Sunday, 28 December 2008

Sufferin’ Taters

Does every family have its unique sayings? Dad, who never, ever swore at home used to say ‘Sufferin’ taters’ with great regularity. It was a way of sort of bemoaning his fate or expressing misery. Needless to say he was ragged about it on occasion. I have never heard it anywhere else and as a phrase it doesn’t Google so I assume it was unique to Dad. Heaven knows where he got it from.

I wonder what phrase will my children recall me regularly using.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Matchbox Series - Those were the days


When we were little GB had mainly Dinky cars and I had mainly Matchbox Series. Appropriate really – Dinky being bigger and older than Matchbox...

I used to play ‘The Archers’ with them. Each character in The Archers had a car that I thought suited their personality.

I can recall the following:-

John Tregoran had a triumph sports car (the TR4?)

Jack Woolley had a bluey silver Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.

Someone else who was basically an offcomer (can’t recall his name) had a Citreon but I’m sure mine wasn’t yellow. I'm sure it was white or cream.

Carol whatever her name was – the girl that all the menfolk were chasing – had an older Triumph MGTD sports car. I think this indicated that I thought she was better matched with John Tregoran than with Jack Woolley who didn't really 'belong'.

Sometimes I’d let her have a big pink Ford Zodiac convertible but I wasn’t really very fond of that.

Tom Forrest, the gamekeeper, had a Landrover.

Dan Archer had a Morris Minor – unless I needed Walter Gabriel, in which case he had it.

Nelson Gabriel had a flashy Vauxhall Cresta.

Phil Archer had a Wolseley and Jack had a Ford Anglia.

My other cars were scattered around the village (made of Airfix houses which I had bought as kits and put together). The only building I can recall properly is the pub of which I was quite proud because it had been hard to do.

(Photos of most of the cars are by kind permission of Marco. )
(A timeline for The Archers can be found at timeline.)

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Morris Thompson Edwards

Dad would have been 101 today. I'm not feeling moody or anything; I just happened to register the date as I was blogging. So I thought I would post a few pictures of him -

That's Dad in the middle between his brother Frank and his Mum, Ada. They put little boys in skirts in those days!

27th July 1916 aged 8 - into cricket.

1921 aged 13 - standing behind his Mum with his nephew, Frank Dennison to the right.

As a Birkenhead school boy

His school mates - I think he is bottom right corner but wouldn't swear to it. (Any ideas GB?)

The walker / cyclist and camper - in his twenties.

The footballer - in the centre of the back row - goalie for Furness Withy's football team. I have always thought all goalkeepers were mad. Fancy standing there having people hit a hard lump of leather at you; having to dive in the mud and risking life and limb taking the ball from the boot of a ferocious attacker. The funny thing is he always seemed quite sane to me.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Vauxhall Heritage Centre

Flog It visited the Vauxhall Heritage Centre this week. In the Centre there is the oldest Vauxhall in existence - a 5 horse power single cylinder four seater. It’s used every year on the London to Brighton run.

The most valuable is the 30-98 E-type Velox Tourer– the supercar of its day – tested at speeds of over 100mph in 1926. Bearing in mind the poverty of the brakes that’s pretty incredible. The right hand lever on the steering wheel was the throttle. The car would probably cost £¼ m nowadays.

As they rolled through old photos of new cars running off the production line I kept my eyes open for signs of Uncle Eric (Eric Spencer Body). He worked at Vauxhall from the 1930s. He was the head of advertising at Vauxhall when he retired and would almost certainly have been involved in such celebrations. Hey presto – there, rolling off the line was an Astra in 1981. At first I thought it was Uncle Eric driving - the face wasn’t that clear but the large ears suggested it could be him! However, working it out he probably retired in 1976 so it wasn’t him.

Instead I’ve settled for showing you a picture of Uncle Eric advertising Meccano when he worked there – a little younger!!!

Monday, 17 November 2008

A Tin of Molasses

Jo has recently been looking for Molasses but it seems our local supermarkets do not stock it. Black Strap Molasses is made from Sugar Cane. The roots of the sugar cane grow as deep as 15 feet and therefore are able to receive a broad spectrum of minerals and trace elements normally lacking in the top soils. The sugar is removed, leaving behind the exceptionally rich mineral/trace element cocktail, with a good selection of vitamins. It a great source of iron and calcium, but it's also a source of potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese. People are said to have overcome all sorts of serious, seemingly intractable health problems with molasses alone! This includes cases of various types of Cancer, Osteo-arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, strokes, poor nervous system, skin disorders; the list goes on and on. Many people claim to have reversed their grey hair with it. This may be at least partly due to the copper content, as copper deficiency can lead to prematurely grey hair.

Dad used to take a heaped teaspoon of molasses every day. It was a daily routine – one of those little rituals that go to make a household memorable. (Along with, in Dad’s case, rubbing olive oil into his scalp). Whether his tin of molasses or his bottle of olive oil contributed to him keeping his hair or living into his nineties will never be known but they certainly didn’t do him any harm.

Saturday, 8 November 2008


I’m still scanning the photos from my photo albums – I don’t know why I bother mentioning that since I’ll be doing it for the next twenty years at this rate... However, this is a fascinating process because I keep coming across things I’d forgotten. For example, in 1996 I had a trip over to Leeds. I cannot recall it at all. But while I was there I took a couple of photos to remind myself of my student days. This is “The Vic”, a second home to Anne, Gill and I for most of the three years (with friends like Judy, Ann and Anne H. regularly joining us).

And this is the house in Victoria Road where I lived (in a great attic flat) for eighteen months. Initially I had moved into the flat on a shared basis with a chap called Dennis who worked for Associated Dairies but who had advertised for someone to share and said “Must be student to fit in”. This despite the fact that he wasn't a student. Typical Dennis.

Dennis was a great character and about as reliable as a chocolate washing machine. We rarely met up during the week as he was usually out and left me in possession of the lounge which meant that I could entertain anyone whenever I wanted. His girlfriend lived in London so I didn’t have to reciprocate. But on Sunday we had a regular Sunday lunch. He was quite a good cook and we alternated the cooking of this traditional meal. One Sunday morning, on a day when it was my turn to cook, he said he was nipping out to the launderette before the meal. Knowing how unreliable he was and how totally unable to keep to time, I gave him the sternest of warnings about the time the meal would be served.

About an hour after the mealtime I ate, on my own. It was eight days later that he returned... He arrived back in the middle of Monday evening while I had a friend, Sue, around. “Hi,” he said, as he dumped his bag of washing in the living room, “I’ll leave you to it, I won’t disturb you, ” and he headed out to the kitchen.

I called him back and asked him what on earth had happened to Sunday lunch the week before. “Oh yes, sorry about that,” he said, “I was watching my washing go round in the machine and I thought I might pop down to see Tess. So I went off to the bus station... Sorry about that. The only problem is my washing’s all dirty again.”

It was about an hour later that Sue and stopped laughing!

About a fortnight later he disappeared again – never to return. I don’t know what happened to him but I inherited his dart-board and various other things, along with his half of the rent. The flat was so good that I couldn’t bear to leave it or share it and went on living there on my own for the next year. It was well worth the double rent.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Muriel Lane

One of my mother's many cousins (a first cousin once removed) was Muriel Irene Lane who was born in 1908, a year before Mum. She and Mum got on well and corresponded right until Mum's death a couple of years ago. Then Muriel continued swapping Christmas cards and brief notes with Jo and I each year. Muriel had the most beautiful and distinctive handwriting and even on last year's Christmas card it was far more legible than mine has ever been.

Muriel married John Pearce and lived in Poole, Dorset, before moving to Stourport-on-Severn. They had one son and two daughters and after John died in 1996 Muriel lived with her elder daughter, Moira.

This morning I e-mailed Geoffrey Lane, another cousin, to check whether Muriel was still at Stourport-on-Severn (and effectively to check she was still with us) because her hundredth birthday was coming up nest week. Sadly it was to find out that she died a few days ago. She did not quite make it to 100, but from what Moira tells us, she was beginning to weary of life, and was rather less impressed than some of her relatives by the prospect of reaching such a great age. By sheer chance I caught Geoffrey as he was about to set off to the funeral - just six days before she would have been 100.

Our sincere commiserations go to Moira, Stuart and Hilary and their families.

Despite her marriage she was always known in our household as Muriel Lane. I met John a few times when he passed through Liverpool on his way to Ireland but so far as I can recall I never met Muriel, yet she will be missed. She was the last of a generation of real ladies and gentlemen.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Early Jo

A couple of my favourite ‘early’ photos of Jo, taken at Skelwith Bridge in the Lake District when we had a week-end there in February 1986. I say ‘early’. because there were, no doubt, photos of Jo before that but I wasn’t around to take them. I do not use 'early' in the dictionary sense of 'before the usual or expected time'. Such a use would not fit well with her personality!


I’ve been scanning in a load of photos from our albums for Jo’s photo frame. And now GB has given me a photo frame as well so the incentive is doubled.
This is a photo from our first album which began a year after I had left Formby and set up home in a modern flat in Croxteth. It shows my regional group from AMDP (Advanced Management Development Programme) 16 at Wast Hills near Kings Norton, Birmingham. AMDP was a brilliant experience – designed for up and coming local government officers – and I learned a lot; not just about management but about myself.
This photo was taken on Burns Night 1986 and reminds me of an event that took place a week later. Jo and I had just started going out and Jo had decided to borrow the flat key and cook me a meal upon my return from Birmingham. Unfortunately she didn’t know me that well in those days and timed the meal for when I said I would arrive. I was, of course, early. Normally that wouldn’t matter but she had intended to produce ‘all her own work’ (at least initially) so as to impress me. Sadly, I arrived before all the Marks and Spencer instant meal packets had been put into the bin! It took a while for her to forgive me.... In fact, I’m not sure she’s ever forgiven the fact that I’m always early.
The folk in the photo are Jeff Brown, Mike Robinson, CJE, John Keeley, Alan Peake and Dave Davison. Jeff and I still swap Christmas cards with news (at least news on his part, I’ve been very poor at sending mine the last few years)..

Monday, 13 October 2008

Morris Thomspon Edwards

Dad died seven years ago today. In many ways it was a release. At the age of 93 he was physically unable to do too much for himself and mentally he had been unhappy for a few years. A man used to being always active he became too weak to do very much over the last couple of years. This, and his diminishing eyesight, made him fretful.

As a result I tend not to think of him as he was during those last few years, or as he would be now (100!) but as he was during the 1960s and ‘70s – pipe in mouth, and either sitting with the Liverpool Echo in his hands or walking in the Lake District.

And that, I am sure, is also how he would wish to be remembered.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Old Photos

Around the end of the Nineteenth / beginning of the Twentieth century it was far more likely that you would have a studio photo of yourself than a family snap. Family owned cameras were abnormal and consequently shots like those of Dad’s Dad and Mum outside their Larkhill Lane Police Station around 1907 were fairly unusual.

Studios flourished wherever people of society lived and in holiday spots all over the country. Studios used different backgrounds and techniques for making their photos unique and they would provide photos for display, for cartes-de-visites and for lockets.

A standard set of studio props was a table, books and a fancy chair. This is my Great, Great Grandfather, James Spencer, Great Great Grandma Coombes first husband.

Some photographers risked the British weather and offered a service at scenic beauty spots when the sun was shining. This is my Great, Great Grandma Coombes, Great Grandma Spencer and two of Nana’s siblings – Uncle Wardie (looking thoroughly fed up) and Auntie Maude. I suspect the beauty spot is Swallow Falls near Bettws-y-Coed.

This one is of THS (Thomas Henry Spencer) Nana’s eldest brother, about to depart to sea, and has been framed accordingly.

This is also of THS – at two different ages, put onto stamp-like mounts.

Of all the ones I have seen this has to be the strangest. It is Auntie Annie Shemmonds – Nana’s Mum’s sister. I think the effect makes her look like a one woman witches’ coven! Presumably it was what she asked for!

Friday, 3 October 2008


This is one of my favourite photos of Mum. I took it in 1968 when she was 58 – the same age as I am now!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

David H Jones

This is David Henry Jones – Dad’s Mum’s Dad’s brother. i.e. my Great, Great Uncle. The picture was taken in 1917 and the back of the post card simply says “I am at Bristol, David H Jones”. Were it not for his age one would have been tempted to think he was returning on a troopship from the Continent.

The only thing I know about this character is that he lived on the North Wales coast, somewhere near Rhyl, whence he had retired from the quarries of the Bettws-y-Coed area. Dad told me story of visiting him on one occasion and helping him with the purchase of his house. Dad was not a great one for paperwork but it seems he didn’t need to be. They didn’t bother with lawyers and the like and Uncle David paid for his bungalow by handing over a big bag of gold sovereigns. Ah, those were the days!