Where am I? Who am I? What am I?

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This is not really my main blog – in fact it’s not really a proper blog at all. It was an experiment that never got very far.  If you really want to know about me you need to visit –


I look forward to seeing you there.




More Gold Letter Boxes

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Having painted letter boxes gold to mark all our 29 Gold Medal Olympians this year, Royal Mail has announced another initiative.


A lot of people have been asking if Royal Mail will be producing Gold Medal Stamps and painting pillar boxes gold to celebrate our Paralympians, when the London 2012 Paralympics Games start on the 29th of August.
In a first for the Paralympic Games, all Paralympian GB Gold Medallists will be honoured by Royal Mail with a post box painted gold in their home town.

Royal Mail will also feature every Paralympics GB Gold Medal winner in the London 2012 Para-lympic Games, to be included in a set of stamps available after the Games.

A Digression

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I am on holiday and haven’t seen many of the postcards I have received at home lately. So here is as digression from showing my received postcards –


Great Britain is now immersed in preparations for the games, and Royal Mail is not an exception! They’ve come up with a couple of interesting initiatives to honour Great Britain’s gold medalists.

To begin with, for each gold medal earned by Team GB, they plan to paint one of their famous red post boxes… gold! That’s right – for the first time ever, their iconic post boxes will be dressed in a different color. And the mailboxes will be picked according to the home town of the winners, so if you’re cheering for your town’s local athlete, keep an eye on your post box!

Aunty Maude

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 Aunty Maude (technically my great-aunt Maude) was one of Nana’s older sisters but despite her only being eighteen months older she seemed very much older to me. After Grandpa died she came to live with Nana and it was Nana who nursed her in her final illness when she was 83. She died in 1959 when I was nine. She passed away in Newsham Hospital which in those days was simply where people went to die. People would do anything to avoid ending up in Newsham as they knew what it meant. Their relatives also went to any lengths to avoid seeing them go in there so I assume Aunty Maude was past caring and / or beyond being cared for at home by her 81 year old sister.

Like Grandpa she was a background figure at Nana’s and I recall little of her except her small, round, thin metal-framed glasses as I visited her, sitting up in bed in the front bedroom in something very pink. She had quite a hard life but it was long after she had died that Mum told me all about that and in the early days it was her cottage on a hillside near Bodfari that was the main topic of conversation. By contrast Uncle Wardie – who died the same year as Auntie Maude is a far more developed figure in my memory and I have lots of memories of him. That suggests she must have kept to her room most of the time while she lived at Nana’s.

 Aunty Maude had been married twice and both her husbands had been less than one might have hoped for. The first, Will Noble, was a drunkard and she eventually left him but not before having a child, Tom Noble, who died in infancy. Ironically Will Noble’s death notice read ‘beloved husband of Annie Maude Noble’. He wasn’t! After Maude and Will Noble separated she bought a shop in the Shiel Road area of Liverpool – next to the Berwick Hotel and public bar in Berwick Street which her mother ran. (Aunty Chrissie took over the shop when Maude moved to Moel y Parc, Bodfari.)

 She then lived with the man who was to be her second husband, Jack Watson, but she couldn’t marry him until her first husband died. Aunty Edie – another of Nana’s sisters – refused to speak to Maude while she was living in sin and they never made it up again afterwards. Although Aunty Maude was happy with Jack Watson the rest of the family considered him slimy and only put up with him for her sake. There is no doubt he cheated on her and he even made advances to Mum.  He died in 1944.

Mount Helicon

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 Often I think of the beautiful town

      That is seated by the sea;

Often in thought go up and down

The pleasant streets of that dear old town,

      And my youth comes back to me.

          And a verse of the Lapland song

          Is haunting my memory still:

          ‘A boy’s will is the wind’s will,

And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.’

                              Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ‘My Lost Youth’

 Mum had two principal poetry books – ‘Mount Helicon’ and ‘Lyrical Forms in English’. Both of these have ‘Flora Body Form VA’ pencilled on their flyleaves. Between them they contained all one could wish for in English poetry. There were few greater delights for me in my early years than listening to Mum reciting poetry and, alter, to learn those very poems myself and proudly recite them to Dad and Mum. As I grew older it became slightly less delightful as it was a requirement during school holidays to spend at least half an hour learning poetry before going out to play.

One of my regrets is that I didn’t keep up my poetry reading in later years. A little bit of occasional repetition would have firmly implanted them in my mind as they were in Mum’s.

To digress into older years for a moment, it was a real delight for me to discover my first english teacher at The Holt, Miss Evans, was equally enthusiastic about ‘old’ poetry and my next English teacher, Peter Hikins, introduced me to modern poetry, including the book ‘Here Today’, and even invited his friends – the Liverpool poets like Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten – into school to read to us (McGough and Henri were part of the group ‘Scaffold’ and so had two claims to fame). Charles Causley also came along to give us the brilliant poem ‘Timothy Winters’ which ended up as one of Mum’s favourites after I had recited it from memory a few times.

In addition to the poems in Mum’s books the weekly periodical ‘Look and Learn’ had a poem every issue. I was later to discover that Jo used to learn this poem every weekend and recite it at the dinner table on Sunday for a reward of sixpence.

Another source of poems were the volumes of ‘Highroads of Literature’. These took me across the worlds of art and literature as its matching volumes tackled history and geography. GB still has some of these on his bookshelves.

Sadly, the last poetry source I can recall disappeared at some stage. This was a Bibby’s Annual.   Bibby, Joseph (1851-1940) was an animal feed and soap manufacturer whose factory was just down Bowring Park Road from us. Joseph Bibby often said that, if the accident of birth had not made him a miller, he would certainly have gone into journalism; as the opportunity arose, he spent more and more time on writing and editorship. From 1896 he produced Bibby’s Quarterly which was intended mainly for farmers, it contained material of agricultural interest (including photographs of livestock reared on Bibby’s feeds), as well as general articles. By 1905 when it stopped it had become an almost exclusively literary and artistic magazine, with excellent colour reproductions of celebrated paintings and from 1906 to 1922 he produced Bibby’s Annual with the same literary and artistic ideas. Nana had a Pears Annual but that too disappeared at some stage. From 1891 to 1925 Pears soap manufacturers issued a large format Christmas Annual, similar to Biiby’s Annual, each year. I cannot remember if that poems in it but if so I never used it as a source for my poetry learning.

Our Bibby’s Annual lived under Mum and Dad’s bed along with a pair of indiaqn clubs (more for self defence than callisthenics, I believe), a policeman’s truncheon that had been Dad’s father’s or Uncle Frank’s and a Victorian / Edwardian massage machine. This latter was wound up to generate an electrically driven massage devices on which could be fitted leather pads or a long metal stick whose purpose I could never guess but which may well have been an early form of vibrator (according to Rachel Maines who lost her teaching post at Clarkson University, in northern New York, in 1986 when she published her first article on the history of vibrators in a Bakken Museum newsletter).

The mind is a strange thing when it can wander from Longfellow to vibrators….


Grandpa Body

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 I hope that folk who know me don’t consider me mercenary and yet one of the few memories I have of Grandpa Body is of an old man giving me a florin in the dining room (his room) at Nana and Grandpa’s Queens Drive home in Liverpool. Grandpa didn’t die until I was just turned seven but he always seemed to be a background figure. I can see him in the garden on a sunny day but otherwise he rarely seemed to be around. Like Nana and Mum he pronounced his surname Bowdee but Uncle Eric was quite content for his name to be pronounced Boddy.

 A stooped old man with just a little white hair at the sides of his head, a large nose and a tall forehead he had deep-set eyes, a sunken mouth and a decrepit appearance despite being dressed in a dark suit with a waistcoat of matching material. His shirt had no collar. (Shirts in those days had stiff detachable collars, fixed with collar studs). He was just 79 when he died, of pneumonia and bronchitis, but a life of excess alcohol had taken its toll.

 Grandpa’s death provided me with a most strange experience. He was laid out in the front room, Nana having migrated into the dining room for the time being, and the door was firmly closed to us children. Childish curiosity being what it is I asked Mum if he was dressed in his best clothes and lying in an oak coffin for everyone to see. Heaven knows how I appreciated that was the norm because death was not a subject for mentioning in front of children. Mum’s reaction was to ask, quite horrified and suspicious, if I had been into the front room. It took some effort on my part to assure her I hadn’t and even now I’m not sure I convinced her.

I did it, I jumped the Fence, cried Trotty

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I didn’t own many books when I was tiny. We relied heavily on the little shop-fronted library at Childwall Fiveways. Mum and I would walk along there, sometimes stopping at Nana’s on the way there or back. The librarian, Miss Skelland, knew us well and greeted us by name. In thos days one of the rules was that children had to take books out on their parents’ tickets until they reached the age of seven. Adults were limited to four of their buff tickets and children to two of their green ones. Making Mum use her tickets for both of us was ridiculously restricting at the rate we both consumed our books so Miss Skelland gave me my very own tickets at the age of four. What a wonderful woman. (I was later to work for Miss Skelland one summer break from college, at Norris Green library. I discovered then that this wasn’t the onlt way the Mills & Boon writing librarian broke the rules. She swore like mad. Not badly but often, though never in front of the public with whom she was always friendly and professional. In the staff room she would happily dress down anyone who upset her and bloody and hell appeared in every sentence.)

 One of the books that I owned myself was ‘Farm Babies’ written by Elsie Church and illustrated by Margie. My favourite story in that was about a foal called Trotty who eventually succeeded in jumping a fence. ‘“I did it, I jumped the fence, cried Trotty.’ This phrase became a stock one in our household and for the rest of Mum’s life she or I would often share a joke about it when one of us succeeded in doing something after a number of tries.

 I regularly borrowed from Childwall Library books in a series about a family of mice called the Slimtail’s (Mary Chell’s positioning of the apostrophe, not mine!). The Slimtail family lived with their pet weevil, Edwin, at No. 9 Barley-bag Avenue and had adventures avoiding Tom Noddy the cat. There were a series of these books and one – ‘More Slimtail’s’ – is currently retailing, second-hand, at £293.75 + £2.80 postage. You’d think they’d let you off the postage!


Unlike many households we did not have comics as an introduction to reading. It was only when we were much older that comics were allowed. GB had ‘The Eagle’ while I had either ‘The Dandy[ or ‘The Beano’ or, occasionally ‘The Beezer’. GB had a regular order but I just picked up the occasional one. In the early 1960s I had two other periodicals on order with Mr Kelmsley at Shuttleworth’s newsagent – ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Look and Learn’.

In those days there were three newsagents at The Rocket. On the corner of Norville Road and Bowring Park Road was Howcroft’s. When Nana came to live with us I used to pop around to Howcroft’s for her to buy her the untipped Woodbines that she smoked (Mum smoked tipped Woodbines but, unlike Nana who smoked until she died at 93, Mum gave up when I was about fourteen). There was no restriction on buying cigarettes in those days and many shops sold single cigarettes (a penny loosey which later became a tupenny loosey, then a thripenny loosey, etc…). Many a child began his cigarette smoking career by buying a penny loosey and coughing his way through it behind the advertising hoardings.

 On the Rocket Hotel side of Queens Drive was a block of shops which disappeared in the late 1960s when the M62 was built. This block included the newsagents we preferred – Shuttleworth’s, largely because the staff, presided over by the kind Mr Kelmsley, treated children as human beings and actually served them in turn rather than always ignoring them in favour of adults which many shops did.

Opposite Shuttleworth’s was another block of shops with a newsagents called Greene’s. As well as newspapers, magazines, cigarettes and tobacco, all three shops sold sweets but until 1953 they were still rationed as a result of the War. An attempt had been made to de-ration them in April 1949 but it only lasted four months as the manufacturers ran out of sugar and panic buying caused chaos. The price of sweets had more than doubled since before the War and as a result many adults did not take up their full ration of 6 ounces and Mum was sometimes given their coupons to use for GB and I. There was a lot of criticism when sweets were de-rationed because sugar remained rationed. In addition to the effect on households, manufacturers had to meet the demand with only half the sugar they had previously had available. On 5th February 1953 there was a rush for the shops as the first de-rationed sweets went on sale. Toffee apples were the biggest sellers, with sticks of nougat and liquorice strips also disappearing fast. How the area supported three very similar shops I don’t know but I think Howcrofts and Greene’s are still there to this day.

‘Knowledge’ and  ‘Look and Learn’ were both weeklies and while ‘Knowledge’ was slightly highbrow and totally educational, ‘Look and Learn’ was fun and pretty. Its 24 pages contained a wide range of articles on history, nature, literature, astronomy and art and a weekly poem. Half its pages were printed in full colour and the paper was beautifully illustrated by some of the best artists of the time.

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