Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dispatches from London

Followers of this blog will know of Michael Sherbourne, a British WWII vet still forming an outpost of reason in what may yet become Londonistan. Michael has exchanged e-mails with other readers about his life, and I earlier posted his recollection of a meeting of famous British leftists extolling Stalinist Russia.

Below, with his permission, are some of his exchanges. They should keep him in the Tower of London, with other British national treasurers. ~Bob

I was born in London's most poverty stricken area, in February, 1917 into a very poor family, as my father was more out of work than in. The "dole" as they then called the government payout to unemployed was never sufficient for a family of two parents and four growing boys.

We didn't have bikes until we left school (mostly at 14)

We had no cars to ride in (never mind safety belts). Cars were only for the rich -- and I mean RICH.

Our milk was delivered in a horse-drawn "chariot" with two large churns into which the milkman dipped a pewter measure of either one or two pints which he then poured into the customer's jug. His milk was not refrigerated. We had no "fridges".

We had no gardens so no garden hose to drink from. If we were lucky we had a back yard. Our houses were all back-to-back.

Where we lived there were no trees for us to climb and fall from. We climbed lamp posts

We had no radios (which were called wireless sets) and of course television had not yet been invented. We had no telephones.

To play football (soccer) we had no ball, so we screwed up into a ball-shaped mass, old newspapers tied round and round with string and for goals we used chalk lines drawn on facing walls.

The same for cricket. The wicket was three vertical lines chalked on a telegraph pole with a short line on top and the ball was a smaller version of the football, using less newspaper. For a bat we would find an old plank of wood and fashion a handle on it




Through the medium of this 'ere contraption they call a "KompYouTer", I have made a
number of what used to be called in the bygone days, when people actually WROTE to
each other, "Pen-Pals", which includes yourself. Today's youngsters probably don't know
what is meant by "pen and ink", when even before the days of fountain pens, people used
a steel nib in a wooden holder which was dipped into an inkwell holding LIQUID ink.
Our school desks, built to accommodate two pupils (in those days we were "pupils" and
"students" were at university) had two inkwells, which were refilled by the ink-monitor, a
favoured pupil, every Monday morning. When the nib became rusty from use, it was
replaced by a new nib. And we used to go home from school with ink-stained fingers.

When the "fountain pen" was invented (I don't know when, but I would guess about the end of the 19th or early 20th century) it was rather fatter than the old wooden penholder because it had a small bladder inside which received its ink by being squeezed by a small lever outside, creating a vacuum when the lever was released and the ink was sucked in from an ink bottle.

Today's young people use their mobile(cell) phones to send Text Messages such as the
following:-- "U R 2 Yz 4 me" and are forgetting to read and write their own language.

The word "pen" comes from a bird's feather or pen or quill, which was sharpened and split at the end, and which was the writing instrument from as far back as early historic times when Man first began to write, until the Industrial Revolution, when iron and steel came into usage.

That's enough for today.

Best wishes to all my new American "pen-pals"


I have mentioned a little about my childhood days in an earlier message.

Let me add a little more.

I recall one occasion when we playing our own version of "cricket", with just one wicket instead of the correct two, and that was chalked on a nearby telegraph pole, and our "ball", was old newspapers rolled into a ball and tied round and round with string. A policeman strolling along "on his beat" saw us and crudely said: (in a pronounced Cockney Accent) "Come on, now, enough of that now (pronounced "nah"), clear orf nah!

My mother was sitting on an upstairs window sill, cleaning the outside of the windows. She saw and heard this remark and called out to the copper (or "bobby" or "peeler" as they were commonly known) "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. They ain't doing no harm. Weren't you ever a child yourself" The copper looked up, turned red and without another word, walked away.

We had no bathroom (I'll come to that another time), and the toilet, or lavatory as we called it, was outside in the back yard. During the winter it regularly froze solid. There was no lock on the door. On one occasion, when I think I was about 8 years old, I stole a cigarette from my father who was asleep in a chair, a box of matches from the kitchen and crept out to our lavatory. Unfortunately for me my mother came out to get some toilet paper for my baby brother, and I was caught red-handed, (and very red-faced). After that I have never smoked at all ! ! !

Incidentally, for our so-called "toilet paper" we again used the perennial newspaper, which my brothers and I used to have to cut into squares about 5 ins. X 5 ins. watched carefully by my mother who would then pierce a hole in one corner, through which she threaded a piece of string and then hung the packet on a nail on the lavatory wall.

More will follow in due course.


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