Wyatt’s Weird World!

Mark’s first Book is now available on Amazon! It’s called ‘Wyatt’s Weird World!’

Mark was born right at the beginning of the so called ‘swinging 60s’, but the only swinging he ever did was from a rope hanging from an old oak tree at the bottom of his garden. He was fortunate enough to be raised in the beautiful rural Tillingbourne Valley, in the south east of England.

As a very young lad, his Mum and Dad  read him bedtime stories, these had included the likes of Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ books, Capt. W.E. John’s ‘Biggles’ series, and the Arabian Nights tales of ‘Ali Baba’. But one early evening in the mid-sixties, his Dad told him a story that would change his life. It was his yarn about a creepy nocturnal encounter with a ‘glittery man’ riding a bicycle, the terrifying apparition of a dead gunpowder worker! Later that night Mark just couldn’t get to sleep due to the image of the ghostly gunpowder worker. His Dad’s spooky story had, quite unintentionally, sent Mark off on a long, creepy, dark, winding road, and it is a road on which, 50 years later, he still travels!
Mark would regularly come away from Guildford library with a bag full of ghost story collections. The ‘Biggles’ books were soon consigned to the past, and he moved on to stories by writers such as M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft and W.W. Jacobs.
There is an old maxim that says ‘if you take an interest in the paranormal, it will take an interest in you’, and that has certainly been the case for Mark. He began to experience the occasional strange event in his home, the surrounding countryside, and even while on holiday many miles away. As he matured, his reading matter significantly expanded, it now included books by authors such as Colin Wilson, Michael Williams, and Brad Steiger.
He bought his first property in 1983, and in that little flat, and in every home that he has lived in ever since, in Surrey,  up in Northumberland, and down to Cornwall, the weirdness has followed him around like an obsessed stalker, leading Mark to consider that another old maxim may be true too, the one that says ‘people are haunted, not places’!
Mark’s personal experiences in this book begin with the scary tale that got his ‘Weird World’ started, his Dad’s chilling ‘Gunpowder Ghost’ story. The stories that follow it are in an approximate chronological order, beginning with his very early spooky boyhood experiences in Surrey, and eventually reaching down westwards to Cornwall, where he currently resides. However, most of the short stories can be read separately, so you can, if you so wish, just randomly dip into the book at any place.
When Mark isn’t doing his own writing, he still loves to read books about the paranormal and the esoteric. In recent months he has been reading work by serious cutting edge researchers like Jacques Vallee, John Keel, and Robbie Graham, and also good old fashioned ghost stories collected by the American author Steve Stockton. Mark likes to keep up to date with the latest research in the paranormal world, so he listens to a few of the better paranormal podcasts. He enjoys a good natter about paranormal topics with his very knowledgeable,  experienced friend, Derek Thomas, or anybody else that is on a similar wave-length!
Mark would like you to know that he does other ‘stuff’ too, his life isn’t all paranormally orientated! He’s quite ‘normal’  most of the time! He plays finger-style acoustic guitar, he listens to many different genres of music, (but admits to a slight addiction to the music of Mike Nesmith). He walks on Bodmin Moor with his dog. He reads biographies, he rides his bike down Cornish country lanes, he watches dark Scandinavian crime dramas, and he still likes to find time to go back to his roots in the Surrey Hills occasionally, to do a little fishing and just wander around the local hills and woods.
He is currently working on a collection of witness testimonies to strange paranormal phenomena in Cornwall, which he hopes will be published by the spring of 2017. Thank-you.

 

September

2016

The American Bomber Crash Mystery

I was told this story by my Mum around the mid-80s. She was in her fifties at the time. She’d been shopping in Guildford and  was waiting for a bus back to Shalford, from opposite the ‘Yvonne Arnaud’ theatre. When she got on the bus she struck up a conversation with an elderly man towards the rear of the bus. The old chap apparently asked her a few questions. ‘Was she married?’ ‘Did she have any kids?’ That sort of  thing. Mum had never met this man before, but she instinctively knew he was ‘alright’, just a harmless old chap who enjoyed chatting with anybody, and everybody! He asked her where she lived and she replied “Shalford”. He told her that he had known Shalford quite well many years earlier. He went on to ask her where in Shalford she lived. Mum said “Tillingbourne road”. He asked her if she lived in the oldest part of the road or the ‘newer bit’. She replied “The newer bit”.  (This was the council owned far end of the road built in the fifties). “Oh” he replied. “I knew that when it was all just fields!”

He then asked her if she had heard about the American wartime bomber that had crashed in those fields during the Second World War.  She hadn’t. (No one we knew had ever mentioned this). Now, bear in mind that this conversation was happening on a bus trip from Guildford to Shalford, a trip that would only take ten minutes at the most, and my Mum was already almost at her destination. Mum was fascinated by his story and decided to stay on the bus for one stop more, just so that she could hear more about the bomber crash. The bus would also stop further along in the village, so it was ‘O.K’., she would just have a slightly longer walk home, but it gave her the time to hear a little bit more information. Sadly, the only other information that she was able to get from the old chap, before she had to get off the bus, was that it had been on a training flight heading for Canada. He said that all of the crew onboard, at least six young men,  were killed on impact. My Mum said that the impact site he described to her, sounded very much like the field directly behind the Tillingbourne river, which was directly behind our home.

Mum never did meet that old chap again. It was a few days after her brief unexpected meeting with him, that she told me the story, but, as far as I know, she never told my brother or sisters.  A few years ago a book was published called ‘Wartime Guildford, 39 to 45’,  (By David Rose and Graham Collyer, it is a book I highly recommend to anybody interested in Guildford or the war years). I was confident there would be a mention of the American bomber and its crash site in there. But no, there was nothing. The problem we have now is that anybody old enough to remember it, if it actually happened, has either died or their memories are fast fading.  It would be nice to get to the truth of this mystery, not just for me, but more importantly, for all those who (possibly) died there, and their surviving family members and descendants.

Watch this space. I’m working on it!

UPDATED FEBRUARY 22ND, 2016…….

I did lots of  research on this (alleged) American W.W.2 bomber crash site near my childhood home. After looking at every possible lead on the internet, I  still could not come up with any verification that a crash had actually occurred there. But, with the help of the ‘Surrey History Centre’, I obtained a map of all plane crashes around the Guildford area during the period of 1939 to 1945. It was very small and hard to see in any detail, (as it was covered in heavy marker pen), but it did show various crash sites within a few square miles of our home in Tillingbourne road, Shalford. I found amongst U.S.A.A.F. wartime British crash site records, an entry for an American ‘B24’ Liberator bomber, which had crashed on July 3rd, in 1944. The crew had abandoned their damaged plane over Chichester, and it had flown on crewless for about 35 miles, before finally crashing at Trunley Heath, near Shalford, (about a mile south of our home). I also tracked down an American ‘C-47’, the ‘Lilly Bell 11’, which had crashed into a field at ‘Hurst Farm’, Jacobs Well, Guildford, (four miles to our north), on October 25, 1944, killing all of its four-man crew. 

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The C-47 that crashed at Jacobs Well, near Guildford, killing all 4 crewmen.
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The map showing plane crashes around the Guildford area (39/45)

There were records of two German ‘V1’s (‘Doodlebugs’),  crashing in the Chantries. One on July the 26th, 1944, on the other (Guildford) side of the Chantries, near South Warren Farm,  and the other one crashed off East Shalford Lane, on Manor Farm’s land, (on July 7th, 1944), which is on our side of the Chantries woodlands. Neither of them crashed behind our house.   I contacted the local Guildford historian David Rose and he very kindly did some research. Mr Rose’s e-mail response with his final findings is shown below….

“There was a ‘V1’ (rocket) that landed just to the north of East Shalford Lane, on 11th July 1944, (to the NE of 83 Tillingbourne Rd.,) that fits the bill. I think that the aircraft crash and 6 airmen being killed was a wartime rumour. The closest aircraft crash to ‘No.83,’ (our home in Tillingbourne Road at that time), was the U.S.A.A.F. ‘B24’ Liberator that was abandoned by it’s crew over Chichester, but flew on to crash to the west of Trunley Heath Road, north of Tilthams Corner Road and south of Unstead Lock on July 3, 1944″. (David Rose, Guildford Historian.)

So, to sum it all up, it seems as if the old chap that my Mum met on the bus back in the 1980s,  got his facts, and his local geographical knowledge, a little bit mixed up! I have highlighted, (above), David Rose’s comment that he thought it was a ‘wartime rumour’, it would appear that the old chap was, (perhaps unknowingly), still spreading that rumour in the 1980s! But never mind, we have hopefully laid the rumour to rest now, and regardless, I have enjoyed researching these incidents, and I have learnt a great deal. I think that it is now case closed!

A big ‘thank you’ to David Rose and the ‘Surrey History Centre’ for all your help and expertise in solving this wartime riddle.  In Honour of the following brave young men, who lost their lives near Guildford in 1944, fighting fascism.  R.I.P…..    1st Lieutenant Mercer Wilson Avent;  Flight Officer John Edmund Wright;  Technical Sergeant John R. Hillmer; and… Staff Sergeant Dale E. Dellinger.

 

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A German ‘V1’ Flying Rocket Bomb  (known as ‘Doodlebugs’!) Two of these crashed in the Chantries area of Guildford, one to the north, and one to the south.
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An American ‘B24’ Liberator, similar to the plane the crew abandoned over Chichester, which flew on and crashed at Trunley Heath, Surrey, in 1944.

Mark Anthony Wyatt, Bude,   February, 2016.

Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has created, remains his personal intellectual property! But any other images, videos, quotes etc., that were NOT created by me remain the intellectual property of those who created them. 

 

You can also find me on ‘Facebook’..@ ‘Wyatt’s Rebellion!’ or ‘Mark anthony Wyatt’.

markanthonywyatt.com

 

‘The Old Rectory’ (Mark Anthony Wyatt)

 

Note; In the following story, the names and relationships have been changed to protect people’s privacy. However, the place names, and all of the events are totally genuine………

A lovely young lady that I know well,  Rosie, and her boyfriend Jim,  had moved back west to the country, from which they had both originally come,  to try to  escape their  partying, city lifestyle, and the endless, awful, damp, structurally dangerous flats that they had been forced to rent in downtown Bristol.  They had loved Bristol,   but they knew that the hectic social life that they led amongst other young, energetic,  sociable people had to slow down sometime. They were fast approaching  their mid- twenties but still partying hard like they were first year uni students. It came with a price all that raving. Their limited funds just couldn’t keep up with the demands put on them.

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Bristol Clubbing

Rosie and Jim, like so many other young people in Cameron’s Britain, were struggling to make ends meet. There were so few jobs available, and the jobs that they were able to get never paid well, plus it didn’t help that they were regularly taken advantage of by unscrupulous, selfish employers. So they had headed west, into the sunset, to seek a quieter, healthier, cheaper lifestyle, and hopefully get a couple of good jobs too!  It wasn’t too much to ask for was it? Did they get it? Well eventually, thankfully, yes they did. But they were to have one more big hurdle to leap over first, and that hurdle was called Bideford Rectory!

Bideford is in Devon, and it’s about three hours west of Bristol. It’s Jim’s home turf, he’s a Devon boy through and through. It is a quiet, pretty estuary town on the Torridge river, on the north coast. They thought it would be a good place to withdraw from city life and start a better,  more wholesome, more tranquil life. They didn’t want to lose their Bristol based friends, as they were all lovely people, (I know, because I met a fair few of them), but they wanted to put some miles between them, so that they would only see them when it suited their new life’s purpose and direction. They desperately wanted to get decent jobs, save some money, and build a new, improved life for themselves.

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Bideford….not as quaint as you might think it is!

After looking at the usual delapidated rental stock, of dire, damp, cramped apartments with crumbling walls, (it was just the same in Bideford as it had been in Bristol), they had eventually found a half-decent place that they thought  would make them a reasonable home.

The first floor rectory flat (apartment) had seemed like a decent enough place to live. It was in a nice residential area not that far from the Torridge river bank, on the edge of the little town. It was a part of a large Victorian house, tucked away and very private, down a long meandering, mature wooded drive. I’m sure that in its day, when the rector lived there, it had been a high class property. Their part of this big, sprawling red-brick bit of old England was actually a more recent ugly extension. It was a modern, (possibly 60s), rectangular wing abruptly stuck on to the once lovely, but now decrepit, old building.

All around the building were scruffy, tired old caravans,  and old buses and vans. They appeared to be lived in by people down on their luck who had also once seen better days. There were little bits of everyday rubbish just strewn about  here and there, spent beer cans, old pizza boxes, and discarded, water-logged, ripped furniture, that sort of thing. Never a good sign. But on the plus side, their flat was HUGE and it had plenty of light. It had once been used as a classroom by the local council, it was where, in the 80s, they had taught young adults with learning difficulties. It had a long line of big windows all down one side, and also down at the far end. It had very high ceilings and there were various sheets, blankets and old curtains hanging from the curtain rails, acting as make-shift curtains, (not that they were over-looked by anything except a few old oaks).

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One of the many delapidated old caravans in the Rectory gardens

The kitchen, such as it was, was totally dwarfed within this much larger room, and their king-sized bed was situated right up at the far end, where the shorter line of windows were, on top of a three feet high stage platform. To get to the showers, which they had to share with several other tenants,  (some cleaner and tidier than others), they had to leave this big room and go through a pair of double doors to a dark and dingy connecting corridor, to the older, original part of the building. I visited them a few times and I never felt very comfortable at the old rectory, especially the bit through the swing doors towards the shower block. It had a very unsettling energy that would make me feel giddy and breathless.

When Rosie and Jim first moved into the old rectory everything seemed to be just fine, they had lived in more than a few rough places before, and with Rosie’s undoubted artistic flair, and Jim’s muscle, they knew that they could make it their own ‘home’, well, at least until something better came along anyway.

All was going fairly well, but slowly their disillusionment began to set in as little things began to go wrong, one way and another. They couldn’t get decent jobs in Bideford, and money, despite spending much of their time not going out socialising, was tighter than ever. Jim was frustrated and depressed, and because Jim was down, Rosie was a little bit down too.  When I visited the old rectory it always depressed me, I wanted better for them. They both deserved better. I thought back to myself at their age and how easy it had been for me and my generation. We were able to walk out of one well paid job and straight into another, and we still had some basic employment protection and rights back then too. I was angry at the successive governments, all responsible for running, (and frankly ruining), our country, and, in so doing, dealing so many youngsters like this such a crap hand in life.

I had a worrying drive one wet winter’s evening, from Bude up to Bideford, along the awful, winding A39, having  received a tearful call from Rosie on the telephone.  (They were both estranged from their parents, and had looked upon me as a sort of ‘unofficial’ Dad for a few years by that time.)   I turned off the main road to Barnstaple and headed over towards the old rectory.

I drove up the long, meandering, wooded drive. There was a nasty, tough looking bloke, with very little hair, fiddling with an old motor.  He was in his early thirties I would guess, and his cold, steely blue eyes were watching my arrival. He was giving me one of those hard ‘stare back at me if you dare’ looks. So I stared right back. Two can play at that game. He didn’t nod, he didn’t smile, he didn’t wave, and I knew immediately, right there and then, with my expert in-built, arsehole spotting antenna,  that he was, well….. how can I put this? Well, that he was an arsehole. I was right of course, it rarely fails. I pulled up, locked my car doors, and walked up towards their flat. I could feel Mr Personality’s eyes  drilling into the back of my head.

As soon as they opened their door to me, I could tell straightaway that they were having an awful time, and were at their ‘wits end’. Jim was at the end of his tether, and Rosie was doing her best to keep him calm. He was pacing the room and very argumentative, not at all like his usual self. Tensions were high. Rosie explained that they wanted to be out of the flat as soon as possible as they were in some trouble. “What trouble?” I asked. She then told me what had been going on for the last few days. The landlady,  (who was about as dodgy as a six pound note),   had asked them to leave. She had claimed that they were behind with their rent.  It turned out that they weren’t,  she had wanted them away for an entirely different reason.

Jim, it had transpired,   (only two days earlier),  had happened to walk past the downstairs flat when the door was fully opened. He couldn’t help himself and he had quickly glanced into the flat. He had seen the near bald thug, stood within the room, with the landlady stood slightly behind him, and she had been trying, unsuccessfully, to slip out of Jim’s line of sight. They were both surrounded by cannabis plants on every surface. The thug looked up and saw Jim.  He wasn’t happy. He glared at Jim, then quickly walked forward towards him and slammed the door closed. As Jim walked away he could hear raised voices talking animatedly. They were clearly worried that their illegal activities had been exposed.

The next day the landlady had come around and given them a hard time about the rent that she said they owed. Jim, under some pressure, had, without thinking it through,  in the heat of the moment, said “Oh, so it’s ‘O.K’. for a tenant to grow weed here, but you would have us kicked out for owing you a few quid!” Jim had known as soon as the words had left his mouth that he had made a mistake.  (They later heard rumours that the landlady was defrauding the local authorities over council tax, and that she and the little thug had gangland  connections around the town and up-country).  Don’t ever be taken in by the ‘quaintness’ of small country towns, as in my experience I have found that there are usually at least a few nasty ‘low-lives’ living in those places too!

It had got far worse on the day Rosie rang me. The grass growing tenant from downstairs had paid Jim a visit. He had threatened to kill him if he ‘grassed him up’ to the police.  I don’t think he was bright enough to realise quite how funny his choice of words had been.  He went on to say that ‘the river was very deep, and they would never find his body if he talked to the cops’.  So no wonder then that Jim, and lovely Rosie, were in such a terrible mental state that night I drove up to Bideford.

I had a lovely little modern flat which had just recently become vacant, it was in a pretty location a few hours drive away.  I offered it to Rosie and Jim and they happily accepted. I advised them to leave the old rectory as quickly, and as quietly, as possible,  and to not tell anybody that they were leaving,   or where they were going. I had a few sleepless nights myself until I was able to finally hire a big Transit van and help them move away.

and now…….the very weird paranormal bit……..

‘The Rolling Stone’s Track That Wasn’t!’

On  one of their last days in the old rectory, Rosie and Jim had a ghostly, but very positive experience. They were listening to Jim’s retro 90’s C.D. 5 disc changer in the huge room. The C.D. player worked well enough but the radio had ‘died’ many years earlier. They were both getting ready to go out together with some  friends. There was only the one disc in the machine. It was ‘Let it Bleed’, a  Rolling Stones album. It had just finished, and Jim, (unknown to Rosie), had turned the C.D. player off, by its switch to the ‘Off’ position, as he had walked by it on his way to the dingy bathroom. He was heading there on his own to have a  quick wash, leaving Rosie all alone in the big room. Rosie was picking through her clothes, working out what to wear.

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Mick and ‘Keef’

 

When Jim came out from the shower, only a few minutes later, and walked back through the double swing doors,  there was a beautiful ballad  playing on the C.D. player. (Rosie hadn’t put it on, and she hadn’t known that Jim had turned the C.D. player off. She had quite naturally assumed that the track was on the C.D. that they had already been listening to). Later, both Jim and Rosie would say that the song offered them hope, and told them that everything would work out well for them in the end. They said it was as if the song was purely aimed at them, and them alone. They said it sounded like Mick Jagger singing a Stones acoustic ballad, but one that they had never heard before. (They are both Stones fans and have a fairly good knowledge of their songs, and not just the popular,  more commercial songs).

They both felt that they were temporarily in an other-worldly dream-state. They had felt tingles all over as they tearfully hugged and swayed to the gentle, beautiful music.   Jim asked Rosie what the C.D. playing was, assuming that she had put on another C.D. while he had been in the shower room. Rosie said “Well, I haven’t changed it, so it must be on the same C.D.” Jim then told her that he had turned the C.D. player off when he had left the room. It then dawned on both Rosie and Jim, at about the same time, that if Jim had turned it off, and, if Rosie hadn’t put on another C.D.,  then frankly, who had? They had both got ‘the chills’, the hairs on the back of their necks had stood up.   They got very emotional and clung to each other. Then the song abruptly ended, and as it did so, the C.D. player made a very loud clunking noise, as if the disc was changing, and then the C.D. player turned itself off.

Immediately after that, there had been a strange whooshing, howling gale sound. They turned around and watched spellbound as all of the curtains, along the 60 foot plus long wall, had blown up, one after the other, in a sort of ‘Mexican Wave’.  The five really long windows were all closed, as were the top fanlights, and there were no draughts that could have caused the sudden movements or noises. Tears streamed down their faces. Throughout all of this they had continued to cuddle. Rosie said it was the most amazing ‘rush’ that either of them had ever had, as it was so intense, so beautiful and so spiritually meaningful.

When they had calmed down, they checked that there was only the one C.D. in the player, and there was. They then searched through that Stones C.D. for the beautiful track that had so affected them both, to hear it again, but it just wasn’t on the C.D. They even waited at the end of the last listed track, (‘You can’t always get what you want’), to see if it could have been a ‘hidden track’. It wasn’t. There were no hidden, or bonus tracks on their C.D. Half an hour later a friend had arrived to pick them up to go to Barnstaple. He, seeing their dazed expressions, had said “Hey, what’s up with you guys? It looks like you just saw a ghost!” They told him their story, and he knew by their  red eyes, and their low, tearful voices that they were being genuine. Something odd had definitely happened.

Over the next few weeks they listened to that C.D. again, and again, and again, to try and find that one extra special beautiful track again. But they never could.  They also went online and went through every Stones track that they could possibly find.  I wonder if that Stones track had somehow slipped through from a parallel dimension into our world? A dimension where maybe Mick and ‘Keef’ hadn’t written ‘Fool to Cry’ or ‘Angie’, but maybe they had written an even better song? A dimension where perhaps Mick didn’t have those big lips, but perhaps he does have huge ears?! A dimension where they actually are ‘the Strolling Bones’ and not the Rolling Stones. Now, there’s a thought.

To this day, if I ask Rosie and Jim about that early evening at the old rectory, they still get very emotional, and they will say “I’ve got the chills just thinking about it!” They both feel that it was somebody, or something, some other kindly intelligence that was looking out for them, from some other place,  call it ‘Heaven’ if you want, who knows? They felt that whoever, or whatever it was, was just saying “Hey guys, keep your chins up, you will pull through all of these difficult times, and there are better days just around the corner”.  Strangely enough they had recently lost a close friend, a much older guy in his sixties, just a few months earlier, and he had been a musician…………….. and, wait for it, a massive Stones fan.

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A similar view, to the view from the flat where they now live.

There were better days ahead. They are still living in my lovely cosy little flat, with its gorgeous sea views, in the most beautiful part of this country. They have both got jobs, are slowly building some savings for the future, and they have a  healthy, happy life together. When they are not working they like to laze around on the beautiful local beaches, surf, kayak, swim, walk the coast path, or sit amongst the huge granite boulders on local hills having picnics, and checking out the wonderful vistas. They have made lots of new friends too, and their other older friends, from elsewhere in the country, still occasionally visit them too,  but only when they are invited. But most of all they still have each other.

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A favourite picnic spot

There is a small extra add-on  to this strange, roller coaster of emotions story. A week or so after their strange encounter, I took them both up to a village near Aldershot, (about 300 miles away from where they now live, to the southern edge of London), to stay with my eldest sister in her lovely home for the weekend.

They were sleeping in the usual guest’s spare bedroom. There are two single beds in the room with a small gap between them. Rosie and Jim were both in the same bed, the one opposite the outside wall. During the night, in the early hours, they had both woken up simultaneously and had seen a darkish, smokey shape, just floating above the other bed. They weren’t at all frightened by it, as they both felt it wasn’t hostile, and that it was just observing.

The next morning they shyly, almost reluctantly, told us their story at breakfast. My sister, a lovely lady who would probably prefer not to think about such things, said “Nobody else has ever said that, and lots of people have slept in that room”. Well, that was very true, I had slept in there many times myself, and I had never had a problem. (As I often tell my sister, it is without any doubt, the finest ‘hotel’ in Aldershot.) But I could tell that Rosie and Jim were wary of something that they had seen, and so  I  agreed to swap ‘my’ sofa downstairs for their upstairs bedroom the following night.

I woke up in the early hours, and yes, I did see something very odd too. The dark, smokey  shape that I saw reminded me of the Kellogg’s chicken head, but upside down, strangely enough. What was it? I have absolutely no idea. I laid there looking around the room trying to convince myself that it was just some sort of shadow, a trick of the light maybe. But I knew that it wasn’t. Like them, I didn’t feel at all threatened by it. In fact it seemed to be filling my head with the feeling that it was ‘friendly’.  In fact, it bothered me so little that I actually just got bored looking at it, and had eventually said, “Goodnight whoever you are, I’m going to sleep now”. (I’m not joking). Weird? Yes, very weird. I have been back there many times since and I always sleep in that little room, and ‘it’ has never been there since. Were these two strange events linked? Yes, I believe so, something benevolent was looking after  Rosie and Jim, perhaps it was somehow attached to one or other of them, and maybe it was just a little bit curious about me too.

Constructive comments below are very welcomed. Glowing praise even more so. It’s how I know that you have been here. Offers of highly paid writing gigs, though unlikely, would be lovely too. But just for the record, all spammers can just go and **** themselves.

All written work by Mark Anthony Wyatt, Bude, Cornwall. February, 2016.

Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has created, remains his personal intellectual property! But any other images, videos, quotes etc., that were NOT created by me remain the intellectual property of those who created them, and NOT me! 

You can also find me on ‘Facebook’..@ ‘It’s a Dark, Dark Night’ or ‘Mark anthony Wyatt’.

markanthonywyatt.com

 

‘Monkee-ing around…anticipating the new Monkees album’

“Here they come, walking down the street, they’re getting funny looks from…….. everyone at the post office”….. (on pension day!)…..For those of you who care, (and yes, I do)…the 3 surviving Monkees, (Tork, Dolenz and Nesmith), are currently making a new album, (‘Good Times’), to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Yes, you read that right, a NEW album. ‘So what’, ‘big deal’, you may well think, (O.K., fair enough, each to their own…). But for me, and other music mad kids who were young enough to pick up on them when their T.V. show first hit Britain…we loved them, we loved their music and we loved their humour, and it IS a big deal. For those who were a few years older than us at the time, of course they mostly looked down on them as just a ‘kids band’, which perhaps they were at the time, but I’ll bet they all secretly sung along to all those classic songs when their mates weren’t around!

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The Monkees, circa ‘Headquarters’ era.

The Monkees have enrolled some guest songwriters for this new album, (just like the good old days), quality musicians who, like me, also loved the Monkees. They’ve got Paul Weller, (Yes , him from the Jam, and my home-town Woking), Rivers Cuomo, (Weezer’s main man, who’s music I have loved since ’96), Andy Partridge ( X.T.C.), Ben Gibbard, (Death Cab for Cutie), and even Noel Gallagher, (Oasis and Man City fan), a pretty strong line-up I reckon, and I look forward to hearing the results. My money’s on Partridge for the most ‘Monkee’ sounding song! There will also be contributions, made many years ago, by the great Harry Nilsson, and, of course, little Davy Jones himself…’Gor bless him Guv’!

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Nesmith in more recent years.

But for me the best songwriter of the lot, (yes, seriously), is their very own Mike Nesmith, who, for me, and many others, wrote their best songs back in the day, and went on to write many more later. He was rated by Lennon, Harrison and Zappa, among others! Forget your Hart, Boyce, Goffin, King, Mann, Weill, Douglas, Diamond and all , (as good as they all undoubtedly were), Nez songs had that certain extra special ‘something’ that just set them apart, that ‘something’ which put them on an altogether different, higher, almost, dare I say it, more ethereal level! When I heard that jangly Gretsch and his slow Texas drawl I knew it was another Nesmith gem heading my way. You can keep your ‘I’m a Believer’ and ‘I Wanna be Free’, I’ll take one of Nesmith’s quirkier songs every time. He was, and is, a general all round genius, he has crammed so much in since his youthful ‘Monkee’ days, but that alone is what he will be remembered for by ‘Joe and Jane Public’ when he sadly leaves us behind one day. It’s strange how the mainstream (music) media dictates who is ‘great’ and, by omission, who isn’t. But many of us, especially my fellow ‘Nez heads’, know that in life the best things are often well guarded secrets known only by the lucky few. He is, among many other things I’m sure, an art media innovator, (his work led directly to the ‘invention’ of the music video and M.T.V.), a philanthropist, an author, a storyteller supreme, a producer, and also a naturally sharp and funny guy, and that’s why I still care!

Mike Nesmith…….

For those of you who still like to repeat that tired old chestnut “They never played their own instruments, and they never wrote their own songs”. You are only half-right. (Do the research). Both Nesmith and Tork were already on the folk music circuit in N.Y.C., and were skillful musicians and growing performers. Jones and Dolenz, it is true, were actors and not bona fide musicians, but it would be churlish not to accept that Dolenz has an amazing voice; (check out his amazing version of the old hymn ‘Oh, little town of Bethlehem’), and Jones too, (R.I.P.,) although his voice is not so much to my taste, but there’s no denying that he was very good at the occasional cabaret type number or ballad.

It is true, however, that their albums and singles, especially the early ones, were often played on by professional session musicians, and that many of the songs were written by composers such as those I mentioned earlier. But in those days that wasn’t so unusual, so why pick on them? It should also be noted, to their credit, that they did increasingly take ‘ownership’ of their albums in both the writing and producing, and while not actually putting out an entire album of their own material, they did have a heavy creative input on both ‘Headquarters’ and ‘The Birds and the Bees…’, a testament to the very fast learning curve they were on, which is always overlooked by those who like to ‘rubbish’ them. They did this because they had pride in themselves and their own increasingly creative abilities and musicianship. They were fast outgrowing the ‘apron strings’ of their first years, and it should also be remembered that they were still very young. Check out the two albums I mentioned and hopefully you will hear the variety and depth of their work, and off the top of my head, from memory, you may hear what I can hear, the influence of their finest contemporaries, (they were soaking it all up like a musical sponge), shining through in their songs, that of Arthur Lee’s incredible band ‘Love’ and the Beatles, to name but two. There was even a 1920s jazz influence from Nesmith on ‘Magnolia Simms’!

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Rivers Cuomo

 

As a ‘proper’, but very short-lived, live band, (I’m not talking ‘post’ the first break-up), they very much learnt on the job, always in the public eye in front of their screaming young fans. (Most of us played in our garages or village halls first!) It was said that when they came over to Britain for the first time they had only just begun to gel into a proper band, and for those who actually listened they sounded more like a raw garage band than an alleged cheesy pop group! But the problem was that their young fans, well the girls anyway, weren’t really listening at all, they were all far too busy screaming “Davy! Davy! Davy!” and wetting their knickers.
As I got older I got into many other genres of music. Everything from Slade to the Undertones, to Stevie Wonder, via the Wedding Present, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Teenage Fanclub, the Faces, Weezer, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel  and the Jam, and many dozens of other bands and artistes in-between! In more recent years I’ve discovered the likes of John Prine, Townes Van Zandt, Morgan T Davis, the Milk Carton Kids, the Felice Brothers, early jazz, and, yes, Nesmith’s (4 decades + worth) of solo work. But the ‘harmony constant in all of these things’……..(A little joke there for those in the know)….is that I still like to play Monkees C.D.s in my car, and at home, every now and then, and that my kids love them too! They deserve their place in pop’s great canon, they have worked bloody hard for it.

Micky Dolenz telling a lovely little story about how he came to write ‘Randy Scouse Git’.

Constructive comments below are very welcomed. Glowing praise even more so. It’s how I know that you have been here. Offers of highly paid writing gigs, though unlikely, would be lovely too. But just for the record, all spammers can just go and **** themselves.

All written work by Mark Anthony Wyatt, Bude, Cornwall. February, 2016.

Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has created, remains his personal intellectual property! But any other images, videos, quotes etc., that were NOT created by me remain the intellectual property of those who created them, and NOT me! 

You can also find me on ‘Facebook’..@ ‘Wyatt’s Rebellion!’ or ‘Mark anthony Wyatt’.

markanthonywyatt.com

 

‘Seasons in the Sun’ (or life and death in rural Surrey)

Warning. Before you read on, please bear in mind that a little bit of what follows should be taken with a large pinch of salt, especially the imagined conversations, but having said that, much of it is exactly as I recall it……

I took on my first ever gardening job in the village of Shalford, in Surrey, in the early spring of nineteen seventy four, at the age of just fourteen. It was for an elderly widow, Mrs Gladwill.  My Mum got me the job. She and ‘Mrs G’, (we always just knew her as ‘Mrs G’), were little more than occasional passing acquaintances. Mrs G was a tall, elegant lady,  her hair and clothing reminded me of pictures of the 1920s ‘flapper girls’ I had seen in history books at school, but then she was old enough to have been one!

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Mrs G looked something like this stylish lady, although obviously when I knew her her hair was grey and she was about sixty years older!

To my mum she was just another pleasant lady with whom she liked to stop by and have a quick natter,  put the world to rights, moan about the weather and the state of the country, and then carry on with her hectic day. Mum had been cycling past Mrs G’s 1930s semi in Florida road, on her blue ‘Raleigh’ bike with its little basket, when she had spotted her tucked away,  almost hidden, behind her six feet high escallonia hedge.

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Shalford village, with the Chantries behind and the outskirts of Guildford to their left.

She’d been hard at work, beads of sweat forming on her forehead and dripping down into her eyes. Her green wellington boot clad right foot,  poised over a stainless steel spade blade, ready to push down to cut  up some cloddy dry lumps of earth, and the fresh steaming horse manure, and mix them together into her flower bed. It was no work for a frail octogenarian lady.

Mum dismounted her bike, leaned it against the hedge and  walked along to a pair of black iron driveway gates to let herself in. “Hello Mrs ‘G’,  and how are you today?”  Mrs G sighed wearily, she said she was tired and beginning to feel her age. She went on to complain that she was struggling to keep up with all of the jobs that needed doing in her garden.

My mum, forever on the lookout for any little jobs that her teenage children could do to earn a few quid, and ‘keep them out of trouble’,  sympathised with Mrs G, suggested she was ‘overdoing it’, and was at an age where she should be putting her feet up, and letting somebody else, preferably a young fit local lad, take the strain for her. Mum did, of course, already have that certain somebody in mind for that job. Yes, of course it was me!  Mrs G knowingly and willingly took my mum’s bait. (Like a trout rising on the near-by Tillingbourne). She asked my Mum, (already knowing the answer), if she might possibly know of any suitably fit young local lads who might be interested in doing a few hours gardening for her on Saturday mornings.  Mum had always done everything possible to improve our lot in life, and to help us all to understand, early on in life, that lots of hard work would bring its financial rewards, (I’m still waiting!) and with that in mind she  frequently volunteered all of us, my four siblings and I, for just about any job that was on offer around the village!

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Jack Grant, our lovely neighbour for many years. All three of my sisters, in turn, helped him with his shopping, he also taught me how to fish the Tillingbourne and other local rivers.

Delivering logs Jim? Yes no problem, our Mark can do that, I’ll get him out of bed, he’ll meet you down the road at six a.m.! Ringing the church bells did you say Vicar? That sounds appealing. (There is a little joke there for those sharp enough to get it!) Yes Mark will do that for you too.  (It was the worst childhood job I ever had, although there was a rather attractive girl bell-ringer so it did have its compensations). You need a bit of shopping Jack? (Jack Grant was one of our elderly neighbours. “Yes missus, if it’s no bother to you.” He would always reply.) Don’t worry, Tracy will do that for you. Work behind the counter at the local greengrocers selling veg and flowers? Jackie would love to do that. Need somebody to nip down to the butchers and the post office did you say Ellen? Our Sue will do that for you! Singing in the church choir did you say Tony? That’s no problem, our Mark has the voice of an angel you know, (of course she wouldn’t have told him that I didn’t always behave like one).

Sue, Jackie, Mark, Tracy & Malcolm Wyatt at No 83, Aug '73 0
On a rare moment when we weren’t working or running errands. (I’m only joking! We had a lovely childhood). I’m the older lad with the ‘Dave Hill’ fringe, and below me is my little brother Malcolm. In the middle is my little sister Tracy, and L-R at the rear…are Jackie and my big sister Sue.

Delivering the milk? Mark would love to help you with that John, yes, he just loves to get up early, (now she was really being very creative with the truth there). Delivering your twins by caesarean section Mrs Jones? I’ll see if Mark’s free for you, but I can’t promise anything as his diary is pretty full at the moment, what with all of his paper rounds, mending the bikes and cleaning the village football teams boots and all, but he’s a talented, hard working, multi-tasking sort of a lad, and he can turn his hand to most jobs. Oh, and don’t you go worrying yourself Mrs Jones, I’ll make sure that he scrubs up first!

Diana Wyatt, No 83 front door, Summer '73
My lovely Mum, back in the seventies.

But more seriously, well a little bit more anyway, the timing of Mrs G’s enquiry had been very good news for me, in fact the timing was almost as good as one of Martin Peter’s legendary, ghostly drifting runs into the opposition’s six yard box for Spurs. Yes. It was that good. You see I had only just lost my previous job. I had been working with John the milkman, doing a couple of milk rounds with him around the village, in his not very speedy red and white electrical three-wheeler,   a job that I had really loved.

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A milkfloat very similar to the one that I drove when I was a young teenager, unofficially of course!

But sadly the local dairy had gone bust with the rise of the big supermarkets around Guildford, and the undercutting of small local dairy milk prices. So poor old John, his mate Robin, a dozen or so other dairy workers, and of course a few local milk round boys like me had all been laid off.

Mum would have been pleased to see me sorted out with another job so quickly. I think that she had wanted me out of the house, and quickly. I  had recently bought yet another  Slade single,  and I had been playing it relentlessly in my bedroom at high volume. According to my Dad, Slade had two volumes.  There was ‘loud’…. and then there was ‘bloody loud’!

 

My Dad was in no position to complain about me making any noise though, the noise abatement society probably had regular letters and phone calls about our household from villagers ten miles away. He used to like to play his recordings of steam engines very early on Sunday mornings. Sometimes it had felt like the ‘08.12’ service from Guildford to Redhill was going straight through our front room. Our furniture, and our poor neighbour Mrs Goater’s false teeth  would all rattle.  My Mum used to tease Dad by saying “You ought to put a bit more coal in that boiler Bob, it’ll need it to climb up St Martha’s hill!” (Dad had once been a fireman on the Southern steam engines).

Bob Wyatt - loco fireman
Dad on the footplate. Southern Railway late 50s.

But I have digressed, and it probably won’t be the last time, and it certainly isn’t the first, so it might be an idea to get used to it. So, anyway, let’s get back to me and Mrs G! I wasn’t a gardener at that stage of my early life, yes I may have helped my Dad put the spuds in now and then, or watched him mowing the front lawn, but I hadn’t ever done much else.

On one occasion I had been left alone in the house for a week and was asked to “keep an eye on the grass” by my Dad. One hot July evening I decided to give it a cut. I hadn’t noticed that the cutting blades were set excessively low. By the time I had finished the grass was  so short that I should have painted some skinhead braces on it! It was the grass equivalent of a number one haircut. By the time Dad returned it had partially recovered, but I do recall him looking at it, raising his eyebrows and laughing. He didn’t ask me to cut it the next time they went on holiday without me. I can’t think why.

My Mum had already worked out a plan of action to ensure that I bagged the job with Mrs G, just in case any other hopeful lads turned up looking for the job. She would get Dad to give me a quick lesson on basic garden tool recognition before I went to work for Mrs G, so that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself on my first visit, and then lose the job by trying to dig a big hole with a little hand fork, or perhaps trying to cut the grass with a garden roller.

I can no longer recall that first Saturday morning I spent working for Mrs G, but I do remember some of the simple little horticultural tasks that she gave me in those all too brief ‘Seasons in the Sun’. I weeded her borders, cut the little lawn, and planted her tulips and daffodils in the early autumn. I surprised myself by not only enjoying the job, but by actually being pretty good at it too. I would work my way slowly and methodically along her borders on an old crazy paving concrete path, weeding or planting, with my bony little knees comfortably supported on a little flowery, plastic covered, foam knee-pad that she very kindly supplied for the task. I would happily beaver away in the sunshine listening to my radio, (and looking back now, with my rose tinted glasses on, it always seemed to have been sunny).

My transistor radio would drown out the more adult garden pleasures of her neighbours, like listening to the bird song, John Arlott’s cricket commentaries, or maybe hearing the passing trains heading down to Gatwick airport or up to Reading.

Shalford signal box
This photo was taken less than five minutes walk from Mrs G’s garden. It is not far behind the signal box.

Looking back now I’m fairly sure that I annoyed some of the residents of Florida road with the music I inflicted on them, and the awful, irritating, repetitive adverts for  ‘Everest’ double glazing, London based car hire companies and ‘Brutus’ jeans! It was mostly ‘Capital Radio’, Kenny Everett I think, and it had only just started broadcasting from the old post office tower in London, some thirty odd miles away to the north. It’s strange but I can still recall some of the songs that they played as I worked, and if I hear those songs today, like ‘Seasons in the Sun’ by Terry Jacks, John Miles’ ‘Music’, or perhaps David Essex’s ‘Gonna Make you a Star’, then I am instantly transported back to those golden sunny days , and I am that young lad once again, with the sun on his back and a song on his lips, working in Mrs G’s pretty suburban garden.

 

 

Mark Wyatt on Malcolm's bike at no 83
Me, Mark, taken at around about the time that I worked for Mrs G.

At ten fifty-five, on the dot, Mrs G would always come out into the garden, politely check on my progress, give me some further instructions for later, and then invite me in for my ‘elevenses’. She was a creature of habit, everything always had its time and place. Her life seemed to revolve around the radio and television schedules in her ‘Radio Times’. Her  daily jobs slotted neatly around the pleasures of  ‘The Archers’ or  ‘The World at One’ on what people of her generation  called “the wireless”. I would sit in her cosy kitchen by the boiler, on a comfy high stool near the shiny kitchen worktop, and her large collection of cookery books, drinking  coffee,   looking out of the window at the garden, and nibbling on  caramel wafers.  If I close my eyes now I can still visualize that tidy little kitchen, and vividly recall the hygienic aroma of what must have been at least four different  chemical cleaning fluids all working together, and all doing their deadly, germ killing, murderous ‘thing’. The bugs really didn’t stand a chance in Mrs G’s house! She was the general in charge of a ‘sparkling clean, genocidal germ killing machine’, and she was fighting a long war of attrition against any bugs that were brave enough, (or stupid enough), to raise their nasty, dirty, slimy little heads above the kitchen sink waste, or even fool hardier still, to scale up the sides of her stainless steel sink and get up on to her immaculate kitchen work surfaces. God help any of them that did, they would be spotted by her eagle like eyes and would soon be ‘history’!

Mrs G was a very kind, talkative, amiable old lady, and she would always stop doing her Saturday morning chores for a few minutes to join me in the kitchen. She loved to relate  the momentous events of her life. I would sit spellbound, (well sometimes), as I blew on my coffee to cool it down so that it didn’t melt my lips. She had been born in the early eighteen nineties and had seen the world go through  remarkable changes. I can’t think of any other era that brought quite so much dramatic, technological, sociological or revolutionary transformation. Just stop and think about it for a moment…. the rise of communism, fascism, the Conservative party, the motor car, and of course manned flight, among many other huge changes. Manned flight had only been in its infancy when she was a little girl, brave but stupid village idiots had still been running full pelt off of cliff-tops, flapping their arms wildly with just a few feathers tied on, but by the time that she had reached her eighties when I first met her, the ethereal, beautiful Anglo-French Concorde had been crossing the Atlantic at supersonic speeds, on a daily basis, above her garden! Mrs G’s generation, or maybe I should say the luckier ones of her generation, those who had somehow managed to survive all of the terrible wars, diseases, Fascists, Communists, sadistic Japanese P.O.W. camp guards, Conservative governments, and poverty thrown at them,  had all had an exciting roller coaster of a life’s ride!

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Some brave but stupid idiot throwing himself off of a cliff. His last words to his mates were “Look at me, I can fly!”

Mrs G had a lovely neighbour called Graham. Graham was a  very well mannered,   meticulous, balding old fashioned kind of a guy in his late forties. We used to chat, mostly about cricket and the weather, over the garden fence.  I have a picture firmly planted in my memory of Graham. It’s a hot summers day and Graham is stood there, on  the other side of that fence talking to me. He is dressed immaculately in his cricket whites and a white cotton flat cap with a Surrey County Cricket Club crest.  There is sweat on his forehead, which he wipes away with the cap. He is saying in his B.B.C. English… “It’s not looking good at all old boy, England need another sixty runs to avoid the follow-on!” I nod very knowledgeably and I shake my head in mock despair at hearing this clearly awful news. But what he didn’t know is that I had no real understanding of cricket, so I didn’t have a clue what the hell he was talking about!

The Sun briefly goes behind the clouds…………

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England, ‘avoiding the follow-on’ apparently…..whatever that is…

There was a scribbled note on my bedside table. It  simply said ‘Mark…

don’t forget, don’t go to Mrs G’s on Saturday, love Mum xxx’. The note had puzzled me. I had worked in that lovely old lady’s garden for quite a while and I had enjoyed being there,  I really liked her. She had become like a lovable elderly aunty. I went downstairs to ask my Mum ‘Why?’ Had Mrs G perhaps sacked me for not pruning her roses correctly? Had she peeked out from behind her drawing room net curtains, and caught me in the act of giving away one of her finest red rose blooms to a passing pretty girl?

“Well, you’ll need to go out and find yourself another job now won’t you? How will you pay for your ‘Shoot’ comic without any money coming in? I can’t keep putting my hand in my pocket every time that you want something you know!”

“No Mum”, I had patiently replied. “That’s not what I meant, what I meant was why can’t I keep working for her?”

“Oh”, said my Mum, slightly taken aback now,  only just realising that I hadn’t yet heard the sad news of Mrs G’s passing. “Oh, I am so sorry dear”.  (She said in a more hushed tone). “Didn’t anybody tell you? I’m afraid poor Mrs G died last week”, and then, after a short pause she had added, almost jauntily I had thought, “Whilst listening to the Archers apparently”. Even at the young age of fourteen I remember thinking ‘how very English of her’. At that precise moment I had heard the ‘Archer’s’ theme tune playing in my head….you know the one………. ”Dum de dum de dum de dum, dum de dum de dum dum,” (of course you do), and I had pictured sweet Mrs G laying there. Dead. Prostrated on her super clean kitchen linoleum. In my minds eye she had a ‘J’ cloth in one hand and a mop in the other, and there was a splattering of bleach, mixing in with the blood from her head wound, leaking out on to the lino from under her chin.

Maybe she had slipped on the spilt detergent and cracked her head open on a nearby formica worktop? But it had puzzled me as to how anyone would have known that she had died whilst listening to a specific radio programme, and frankly it still does. A good T.V. copper, like ‘Inspector Morse’, or maybe that Swedish guy with the lovely dog, ‘Wallander’, now they could have probably worked it all out within an hour, including the adverts, but that Cornish detective Wycliffe? Fat chance. He would have run out of space on his blackboard. He was slower than a V.W. campervan on the ‘A39’.

‘The Archers’ may well have finished when she dropped dead, and the next programme may well have already begun. We just don’t really know. She might well have been listening to ‘The World at One’ when the grim reaper arrived in her kitchen. Knowing Mrs G,  I bet she would have told him to take off his muddy boots, wash his hands thoroughly, leave his rusty scythe outside, and sit down, before even realising who he was. ‘Doinggg’! The clock would have struck one….. ‘Doinggg’, Mrs G would have slipped on the detergent. She would miss next week’s episode of ‘The Archers’ now, and  would never find out if ‘Home Farm’ had had the ‘foot and mouth’ restrictions lifted. It’s a sobering thought for us all isn’t it? We just don’t know when that grim reaper is going to show up and piss all over our strawberries, do we?

Surprisingly, when my Mum had broken that sad news so clumsily to me, I had found myself feeling quite emotional. I had to hold back the tears. Well, I really loved that tenner that she paid me every week, (and no, it wasn’t always the same one). “What’s wrong with you?” My Mum had asked, “Not another damn cold. You really should wear a vest like your Dad does. I’m always telling you, but oh no, you always know best!” Mum of course, being Mum, had been so busy juggling her multiple part-time jobs, and doing the myriad things that all good mums do to provide safe, loving, clean homes for their families, that she hadn’t perhaps yet realised that I had actually grown quite attached to poor old Mrs G.

Grim-Reaper
The Grim Reaper, waiting patiently for poor Mrs G while she cleaned her floor for the last time.

The occasional death of my gardening customers is now, in 2016, in my fifties, sadly something that I have got used to, but back then as a young teenager, it had really hit me quite hard. It doesn’t do to get too attached to your elderly customers in this gardening game, it can hurt.

The Sun comes back out from behind the clouds……

On a hot summer school day lunch-time, a few weeks after receiving the sad news, I had been chatting to my mate Alan and some other friends on the school playing fields. We had been idling around the immaculate cricket pitch in the sunshine, eating our sandwiches and talking about football. I remember telling them how I had just lost my little gardening job because the ‘old lady’ had died. I didn’t admit to losing a friend too, that would have been seen as a sign of weakness, and of course probable ammunition for future teasing. This was, after all, the early seventies.

Alan told us that his Dad, (Fred), a jobbing gardener with his own thriving new little business, was looking for more assistance to ease his increasingly heavy gardening work load.

Fred the gardener, there's much more on him in my piece entitled 'FRED'.
Fred the gardener, there’s much more on him in my piece entitled ‘Fred’, he is a wonderful character.

He asked if anybody would be interested in joining him and his Dad on future Saturday mornings. I  jumped in very quickly to ‘bag’ the job offer before any of my mates could muscle in on it. The offer had barely been out of his mouth….. “Yes! I’ll do it. When do I start?” And so, as one pair of garden gates had closed on me forever……..another pair had only just started to open up………

If you are interested in what happened next, so to speak, then visit my website ‘It’s a Dark, Dark Night!’, and look for ‘Fred’. Thanks……..

Constructive comments below are very welcomed. Glowing praise even more so. It’s how I know that you have been here. Offers of highly paid writing gigs, and speaking engagements, though highly unlikely, would be lovely too. But just for the record, all spammers can just go and **** themselves.

All written work by Mark Anthony Wyatt, Bude, Cornwall. Edited, August, 2016.

Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has created, remains his personal intellectual property! But any other images, videos, quotes etc., that were NOT created by me remain the intellectual property of those who created them, and NOT me!

You can also find me on ‘Facebook’..@ ‘It’s a Dark, Dark Night!’ or ‘Mark Anthony Wyatt’ (Bude)

markanthonywyatt.com

markawyatt@moonwindbag1@hotmail.co.uk

‘Fred’

Alan and I have been mates since we were both around 8 years old, that would have been in about 1968, and this is in spite of not having lived within 250 miles of each other since 1989. We still manage to meet up for a beer, (or three),  or perhaps at the odd gig every now and then. We first met at Shalford primary school, when his family relocated to Wonersh,  another lovely rural village in the beautiful Surrey hills, just a couple of miles away from my own family home.  We soon became friends, along with a few other lads. We bonded over our love of  football, fishing the pretty Tillingbourne, riding  bikes and climbing the old oaks in the copse behind my home.

Bob Wyatt - loco fireman
My dad, (Lofty), during his time working alongside Fred in the 50s.

Somewhere along the line Alan and I realised, via talking in the school yard, (probably whilst swapping our ‘Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ bubble gum cards), and  back at home talking with our respective Dads, that our Dads had worked together  back in the nineteen fifties.    Fred Hill, (Alan’s dad), had been a steam engine driver on the S.R. (Southern railway), and my dad, Bob, (better known to his mates as ‘Lofty’, on account of being six feet four inches tall), had been a fireman/driver,  and had often worked alongside Fred on the footplate.  Fred had a very dry sense of humour, he would  say things like “Is Dad still puffing away on that  pipe and smelling like an old bonfire? Tell him to throw it away, your Mum will thank me for it!” My Dad, in turn, enjoyed making sarcastic remarks about Fred’s baggy corduroy trousers!

Fred Hill at Denbigh, Shalford
Fred, hard at work, at ‘Denbigh’ house in Shalford, Surrey during the early seventies.

My dad left the railways in the late summer of 1961, when I was still a baby, and he joined the Royal Mail in Guildford. The pay on the post office was better than the railways paid and dad had a growing family to support. He stayed with the Royal Mail, and gave them, and the general public, exemplary service until he retired 33 years later. In those days the mailmen always wore smart uniforms, they had to be well turned out on duty wearing their caps and ties. There were regular inspections by ‘Inspectors’, and these were often old army type blokes with a penchant for ‘discipline’. Fred  had also left the railways, (to set himself up as a self-employed gardener), but not until about ten years later, by which time Alan and I were both attending Tillingbourne County Secondary school, in Chilworth, another local village, that was situated between our two villages.

Sadly my dad finally ‘ran out of steam’  in 2012,  but his old adversary Fred is still puffing away, and he is now into his mid-eighties.  Fred, like my dad, was also a tall man in his prime, and age still hasn’t bowed him. He  stands at around six feet two inches.  There was never a lot of weight on Fred, a testament to his hard working lifestyle. He was a slim, wiry man, and tough as old nails. I expect that he still wears the same ‘trademark’ beige baggy corduroy trousers, held up with a well worn leather belt, and no doubt his ‘M and S’ cotton check shirts with their frayed collars too. I’m told by Alan that he has a lot of hair for a man of his age, it is a thick mop of grey-ish brown,  parted from the left to the right, in a style not dissimilar to that which the Beatles briefly made trendy, all those years ago. Fred has always had a weather beaten,  well lived-in sort of a face, and the complexion of a man who has done lots of outdoor, hard, physical graft for most of his life. He has bright, eagle-like, inquisitive, green eyes, and they still provide the sparkle for his ever ready smile. If a mad scientist was to cross the D.N.A.  of Keith Richards and Monty Don the result would be a bloke who looked a bit like Fred!

If you have read the piece that precedes ‘Fred’ you will know how I was offered a Saturday gardening job with Alan and his Dad Fred, so I won’t bore you by telling you how that came about again here.

Fred and Alan would pick me up on their way through Shalford early on Saturday mornings,  on their way to which ever job we were going to do that week. I would stand waiting in Station road, by the old ‘Nelco’ factory. I would see Alan and his dad approaching in an old Hillman Hunter estate, driving slowly along the residential road, past ‘Cheales’ the greengrocers (where my sister Jacqueline worked on Saturday mornings) and the old Victorian terrace houses. When Alan’s dad spotted me he would smile in recognition, pull over and stop. I would get in and sit amongst all the greasy, smelly garden machinery. I would sniff away happily at the workman-like stench. It was that lovely heady mix of oil, petrol, grease, and earthy odours that  gardeners and petrol-heads alike would instantly recognise, and some, like me, still love.

One of Fred’s jobs that I have particularly fond memories of was at a beautiful old stately home called ‘Polstead Manor’, it was a few miles away, near Godalming. This sprawling red-brick aristocratic dwelling was still employing butlers and maids back then, and they still dressed up in their traditional ‘service’ uniforms, which had remained  unchanged in style since the early years of the twentieth century.  I sometimes wonder who owns that rambling old house these days and if they are aware of, or even care about, it’s former residents and workers.

On arrival, Fred would soon set me and Alan to work cutting the huge formal lawns on a couple of ‘Mountfield’ roller motor mowers. The lawns were all on slightly different levels in the extensive grounds, and were divided up by little sandstone walls and neat little Buxus (Box) hedges. Alan had at that time far more gardening experience than me, having already worked for his dad for a few months, and he always did a professional job, but back then I wasn’t  as strong as I am now, and as a result of that, together with my poor, inexperienced handling skills,  the industrial sized mower was sometimes just that little bit too powerful for little me to handle! Sometimes the throttle would get jammed on and I would end up hurtling along a lawn at about thirty miles an hour, trying desperately to cling on! I would fly along horizontally behind the handlebar  until the mower would finally hit an obstruction to stop us,  a tree perhaps, or maybe a boundary wall, the stables, or maybe even Fred! There would also be the occasional mishap at the end of my lawn stripes, where I couldn’t quite turn the runaway mower back around quickly enough, and I and the mower would leave the lawn and bump down to plough through one of Fred’s once immaculate flower borders.  But Fred, to his ever-lasting credit, never once made a big deal out of my occasional horticultural mishaps, and he always paid me very generously too, regardless of how awful my standard of work may have been at the time.

On one memorable Saturday morning at the manor, Alan and I had spotted a grass snake, it was perhaps  ten feet long, and with a diameter of about four inches at its widest girth. It was winding its lazy, slithery way across the lawn that Fred was in the process of cutting. Alan had called out excitedly “Look out Dad, there’s a snake!” Fred, on hearing the commotion from us and seeing where we were pointing away to his left, some twenty feet from him, had ‘clocked’ the snake, and then promptly re-steered his huge, powerful ‘Atco’ motor mower  towards it. Fred comically chased the snake across the big lawn, ‘Benny Hill’ style, but it was all only done for effect,  just to entertain us boys, and not with any genuine, malicious intent on his part. He had deliberately let the snake escape into the long grass by a Beech hedgerow, to let him live to tell his exciting story to his slithery family and friends back in the longer uncut border grass. The lawn had looked really funny with all of its flawless military style, precision, regulation roller lines, except for this one wavy, meandering one, which was much like the snake’s own getaway movements, as it had shimmied and weaved its way towards the hedgerow, and eventual safety in the longer grass, not unlike  George Best cutting through a Spurs defence a few years earlier!

Fred was an old Sussex country boy,  he hailed from the ‘South Downs’ away to our south, and when taking a short break from his hard,  sweaty labours, he could often be found smoking a ‘rollie’, or ruminatively chewing on a bit of straw in the corner of his mouth. I once saw him leaning on his spade, taking a breather,  he had a little Robin perched on his left shoulder. He was peering dreamily southwards, over the lush rolling little green hills and the beautiful trees, towards his Sussex homeland, about forty miles away. I  disturbed his thoughts by saying “What are you looking at Fred?”  He had slowly become aware of me, and of my enquiry. He turned and slowly looked me over, scratching at his stubbly chin as he did so. After what seemed like about five minutes had passed, he thoughtfully replied. “It looks a bit grim over Will’s mother’s  don’t it lad?” Now, being young and naive at the time I had of course asked Fred who this Will might be, assuming naturally that Will was perhaps a relation, or maybe a friend of the Hill family. He would always have plenty of these old Sussex country sayings in his ‘verbal arsenal’, and he liked to unleash them all from time to time.

One Saturday morning the air was really warm and heavy, we knew there was a big storm on its way up from the Sussex coast and that we had to get our work finished fast before we got a real soaking.  “Strewth, have yer seen it boys? It looks as black as old Harry’s nutting bag over there!”  We boys of course had no idea who ‘old Harry’ was, or what a ‘nutting bag’ was, and I suspect that neither did Fred. He had probably heard his own father say it, who in turn had heard his uncle use the expression….you get the picture.

My favourite Fred story, which occasionally gets brought up if Alan and I have had a few too many pints in the pub,  also comes from our ‘Polstead manor’ gardening days. It was a gloriously hot Saturday morning in July. We had all been hard at it for a couple of hours. We were in dire need of refreshments. I was gasping. Bang on cue this elderly housemaid had emerged from the big house and slowly, very slowly,  swaying from side to side, she had made her way down towards us across one of the already cut and now immaculate lawns. She was holding at waist level, against her pristine, starched white pinafore, a silver tray, and on that tray were three big white china mugs of tea, a matching bowl of sugar (with a silver spoon stood up in it), and a blue and white hooped jug, (like the Reading F.C. shirts,) of milk. There were also assorted biscuits on three flowery, gold braid rimmed, chipped porcelain saucers. We all stood there patiently waiting, hungry, thirsty and sweaty. We  watched her  sluggish,  meandering, shaky, slow progress towards us. She was dressed in the traditional parlour maid’s uniform, looking very much like an extra off of the ‘Downton Abbey’ television series.  I remember saying to Fred “Should I go and help her? She’s struggling a bit,  by the time she gets here our tea will all be floating in the tray”. Fred  had looked down at me and chuckled,  “Oh no, no, no! What? I wouldn’t dream of it. What? Ruin our entertainment would you? Are you daft lad?”  And then, looking back at the old dear still wobbling her way ever closer, he had added in a quieter, more confidential, reflective tone, “In any case, it would hurt her pride wouldn’t it, and you wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight with that on your conscience  now would you lad?”

Eventually of course the elderly maid did arrive. We all exchanged pleasantries and we thanked her for the tea and biscuits. But then, horror of horrors, (for two teenage boys anyway), Alan and I both spotted that one of the three mugs of tea had an enormous blow fly floating in it, and it had also evacuated it’s bowels in to the tea too.  The fly was still moving, but  only erratically,   it was clearly making last ditch desperate attempts not to drown in the ‘P.G.Tips’, it appeared to be frantically trying to cling on to its own considerable evacuated stomach waste contents, as if they were being used as some sort of macabre blow-fly life-raft. Alan and I had looked at each other and, just like when we were on the football pitch on the same team, we had instinctively known exactly what the other one was thinking, and going to do next! Without a second thought we had both thrust out our hands towards the tea tray. We had quickly laid claim to one of the unblemished mugs of tea each. We were like two cowboys on a land grab in the old wild west, each of us quickly thrusting our own flags into our chosen plots! Poor old Fred, he had been far too busy charming the old dear that he  had been left with no other choice than a cup of tea with added obese blow-fly. He turned and  forlornly looked at each of us in turn,  a  bit pissed off with us pesky kids no doubt, but also, perhaps inwardly, secretly rather proud of our speed of thought. After a short pause while he gathered his own thoughts, he  laughed, then said to the little old lady. “Oh, a blow-fly, how did you know that I had wanted a blow-fly in my tea, my dear? How very thoughtful of you, oh, how divine,   thank you so very, very much my dear, how enchanting!” Fred then gave us a smile and a wink and proceeded to take big gulps from his mug of tea. He threw his head right back, for added drama and excitement of course, and  then gurgled it around as if he was washing his mouth out with ‘Listerine’. He swallowed. Yuck. Then he had taken another long swig and swallowed the remaining contents of the mug down, huge bloated fly and all.  We both watched in horror as his large manly boney ‘Adams apple’ had moved up and down as he swallowed. I almost threw up at the thought of that poor rotund blow-fly, and its recently evacuated muck, going down Fred’s throat. “Ah, that’s much better missus.” Said Fred, enjoying his moment in the spotlight,   “Now that really hit the spot!”  His party piece now over, he had looked at us boys  again, and with a little grin and a twinkle in his eyes, he had  said. “Don’t  knock it ‘till you’ve tried it lads, it adds to the flavour don’t you know!”

As I sit here in my study, or at least in what passes for a study if you haven’t yet been offered a major book deal, (it also doubles as a music room, a place for the dog to curl up and lick his privates, and as a spare bedroom for unexpected but always welcomed guests), writing down some of these memories for posterity, I should add that Fred, at the age of almost ninety, is still out there in the Tillingbourne Valley and beyond, working on a couple of gardening jobs every week. He doesn’t do it because he has to, but because he wants to, and according to Alan his dad will continue to do so until his body tells him to stop. Fred, like many of the men of his generation, (the lucky ones who survived wars, poverty, diseases and fatal accidents) is definitely made of the ‘right stuff’, whatever that ‘right stuff’ might be. (My own body, thirty plus years younger than his, told me to stop several years ago but I’m ignoring it). Fred is of the type that will probably never retire; he likes to stay active. As he himself has said a few times. “There’s plenty of life in the old dog yet!”

There are stately home head gardeners,     a few odd-jobbing  gardeners, and even an (alternative style) ‘plant hunter’ in my family history,  but it was perhaps my best mate’s dad, old Fred, even more than all of those green fingered gardeners in my family’s past, who I now have to thank for the satisfying horticultural lifestyle that I now enjoy.  Despite doing several gardening jobs as a young lad, I never actually became a gardener on leaving school. I even turned down the opportunity of a gardening apprenticeship at Guildford castle grounds.  I had chosen another, or to be honest, I had blindly stumbled upon another career path. (One which I have written about elsewhere, and that in large part I also enjoyed).

In fact it wasn’t until 1999 that I eventually left that 24 year long ‘other’ career, and that I finally returned to my…(now please excuse the oncoming pun and cheesy cliche)….roots! And yes, the grass was much ‘greener on the other side’! I think that deep down, subconsciously, I had always wanted that same freedom that I knew Fred had enjoyed. I had longed to be my own boss too, working happily in the open air with nobody telling me what to do.  Thirty plus years on, when I’m having a break from my gardening,  leaning on an old wall looking at the sheep in the fields on the North Cornish cliffs, my mind still often wanders back to those happy days working with Fred and my mate Alan around the Tillingbourne Valley. If the sky is a bit dark over the Atlantic, as it rolls towards me in an exposed garden near Bude, I will sometimes hear myself saying “It’s a bit grim over Davy Jones’s locker”. Yes, there’s more than a little bit of old Fred in me! They were wonderful days and I am very grateful to Fred for employing me, for entertaining me, for teaching me, and of course for planting that green dream in my head so many years ago! Thanks Fred! (Now, where on earth did I put that bleeding nutting bag?)

 

Constructive comments below are very welcomed. Glowing praise even more so. It’s how I know that you have been here. Offers of highly paid writing gigs, though highly unlikely, would be lovely too. But just for the record, all spammers can just go and **** themselves.

All written work by Mark Anthony Wyatt, Bude, Cornwall. Edited August, 2016.

Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has created, remains his personal intellectual property! But any other images, videos, quotes etc., that were NOT created by me remain the intellectual property of those who created them, and NOT me!

You can also find me on my website at ‘It’s a Dark, Dark Night!’ or on Facebook, ‘Mark Anthony Wyatt’ (Bude).

markanthonywyatt.com

markawyatt@moonwindbag1@hotmail.co.uk

 

Bashing the poor!

From a Facebook Rant this morning, (29th March, 2015), in response to one too many ‘poor bashing’ Facebook statuses and cartoons, it was a little rushed and straight from the heart, but I stand by it all……..

Some of the posts/comments that I have had the misfortune to read on Facebook make me despair of human nature, and their lack of intelligence. I’m particularly referring to all the ‘poor bashing’ that goes on by all those brain-washed by the likes of the ‘Daily Mail’, ‘the Sun’ and all those Ch4 benefit ‘scrounger’ hit-pieces.

These constant ‘documentaries’ showing the unwashed, satellite T.V. watching, cigarette smoking, drug-taking, ‘feckless’ poor, spending ‘all of our hard-earned tax money’, (deliberate italics), do NOT truly represent the underclass/working class that has been created/extended by ALL of the big 3 parties over these last 30 plus years.

What would you prefer? Perhaps you would like to see them all living in concentration camps? Out of sight out of mind. I’m all right Jack, let’s pull the ladder up. “Let them eat cake”. But why stop there? Why not just shoot them and save all of “your hard earned tax money”? (If you hold these views then you are a border-line Nazi and you can remove yourself from my friends list, and good riddance).

These irritating propaganda hit-piece programmes, (always presented by the  ‘usual suspects’ fuckwit  actors),  are produced and funded by elitists to keep us arguing amongst ourselves. Divide and rule. Simple. Their thinking is that if we are pointing at the poor and blaming them for all our woes then we won’t be watching them, for it is they who are the real problem.  The real benefit scroungers are those at the top who award themselves obscene salaries, those who have financial interests in the military industrial complex, Monsanto and the like, those who profit from deaths caused by our (successive) government foreign and domestic policies, and our murderous wholesale slaughter weaponry, and let’s not forget those who take our public money to travel the world to be bowed and curtsied to by uneducated, unthinking moronic masses elsewhere in the old ‘colonies’.

It is NOT the single mother, the sick ,or the disabled who are to blame. If you are picking on the weak, you are picking on the wrong target. Try getting your news, your views and your opinions from outside of the establishment’s very biased media. Go Independent! There’s plenty of unbiased, quality journalism on the internet for those prepared to look! Most of these people that you label as ‘benefit scroungers’, (human beings by the way just like you), have had little or no opportunity in life to ‘get on’ like you and I  did, due to, among many other reasons, a poorly funded state education system which has created people who can barely say more than ‘innit”. “Innit?” They have deliberately created a generation of unthinking wage slaves, without the education required to question authority, and a steady stream of willing recruits to be cannon fodder in their endless corporate, economic wars, (that of course they always sell to you as ‘righteous wars’ to ‘bring freedom’).

We as a society have created these people that some of you label as ‘benefit scroungers’, and their hopeless situation, precisely because some of you buy in to all that poor bashing and continue to vote for useless, scrounging, greedy, free loading politicians who don’t give a rat’s arse for anybody else. Just remember that it could be YOU one day, if you fall on hard times, that is labelled as a ‘benefit scrounger’ by the same unthinking sheep-like moron mentality.

Perhaps Iris Dement expresses it better than me in her song…”Living in the wasteland of the free.” A song about American social injustice that equally refers to modern day Britain….
“Living in the wasteland of the free
where the poor have now become the enemy
Let’s blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy to me
Living in the wasteland of the free”.

 

 

Constructive comments below are very welcomed. Glowing praise even more so. It’s how I know that you have been here. Offers of highly paid writing or speaking gigs would be cool too. But just for the record, all spammers can just go and **** themselves.

All written work by Mark Anthony Wyatt, Bude, Cornwall. March 29th, 2015.

Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has created, remains his personal intellectual property! But any other images, videos, quotes etc., that were NOT created by me remain the intellectual property of those who created them, and NOT me!

 

markanthonywyatt.com

markawyatt@moonwindbag1@hotmail.co.uk

‘A Southerner Working in the Northumberland Dales’/ ‘High Anxiety’

 

 

1….’A Southerner Working in the Northumberland Dales’……

If you have already read my bio you will know that throughout the nineties I lived in Northumberland.  I worked up there as a sales representative for ‘J.T. Doves’ based in the pretty market town of Hexham.  My huge sales territory stretched west  from  Newcastle’s  commuter-belt,  crossing right over the Pennines to  Alston in Cumbria, and from Blanchland in the south to Kielder in the north. The far north Pennines were a wonderful place to do business,  driving from call to call on exhilarating roads with superb views. Think of James Herriot doing his rounds, but update his car and change the profession and you will get a reasonable idea of what my working life was like!

allenheads3
I used to call on a joiner who lived in this house.

Gradually, over the years, I had acquired knowledge of thousands of builders merchant stock lines, and  accumulated many years of business knowledge and experience. I was at the top of my game. My job was to sell those stock lines, (and of course any ‘directs’ delivered on our behalf by our suppliers, such as lorry loads of roof tiles, bricks or blocks). The products I sold encompassed everything required in the building process, from the tiniest screw to the biggest garage door. I had inherited a list of local builder clients from my predecessor, and I had steadily worked at extending and improving that list. The sales office also passed on other sales leads from time to time. It was also expected of me to do ‘cold’ calls on any site, or builder’s premises, that I saw on my travels that were not already ‘on my radar’. There was no ‘hard sell’ involved, we weren’t pushy salesmen putting our foot in anybody’s  door, we were welcomed professionals doing a valued job.

 

I was expected to be conversant on ‘bottom-lines’, ‘turnovers’, ‘business shares’ and other business jargon.  I was up to speed on local planning applications.  I had befriended a few estate agents, and they tipped me off on any land that was coming up for sale. This was useful to help out my small builder clients, who were always on the lookout for small bits of land for their next building project. They would remember my help and return the favour with profitable sales orders. There was much more to the job than might meet the eye.   I was far more than just an order taker doing his rounds.

 

nland winter
A typical Northumberland winter scene.

A typical early Monday morning would sometimes have found me in the lush Tyne Valley at pretty Stocksfield, sat in an old Victorian red brick semi with ‘one man band’ builder John Ridley.  John’s wife Sally would occasionally join us at their kitchen table, sometimes still wearing her nightie! They didn’t ‘stand on ceremony,’ I was just accepted as one of their extended family. We would all sit chatting. I would dunk a chocolate digestive in to a welcome cup of tea. We may have discussed the previous night’s match at St. James’ Park, or perhaps our children, our holiday plans, or that old favourite, the weather. After the initial ice-breaking ‘craic’ we would turn to business. I formed good working relationships with many clients, and the orders naturally followed. But it wasn’t always quite so pleasant. Sometimes, for example, if our delivery system had let a client down, the builder would angrily let off steam at me when I arrived! I would take the ‘hit’ on behalf of the Doves team, apologise for the bad service, and assure him that we would do better next time. I would  also have made a mental note to have a quiet word with the transport manager later! The builders ‘bollocking’ of me, and mine of the transport manager, were never personal. It was just business. We all made mistakes, but hopefully our service improved as a result.

 

Within twenty minutes of leaving a cosy, domestic environment like John’s, or perhaps a small office or a muddy little building site out in the ‘sticks’, I could have found myself meeting my next customer in a ‘state-of-the-art’ plush office on one of Tyneside’s many emerging new modern business parks.  The atmosphere could sometimes shift, from one job to the next, from friendly, informal and laid-back, to hectic and slightly hostile. Not all calls were on affable clients.  I had to deal with some pompous, arrogant, self-important assholes sometimes too! But thankfully in Northumberland these were very rare. Unless you had called on a particular client before you just didn’t know how your next customer was going to turn out!

Most of my Northumbrian clients liked and respected me. I stood out among my peers. As I was originally from the Guildford area of Surrey, over 300 miles to the south,   I obviously had a totally different dialect to the clients that I was calling on. This was what had truly set me apart from my peers. Frankly I was a bit of a novelty. The nearest they had got to my accent before meeting me would have probably been watching ‘Eastenders’ on the telly! Of course once they got to know me my other qualities would come in to play too, but it was my southern ‘accent’ that gave me an initial edge over my opposition.

 

Sometimes when I arrived on building sites all work would come to a complete stand-still. Tools would be downed as the word went around…. “The Cockney rep’s here again lads!”  They would all hurry down to greet me, the site managers, builders, plasterers, electricians, plumbers, decorators, quantity surveyors, architects, joiners, you name it, the whole bloody lot of them. They were keen not to miss out on the free ‘entertainment’ that I obviously provided.  I was like a one man circus rolling in to town!

 

download.jpgbloody doors
“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

They would take it in turns to ask me questions.    Any questions.   About anything.  Work related or not. It didn’t matter; just as long as they could hear me respond in my funny ‘Cockney’ voice!  (I’m not really a Cockney of course, it’s just the way that anybody from south of Durham is perceived by the Geordies!) If only I had a tenner for every time I heard Northumbrian lads, (in their rubbish attempts at doing a Michael Caine accent) saying, “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” Or that other old Michael Caine favourite….”You’re a big man but you’re in bad shape. With me it’s a full-time job. Now behave yourself.” There would also always be great merriment about the way that we Southerners put ‘Rs’ in to words like ‘bath’ or ‘path’ that just weren’t there. They never could get their heads around that one!

I used to enjoy being on the wrong end of the piss-taking. I never took any offence, as there was never any intended. I took the stick and gave a little bit back now and then. It was all part of the banter, part of the ‘craic’. That’s partly how I won their respect and friendship. I realised that people tend to take the piss out of people that they liked. I would have been more concerned if they hadn’t.  Once you made a friend of a Northumbrian you were their friend for life, but it wasn’t easy as they didn’t bestow this honour on every Southerner that they met.

2…..’High Anxiety’…….

While out on my travels one wintry morning I spotted, near Alston, under a deep blanket of snow, a fresh building site of which I hadn’t previously been aware. It was at that stage just the shell of a building. It had been a hazardous journey across the moors to get out there from my home in Prudhoe, slightly to the east of Hexham in the beautiful Tyne Valley. I had almost lost the car in a snow drift, and also slipped off the road in to a field gate at one point! The site appeared to be deserted. I assumed they weren’t working due to the heavy overnight snowfall. I called out “Hello!”  But I wasn’t really expecting a reply.

 

But I got one. It came from a gruff, masculine Northumbrian voice about eighty feet up somewhere on top of the un-finished building, but I couldn’t actually see him. “If it’s an order you’re wanting bonny lad then you’d best get yourself on up here like!” The word ‘like’ at the end of his statement was a little appendage that Northerners liked to stick on the end of their sentences, that and of course their other favourites, “Oh, aye”, “Why, aye” and “Mind”. They were all contagious! Even now, fifteen years after leaving Northumberland, I still sometimes say all three of them, (and other Geordie-isms), and the Cornish folk always give me strange looks when I do. Unfortunately the voice did not elaborate on how exactly I should “Get myself on up here, like”; and stupidly, in retrospect, I didn’t ask. I was to regret that later. To be honest I was a bit upset that anybody had responded at all. It was bloody cold, and I was only wearing a flimsy summer suit. I had hoped to be able to get back in to my warm, cosy company car, fill in my customer calling card, (for the boss), with the words…..  “New site at Alston, but no builders on site”,  put Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ on max volume, and then bugger off to a warm sales office full of pretty girls somewhere.

 

5533551335_bffdf3bf19.jpgMel Brooks
“Don’t look down!”………”High Anxiety….it’s always the same.” Mel Brooks.

I had a very quick look, (far too quick it would later transpire), up at the three storey high building. The roof area, where the deep, gruff voice had come from, was not yet covered over,   and I could see the big bare roof timbers. Directly in front of me, leaning upright against the wall at an angle, with snow covering the bottom two or three rungs, was an old wooden triple-extension ladder. It looked like it had seen better days. It probably had, way back in the nineteen fifties. (Unknown to me at this time, just around the corner to my left,  there was an opening in the block-work wall where later a door would be fitted,  and this opening would have led me to a series of aluminium internal ladders, but I’ll get to that later.) The top of the ladder ended just below a scaffold tower walk-way, which was fixed around the building at eaves/gutter level.  I had wrongly assumed that there would be an opening ‘trap-door’ within the scaffold planks just above where the third part of the extension ladder finished, and that when I got to the top of the third extension piece of the ladder I would just have to put my hand above my head and push it open. (If you are wondering why I would have assumed that, the answer is that I had climbed up a similar scaffold tower on a Newcastle building site just a few days earlier; where there had been a trap-door type arrangement with access to the walk-way above).

Mark with Alan Hill
Pictured half-way up one of the smaller local Oaks near my childhood home in the Tillingbourne Valley. That’s Alan Hill below me, we have been mates since about 1968. (His Dad, Fred, worked alongside my Dad in the 1950s on the Southern Railway steam engines. At the time my Dad was the fireman and Fred was the driver).
0U6XgcvY.jpgchipmunk
An R.A.F. Chipmunk dual-control trainer, similar to the one that I briefly took control of over Oxfordshire a couple of times when I was a teenager.

My shiny (but totally grip-less) black ‘office’ shoes were not the right footwear for climbing up ancient ladders, (or even new ladders), especially in mid-winter icy conditions.  I took a deep breath and started my ascent.

Now I never used to have a problem climbing the local majestic old oak trees, or flying, (I took control of R.A.F. Chipmunk two-seater dual-control trainers over Oxfordshire a few times). As a teenager my mate Alan and I had even stupidly dangled our legs over the edge of ‘Hell’s Mouth’ on the Cornish coast, (my poor ‘uncle’ Len had covered his eyes over and was probably trying to work out how he would explain to our distraught families how he hadn’t stopped us from doing something that stupid), but climbing up very long ladders these days, or standing too close to a cliff edge,  are now big ‘no-nos’ for me!

 

Nowadays, some twenty years after I had climbed up that dodgy ladder in snowy Alston, if I see somebody climbing a very high building on  television my legs turn to jelly! I have to quickly change the channel. If I haven’t got the remote control I tend to go straight to plan ‘B’. (Plan ‘B’ is where I shut my eyes and firmly grab the arm of the sofa). I recall once switching channels after I saw a guy walking on a tight-rope between New York’s (ex) Twin towers, only to find on the next channel two blokes just about to base jump off of the top of the Eiffel tower. So I switched channels again. On the next channel they were showing film of New York construction workers in the nineteen thirties. These men were all sat, side by side, on steel beams eating their sandwiches, chatting and reading newspapers, their feet dangling many thousands of feet high above Manhattan! I  switched the T.V. off in a panic, shut my eyes, and put my hand out to grab the sofa arm to my right to steady my nerves; only to feel something very warm and furry. It was my dog. He yelped. Poor old ‘Geordie’ it had frightened the life out of him. He hadn’t expected to be gripped, and definitely not that firmly. He had been sat on the carpet in front of me watching the tight-rope walkers, the base jumpers and the building workers balancing precariously on the steel girders too. He hadn’t wanted to look at them either, (he obviously has ‘doggie-vertigo’), and so he had leapt up off of the carpet, just as I had closed my eyes, to snuggle up alongside me.

article-2206050-0059AA091000044C-332_964x756.jpgmanhattan
It gives me the jelly-legs just looking at them.

 

Geordie afternoon snooze
Geordie, dreaming of chasing those rabbits again……
businessman-climbing-ladder-side-view-8106933
I would have looked something like this; except my ladder was an ancient triple wooden extension and all the rungs were covered in snow and ice, but you get the general idea!

With each fresh step up the rickety old ladder I had held on just that little bit tighter. My hands were weaving in and out between the half-rotten wooden ladder rungs, like trailing ivy around a wooden trellis, to cling on. I was beginning to tremble. Not just from vertigo but from the freezing cold air.  I was by now about sixty feet up. I had a quick glimpse below me of just how high I was and pressed my face even closer to the ladder rungs.

I thought I would whistle something cheerful to try to kid myself that I could climb all the way to the top and to give myself more confidence. I searched my memory banks for a suitable tune. The first tune that came to mind was an old Christmas carol, ‘In the bleak mid-winter’. I discarded it. It made me feel even colder. Then I thought of the Byrd’s ‘Eight miles high’. No, that was no good. The next tune to pop in to my mind was ‘High Anxiety’ by Mel Brooks. That wasn’t very suitable either. I finally settled on ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ by Chumbawamba, yes totally inappropiate lyrics, but it was very cheerful and easy to whistle. I pursed my lips to hit that first note. Just as the sound was attempting to exit my mouth it froze like an ice cube in my mouth. I spat it out and it bounced down off the wooden rungs below me, breaking at least two of them, and what was left of it dropped in to the snowy ground far below.

O.K., so I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it was very, very cold up that ladder. (Many years later I would visit Finland in mid-winter where the temperature by the Helsinki coast was minus 40 C; but I’m telling you that it still felt a lot warmer there than being up that ladder in Alston that day). I tried my best not to look down again. I knew that if I did I risked freezing to the spot, unable to go any further up or go back down.

I finally got within touching distance of the top of the ladder. I stopped climbing and looked up. I tried pushing at the boards with the palm of my right hand. They wouldn’t shift. I tried again. Still no movement. Then it slowly dawned on me that there was no trap door through the scaffold boards, and therefore no access to the walk-way above. Oh crap. Panic was beginning to set in. My legs were not in good shape to go back down; they were shaking with the cold.

I could hear some movement just above me. The boards were wobbling. Peering up through the cracks between the scaffold boards I could see three rather big men. There was an older looking one with longish hair and a beard big enough for two crows with a large brood to nest in, and two younger, clean-shaven men with neat, tidy crew-cuts in their early twenties; they  looked like twins. They were now all peering incredulously over the side of the scaffold tower hand-rail at me below them. They appeared to be shocked to see a smart looking bloke in a suit staring right back at them (me!) I was clinging on for dear life. “What the hell are you doing up that old ladder like?” Said one of the ‘twins’ to break the ice.

“Well I was t-t-t-trying to get up to the r-r-r-roof top to see you g-g-g-guys, to see if I could f-f-f-flog you some r-r-r-r-roof  t-t-t-tiles”. I had stutteringly replied, my tongue now no longer working properly due to the cold.

(They explained to me later that they had heard some strange grunting noises and the odd filthy swear word spoken in a ‘Cockney’ accent below them somewhere, and that they had all downed tools to investigate.  This had been a good fifteen minutes after I had originally called up to them. They had, until they saw me just below them clinging on to the ladder,  assumed that I had changed my mind about calling on them and had driven off elsewhere.)

They quickly observed the worried expression on my face and saw how violently I was shivering. They knew that I was in need of some urgent assistance to get off of the ladder safely. The older bearded man asked me for my name. I tried to pull my business card out from my internal suit pocket, and in the process my right shoe had slipped off of the icy, snow covered wooden ladder rung. My face slipped down with a crunch on to a ladder rung. They all gasped.  I pulled myself up again. It was O.K., my nose had taken a bit of a bash but it wasn’t bleeding. “Now just slow down, take a deep breath lad.” The older guy said. “And for Chrissakes dinna bother with your business card bonny lad, just give us your Christian name, that’ll do for now, like.”

“Aye, said one of the two younger men with him, who by now I could tell with certainty were twins. “So we can inform your next of kin when you fall off like”. His twin laughed but the older man shot him a look that clearly said, “Behave yourself mind!”

“My name’s M-M-M-M-a-a-a-r-k-k-k-k”. I replied. My teeth were banging together now like one of those sets of joke shop chattering teeth.  They suggested that I very carefully, and very slowly climbed back down the ladder. I said “No way, I’ve come this far. I’d rather try to get up to you”. By now I was in no fit state to climb back down anyway. Not even one rung. I was so cold, so bloody cold, and my body was shaking like I was having a fit. I was built for speed in those days, not warmth, there wasn’t any spare fat on me to keep me warm, and the icy wind was cutting right through my useless summer suit.

WA250C_423719221.jpg Catton
A road I travelled on so many times as a builders merchant sales Rep., during the 90s, in all weathers.
images.jpgcapt
“You stupid boy!”
dont panic
“Don’t panic, don’t panic!”

“Right, O.K. Mark, just keep calm, and whatever you do don’t panic, we’ll get you safely up here”. The older bearded guy said in his very re-assuring, comforting, deep manly voice. He was almost close enough to reach out and touch as he bent down under the safety railing to re-assure me. I could see bits of what looked like bread crumbs in his beard. (Although they could have been crow’s eggs)! The two younger blokes started to do really bad Corporal Jones impressions, walking up and down the wobbly gang-plank saying “Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” In their northern dialect. The older man, (obviously their own version of Captain Mainwaring),  shot them another stern look, “You stupid boys, stop messing around! This Cockney lad needs our help!” He then looked back down at me, “Mark lad, lean back just a little bit, but be very careful mind, (he didn’t have to remind me),  just raise an arm up and we’ll all grab hold of it.  One of the twins said “Don’t worry mate we won’t let go of you”. And then, after a short pause,  very quietly under his breath to the other twin. “Well probably not anyway.” The twins giggled. ‘Captain Mainwaring’ (with a big beard) shot them another stern look. Their little bad taste jokes hadn’t instilled me with a lot of confidence.  What I needed to do now, and I needed their assistance, was a similar manoeuvre to what you might see a climber trying on a climbing wall at a sports centre. But those climber guys always had plenty of chalk on their fingers, and safety harnesses, and mats to fall back on, just in case they slipped. I didn’t. All I had was about three feet of snow, but that was around eighty feet below me, and it was covering God only knows what underneath it, but most likely bricks and roofing slates. The thought of doing just that one last little movement of my arm was terrifying. Even circus performers have safety nets!

Somehow I did manage to lean back just far enough from the ladder, holding on now by just my right hand finger tips, and I put my left arm up as high as I could behind me. The three brawny builders were now all laying down on the scaffold boards and each one of them, their arms fishing around under the scaffold boards, had firmly grabbed at my arm. “O.K. we’ve got you now bonny lad, now when you feel ready just let go with your other hand…… it’s O.K. Mark, don’t you worry lad, we’ve got you like.” Said the beard with the bits of bread in it. I was freezing cold, scared, and found it very hard to let go with my other hand,   to put my life in the hands, literally, of three complete strangers. But after a few more minutes of coaxing and assurances from them that I could trust them, I did finally let go. Their strong working men’s hands,   working as a team, had then pulled me swiftly and skilfully out from underneath the scaffold boards, and in one movement up and under the safety rail, and on to the scaffolding boards alongside them. (Thanks to these wonderful Northumbrian lads I am sitting here today, many years later, in a warm, cosy room, with my labrador ‘Geordie’ at my feet, telling this story. Their rescue attempt could so easily have gone wrong!)

After getting our collective breath back we had all cautiously stood up. I grabbed hold of the scaffolding tower safety handrail, but my hands had little feeling in them, they were numb and it was difficult to maintain a proper grip. The icy cold wind on the high exposed walkway hit me hard, like a bully,  it almost knocked me straight back over the rail. It was wild up there. The wind felt like it was passing right through me;  it was trying to play a tune on my ribs as it did so. (It sounded a bit like ‘Idiot wind’ by Bob Dylan).

The builders all stood there on the scaffold walkway just looking at me. All three  grinning. They had had a little excitement and they were pleased that it had all ended well without anyone getting hurt. One of the twins said “So where’s the “R” in bath Mark?” His brother laughed and ‘Mainwaring’ said “Give the lad some time to get his breath back before you start taking the piss out of him will you?!” We all laughed. They were comfortable in their lofty, glacial, working environment. The other twin then said. “It’s unusual for you pen-pushing, suit wearing types, especially Southerners, to come up to the roof like, most reps are too scared to climb up ladders mind”.

“What’s w-w-w-with that l-l-l-ladder anyway?” I said, still not able to get warm and stop my stuttering. “How d-d-do you m-m-m-manage to c-c-c-climb up to this w-w-walk-way on that useless l-l-l-ladder?”

They all looked at each other and exchanged smiles. One of the twins replied.  “Oh, we n-n-never use that one M-M-M-Mark, (he was taking the mickey so he must have already liked me), we use a series of six ladders on the inside of the building. The one you came up was on the site when we first started the groundwork. It’s not one of ours. One of the plasterers must have got fed up with tripping over it and decided to lean it against the wall. Health and safety would have a bleeding fit if they had seen you using it!”

“I nearly did have a fit b-b-b-bloody using it” I responded. They smiled.

snowy al;ston
Snowy Alston, it was so beautiful.

I looked around at the amazing view. (see the photo to your left) All around me I could see the white snow covered lead slate rooftops of beautiful Alston, and out beyond them, way out in to the exquisitely pretty Northern Dales, it was like a white patchwork quilt divided by snow topped picturesque little stone walls. It was magnificent, and all things considered, it was almost  worth the hassle and danger of the climb!

 

The older bloke I would now discover, was called Bill Burleigh, and his two younger mates were in fact his two sons. They were popular, well known lads and were all known locally as the ‘Burly Burleighs’! They invited me to huddle down with them, out of the biting cold wind, between two huge oak roofing beams, where they had nailed up a temporary bit of ply as a wind protector. They gave me a bacon stottie with plenty of brown sauce and a warming cup of coffee.    The sons were called Tom and Jerry, (no, really, honest!) In later weeks I got to know them a little bit better in the bar at the Allendale Inn. I soon noticed that after a few drinks they behaved like their ‘Fred Quimby’ cartoon counterparts!

allendale Inn
The pub in Allendale where I later drank with the ‘Burly Burleigh’ boys!

One Friday night in the pub those burly Burleigh boys confided in me that no sales rep had ever taken them up on their offer to “come on up” to a roof-top before, any roof top, but especially a three storey high roof-top; not even via the health and safety approved internal ladders!

After saying our “good-byes” that day, I was hoping that my next business call would be to a warm sales office in Hexham; and that was luckily how it turned out to be. After going back  down the internal, (health and safety approved), ladders, I walked back out through the deep Cumbrian snow to my car. I looked back up to the ‘Burly Burleigh’ lads still working  up on the roof.  I called out.  “Thanks lads, see you next time!” They called back “Aye, Cockney lad you do that and we’ll be pleased to see you again like, but remember the bacon stotties and coffee are on you next time mind!”

springsteen
One of the greatest songs of all time.

I laughed then got in to my company car. I started the engine and took out the order that Bill had scribbled down for me and shoved in to my suit pocket, (while I had been warming my fingers on my coffee cup). It was a large profitable order. He had ordered roofing slates,  timber, plasterboard, nails, and some joist anchor ties. I put it in to my brief-case to hand to my boss back at the Hexham office later that day. I drove off with a smile on my face down the slushy, snowy track, towards the main Alston to Hexham road.  As I reached the main road junction I briefly stopped to put a C.D. on. It was Springsteen’s ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’. I went straight to track 6. ‘Promised Land’.  A song that is always guaranteed to send chills right through me, even on hot summer days. In a strange way I felt that I was living in ‘The promised land’ up in Northumberland. I sang along with Bruce. Life was precious. I loved these Northerners and I felt so lucky to be working amongst them,  to experience their hospitality and friendship.  I would have a tale to tell one day to my kids. Perhaps even the World if anybody could be bothered to listen. Maybe I might even write a short story about it.

On future visits to that building site, and others where I would later find the ‘Burly Burleighs’, they always came down to meet me,  and they always gave me big orders, bacon stotties and a cup of coffee. I did, a few months later, surprise them by taking them a box of assorted buns and pastries!

A rep competitor of mine at that time, a red headed lad called Hamish, from a rival builders merchant called ‘Matthew Charltons’, once asked me how  I always got so many good orders from the ‘Burly Burleigh’ boys. He told me that he could never even get a bag of cement out of them. I replied “Well Hamish if you were to arrive on one of their building sites and the lads were up on the roof top working, would you go up the ladder to speak with them on the rooftop, or would you wait for them to come down to see you?” Hamish looked at me as if I had finally lost it. “You must be bloody joking mate; they might be paying me bloody peanuts but I’m a sales rep., I’m not a f***ing monkey!”  I  smiled smugly; knowing that he was one rep who would never  poach any of my business.

The End.

Constructive comments below are very welcomed. Glowing praise even more so. It’s how I know that you have been here. Offers of highly paid writing gigs, though unlikely, would be lovely too. But just for the record, all spammers can just go and **** themselves.

All written work by Mark Anthony Wyatt, Bude, Cornwall. March 15th, 2015.

Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has created, remains his personal intellectual property! But any other images, videos, quotes etc., that were NOT created by me remain the intellectual property of those who created them, and NOT me!

You can also find me on ‘Facebook’..@ ‘There’s a blackbird in the fridge’

markanthonywyatt.com

markawyatt@moonwindbag1@hotmail.co.uk

 

 

 

Becoming his Bobness, by Mark Anthony Wyatt

 

 

Try to visualise the future Bob Dylan’s soul. Before he was born here on earth….. Yes, I know, it’s not easy is it? We don’t really know for sure if souls even exist, let alone what they might look like. His soul doesn’t yet know of course that it is to be the future Bob Dylan. The name ‘Bob Dylan’ would mean nothing to it. To make things even more complicated Bob Dylan won’t even be born as Bob Dylan. He will be born as Robert Zimmerman and change his name later in life. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here; so let’s all take a step back for a moment and i’ll try to set the scene a little better.

This short story is set on the day leading up to his birth in 1941. The two characters having a discussion are not in this world, they are astral souls in another dimension that supplies souls to inhabit newborn babies as they are birthed to their new mothers on this planet. Our World is at war. It is a terrible time for mankind. Things are looking particularly bad in Europe. People are being killed daily in their thousands all over Europe and the far east.

I was musing one day on the possibility of reincarnation and how, if it is real, it might work. I had noticed whilst browsing the web that Trotsky, the infamous Russian revolutionary, died in 1940. I also noticed that one of my musical heroes was born the following year in 1941. Not very far apart. Perhaps you can already see where I’m going with this?

A long line of souls are waiting patiently in a queue coming out of a waiting room for souls. They are all waiting to reincarnate as newborn babies on to the earth plane. They’ve mostly all been here on earth before in other earlier lives, but some will be ‘first-timers’, and some perhaps have come from other galaxies! A heavenly ‘life fixer upper’, we’ll call him Jim,  glides down towards the very long queue and lands by the waiting room door. He spots the future Bob Dylan’s  soul deep in conversation about music with another soul just inside the door of the astral waiting room. ( This other soul talking music with ‘Bob’ would join the queue in a month or so, he was still resting between lives. I’ll let you know who that other soul was a bit later.) Jim beckons ‘Bob’ and says “Come on now,  say goodbye to your friend, you should be in the queue outside, we are finding you a new mother today for your next trip to earth! ”

So Jim says to the future Bob Dylan’s soul, “So what are you going to do with your life this time around then eh? Would you like to try our special offer ‘surprise life package’?”  The future Bob Dylan’s soul wasn’t at all keen to have the special offer ‘surprise life package’. He wanted to have some idea who he was going to be before he went back down to earth, and have a rough idea of what he was going to do with his next life. He wasn’t too keen on surprises. He had already given that a try the last time around,  some pushy trainee ‘surprise life package’ salesman had convinced him to give it a try. It had been a big gamble; and very stupidly he had taken it. Yes, he might have been born as a super rich good looking prince, with a harem full of beautiful sexy women all at his beck and call,  a few luxury mansions and flashy sports cars galore, that was what the prick of a salesman had suggested might happen in his smarmy sales spiel, but, just like winning the lottery, the odds had been very much against it. Once bitten, twice shy. No, his ‘surprise’ hadn’t gone very well at all.

Leon Trotsky 2
Trotsky. A crazy man with crazy hair.

He had been born as Lev Davidovich Bronstein, (future history would know him as Leon Trotsky.) He had arrived from between his mother’s cold, skinny white thighs in some awful god forsaken,  poverty stricken, freezing cold place called Russia. It had been a terrible shock to him. So much so that he had tried to climb back up into his mother’s womb again. He had been expecting warmer climes and clean silken sheets. But what he had got was a blizzard blowing through the rotten wooden shack that his parents laughably called ‘home’, and some coarse, flea-infested, urine stained, stinking blankets. No, it hadn’t been a great start for young Leon. He had been more than a little pissed off and had cried for four weeks straight. His poor suffering mother had almost smothered him to be rid of the miserable little bastard.

Trotsky did have a very interesting life though, it is true, but  what happened to him during that life isn’t relevant for the purposes of this little story, so we’ll just skip that bit and go straight to his horrible demise. His life ended very abruptly, very violently, and very painfully in 1940. One of Stalin’s murderous international assassins had tracked him down to South America, (where he had been trying to escape his vengeance after a bit of a ‘falling-out’). The assassin  buried an ice pick deep into his head. He would have much preferred to have died peacefully in his sleep, or perhaps even by a quick bullet to the back of his head, (a very popular method of murder by the Russian state at that time), but by a bloody ice-pick? No, given a choice he wouldn’t have chosen that.

“No!” Said the future Bob Dylan’s soul very aggressively; remembering his previous grisly end when he had played the part of ‘Trotsky’ on the world stage. “I definitely don’t want to try your special offer ‘surprise life package’ again mate, so you can just stick it where the Sun don’t shine!”

“O.K., O.K.,” said Jim the ‘life fixer upper’, “No need to get all worked up, have you got any preferences?”

Well”. Said the future Bob Dylan’s soul. “I now realise why you offer those ‘surprise life package’ deals to us re-incarnating souls. If you were to tell us  that we were going to be Hitler, Stalin, Trump, Pol Pot, or Tony Blair, or maybe the victim of a tsunami, we just wouldn’t take the life on.   We would refuse to play the part and we would just stay put here in our cosy, peaceful, ‘astral waiting room’! It’s the only way that you can get those lives ‘off the shelf’ isn’t it? But I’ve learnt my lesson, I’m not taking any more chances. I have been giving my next incarnation some very serious thought, I’ve had quite enough of revolting peasants, red revolutions, disgusting Russian food, massacres, mass graves and bloody ice picks. This time I  want to go for a quieter, more caring,   and more creative life. I’ve had it up to here with bloody politics, racism, freezing cold Siberian winters and all that hate!  I want to be a great musician, somebody who is loved and respected,  not somebody who is hated and feared. This time I want to be a brilliant, critically acclaimed, renowned songwriter who will be remembered and revered for thousands of years. Oh, and I’m not too fussed about the voice, you can make it an acquired taste only enjoyed by those with good taste if you like. Blokes like that Wyatt fella. Well? Do you think you can fix that for me then Jim?”

“You don’t want too much do you?” Said Jim sarcastically as he had a quick flick through the pages of his ‘Big book of new incarnations’. After much ‘soul searching,’ and a few calls to the boss lady up at ‘Gabriel H.Q.’ He said. “ Yes, we have a life here that just might be of some interest to you. It fits your chosen criteria to a ‘tee’. Yes, we can fix that for you. You will be born as a baby boy to your new parents. Their names will be Abraham and Beatricia Zimmerman and they will call you ‘Robert’. They are expecting you tomorrow morning, so please do get a bloody move on and glide down that dark tunnel very quickly when the time comes, but do remember to wait for that little bright white light! That means ‘it’s good to go’! Your parents are a very nice  respectable young  Jewish couple. They have a cosy, clean, safe, loving, warm home. I think you will really like them. I certainly do, and so does the boss”.

“Jewish?” Said the future Bob Dylan’s soul. Completely missing all the other good points Jim had mentioned. “Jewish for ***k sake?! Please don’t let me be born in Europe Jim, please no! I’ve heard all the awful stories in the astral waiting room. There have been thousands of the poor buggers coming back here lately, long before their soul contract was up, it’s not very nice down there at the moment for Jewish people!”

“Now don’t you go fretting about that, you’ll be alright because you will be born in the ‘Land of the free and the home of the brave’.

“What? In Britain?” Said the soul of the future Bob Dylan, now feeling somewhat relieved.

“No, in America stupid, in a place called Duluth in Minnesota.” Replied Jim the heavenly life fixer upper. “Oh well”. Said the soul of the future Bob Dylan.  “I guess I’ll have to just settle for second best then, but in any case it’s got to be much better than being born in Poland in 1941, hasn’t it?”

Bare-Chested Freddie
Freddie being a mega rock star. Is this the real life or is it just fantasy?

“Zimmerman?” The name had only just sunk in.“Did you say Zimmerman for Christ’s sake? The Robert bit’s O.K., well, it’s not too bad. I would have preferred something more like ‘Woody’ though obviously, but Zimmerman? Zimmerman? What sort of a bloody name’s that for a musical icon? Zimmerman? I’ll only ever get gigs down the pub doing those crappy, cheesy pop covers with a stupid bloody name like that! Zimmerman? Why don’t you just go the whole bloody hog and call me something really bloody stupid like Farrokh Bulsara!”

“Oh, no, we can’t do that I’m afraid”. Jim replied. “That name is already reserved for another soul who will be back here in the queue in about five years time. He will change his name later in life to ‘Freddie Mercury’. Apparently he wants to be a mega rock star, he wants to wear tights and mascara and make one of the finest singles ever made. It’s going to be called ‘Bohemian something or other’, it’s all here in the book of life you know. Some people are just so fussy, why can’t they just want to be Fred Bloggs the plumber and want to go around fixing people’s loos, or Susie Smith the bespectacled librarian, and be quite happy charging people for returning their books late? If you dislike Zimmerman that much you could always change your name later to something much cooler that the kids will really dig. Something with a bit of style to it. Perhaps something like….. oh, let me think……. yes I’ve got it…..how does ‘Bob Dylan’ sound to you? That’s pretty cool isn’t it, huh?”

“Bob Dylan eh? Yes, that’s really cool, yes I do like that. I will remember it!” Said the soon to be born Robert Zimmerman.

“So off you go then, and have a great life ‘Bob’, but do get a bloody move on or you’ll be late, but  don’t forget to wait until you see that little bright white light at the end of the dark tunnel before you make your grand entrance!

“Yes I know, that means good to go”. Replied the soul soon to be born as Robert Zimmerman.

“Oh, and by the by, that soul I saw you chatting with earlier, the one in the astral waiting room, you will see him again in a few years time, he will be a good friend of yours in this life. His name will be Otis Redding.  We’ve given him a really wonderful voice, but just between me and you, his songs aren’t as good as yours. See you next time around Bob!” Said Jim, as he hurried off to the next soul in the very long queue behind ‘Bob’. 1941 was a very, very busy period for Jim. They were sending them back up much faster than he could send them back down. These humans really had to start growing up. They had been given a wonderful opportunity and frankly they were blowing it, they needed to start loving each other more, and their beautiful home, but at least that last guy would be doing his little bit to improve life on earth. He would be writing some amazing poetry and setting it to great music.

“Beyond the horizon, in the Springtime or fall
Love waits forever, for one and for all”………..Bob Dylan from ‘Beyond the Horizon’.

images.jpgdylan guthrie
Bob Dylan doing his Woody Guthrie impersonation.

 

Written By Mark Anthony Wyatt

February, 2015

markanthonywyatt.com

Find me on Facebook@ Mark Anthony Wyatt (Bude)

or e-mail me at moonwindbag1@hotmail.co.uk

Constructive comments below are very welcomed. Glowing praise even more so. It’s how I know that you have been here. Offers of highly paid writing gigs, though unlikely, would be lovely too. But just for the record, all spammers can just go and……………

Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has personally created, remains his personal intellectual property. Any other written work, music, images, or videos are the personal intellectual property of those who created them and NOT mine.

 

 

 

 

 

Some personal thoughts on life, the universe and everything……

 

You know how it is, I’d be very surprised if you  haven’t had this sort of experience too at some stage in your life. Try to picture the scene……It is a beautiful day. You are sitting in your garden, or perhaps on a beach. The Sun is warming your face. You are happy. You are content. You are at ease. Suddenly everything feels just right in your world. You are having one of those rare moments of complete clarity. You feel that you are on the verge  of finally understanding what life is all about, and why we are all here on this beautiful planet. But that sacred knowledge that you feel you are just on the cusp of finally grasping is just so elusive….. that you can’t….. quite…. reach it. It is frustrating. It is a similar feeling to the one that you have when you know the word that you are searching for in your memory banks, but you can’t quite remember it. It is so close and yet still so far away!

What do you mean you have never felt like that? Too busy to think about such things, huh? As a gardener I am prone to moments like those when I’m pottering about in gardens. I think it is maybe because we gardeners are so close to nature. Our working lives are dominated by the seasons. We see them all close-up and personal. We see them come and go. The natural cycle of all things. We put our plants in the soil. We tend to them. We watch them grow. We also see them die. But that’s ‘O.K.’ because their offspring will pop up in the spring and the cycle will start over.

Recently I got to thinking how lovely life could be if we just tried to stay focussed on just the ‘moment’ that we are living. To try to stay in the ‘now’. Forget yesterday. It’s done and dusted! You can’t change what happened, or didn’t happen. Forget tomorrow. It will be with you soon enough. Don’t wish your life away! Enjoy the company of all of those around you. Stare like a crazy man, (or woman), at your own offspring occasionally, (but not too much, as it might really freak them out!) Take in all of their beauty and take some credit for what you see, think to yourself “I created her/him!” (‘O.K.,’ so we all know that you had a bit of help!)

The following is just some of my thinking on what I call the ‘bigger picture’. I’m not saying I’m right. I really don’t know anymore than anybody else. It’s just my best guess and it makes a bit of sense to me!

We are all little ‘gods’, whether we like it or not. We are all co-creators. No, please don’t give up on this piece yet, don’t worry I’m not going to get all religious, or blasphemous, on you. Quite the opposite.  I knew from an early age that the religion that I had been born into, (Christianity, Church of England), like all of the other options on offer, had misinterpreted the whole ‘god’ question, or, perhaps closer to the truth, Christianity had been misinterpreted by some of those who followed its doctrines. Having said that it also helped mould me into the decent, caring man I am today, although most of the credit should rightfully go to my Mum and Dad! At the age of twelve, I discovered Erich Von Daniken’s books, and they confirmed my own suspicions. I was, and frankly I still am, amazed that the clergy in the church, establishment educated people, hadn’t put the pieces together years earlier themselves and come to similar conclusions. They just didn’t get it. Or perhaps they did, and they were just keeping it to themselves in order to stay in their cosy, safe careers? For me ‘they’, the so called ‘gods’ that they lectured us on from the pulpit every Sunday, and the great teachers like Jesus, were probably from somewhere else in the universe and they had visited the earth to spread their own civilisation, use our natural resources or teach us the power of love. Already at that age,  with the help of researchers like Erich, I had seen all the ‘clues’ to previous visitors from other planets. It just seemed so obvious to me, and frankly it still does.

I know of a lady who is of a very high rank in the C.of E., (she must be very high up because she gets to wear one of those rocket shaped hats on special occasions!) She is a decent, caring human being too but very trapped in her narrow paradigm. I saw the way she looked at my U.F.O. book collection, and then me, when she visited a few years ago! She probably thinks that I am totally bonkers for believing in such things, and that I need ‘saving’! These people blindly accept the miracle stories in the Bible without ever thinking them through. What they referred to as ‘miracles’ were more likely just very advanced technologies. I wonder if it ever crossed that lady’s mind where the idea of a bishop’s mitre originally came from?

I once knew a professor of chemistry, he was about the same age as me. We had a chat about U.F.O.s  in the pub one night. As I set out my case he listened patiently with his establishment educated brain and bits of rubber stamped paper telling him that he was superior, whilst simultaneously he was no doubt mentally already preparing his putdown. I finished my little opening gambit, leant back in my pub pew and took a sip of my lovely, warm ‘Timothy Taylor’s’ bitter. He looked across the table at me in a fatherly, patronising way and said “But Mark, don’t you understand that it is impossible, how would they get here?” His ‘education’ had told him it was impossible, and therefore it was. Of course they were capable of getting here. Why do these narrow minded people always assume that we are at the forefront of science? Anywhere? Ever? Our visitors would have been far more advanced than us of course. They would have seemed like ‘gods’ to the neanderthals or peasants who witnessed them. They had probably been created long before us, and had perhaps eventually created us, or maybe they had just adapted what they found already living here! Maybe they still keep an eye on us like any other kind, caring parents.   We may be their children; (Our Father who art in heaven anyone?) and like any good parents they want us to grow up and go out into the wider universe, when we are ready, to spread love and creation ourselves. Just like they did. It’s simple really. In my experience these establishment types, despite, (or maybe because of) their expensive educations, have got tunnel vision. They have been brain-washed to never lift the lid off of that box that they live in, to see the world from other non-mainstream perspectives. If they weren’t taught something at university or college then, in their opinion, it does not exist and is not even worthy of proper investigation. Religions are, in my opinion, disempowering, they are mostly about going down on your knees, prostrating yourself on the floor, and saying “Oh, please forgive me for this, and please forgive me for that, and I am not worthy, blah, blah” like uneducated peasants still living in the dark ages. We all need to take our personal power back with which we were blessed, and use it to create  something good. It’s all nature, like flower seeds blowing in the wind, or explorers ‘discovering’ the ‘new’ world, but  on a far grander scale. Our seeds will one day spread from planet to planet.

I was recently thinking about what might happen to us when our earthly body dies; (not for the first time), and about the possibility that we all live on in some other better place, perhaps in an alternate dimension. In modern day ‘game- speak’ you could call it progressing to the next level.  I want to believe that there is something very pleasant to follow this life, and that we will meet our loved ones again, all of those lovely people, and our pets, who predeceased us. Is that just wishful thinking on my part? Perhaps it is. But I’m not going to just blindly accept our current 21st century science as ‘evidence’ that there is nothing for us to look forward to except darkness and oblivion. The experts once told us that the world was flat.  Get my point? Science will always evolve it is it’s very nature, it doesn’t stand still.

Maybe we will live on in some  kind of astral form, (well we can’t use the same knackered physical body that we used here on earth can we?) Perhaps we will all re-incarnate as ‘somebody else’ next time around. Our consciousness might get put back on this planet in a different body, or maybe on another planet in our solar system, or perhaps even in another solar system, or  another dimension, and at any point in time. I say ‘any point in time’ because time probably does not exist on a linear level as we experience it here in our earthly, three dimensional physical form.

Perhaps time is circular and we are all part of an ‘eternal return’? Now there’s a thought, maybe we just keep repeating the same life over and over until we finally ‘wake-up’ to it and then progress up to the next level. (Deja vu anybody?) Who knows? Not me. I haven’t got a clue. None of us do. If anybody says that they do know for sure then they are obviously deluded, and you really should avoid them. No, really, you should!  I’m not sure which is the worse kind of ‘expert’, those who try to sell you their religion or the ‘old school’ Darwinist scientist types who will not budge from their own out-dated myopia. Has nobody ever told them about the advances in quantum physics?

So, you may be thinking, where does all of this ranting and philosophising leave me on this topic, at the end of this little essay where I have asked far more questions than given answers, and where does it leave me on the biggest mystery of them all? Well my view is about the same as Iris Dement’s, (one of my favourite musicians). She wrote this very pretty and very wise little song. It is called “Let the mystery be”. And that’s what I think I will try to do too. Not that I will ever stop thinking about it. Here’s Iris in all her loveliness…….please listen to these wise words. She puts it far better than I ever could, and she’s far, far cuter too!

 

 

Written By Mark Anthony Wyatt

February, 2015. Edited June, 2015.

markanthonywyatt.com/ ‘It’s a Dark, Dark Night!’

Find me on Facebook@’It’s a Dark, Dark Night!’

or e-mail me at moonwindbag1@hotmail.co.uk

Constructive comments below are very welcomed. Glowing praise even more so. It’s how I know that you have been here. Offers of highly paid writing and speaking gigs would be lovely too. But just for the record, all spammers can just go and **** themselves. Yes, that does include you, you spotty, pale skinned nerd, you really should get out more and stop messing with other peoples’ computers. It’s not decent, it’s not healthy, and especially if I should track you down……….

Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has personally created, remains his personal intellectual property. Any other written work, music, images, or videos are the personal intellectual property of those who created them and NOT mine.