Friday, June 9, 2017

A Soldier's Wife

My Maltese great grandmother Liberatta Xerri was what is now called an army wife.
In 19th century Malta her policeman husband died leaving her to fend for herself and two young children, one of whom was born after her husband had died.
She later married Thomas Anson a private in the Kings Liverpool regiment and went with him ti India leaving her two young daughters in the care of her mother in Malta.
No married quarters, wives shared the barrack rooms with the soldiers with only a blanket draped around the bed space at night.
When the regiment moved between stations it was mostly on foot and the wives and children walked as well.  
During four years in India the regiment covered a thousand miles on foot. No transport except occasionally pregnant wives could get a lift on a baggage cart, but that was actually against regulations.
If you would like to read the story it is on Amazon.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Kindness is alive and well and can be found on a Virgin train.

Arrived at Euston station last night on our way back from Slovenia just too late to catch the fast train to warringon.  Instead of waiting an hour for the next one we decided to catch a slower train but which was leaving shortly.  It was a bad decision as by the time we were on board we realised that the unreserved seats were all taken and the carriages crowded and over full.
After struggling for a while I was finding it difficult to carry the suitcase any further through the train in the hope of a seat.
A young man, say mid thirties, saw our plight and offered to carry our suitcase back through the train to find a seat in the first class compartments  "I'll sort you something out " says he.  He led the way, pushing against the flow of people still trying to work their way forward in the forelorn hope of a nonexistent seat.
Eventually we got to an almost empty first class compartment and took a couple of seats and it was only then that we realised he was a passenger as well, not railway staff.

After the first stop the train conductor came along and we showed our tickets.  He said that we would have to leave the compartment or pay extra fare.  We were still too tired to argue and asked how much extra he wanted for us to remain where we were.  He said that it would be 80 pounds each which was more than we had paid for the return tickets in the first place.

The young man who had brought us along then intervened.  "That is ridiculous.  With all these empty seats why are you insisting that they go back along the train.  If they have to go, then you carry their bag.  I carried it here so I know how difficult I was for them."  The cunductor replied that their where now plenty of seats. The young man responded, "Well I have a reserved seat in the first carriage, before they move, perhaps you could go through to the front to see if my seat is unoccupied,"
There was just a little bit of edge coming into the conversation when another voice joined in.  A younger man seating with a female companion called out "I will pay for them".  He came forward with his wallet in his hand and " I can't believe that you are even thinking of asking this couple to move knowing how crowded the train is.  I saw haw this chap was helping them and it restores some of my faith in human nature.  So I will pay for all three."

I am normally a sentimental bloke but all this moved me to tears.

We did not hear how this ended.  It appeared that the conductor relented and moved on down the train without taking any money, but the magnificent gesture had been made.

No doubt the ticket collector has his job to do, but Virgin trains collect enough revenue to allow their staff some discretion on overcrowded trains.

We allowed our Samaritans to go without thanking them properly, but they know who they are and I think they know how grateful we were, not just for the assistance but for the generosity of spirit which inspired the gestures.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What we learned doing National Service

National Service - what we learned

Every now and again after some particular outrage by a young person, student, hoodie, longhair  or what have you then some armchair colonel  will come out of the woodwork and suggest that National Service should be re-introduced instead of sending them to university.

I am thinking of writing a book about my National Service days just over half a century ago, and will call it something like "Learned to drive and learned to skive"

The Chapters will include:

How to pretend to be busy by carrying a clipboard

When in a barracks walk quickly looking straight ahead so that it would appear that you have some purpose

All the verses of  bawdy rugby songs

Swearing  in Arabic, 

 How to darn socks

Marching without kicking the heels of the guy in front so that a whole platoon is
brought down like a row of dominoes.( Never really mastered that one)

Spend long hours doing nothing either on your bed or in the Naafi if there was money left.

If it stands still paint it, if it moves salute it.

Play brag and solo

Get drunk


Fire a rifle, sten gun and pistol

And most importantly....

Bite your tongue when being given orders by jumped up little squirts with upper
class accents and no brains.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fall out for a smoke

We live near a large block of modern flats and we can see some of the mainly younger residents standing outside smoking because it is not allowed inside the building.  Makes you realise how determined a smoker has to be these days.
I didn't start smoking until I was eighteen and only then when I was called up for my National Service in the army.  After almost any training activity, there was an order "Fall out for a smoke|". Well not exactly an order but it seemed like it.  Not that I could really afford to smoke on the thirty bob a week we got in the army, less deductions of course. It was always a toss up as to wether yu bought a packet of cigarettes or a couple of pints in the Naafi.
Fags though were relatively cheap and you could even buy a packet of five Woodbines.  The fags could also last longer because they had no filter tips and more often than not there wasn't time to finish before being told to fall in again.  All part and parcel of the military mind of course.

Still  as I said today's smokers need to be persistent, although at today's prices I cant imagine how anyone on the minimum wage can afford to smoke and as for the young women, why do they do it?
I recall that the late Dave Allen was of the opinion that "kissing a girl who smokes is like licking an ashtray."  Still he was a former chainsmoker who had given up so was probably biased.  Cant say if he was right or not as its a long time since I kissed a smoker.