Part Forty Three 

A train journey of mine you may like to read about happened one morning when I left home at my usual time of 6:15 a.m. heading for the 6:43 a.m. train from Fleet to Waterloo. The weather was reasonably warm, with a slight wind which accompanied the early morning bird song as I headed off for another day at the office. Because of the wind blowing and knowing my wide brimmed hat had a tendency to leave my head I pulled it down tighter on my head as I pedalled faster to keep my rendezvous with the 6:43 a.m. train at the station. Unfortunately with hat and head down I restricted my vision ahead and before I knew what was happening there was a loud sound of metal hitting metal as my trusty steed crashed into the back of a parked car in the road outside someone’s house. 

I just didn’t see it in time. My bike hit the offside light cluster and broke the glass and bulbs of a Red MG Sports car. The bike went one way; I went another whilst the briefcase and hat sought sanctuary somewhere else amidst this scattered heap in the middle of the road. I remember there was a milk delivery van passing by and the driver only gave me a ‘fleeting’ (sic) glance. I imagined he was thinking ‘What’s this idiot doing at this time (6:18 a.m.)     

 The final insult was to find that because of my fall onto the road I had sustained a cut to my trousers just below the knee which in turn caused a wound to my leg which was now bleeding. I also broke a tooth when I hit the deck which wasn’t exactly a laugh. 

 After picking myself up and making a note of the house number I, in the true spirit of the Royal Air Force, picked up my bike and reassembled the briefcase and hat to their original places. So, with briefcase back on the rack behind the saddle and hat jammed more firmly on my head  I remounted the somewhat embarrassed Green Flash and peddled ‘very’ slowly back home having decided I was in no fit state to continue my hazardous journey to the station.  

 As I opened my front door, Kathy appeared at the top of the stairs surprised as to my sudden reappearance back home. When I told her I had run into the back of a car around the corner and in doing so had cut my trousers and leg, which was still bleeding.  We both had to laugh a bit at the stupidity of the situation.  Chris and Martin who were just getting ready for school also enjoyed Dad’s little accident!  

 As I was still a little shaken after all this excitement I decided I couldn’t face going to work now. I went back to bed and slept for about a half an hour to aid recovery. 

After a good rest I got up and dressed which included a change of trousers, mine being cut too much.  

Feeling guilty about the damage I’d done I walked back around the corner to the scene of the crime. As I approached the scene I saw a man standing by the damaged MG Sports car.  After ascertaining that he was the owner of the car I immediately owned up to being the person who had hit his pride and joy. He was most surprised to learn that it was a bicycle which had caused the damage. His surprise was due to the fact that because he had found a small piece of Green paint on the road near his car then it must have been a green car which had caused the damage. He had spent some time walking up and down the road looking for such a car and seeking the owner of the said vehicle with no result.  I assured him that the green paint was from my bike and not someone’s car.   

 After more apologies from me I told him to get the damage fixed and I would pay for it.  He accepted my apologies and later that day came round to my house to tell me that he had replaced the damaged light cluster on his car. He said he was grateful for my honesty and wanted to repay it. He did this by not going to a shop and paying full price for a new light cluster unit but instead he visited a local car breakers yard and found a second hand cluster unit which did the job perfectly well and of course at a much cheaper price. So it all ended up amicably. 

 I’m pleased to say the Green Flash, minus a small piece of green paint, survived the crash and went on for another 24 years flashing its way to and from Fleet station avoiding all vehicles, especially MG Sport cars. It was finally retired when its owner hung up his cycle clips on which there was no sign of green paint, in January 1989. 


--End of Part Forty Three --

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Part Forty-Two

The big sporting occasion of the year 1966 was England winning the football World Cup (at least it was for all Englishmen but I’m not so sure for the rest of the countries that make up the United Kingdom!)  There was fright before the tournament started, when the actual cup was stolen from Westminster Hall where it was on display.  It was found a week later when a Thames Lighterman’s dog was spotted tearing at an object wrapped in newspaper, to everyone’s surprise, and delight the bundle contained the solid Jules Rimet Cup which sixteen countries were preparing to do battle for in July.

 Battle was the right word in some of the games too. England’s manager Alf Ramsey (who was later knighted for steering England to victory) referred to some of the Argentine players as ‘animals’ in the game against England. The whole country was drawn into the football fever which spread throughout the land. England eventually won through to the Final and I well remember that magical July Saturday at Wembley Stadium as when England’s Captain, Bobby Moore led out the England team to face Germany in the Final. Millions throughout the country were glued to their Television sets willing their heroes on. The match was fiercely fought as you’d expect between our two countries. Despite some controversy over one of England’s goals, the match ended in England winning 4-2.

The names of the English team on that glorious day went into the history books and even today in the year of 2019 there are many old-timers like me who still remember Captain Bobby Moore, the brothers Jack and Bobby Charlton, Gordon Banks, Martin Peters, Nobby Stiles, George Cohen, Ray Wilson, Alan Ball, Roger Hunt, and thankfully, Geoff Hurst who scored a hat trick for which he was later awarded a Knighthood. It should also be noted that Bobby Charlton also received a Knighthood for his services to football.

Another reason why I remember the match so well is because our next-door neighbour at the time was a German lady, a very nice friendly person who had married an Englishman after fleeing from Germany at the end of the Second World War and settling in England.  As she and her husband weren’t interested in football at all Kathy and I watched the match in our house. This enabled me freely to shout out such rallying cries as ‘Come on England’ without fear of causing any offense or annoyance to our neighbours.  

The 1960s saw many changes throughout the world. For instance, America’s President John Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963 as he was driven in a motorcade through Dallas Texas was one of the most remembered events. I recall the utter shock which reverberated around the world as we watched this horrific murder on our television screens. People still to this day recall what they were doing on that particular moment in time. I, as usual, was at work.  

In 1966 as well as the British Public seeing England winning the World Cup via their television screens they were also able to watch the State Opening of Parliament when that was televised for the first time. Talking of Parliament the Death Penalty and the two highly contentious and different issues of Abortions and Homosexuality were both changed through Acts of Parliament. 

History was made on December 1967 when South African Surgeon Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the First successful Heart Transplant on another human being.

The recipient of this new heart was another South African by the name of Louis Washkansky who survived the operation and lived for another 18 years.

The year 1968 saw two horrific murders. In April the leader of the American Civil Rights Movement Doctor Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee and in the following month, the late President John F. Kennedy’s brother Robert (Bobby) was murdered in Los Angeles. This came five years after his brother; President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas Texas.

The last year of the decade will forever be remembered as the year when Man landed on the Moon for the first time. American Astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first man to actually step onto the lunar surface followed by his partner Edward (Buzz) Aldrin. The third member of the crew making this world shattering event was Michael Collins who manned the Space Capsule as it orbited the Moon whilst Armstrong and Aldrin were examining the Planets surface, taking photographs and recording material which was transmitted down to Mission Control in Houston Texas.   It really was an awe-inspiring feat of ingenuity, bravery, and discovery for the World.  There were many people, myself included, who couldn’t help wondering if these three brave men were going to be successfully returned to Mother Earth. Thank goodness they were and the world breathed a gigantic sigh of relief and admiration. 

I only include these historical facts in my story because I lived through them and not only can I recall the shock horror at some of the tragic and evil events which occurred during these periods but I can also consider how lucky I am to remember some of the wonderful feats performed by many men and women in the fields of medicine and science and how much we all owe to them for their work and dedication which has benefited mankind now and for future mankind.     


--End of Part Forty-Two-

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Part Forty-One

Moving to Fleet Hampshire brought a slight change to my daily commuting travel to work. From my house in Bedford Road Ruislip Gardens, it was only a five-minute walk to the train station where I caught a Central Line Tube train and changed at Oxford Circus to the Northern line for my train to Waterloo. But because my new house in Church Crookham was over two miles from Fleet station I used my car (1957 built Ford Popular car) for this daily journey and parked the car in the station car park for which there was a parking fee. This mode of transport was later changed to cycling. As I had sold my bicycle before the move to Fleet and not wishing to buy another one I resorted to visiting the local dump (scrap yard or ‘recycling’ centre). I found an old but serviceable bike frame, which I painted green, some old mudguards and other bits and pieces which enabled me to assemble a bike myself.  


At this point, I should tell you that, unlike the Underground Tube trains which ran quite frequently, the service from Fleet to Waterloo in those days was an hourly one on a steam train. This meant that when I was on early duty, which was on alternate days, I started work at 8 a.m. To allow time for any train delays and not wanting to be late I would leave my house at 06.15 a.m. to catch the 06.43 a.m. train from Fleet station which was scheduled for arrival at Waterloo at 07.30 a.m.

I had a briefcase which I attached to a holding rack behind my saddle. Upon arriving at Fleet station, I would dismount, dash onto the platform and park my bike in the covered area reserved for all bicycles. After locking up my bike and removing my briefcase from the back I would cross over the bridge to the opposite platform to catch the train to Waterloo. 

 There were some days, particularly in the winter time, when I would oversleep. This resulted in a mad dash on my trusty steed to the station. With briefcase firmly attached to the rack, my head down and my legs pedaling like pistons I hurtled along Fleet High Street nearly breaking the sound barrier.  It’s no wonder my bike was known as ‘The Green Flash’.  As I raced into the station’s entrance heaven help anyone who crossed my flight path.  There was a very helpful porter at Fleet station named Vic, who upon seeing any passenger arriving late for the London train, and panic-stricken as they dashed across the bridge would warn the train driver by shouting out, ‘One coming over’. I must admit that on those occasions when I was one of those late comers and if Vic wasn’t on duty, I would copy his warning to the driver as I dashed across the bridge, down the steps onto the platform, grabbing the handle of the first carriage door I could reach and, complete with briefcase would fall into the carriage receiving somewhat startled looks from some of the passengers ‘hiding’ behind their morning newspapers. The cost of an Annual Season ticket commuting from Fleet to Waterloo was £108.  There was no way I could afford a lump sum of that amount on my own but, fortunately, once again, Shell as they did with my mortgage, came to the rescue. They supplied the required amount to any employee who couldn’t afford the lump sum and then deducted the loan by monthly amounts from their monthly salary.  As a point of interest when I retired from Shell in 1989 I believe that the cost of an annual season ticket for the same journey had increased to over £1,300. 

During my days of traveling from Fleet to Waterloo, I was sometimes caught up in delays or change of trains. Naturally, it is quite common that any delays traveling by train can be due to breakdowns, bad weather, shortage of staff and similar inconveniences but during the 1960s there was another reason which was more serious and dangerous. This was due to the IRA threats of bombs being placed in strategic designated places particularly in London, i.e. mainline train stations. I remember on occasions dashing from my office across York road into Waterloo station aiming to catch the 9.12 p.m. train for home only to be confronted by police stopping all passengers boarding any trains because of warnings they had received claiming that there were some IRA bombs being planted somewhere in the station.  This could cause a delay of up to an hour which was inconvenient, to say the least.  On the bright side of traveling from Waterloo station I once had the pleasure of seeing a comedian and magician Tommy Cooper talking to a porter and on another occasion walking down the platform, I passed golfer Peter Allis who had alighted from the train I was about to board. I could have shouted out ‘Fore’ but I didn’t. Talking of Peter Allis some years later I purchased a second-hand golf club, a five iron, for the princely sum of five pounds in an antique shop in Horncastle Lincolnshire. On the back of the club head it bore the name, Percy Allis, Peter’s father, or should I say Par? I wrote to Peter about my purchase and received a polite, friendly reply from him which was a nice touch.

In February 1963 the whole railway system in Britain was changed dramatically when due to the loss of money the Government asked Richard Beeching to leave his high profile job in ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) to take on the task of streamlining the whole train network system and making it more profitable. This colossal task Beeching undertook by reducing one-third of the network by closing hundreds of branch lines, 5,000 miles of track, over two thousand stations and tens of thousands of jobs.  The whole adventure has gone down in our history as a fiasco and a complete financial disaster. Even now, in 2019, one can hear people looking back to earlier times say things were fine then but that was before Beeching came along and ruined everything.

The last story I will tell you about here relating to trains is how lucky I was on 12th December 1988 when I was traveling on my usual train from Fleet which left at 0643 a.m. and arrived at Waterloo on time at 07.30. I then crossed the road and went into my office in the Shell Centre. At about 08.20 my wife Kathy phoned and was so relieved to hear me answer my phone. The reason for her relief was because she had just heard on the radio that there had been a terrible accident at Clapham Junction Station at around 08.13. This tragedy has gone down in history as the Clapham Junction Accident of 1988.  Three trains were involved. One train crashed into the back of another train which had stopped at a signal and then hit an empty train going in the opposite direction.  Thirty-five people lost their lives and seventy people had horrific injuries. If I had missed my usual train from Fleet that morning, I would have been on the next one which was one of the three involved in the disaster. No wonder Kathy was worried and subsequently so relieved when I answered the phone that morning.


--End of Part Forty-One—

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 Part Forty

If the 1950s were my defining years, then the 1960s have gone down in history as ‘The Swinging Sixties’. American singer Roger Miller summed it up well with his song ‘England Swings like a pendulum do’. That swinging feeling quickly spread throughout the country. Starting in London the fashion industry took off in Kings Road, Chelsea and Carnaby Street. The young men, many with long hair, sideburns and Zapata mustaches paraded the streets wearing flowered shirts, chiffon scarves, whilst the girls shocked the older generation (at least the women, but not the men who quite enjoyed seeing their ‘Mini’ length skirts}  Designer Mary Quant was the Queen of Fashion and models Leslie Hornby (known as ‘Twiggy’ due to her very slim body) and Jean Shrimpton (known as the Shrimp) were the models all the girls and photographers, particularly David Bailey followed.

All of this was accompanied by the music scene which really exploded with popular singing groups such as The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits from Manchester, The Animals from Newcastle, The Moody Blues, The Move and Spencer Davis from Birmingham, The Rolling Stones from London but without doubt the Capital place of the music scene was Liverpool which gave us The Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black, and The Beatles. It really was a social revolution in Britain which subsequently had a big impact around the world.

Whilst this new revolution was making headlines Kathy and I decided that it was time for us to take the plunge by leaving Wedmore Road and start looking for our own property. It wasn’t long before we found one which looked suitable. It was a two bedroomed mid terraced house in Bedford Road, Ruislip Gardens. It was priced at £2,750, a sum which at that time was beyond our means unless I took out a mortgage. It was fortunate for us that Shell had a Mortgage arrangement scheme with the Halifax Building Society whereby Shell Employees could obtain a mortgage without the having to pay a deposit first. This meant that I was able to obtain a one hundred percent mortgage loan for the whole £2,750 asking price of the house. This loan required a repayment of £15 per month which was a lot of money out of my monthly income at that time. Many of my work colleagues thought it a bit reckless on my part but after much financial deliberation on our part, which was helped by my brother Bernards advice telling us that it was generally accepted that putting money into bricks and mortar was a good investment, we went ahead and bought our first house.

 The layout of this house comprised of two medium sized bedrooms, a similar size lounge with wood block flooring, patio doors leading out to a back garden lawned with flower borders on either side. The garden was fenced on both sides and at the back, there was a paved car parking area which could be accessed from a back alleyway entrance from the road. The kitchen was of a reasonable size with a coal/coke burning boiler supplying the hot water, a good sized larder, the usual sink, cooking facilities, and storage cupboards were all there plus the back door leading out to the garden. To complete the description there were stairs leading to the landing and the two bedrooms plus bathroom and toilet.

Whilst such a house was small and somewhat lacking in luxuries it was ours and we were very excited and happy to move in. Bedford Road was a long road with many similarly designed houses in it and ours, number 62, was roughly halfway down it. It was no distance for me to walk down to Ruislip Gardens Underground station for my daily commute to work. Shopping facilities were a bus ride away in Ruislip or nearly Ruislip Manor. Likewise, we were also only a short car ride from Greenford and visiting Dad which was also convenient.  We were also lucky that our neighbors were pleasant and fortunately they also had a baby boy of similar age to Chris. We settled in and gradually when time and finances allowed started to make some alterations to one or two rooms by decorating and painting etc. It was a labor of love and very satisfying. Another thing we did was buy two bicycles, one for Kathy and one for me to which I fixed a safety seat behind my saddle for Chris to sit on. With a haversack containing some refreshments upon my back and Chris safely strapped into his back seat the three of us would ride off beyond the blue (sometimes!) horizon. The only downside to this was that sometimes Chris got a little too excited on the back and would kick his shoes off bringing our convoy to a grinding halt for the necessary replacement of the said shoes. 

  In 1962 another life-changing event in our lives happened when in May Kathy went into Queen Charlottes Hospital once again and on Saturday the 5TH she had another baby boy who we named Martin Charles. It so happened that it was the FA Cup Final on that day and my cup runneth over when my team Tottenham Hotspur beat Burnley 3-1. What a wonderful unforgettable day that was. I’m pleased to say that Martin eventually followed my example and became a Spurs supporter when he was old enough to understand football better. But not only did he support Spurs later in life he actually played at White Hart Lane in a charity match to which Kathy and I attended as the proud parents along with Martin’s two children Laura and Michael. I was allowed onto the pitch before the match started and took some video footage for future viewing at home. It was lovely for me to stand there and reminisce about those far off days watching Spurs playing on this pitch back in the 1940/1950 days and here I was now watching one of my sons playing on this hallowed ground. 

  Our family was now complete with two lovely healthy sons and life moved on. We finished our cycling days when later that year my brother Bert rang me to tell me his neighbor was selling his car and Bert wondered if I might be interested in buying it.  We managed to scrape together the £27.50 asking price and purchased our first car. This was a classic six-cylinder 1937 built Lanchester 14 hp two-toned grey/blue color saloon with real leather seats, a running board on each side of the body and a spare wheel encased in a cover attached to the back of the car, above an iron grid which folded down to which a suitcase or two could be attached with leather straps. Another feature was a small cog wheel on the dashboard to which a winding handle was attached. By turning this handle, the windscreen would open from the bottom outwards thus letting fresh air in which was a boom on a very hot summer’s day.

But the biggest feature of this quality car was the method of driving it. It had what was called a ‘Pre-selector gearbox’ There was a gear lever on the steering column showing the choices of N for Neutral, D for Drive, 1 for first gear, 2 for second gear, and 3 for third with R for reverse.  It didn’t have the normal clutch foot pedal to press down and then slowly releasing it to engage your selected gear. There was a foot pedal but this was called the gear engaging pedal.

The method used to drive the car was to pull the gear lever down to the required gear, i.e. 1st and press the gear engaging foot pedal right down to the floor and immediately release it, you were then in first gear but nothing further happened until you selected D for drive, and released the hand brake whereupon the car silently glided away in first gear. Once you were on the move you pulled gear lever to 2nd gear but you weren’t in second gear until you depressed, and released the gear engaging foot pedal again. This method of selecting the required gear and operating the foot engaging pedal in and out was all you had to do to drive. It was easy and effective but although it took some time for me to adjust to this method, I eventually mastered it. The car was smooth and comfortable and served us well throughout the years 1962/63. The only drawback was that it did swallow up the petrol and oil too much so after those two years we decided we couldn’t afford to keep it any longer.

Fortunately for us, my neighbor admired it and was willing to buy it off me. We agreed upon a price of £15 and the deal was done. Now the big snag for my neighbor was that he couldn’t drive.  Like me, he didn’t have a garage to house the car so I drove it around to his back garden and parked it there for him.

Although he couldn’t drive he thought it prudent to run the engine once a week to ‘just to warm it up a bit’ This became a ritual to see him every Sunday climbing into this beautiful car, wearing a pair of large leather gloves and he would start her up and just sit there letting the engine idle as he imagined he was driving through the leafy lanes on a warm summer’s day being watched and admired by other drivers.

I told him it didn’t do the engine any good to do this practice but he wouldn’t listen so I gave up. As the winter months were fast approaching, I also advised him to put some anti-freeze into the car but he just smiled and didn’t bother so I gave up the struggle and let him carry on in his Walter Mitty dream world.

The end result was inevitable, he ruined the engine and the lack of anti-freeze cracked the block. As he couldn’t afford to pay for any repairs, he was forced to get a couple of men to come around to break up the whole car. It was very sad to see this desecration of a lovely classic car by these two men as they took their sledgehammers and systematically smash the windscreen before moving onto the bodywork. The whole vehicle was smashed up and then thrown onto their lorry as scrap and taken away for disposal.

 Our time in our first house came to an end in 1965 when we decided to move from Ruislip to a newly built 3 Bedroom semi-detached house in Fleet, Hampshire. It is worth noting that my brother Bernard was right in his advice to us about investing in property because after our five happy years living in Ruislip, the house we paid £2,750 for was sold for £4,750, making a profit of £2,000 which was a lot of money to us.


--End of Part Forty --

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Part Thirty-Nine
In 1959 Kathy and I were very lucky to start our married life by accepting the offer of having two rooms in my Dad’s house in Wedmore Road. This same act of kindness had been done twice before. The first time was when my sister Lily and her husband Jack upon their marriage moved in with Dad and Mum and stayed with them until they eventually found their own property in nearby Ruislip. The next occupants of these two rooms were my brother David and his wife Doreen after their marriage in 1952. They followed the same pattern as Lily and Jack and only moved out when they found a Flat, or what was called in those days, a maisonette in Isleworth Middlesex. 
Whilst Kathy was still during her midwifery training at Queen Charlottes and living in the nurse’s quarters I was still living with Dad. But it wasn’t long before she successfully completed her training and was able to join me at Dad’s in Wedmore Road.  We were very happy as we settled into our new environment thanks to Dad.  We were very grateful to him for giving us this start which enabled us to, at least, dream that one day we, like Lily and David, would be in a position to buy our own property.
 Sharing with Dad was easy and there was also a fortuitous element to it which benefited us all.  This came into play due to the fact that I worked shift hours and there were many evenings when I didn’t get home until 10 or 10.30 p.m. Rather than Kathy being on her own, Dad would always invite her into his room where they watched television together thus providing company for each other. 
It wasn’t long before Kathy got a job nursing at King Edwards Hospital in nearby Ealing and we were able to add a few more ‘pennies’ to our income. I remember we would visit the shops in West Ealing, looking wistfully through the windows at the many items on sale. We worked, saved and managed to buy a three piece suite (two armchairs and a sofa) for our lounge. This ‘luxury’ cost us the princely sum of £45 which was a lot of money in 1959. In due course, other items were added as we put our stamp onto our room. Married life was getting better all the time and it was to get even better, when on October 24th that year, another great life-changing event occurred. It was when our first child, a boy, was born. Not surprisingly he was born in Queen Charlottes Hospital and we named him Christopher John.
Becoming parents was a wonderful experience and we embraced it with love and gratitude. I was so glad that Kathy already had the natural loving instincts of a mother (which she’d inherited from her own mother) and this attribute, combined with her common sense and nursing training, meant I just had to watch, learn and provide love and all the support required to mother and child which I was naturally glad to do.
My father was also thrilled, to not only having another grandchild, his 6th, in the family but also this child, being a boy, meant he would carry on the Hodgson name.
This sentiment was also shared by my three brothers Bert, Bernard, and David.
Dad kindly helped us with the cost of buying a pram for Chris. It was a lovely experience for us to put Chris into this gleaming white chariot and proudly walk down the street showing him off to all the neighbors and passers-by.
Meanwhile whilst we were preoccupied with our lives there were other events which were occurring in the UK at this time. This included a very severe frost in January 1959 which caused the newly opened Preston Bypass, Britain’s first motorway, to be closed whilst repairs were carried out. Even worse was to come at the end of the month when the whole transport system throughout Britain was in utter chaos as the worst winter fog since 1952 enveloped the country causing widespread disruption.
A historical event occurred when the Jodrell Bank telescope transmitted radio messages to the U.S. via the Moon. Back on earth, the Queen journeyed to Canada, and along with America’s President Eisenhower, inaugurated the St. Lawrence Seaway. Barclays Bank became the first British Bank to order the new-fangled gadget called a ‘computer’ that’s when all our troubles started, ‘Sorry sir, it’s the computer error’ etc
Cinemas throughout Britain were closing at a rapid rate as television took over as the main provider for mass entertainment.  In October the country held a General Election when the Conservative party led by Harold Macmillan won by the massive majority of 365 seats to Labour’s 258. The Prime Minister, with a wonderful example of British understatement, summed up his big victory with the words, ‘it has gone off rather well’ Among the nine new women MP’s elected was one Margaret Thatcher, who twenty years later in 1979, made history as Britain’s first Women Prime Minister and served for 11years 209 days.
British rule over the island of Cyprus ended after 80 years when an agreement was signed in London handing over independence to the Cypriots but Britain still retained her two military bases on the Island.
On a lighter note, the latest rave was the new Transistor radio which only cost £23 and was displayed at the Earls Court Exhibition. In addition to the arrival of the Mini, there was also the Rolls Royce Phantom V which could be yours for a ‘mere’ £8,905. I
Considered buying one but it didn’t have one of the new Transistor radios so I didn’t bother!
At this point in my story, I would like to tell you that for many years I have considered the 1950’s, were what I can only describe as ‘My Defining Years’.  The changes I encountered, good and sadly one tragically bad, were to change my life forever.
 It all started in March 1950 when I was called up for National Service in The Royal Air Force. I can truthfully say that I enjoyed my two years service. It held no worries for me. I was used to mixing with other boys throughout my days with the Boys Brigade. I was also lucky that the BB taught me how to march and perform all the drill movements required in the RAF. I also learned how to handle a Rifle, even becoming a Marksman. A requirement thankfully not required in the BB.
The big difference between us was that the boys I mixed within the BB were mainly local boys I knew, some from the same school as me whereas the boys (and girls) I met in the RAF were from all corners of the UK, many with different accents, outlooks, and upbringing. There is no doubt that experiencing this change is a great learning curve and an education in itself.
I am always grateful to the RAF for the training I received in Signal Communications through my service. The training, knowledge, and experience I gained was put to good use when I was demobbed. It eventually gave me a good rewarding career throughout my 36 years using this knowledge in civilian life. This started when in June 1952 I joined the American Embassy in London. This was an interesting and eye-opening period of my life applying my Telegraphic skills with Americans who were very pleasant and generous people.
Whilst I was working at the Embassy, I heard there were similar work openings in the Telecommunications field at the Shell Petroleum Company also in London. In addition, I also learned that Shell offered a very generous Life Pension Scheme. Whilst I enjoyed my days at the Embassy, I decided to apply to Shell offering my services.
I was successful in my application and joined Shell in December 1952, staying with them until my retirement in December 1989. 
The death of my mother in January 1956 was, alas, a very bittersweet definitive heartbreaking moment and one that can never be forgotten. The pain was somewhat eased three years later by my meeting Kathy in June 1958 and marrying her six months later in December 1958. As a result of our liaison there was another, and wonderful, Definitive Moment when on October 24th, 1959 our first child, Chris, was born.
So, taking all the experiences, knowledge and advancement I lived through, as described above, is it any wonder I call this decade ‘My Defining Years’?
---End of Part Thirty-Nine—

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Part Thirty-Eight

The following week came, as they have a habit of doing, followed by many more weeks and each one saw me arriving at Queen Charlottes Hospital and taking Kathy out. We very often would take a stroll along the towpath of the Thames at Hammersmith usually ending up in one of the Wimpey cafes for a coffee and a hamburger or two. Naturally, during this time we were getting to know each other and liking what we saw more and more.
As our friendship grew it was inevitable that the time would come when I wanted to introduce Kathy to my Dad back home in Greenford. I spoke to Dad about it and he said ‘Why don’t you bring her home on Sunday so that I can meet her and we’ll put on a tea for her?’’ So when Kathy next had a Sunday off duty day I bought her home to meet Dad. The meeting and having tea together helped to ease any apprehension or nervousness on any side. As it was they got on fine and I had good feedback from both of them.  As the weeks passed and our relationship grew even stronger I took Kathy to meet the rest of my family who also welcomed her with the same ease and kindness shown by my Dad.

In August of that year, we managed to get a week’s holiday together when we went to Butlin’s Holiday camp situated in Clacton on Sea.  The weather was fine and we thoroughly enjoyed this new adventure. Just to be together, away from me traveling daily to work in London and Kathy having a break from her Midwifery lessons, gave us the chance to completely relax together and enjoy some of the activates on offer at the camp. We hired a three-wheeler bicycle from the camp and had a good laugh cycling along the promenade with the wind in our hair and not a care in the world.    We also enjoyed the swimming pool in the camp and of course, we just had to parade our dancing prowess on the dance floor.
A little later in our relationship, we arranged for me to meet Kathy’s mother who lived in Lilleshall, Shropshire (her father had died in 1957). I traveled up by train and had the pleasure of meeting her mother who was one of the nicest ladies I, or anyone else, could wish to meet. At the time of her father’s death, Kathy was undergoing her Nursing training at Burton on Trent and living in the Nurses quarters. Whereas her mother and her two brothers and sister were living in a house, which went with her father’s job, in Great Gate, near Uttoxeter Staffordshire.  Unfortunately, because of her father’s passing her mother, two brothers and sister were forced to leave the house and find alternative accommodation.  Fortunately, Kathy’s eldest brother Peter obtained a job on a farm in Lilleshall Shropshire and once again, fortunately, the job also included a family cottage for Mum and family...

 As time went by our relationship continued getting stronger. I remember one day when Kathy and I were listening to a record of Judy Garland singing her biggest hit’ ‘Over the Rainbow’  As we both loved it very much it became ‘our’ song. Whenever we hear it we are reminded of that day in my Dad’s house when we wished upon a star and how it all came true for us on December 27th, 1958 when we were married at Greenford Methodist church. Because Kathy’s father had died the year before, her eldest brother Peter took his place and walked her down the aisle. My brother David acted as my Best Man. As we couldn’t afford a big expensive Honeymoon we settled for a weekend at the Regent Palace Hotel in London.
  Now, as I write this (January 5th, 2019) over Sixty years have passed since our  life-changing date of December 27th 1958 and we have just returned from celebrating our Diamond Wedding Anniversary, which we did by taking a 12 day P and O cruise liner ship called ‘Oceana’ visiting Madeira, the Canary Islands, and Lisbon . We sailed from Southampton on December 17th which due to that being my birthday added another dimension to the happy event. We were also invited to join the Captain and his officers to have a champagne breakfast with them on the morning of the 27th December but unfortunately by this time Kathy had gone down with a nasty cold infection and was in no fit state to leave the cabin to attend.
We decided that I should go and explain and discuss this unfortunate turn of events with the Captain. He and his officers were very sympathetic and understanding about the situation but it was agreed that for Kathy to attend the function would pose too great a risk of passing her germs on around the ship.  As a compromise the Captain kindly arranged for a selection of foods from the breakfast menu plus the champagne and a beautifully iced cake suitably inscribed with the appropriate words of celebration befitting a Diamond Wedding occasion, to be delivered to our cabin.
     Just before I left the Captain to return to Kathy in our cabin I was asked to stand alongside him and hold up an envelope he had just presented to me. The reason for this request was that the envelope contained a card of Congratulations from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II  to Kathy and I on reaching our Diamond Wedding Anniversary and the ship's photographer was there waiting to record this happy scene for Kathy and I.  This act of acknowledgment by the Queen is something she does for all UK couples upon reaching this milestone, providing the official department in Buckingham Palace receives prior notification supplying all the necessary details.       About 15 minutes after I returned to our cabin the breakfast trolley arrived and Kathy and I were able to relax and sample some of the delights upon it. We left the champagne for a later date and after I had sampled some of the iced cake I asked for the remainder to be shared amongst the waiters attending us at our table in the dining room.  
  Who would have thought that sixty years from our Wedding day on December 27th, 1958 we would be, not only still alive but, celebrating our Diamond Wedding Anniversary at sea on a cruise liner in the Mediterranean on December 27th, 2018.
 So, bearing all that in mind I suggest it is only fitting to recall that three of the biggest hit songs of 1958 were the Everly Brothers singing ‘All I have to do is Dream’, (which is what I was doing in those days back in 1958).  Connie Francis singing ‘Who’s Sorry Now? This definitely wasn’t me because as one of my all-time favorite singers, Perry Como, sang, those heady days were for me wonderful  ‘Magic Moments’  So, to sum it up, my family, like me, were all glad I had gone to that dance on Friday, June 13th, 1958 and ended up taking a ‘Turn for the Nurse’.

--End of Part Thirty-Eight-

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Part Thirty-Seven

Although I usually went dancing on Saturday evenings, it happened that on Friday, June 13th, 1958, for some reason I can’t recall, Len and I decided we’d have a change of venue and decided to grace the Hammersmith Palais with our presence. This Mecca of dancing, which opened in 1919 and closed in 2007, was a very large, plush venue which kept open throughout the London Blitz and was very popular with many of the armed forces as well as civilians.  Band leaders such as Joe Loss, Ken Macintosh, and Phil Tate were three of the musicians who bought their orchestras to the Palais much to the delight of the appreciative dancers.
  Well, now we all know that Friday the 13th is considered by many to be ‘unlucky’ so why we chose that day to go there I don’t know but as it turned out that old adage could not have been any further from the truth. Whether it was fate or destiny, call it what you like, but for me, this was the day when I met the person who was to change my life forever.
 It happened after I had loosened up a little with a few twirls around the floor and as I stood to survey and seeking the next unsuspecting candidate for my next attempt I spotted her, a slim dark-haired pretty girl, standing all alone watching the dancers gliding past. Fortunately for me, the dance was a waltz so without hesitation, I boldly approached her and said ‘May I have this dance please’? She smiled at me and much to my delight said ‘yes’. As we stepped onto the shiny dance floor I warned her of the possible disaster awaiting her by uttering the next line ‘I’m not very good at this’. More delight, and relief, came when she replied that she wasn’t very good either.
  Now that the barriers were broken we glided into the one-two-three, one-two-three waltz steps to the manner born and thankfully without treading on each other's toes or banging into anyone else. She told me that her name was Kathleen and she was an SRN (State Registered Nurse). Having completed her basic Nurses training at Burton on Trent she was now doing Part One of her Midwifery course at the famous and nearby Queen Charlottes Hospital.

  We survived that first dance intact but as neither of us was very good dancers we bided our time awaiting the next waltz to come around although I think we had one or two quick steps and a foxtrot, which was just a shuffle around for us, but if a jive, tango or a samba were announced that was time for us to steal quietly away for a rest and a drink. I remember it was the Phil Tate Orchestra supplying the music that evening so once we’d found a quiet table we rested and had a long talk (or perhaps that should be, we had a long ‘Tate -à-Tate’ making tentative attempts to learn more about each other.

 When the evening came to end I found Len and told him  I wouldn’t be accompanying him in his car back to Greenford He wished me luck and I escorted Kathleen, who by this time I was calling Kathy, which I preferred and to which she didn’t object to, back to the Nurses home at Queen Charlottes Hospital. We said Goodnight but not before finding out when her next off duty day would be and arranging a date accordingly.  With a light heart, I was dancing on air as I quickstepped my way to Shepherds Bush Tube station and caught the train back to Greenford. I went to bed that night a happy man eagerly looking forward to seeing Kathy the following week.

End of Part Thirty-Seven

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Part Thirty-Six

I shall never forget the evening of February 6th, 1958. I was at work in the Shell Centre in London when the news came through that the plane carrying the Manchester United football team had crashed on a snow-covered runway at Munich Airport in Germany. The team was returning from playing a cup tie match in Belgrade which at that time was in Yugoslavia. After refueling at Munich, the plane bound for Britain crashed on takeoff Seven of the young ‘Busby Babes’ (named after their manager Matt Busby) were killed. Another one, Duncan Edwards, was so badly injured that he died 15 days later. Matt Busby was also badly injured and spent a long time in a Munich Hospital as did the wonderful player Bobby Charlton, one of the best ever players England ever produced.
 Despite this tragedy, the Manchester United club, under deputy manager Jimmy Murphy, was able to blend together a team good enough to reach the F.A. Cup Final four months later in May 1958.  The emotion felt by everyone as the team walked out that day at Wembley Stadium to face their opponents Bolton Wanders was heart rendering. Unfortunately, there was not to be a storybook ending as Bolton beat them comfortably by two goals to nil.
 A completely different event, and also a happier one, happened in the same year when the government announced that because Mayfair was deemed to be the most affluent area in the country that would be the first area to have parking meters installed.  

 Other new events which happened in 1958 included the opening of Britain’s first planetarium in London on March 21. Another first for the country was the opening, by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who was driven along a four-mile stretch of our first motorway, the 8 mile Preston bypass in Lancashire.  Further history occurred in the April when an Act was passed allowing women to sit in the House of Lords. Another big event made its introduction to the country when The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was formed and we witnessed its strength of feeling when over 3,000 protesters marched to the Nuclear Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire. This was the first of many similar marches which involved the police fighting to control disparate crowds of protesters, many of them women, venting their feelings...

Talking of unrest there were terrible race riots in the Notting Hill area of London in September of 1958... On a brighter note, British Overseas Airways (BOAC) launched the first transatlantic jet service. Millions throughout the country watched the first televised State Opening of Parliament. Her Majesty the Queen made history when she dialed the first trunk call on the new Do-it-yourself telephone system. The call was from Bristol to Edinburgh. After a brief talk with the city’s Lord Provost, she then threw a switch which linked 18,000 Bristol subscribers to the new service.  

 Back to the world of sport in 1958 showed that the Grand National was won by a horse called ‘Mr. What’ and the Derby by ‘Hard Ridden’ On the cricket front Surrey won the Championship for a record seven successive seasons. Britain’s Mike Hawthorn became the first Briton to be crowned Motor Racing Champion of the World. Unfortunately, his glory was short lived for sadly he was to die in a road accident on the A3 road near Guilford in Surrey a few months later. Still, on the fast cars scene, the British Motor Corporation unveiled the Austin Healey Sprite car for the first time.  Away from land speed, Donald Campbell achieved a new water speed record of 248.62 mpg.  Over at SW19 (Wimbledon) Australian Ashley Cooper beat his compatriot Neale Fraser 3-6 6-3 6-4 13-11 to win the Men’s Tennis Championship whilst American Althea Gibson beat our own British girl from Torquay, Angela Mortimer 8-6 6-2 to take the ladies title.
 Meanwhile, up at Royal Lytham St. Anne’s Aussie star, Peter Thomson won the Open golf tournament for the fourth time. It is interesting to note that the second/third and fourth players behind Thomson were all from the U.K., namely Dave Thomas (Wales), Christy O’Connor Senior (Northern Ireland) and Eric Brown from Scotland.
  In the entertainment world, Hollywood bestowed three Oscars on the wonderful David Lean film ‘The Bridge over the River Kwai’ Another equally successful film was ‘My Fair Lady’ a musical starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn which was based on a story by George Bernard Shaw called ‘Pygmalion’.  

The Royal Variety Show had a plethora of stars such as Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Norman Wisdom, Harry Secombe, Bruce Forsyth, Tony Hancock, Roy Castle, Max Bygraves, The Beverley Sisters, Frankie Vaughan, Harry Worth, Hattie Jacques, David Nixon and American singers Pat Boone and Eartha Kitt.

--End of Part Thirty-Six -- 

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Part Thirty-Five

 As a result of the bomb damage from the Second World War, there was an urgent need in Britain for houses so the Government bought out a plan to build what was called ‘New Towns’. Stevenage in Hertfordshire being the first one built in 1946. This was followed a year later when Crawley, West Sussex and East Kilbride in Scotland joined this new concept. The houses in these new developments were a revelation, sporting double-glazing windows, Central Heating and all the latest labor-saving gadgets in the kitchen which had the housewives drooling with pleasure.


   On the political front Anthony Eden never really recovered from the Suez Canal war of the previous year and the strain on his health forced him to resign as Prime Minister. Harold Macmillan took over but not until after the usual behind the scenes battles and skulduggery amongst the party whips which defeated his chief opponent Rab Butler. 


     Other events in 1957 included such diverse events as seeing the Vulcan bomber enter the R.A.F. service. Vauxhall Motors introduced three new models the Victor Saloon (which was claimed as giving 40 mpg) and the Cresta and Velox models.


   A terrible tragedy occurred in June when a BEA (British European Airways) Viscount plane crashed at Manchester’s Ringway Airport killing 22 people.

   In July at the Conservative Party Conference the P.M. Harold Macmillan, thinking of the abundance of goods and the choices people now had compared to the austerity of the war years and its aftermath, famously proclaimed that ‘Most of our people have never had it so good’


During this period of my life I felt that although I had enjoyed having a few dates during my RAF days and afterward, I grew a bit lonely and restless at home with just Dad. This became more apparent now that my friend Graeme had married and moved away. So, I decided that I should give the fair sex another chance to renew their acquaintances with me!  What better way to do that than to go dancing? The only problem with that was I couldn’t dance. How could I, someone who loved to, and still do, watch Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly not be able to dance?   My efforts were more like Gene Astaire and Fred Kelly.


Anyway, undeterred, off I went to a Dance studio in nearby Ealing to have a few lessons in the noble art of Terpsichore. In those days there was a man called Victor Silvester who had been a World Champion Dancer in his earlier days but went on to teach dancing and formed his own orchestra. He was well known for only playing strict tempo dance music. When teaching he would give timing guidance to the pupils, in relation to the steps of the dance, for instance, if the dance was a Quick Step, he would instruct the pupil by saying ‘slow slow quick quick slow’. This method of teaching was adopted by most dance teachers including mine. She would play 78 rpm (Revs per minute) shellac 10-inch gramophone records of the Victor Silvester Orchestra playing a strict tempo dance melody. I started by learning how to do the waltz followed by the Foxtrot and then the quickstep. Eventually, I became reasonably proficient and reasoned that I was ready to demonstrate my new-found skill to the public at large. Whether they were ready for me is another question1


   As luck would have it, one day whilst shopping in Greenford I bumped into an old school friend of mine, who not only went dancing every Saturday evening but also had a car and invited me to join him. So, come the next Saturday, Len and I, dressed up to the nines drove over to Chelsea Town Hall. The place was packed with men and women waltzing, quick stepping, foxtrotting, shuffling around, and trying not to trip over their own feet or kick their partners. It wasn’t long before Len found a partner and off, he went gliding around the dance floor whilst I just stood nonchalantly looking around seeking out someone attractive to approach.


My strategy was based on the fact that because the Waltz was the easiest dance to do I would wait until the band played one before approaching my unsuspecting chosen prey to utter the time honored phrase ‘May I have this dance please’?

Eventually, I was lucky and found someone who was willing to take a chance with this clean-cut Lothario of the dance floor. As we took up our positions to commence the dance, I thought it only right that I should give the poor girl some advance warning of what was to come by saying ‘I’m not very good at this’ This was accepted with a smile of encouragement and an assurance about not to worry. So, with some trepidation on both sides, off we went with the Waltz sequence of steps, One Two Three, One Two Three etc. After the usual introductions of exchanging names, it was considered mandatory to ask your partner ‘Do you come here often’? Goodness knows what would have happened if the girl had replied ‘Yes, but not anymore’


Fortunately, she didn’t and we both survived without any injuries or embarrassment.

Because all of this happened so many years ago, I cannot recall what happened for the rest of the evening. Suffice to say that at the end of the evening Len and I had a drink or two before climbing into Len’s car and headed back to Greenford. My first venture into “tripping the light fantastic” in public may not have been exactly fantastic but at least I didn’t trip. It was considered good enough to try again and, thanks to Len and his car, I continued showing off my dancing prowess, visiting other local dance venues on more Saturday Nights.


--End of Part Thirty-Five—

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Part Thirty-Four
 In 1957 politicians from France/West Germany/Italy/Belgium/Holland and Luxembourg met in Rome and signed The Treaty of Rome. This Treaty encompassed what was also called The Common Market/The European Economic Community (EEC) and was the forerunner of what eventually became the European Union (EU). 
This historic Document was followed by five more in later years each one containing many adaptations and new ideas all with one basic aim behind them. That was to bring all the European countries together working for the common good as a Union of Nations or The United States of Europe as many called them.
This common market of trading partners was designed to make it easier and cheaper by eliminating much of the current time wasted dealing with all the red tape involved in exporting and importing to each other. Naturally many of us thought that sounds a sensible idea so our Government of the time signed Britain up and we joined the club. 
   With the passing of the years and more treaties written into the constitution we ended up with a European Parliament hell-bent on creating a United States of Europe,
this meant that all member countries would cease to make their own rules of self-government and therefore would be subservient to new rules inflicted on them by a European Parliament, made up of unelected politicians from any of the eligible European member countries. This concept of thinking that one cap fits all was considered by many people as completely misguided and unrealistic.
 I remember wondering how on earth can unelected foreign politicians sitting in some European Parliament make decisions which might have a disastrous effect on a small village or community in Britain. Equally, why should we in Britain impose our views on other countries as to how they run their own affairs?  
Jumping ahead here I must tell you that this mad state of affairs sadly has gone on for many years afterwards until the whole European Union fiasco climaxed in 2016 when the then UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced there would be a referendum on June 23rd that year when the British people would have a free vote as to whether the UK remained a member of the European Union or left it. We were promised that whatever the result of this historic vote the decision of the people would be carried out. After a bitter struggle throughout the country, the final result was that 51.9% of the people voted to leave and 48.1% to remain. This decision surprised many people and thousands found it hard, or even impossible in many cases, to accept it. The people who voted for Britain to remain within the EU claimed the opposition didn’t understand what they were doing and demanded a second referendum whereas the Leavers retaliated by saying the Remainders should accept the decision of the majority of the people in what was after all a Democratic Vote. A new word, BREXIT, entered the vocabulary. This was an acronym for all those voting for Britain to exit the EU.    By this time David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister and Theresa May took over the role.  It’s interesting to note that Theresa May herself voted to Remain but, all credit to her, in a speech she made after the Referendum result, she famously assured the country that as far as she was concerned Brexit means Brexit. From that moment in time rightly or wrongly she has worked tirelessly towards achieving that goal. It has been an almighty struggle with arguments and disagreements from not only the European politicians in Brussels and the Labour party in Britain but also amongst her own Conservative party members in Parliament. As I write this it is July 2018 the bare fact is that Britain is scheduled to leave the EU in March 2019. Trying to find a deal acceptable to the 27 members of the EU and Britain for an orderly departure can only be achieved with major compromises on both sides which is still proving very difficult to obtain.
--End of Part Thirty-Four-- 

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