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’..@ ‘It’s a Dark, Dark Night’ or ‘Mark Anthony Wyatt’.

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‘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’.

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‘The Man from Atlantis’

Note……Before we begin, I’d just like to point out that almost all of the names of the local ‘Bude’ characters, in this mostly true aquatic tale, have been changed to protect their privacy, spare their blushes, and, yes, probably to protect me from them if they should recognise themselves!

At sometime not long after the turn of the ‘new’ Millennium,  on a late Friday morning in July, the word had got around that there was a local crew driving down the coast from Bude to Bossiney for a surf.  I was at the time, when the call came through to Jimmie, gardening on a little job with him on a small property high on the cliffs above Millook.

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We were working very close to where this photo was taken, just a little bit higher up the road, when we received the call…..

I was new to surfing and only been ‘in’ a few times. I could hear the conversation, (if you could call it that), it was another friend of ours, Ronnie, a guy that didn’t waste too many words, and all he said to Jimmie was “Surf Jimmie? Bossinney?”  Jimmie, also a man of few words, unless he was talking about his amazing exploits on the football pitch, or about the latest album by the bland Coldplay, (and no, that wasn’t a spelling error), had looked over to me and simply substituted his name for mine by saying “Surf Geordie? Bossiney?” (That was their nickname for me, because I had recently moved to Cornwall from Northumberland).

I hadn’t needed much persuading. It had been a long, tiresome week and I needed some ‘R and R’. We swiftly packed all of our gardening tools away into our own vehicles, and then we both drove back to my place. I parked up my van and quickly grabbed my board and wet-suit from the garden shed, and a bath towel off the washing line. I put them into the back of Jimmie’s van, and then jumped up into the cab alongside him. Jimmie, a proper surfer, was of course already prepared as his board and wet-suit always went everywhere with him.

There were a fair few vehicles in our little surfing convoy driving the short trip down from Bude that day. We were people from all walks of life, there were two gardeners of course, a plumber, an optician, an office clerk from the local builder’s merchants, (who was off ‘ill’), an unemployed lad, at least one unemployable lad, a surfboard shaper, a student, a mechanic, a doctor, a joiner, a teacher, and the best carpet fitter in the country. (You can put the cheque in the post, ha, ha!) We were just one big happy, watery fraternity. There weren’t any artificial class lines drawn on our sand. We were all in it together (the sea that is)! Just as the Cornish motto says…”One and All!”

The surfboard and surfer laden vehicles in our convoy included Ronnie’s trusty, ever present  ‘old school’ V.W. camper van, (see my previous story), Jimmie’s flash new V.W. van,  various other work vans,   a few family estates, and some real old bangers too.  We soon arrived, and we parked-up just off of the ‘B’ road that connects Tintagel to Boscastle, alongside a beech hedge on the perimeter of a cliff-top field. We all quickly changed into our surfing gear at the side of the road, (dodging the speeding locals, whilst balancing on one leg,  trying desperately to put my wetsuit on without falling into the road in my case), and then we all dodged the cattle across a cow-pat covered field towards the cliff edge.

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Bossiney

We had to climb down a 400 feet plus cliff side. The other Cornish ‘beys’ and ‘maids’ had been going there for many years and knew the rickety old spiral walkway well.  As we all gingerly walked down, it had creaked and groaned under our  combined weights. The strong sea-breezes kept blowing my surfboard violently around, threatening to knock  Jimmie over the iron hand-rail and down towards an untimely, painful death on the jagged, vicious rocks below.  I was relieved to finally put my feet down on to the warm sand.

We walked through a throng of happy sun worshipping tourists, many of them Dutch and German.  A sweet little girl with cute blonde ringlets pointed at me as I walked through their midst, and she said “Look Mummy, a proper surfer man”.  I looked around to see him too, only to realise that I was at the end of our line and she had meant me. ‘Mummy’ was quite unimpressed and she stifled a giggle. I felt like a fraud. I felt like a boy in a boy-band being mistaken for a musician. The other guys and girls were indeed all ‘proper surfers’, most of them had looked the part too with their sun-kissed tans and long flowing locks, but as for me I may have looked a little bit like one in my wet-suit, with my board tucked under my arm,  but I knew that I wasn’t a ‘proper’ surfer, or at least I knew that I wasn’t one just yet!

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Mr Zog’s Sex Wax!

The others all ran quickly into the sea. After a last minute wax down with ‘Mr Zog’s Sex Wax’ and attaching the leash to my ankle I ran in too. The conditions were very flat, but looking on the bright side I knew I wouldn’t be taking another heavy wave pounding like I had at Widdie a few weeks earlier.  There weren’t any waves as such, just gentle little ripples.  I was happy to just paddle out to just beyond the breaking surf, and relax on my board,  enjoying the sunshine on my back.

Every now and then there was a gentle ripple of seawater that would run around me on its way towards the beach, sending delightful little sensual shivers right through my entire body. The others were a longer distance ‘out the back’. They were just lazing around too, discussing the previous night’s antics in the pub and making general surfing ‘chit-chat’. Occasionally one or more of them would break-away from the ‘surfing chat-room’ and paddle in front of an approaching slightly bigger wave. They would then briefly rise up, like graceful ballet dancers, or a trout rising to a mayfly, onto their feet, before diving, or jumping off a few seconds or so later. This ‘Bossiney wave’ was a glassy, mellow sort of a wave. In musical terms the ‘Widdie wave’ which had battered me so, had been like the ‘Sex Pistols’, it was aggressive and loud, but the Bossiney wave was more like the Eagles, it was, I had briefly thought, easy going and gentle. I decided to join the others  for a bit of banter, and it was so easy to paddle out to them. The sun was glinting off the calm sea. I was beginning to unwind a little and feel like a proper surfer now.

Eventually, a bit bored by the surfing gossip I had decided to paddle back towards the beach again, and to lie on my board a bit closer to the small breakers. I laid there  continuing to soak up the warmth of the Sun’s rays, and I did  some ‘people watching.’   All of the time these little cool ripples of water  kept passing right through me; it was exquisite. What I hadn’t perhaps realised, in my relaxed state, was that I was slowly drifting into the water where the waves were breaking. I had been totally misled by appearances. The ‘Bossiney wave’, whilst very small in stature, is actually  very powerful; it was the Charlie Magri of waves!

All of a sudden, taking me completely by surprise, one of these powerful little waves  picked me and my board right up and, like a legendary giant from Lyonesse, it had hurled us both ferociously towards the shingly beach where all the tourists were sunning themselves. It had all happened so quickly and so unexpectedly. One moment there I had been lying sunbathing on my board, happily watching the  pretty girls applying their sun tan creams, and then the next I had been lying prostrate on the stony beach with my face a good foot deeper than the rest of my body. I had just experienced my first ‘beach-dump’.

How not to approach and chat up an attractive lady on the beach……

I slowly raised my head up. I snorted seawater out of my nostrils, spat out shingle, shells,  seaweed, and thousands of tiny particles of plastic, and rubbed bits of tiny grit out of my face. I then saw, only about eighteen inches in front of me on the sand, a pair of golden brown sandy feet in a pair of red flip-flops! These, I noticed, upon closer inspection, were attached to a pair of well bronzed and very shapely female legs, which in turn belonged to a very pretty ‘thirty something’ lady. She had beautiful long straight black hair, parted in the middle and swept back behind her cute little ears.  My eyes travelled slowly upwards from my prone position on the beach, on a journey of delightful discovery.  She was sat in a deck chair alongside a grumpy looking middle-aged guy who I assumed to be her partner. She was wearing a red bikini, and reading one of those  glossy Cornish monthly magazines that the tourists and Cornish ex-pats like to read.

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The lovely lady was reading a glossy Cornish mag much like this one.

She lowered her expensive sunglasses to see what had so suddenly,  and so unexpectedly,  arrived at her feet. Our eyes met. Maybe she had just put out a little prayer, asking ‘god’ for a short, stocky, bronzed, good-looking surfer? (Well, I’m sure that even ‘god’ fu**s up from time to time). But she had seemed quite unfazed to see me laying there so close to her sandy flip-flops. She smiled down at me. “Do you come here often?” She said in a very sexy, cultured, and husky voice. I laughed, impolitely spat out some lingering shingle, and replied. “Damn! You beat me to it, that was going to be my line!”

“Well, you’ll just have to just think of another one now”. She giggled.  “O.K.” I had replied. “My submarine has just sunk, I’m the only survivor, and I don’t suppose you could put me up for the night could you?”

“Oh, dear.” She said. “You’ll have to do much better than that, I’m a classy girl you know, and I’ve got my standards.” There was an impatient, angry cough for attention from her miserable looking partner, who, to be frank, had a face that only a mother could love, and frankly she would struggle too. He gave me one of those ‘hands off she’s mine’ sort of looks and said, in very measured, concise public school tones,  “When you think you have seen quite enough of my wife’s body I would appreciate it if you would just pick yourself and your damn surfboard up, and f**k off back into the sea where you bloody well came from.” (Who did he think I was? The Man from Atlantis perhaps?)

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The Man from Atlantis…..I couldn’t resist this one!

He followed this up with a sharp reprimanding look at the gorgeous lady. In return she gave him a look that said “Who got out of bed the wrong side this morning Tarquin?” She looked back down at me, smiled, winked, and  said “Take no notice of ‘Mr Grumpy Pants’ he scratched his brand new B.M.W. on some of your Cornish brambles this morning”. She then raised her sunglasses back up and continued reading her glossy Cornish mag.

The feature she was reading was standard fare for those sort of magazines. It was an article about some rich Southerners who had sold their mansion in Oxford and bought a small farm in Crackington Haven. Apparently they were struggling to make ends meet in Cornwall, and they had had to let the au-pair go, start maintaining their own garden, do their own housework, sell off one of their Audis,  and take young Sebastian out of his public school. The poor dears. Life really was throwing everything at them. I do hope that they survived all of the turmoil.

I painfully rose to my feet and spat out a few more bits of hard to shift and lingering shingle. I was briefly tempted to have a little dig back at ‘Mr Grumpy Pants’ but I didn’t want to spoil anybodys day, not even his. I picked up my board which had settled a little bit to my right, and then carelessly turned around back towards the sea and my mates. As I did so I almost smacked him on his head with the business pointy end of my board, but  luckily for him he had seen it coming and had ducked just in time!  The lovely lady had been watching my departure over the top of her sunglasses, and she laughed, but sadly that just had the effect of annoying him even more. He stood up and yelled “Damn surfers! They think they own the bloody beach!” I tried not to laugh and carried on walking out into the sea with a big smile on my face. My work there was done.

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Patrick Duffy, T.V.’s ‘Man from Atlantis’ emerges from the sea, but not at Bossiney.

Jimmie had seen my epic ‘beach-dump’ and its aftermath, (named because that’s what the wave does to you, it dumps you on the beach like a load of washed up, discarded sea debris). He was still laughing; he had thought it hilarious. “So Geordie, did you get her number? Surely there must have been an easier and more dignified way of approaching her?”

“No”, I said, “I don’t think Tarquin would have been too keen on the idea.”

Oh, that’s a shame “, said Jimmie, “She looks really lovely from here”. I assured him that she looked even lovelier close-up.

“Oh, and by the way Geordie, don’t be misled by how small ‘the wave’ is here at Bossiney, it still packs a very powerful punch you know!” I sarcastically thanked him for his belated concern, and said that I would be sure to look out for it in the future. Jimmie told me that ‘beach dumps’ are like a rite of passage for all new surfers,  and that all surfers have experienced them at some point. “It happens to the best of us Geordie,  but it just wouldn’t do to warn a novice of the dangers, because that would only spoil everybody else’s fun!”

But I like to think that I made that lovely young lady’s day just that little bit more exciting than it might otherwise have been, had I not have landed at her feet. I wonder if she is still in a relationship with that chinless wonder, and whether she still remembers her holidays in Cornwall that year, and the lanky, hopeless surfer in the antique wet-suit who had briefly disturbed her reading.

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 22nd, 2015. Edited Feb, 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’ as Mark Anthony Wyatt and @ ‘It’s a Dark, Dark Night’

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‘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!

old family photos no 3 335
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…………

ENGLAND084e_2x
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).

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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 on my Fbk page ‘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 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.

 

Mark playing Woody Guthrie’s “My Daddy Flies That Ship in the Sky”.

Please note that I did NOT write this song. Woody Guthrie did. I am only performing it!

Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has created, remains his personal intellectual property!

 

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

The Dancing Geordie Burglars!

 


Note, before you start reading; for those of you who don’t already know, the term ‘Geordie’ generally refers to a person who is from the Newcastle area of Northumberland, which is in the north-east of England.

Introduction….. 

If you have lived in Northumberland you will know, as I do, that Geordies are a warm, welcoming people, and arguably the friendliest people in the country. Many call centre businesses employ Geordies because their accent is very popular among other Brits. Their voices are perceived to have a natural warmth and charm.

While living in Prudhoe, a small Tyne Valley town about ten miles west of Newcastle, I accidentally bumped in to some local burglars going about their nocturnal business. To my surprise I found that Geordie burglars were very friendly too, or at least this particular bunch were! Perhaps they had attended a burglar’s finishing school in Byker, on the banks of the urban Tyne, and had learnt how to be polite and sociable when speaking with any members of the public they might encounter. Yes, I know that the very idea of burgling people’s property is abhorrent, as I have been on the wrong end of a burglary. I am not condoning what these people were doing.  I am merely telling you about my rather strange encounter on a quiet up-market, residential road.

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Walking Home from the pub……

Adfam
The Adam and Eve pub. My local in Prudhoe for many years. I had some great nights in there with my Geordie mates.

I had been out socialising with my mates down at the Adam pub,  and was, if I’m honest, ever so slightly inebriated after a late night lock-in.

prudhoe
Prudhoe castle, where my mate Howard lived and worked. Not a bad gaff.

I had said “goodbye” to my mates after staggering up the lower part of the valley-side road with them from the pub. We had then gone our separate ways. Ian had to climb the hill even further  and Howard had to head off towards Prudhoe castle, where he lived and worked. I was now walking home on my own, along the long valley side residential ‘Castle road’.

It had been about two O’clock in the morning when I had suddenly noticed, coming towards me,   (emerging unexpectedly from a little footpath), six  intimidating,   huge young men. All were far bulkier than me, and all taller than my mere six feet one and a half inches. They were wearing identical black Adidas track-suits,   white trainers and black ski-masks. They may as well have had the word ‘Burglars’ flashing above their heads in coloured theatrical light bulbs!

 

Philips2816x9
It’s not so much the width, it’s the depth and the weight. These old nineties T.V.s were HUGE!

But it wasn’t quite so much what they were wearing, as what they were carrying between them, that had given away their un-social night-time activity. They hadn’t needed to wear stripy tops or carry swag bags to convince me of their preferred nocturnal pastime. I knew instantly, with absolute certainty, that it wasn’t protecting Prudhoe’s burgeoning badger population from an impending cull. What these hefty lads were juggling between them, with great difficulty, was a late nineties state-of-the-art Phillips thirty six inch screen television, and a video player. (Bear in mind that back in those days the televisions were far bulkier than today’s modern flat screen models).

On spotting me walking towards them they had made a very feeble attempt at hiding the stolen goods behind their backs, and in the process they had almost dropped them on to the path. I knew I was in a tricky situation. I had briefly considered challenging them, to attempt a citizen’s arrest, or maybe heroically running away to hide in a conifer hedge, or in some old gadge’s allotment potting shed, until they had passed. I quickly ruled out the first idea on account of liking my body and face just the way that they were.

The ski-masks had given them the appearance of fundamental religious zealots,  not permitted to show their faces in public.  I braced myself for a Geordie burglar style fatwa, with the punishment for witnessing them in their crime, (or at least having witnessed them shortly after they had committed it), almost certainly, at the very least, a damn good kicking, followed by a quiet word in whatever might be left of my ears, to keep my mouth shut about what I had seen.

I was nervous and my adrenaline had rapidly started to kick-in. I  prepared myself mentally to hit back at the closest burglar if it started to kick-off. I thought about  running away, (very courageously of course), across my Prudhoe neighbour’s back gardens, and jumping over their six foot high fences as if I was jockeying ‘Red Rum’ over ‘Beecher’s Brook’ at Aintree. I had no plans to stick around waiting for the inevitable ‘kick-a-thon’.

 

The Showdown begins……

download.jpgBURGLARS
“You’ve not seen us, reet!”

But it was too late. I couldn’t run away. They were now blocking my path.

The biggest of them leaned down towards me, (he must have been at least six feet five inches tall). He addressed me just a couple of inches from my face. I was hit with a short sharp blast of beery breath, escaping from the mouth slit on his ski-mask. “It’s a lovely evening isn’t it sir?” He slurred very politely, in matter of fact, measured Geordie tones.  We could have been walking past each other on Tynemouth Prom on a Sunday morning. This opening gambit had caught me quite unawares. He was, I thought at the time, playing mind games.    He knew very well that I would be anxious and expecting something a little bit more traditional. Something like a huge, bony, hairy finger, poking away at my slim 42 inch chest, accompanied by the words “Who the fu** do you think you’re staring at?”  Which of course we all know is a very popular fight starter, known, loved, and frequently used by ignorant thugs all over the English speaking world.   I could smell alcohol on the rest of the lads too, and their slurred speech confirmed it. I was surprised by their nonchalant attitude, they seemed quite laid-back and relaxed, given the circumstances of our meeting.

StrangeTown
“You’ll be betrayed by your accent and manners”. Paul Weller. (As strange towns go they didn’t come much stranger than Prudhoe).

They had reminded me of those German ‘S.S’. officers at the railway station in the film ‘The Great Escape’. You may recall them,  coolly checking on the identity papers of all of the passengers, as they tried to find the escaping allied prisoners of war. They caught out one of the British officers, (wearing French civilian disguise),   by wishing him “Good luck”. He had stupidly replied, in a very upper crust English accent, “Oh thanks awfully old boy.” So maybe that was their game, were they were trying to lure me into a false sense of security with their politeness? To quote Paul Weller, (from his excellent ‘Strange Town’), “You’ll be betrayed by your accent and manners (in a strange town)”.  I was a lone Southerner, (and like Weller himself, also a Woking lad). I’m a tall, slim bloke, not really built for scrapping after the pubs close, and I was facing six hefty Geordie thugs. I was three hundred plus miles from ‘home’, and I didn’t have any big Southern Vinnie Jones look-a-likes to help me out if it should all ‘kick-off’.

I raised myself as high as I could onto my toes, my heels now a few inches off the path, and I looked him right in the eyes. “Yes, it is a lovely evening, you’re not wrong mate”, I replied firmly, almost aggressively, in my blatantly Southern (Surrey) accent,  showing no fear.  He was flanked by two of his burglar mates, and behind them were the other three. They looked like they were rugby players preparing for a scrum down with Tynedale R.F.C. and the T.V. and V.C.R. were sandwiched between the two ‘rows’.  These big ‘farmer-boy stock’ lads were not a pretty sight. As I stood there, trying to quickly weigh up whatever options I might have had left, it struck me that despite the ever present threat of the ‘kick-a-thon’,  the situation was quite amusing, in a surreal kind of way.  I couldn’t help myself and a silly smile had slipped out. I was watching them struggling with the bulky weight of the T.V. and the V.C.R., and in their semi-drunken state I’m sure they thought I couldn’t see them. The leader, seeing my silly grin, addressed me again “You sound like a Southerner pal.”  He said accusingly. (Not much gets past you, I thought). I was secretly quite pleased at his use of the word ‘Southerner’ and not the usual ‘Cockney’. Yes, I am a Southerner, and very proud of it too. Well spotted ‘pal’. (I emphasised the ‘pal’ that he had just used on me). I much preferred that to being incorrectly labelled as a ‘Cockney’, yet again. “Yes”, I said, “Guilty as charged”.  I was still waiting for that first blow. I heard one of them mutter “Bloody Southerners, coming up here, taking jobs away from us hard-working night-shift workers.” The lad to his left had joined in. “Yes, and our women too,  they’re always so much better looking than us!” (O.K., I admit it, I may have made that last bit up just to annoy some of my Geordie mates). I braced myself ready for violence. Perhaps they had been worried that I might ‘dob’ them in at the local ‘nick’ in the morning.

 

If I had decided to run they wouldn’t have caught me. By the time that they had put the T.V. and V.C.R. down on the path, I would have been hurdling over my third fence. Adrenaline and fear have that effect, it’s a heady brew.  But I had decided to ‘front’ it out. They looked warily at me and then traded worried looks with each other. The boot, (or in this case the trainer), was now on the other foot. It was on my foot.  Had my apparent lack of fear suggested to them that it was me that was a danger to them, and not vice-versa? Just what was it, they may have been thinking, was it that I had, that was giving me such confidence against such overwhelming odds?  What exactly, they may have thought, would a lanky, jumper wearing, Michael Palin look-a-like Southerner have, that  would give him the supreme air of self-confidence that he so exuded ? Just what might he have lurking up his heavy-knit, multi-coloured Scandinavian sweater sleeves? Maybe they thought I was a black belt in karate, or perhaps that I had an ‘Uzi’ sub-machine pistol secreted away under my baggy jumper. Perhaps they were expecting me to give them an evil, sly grin, and then cut them all down in a hail of bullets and flying brass spent cartridges.

In reality of course I was feeling decidedly queasy, but they didn’t know that. Never show fear, that’s my advice to anybody who ever finds themselves in a similar situation.   Because if you do,  just like a rabid dog, they will smell that fear on you and launch their attack. I continued my pretence and kept my head held high, looking them each in the eye-slits of their ski-masks.

Star Gazing…..(a kind of ice-breaker)….

Suddenly we all saw a shooting star and all of us exclaimed different variations of “Wow, did you see that?” (Many with swear words added in). We all continued to look up at the clear night sky  and made small talk about constellations  and planets. As you do. I asked them if they watched Patrick Moore’s ‘Sky at night’ T.V. show. They all did. I pointed out ‘Pegasus’. They in return, not to be outdone on their knowledge of astronomy by a mere Southerner, showed me where ‘Hercules’ was to be found, (and as they pointed up they had almost dropped the T.V. again). These Geordie burglars were not only courteous and friendly, but well educated too. I was impressed.

The Geordie Burglars decide against using me as a football…..

But to my relief I don’t think they were in the mood for violence. They  stepped aside and then continued on their wobbly way, probably to go and visit the local ‘fence’ up at a pub in the town centre,   or perhaps to go to one of the lad’s homes, to play the latest computer games on their recently acquired big telly. I just hope that they remembered to nick all the relevant cables too.

They’re going to Graceland, Graceland…..

As they continued on their merry way,   the probable leader called out over his shoulder, “Good night to you sir!” One of his gang added pleasantly

“It has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance sir, what did you say your name was again?”

graceland.paulsimon
The excellent ‘Graceland’ album, by Paul Simon. “Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum!” Buy it.

“I didn’t”. I replied, in the deepest, manliest Southern voice that I could muster. “But you can call me Al”. Al? Why Al you may be thinking. Well Al was the first name that I could think of, as I didn’t want to give them my real name. I had been listening to Paul Simon’s brilliant ‘Graceland’ album a lot at the time. They giggled at my response and replied in unison, “Good night Al!”  I responded by asking him for his name. Showing the usual Geordie quick wits he didn’t disappoint. He told me his name was “Houses….. Robin Houses”. We laughed. (I hope you did too). Another burglar piped-up, “My name’s Yertelli, Nick…… Yertelli”.  These lads were on a roll. They should have been on a social club stage, not nicking tellies. Who said burglars can’t be comedians too? They could always ‘break-in’ to the big time! (Enough with the cheesy jokes already!-Ed.)

As they walked drunkenly away giggling,   still struggling to carry their illicit cargo, they  spontaneously began to sing and rhythmically sway……

“If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal”. (The leader sang the “Dum-dum-dum- dum-dum-dum-dum-dum” bit).

I stood there for a couple of minutes enjoying the spectacle, watching them slowly moving away from me down ‘Castle road’, swaying from side to side as they did so, Zulu style……

“I can call you Betty, and Betty when you call me, you can call me Al!”

 

Waking all the Neighbours Up…..

A little further down the road a bedroom window opened, and a man shouted “Do you do requests pal?” The burglars stopped singing and dancing for a moment. They looked at each other first, and then up at him and replied, “Why-aye man, we can do like!”

“Well ***k off then and let the rest of us sleep!” Came ‘window man’s’ instant reply. I think the burglars were offended by his use of the ‘F’ word. Their leader said “Now there’s really no need for that sort of language! What if you woke up a bairn and they heard you cursing like that?” The man at the bedroom window had suddenly looked quite ashamed. He apologised profusely to the burglars,  said “Goodnight lads”, and then shut the window. The burglars shook their heads in horror at the declining social standards, and then continued on their merry thieving way up the steep Prudhoe bank road. That telly was heavy and their backs were going to know about it in the morning. I turned away and continued on my own way home. Those lyrics went through my head again….I began to sing and sway from side to side too….

“Far away, my well-lit door, Mr beer-belly, beer-belly,  bone….digger, bone…..digger, dogs in the moonlight, why am I soft in the middle now?”

The Next Morning…..

I can’t  recall getting home that night, but I do remember waking up on my sofa the next morning and feeling like a hamster had crawled into my mouth during the night, been sick a couple of times, died, and then got stuck in my windpipe. That bloody song was still going around and around in my head too…..

“If you’ll be my bodyguard I can be your long lost pal, dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum”.

The Burgled Brummie Burglar…….

There is an odd little footnote to this strange tale. A couple of days later I heard, through the usual gossip-grapevine down at the ‘Adam’, that there had been a burglary further up the road on our estate that night. Apparently a big telly, a video player and some other smaller items had been stolen, including, strangely enough, six ski-masks.

The man they had burgled that night was also a burglar. He was an incomer to the region, (from Birmingham), who had somewhat belatedly taken Norman Tebbit’s advice to ‘Get on his bike’, although in his case it had more than likely been on somebody else’s. It was believed that the local burglars had soon fallen out with him over disputed thieving territories. The Brummie had apparently been robbing on their patch and they weren’t at all happy. So they had decided to burgle him. (A tip off had told the Geordie burglar lads that the Brummie burglar was away thieving in Spain, he was on a sort of ‘busman’s holiday’).

When he had returned, the police, who at the time did not yet realise that he was a burglar, had called around to speak with him to discuss the burglary on his property, and to offer him some counselling via ‘victim support’. The burgled Brummie burglar had been very reluctant to speak with them, and this had aroused the detective’s suspicions, that, and probably also the many boxes of ‘Adidas’ track-suits and trainers, and the big pile of video recorders that the police had found in his utility room, oh, and the stripy jumpers,  the swag bag,  other ski-masks, and the sawn-off shotgun hidden away in his garage in a trunk. (They were all a dead giveaway). I also suspect that the jemmy bar that he had left lying carelessly on the kitchen table wouldn’t have helped his defence much either.

 

While the detectives were there dusting everything down for fingerprints they had also taken his, in order to rule them out from any others that they might find around the house, or on any future recovered stolen property.  A sharp eyed copper at the local Prudhoe station had met the Brummie guy once before in the near-by ‘Falcon’ pub,  and with his policeman’s instinct he had thought there was something a little bit dodgy about the Brummie,  (other than his strange accent). He had also heard the rumours in the local working men’s clubs about the Brummie’s industrious, nocturnal activities. He had visited the Northumbria police H.Q. at Gosforth, and checked the Brummie’s fingerprints against many unsolved robberies around the Tyne Valley area in recent months.  He soon realised that the Brummie burglar was a one man burgling epidemic of epic, biblical proportions. The burglary rate in Birmingham must have significantly fallen after he had nicked that bike to go north. No wonder the local Geordie burglars weren’t happy with him moving on to their patch. They had a living to make, children to feed, mortgages to pay, and ‘trophy’ wives who liked to spend lots of money on sunbeds and at the ‘Metro Centre’ to make themselves look ‘glamorous’.

The Brummie burglar was leaving them with so little to steal that some Geordie burglars were taking drastic action. Some had even written to the then prime minister John Major, and even to the ‘E.U’. commissioner, demanding something to be done about it. Some had even started looking for ‘proper’ daytime jobs where you didn’t have to hide your face. Since he had arrived in the Tyne Valley the local Geordie burglars had broken into many Tyne Valley homes, only to find a dusty space where the telly and video recorder had once sat, and a little note saying “Sorry lads, but that bastard Brummie burglar has already nicked all of our electrical appliances, and my wife’s treasured family heirloom jewelry too, so don’t even bother coming upstairs. You’re too late. But do feel free to put the kettle on and have a brew while you’re here, the chocolate biscuits are in the cupboard above the draining board, and do please remember to shut the door quietly on your way out so as not to wake the bairns. Oh, and please don’t disturb the dog either, we wouldn’t want him to bite you”. (Didn’t I tell you those Geordies are very hospitable folk?) The Brummie was working far too hard and giving them all a very bad name. His prints were found on literally thousands of unsolved burglaries in the area.

What Goes Around, Comes Around…..

terry-mcdermott
O.K., so they aren’t Geordies by birth, but all three lived and worked in Newcastle during the 90s, (at Newcastle F.C.,) and are all good examples of the Geordie ‘look’ of the time. Terry McDermott, (on the right with the moustache), with Kevin Keegan to his right, (he was practically a God in 90s Prudhoe), and the brilliant Micky Quinn, (sitting behind our Kev), using his perm as a makeshift moustache.

A couple of cop cars and a van were sent speeding up to his house on Castle road. Their wailing sirens accompanied by the sound of hundreds of flushing toilets, as worried residents spotted them coming and chucked all their weed and coke down their toilets. The burgling Brummie was promptly nicked. His prints had also turned up in a Prudhoe sportswear shop. That was of course where he had stolen the track-suits and trainers. In nineties Prudhoe no self-respecting fashion conscious Geordie man could ever be seen out in public without wearing a track-suit, or a moustache, and preferably both if you didn’t want to stand out. If you went into a Newcastle pub back in those days without the ‘uniform’ you would have, at the very least, raised eyebrows, and people would definitely have pointed at you as you entered the pub.  The Brummie burglar had been selling them out of the back of his car, (the track suits and trainers that is, not the moustaches), around the local industrial estates. He had sold some of them on to one of his new Geordie mates, who had then sold them on to his own mates down the working men’s club in Prudhoe, who by chance just happened to be the same lads that I had met that night, who had of course  burgled the Brummie’s own home a little earlier, while he had been out sunning himself in Spain, and robbing  ex-pat Cockney criminal’s gaffs, while they were all out down the local ‘British’ pub bragging about how they had masterminded both the ‘Great Train Robbery’ and the ‘Brinks Mat’ warehouse job. What goes around comes around.

So, to recap on a small point……just in case you weren’t paying attention, (well it was a little complicated to be fair), the Geordie burglar lads I met were wearing track suits, trainers and ski-masks that the Brummie burglar had previously stolen from the sports shop in Prudhoe. Well it was a small town. It’s all quite ironic. You really couldn’t make it all up. Some of it, yes perhaps, but all of it? Probably not. The End.

This story was based on events that really did happen to me in Prudhoe in the late nineties. At the time it wasn’t quite so funny.  If you have enjoyed this daft story keep a look out for more from me.

 

 

 

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 1st, 2015. Edited April, 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.,  remain the intellectual property of those who created them. You can also find me on ‘Facebook’..@ ‘It’s a Dark, Dark Night’

markanthonywyatt.com

markawyatt@moonwindbag1@hotmail.co.uk

The Japanese Silk Kimono

 

Alan was, like me, a Bude resident and a huge Bob Dylan fan. He was also one of my earliest gardening clients and would soon become a good friend too, but sadly it wasn’t to last very long, as within two years of our initial meeting he would be dead from a heart attack.

Occasionally, if I drive down Killerton road, (mostly on my way somewhere else), with its beautiful red brick Edwardian three storey town houses, I catch sight of his house. The memories all come flashing back. How I wish he was still around. I could stop by for a coffee, or perhaps something a little stronger, and catch up on what he’s been up to, where he’s been, who he’s recently met, and listen to his latest music purchase. (He always had such diverse tastes). Perhaps, in some other alternate dimension, he really is still in there, maybe in the front room, and he’s probably still wearing that awful kimono that he had on at our first meeting! Sometimes I feel the urge to pull up outside his old escallonia hedge, (worse for wear these days without my care), and his little wrought iron black garden gate. I will slide my car door window down, recline my seat a little, put my head back, shut my eyes for a few minutes and listen…… really listen, and i’ll swear I can still hear Alan singing along with Bob…..

Alan was in his late sixties, perhaps even his early seventies when I first met him. His face and build were as you might imagine the classic ‘Coca Cola’ style Santa Claus. Although Alan was at least twenty five years my senior when our paths first crossed, we had immediately bonded. It was a bright, sunny early spring morning and I was a bit early for our initial ‘face to face’ meeting to discuss the gardening job, which we had set-up a few days earlier on the telephone. Having rung the doorbell I had politely stood back a little and waited. I was not really sure if he had heard the ‘ring’ and was contemplating ringing the door bell again. I could hear the unmistakable nasal sound of Bob Dylan Dylanblasting out of his opened front room bay window, and I do mean blasting. His speakers were obviously turned up to eleven. Bob was being accompanied by a much deeper, bassier voice. Was it Johnny Cash? Well no, it wasn’t. Was it Tom Waits? No. Was it Ramblin’ Jack? Err, no, it wasn’t him either. It was, of course, yes, you’ve guessed it, Alan! They were singing together and sounded (almost) as good as any other musical duo.  Simon and Garfunkel,  the Everly brothers, the Milk Carton Kids, Frank and Nancy Sinatra. O.K., so they weren’t really that good, but with a little practice, who knows? Bob of course had no knowledge of it, he was probably sitting in a log cabin in a forest somewhere at the time, perhaps he was reading very old newspapers from his local library to gen up on ideas for new songs. The brilliant line….. “She opened up a book of poems and handed it to me, it was written by an Italian poet from the 15th century”, floated out of the window. Genius. Shakespear? Who’s he? I already liked the guy!  Anybody who likes ‘His Bobness’ is O.K. by me. Now, if it had been Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” I might well have got back into my van and driven away fast. Very fast. My wheels spinning and tyres screeching along with Whitney.

santa
Alan looked very much like this, especially at Christmas time when he played Santa for local playgroups, but for the purposes of this story try to think of him dressed in a sexy Kimono. Not easy, I know……

I was later to realise that Alan had some serious hearing issues, but as with the chicken and the egg story, I don’t know which came first. Did Alan need to have the music very loud in order to hear it, because he was a bit deaf, or was it the constant loud music that had actually caused his deafness?
Just as I was about to push the little white button again the deeper, bass voice stopped singing, and a bloke that looked like an off-duty Santa Claus had opened the front door.  He stood there, almost filling the door frame. He was a very big man! He took a long, hard, serious look at me, before, after about ten seconds, his expression had changed to a warm welcoming smile. I think he had decided that he liked me! There was already an unspoken bond. He was wearing a Japanese silk kimono, open at his ample waist,  with his pallid, saggy stomach hanging over his baggy boxer pants. The boxers had clearly seen better days, (probably back in the late nineties judging by the state of them). They were emblazoned with two large caricature head portraits. On my left was Tony Blair and on the right was George Bush junior. (Junior? As if one George Bush wasn’t enough for the world.) They reminded me of the ‘Beavis and Butthead’ cartoon characters and looked as if they were deep in conversation. (Maybe they were dreaming up excuses to invade more oil rich, strategically located sovereign countries, who knows?) I had involuntarily giggled at this odd, unexpected sight. Alan, following that age old actor’s wisdom, ‘Unexpected laugh? Check your flies’,  had looked down and quickly realised that the cause of my sudden mirth was the silly pants that he was wearing.

His smile was put on hold as he looked down intensely at the two cartoon heads,  as if he was only now seeing them for the very first time. “Oh, the boxers.” He said, now smiling again. “That’s nothing, you wait until you see my backside!” I quickly protested that I really had no desire to see his backside, that it was far too early in our ‘relationship’, and told him that it was not that long since I had digested my Cornflakes. But Alan was far too quick for me and had already done a ‘twirl’ that would have put Anthea Redfern to shame. He now had his back to me, facing away from me towards his stairs. He bent forward theatrically and with a flourish he raised the kimono up and over the rear of his boxers. Now you are going to have to take my word on this, but it really was not a pretty sight. At that precise moment Dave the postman had sauntered by behind me on his Killerton road round. He was an old pal of Alans and was used to his odd ways. He stopped for a moment, wolf-whistled and said, “You’re not still showing those bloody pants off are you Alan?” Before walking briskly off, giggling like a five year old.
Emblazoned on the rear of Alan’s boxers was the slogan. ‘A right pair of assholes!’ He stood back up and turned back towards me laughing, shaking the Kimono so it fell back down his legs, and he tied up the waist-band. “Hi!” He said, (we shook hands), “You must be Mark? I’m Alan. My missus bought these boxers at the quayside in Bristol, what do you think of them?”

”I love them Alan, and I have to say that I totally agree with your backside”. Alan laughed. “Just the one question Mark”. He looked me deep in the eyes. “Do you like Dylan?”

“What’s not to like?” I responded quickly with a grin.

“Well then my new friend in that case I think that we are going to get on just fine. The job’s yours! (There were no questions about my gardening qualifications or ability to do the job.) Well don’t just stand there grinning like a village idiot, come on in, shut that door behind you and follow me. There are some nice new foreign bottled beers in the fridge, ‘three for a fiver’ from Sainsburys, have you bought any yet? We’ll grab one each on the way through to the back garden”. I walked through his very long ground floor, (these Killerton road houses were like Dr Who’s Tardis, far bigger than they appeared from the outside). I followed his swishing kimono,  carefully side-stepping piles of old newspapers and other old clutter as I did so, (Alan was a compulsive hoarder). Soon we dropped down a couple of concrete steps and arrived in his long galley-style kitchen. He stopped for a moment by the back door and opened up the huge American style fridge door. He handed me a cold bottle covered with condensation, took one for himself, grabbed a bottle opener, and then led me out into the rear patio area. It was a beautiful, traditional, very long cottage-style garden. We both sat down at an ornate wrought iron and wood patio table in the sunshine. Alan took the lid off of our bottles, and then raised his bottle above his head. It glinted in the morning sunshine. “Up yer kilt!” Alan toasted.

“Don’t you mean up yer Kimono?” I replied. Working for Alan was going to be a lot of fun. Up until meeting him that morning even getting a coffee and a biscuit on a gardening job had been a bit of a rarity, but now here I was not only getting free beers, but also getting great music thrown in too, and…… being paid for it! Life was good. Real good……….

This was written in memory of my old mate Alan, see you again sometime….. if I make the grade!

Written by Mark Anthony Wyatt, of Bude

February, 2015. (Edited Dec 2015)

Find me on Facebook at ‘Mark Anthony Wyatt (Bude) or at my Fbk page ‘It’s a Dark, Dark Night’

markanthonywyatt.com

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

BIG “Thank-you” to ALL of my other friends who have supported my writing…but especially to the late Maurice Willmott, (R.I.P. Maurice, we all miss you), and my lovely friend Chrissie Sullivan, another gardening client who also became such a good friend. She used to tell me to “write it all down, people will love your stories like I do!”

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.

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!

February, 2015