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As I recall, I was getting nowhere very fast with my story, so let’s go back to a district called “College” near Paisley in Scotland, around October 1946.
This is Scotland in October, at the end of October indeed. There is no question of “planet warming” gases heating us up, too early – the industrials haven’t really got going, and so I decided to get myself born!
Actually, I don’t recall exactly, but I think I didn’t have a great deal of choice in the matter, or I would without question have chosen a different place, a different family and a different moment to set head (it seems every baby puts its head on the ground first) on this planet.
That would have been another story, but this one isn’t finished yet!
This is NOT a photo of me, I was much more gorgeous, but it gives a sort of idea to the future readers of what a baby is, or was.
Now, in 1946, what had been called the “great war” had been over for almost 30 years, and this mother of all wars to end all wars, had been replaced by the 2nd one, which had only just finished, about a year before.
I only mention this to point out that this was in the immediate after years, and I presume that my conception had taken place slap-bang with the final war days, and probably had represented the war between my mother and father. A war baby indeed! In any case, the whole outcome was that it really wasn’t the moment to put anything onto this planet, and most certainly not babies!
There was little (if poor, like us, then nothing) to eat, little or no money to buy it with, and in any case rationing was in full swing, and would continue to be so for another 6-10 years.
I believe the Southern people (the English principally) recounted stories about how the Scottish only had babies to have something to eat and to beat rationing. Well – here is one little beggar who was missed, unfortunately. The English seemed to be a race full of problems and pre-conceived ideas, as I later found out, and according to them, we Scots nourished ourselves only from porridge.
At the time, a perfectly correct statement, except that the Englishman’s idea of porridge was a cereal product, made with milk and sugar. It was a basic, staple Scottish diet. Quite true, but to get to the REAL porridge, the one that I knew and consumed (not avidly, but out of necessity) you would have to change the Englishman’s milk for water, and his sugar for salt!
The first time I tasted cow’s milk, or any animal milk for that matter, was some 5 years later, when I started primary school, and we were all treated to those tiny little bottles, free of charge. These were given out by the Government via the schools, because they knew that if it was delivered to the house, it would be used in parents’ tea, and the kids wouldn’t see a great deal of it.
The Government of the day (and all those which followed- right up to this day) knew its citizen’s
So far as sugar was concerned, I believe everybody had a ration (monthly) of some 50gr, and since babies (as the adults of the day told us) did not need sugar until they started drinking tea, at around the age of 15 years, babies were very welcome additives to a family – one could almost say a “sugar-substitute”. We didn’t require any of the 30gr of jam allowed us per month either, which later led to my adventure with a small pot of Robertson’s jam (the result of the whole families ration for the month) which somehow found itself sailing through the air, to land with a resounding tinkle of broken glass on the pavement, whilst I (around 5 years old) endeavoured to miss the NEXT car, the one following the first one which had clipped my poor little arm. This accident provoked a simple howling from the family (my younger sister was not yet born) for the pot of Jam – sod the silly little twit who had a nasty bruising to his arm- and the general feeling (expressed loudly) that it probably was his fault anyway!
This episode actually had some very revealing factors about it for me, and some very advantageous effects. It showed me, firstly, that so-called religious people didn’t love their neighbours, their families, or anything else, except themselves, and secondly, when the heathen lady, who kept the corner shop where I had bought the jam, turned up at our front door with a new pot, bigger than the first, and with the question “and how is the poor wee bairn? I would have killed the driver if I’d got my hands on him!” proved to me that there were reasonable people out there somewhere! I was always, from then on, a welcome “wee laddie” in her shop, which meant sweeties and things for FREE!
It made no difference to the attitude at home, however, I was still considered the villain of the piece, and my mother spent much time muttering things about “the devil takes care of his own” or something. I didn’t find that terribly flattering to her, and it most certainly gave me a large desire to meet this creative personage “Devil”, to try and make an arrangement about our future association!
So far as I am aware, I haven’t (to date) had the honour, or I wouldn’t be in the plight I am now, some 55 years later!! Little girls AND little boys in the garden shed.
So life continued, slowly, and yet time passed quickly. I recall my first adventures with a species until then unknown, girls, in the shape and form of the neighbour’s daughter. This young lady was around the same age as myself, but didn’t go to school, at least not my School “Williamsborough Primary” – we were under the impression that she was “privately” tutored, either at home or in some school elsewhere. This did not make her any the less “inquisitive” about those things I had, but she didn’t, and what they were supposed to be used for. Naïve people of the day called it “birds and bees” stuff, but I couldn’t see for the life of me, where or what, these two objects had to do with Marjorie and my philanderings. It all came to a nasty end on a Saturday morning, in the tool shed of her home, when her Dad came in, unexpectedly, seeking a rake for the garden, and (as he later said) found a different type of “rake” wasting time (I could have told him effort as well, for I wasn’t sexually so advanced as to actually see or feel any change to those necessary parts) with his daughter. My father was informed, things took their course, I got belted, and Marjorie got comforted.
This episode taught me a great deal about life, its injustices, its so-called pleasures (like having your backside belted) and the complete and utter indifference of all people towards the young male concerned (whose fault the whole thing obviously was) and their sympathy towards the lady (who had started it all).This “gallantry” has continued even into this epoch, where the young ladies who walk around in 2005 not “almost” naked (that would be supportable for the young males of today) but they walk around with just the correct amount and correctly placed pieces of tissue/leather or other material, to avoid being arrested for indecency (stupid word), but still sufficiently insufficient as to raise a young man’s tether, and pecker! It happen’s all the time, and if girlie doesn’t get the things she wants, or if the situation comes out into the light, then girlie screams and shouts something about rape and aggression, whilst boysie is standing there, pecker deflated, wondering what is going on. Mind you, it does happen that girlsie shouts “WOLF!” once too often, particularly nowadays, and boysie gets his pecker back up!
Anyway, way back in the dusty past, the natural assumption was – boys fault, boy belted, girl comforted, start again next Saturday!
At the time, Saturday’s were quite exciting days. It seemed to be tradition to get married on a Saturday in the Scotland of the period, probably because they had the weekend off (at least from midday Saturday onwards) which meant that the Groom could rush back from his job at around 12 noon, jump into his quarterly bathtub, from there into his rented/sometimes bought, new suit (often black, but occasionally the more modern “charcoal- grey”), rush downstairs to the waiting limousine (probably the first time in his life he’d been in a car, and then a “Triumph” or a “Rolls” luxury version). He had tried to save a few bob, by saying he had his motor-bike available, but this offer had not gone down too well.
Tradition had it, at the time, that the brides father was occupied at the same moment in time, in another part of the town, in a second “Rolls, Bently, Triumph de-luxe” in escorting his daughter to her doom. Tradition also had it (luckily) that at the moment of departure in the luxury motor, the windows would be wound down, and enormous fistfuls of money (generally in the form of silver threepenny pieces) would be thrown out. This was said to bring luck and wealth, and it certainly did to me – having figured out that my Uncle’s enormous hat did , after all, have a purpose. I think this quick wittedness was what attracted Marjorie to me – leading to the invitation to the shed. I sometimes got to do 3, even 4 weddings on one Saturday, because the posh and rich people preferred to do it in the morning (I suppose being used to getting up with the mist to go riding) the poorer Catholic families started at around 1pm (just to beat the Protestants), and the Protestants always did it at 3pm, because that was the time on a Saturday afternoon when the Groom and all the other men would normally go to the football match, which had a double function – no football match this wedding Saturday imposed, from the start, the female dominance in the happy relationship, and secondly, the fellows couldn’t say they had forgotten, having talked for months about which match they were going to miss!
After the church ceremony ( a civil ceremony was out of the question) the Groom would get smashed out of his mind at the reception, the bride would wail and weep bitterly, seeing her pecker drooping for the night, and finally around 9pm, the Groom and Bride took off (this time often on his motorbike) for the overnight hotel, and the Sunday honeymoon!
On Monday, back to work!! Such were the habits of the epoch, and looking back, I can well imagine that the Groom was well pleased when he touched his card into the clock timer at the factory. Peace at last!!
Golf of course
Being brought up in the Scotland of the period did have its advantages. To make up for the damp climate, the damp – no – the WET walls inside the houses, the charms of breaking the ice covering your face washing water in the morning, the lack of money, the lack of food, the lack of transport (everything was done on foot, and lucky was the guy who had a bike) and as a “wee bairn” I had to learn what these advantages were, how to use them, to stay reasonably alive.
One of the things I learnt at a very early age was how to get on the golf course (just round the corner from our house) without being seen, and pinching the balls of the green, only to sell them back later to the other golfers, at the entrance to the Golf Club, one halfpence a ball if it was brand new, or 6 pence for the baker’s dozen! (As I recall it was a clever golfer who taught us about baker’s dozens, which according to him were always 14!)
Now, in later life, and having played a little golf, I feel a little bit ashamed of having done this, not for the golfer (he could afford it) but for the fact that the shot had/could have been the best he had made in the 18 holes. Incidentally, we never got caught, we had a system on the 13th hole, where the golfer couldn’t see the green from the tee (it was a par 3), so we had all the time in the world to run out, grab, and disappear! Now and then, because we suspected that it wasn’t right, we would put the ball into the hole! How many members of the “hole-in-one club” did we promote? This all stopped when my school-friend decided to put all three of the tee shots into the hole! I deemed it preferable to avoid that particular hole for a while! I went back to the place which the Golf Club accepted as “ours” – the pond hole! Here we were allowed to search for golf balls, after the golfer himself had vainly attempted to fish his ball out. We had to sell them, at a miserable price, to the chap in the Golf club shop, but it was an income for sweeties and stuff! I often wonder how we stayed alive, sometimes plunging naked into this filthy pond, in November, in Scotland! Always we had to paddle in bare feet, wiggling our toes in the thick mud at the bottom, trying to feel the golf balls. Towels, of course, we didn’t have, and I port to this day a souvenir scar on my upper, inner thigh (left), of the day I found the rusty barbed wire just under the surface of the water! Still, it kept us amused, and brought in a few pennies. Entrepreneur at 5 years of age!
Another mindless souvenir is of one of my casual, live-in-the-same-road friends, whose Grandad had served in the Infantry during the 1st world war, in the trenches, and he always loved to show us kids his trench rifle, with bayonet fixed, with stood dusty and unwanted, in the corner of the potting shed, having been banished there by Grandma! I recall the first time I saw this marvel, and as I looked up at this sharp-pointed thing towering metres above my head, I wondered how the devil you could manipulate the thing towards the belly guts of the oncoming enemy. No doubt the impressive size of the thing was partly due to my diminutive size at the time, but I have seen others in later life, and they are rather long and wicked looking things.Much more than the photo shows!
I had no further interest (apart from bewondering it) in this article of war, but my friend did! Smaller than me, he had decided to go into the circus business, and thought that this enormously long, wicked thing, would make a good start. He intended to install the thing in a bare patch of the wood we all went to, and charge us all a one farthing entry! One halfpence for those who wanted to touch the sharp end of the bayonet (which my friend said had been in the guts of thousands of “jerries”).
In fact I had inspected the bayonet, and had found touches of dry red spots, nowadays I know they were rust spots, or were they?
How Grandad had got this monstrosity back from the fronts up to Scotland we all wondered, particularly I and my friend, as one late afternoon (after school) we found ourselves tiptoeing down the drive, carrying the rifle with fixed bayonet between us. I had been promised a part of the profits, and I ended up getting the same as my friend! A belting on the bare buttocks, by an irate Grandpa who gave little mercy! I suppose we could think ourselves lucky that he took his belt, and not the bayonet!
Anyway, the circus idea was not a very good one, so we went back home with glowing, red cheeks-from the healthy open air, no doubt - to think out other possibilities.
[Ed note:- These first 2 episodes in the auto-biography are published FREE OF CHARGE on the blogspot: http://www.marquisdugalipot.blogspot.com/ ) For the rest, you’ll have to pay, after publication, for a copy signed personally by the author! ]
As you can see, my business efforts always tended to end up in the same position, and now I PAY for the same harsh treatment!
weather at Vauvert, France
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