AS I SEE IT!…. “times…they are a changing!”

Sitting thinking this morning, about the events that have taken place over the past few days, I was reminded of this quote..                      “What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?” – Ralph Ellison

I decided to look back over the past 55 years or so. It is a rather humbling experience when we get totally honest with oneself. I guess we all, at some point, go.. “If only I could go back and do it all again?” Well, the sad reality of that is”No ! we can’t” It’s a bit of a bastard really, because pretty much all of us at some point will have thought like this. Recently retired, or more to the point, semi-retired, I’ve begun to do some soul searching. Now, that’s no easy thing for me and I can finally admit to this… I’ve looked at the events that have taken place throughout my lifetime and the influences that have furrowed deep into my soul. When I reflect, I am often reminded of that iconic Dylan song from 1964… “The times they are a changing”

The Sixties were dominated by the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Protests.. There were the assassinations of US President John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King,.. There was of course, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and finally ending on a good note,  with the first man stepping foot on the moon . Of course we lived through turbulent times, however, most of us were oblivious to the international events taking place. We were far more interested in music, cars and fashion. For a lot of us, we were coming to grips with our personal growth… We were beginning to understand what it was to be a ‘teenager’ and our future was being molded. Most of us were beginning to grow, influenced by events happening around us. The Vietnam War, Civil Rights, Dr Who and Star Trek.  We remember the birth of the ‘mini skirt, catapulting Mary Quant to international acclaim. Many of the conflicts during the 60’s could be considered to be part of the ongoing cold war between the East and the West ..          ( Communism — Capitalism ) Many believe the closest the world has come to a World Wide Nuclear War was in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.. John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States From January 20, 1961 till his assassination on November 22, 1963 at Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and The Voting Rights Act of 1965 changed the lives of the African Americans minority by ensuring equal rights for all…  The Charismatic Martin Luther King, who was a civil rights advocate and exceptionally gifted speaker , followed other great leaders throughout history. He used non-violent means and together, with the power of speech, managed to create change. Through his influence, he created a strong following.  He was assassinated in April of 1968 By James Earl Ray.   The Sixties also bought the space race to new heights. It ended with the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969 when Neil Alden Armstrong and Edwin Eugene ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Jr. became the first humans to land on the Moon fulfilling the American Dream to place a man on the moon before the Russians ( Space Race ) The words spoken by Neil Armstrong “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” now written into history for future generations to come.

 

This was also the start of the skateboarding era . Some surfing enthusiasts in California were frustrated by the weather and put roller skates on the front and back end of wooden planks…the rest, they say is ‘history’
Music played a big part in my life and the influences of those years are still very much with me to this day. Music began to diversify and more sub-genres emerged as the worlds of R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll became more profitable. It became easier to classify types of music in a very specific way with psychedelic, surf, folk, roots, hard rock, Motown, Acapella, all becoming recognizable in their distinctiveness. Music became a huge influence on the younger generation and was used to define the lifestyles of rockers, hippies, and protesters. The music of the time often reflected the changing social norms of the decade like the fight for civil rights for minorities and women and the anti-war movement. The British Invasion also made its mark with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as two of the most popular bands emerging from the decade, gaining worldwide notoriety and popularity that has lasted up to the present. There are many many other bands that have remained very much with me to this day.. Sadly, we have seen the demise of many great artists in the past couple of years.

How the ‘times have changed?”

 

 

 

THE WAY I SEE IT… “Just Simply Amazing!!”

I was reading a piece from American Journalist, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison. She was best known for her autobiographical work, particularly her account of growing up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and for her travel writing.  In the piece I was reading, she said…“There are no original ideas. There are only original people

This started me thinking about a conversation I’d had a little while back, with a dear colleague.

You see, she had wanted to take me to this little boutique café that she’d discovered sometime ago.funky-duck-2016

“We simply must do lunch darling man!” she said, quivering with the excitement, as you do.

I was assured that this particular café was so ‘out there’ and the food, well…

‘Just simply amazing!’

So I thought, no harm in trying this ’just simply amazing’ food?

Now seriously, I love great and innovative food.

Food that is going to leave me with the “WOW” factor!

Already, I was starting to salivate at the thought of this culinary experience.

“Totally accessible!” she assured me “and the view, it’s to die for”

Arriving at this eatery, I have to confess, the surroundings and the décor were,

‘just simply amazing!’

The rustic ambiance, outdoor settings, with good old fashioned Formica tables and the ‘retro’ chairs, complete with those old fashioned salt and pepper shakers, sugar and sauce bottles, set the scene and instantly transformed me to a time gone by.

Wait staff dressed in a style more reminiscence of the ‘50s.

A beautifully crafted ‘La Gloria’ record player, was playing some dreamy Perry Como, as he crooned away softly in the background.

Delicate china ducks adorned the walls and there was this very colourful porcelain rooster, taking pride of place on the mantle.

Mahogany and Oak tables scattered inside the café, were very befitting to the nostalgic atmosphere.

“Just simply amazing!” I could hear my friend’s words echoing inside my head!

The track that was playing, as I can still clearly recall, was “Dream Along with Me.” This was Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall theme song.

There was an elderly couple sitting at the table next to us and they were totally oblivious to everyone around them and in fact, to their surroundings.
This devoted couple was completely fixated on each other, truly ‘in love!!’

Arms outstretched, holding each others hands across the table, they gazed blindly and lovingly into each others eyes.

Then it happened!!

“Till the End of Time” played and this graceful couple, lovingly embraced and without a care in the world, started dancing right there in the middle of the café.

They couldn’t have cared less who was watching.

This was a tissue moment!

My friend had tears streaming down her face and I have to admit, I was beginning to get a pretty big lump in my throat too…

It was simply too hard to hold back the emotions and tears of this stunning moment. As feelings burst inside, as I thought of my own mother and father.

There wasn’t a sound from any of the patrons, or the staff for that matter, they simply watched, cried and listened to the music that had set this gorgeous couple free.

It was as though we were watching a scene from a movie.

When the song finished, the couple kissed and hugged each other.

With arm out stretched, the elderly gentleman took his beautiful partner, escorted her back to their table and there they sat, gazing into each other’s eyes once more.

The manager, a 30’s something ‘Hipster’ (as this, I understand is the term for such a person who emblazons the café culture amongst other things.) brought them a plate of perfect ‘triangles’ and a fresh pot of tea.

Now, at this point, I must tell you that Hipsters are nothing new, because the word hipster, was first used back in the 1940’s, with direct links to the popularity of Jazz music at that time.

Today, cafés, coffee, food, beards and bicycles, are pre-requisites to this culture.

The elderly gent, poured a fresh cup of tea for his wife and offered her the choice of sandwich’s from the plate.

She looked confused and uncertain, not aware of what to do.

Very calmly and with a reassuring voice, he said, “Just pick one my love, it’s your special treat!”

He looked dolefully at the quizzical expression on her face, remembering those wonderful years long since forgotten.

Holding back the tears, the young waitress explained…

“It’s so very sad, Mr & Mrs Perkins used to own this café. It was the best and people came from miles to enjoy their home cooked meals.

She has dementia and every week, Mr. Perkins brings her here for their little treat.”

As for the food…

“Just simply amazing!!”

“A BIT OF A YARN” …Chapter 3

I want to tell you a story.

It’s a story about love..

The love between a young boy and his devoted dog…img_0962

Despite Albert’s reassurance that everything was going to be all right, Toby was afraid to go near the stream. He would now give it a wide berth on his ramblings through the grassy paddocks, on his way to gather berries.

Uppli, as always was bounding ahead, frolicking in the warm sweet clover. Not a care in the world as his beloved master was right there, so he too, was filled with happiness. He could sense however, that Toby had a reluctance to go near the embankment. He would give the stream, now a mere trickle a narrow stare.

Albert was never far from the boy. Tom had asked him to keep a sharp eye over the lad until he found his feet once again. Molly on the other hand was a different story. On a crystal clear night, stars radiant in the moonlight, Molly suddenly bolted upright!!

Tom blearily rubbed his eyes as he was woken by the startled Molly.

“Tom!” she sobbed… “It’s Toby” “Please Tom, please go to him?”

Immediately, Tom sprung out of bed, leaving the security and warmth of the goose down covers, his feet hitting the icy floor, drawing his being to an alert sharpness.

Awake and focused, Tom made his way to Toby’s bedroom.. The door was ajar, there was no little whimper and the room was bathed in an eerie stillness.

“Toby,” whispered Tom.. “Toby, where are you boy?” he could clearly make out through the distorted surroundings that the lad had not slept in his bed.

There was no Uppli either. Tom remained calm, after all, he had fought in the Great War and he knew how to remain focused in the advent of fear.

It was an overwhelming consternation that engulfed him! “Tom!!” yelled Molly, “Tom! Is my boy there?”

“Everything will be fine my love” replied Tom, heart pounding with anxiety, but with a calmness in his voice that reassured Molly. Tom grabbed his army issue trench coat and for good measure, his trusted Purdey side-by-side self-opening side lock shot gun, a gift from Henry Royce who had once said… “Strive for perfection in everything. Accept nothing nearly right or good enough”

Tom scooped a number of cartridges from the tattered box in the hallway cupboard and emptied them into his coat pockets. Just for good measure, he loaded both barrels, then scooped another handful and put them in his trouser pockets.

Of course, he wasn’t expecting any trouble, but still ever vigilant, he was prepared. Slipping out to the cottage, he heard the sounds of the night.. Still and calm, even the smallest creature stepping on a twig was amplified.

Tom slowly surveyed the darkness, lit occasionally by the effulgence of the blood moon now commanding the night sky. Cloud prevented him from having the vision he longed for, but Tom was a resourceful and clever man..His fighting days had taught him that.

It was during the battle of Shaiba, on that April day in 1915, where Tom, a Captain with the 7th Hariana Lancers, followed Major George Godfrey Massy Wheeler onward into battle.

Wheeler had led his squadron into the midst of the enemy who rained their firepower upon these brave souls.

He ordered his officers to advance, drawing the enemy out from the hidden ground where the Royal Artillery was able to train their guns on this enemy’s infantry and annihilate them.

The next day, Major Wheeler led his squadron to the attack of the North Mound. He was seen far ahead of his men, riding straight for the enemy’s standards, but was killed in the attack.

Tom was one of the surviving officers and wrote an account of Wheeler’s bravery. As a result of his written account, Major Wheeler received a posthumous V.C.

The 7th Hariana Lancers was a cavalry regiment in the British Indian Army. It was formed in 1846 and in 1921 was amalgamated with the 6th King Edward’s Own Cavalry to form the 18th King Edward’s Own Cavalry.

In December 1919 the regiment moved to Mesopotamia, landing at Basra on 31 December. They served here until July 1920 when it returned to India, returning to its depot as Risalpur on 12 July.

Tom had a loyal and trusted Sargent, Mr Pandit Singh. His Grand father and father had both fought proudly with the7th Hariana Lancers, so it was fitting that Mr Pandit Singh followed them..

His mother was proud of her husband and would often say “Pandit you have to wear giant socks to put your feet in your Pithaa and Baap’s Juttis!”

Suddenly, Tom’s very silence was shattered!!

“A LITTLE BIT OF A YARN” …Chapter 2

I want to tell you a story.

It’s a story about love.. The love between a young boy and his devoted dog…

img_0956

Toby grew into a fine wee lad, his crop of red hair, blazon in the sunlight bounced upon his head with every step. The village had warmed to him from that very first outing with his mother. Molly had wrapped Toby in her gran’s shawl and proudly carried him into the general store. “Look at that wee lad!!” Mrs Roberts exclaimed. She was secretly envious because Bob, her husband had no desire what-so-ever to father children. He owned the store and children in his eyes were nothing but a money pit. He would rather spend the profits on whiskey, in the company of men like O’Malley. After all, they had their scarlet women to pleasure them, at a price!

All the women gathered round as Molly unwrapped her precious bundle and showed him to the ladies. Outside, there was a little whimper as Uppli was feeling neglected, once again overshadowed by Toby. He was becoming a bright and loyal pup. Always on guard and alert to the surroundings.

Mr Pandit Singh, the town’s greengrocer, had suggested to Tom Black, that the little pup should have a regal name as he was a special little little creature and had survived despite the odds..

He was named after Mr Singh’s village in India. It was a village that had struggled and had overcome insurmountable odds. It was therefore fitting that this little pup be rightly named Uppli.

The Summer of that year was to be a special time as boy and dog bonded beyond the physical. It happened on a dank irriguous evening when Toby decided he would venture to the stream for a cool swim. Rain from the previous days had filled the river with a swirling current that was swift in its excecution. Toby bounded headlong into the soothing waters, only to slip on the muddy bank and crack his head on a small rock jutting just above the surface.

Dazed and concussed, he very quickly became disorientated. He saw a shadow on the opposite bank and was just able to make out the portly figure of O’Malley. Strength was sucked from his now tired body as O’Malley just stood motionless watching the drama unfold.

Uppli besieged with devotion to his master, propelled himself into the murky waters and dug his teeth into the collar of Toby’s tattered shirt. With the bonded love, between boy and dog, way beyond the strength of a lion, he pulled his master to the muddy edge. Bounding up the bank and without a thought of catching a breath, little Uppli raced to the cottage. Heart pounding and with pain, he fought the undergrowth, determination paramount, the only focus, his ghostly white lifeless master lying on the muddy bank. Barking as only he could, his call was heard by Alfred who happened to be picking blackberries in one of the nearby paddocks.

He let out a shrill whistle that stopped Uppli dead. He knew that sound and saw Alfred run toward him. “What is it boy?” wheezed Alfred, “What is it?” Uppli tugged at the old man beckoning him to follow.

Racing ahead, then stopping to look back, making sure Alfred was keeping pace, the dog did not let up. He was beyond pain, just concerned that his beloved Toby was safe. They reached the bank of the swollen stream and found O’Malley bending over the boy.

He had expired the water from his lungs and Toby was resting in a comfortable position. A bandage around his soggy red mop was blood soaked from where he had punctured the skin. Toby was a tough character and once Albert had checked him over, he declared “You’ll live boy, you’ll live!”

Uppli sat by his master, his little heart still pounding as he continued to pant, tongue screaming for water. Then he saw O’Malley and let forth a blood curling threatened growl. He was about to leap teeth bared right into the neck of O’Malley, when a soft weakened hand reached forward and stopped the little dog in his tracks. “No Uppli! No!” whispered Toby with a calm soothing voice.. “It’s all right!”

O’Malley was fearful for his life, he turned at haste and rapidly scampered up the bank. Slipping and skidding on both knees, seething with anger, he turned and in a mordacious voice said “you’ll keep you.. you scrawny little mutt!” as he scurried to the top of the soaked bank.“Don’t worry about him son, he’s all mouth” said a calming Alfred as he hoisted Toby to his unsteady footing.. “It’s all going to be all right son. Everything’s going to be dandy!”

“A LITTLE BIT OF A YARN” …Chapter 1

I want to tell you a story.

It’s a story about love.. The love between a boy and his beloved dog…stock-photo-vintage-photo-of-a-boy-and-dog-in-front-of-shack-244884

It goes a bit like this. Many many years ago, there was this little boy, an ordinary boy by all accounts. He lived in a small town in the country. He had a dramatic entry into this world as his mother gave birth by the stream that whispered gently past the sloping bank at the bottom of their back yard. It was a bitingly cold dull Winter’s day. The frosted ground seeped as she walked at a brisk pace toward the stream. Molly was shivering with anticipation knowing her time was near. It was going to be a boy, a bonnie boy because the old widow McGregor, who had kept a sharp eye on her from the day Alfred had told her that she was with child, had made it her business to watch fiercely over her. It was about this time that her husband Tom Black, the towns ‘Jack of all Trades, was given payment for fixing O’Malley’s 1915 Rolls-Royce 40/50 Silver Ghost Limousine. Tom had once worked for the infamous Henry Royce as a motor man.. “Timeless precision” he would say to Tom, “You’ll see son, mark my words!”

Snapped back to reality with the searing spike of iced steel as

O’ Malley snarled, “Here’s ya payment” his beady eyes gleaming with malice when he caught the surprised look on Tom’s face as he threw the wriggling sugar sack at him. Blood seeped through the fibers as Tom went down on one knee to scoop up the now limp sack.

Molly was nearing her birthing time and the widow was in attendance. Fire danced around the chipped enamel pot filled with water, now nearing the boil. Anticipation was high as were spirits. There was a calmness in the air, not a sound from the birds perched looking down from their prime position. It was as though Mother Nature herself had orchestrated this birthing. The silence, broken with a scream that permeated into the very soul of all the living creatures and the air was filled with curlicue, feathers and dust mingled and danced a merry tune as Molly gave birth. It was just as the widow McGregor had foretold, a bonnie boy, the spitting image of his mother, with a fine crop of red hair and eyes as blue as the ocean itself!

Tom opened the bloodied sack, reached gently inside and found the wet and limp creature. Bones snapped from the cruel thrust as O’Malley flung the little animal to the earth. Slowly and lovingly gentle hands cupped this little bundle of fur and immediately there was a whimper. A weakened tongue reached out to the rough calloused hand as Tom slowly pulled the puppy from its prison. Blood stained and matted fur touched Tom Black and he could no longer contain the mountain of tears that had welled in his eyes. The anger came and his body was consumed with rage. Rage that another human would have such disregard for the life of this beautiful mutt.

His moment of rage was broken only by the heavy footed and breathless Alfred, who had raced from the stream shouting “It’s a boy!! It’s a boy” as he stumbled over Tom, nearly trampling the wee mutt, his excitement no longer contained. “A bonnie boy! He managed with a wheezed breath. He stopped! His gaze on the wriggling sack as the little blood soaked puppy inched its way into the light.

The Widow McGregor was wrapping the baby in the warm muslin cloth preparing to put him to Molly’s breast. Her milk was flowing and the baby needed the nourishment. She took her blade and severed the cord, disengaging the life thread that had been his cocoon for the past nine months. As was tradition, she then assisted Molly up and together they buried the placenta. Long before the birth, Molly had decided that the Weeping Willow which had provided many hours of welcoming shade during those hot sultry summer nights, and scorching days, the Willow that proudly embraced their initials inside a roughly carved heart was the right place to bury the child’s placenta. It was their special place. A place of learning, of inquiring minds and stolen kisses. Often Molly would say to Tom. “Look, the tree is blushing..it’s weeping” after their intimate embrace.

It was now time for her to endure the walk back to their cottage, she knew that Alfred would have a fresh broth at the ready and she would regain her strength quickly. There was much preparation still to do. They had already decided the name they would give their son. He would be called Toby!

 

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