Monthly Archives: August 2018

Interesting Times

I scared the life out of a BMW driver tonight. He pulled out in front of me at a roundabout, realised he’d cut things a bit fine and swerved onto the grass verge. I, proceeding in an unhurried manner, just looked quizzical. Fortunately it was dark, as my quizzical look is not one for the faint-hearted.

He was never in any danger because we weren’t going fast. I think he was probably a bit tired, misjudged it and then misjudged it again when he saw me.

A moment later we were in the car park where a woman was standing on her head. Yes, you read that correctly.

She was wearing baggy trousers so she could have been a circus act (they have them staying at the Travelodge from time to time) or she may just like nocturnal yoga.

It must have been a surprise to Number Two Son, who let out a squeak. After a sporting career playing Number 8 and Loose Forward he doesn’t squeak easily.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m in a Dali painting.

 

Some more stamps…

We bought some stamp sets last week and I put this one to one side for a photo. The five stamps come to £1.89, which is, coincidentally, (and 20 years after issue) the value of second class Signed For postage.

They are a bit shiny so the individual shots didn’t come out too well.

 

Sorry about that. They are a good set, featuring some great stories, and deserve better pictures than this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just a short post today. I may try another one later. It was a hectic day with 24 parcels to do – one with 46 items in it and another with 24 medallions. They take some packing!

Sounds silly after some of the jobs I’ve had to say I’m exhausted after packing a few parcels, but there you are – old age.

I also failed my blood test this morning, so I’m back again next week. Pah!

Jute, Jam and Journalism

Today, I’ll start with DD4.

DD is Dundee, and Dundee is famous for the three things in the title. We went there on holiday just over ten years ago and I feel quite nostalgic about it. The kids were still young enough to like their parents and used to enjoy seeing new things. The wilderness years of teenagery and rebellion were still in the future.

We missed the Keiller factory, though we did see fields of fruit canes, which took care of the “jam” element. D C Thomson, publishers of many famous comics and annuals, are also based there. I say “famous” rather than “comprehensible” because it includes Scottish classics such as Oor Wullie and The Broons, which are distinctively Scottish in language. It’s a bit like reading Burns, but with the bonus of pictures.

We did, however, see the “jute“. In fact we saw a lot more jute than we wanted to, as we were forced to endure a lengthy film and display by a stern woman who seemed unwilling to let us go without forcing us full of information on jute. I suspect she’d once been a Gauleiter in the Jute Information Board or some such body.

Though we were interested in the jute, we were actually there for the Tay Bridge and the Discovery.

I’m not sure exactly which postcode it all fell under but Dundee is DD1 to DD4 so it will do. With hindsight we should have spent more than just one day in Dundee as there’s a lot to see.

It was a great holiday in some ways, and a low point in another. At the time someone owed me £1,200, and the recovery process wasn’t going well. After one particular phone call I made life hell for everyone, which really wasn’t fair. It’s one of those things that comes back to haunt me – bad parent, bad husband. Fortunately it was only for part of a day.

The debtor eventually came up with £600. Then he died, with no assets and a gambling problem I’d been unaware of.

He drowned after falling into a ditch and whilst in drink. (Gambling wasn’t his only problem).  There was some talk about a car being seen speeding away from the area where he was found. There was also a suggestion that I’d been involved. And that was why I sometimes tell people I was a suspect in a murder case. (I wasn’t, because the police never contacted me, but it makes me sound more interesting).

The interesting fact about DD4?

Er…

There are three towns in the UK with football stadiums less than a mile apart.

At three – Liverpool and Everton. Under a mile apart.

At two – Nottingham Forest and Notts County – the closest football league grounds in England, just 300 yards apart.

At one – Dundee and Dundee United – the closest in the UK – just 100 yards apart. Look at the map and gasp in wonder. They are close.

 

 

 

Frank Soo

I was entering pre-war football cards onto eBay, specifically the large sized Topical Times series from the 1930’s. I find them awkward to work with and tricky to photograph, because they are nearly ten inches long with a tendency to curl. I’ve mainly used the scanner, because it flattens them nicely for the picture.

Yes, I’ve finally worked out how to use the scanner properly, though you can only fit two of these monster cards on at a time.

Ears, as you can see from the photographs, were worn larger in the 1930’s.

When I started on the colour cards, which are much less harrowing than the black and white images, I found Frank Soo.

 

The combination of name and slightly oriental features made me look again.

Frank Soo, was the first man of Chines heritage to become a professional footballer and first man of non-white heritage to play for England (in nine wartime Internationals). He went on to manage a number of teams in Sacandinavia, Italy and Scunthorpe. As a collector of trivia, I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of him.

His brother Ronald flew with the RAF in the war (Frank served in the RAF in a technical capacity) and was shot down and killed as a Lancaster air-gunner in 1944.

It’s amazing what you can learn if you keep your eyes open.

Torpingtons, Tankers and What Might Have Been…

We bought an accumulation of ephemera last week from the family of a DFC winner, Flt Lt Charles Stein. He flew in Wellington bombers with 38 Squadron in Malta and North Africa. They were, at one point, converted to carry torpedoes, and had some important successes in the Desert campaign. In this role they were known as “Torpingtons”.

His DFC was awarded for his part in a successful torpedo attack on an Italian tanker bringing fuel to Rommel’s Afrika Corps. (See London Gazette 5th February 1943 – Pilot Officer Charles Lourie STEIN (131139), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 38 Squadron).

As a result of this, and several other attacks, the Afrika Korps eventually ground to a halt when the Panzers and Luftwaffe ran out of fuel.

We have a selection of propaganda leaflets, maps and other bits and pieces that he accumulated during his flying days.

Wellington crew - 38 Squadron

Wellington crew – 38 Squadron

He’s one of the young men in this photograph. Five of them wrote their details on the back – at least three, possibly four, didn’t make it. They were, I think, an earlier crew than the one he won his DFC with, and died in several different actions.

Three were killed on operations with 38 Squadron, one was probably killed with another squadron (there aren’t quite enough details to confirm this), and I can’t read the name of the final man.

Stein himself ended up in hospital with diphtheria after winning the DFC and wrote to his parents with the news while he was still in hospital. While he was there his crew was posted as missing when they failed to return from a mission. As there are no reports of enemy action that night it is likely they suffered engine failure and went down in the sea. Or, as they flew low searching for shipping, it’s possible they just flew into the sea.

According to the details we were given, Mr Stein went on to have a long and happy life, successful both in business and in bringing up a family. One child became an academic, one a professional violinist and the third worked in fashion. It makes you wonder what the other aircrew could have done if they’d been given a chance.

And then there are the other questions. If he’d been with them would he have died? Or would his experience have helped the crew survive?

His main regret, according to his daughter, was that he wasn’t allowed to keep the jacket he was wearing in the photograph.

WW2 propaganda leaflet

WW2 propaganda leaflet

Not all the leaflets are as interesting as this.

 

Coincidence…

Time for more postcodes.

PE13 and SW4.

PE is Peterborough, one I know well – I’ve lived in several different Peterborough postcodes. Peterborough itself is fairly interesting, but it’s not in PE13 so you will have to wait for details of two queens, ten saints and the aircraft factory.

Back in PE13 you might be forgiven for gasping at the sheer emptiness of it. The Fens are basically a lot of flatness topped off by a huge sky.  I lived in PE15 once so I know this from first hand experience. PE13 does a good job of looking like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but actually it’s it’s just close to the edge of nowhere.

The interesting fact isn’t that I used to rear chickens in Parson Drove, or that I nearly hit a wall one night when driving with youthful stupidity, it is that Parson Drove was the site of the last woad mill in England – it closed in 1910. The last commercial crop of woad was grown in Lincolnshire in 1932. We did look at growing it when we were on the farm but, though it’s easy enough to grow, it’s hard work to extract the dye and nobody was interested in using it.

There are other interesting facts but I like woad because of its links to the body paint of the ancient Britons.

SW4 is in London – Clapham, to be precise. I know nothing about London. I’ve visited a few times but much of my knowledge is based on watching TV or blog posts of Derrick Knight. According to Wikipedia a Roman Road runs through it, which is always interesting, and Samual Pepys lived there for a couple of years. As he had his horse stolen in Parson Drove, which he called a “heathen place”, in 1663, this forms a neat link to put the two places together.

I promise this was coincidence – this is the actual order in which we listed the parcels.

A Few Bright Spots

The high point of the day was probably repairing my camera with a penknife. It’s nice to know that although everything is now chipped, computerised and digitised a quick jab from a Mk I penknife can still do a useful job.

It wasn’t a particularly technical job, just adjusting the fit of a socket in the side of the camera. I have been having problems with the lead falling out when downloading photographs. I don’t have that problem now, and I’m going to charge myself £50 for the repair. This, I’m fairly sure, would be the situation if I sent it away.

There was a time, when every boy carried a penknife, and knew how to use it for repairing things, sharpening things and opening things. It’s a lost art now. We have unrepairable sealed units, health and safety and cunning packages that don’t need cutting. In addition we have legislation about knives so I daren’t even keep it in my pocket.

I keep it in the plastic box I use for carrying my writing materials and use it for sharpening pencils. (Just in case anyone in law enforcement is reading this).

Over the last few days I’ve added 23 postcodes to the list, including 14 on Monday when working alone. It was hard work on Monday but it’s actually easier working on your own, as nobody takes the stamps or sellotape when you’re in the middle of using them.

At the moment I’m in danger of having more postcodes than interesting facts, so it’s clearly time to get searching.

I’ve also been trying to use as many different stamps as possible: I’m easily amused.