Welcome to Christmas Day!

25 December 2020

A warm welcome to all of you reading this. No matter what culture, creed, colour or belief, we are all human. We may not all celebrate this time of year in the same way, however the world still revolves, I hope for a very long time. As we know, things change and I have no doubt they will continue to do so.

Right now, much is being talked about over all that is going on in the world but no matter if they be local, regional or global, some traditions do remain. It is my view that they should and I sincerely hope that they will. I have read some headlines saying that Christmas is now cancelled, others which say that we are being taken over and being controlled. Over in the United States, some stories are being told about how the election of the new President has been in some way fixed, despite there being no proof to any of it. But our calendars still stay the same and it is still December 25th for Christmas Day! No matter where we are, who we are with, it is surely the fact that we are here and remembering. We may not always have had the happiest of times, we will all have had difficulties to cope with, not least as we are doing right now. But I firmly believe that we should remain positive, stay calm, make the best of things, look after ourselves and not give in to negativity. There are countless conspiracy theories all being bandied about, some will believe them but in time the truth will out. 

For now, no matter what state we find ourselves in, I hope we can all enjoy this festive season, perhaps not as we might like, but with modern technology it is possible for us to have at least some contact with our relatives and friends, in very many cases now seeing them via our computers or mobile phones. What I do hope and pray is that no matter what happens, Christmas will still be celebrated and remembered. Not just as a break from work, or an excuse to sell goods, but to remember times past. I realise that not everyone may always have had good or maybe the happiest of memories, but I feel that we should not dwell on those. They are part of our past and not our present. In fact the only present I am interested in are the ones I shall be opening, one by one, shortly!

I have mentioned in a previous post on here that we as a family moved from London to Whittlesey, then a few years later my grandparents did the same. For a while, Nan and Pop were the live-in housekeepers for a local vicar and remembering that takes me back – I remember the big fireplace at the old vicarage in Whittlesey, where there seemed to always be a huge pot of boiling water on the stove! There were no electric kettles there in those days! The rooms had high ceilings and the washing was hung up on rails above the kitchen table. Washing dried quickly too, as heat rises. Just off the kitchen was a pantry with cobbled stone floors, there wasn’t a refrigerator, food lasted for ages (apart from mince pies!) and it was mostly home grown and home-cooked food.

A school-friend of mine had a fun, family tradition. On Christmas Eve the family would go to a ‘midnight’ church service and as soon as they were back home, as it was now Christmas Day just one present could be opened by each person. Just the one. They had to be patient. Then after they had slept, were up and had their breakfast, all their other presents could be opened! But then times change, children grow up and often move away, have families of their own and the cycle then continues. When dear Nan passed away, Pop would come to our house for Sunday lunch and I remember one year when he was invited to have lunch on Christmas Day with us. He accepted, but asked to be picked up from his local pub as he would be having a few drinks with them first. This was done, Pop had his dinner and promptly fell fast asleep. Later he woke up, asking for his Christmas dinner – sadly he had no memory of eating it. My dear mother was not at all impressed! Over the years our family gatherings became smaller and smaller as aunts and uncles passed away, as sons moved away, including me. Nowadays they do not seem to occur at all, which is a bit of a shame.

For a few years I was regularly visiting my eldest brother and his wife, but they then divorced and what with work and travelling, I was spending more and more time on my own. I remember one Christmas Day when I didn’t want to be on my own, so I drove to the Leicester Forest East motorway services by the M1 and had a delightful Christmas meal there. It meant I was not alone. I sat just where I could overlook the motorway, I enjoyed the time there. I am not likely to ever do that again!

I have no idea what next year will be like, it will not be the same as this year has been. As I have said before, the one constant in this universe is that things change. They will continue to do so. As I have a little more time on my hands it may be that I start looking again at my family history, as it has already turned out to be fascinating! As of course the whole subject of ancestry is. On a small scale, over time many plants & animals have not survived, but their ‘ancestry’ may still be found and traced back. On a slightly larger scale, it is the same with some family names. It would seem that this branch of the Williams name may end at some point, as only girls have been born in recent times! But still the family line continues. It can, is and will be traceable. I have a bit more research to do yet on other sides of the family!

On a bigger scale? That is beyond me. I do know the average human lifespan is currently around seventy-nine years, so it does seem to me how fascinating it might be to return to this Earth in say, a hundred years from now and see how much has changed! I have been taught and firmly believe that we should continue to learn from the past, live in the present and look to the future with a smile. So that is what I plan to do. On that note, may I wish each and every one of you a very Happy Christmas and a good New Year. I will also add: ¡Feliz navidad y próspero año nuevo!

Finally for this festive day…
Santa told me I’d not been bad this year. I told him it was simply a lack of opportunity… 😉

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A Brief History Of My Time

18 December 2020

Had he still been alive, a few days ago would have been my dear Dad’s 101st birthday. Sadly he passed away many years ago and my dear mother has now been with him for a few years too, they are at peace together. With these family members as well as earlier generations having passed away long since, I feel that some of their story may be shared.

From my research over very many years, I have managed to piece together items from a few sources by chatting to elderly relatives, looking through old registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths and searching a few rather useful websites. I even spent some time down in London, looking through the archives there. It was and still is really fascinating to me to piece various items together and learn how apparently disparate events can lead to such beginnings. In fact, chatting to my dear mother a few years ago I was able to add in an extra piece of this, our family jigsaw puzzle, that she didn’t know.

As you might imagine from my own surname, a few generations back one side of the family originated in Wales. But it seems that when one of my ancestors had a dalliance with a young lady ‘below stairs’, he was sent away in disgrace. This led him to eventually settle in London. Mention was once made of time in Canada, but I’ve never been able to learn any more on that so I’m unsure if that is true or not. This would have been my paternal great-grandfather, so it was in London he met my paternal great-grandmother. Quite where they lived in London I am unsure, I’m still researching that, but I do know that my paternal grandfather went to a school in Westminster.

Meanwhile, another side of the family originated in Cornwall and they were working in the tin mines. When the work there was ending, they moved to the copper and coal mines in South Wales, where it was that my maternal great-grandparents met and married each other. They moved to do chalk mining in Suffolk, before moving to London and that is where my mother was born. So it was London where my paternal grandparents met and then married, as did my parents. That is also where I and my two elder brothers were born.

This means that I and my brothers have a mixture of Welsh and Cornish blood in us. Back in the days of the Spanish Armada, when the Spaniards landed on the English coast, many were simply killed but then some were allowed to stay and live with the locals, integrating themselves into the community. Hence the difference in hair colouring in my two brothers and I, as two of us have very fair hair, whilst the other has black hair, a very different build and quite a different temperament. A sign, I believe, of some Spanish blood!

Looking back at World War One, my maternal great-grandfather was in the Royal Navy as a Leading Stoker on the ‘Tipperary’ at the Battle of Jutland. He was in the engine room of the ship as it was hit by enemy gunfire and began to go down, but he was able to escape. He was in the water for a while, but was then spotted by sailors on a nearby British ship. By this time he was covered in oil and with a heavy beard, along with a weather-beaten face, he was initially thought to be a German and was about to be ignored. However a stream of Anglo-Saxon expletives spoken in a broad, Cornish accent soon informed the British sailors what would happen to them if they did not pick him up! He is in fact named and his rescue detailed by HMS Dublin in the Battle of Jutland Official Despatches, of which I have a copy. What fascinates me even more is that in these Despatches, I read that HMS Dublin actually lost sight of any enemy ships due to the fog. A shell had passed through the chart house and had affected their standard compass, in addition they could not navigate by dead reckoning (estimating course and speed) as their Navigating Officer had been killed and the charts in the chart house badly damaged. So as a result, they did a ‘best-guess’ of what course would bring them in contact with other ships of their squadron. It was only then, whilst on this ‘best guess’ course, that they came across my great-grandfather!

My paternal grandfather was in the Light Infantry. He walked very quickly, so as a child I often had to trot to keep up with him! During World War I he was at the Somme and Ypres (to which he always referred to as ‘wipers’), but he was captured and held in a prisoner of war camp. Whilst there, he and others survived by various means, including diverting the attention of their captors and breaking into the storage sheds where food was kept and then sharing what they had stolen with their fellow prisoners. He worked in a machine shop there and shortly before the end of the war he was injured by a piece of machinery, where he lost the third finger and part of the second finger of his right hand. He was due to return home on a troop ship, but at the last minute a doctor decided that he was not fit to go home, so he stayed for a little while longer. However, the troop ship he was booked on was then sunk, probably by a mine, and his wife was initially told that he had died. A short while later he caught another ship home. One can only imagine what happened when he arrived back home in London and their front door was then opened!

Moving on to World War II. At that time, my father was in the army and therefore was sent on a training course prior to being sent overseas. Except he broke his shoulder on the course, so had to stay in the UK. He learned about various kinds of ammunition, bombs etc and warned my mother (who he was dating at the time) about some bombs having a delayed action. As a result, my mother knew to wait a while when she and her mother, whilst in an Anderson shelter, heard a bomb hit the ground but not explode. They waited and waited, but just as they went to leave the shelter the bomb exploded. My mother had just enough time to turn her back to shield her mother from the blast, but this gave my dear mother a horrific back wound and she was initially told she would never walk again. She told my father to walk away and leave her as he wouldn’t want to marry a cripple, to which my father replied “I’m not marrying a cripple, I’m marrying you.” My mother replied that in that case, she would walk up the aisle of the church. Which she did. In fact, dear Mum bore us three boys and then reached the grand age of 95 before she passed away with, I am told, a peaceful, quiet smile on her face. 

It is a sobering thought to realise that without all these events occurring as they did then I, my brothers, nephews and nieces et al would not be here!

Finally for now, an exercise in logic:
A wife asks her husband, “Would you please go shopping for me, buy one carton of milk, and if they have eggs, get 6.”
A short time later the husband comes back with 6 cartons of milk.
The wife asks him, “Why did you buy 6 cartons of milk?”
He replied, “They had eggs.”

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A Different December

11 December 2020

We are fast approaching the time when I will have been in either hospitals or in Care Homes for nine months. I’m again reminded of the old saying “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana”. It’s an old joke, but… In any event, we may be sure that celebrations for the festive season will be different this year. With Christmas fast approaching, for a number of folk it will perhaps be not quite as joyful a time as in the past. We have memories though, as our thoughts turn to earlier years. For me this time of year brings mixed feelings as I recall it being the custom in our family to put up all the decorations on my dear Dad’s birthday, December 12th.  However, it was also on that date that my paternal grandfather passed away in 1978 at the good age of 82. So it is a time tinged with sadness too.

Tradition has it that gifts are exchanged, families meet, so I feel that it is not only a time for giving but it should also be a forgiving time. I remember reading the story of a tutor turning to their students one day and holding up a glass which was half-filled with water. Naturally the students expected a talk on whether the glass was half full or half empty, but the tutor didn’t. Instead the class was actually asked how heavy they thought the glass was and the answers ranged from eight to sixteen ounces. The tutor then replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. What’s important is how long I hold it. If I hold it for just a minute, it’s not heavy. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will be numb and feel paralysed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change but, the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes. The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralysed and incapable of doing anything”.

I like this. To me it is important for us all to remember to let go of our stresses, to put our burdens down when we can. To not carry them for hours and days and months. To put down that glass. Let go of the bad feeling or it can tire us out. Forgive, even if we cannot and in most cases probably should not forget.

December also reminds me of a story I was told a good few years after it had happened. When I was a child, it was decided one Christmas that I should have an electric train set as a present. Naturally my father and my two elder brothers felt it should be all in working order beforehand, so after I’d gone to bed this one Christmas Eve the set was laid out and tested. Which they happily did. Now, Dad was the deputy organist at the local church and had agreed to play for the Midnight service. We only lived a few minutes walk away from the church, so it was at 11:45pm that Dad walked into the church to start playing quiet music before the service. Except no-one had informed dear Dad that the ‘midnight’ service normally started at 11:45pm! Dad found the church full of people and the vicar waiting for him… I often wondered why it was that Dad made absolutely sure I knew the importance of being in good time for appointments and being sure of when to be there!

It stood me in good stead years later for meetings. I was also taught that it was polite, it showed good manners to be early for an event, meeting or whatever so that the event started on time. It also gave visitors like guest speakers a good impression of who they were dealing with and that we could be trusted to do what we said we would, on time.

I’m also reminded of a task that became assigned to me before Christmas, which was actually fetching all the decorations from our attic, getting out the tree lights and making sure they were still in good working order then draping them onto the tree. But why was it that despite my best efforts, one bulb would always manage to work itself loose just as I was putting the lights on the tree? It was found though! One year I bought a ‘Star-burst’ filter for my camera, which I used when taking a photograph of the now fully decorated Christmas tree. It created a lovely effect and I was really pleased with it.

So, whilst many things are having to be done differently this year, many things do not change. It is still coming up to when we celebrate Christmas, it is one time when we might not be able to be with our loved ones, but they are with us still, in mind even if not in body. It is the same, but different this year.

There is a well-known song, ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’, which I am sure everyone reading this knows. But we can imagine, having received these gifts each day, how the recipient might perhaps have replied…

Letters from Agnes

December 14
My dearest darling John,
Who ever in the whole world would dream of getting a real Partridge in a Pear Tree? How can I ever express my pleasure. Thank you a hundred times for thinking of me this way.
My love always, Agnes

December 15
Dearest John,
Today the postman brought your very sweet gift. Just imagine, two turtle doves. I’m just delighted at your very thoughtful gift. They are just adorable.
All my love, Agnes

December 16
Dear John,
Oh! Aren’t you the extravagant one. Now I must protest. I don’t deserve such generosity, three French hens. They are just darling but I must insist, you’ve been too kind.
All my love, Agnes

December 17
Dear John,
Today the postman delivered four calling birds. Now really, they are beautiful, but don’t you think enough is enough. You are being too romantic.
Affectionately, Agnes

December 18
Dearest John,
What a surprise. Today the postman delivered five golden rings, one for every finger. You’re just impossible, but I love it. Frankly, all those birds squawking were beginning to get on my nerves.
All my love, Agnes

December 19
Dear John,
When I opened the door today there were actually six geese laying on my front steps. So you’re back to the birds again huh? These geese are huge. Where will I ever keep them? The neighbours are complaining and I can’t sleep through the racket. Please stop.
Cordially, Agnes

December 20
What’s with you and those freaking birds?? Seven swans a swimming. What kind of damn joke is this? There’s bird poop all over the house and they never stop the racket. I can’t sleep at night and I’m a nervous wreck. It’s not funny. So stop those freaking birds.
Sincerely, Agnes

December 21
O.K. Buster,
I think I prefer the birds. What the hell am I going to do with eight maids a milking? It’s not enough with all those birds and the maids, but they had to bring their damn cows. There is manure all over the lawn and I can’t move in my own house. Just leave me alone, please.

December 22
Hey you,
What are you? Some kind of sadist? Now there are nine ladies dancing. I don’t know why I call those sluts ladies though. Now the cows can’t sleep and they’ve got diarrhoea. My living room is a river of poo. The Council have issued a court order against me to give reasons why the building shouldn’t be condemned.
I’m calling the police on you! Agnes

December 23
You rotten s*d,
What’s with those ten lords a leaping on those maids and ladies? The cows are getting upset and they’re stepping all over those screeching birds. What am I to do? The neighbours have started a petition to evict me.
You’ll get yours! Agnes

December 24
Listen you b**tard,
Now there’s eleven pipers playing, and do they play! They’ve never stopped chasing those maids since they got here yesterday morning either. Oh yes, and all twenty-three of the birds are dead. They’ve been trampled to death in the orgy. I hope you’re satisfied, you rotten vicious swine.
Your sworn enemy, Agnes

December 25
Dear Sir,
This is to acknowledge your latest gift of twelve drummers drumming which you have seen fit to inflict on our client, Miss Agnes McHolstein. The destruction, of course, was total. All future correspondence should come to our attention. If you should attempt to reach Miss McHolstein at the Happivale Mental Home, the attendants have now been instructed to shoot you on sight. Please be advised that a warrant has also been issued for your arrest.

James Jones & Co

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Learning To Cope

04 December 2020

Everything on this Earth, whether they be earth, stone, plant or animal, is part of our existence. I have already said in an earlier post that the one constant in this lovely Universe is things change. Sadly, many species have died out for one reason or another, in some cases because they would not or perhaps could not change or adapt, but all too many have gone as a result of human intervention, like us taking certain forms of life to an area of Earth in which their natural predators were not to be found. So the balance of Nature was disturbed. 

If we care to look back over the years, it is not just the plants and animals which have changed, it is of course us too. We must adapt, if we are to survive. In my own set of circumstances as well as my experiences, I know how difficult it can be. I recall one person who lived with a few difficulties, in particular with really poor eyesight, but they felt that things in and around them ought to change, to be adapted or be altered to suit them. An example was where the print on some information boards in a couple of shopping centres was smaller than they wanted it to be. Seeing this I suggested to that person they might put a small magnifying glass in their coat pocket and use that when needed, or if they didn’t want to draw attention to their difficulty go over to an information desk and ask questions of the staff. That way, all concerned would be satisfied. It would also make sure that information staff were kept in a job! Sadly however this person did not see things the same way as me, in every sense. They are no longer with us and that is a shame, as they might have been able to show others how it is possible to overcome or at least manage difficulties, by keeping a positive outlook on life.

Whilst watching a wildlife film recently, I saw a polar bear go into a village and look for food. This village was within its ‘hunting ground’. Perhaps it couldn’t find fish, so it looked elsewhere. In order to survive, it looked for food. It adapted to what was going on around them. Right now we are also faced with a few difficulties that I hope will not be seen again for many years to come. But we too are having to adjust, to adapt to changing circumstances. I’ll not say too much on the situation, how it occurred or how long it might be with us. I do not know. But whatever the circumstances, we have to find ways to cope. There are many good people out there, helping a lot of others, but sadly there seems to be a number of selfish folk too.

Now, this is pure speculation on my part and I may be utterly mistaken here, but it occurs to me that just maybe we have in fact brought some of this Covid business down on ourselves. When I was a lad, it is true that we were taught to wash our hands before meals, we were always kept clean, we did not eat food that happened to drop onto the floor. But we played outside, we fell over, scraped our knees (mine still bear the scars!) and we messed about in the garden, playing ‘cowboys and indians’ in the dirt. We used ordinary soap, not sanitisers, we had disinfectant but not anything that killed 99% of household germs. So I do wonder if, as a result of modern cleansing, we have reduced the capabilities of our own immune systems. Like I say, I may be wrong but it is a thought, nonetheless.

Of course, a great many changes have been for the good. Years ago some of the tobacco companies managed to successfully influence physicians to not just promote the idea that smoking was healthy, but to recommend it as a treatment for throat irritation! Both my parents smoked, dear Dad especially. I didn’t, but it is possible that me inhaling the smoke from his cigarettes as he drove the car then exacerbated me developing the asthma which I now have. I also remember how asbestos was at first considered to be a really excellent material, I know parts of our garage at home were made of or at least contained it. Then its health risks were identified and things changed.

I have already written about how I’ve had to change, to adapt. Any change is rarely easy, even if it will lead to a much better and fulfilling life in the long run. Some years ago I made a mistake whilst driving and I really made a mess of the car. But I was then able to get a better one. Years later as I was buying a house, I had to sell my car and get a motorbike instead. I adapted my life to riding it, though sometimes I had to ask one of my workmates for help to undo the helmet chinstrap, as my fingers were frozen with the cold… I still shiver at the thought! But I did have good times riding that motorbike. Again, more years passed and I would travel every weekday to and from work by train, two hours each way. But I did it because I had to. It was part of my daily routine, which I had to adapt to. I have said previously about computers and their effect on me, how I had to adapt to using them. Though with me being left-handed, some folk where I was working must surely  have been really pleased, delighted even, to receive any paperwork from me that was now printed rather than hand-written! But it has been said that because the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, only left-handed people are in their right minds!!! Well… 😉

Things have changed over the years, I am not totally convinced they are all for the good, but as I keep saying, they do change. It is up (or is it down?) to us as to how we respond. My ex-wife used to complain that I would not have an argument with her, but as I’ve said in the past I do not see any point or value in them. Discuss, most definitely, listen to another’s point of view and then be prepared to change as appropriate. Or agree to disagree. To me, it is part of learning to cope with the changes and chances which come our way. I have spent quite a few years now sharing knowledge so that others might both learn and then share that same knowledge with others. So, whilst we must be receptive to learn new things, new ways, to accept change is not easy. It is all part of the learning process, learning to cope. But it is very hard to teach somebody if they think they already know it all.

I will stop for now with this.
A good friend of mine told me about someone who was totally useless at a particular job. My friend said “I knew his problem – way too much loft”. I asked him to explain and he simply grinned and said “Lack Of Flamin’ Talent”!

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