscence, these thought of yesteryear crop up from all manner of situations.  As an example.  I took our grandson on his first trip to sea on a ferry to Ireland  (a there and back trip) for a fiver.  Excellent value. Even there, having the time to look observe and inwardly digest, the  huge difference of attitudes of people now against those of my younger years is truly amazing.  One could not avoid overhearing the foul mouthed conversations of adults with such young children in their midst belching forth from alcohol fuelled women.  One claimed to have 'got rid of him at last' by allegedly jettisoning her husbands ashes over the side into the Irish Sea.  It was probably just an attempt at a joke, but the accompanying cursing left much to be not proud of being Welsh or British.  On the other hand the crew of the ferry mostly European was in direct contrast, politeness and well mannered personified.  What are we coming to?.  I did not grow up with anything approaching a silver spoon in the mouth but I am so relieved to have had the benefit of a disciplined background.  The Magistrates Court in the village sat monthly.  The most heinous  offence was riding a bike without lights. A bit of drunkenness, driving without care.  The latter usually resulting from a crash on Blue Boar Square.  A Mr R Harries caused quite a stir by murdering his uncle and aunt and burying them in a kale field. Scotland Yard under the leadership of Det Superintendent Capstick sorted it out, but not before a huge hue and cry to get local people involved in a massive search of the locality.  Having rambled around a little with this entry I need to take a breather and build up a head of steam towards the next effort.  I hope it makes a bit of sense. If not it has given me some satisfaction of looking back and comparing should I say 'progress'?.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Feeling like a swinger

I suppose there are many meanings to the word 'swinger'.  One that springs to mind does not apply to self.  Having been swinging for some 25 years or more without much success, even paid money to get advice on the finer points of how to become a member of that groupie bunch of swingers, I think I might have at long last been accepted into their exclusive midst.  I started swinging with some very experienced swingers when I lived in Newtown a deep part of Wales.  They were a mixed bunch with various attributes. Some of them kept their swinging very private. Others were more open about their activities hoping to spread the word so to speak. Involving the fairer sex in this art of swinging became something of a hazardous pastime as a nod and wink was often totally misconstrued.  Within the confines of this exclusive group of swingers I met with some very interesting people who became lifetime friends and it is with some confidence that I can confidently reveal that my persistence and often clandestine practice of swinging has been exposed.  I am not in the doghouse. Lady of the house is quite happy, and wishes me to continue with the practice.  Praise be for such a liberal thinking partner. She had no interest whatsoever in being a swinger.  Thanks to the effort of Rob Ryder, and the you tube contribution of Leadbetter I have managed three victories in the art of ancient swinging, and reduced a handicap of high proportions significantly.  A new dawn until the swing is infected by some unknown gremlin which befalls many swingers who think like I do at the the moment that the holy grail has been found. No such luck!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Remembrance

Had the huge privilege yesterday of attending a Commemorative service under the direction of the British Legion at St Mary's Church St Clears and led by the Rev Canon Brian Witt.  I also had the privilege under the guidance of the Branch of The British Legion of wearing my Grandfathers medals awarded for his effort in the Great War.  Sadly he never had the honour of wearing them himself as he was killed.  Nevertheless his memory remains with us.  Fitting therefore that my sister was able to be with me and we shared in the poignant moments of the service, at the same time reflecting on the hard times our grandmother must have endured in bringing up her two sons as a widow, and the terrible depression which followed.  In death they were reunited and rest peacefully in the cemetery in Pwlltrap St Clears.  Today the press is full of historic items of the outbreak of the WW1.  It was supposed to have been a war to end all wars. Strange but true the roll call of the fallen at our War Memorial included men from our village of St Clears who had died in Egypt, Gaza, Gallipoli, and Europe.  How bizarre to reflect on the facts of WW1 and simultaneously having to appreciate the human slaughter still taking place in those very theatres of war now!. We dream on of the days when "War will be no more" and I suspect that I will not be around to see that happen. The certainty is that my 'War' will one day be no more.  I do not want to cynical about this as in one sense there should be a celebration also of thanksgiving for those who laid down their lives for me.  I reap the benefits of their sacrifices through the wonderful life I was given and  the thrill of having a family full of good health, experiencing some really good  times.  So thank you everyone of you brave men for the life you gave me, and especially Joseph Thomas REES, Died of Wounds, 27th May 1918.  Well done good and faithful servant.



Sunday, 3 August 2014

Reflecting past times

The last two weeks have been very rewarding in many respects.  Having made contact with contacts from long ago - circa 1943 onwards - I see how important it is to occasionally dig up the old roots.  Having always had a very soft spot for my widowed grandmother who passed on at the age of 70 in 1965 it was fitting that I should commence digging in my native village of St Clears.  It has changed a  great deal from when I left in 1959.  I have to say that the by-pass brought immense advantages, so much so that one can actually park up, stroll around, do some very worthwhile shopping, have a pint, and especially those 'fish and chips'.  Visiting my grandmother in the cemetery I realised that it was high time her headstone was revamped along with those of her mother and father, and sisters.  Indeed so many of her family rest there that the visit became quite nostalgic - one might say just like old times visiting them. So became my reflections on the good old days.  Living as we did without any form of transport, going to junior school was a one and a half mile hike each way , through all weathers even the snowdrifts of 1947.  My first schooldays I was accompanied by the then deputy head mistress Miss Thomas. On the way at 8am and returning by 4.15pm.  Lunch in school was not the most excellent of culinary experiences.  Mostly stewed beef.  One needed to have mastered the art of chewing as what was presented as beef must have been on the hoof since the time of Noah.  Not eating it meant one went hungry or raised the wrath of the cook Mrs Saer.  It was war time after all and a shortage of nice things coupled with rationing.  On top of the beef one had Roly Poly stodge; semolina with half a spoon of jam to make it look a shade of pink; Macaroni, and occasionally a piece of fruit.  School routine was very routine - first thing morning prayers followed by endless tables, learning to read and write and that awful arithmetic. I could do most things with ease.  Sums as we called them was a nightmare.  writing was not much better except that I enjoyed doing English with a pencil.  Being left handed, when it came to ink and  nib was much more of a nightmare.  Making such a mess with my left hand moving to the right over wet ink the school authorities decided to tie my left hand and and make  me write with the other.  I haven't been right ever since.  Totally confused.  Today it would be child abuse I suppose.  I am very content being Left handed.  I can write with both hands simultaneously, individually, even mirror write, not that it it is of any use.  Using tools is no problem except a hammer.  Playing the piano/organ is no problem.  I started playing piano when I was seven.  I had been competing in local eisteddfodau singing and reciting since I was four, so mother decided I should do more, so Piano lessons and they lasted until I was seventeen when beer fags and girls took over. A nice combination not necessarily in that order.  I eventually settled for one woman, dropped the fags long ago, not so much of the beers as I used to, but Piano still rests high on the agenda.  Gone off beam a little there so returning to the forties - they were hard times for everyone. My uncle came back from somewhere in Italy in March 1946.   He came home by train and all the family greeted him in St Clears Railway Station.  It was a very nice reunion as I recall, obviously been away a longtime.  My grandmother was particularly relieved as she reflected on the loss of my grandfather in 1918.  Uncle owned a motorbike and one of the early experiences following his return from war was to take me sitting astride the petrol tank of his  motorbike to the barber for my first official haircut.  I was curly haired until that day when the barber Mr Thomas, who could do only one style gave me a short back and sides.  Must have thought I was a boy soldier.  Whatever that style remains very much to this day, even in the sixties I couldn't grow my hair like most of my friends, as by then I was a Police Officer and short back and sides was the order of the day.  Returning to reflect on the forties  I have to agree that by and large they were very happy times despite the austerity of post war problems.  As a family we were never really short of anything.  There was the occasional bit of black market activity in making butter, or sharing the ration with a neighbour in need in return for a bit of this and that.  Trout in the rivers were abundant, rabbit roasted, boiled, stewed, or stuffed was a delicacy.  Even the occasional chicken well past her egg laying days was a treat.  Clothing was a bit of a problem, apart from Sunday best.  Everything had to be patched up where holes appeared until they became threadbare and daylight shone through everything one wore. Really good old days.  I will reflect some more on another occasion.  Today I am going to reflect on the commencement of World War One and wear my Grandfathers medals to remember the sacrifices of those brave men and women who fought, died, became disabled, and who are no more, for it is One Hundred years to the day that it all went so terribly wrong.