Category Archives: Childhood

A to Z of Statues – G is for George Mainwaring

The statue of George Mainwaring (the actor Arthur Lowe) can be found in the Norfolk town of Thetford.

Arthur Lowe was one of the stars of the TV comedy Dad’s Army. It is set during the Second World War and is a story about the British Home Guard which was a amateur defence force army made up of local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service either because of age (hence the name “Dad’s Army”) or by being in professions exempt from conscription. Their job was to defend Britain against a German invasion force of Panzer Tanks and battalions of crack Wehrmacht troops. This was most unlikely and is the real basis of the whole series of programmes.

The show called the fictional town they defended Walmington-on-Sea which was said to be on the south coast of England but it was actually filmed in Thetford in East Anglia.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Memory Post – Danger, Railways and Canals

In my occasional series of memory posts I link to my second (now discontinued) blog “Age of Innocence” .  In this two part post I look at growing up and playing dangerously…

Play places didn’t get more dangerous than the London to Birmingham railway line  It was relatively easy to get up on the tracks and put half pennies on the line for the trains to squash and expand to the size of a penny in the optimistic hope that this would double the value of the coin and shopkeepers wouldn’t notice.  (This never worked by the way).

This was rather like in 1969 trying to tile the edges off of a half crown coin to double its value to make one of the new 50 pence pieces.  (This didn’t work either).

Read The Full Story Here…

International Laundry Day

How many of you knew that today is International Laundry Day? I certainly didn’t.

In the mid-1800s a man called Emmett Lee Dickinson established April 15th as National Laundry Day. Dickinson had invented the laundry basket on wheels and wherever he went he urged others to join his crusade for national cleanliness.

I remember laundry day when I was a boy. Monday was traditionally washing day but in the days before automatic washing machines this meant hand washing and firing up a gas boiler and two or three loads of washing to manage. No spin drier either so wet clothes had to be put through the mangle to get rid of the excess water and then without tumble driers, hung out on the line to dry. Getting clothes dry was fairly straightforward on fine days but was a real problem if it was raining or in the winter when linen and clothes were hung around the house and in front of the open fire in a race against time to get them aired.

I have been looking for a good story about laundry and I have chosen this one…

During the troubles in Northern Ireland the British Army needed to determine who was making the bombs and where they were being manufactured. One military advisor recommended that they operate a laundry.

The plan was simple. The laundry would send out “colour-coded” special discount tickets: “get two loads for the price of one.” The color-coding was matched to specific streets and when someone brought in their laundry it was easy to determine the general location.

While the laundry was being washed an additional cycle was added. Every item was sent through a process that was disguised as just another piece of laundry equipment that checked for bomb-making residue.

Within a few weeks multiple positives of bomb residue had shown up. To narrow their target list, the laundry simply sent out more specific numbered coupons to all houses in the suspected area and before long they had a list of addresses. The army swooped down on the homes and arrested the suspects and confiscated numerous assembled bombs, weapons and bomb making ingredients

On This Day – An Atlantic Storm in Cornwall

I am hoping that later this year I will be able to on annual holiday with my grandchildren.  In 2019  we went to Cornwall to the fishing village of Mevagissy and made our arrival amidst a mighty Atlantic Storm…

Read The Full Story Here…

On This Day – Ferry Ride to Gozo

Will lock down end soon? Will we be able to travel ever again? Who knows for sure but in the meantime I continue to go through my picture archives. On 5th April 1996 I was on the island of Malta and took a ferry ride to nearby Gozo.

The white ferry boats with blue and yellow livery run almost continuously during the peak summer months so after we got off the bus at a bleak functional strip of baking tarmac there wasn’t too long to wait for the first ferry to arrive and we joined the pushing impatient crowd to get on board and find a seat on the top deck in the hot morning sun and as soon as it was fully loaded it cast off and began the thirty minute crossing to Gozo.

Read The Full Story Here…

Gaudi, Mozart and a Starling

Whilst looking through my pictures for my previous post about El Capricho I came across the picture of the bird on a piano keyboard…

It reminded me of the story of Mozart’s Starling and I wondered if Gaudi  also knew about the unlikely tale.

Read The Full Story Here…

Ivan Petcher, Sports Reporter

My dad, Ivan, the one in the middle, would have been eighty-nine years old today but sadly he didn’t make it by some way.  I think about him every day but especially so on March 27th.

Luckily I have boxes full of memories and amongst them I have his exercise books where he wrote his sports reports.

Read The Full Story Here…

He was an avid sports fan, anything about Leicester, if I could wish one thing it would be that he saw Leicester City win the English Premier League in 2016.

It’s a Bugs Life

The unseasonally good weather has encouraged the plants in the garden to grow, buds to swell and bugs and insects to make an early appearance.

There is a plethora of ladybirds…

In the USA a group or swarm of ladybirds (which they call ladybugs) is called a loveliness. How nice is that.  The wife of Lyndon Johnson, the 39th President of the USA was called Lady Bird and that is a curious fact and good pub quiz question.

Other famous people with creature names are Buffalo Bill, Bear Grylls, Seal, Tiger Woods, Michael J Fox  and Newt Gingrich,

Butterflies too in the garden, the second one seems to have been in a scrap and come off worst…

There were bees as well, but they were too quick for me to get a picture.

Butterflies are easier because a stay still…

On This Day – Independence Days

The following day we went on another coach trip. Were we mad? I am a believer that the mind cancels out unpleasant events, like bad dreams for example and despite the fact that we had endured a nightmare coach ride to Nicosia only three days previously with blank memories we set off again, this time to the Troodos Mountains.

This time it didn’t work and after only twenty minutes I remembered why I had said that I would never do this again as we went through the same tedious routine of picking people up from all over the holiday resort of Paphos.

After an hour or so we arrived at our first stop – the village of Omodos which turned out to be one of those tourist trap villages where all coaches make a stop-over and the local people pester the life out of you to buy souvenirs that you really do not want or need. We successfully ignored them all and made our way the centre of the village and the Timios Stavros monastery that we had come to see.

The monastery itself was mildly interesting, mostly icons and incense as you can probably imagine but it was other exhibits on the site which made it really worth going to see. First of all a room of precious Byzantine icons several hundred of years old; I am not especially interested in Byzantine icons I have to confess but what fascinated me was the fact that they were just decorating the walls without any protection or security and looking quite vulnerable. I suspect that there was most likely some CCTV somewhere in the room or maybe they are just not especially valuable. Who knows?

Even more interesting was a discreet little museum tucked into a corner room that wasn’t especially well signposted.

It was about the struggle for Cyprus independence which was a bad tempered little spat that took place between 1955 and 1959 between Greek Cypriot freedom fighters in an underground organisation called EOKA (Ethnikí Orgánosis Kypríon Agonistón or roughly translated National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters) and the outdated colonial rule of the British.

Discreet because although Cypriots celebrate independence and consider the terrorist fighters to be resistance heroes I suspect that they don’t really want to offend the hundreds of thousands of British visitors to the country because the reality is that the Cyprus relies heavily on three things – Russian gangsters and money launderers, wealthy Chinese émigrés escaping the communist regime in Beijing and British visitors with more money than sense to support its economy. Specifically here in the tourist shops in Omodos.

I try to be objective in matters like this but the bottom line is that EOKA were terrorists, much like the IRA in Northern Ireland and the Mau Mau in Kenya and they killed three times as many British soldiers as British soldiers killed Greek Cypriots. They employed guerilla warfare tactics including sabotage, civil disobedience, civic disruption, cowardly assassinations, ambush and unjustified attacks against police stations, military installations and the homes of army officers and senior officials including civilians and families of army personnel.

The museum consisted of display cases honouring each of the freedom fighter heroes who died in the struggle and who came from nearby. Each case set out details of their lives and the circumstances of their deaths and contained their clothes and other personal items – sometimes blood stained for effect.

There are no memorials here (or elsewhere in Cyprus) to the British soldiers who died.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs I found this little museum rather interesting and was glad to come across it because two days earlier I had avoided the Independence museum in Nicosia on the advice of the guide book which said that it was especially anti-British and we might not be all that welcome.

Cyprus celebrates Independence Day on 1st October each year. Worldwide there are one hundred and sixty countries that celebrate an Independence Day. This sort of thing is quite difficult for us British to understand, we don’t have an Independence Day to celebrate. England hasn’t been successfully invaded since 1066 and whilst we were glad to previously see the backs of the Romans and the Vikings the Norman Invasion has never really been seen as occupation or subjugation but instead something to be proud of.

France doesn’t have an independence day but it does have the 14th July (Bastille Day) to celebrate the end of the Divine Right of Kings. Germany has a Unity Day on 3rd October to celebrate reunification in 1990 and Spain has a National Day on 12th October which celebrates Christopher Columbus reaching the New World and the subjugation of an entire continent, a sort of Independence Day in reverse. Similarly Australia whose National Day is 26th January and celebrates not the departure of colonialists but the arrival of the first British Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788.

Latvia has two Independence Days both from the same oppressor, November 18th (1918) from the Russian Empire and May 4th (1990) from the Soviet Union.

Another interesting fact is that of the one hundred and sixty Worldwide Independence Days fifty-seven (35% of the total) celebrate independence from the British. Whoops! France is second with twenty-eight and Spain third with twenty-one.

Let’s hope for all of us that the Brexit Nationalist dimwits don’t start cheering January 1st as UK Independence Day because I for one won’t be joining in to celebrate a day of National self harm.

The Little Chef All Day Breakfast

“Little Chef had its roots in the days before Britain had a motorway network, in fact, there are some who believe that our motorways were built primarily to join up all the Little Chefs.” The Caterer.

My Mum likes to tell a story about how as a boy I was a really fussy eater. It might be true. I do know that my own son was a terribly fussy eater. Once on holiday in Portugal in 1994 I had to take him every night to the same bar for a cone of boiled rice and a Pingu ice cream because it was all that he would eat.

This is a Pingu ice cream…

Getting him to eat was a real challenge but the one place he did like was the Little Chef Roadside Diner at Little Eaton near Derby so in desperation and before he wasted away completely we used to take him there now and again for his favourite meal of chicken gougons and French fries.

This is the Little Chef Diner at Little Eaton.  It was an old farmhouse with character.  It is a Starbucks now…

In 2000 there were almost four and fifty branches of Little Chef across the UK and Ireland. Barely fifteen years later there were just 70. Now there are none. The brand simply went out of fashion.

The relationship between driving and eating can be traced back to the economic boom of the 1950s. People had more money to spend, they had cars, they had time to spare, and they were taking inspiration from American culture and heading out on a road trip. What better place to stop for a meal along the way than an American style diner.

The first Little Chef opened in 1958 and restaurants appeared by the side of main roads nationwide and managed to convince families that their cheap, no-nonsense menus would be better than going to the bother of preparing a picnic.

This is a Petcher family picnic in 1959…

Little Chef was most famous for its all day breakfast which thanks to a standardised corporate menu was pretty much similar in all of the restaurants. If you went for a breakfast then you knew exactly what you were going to get.

The basic breakfast was two rashers of bacon, a pork sausage, two free-range eggs, mushroom, sauté potatoes, griddled tomato, Heinz baked beans (specifically Heinz as though this was some sort of gourmet ingredient) and two slices of toast or fried bread. For some reason a slice of black pudding cost extra. I have never really understood why, it is the same today if you buy a breakfast in Wetherspoons, you have to pay extra for black pudding.

This was most likely a rather unhealthy breakfast but Little Chef had a reputation for serving big calorific meals. The company logo was a cheerful looking chef unashamedly called Fat Charlie.

Some studies have shown the health benefits of eating breakfast. It improves energy levels and ability to concentrate in the short term and can help with improved weight management. That may be so but breakfast means means a morning meal, which literally means to break the fasting period of the prior night. I am not so certain therefore that an ’all day breakfast’ meets the healthy criteria..

A couple of weeks ago I recreated the classic Berni Inn three course favourite of prawn cocktail, steak garni and Black Forest Gateau and this week I made an attempt at recreating the Little Chef all day breakfast.

I was not straying too far from the original for this one…

Two rashers of good lean unsmoked bacon (I am not a fan of smoked food of any sort), one Lincolnshire pork sausage (it has to be Lincolnshire of course), just one egg because one egg is enough, sauté potatoes, grilled tomato, baked beans (served on the side because I don’t like baked bean juice all over the plate), a slice of Lancashire black pudding (at no extra cost) and some toast.

And here it is…