August 5 2014 was a tough day because we had to say our final goodbyes to Commando Senior. This time there were none of the black horses and glass coaches that April had wanted, just cars and flowers and a coffin that somehow didn’t seem big enough to contain someone so much larger than life. It was raining gently as we left the house and slid into the limousine. Somehow that seemed fitting. Continue reading Saying Goodbye – first published 5 August 2014
The glorious sunset that made me smile on my way home from work on Thursday night was Commando Senior’s last. I’d like to think he looked out of his window and smiled at it too. At some point during the night or the early hours of Friday the world became a poorer place. We knew we’d have to let him go but we’d wanted to be there holding his hand as he set off on that final journey. In typical fashion he had other ideas, or Mother Nature did. Continue reading Albert Keates, a celebration – first published 28 July 2014
Two years have now passed since the sad day we lost Commando Senior. Today it seems fitting that I should republish the last of his memoirs, the one he was working on in those last few days. It’s a terrible shame he didn’t have more time to write about his flying, his days running his engineering business or all the other wonderful things he did like flying on Concord or sailing on the QE2. Maybe it’s fitting that this last memoir should be about something happy and something that made him incredibly happy, his dancing.Continue reading random musings of a geriatric delinquent – the dancing years – first published 12 September 2014
This instalment of the memoirs of Commando Senior highlights the small pleasures that made life bearable for a young boy growing up in wartime England. There many not have been any of the fancy phones and games twenty first century children take for granted but there was plenty to amuse an inquisitive and resourceful lad. Come to that, there were a few things to get him into trouble too.
One of the few pleasures available to a small boy during the war was collecting ‘shrapnel’ the remnants of shells, bullets and bombs. Shrapnel was a collective term for any such debris but unknown to me at the time it was, originally, the most dangerous part of an exploding shell, invented by Major General Shrapnel, a citizen of Southampton, living at a house in Rockstone Place.
At about ten years of age, in Miss Page’s class at Central, I lazily ran my hand along the bottom of a fixed blackboard, resulting in a wood splinter under the nail of my right ring finger. It was long enough to reach past the first knuckle joint. Miss Page had me soak it in a cup of water, which made matters worse.
At noon, when I went home, Mum took one look and sent me to The Royal South Hants hospital, a journey of some mile or so. There was no A&E in those days but a friendly porter/reception man kindly took me to a nurse. After consulting a doctor, she cut my nail away sufficiently to allow forcep purchase on the other end of the splinter and pull it out. I recall it hurt more coming out that it had going in. A dab of iodine and I was on my way back to school.
Such was the world back then. A generation earlier, Dad had been sent, equally alone, to have his tonsils removed under general anaesthetic and allowed to walk home after recovery. Imagine this sequence of events happening today! A ten year old with a medical need, sent home and then to hospital, treated and returned to school unaccompanied and with the added danger of enemy action or a tonsillectomy similarly treated.
About mid war, I was allowed much more freedom than an eleven or twelve year old would have today. A favourite outing on my old Hercules sit up and beg ladies bike, was to take it to Hythe on the ferry and cycle home by road, stopping en route to eat cold baked beans, from the can, at the roadside.
During the latter part of the war an American Serviceman was murdered in St George’s Cut, off the lower part of East Street. Being somewhat of an entrepreneur, I guided interested visitors to the scene for tips. When the bloodstains faded I repainted them. Unfortunately this rather spoiled the effect.
Given the electrical problem at the flats we rented a landline service from Redifusion. A boon to the younger generation (mainly me), as well as the HomeService, Light Programme and, classical, Third Programme, Radio Luxembourg was also available. This provided the ‘pop’ music of the day, content not yet available on ‘Aunty Beeb.’ Occasionally the American Forces Network also provided up to date content, it was many years before the ‘pirate’ stations, such as Caroline, forced the BBC to cater for younger people.
It seems to me the children of today could learn a lot from their counterparts in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The main lesson is that fun doesn’t have to cost money and it certainly doesn’t come with a charger cable.
Back in February 2014 I published the second of Commando Senior’s memoirs. It was written when my wonderful father in law was still in good health, dashing about all over the place and appearing out of the blue on our doorstep with a cry of “it’s only me,” bearing gifts of his delicious home made cakes. Little did we know that in less than two months he’d be in hospital with a broken hip or that this would begin a decline that he never recovered from. This instalment is set during World War II. It is hard to imagine living through such a time as an adult but for a child it must have been both bewildering and frightening. Imagine waking each day to a landscape changed beyond belief, familiar landmarks replaced by smoking craters. Continue reading random musings of a geriatric delinquent – the blitz – first published 28 February 2014
It’s hard to believe that today it will be a whole year since we lost my amazing Father In Law, Albert Keates, affectionately known as Commando Senior. It seems fitting then, that I revisit some of the memoirs he wrote in the last year of his life. Apologies to anyone who has read these stories of his before but, as they were lost when my old blog was hacked, it seems only right that I republish them now in tribute to him. The first instalment tells of his childhood in the Great Depression of the 1930’s, a time when poverty meant a completely different thing to our idea of poverty today. Back then there were no TVs, no mobile phones or computers, in fact none of the electrical gadgets and labour saving devices we all think are essential now. A trip to the loo often meant going to the bottom of the garden. Poverty meant a choice between food and shoes as you will see if you read on… Continue reading Random musings of a geriatric delinquent – The great depression – first published 11 February 2014