Istanbul 2012


My trip to Istanbul

April 27th to May 1st 2012

I had always wanted to go to Istanbul and finally made it this year. It was everything I expected but much better and much, muchmore. It is a glorious city with glorious people and I will definitely visit again.

I travelled with best friend of 17 years Nabil and he felt the same way about Istanbul as I did.

We travelled from Heathrow on Friday April 27th on Turkish Airlines as I wanted the full Turkish experience. We ended up getting into Istanbul 2 hours late but these days and after all my years working as a travel rep I know 2 hours is nada.

Aboard our Turkish Airlines flight we had great service and good food. The entertainment system was outstanding. I consider myself well- travelled – maybe not the last 10 years or so but I had never seen the like. We could watch on our personal monitors what was going around our plane and watch ourselves take off and land which was bit scary especially on our return to Heathrow where we had a bumpy landing after circling for about 20 minutes in heavy turbulence. I must admit I was thinking at the time that I knew I had made my will and my sister Linda had said she would take care of my dog – Mac…..☺

Anyway, besides the cameras showing us outside the plane there were plenty of up-to-date films to watch – I watched ‘We Bought a Zoo’ but didn’t finish it on the outward journey so the last 20 minutes I caught on the homeward leg and I cried. There were plenty of TV programmes and games. You could even use the games console as a telephone and phone someone in another seat if you wanted but as Nabil and I were sat next to one another it wasn’t necessary☺ But a good idea anyway ☺

We arrived at Atatürk International Airport and didn’t realise we had to join a Visa queue before joining the Passport Control queue which we did so, we had to go pay our £10 at the Visa desk and get a lovely colourful sticker in our passports and join the Passport Control queue again…but no matter.

The luggage came through quickly and then we met ‘John’ who was arranging transport to hotels. We hung around and eventually got into a mini-van arranged by our hotel. We shared with 5 other people who had flown in from Zagreb but we were the first to be dropped off. We had been worrying about tips, as you do, and eventually gave the driver 10 Turkish Lira (TL) which was just under £4. After all – the ride was free.

We arrived at the hotel I had searched and searched for online for days, maybe weeks looking at Travel Advisor traveller reports – it seems there are ‘trolls’ out there who deliberately write bad reports for all hotels/ restaurants, etc – usually other hotels, restaurants, etc – and I finally decided on the 3 star Hotel Dara in the historical area of Sultanhamet.

We were warmly welcomed and shown to our rooms. Mine was Room 36 whilst a lovely room proved to be very noisy. However, it was well-appointed with all the mod-cons of wi-fi and TV (if you understand Turkish – Nabil found Al-Jazeera in English on his TV but I didn’t and didn’t really have time or the inclination). Everything was very clean and cleaned daily with fresh towels every day too. It was very small however but adequate – you just had to adapt to the dimensions especially in the bathroom. There was also a safe in the room which was free of charge.

Nabil’s room was right below mine and was Room 28. His was a little less noisy than mine.

Mine was noisy because after Morning Prayer just before sunrise the birds went mad – it was like some kind of fist-fight or should I say wing or beak fight going on outside my room only with birds about5/5.30am. When this quietened down I would hear right above my room the breakfast-terrace being prepared which was very noisy. The first night I imagined some mad old woman banging a plank of wood against the fire escape because it sounded just like that ☺So, I didn’t really get enough sleep whilst there even though we had early nights.

But, I would stay at the Hotel Dara again if I could have a quieter room. I know one cannot do anything about Morning Prayer – that was rather exotic and exciting especially as we had a mosque right across the road from the hotel and the Blue Mosque about 5 minute’s walk away. And, I don’t suppose one can do anything about the birds either but it would be better to be away from the kitchen and breakfast- terrace ☺

As we dumped our bags and organised our rooms and prepared to go for a walk and explore we heard rain pelting down outside – not a good sign. But, I had checked the weather forecast and rain was predicted and only predicted that day – the rest of our stay was predicted as sunny and about 70 F/20 C which was perfect. And, we got that weather – I think, in fact, we had a few more degrees with it being a little chilly in the evenings which we expected in April and it was much better than back here in London too!

On our way out we spoke to Aytac (he said pronounced as ‘High Touch’) and he told us how to get to the Hippodrome and Sultanhamet Square which were about 5 minutes walk up the quite steep cobbled hill from the hotel. We entered the Hippodrome which used to be a huge arena that had fantastic chariot racing and was laid out in the 3rd century AD and the stadium held up to 100,000 people. This was also the scene of a brawl in 532 AD between rival chariot-racing teams which developed into the Nika Revolt that destroyed most ofIstanbul at that time.

Now, it’s very peaceful with gardens and places to sit and relax and the Egyptian Obelisk built in 1500 BC which came from Luxor (this apparently was only a third of the original height of the Obelisk) and part of the Serpentine Column built in 479 BC and shipped from Delphi and the weathered Column of Constantine Porphryogenitus (yes, you try pronouncing that!) – was restored by Emperor Constantine in the 10th century AD (remember Istanbul used to be called Constantinople after this Emperor). It looks weathered now because young soldiers called Janissaries used to show-off scaling the column showing how manly they were.

As we entered the Hippodrome the sight that knocked you sideways was that of the Blue Mosque – wow! – what a magnificent sight! The photos I took do not do it justice. We were seeing it for the first time in the evening light all lit-up with its magnificent 6 minarets and lots of seagulls swirling around them making it even more dramatic as if it wasn’t dramatic enough!

We saw people walking in a side-door and decided to follow as they looked like tourists like us. We entered the courtyard and I managed to get a photo before a guard told us it was now closed.

We left in search of sustenance and libation.

We walked along the remains of the Hippodrome towards Hagia Sofia the once huge church but subsequently turned into a mosque and famous – to me at least – for having appeared in ‘From Russia with Love’. It is now classed as museum and not used for worship.

We walked amongst restaurants, cafés and bars and this was one of the annoying things about Istanbul (and certain other places too) is that they try and entice you in to each and every joint and being terribly British I just tended to say no and moved on. If I hadn’t had all these approaches I may have at least had a look at the menu. But you have to adapt very quickly as it is their custom and not mine.

We walked past a bar where we were approached and then decided to return as a beer was needed. This was my first beer in just over 5 months!

It wasn’t terribly busy because it had rained that day and even that evening so, we sat inside and ordered two Efes beers; tried to learn a little Turkish with the bar-men and then after much discussion about tips which got nowhere so we didn’t bother we went to dinner.

Around the corner was a cluster of lovely looking restaurants from which we had to choose and we had a delicious first Turkish meal in Turkey.

We then returned back to the Hotel Dara and tried to sleep ☺

The next day was Saturday April 28th.

We had arranged to meet and have breakfast at9am. So, we climbed the short flight of steps that led to the breakfast terrace which had stunning views across the Sea of Marmara and small mosque next door responsible no doubt for the extra loud morning call to prayers ☺

There was two staff on duty smiling and generally looking after us. The lady Samra was lovely and promised to bring us Turkish coffee but Nabil got a coffee and I didn’t but it wasn’t Turkish anyway and I had just had an ordinary one. Nabil said Samra reminded him of a woman in a James Bond film and when the penny dropped who he meant I said ‘Nabil! Really!’ (Even though I knew who he meant I have had to Google her character and which film it was and it was ‘Rosika Miklos’ in ‘The Living Daylights’ – I’ll let you look that one up!). Now, I hadn’t really looked at Samra and the next day I said to Nabil, ‘Yes, she does a bit, doesn’t she?’ Now, not an exact carbon-copy you understand and not 6 feet tall either but her looks betrayed her loveliness – put it that way ☺

The breakfast buffet had endless variety which no-one could balk at. And, you could eat as much or as little as you wanted. Nabil went for the first option; I went for the second option ☺ So, there we were sat on a terrace inIstanbul,Turkey eating breakfast and looking over the Sea of Marmara! Wow!

After breakfast we set off to the Blue Mosque which we had visited the night before. I had tried to be efficient and research where the entrance for tourists was but took us the long way around but it was an interesting little tiny backstreet we walked down anyway.

We arrived to find queue a mile long but the weather was lovely about 70 degrees and we bobbed in and out of the queue afraid of losing our place but just left to take photos and actually just joined wherever we were stood each time. Not really pushing in because we had been there all along.

It may have been 45 mins to an hour to queue.

We finally reached the entrance and entered through a very narrow arch which was the bottle-neck for the crowds or it controlled the amount of people who could enter so, no bad thing.

You have to take off your shoes at this point and plastic-bags are provided to put them in. Men should not visit in shorts and women should not have bare shoulders, etc….no different to St Peter’s inRome.

Then, nothing prepares you for the splendour and the grandeur of the interior of the Blue Mosque (so-called because of the mainly blue Ìznik tilework). In fact, Nabil looked up and said a word which I abhor but in this case fitted perfectly – ‘Awesome!’ This magnificent mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 and its 6 minarets caused great controversy at the time because it was said to be a sacrilegious attempt to outdo Mecca. Still it is splendiferous!

We walked around in awe on the carpeted floor just trying to take it in, taking photos which like photos of the Grand Canyon will never show what you are actually seeing the way you see it and feel it in real life.

I kept saying it’s worth becoming a Muslim if you could pray here ☺


We spent about half an hour wandering the Blue Mosque and then headed across to the Hagia Sofia which was a just a few hundred yards away across Sultanhamet Square and past the Baths of Roxelana where we were to have a Hamam the very next day.

So, we joined the queue to see where scenes from the Bond film ‘From Russia with Love’ were filmed and I had the John Barry music cue played in those scenes cued on my i-Pod shuffle – now that is sad, but I don’t give a monkey’s…

This was a loooong queue and we didn’t know quite what to do at first because there were a few people queuing at a van for permits so, I asked a European-looking couple if we had to get a ticket here. They thought that you did but….. Anyway, I asked one of the guards at the front of the long queue but communicating wasn’t working so, I stopped a tour-guide and he said the queue at the van was for ‘season’ or as Nabil said maybe ‘citizen’ permits could be acquired.

Anyway, we joined the long queue with everyone else at this point but didn’t want to do that if you had to buy a ticket in advance so we had explore all the permutations of what was necessary especially after queuing at Passport Control the day before and then being told we had to get the Visa first and then come to Passport Control. I know this sounds logical but travellers check-in their brains at the same time as they check-in their baggage in their home country. Believe me; I know I worked as an overseas rep for 13 years. But, we reps when travelling are no different to the non-reps when travelling.☺ We leave our common sense behind too! ☺

As we waited in this long line we inwardly moaned but hey! Everyone else was queuing too – or were they?  Men trying to sell you guide-books came up to us saying that if we bought one of their guide-books (we already had one!) we wouldn’t need to queue; we could go straight in…..we didn’t believe this was true but a group of Spanish people behind us decided to trust one man and they didn’t come back so, I suppose it might be true. But we were cynical and stood our ground – were we fools or were we wise? We still don’t know ☺

The weather was perfect – not too hot at about 70/75. Nabil got us an ice-cream which was delicious and finally after about an hour and half; maybe two hours we got to buy our ticket at 25 Turkish Lira (£8.60) each and enter the glory that was Hagia Sofia (Holy Wisdom). In ‘From Russia with Love’ it is called ‘St Sophia’.

I took dozens of photos and thought I had found the spot where in the Tanya Romanova leaves the compact and to my surprise on watching the film on my return it was the right place! Well, I have been watching this and other Bond films since the mid-60’s. Yes, I am that old! So, something must have been ingrained on my memory.

I stood looking at the images I remembered from the film and plugged in my i-Pod shuffle and bathed in all its glory ☺☺☺

There was a lot more to see here than in the Blue Mosque so we wandered around looking at the place from every angle but I was also very tired. So, after about 2 hours wandering around this beautiful place we decided to leave and go for a drink and lunch.

We found a lovely little bar perched above the main road and tram-line right next to Hagia Sofia and were lucky enough to get the only table in the shade as it was pretty warm now.

We ordered 2 x Efes lagers and we were asked ‘Small, medium or large’ – well, we thought a large would be like a pint but it seemed huge when it arrived and in future we ordered medium – thank you ☺ I could hardly lift the glass!!

We tried to return here the next day but it was teeming with people.

Anyway, we ate and had our large lagers and then it was siesta time before we headed off toTaksim Square which was across the Galata Bridge across the Golden Horn (how fantastic does that sound and it doesn’t let you down with the view of all the mosques on the horizon).

We were still to be on the European side even though we had crossed the water and we took a tram ride which was pretty efficient.

We asked in the hotel about the best way of paying for our tram-rides because there are two types of travel-cards (like our Oyster card in London) but because we were there only a few days we decided to pay for each journey we took which cost 2 TL (70p) for each leg. You have to buy a ‘jeton’ (token) from the jeton machines before you can board the tram but this is all very easy-peasy.

So, we bought 4 jetons each because we knew we had to take our tram from Sultanhamet to Kabatas and then a funicular to Taksim. The funicular was an underground one – that was a first for me!

So, we spewed out intoTaksim Square which was wall-to-wall people. This was the young person’s area with gay bars a-plenty apparently.

What I saw was this street that looked like Oxford Street with Christmas lights that was endless and packed to the gills with people seemingly going nowhere. The shops were all the shops you see at home as on Oxford Street. It was a bloody nightmare. It bothered me but not Nabil. We are very different people.

He had wanted to meet up with someone there to show us around but after having a siesta (which never helps me – as if I am not irritable enough this makes me more so) I was ratty and all these wildebeest just pouring up and down this street was getting to me.

Luckily we happened on a nice little quiet bar which just happened to be gay and we could sit outside so Nabil could have his cancer-sticks. We asked the bar man to recommend a restaurant but it sounded expensive so we decided to go in search of our own. We went round and round and round and finally found one which wasn’t half bad. So, having eaten we wondered what to do. I wanted to go home but I felt very guilty because I knew Nabil didn’t.

So, we went back to the same gay bar which was getting busier by the minute. But, I don’t really do bars anymore and loud music and inhaling other people’s smoke either, so I said Nabil that I needed to go home to bed and would he mind. I said he could stay if he wanted. Well, that really went without saying. Anyway, being the good friend that he is he gave into me and we came back to the quiet of Sultanhamet but Taksim Squareis seared on my brain and I never want to go back there again!!!!

We arranged a cruise for the next Sunday April 29th. It was a 2 ½ cruise that cost about 60 TL (£21) which included transfer from hotel and guide on boat who was lovely but very hard to understand and drinks and snacks on-board.

It was a lovely boat and the weather and scenery perfect.

We sailed along the Golden Horn towards the Black Sea along the Bosphorus and under the Bosphorus Bridge and returned along the Asian coast to Maiden’s Tower. Now, I had an interest in this because this was where Dame Judi Dench as ‘M’ in ‘The World Is Not Enough’ was imprisoned and underneath the tower Renard had the nuclear submarine. Well, luckily when we landed at Maiden’s Tower Dame Judi had escaped but I was very chuffed to have visited there.

Before we arrived at the tower, of course I was taking photos galore and I espied a building that reminded me of Elektra King’s villa in Baku but thought it must just be similar building because I remembered reading in the credits of the film of ‘The World Is Not Enough’ that parts of it were filmed on location in Baku. But again when I got home and re-watched the film, I paused it when the villa was shown and took a look at my photo and it was indeed Elektra King’s villa! That was a great surprise and extra-added bonus for me anyway. Nabil couldn’t have cared less ☺

The views were stunning on this cruise and I would highly recommend it. We did want to actually set foot on the Asian side of Istanbul but that is something for the next visit. We both agreed we would like to go back toIstanbul. So, we shall see what we shall see…..

At the end of the cruise we decided to disembark at Eminönü near Galata Bridgewhich we had crossed the night before in the tram. We had planned to come here to have af resh fish sandwich and a cold beer which we had heard about. So, Nabil had his fresh fish sandwich which was, I think 5 TL (£1.70) and then we went in search of the Spice Bazaar built in the early 17th Century and part of the New Mosque extension which was right next door. Another beautiful building.

We had to take a tunnel under the road which was full of vendors and I stooped to buy some sunglasses which without bartering cost me 10 TL (£3.40) and I am still very pleased with them. But, there were so many people it was like a throw-back to the night before in Taksim. But, I made it through into the wonderful world of the Spice Bazaar.

Full of stall-holders vying for your custom ‘Where are you from?’; ‘I have a lovely ‘this or that’ for you!’ One man asked me if I was Spanish and automatically because I speak Spanish I replied ‘No! Soy Ingles’ (‘No! I’m English’) Ha! He said I carried my self like a Spaniard – whatever that means ☺

We didn’t buy anything here but tried some Turkish Delight (Lokum). The Turkish Delight I bought was from the Grand Bazaar!

Then, I wanted to see another Bond location as I knew it was within walking distance. Again, from ‘From Russia with Love’ was Sirkeci Railway Station which was built in 1890 to receive the Orient Express and where James Bond and Tanya Romanova try to escape SMERSH with the Lektor.

Then, our next stop which we had booked the previous day was a Hamam in those beautiful baths built by Süleyman the Magnificent’s power-hungry wife Roxelana in 1556. They were designed for use by the congregation of the Hagia Sophia when it was used as a mosque.

This was an experience indeed. And, one I would like to repeat on a daily basis. One sits in a beautiful hot-room first and then taken for a cleansing and a massage like you will never experience and the surroundings are fantastic too.

The strangest thing that happened was that when I was being dried-off by my masseur he asked as usual where I was from and said that I was fromEngland–London and he said that he had a friend from whom he learnt his English from – wait for it! Huddersfield!!!!! Well, I’ll go to foot of our stairs ☺

After leaving the Hamam and I still have my slippers; my exfoliating glove and the shampoo, etc we were greeted by the lovely site that is Hagia Sophia and I can tell you all the colours around us were just so much more vibrant – ha! Who needs drugs – just go for a Hamam.

Anyway, we decided to go for an Efes and found the bar we had found the day before was full so we found a table next door to it (same staff; same kitchen) but no alcohol so, we left and went a place across the road which had a courtyard and comfortable settees and cushions.

We sat here and the owner who became the only annoying person we met inIstanbul kept coming over to us; said he’d lived in London and even listed the northern part of the Northern Line stations to us.

We only wanted a beer but had a look at the menu just in case for dinner but he became so obnoxious that place was right out.

So, we had a warm Efes and then, I think went to Lokum (the bar we had visited the first evening) for a cold beer and I think a taste of Raki.

Whilst sitting here we saw people eating and really fancied this huge dish of a mixture of meats and salad and even chips – I can’t remember its name now but I think I have a / some not very clear photos of it.

Anyway, we returned to the hotel to change and dump our things and returned to Lokum that evening where there were what I thought were two annoying Antipodean ladies. They turned out to be the opposite; they were fromNew Zealand and sat next to us at dinner and lived in London and were lovely. They had been on a ‘pilgrimage’ to Gallipoli where they had slept outside on the beach with lots of other Kiwis and Aussies to celebrate an anniversary of a battle there. I only know Mel Gibson was in the film and he ran into the sea naked. Sorry my ignorance prevents me from being more exact than that but I am sure the anniversary could be Googled. But, they were indeed very entertaining ladies and I take back all my original negative thoughts about them before I actually met them.

I think, after this we returned to the hotel for an early night as usual. Well, I am getting onto 60 – sorry Nabil ☺

Monday April 30th was our last proper day and we had decided to go to the Grand Bazaar – again within walking distance of our hotel.

What a place – it is exactly as you imagine it even more so – it was established way back in 1453. Now, this place is huge and vendors do not leave you alone….they ask where you are from; would you like this or would you like that – non-stop. Now, this seems nothing but after 5 hours it gets on your bloody nerves. And, you walk round and round and round in circles – it’s very easy to get lost – so take a map.

Nabil was on a mission – he had to buy 3 or 4 leather jackets and this took most of the 5 hours because he was relentless in his bartering. Of course, being British I had to look the other way but admired the guts he had which I would never have.

He got his jackets and even I got one – knocked down from something like £200 to around £75 (approx) each. But it was tiring and I was getting irritable – no, I got irritable as usual. But the last stall-holder I spoke to whilst Nabil was haggling for his last jacket said ‘No-one should spend 5 hours here; 2 maybe’……

But, a fantastic place that I will never forget.

I did pose at a water fountain at one point and then on re-watching ‘From Russia With Love’ saw 007 walk right past on his way to Kerim Bey’s place – so, I was happy I had been to another Bond location without even knowing it. I had never even noticed that part of the film but I hadn’t been to the Grand Bazaar before. And, we had our first proper Turkish coffee here too very elegantly served too.

After shopping which I hate at the best of times I negotiated with Nabil…..he said could we straight back to the hotel and drop off the stuff? I said I needed an Efes. He said he would rather go straight back to the hotel. I said that if he could hold off having a cigarette all the way to the hotel then that’s fine. I won. I had to have my fix too as well as he.

So, we found a bar/ restaurant that had alcohol (not all serve it) and we sat in lovely place just people-watching for about an hour.

Then, we returned to hotel and dumped our booty of leather jackets; Turkish Delight and cushion covers; ordered our taxi for the next day’s journey to the airport and out for din-dins.

Where shall we choose? Decisions – Decisions.

You must remember that when searching for a drink or a meal our surroundings were spectacular! We would walk through the Hippodrome with the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia looming over us – wonderful!

I even recorded the Blue Mosque whilst evening call to prayer/ prayers were being performed. Hopefully I can upload it here. Maybe it won’t mean anything to you as it’s not your experience but it should be – make sure you go to Istanbul!

After our last dinner which in my opinion was the best – I think I had Sea Bream – it was time to go back to the Dara Hotel and pack and be ready to leave the next morning. Not too early as that’s the way I had planned it – no early, early flights or late night ones either.

We said our goodbyes to Aytac and Samra (gave them a TL 60 tip) and our taxi arrived on time and we were off!

The journey back to Atatürk International Airportwas uneventful passing through typical city suburbs which are not as pretty as Sultanhamet but people have to live in the real world, I suppose.

Our flight was on time and everything went smoothly. I managed to watch the end of the ‘We Bought a Zoo’ film on the way back. Lots of turbulence when landing at Heathrow which was scary as we seemed to be taking a long time getting on the ground. But this was right in the middle of all that rain that we experienced in the south-east and everywhere in the UK – we still are as I try and finish this report (June 8th).

We went through the automated Passport Control (my first experience) and we were half-way home on the tube within 2 hours of landing – not bad. I decided to leave the tube at Knightsbridge and get a 137 bus but decided if a taxi appeared first I would take that and I was home in no time at all.

All-in-all a 10 out of 10 experience. Only downside was the noisy room and the slightly obnoxious restaurant owner who said he had lived in London.

Here’s to my next visit!!!!!



Ken Russell – ‘The Master’ dies aged 84 : Another one of my heroes bites the dust…

I had never heard of Ken Russell until 1969 when a very controversial film called ‘Women in Love’ was released. I went to see it on my own at the Empire in Huddersfield just for the male nude wrestling scene but what I saw on the screen changed my life. I had never ever seen a film so beautiful. I remember going to school the next day and telling everyone (we were all under-age because it was an ‘X’ certificate film) they must go and see it and would go with anyone who wanted to go. I remember thinking you could stop each frame of the film and take it away and have it as a picture on your wall….but more about my love for Ken Russell films later.

Me and Ken in 2001 at the Curzon Soho for the premiere of his film ‘The Fall of the Louse of Usher’

Me and Ken in 2008 on his 81st birthday in his local pub in the New Forest

Here is a précis of his career from the Homepage of my Ken Russell discussion group at Yahoo called ‘The Lair of Ken Russell’:

(Henry)Ken(neth)(Alfred)Russell was born in Southampton on July 3rd, 1927.
From there he went to the BBC for the Arts programme: Monitor where he madeElgar (1962) which put him on the film-making map!
In 1963 his first feature film French Dressing flopped so he returned to television where he amazed us all with: The Debussy Film (1965); Isadora Duncan: The Biggest Dancer in the World (1966) and Song of Summer(1968) before shocking ‘them’ with the still banned Dance of the Seven Veils: A Comic Strip in Seven Episodes on the Life of Richard Strauss (1970).
Then – cue music – he stunned the world and changed lives with a string of masterpieces starting with Women in Love (1969) for which he was nominated for his only Oscar and sallied forth with The Music Lovers (1970) and, his crowning glory The Devils (1971) which still causes uproar to this very day and still isn’t officially released on DVD!
Besides many other TV films and Operas his films include The Boyfriend; Savage Messiah; Mahler; Tommy; Lisztomania; Valentino; Altered States; Crimes of Passion; Gothic; Lair of the White Worm; The Rainbow and Whore.
2008:Ken directed Anthony Horowitz’s acclaimed thriller ‘Mindgame’ in New York at the SoHo Theatre (Off-Broadway). Also, ‘Boudica Bites Back!’

RIP Ken Russell: The Master: November 27th 2011

CHAPTER 8: My Nannan: Mabel Clarke (née Stringer)

My Nannan: Mabel Clarke (née Stringer)

“Mabel in the stable eating under the table…”

(Nannan aged 48 in 1962 at Sandra & Peter’s wedding (thanks to them for the photo).

Nannan always said it was very ‘smart’ for a woman to wear a hat and she didn’t think she was smart enough but she’s wearing one here!)


“Mabel in the stable eating under the table…”

This was a ‘limerick’ or part of a limerick which we would recite in the prefab where I used to stay with my Nannan. I stayed there as often as I could but I didn’t have the say when I could visit. Now having ‘Googled’ the above quotation it seems to be come from a couple of dirty limericks which I am sure my Nannan was well aware of.  But, I don’t remember her or anyone saying anymore than the above at anytime.

Mabel Stringer was born in Huddersfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire on February 16th, 1914 to Wilfred & Ethel and one of 10 children (4 girls and 6 boys)

(see Chapter 3).

Mabel was the most positive female role model of my childhood and my life. Without her I don’t know what I would have done as she was my sanctuary and the only person to show me real love as a child. Indeed when my Mother was pregnant for a second time my Nannan asked if she could adopt me. I realise now that I was a kind of ‘replacement’ (for want of a better word) for her drowned son Cyril. So, thank you; and this sounds twisted; Uncle Cyril for dying.

I am the only one of my family with 3 brothers and 3 sisters who got to know my Nannan. I suppose because I was born when my Mother was still living at home where I lived too. And, what is a grandparent for but to ‘cosset’ and ‘spoil’ a grandchild? I am surmising she took care of me as a baby at home when my Mother was out working (later I was to go to nursery on certain days). I doubt, but don’t know if my Nannan would have had time to go out to work but I now believe she did evening cleaning work for a time. However, when I was born in 1955 my Mother was 19 and she was one of 5 other daughters aged 8 (x 2), 10, 12, 14 – all of school age. Blimey! Dissecting this now is incredible! And, she wanted to adopt me on top of all this!

After the warning ‘If you get pregnant again – you’re out!’ the rest of my siblings were born away from my Nannan’s 12,Crest Hill Road council house. However, I do remember a huge black & white framed photograph of my sister, May, as a baby on her side-board at the prefab. It was a huge pink tinged plastic frame which was quite ornate. I have no idea who has that photograph today. And, when my Nannan was dying in hospital in 1989 and she was in the last stages I remember May and I were stood at the end of her bed and she seemed to remember May and not me. How strange as she hadn’t known May as an adult…..I must admit I was upset at the time…

Anyway, as stated I cannot remember much from living at 12, Crest Hill Road and those few memories are in Chapter 2 but around 1959/ 1960 my Nannan and girls moved to a 2-bedroomed prefab at 10, Netherwood Close, Netheroyd Hill still in Huddersfield. The prefab estate has now long since been torn down, of course and now the area where that stood are built modern private homes.

(Here is 10, Netherwood Close from the outside (there is another in Chapter 2 below) – in the top one are Nannan (in her rollers), me with the long legs (what bloody happened!) and Mrs MacDonald who was a neighbour. In the bottom which I probably took are Auntie Sandra, Nannan and Mrs MacDonald. ( I remember Mrs MacDonald had a tortoise called ‘Fred’ which went missing one summer. Anyone who found him would get a reward of 5 shillings. Guess what! I found him and got my 5 shilllings! But Nannan said it was too much and I had to take half of it back and keep half a crown. Still a lot of money. But I was upset.))

See here for an explanation of the currency in England at the time:  

(This the only photo I have of the interior of the ‘front room’ of 10, Netherwood Close and it shows me sitting on my Nannan’s knee. To the right you can see the fireplace which had two little doors on its front and besides a paraffin heater in the kitchen was the only source of heat in the prefab. Apparently one night I slept-walked to the fireplace and tried to wee in it! Attached to the wall in the photo is a brass ornament which comes to a sharp point which was used to keep ‘spills’ in. I remember on the hearth there was a scary ornament of three brass monkeys with horrible red ruby eyes. They represented ‘Hear nought, see nought and say nought’.)

Apparently the twins Janet & Jennifer and Sandra also lived there and sometimes Laraine. I say Laraine sometimes lived there because she was a runaway child and was often sent to an approved school one of which was a train ride away from Huddersfield because I remember either going to meet her or see her off at Huddersfield Railway Station. Once she had ‘broken’ back into the prefab to get some clothes. But, she did it so quietly I didn’t wake up because I believe she entered through the window of the second bedroom where I was sleeping slap bang in the middle of Janet & Jennifer her sisters and my Aunties. Maybe they woke up and were complicit in her act. I didn’t get to know Laraine until much later.

I used to sleep in my Nannan’s bed with her too but I remember my sleeping most between Janet & Jennifer in the other bedroom and singing songs from the hit parade and, I think having a sneaky listen to Radio Luxembourg on a transistor radio. If we got out of hand my Nannan would bang on the paper-thin wall to tell us to be quiet. Maybe this is why I still spend my time singing all the time to this very day.

(The type of transistor radios we had in those days. These were as innovative as i-Pods today.)

One time when I *did* sleep with my Nannan I had bought or had borrowed a ‘horror’ novel (me and my schoolmates often went to Brighouse market and swapped books/ comics, etc) and brought it to her house. The cover was of this little bald creature that you could today liken to ‘Gollum’ in ‘Lord of the Rings’ who was staring straight out at you from the cover of the book and one of his hands was in the shape of a knife! Well, I couldn’t sleep that night and my Nannan knew exactly what the problem was! Ha!

to be continued……

Interlude: “Overheard On A Saltmarsh”


Here is a something to smile about after all the negativity in the previous musings. I don’t why this just jumped into my head but it did. So, I ‘Googled’ it with ‘poem; give them to me, give them to me, no!’ and here it is in its entirety!

This is a poem that my Nannan used to recite to me in a faux-posh voice.

I loved it and would say ‘Again Nannan, again!’ And, of course she would – loved it!

Overheard on a Salt Marsh: by Anna Christenson

‘Overheard On A Saltmarsh’


Harold Monro (English poet 1879 – 1932)


Nymph, nymph what are your beads?

Green glass Goblin. Why do you stare at them?

Give them me!


Give them me! Give them me!


Then I will howl all night in the reeds,

Lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,

Better than voices of winds that sing,

Better than any man’s fair daughter,

Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush. I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads, I want them!


I will howl in a deep lagoon

For your green glass beads I love them so.

Give them me! Give them me!



Harold Munro


I had no idea who had written this poem or indeed if it was a poem but I am so glad I found it.

Here is a link to more of  Harold Monro’s poetry:

Extra! Extra!

Extra! Extra!:

In The County Borough of Huddersfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire

For me this document is incredible. It is a document that has recently been found by my Auntie Sandra and Uncle Peter up in Yorkshire. So, thanks to them!

It is a struggle to find anything concrete from my childhood. I only have my memories. And, this document was produced when I was 2 months and 2 weeks old. It also proves who my Father is but I have erased out the name. But he is the ‘JS’ I wrote to in a previous chapter. It tells me the exact address on Crest Hill Road where I had those early memories – number 12. It also has the address where my Father lived back then too.

The document does speak for itself but it orders my Father to pay my Mother 15 shillings per week for my  ‘…maintenance and education…’ until I am 16 years old or ‘if it’ (me) dies before that age. He was also ordered to pay £2 ‘for the expenses incidental to the birth and 15 shillings ‘for the costs incurred in obtaining this Order’

There is also a little tot-up, in the left margin, of what JS owes Shirley since my birth which was £10.5s.

And, how lovely and caring of the State to say that my Mother ‘was delivered of a male Bastard Child (with a capital B & C too – also my initials!)

At the bottom left of the document it says:

‘Affiliation Orders Act, 1914 and Bastardy (Forms) Order 1915



After birth where child born alive’

PS: Another little tit-bit I found out was that 33 Spring Street mentioned in the document was sold in 2004 for £98,000! This street is near Greenhead Park in Huddersfield.

Chapter 7: 36 Rastrick Common continued…

Chapter 7:

36 Rastrick Common continued…

Back to describing the house with the off-shoot memories that each description brings:

Besides the table, television and front-door in the front room I can only remember the door to the kitchen but most of all, the fireplace and hearth that was sparkling clean at all times. It was a black Victorian fireplace with a side-oven in which were dried or aired socks and the like. Today you would pay a lot of money for such a fireplace. It was gleaming black and had a mantelpiece. We had lots of brass ornaments and trinkets which had to be polished every day not just dusted but polished. The brass was cleaned with ‘Duraglit’ (still around today) – the smell of that still brings back those memories of having to clean these ornaments and rake out the ashes of the fire and bring in buckets of coal for the fire. And, the other strange bit of cleaning was after every meal the knives, forks, spoons – cutlery – had to be polished with ‘Brillo Pads’ – after every meal! This was a chore that was given to me and my sister, May when we were a bit older. Did we argue! If you were on washing duty and you were washing faster than the other who was on drying duty – the drier always got miffed!

This is similar to the fireplace at 36 Rastrick Common but we had a hearth with a fender. And, ours was gleaming clean too!

We had to Brillo every knife, spoon, fork and pans too – after every meal!

Now, the dozens of ornaments – brass and otherwise all came from FM and his job on the bins. Anything worth keeping the bin-men would put aside in a small compartment of the bin-wagon and share them out every so often. We got a lot of brass I can tell you! There were WW1 or WW2 rifle bullets in their ‘clip’ of 6 each, I think – two sets that sat at each end of the mantelpiece and always gleamed. I loved those. I don’t know where they are now but they were passed around the part of my family that my Mother was in contact with namely Auntie Gloria who had them at one point and may have them now for all I know. Maybe FM’s Auntie Lizzie had them at one point too. They would come back home sometimes too. The other piece of shiny brass I remember was a WW1 Battle of the Somme shell-case which had been engraved with the name of the battle and the jagged edges at the top where the opening was turned inwards and then used as a poker stand in the hearth.

These remind me of the bullets we had on either side of the mantelpiece – there were two sets of 6 secured inside a ‘clip’ and they always shone like all our brasses with a daily dose of ‘Duraglit’.

This is similar to the shell-case we used as a poker stand which was a Battle of the Somme (which was engraved on its side) shell-case. Ours even had the triangular spiky bits shown above at the top which were folded inside the tube.

That poker was once used by my Mother to hit FM around the head one night when they had had a row. The poker bent out of shape but I don’t know what happened to FM’s head. I loved it when they split-up and there was only my Mother at home. I don’t why looking back but I was always happier somehow and hated it when they had made up and he came back.

I also remember after another such fight that my Mother suddenly appeared with a black eye which I didn’t quite understand and it made me feel physically ill especially when she was giving us our food at the table. But I knew I had to eat the food.

Talking of the fireplace having a mantelpiece I can see even now in my mind’s-eye my Mother standing there leaning against it pregnant again! I am under 11 years here because we moved in 1966 but I can remember thinking ‘No, not again! We don’t have any money now and you are having another baby!’ And, it would mean I would be left alone with FM at home. In those days you went into hospital for a few days to have a baby even though my Mother always discharged herself early. I still find the sight of a pregnant woman unattractive. I also remember having bad thoughts about my brothers and sisters at an early age and would have bad dreams/ nightmares about them drowning or dying and would wake up crying. But, I also used to cry at night worrying about my Nannan dying. I remember once vowing to myself that if she died I would never, ever talk to anyone ever again! Writing about that awful memory reminds me of a song that we used to sing in the playground at Junior School around the same time as these thoughts. We would sit in a circle in the playground and sing ‘Three Wheels On My Wagon’ by the New Christy Minstrels which was released in 1963 so; I was about 7/8 years old. I suppose we must have heard it on the wireless or the telly for all of us to know it so well.

Here is a link to the 1963 song of ‘Three Wheels On My Wagon’ by the New Christy Minstrels on youtube:

In front of the fireplace was a tiled hearth around which was a fender which separated the rest of the room at floor-level from the fire area and any falling coals. The fender was extendable and retractable to fit different hearthsI seem to remember and again had to have a daily dose of ‘Duraglit’ as it was brass or some similar shiny material.

I used to have to baby-sit even though I was a child myself when my Mum and FM went out on a Friday or Saturday. Once I remember I had fallen asleep so deeply that they had to break the door down to get back in. Another time my Auntie Jennifer came to baby-sit and I had been given permission to watch a television programme (yes, you read me right!) but Jennifer wouldn’t allow me to. She wanted a bath. But, I didn’t see the problem. Jennifer is only 8 years older than me so, if I was 7/8 she would be a teenager at 15/16 – so, a young woman. You see we didn’t have a bathroom – we had a tin-bath which was placed in front of the fire now and again, filled with hot water from the boiler; we didn’t have hot water in this house – it had to be boiled in a huge white boiler which was in the kitchen. So, of course she wanted her privacy. I didn’t understand because I just wanted to watch my television programme which I didn’t get to see!

This brings back distant memories.

And, in those early days the television and pop radio stations finished about 11pm if not earlier. So, it wasn’t as though you could sit there being entertained until the adults came home. Once it was just me in the front room – no telly, no radio – and having a vivid imagination I was convinced a gorilla was coming to get me. I was really scared, I can tell you!

I can’t remember anything else about the front room of this house so, onto the kitchen which is even blurrier than the front room.

The door into the kitchen was wooden with slats and a metal latch. The boiler, I think was just ahead of you as you walked in and next to that was the stone sink where we were washed by my Mother. We would sit naked on the cold stone whilst she washed us and I can remember thinking what would happen to me when I am growing up and I start to grow hair down there – it will be very embarrassing…..In those days for us the soap came in huge green blocks – was it ‘Fairy’??? At school, it was big red blocks of carbolic soap with which teachers used to threaten to wash our mouths out if we said anything untoward in class. I can’t remember if it ever happened to me.

Big blocks of green ‘Fairy’ soap which was used to wash clothes and us too!

Evil smelling and evil tasting carbolic soap which we had at school and with which the teachers would threaten to wash out our mouths if anything rude was said.

I did once tell the Music Teacher, Mrs Wilson to shut up and I was caned by Mr Pollard, the headmaster on both hands. I was considered by Mrs Wilson to be the best singer in the school so I was a favourite of hers. I used to get to sing solos in front of the whole school at assembly and was asked to judge the singing of the rest of the class once which I didn’t feel I could do. I can’t remember what she said to upset me to cause me to shout ‘Shut up!’ but when I wouldn’t speak to her after my caning she did embarrass me. It was the end of play-time and she was ringing the bell for all us to get into a line before we re-entered the school and shouted across to me ‘Are you speaking to me yet Barry?’ I think I ignored her. I also recall she was a member of the Huddersfield Choral Society and she got to travel to the United States. This enthralled me as I loved, in those days the idea of all things American. I remember when she came back she let me hold an American silver dollar. I was in raptures! As an adult I did see her once going into the waiting room on Huddersfield Railway Station but didn’t have the guts to go and say hello. I wouldn’t recognise her now.

The playground at Longroyde School where I sang Kathy Kirby songs, re-enacted Emma Peel fights from ‘The Avengers’, sang ‘Three Wheels On My Wagon’, played an Indian in ‘Cowboys and Indians’, played ‘elastic twist’ and skipping with the girls.

The building to the bottom left is part of the Infant’s School where I lied that I had seen Santa on his sleigh in the sky and was upset when he arrived and didn’t kiss me but kissed all the girls when he gave out the presents. I think I was given a plastic helicopter. Also, I remember we were read to by a teacher (Mrs Kay?) ‘The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse’ – that was fascinating – a chapter a week!

The rest of the building is the Junior school where I was the best speller in Mr Thomson’s class. I also cried in his class because I didn’t know what ‘in your own words’ meant. And, Miss Hexham told me she had seen Diana Rigg on stage wearing a wig in a play. I said ‘No, she didn’t!’

The black door at the top is where is Mrs Wilson embarrassed me when we were queuing up in our class lines after playtime.


In the kitchen I cannot remember a cooker or stove but there must have been one because by the time we moved to the final address as a family in 1966 there were 5 children (May, Stephen, Linda, Mandy and me) so my Mum had to able to cook somewhere. We certainly had meat cooked somewhere because I hated meat especially the fatty parts (still hate fat on meat!) and I can remember it being forced down my throat. When I was at my Nannan’s she never made me eat meat and she made tins and tins of Yorkshire Pudding just for me – I still love Yorkshire Puddings with a passion to this very day with salty gravy made from the meat and the vegetables cooked for a Sunday lunch (typing this and those words I have made myself hungry – quick break for lunch). When I go out these days for a Sunday lunch/ roast I generally choose chicken instead of beef.

There were three doors in the kitchen – one to upstairs; one to the front room and one to the pantry. The door to the pantry was off to the right as you walked into the kitchen from the front room. It was painted white and this was where many things including the food were stored and coats were hung. Underneath the huge stone-flags of the pantry floor was some kind of cellar which I remember seeing – just a huge black hole – but it was to be sealed up and never used.

There was a shelf on the wall to the right as you walked in because I kept my big furry gloves that looked like gorilla’s hands  that I bought at a jumble sale. I used to play with these  to entertain my siblings and probably school friends too.  But eventually they were thrown onto the fire because I was having too much fun with them.

I also used to store my memorabilia on this shelf too which also found its way onto the fire that roared in the shiny Victorian hearth. I don’t know if it was felt that it was strange to keep newspaper clippings and photos of Diana Rigg at 10 years of age or it was just spite that caused my Mum andFM to destroy them this way. They certainly let this 10 year old boy know that they thought that she was ‘rubbish’; ‘crap’ and every other negative word you can think to the point where at 55 I still doubt her and any of my other passions that have kept me going through both good and bad times. But, Diana Rigg  like my Nannan has been a constant and one of the few positive influences in my life. More about that later.

The back door went out to a long thin garden area which ran the length or the width of the three houses in that small slot of land on Rastrick Common. Wild mint grew there and when we dug into the earth we would uncover clay-pipes galore and lots and lots of pieces of blue and white pottery.

Clay pipes – the kind we used to dig up in the back garden at Rastrick Common along with lots of bits of blue and white pottery.

At the far end of the garden was an outside wall of a semi-detached house where an old lady, whose name escapes me, lived. She was a lovely lady who would make us cakes or give us biscuits but the only thing is they all smelled of and tasted of  ‘Germolene’ ointment. Of course, we didn’t say anything.

Germolene ointment. The old lady who lived in a private house next door smelled of this as did all the sweets and biscuits she gave us. We could never eat them.

Beyond our garden was a dry-stone wall over which were more gardens or allotments and the backs of houses which fronted onto Brooke Street. The one opposite us was the Moore family house with whom I was very friendly – a big Irish family. My good friend was Anthony Moore – wonder where he is now? He had a very tall brother Liam but that’s all I can remember of them.

Next to the old lady’s house mentioned above was a little lane which led to the houses that backed off from Brooke Street. I remember one had some crab-apple trees which we used to pick but were told that we would get colic if we ate them. They were too bitter anyway.

In my area of Yorkshire when the fruit trees came into fruition groups of kids would go ‘raiding’ orchards of apples and pears – can’t remember if there was any kind of fruit. Maybe there were attempts of growing grapes in greenhouses. I would be such a wimp really shaking in my sandals when on a ‘raid’ and I don’t remember eating our spoils anyway but it was in the days that kids would play out as long as it was light.

One place where we played for hours, days, months and years was across the road from our house in the old brickyard. The brick factory was a huge circular building with a chimney and at the base of the circular building on the outside were all the kilns. We believed all sorts of monsters and malignant forces lived in those kilns but we still played in them. Today Health & Safety would have a field-day. But, we played at ‘Batman & Robin’, ‘Dr Who’, ‘The Avengers’, and ‘The Man From Uncle’ in that building. But, no matter what TV programme was being played out I always managed to be Emma Peel. As the Americans say ‘Go figure!’

The grounds of the brick-yard seemed huge to us and it was at the base of what we thought was a mountain – Toothill Bank which we would climb and fall down and get filthy.

The above 4 photos show how the ‘brick-yard’ looks today. In the top one in the foreground is a lump of concrete with metal spikes sticking out of it which reminds of the concrete slab it was said you disappeared beneath if you stood on it. The ‘dams’ will be completely filled in now and levelled off.

Photos courtesy of Humphrey Bolton

There were also two ‘dams’ or pools of water. One was down at the bottom of the quarry and it was quite a climb down for little ‘uns like us but we were very adventurous and knew no fear. When I think of the ‘bottom dam’ I think of frogs, frog-spawn, tad-poles, toads and newts…….

Frog in frog – spawn.

When I think of the ‘top dam’ I think of a slab of concrete with metal bars sticking out of it and being told that people had stood on this piece of concrete and been sucked into the ground and never seen again. I was shit-scared of that, I can tell you.

We built a raft on this top dam and used to attempt to sail across it. One day we decided that we would clear the ‘dam’ of all it’s rubbish to make it clean and safe. Old bikes, prams, rocks and all sorts were thrown to the shore. As I waded in one day I stood on a huge broken bottle which sliced right into my foot.

There were a couple of men with a shooting pistol nearby and they saw my distress and the one with the pistol and leather jacket picked me up and I remember him saying ‘You’re a heavy little cunt, aren’t you?’ – I think it was supposed to be a term of endearment as I wasn’t a fat child at all. He took me home and my foot was put in a bowl of water and an ambulance came, took me away and I had stitches in the sole of my foot. The scar is still there some 50 years later….we all have those scars…..maybe in today’s world children won’t have such scars and memories because they are not allowed adventures anymore in what is becoming a very sanitised and paranoid world….

The only other thing that springs to mind from playing in the brick-yard is that I was ‘fishing’, I believe in the ‘top dam’ when I suddenly started sneezing and sneezing and sneezing and sneezing…..I was 10….I had hay-fever! What a menace that is to this day for me! I only get hay-fever in this country and have never suffered with it any other country that I have lived in. So, it is something peculiar to the UK that I am allergic to.

So, from 10 years onwards I would go to my GP – Dr Fanelli – and have an ‘injection’ and be given a blue pill and a white pill to help alleviate my acute allergy. The ‘injection’ I think was some kind of test I had to go through; I think they were trying to determine what exactly I was allergic to…but as far as I know we never found out. I can’t remember the pills helping either. It wasn’t until I was living in Manchester in the 70’s that I heard of ‘Kenalog’ injection which helped relieve the symptoms incredibly. Sadly, I think I am now immune so rely on over the counter medication. But, it was a wonder drug in my eyes.

Back to the house and the back garden – we had a ginger cat once and the only thing I can remember about this poor kitty is that one day it was meowing at the back door to get in because it was dying from eating rat poison that had been left outside one of the other dwellings. I just remember the poor thing frothing at the mouth and the vet coming and giving him/ her an injection. Very sad!

I also remember we got a dog called ‘Patch’ who was with us for such a short time he was almost gone as soon as he arrived. One day he just wasn’t there anymore. I was told he was given away to a ‘good family’ – I hope so and hope that wasn’t a euphemism for some thing more sinister. He was a little black and white puppy. Why would we have got him only to give him away??? I think I remember going looking for him but never found him.

Next to the back door was the latched door to the stairs to bedrooms – there were two bedrooms. But that door and those stairs bring back one horrible memory……my friend whom I named ‘Delia’ in a previous chapter and I stole money from other pupils’ pockets in the changing rooms at school and with these ill-gotten gains treated ourselves to what we classed as luxurious sweets – Riley’s Chocolate Toffee Rolls. We bought a quarter each (a quarter of a pound in weight, that is)!

We smuggled them home and I remember flattening down the bag of sweets in my coat pocket so that they wouldn’t be detected. I arrived home, it was after school and then all of a sudden was huge furore where ‘Mrs Heathholme’ was banging on the front door with ‘Delia’ in tow. She had been caught! And, she had implicated me! My Mother found the sweets in my pocket and the story of stealing the money had been discovered……

I was lashed and lashed and lashed with a leather belt so hard that my arm went blue and was as big as a ‘Schwarzenegger’ arm… hurt!…..I must have been screaming and crying and I remember my Mother was upset with what she had done and cried and tore up a sheet which she dampened and used to bandage my voluminous arm……

Other times I remember getting into trouble were when my sister, May and I were playing ‘house’ by the front door….I think May was the pet dog and I was my Mother and I pretended to use a telephone and said ‘Shirley Clarke: Number 37’ – boy, did my Mother lay into me for that! I had no idea what I had done wrong!

When, I would be out with my Mother she would make a telephone every so often and say those words on the telephone. It was a complete mystery to me. But, she was calling the courts to find out if my Father had paid maintenance money and Number 37 was her ID number.

And, what is very strange is that this very day – this very day! – my Uncle Pete and Auntie Sandra telephoned me and said in their yearly clear-out of their archives they had found a ‘maintenance order’ from the court dated 1955 in a box in their loft which they are sending me. They were a bit wary of mentioning it as I am described as ‘a bastard child’ on the document – which as I type is quite upsetting… wasn’t when I was speaking to Uncle Pete but it is now….oh, well…it’s something I have never seen and look forward to receiving…so thanks to Sandra and Peter again more of my history that has been uncovered!!!!

Another time, I/we got into trouble I can see in my mind’s eye my sister May sitting at the table by the window…now, she is 4 years younger than me so she was between the ages of 4 and 7 when this happened…..she had upset my Mother so much that my Mother threw a high-heeled shoe at her – thank goodness she ducked out of the way! – and it missed and hit the window which made my Mother even angrier and me being in the firing line had a plate smashed over the top my head for doing absolutely nothing!

Other memories of living at 36, Rastrick Common are my sister Linda being knocked down by a car outside the Post Office/ shop. I think it was Mr Preston and his family who ran that shop. I remember they had a daughter with Down’s syndrome which called something else back then. I also, remember having to knock on their door after closing time to ask for whatever we needed. But, they always seemed to have no problem with that. Anyway, my poor sister was lying in the road when a bloody dog came up to her and bit her. I do remember her lying in the road and looking very dazed and then being carted off to hospital in an ambulance.

The Old Post Office which was run by Mr Preston and his family. The wall wasn’t built all the way round as now. The wall was just around the garden and side door to the right. From what was the main door of the PO which is white here was an open ‘forecourt’ with a pillar-box and the wall where the film posters were displayed.

Photo courtesy of Humphrey Bolton

Next to the Post Office was an Angler’s Shop which is still there. I had forgotten about this until I found Mr Humphrey Bolton’s photos online.

The Angler’s Shop next to the Post Office on Rastrick Common.

I did go fishing a few times in the River Calder with a friends and his Dad and we would buy live maggots here – yuk! But I loved sitting by the side of the river with sandwiches and pop.

Photo courtesy of Humphrey Bolton

Brighouse Angling Association video showing some Brighouse scenes.

I also remember on the wall outside the PO was where the posters for the films coming up at the local cinema would be posted and for some strange reason I remember Harold Robbin’s ‘The Carpetbaggers’ posters which were all in black, blue and red and this was an ‘X’ film! That came out in 1964 so I was 9 but I can still remember seeing it there.

Also, whilst living on Rastrick Common one of the local bullies called Kenny Barker made me steal things from peoples’ back gardens and he bought some penny bangers (fireworks) which were different from the ones we were used to which were made by Standard Fireworks in Huddersfield……

My Auntie Laraine used to work at Standard Fireworks which I visited once or met her outside at least and she told me because they were dealing with gunpowder they were paid in effect ‘danger money’ – she would get huge, huge fireworks for free for Bonfire Night – rockets and the like – but, I seem to recall most of them were duds.

This is the logo that I will always remember for advertising Standard Fireworks whose factory closed in 1987.

…..Anyway, the penny bangers that Kenny Barker bought were a green colour and I didn’t recognise them as bangers….he told me to hold one of them while he lit it and, of course it exploded in my hand!

He also made me stand by the door of one of those derelict houses mentioned in a previous chapter and he threw darts at me with his eyes shut – I was lucky that only of them stabbed me in the knee!

Another time I ‘borrowed’ a knife from home and hid it behind of the big corrugated doors of Miller’s Oils next door to our house so, that me and friends could use it at Bramston Street Rec. to play a game known as ‘stretch’. Two or more kids would stand facing each other and throw the knife into the ground and wherever the knife stuck, not just landed the next person had to move one of their feet to that point whilst keeping the other foot where it was. This went on until there was a winner who had the others stretch out of their comfort zone, so to speak. Only one time, the knife went straight into the top of my foot – I still have the scar today! – through the slats of those plastic sandals kids wore in those days. Ouch! I don’t remember stitches being needed though.

The type plastic shoes we wore as kids in the 1960’s. I suppose they were cheap and washable. I think mine were dark brown.

On the same part of the ‘rec’ one day a boy from Brooke Street had upset my sister May and so, in protection of her I ran after him, slipped on the gravel and my head smashed into a huge boulder….I remember putting my hand on the pain on my head, feeling the lump grow, burst and flood my head and face in blood. A kind lady took me home and I was taken to the hospital for stitches – still got that scar too! I had to have a little square patch shaved right on top of my head and wear a square of white dressing with pink plasters sticking it down to my hair. What a thing to have to wear to school! But, I can’t remember any ribbing or taunting.

I can also remember falling off the top of the slide on the ‘bottom rec’ and my auntie Janet carrying me home. I remember my sister sitting on a swing and having inflamed fingers which was impetigo. I remember having had to my sister with me to the rec. she would wander home on her own if I was elsewhere and I would shit myself having to go home just in case she wasn’t there. We lived on a quite a busy road and she would have to cross Brooke Street too! She was always at home and I would be shouted at and probably hit too for not ‘looking after’ her. There is a scene in one of my all-time favourite films, ‘Cinema Paradiso’ where ‘Toto’ meets his Mother in the piazza and his Mother lays into him for going to the cinema when she had forbidden him to – this always reminds of such incidents in my life.

Certain things said to me by FM at 36 Rastrick Common that stay with me today are that I am flat-footed (I am not and have never been!); the whites of my eyes are not white enough and certainly not as white as his son’s, Stephen; I would go to jail before Stephen; and that I am like a leech which springs up every time I have to shake hands with anyone – every time! We left 36, Rastrick Common in 1966 so, I was under 11 when all these were said to me.

Positive things I remember are that I was able to watch ‘The Kathy Kirby Show’ on the telly – she was a mini-obsession of mine at the time.  I remember a friend, whose name I have forgotten now, had an Uncle who worked in or ran a nightclub in Bradford and she was going to appear there and he said he would try and get us in. I believed him and he probably believed it did too but imagine two 10 year old boys in a 60’s nightclub watching a voluptuous, blonde cabaret singer – ha!

Kathy Kirby in her hey-day!

‘Let Me Go Lover!’ was a song that friends at school would make me sing in the playground a la Kathy Kirby.

My other Kathy Kirby favourite ‘Secret Love’

FM took me to the cinema once or twice too – the films I seem to remember seeing with him for the first time were ‘Goldfinger’; ‘El Cid’ and ‘Henry V’ with Laurence Olivier (I thought he overacted even back then!). Remember he also bought me a ‘Bat Grenade’. But there was little warmth and certainly no love.

The only time I can remember as a child that I went to the pictures with my Mum was to the Albert cinema in Brighouse to see ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ which was double-billed with some Laurel & Hardy films. A band of ‘rockers’ came in and started ripping up the seats and my Mum vowed she would never go to the pictures again. And, she didn’t until a few of us took her to Halifax to see one of the ‘Naked Gun’ films for Mother’s Day. I remember her telling everyone in the queue outside the cinema about the last time she had been to teh cinema some 40 years earlier.

The poster for the film version of ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ – the only film I remember seeing with my Mum as a child.

April 7th 2011: Just received this DVD and watched it again after all these years. I can see why it enthralled me all those years ago as a child but it hasn’t stood the test of time, I’m afraid.

I used to watch the TV series avidly with my Nannan and wanted to travel on that submarine – ‘Seaview’. Wow!

I mean look at it – wouldn’t you!

You see as much as my Mother had a vile temper and was violent both verbally and physically she was a funny woman when we would go for a drink in my adult life. She was also a force of nature.  If someone would hesitate when I asked them if they knew her or knew of her I knew that they had never met her because she was unforgettable.

I am sure more memories will come to me as time goes by from my time living on Rastrick Common. I am really hoping for some more positive incidents because I know this all must be sounding very self-indulgent. Well, I suppose autobiographies are to a certain extent, aren’t they?