• harveyvickie

Diary of an ex-Isolator - weeks 101-105

Week 101

Sunday 13/02/2022 – Day 697

My old mind was doing overtime when I was lay in bed contemplating on getting my idle frame into first gear, did you know that the first ever jigsaw was created by a chap called John Spilsbury? Apparently in 1770 he cut around the countries on one of his maps after pasting it onto hardboard, of course it was I who created the first ever 3 D jigsaw when I broke Mrs H’s best vase and had to glue it all back together, and yes, she did notice.

It’s another perfect Sunday down here in rain washed Kidderminster, when I say perfect I mean that it’s been raining all night and it was that wet stuff battering against the window that woke me at 6.00am this morning.

Mrs H and I took a casual stroll down to the local Social club last night, to be honest, it wasn’t exactly casual as we were both completely knackered by the time we arrived, we only went out to escape that banal rubbish called ‘The Masked Singer’ and guess what? It was on the TV in the club, but at least we couldn’t hear it.

Being the generous human, and best husband ever, I treated Mrs H to a ham cob and some French fries, I had a bowl of chunky chips, as you can see – there is no expense spared when I take the love of my life out on a Saturday evening. Four Guinness’s and two large glasses of wine later we strolled home arm in arm (no I wasn’t drunk) in the gentle rainfall that hasn’t stopped since.

Did you have a secret box of treasures when you were a child, I don’t mean anything of value like jewellery, I mean that old shoe box beneath the bed amongst the fluff, I had one which held an old white clay pipe that we dug up when a gang of us decided to build an underground camp in the field at the back of our houses. We toiled for days, digging it deep enough to hold the five of us, we even cut steps into the side so that we didn’t have to scramble in and out. The final finish was some old, corrugated sheets which we lay over the top and covered with the soil we’d excavated. Those sheets just about covered the top. The hole was six feet square and deep enough to stand up in.

We had no fear back then, we never gave a thought to the fact that the sides could cave in and bury us all alive. It was just a secret hideaway where we could sit and have a cigarette in peace, even though we were only aged between nine and ten years old. Everything was fine until one particular day when we had a good old fashioned torrential downpour. Four of us were sat in the dryness of our hole thinking how clever we were as we all shared a Park Drive tipped cigarette, we could hear the thunder above. Then Ian noticed the mud starting to slide in on one side of the hole, Alan swore he saw the corrugated sheet move, we watched it for a moment, and sure enough, it was shifting, we scrambled out of there as fast as we could into the pouring rain, Ian was halfway up the fast-disappearing dirt steps when he slid back in, Alan and Rob just managed to grab his wrists and haul him out before the whole shebang collapsed into a muddy heap in the deep hole.

We never tried that again! Over the following couple of weeks Alan’s dad built us a shed on their back garden and it became our new gang hut, Happy days.

Cast your mind back to this day and the winter of 1988when the Winter Olympics opened in Calgary, Canada. Do you remember English ski-jumper and plasterer Eddie Edwards?, he became the surprise sensation of the Games. Michael David Edwards (born 5 December 1963), better known as Eddie the Eagle, is an English ski-jumper and Olympian who in 1988 became the first competitor since 1928 to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping, finishing last in the Normal Hill and Large Hill events. He held the British ski jumping record from 1988 to 2001. He also took part in amateur speed skiing, running at 106.8 km/h (66.4 mph), and became a stunt jumping world record holder for jumping over 6 buses. The fearless contestant came last but won all the headlines and the nickname The Eagle. His life story was made into a film, Eddie the Eagle, in 2016.

There were 40,869 new cases today and a further 52deaths.

Monday 14/02/2022 – Day 698

Look dear reader I do realise that it’s Valentine’s day today, but surely, that doesn’t give Mrs H the right to treat me as her own personal flower boy does it? After my failed dental appointment (see below) she quickly whisked me home and -over a cup of tea – made her demands very clear as we sat in the garden room. We had just had a couple of radiators fitted and wanted to disguise the pipes. I was all for boxing them in, but Mrs H had other ideas. She came up with a brilliant idea. We headed off to the Range (Mrs H’s favourite shop) and bought some False trailing leaves. She decided that she would camouflage half of them with garden stuff ie trailing ivy and flowers. That woman is brilliant!

But - and not for the first time in my seventy years – my darling wife took advantage of my loving nature and I ended up being her flower arranger for the day. Actually I was quite proud of my efforts under her guidance, but don’t tell her that! Just the other pipes to box in now.

I arose this morning and got ready to visit the dentist over in Stourbridge, I really do have to psyche myself up for my appointments even though they are very kind, this stems from my school dentist in the fifties.

My nightmare of tooth removal, fillings and drilling started for me at the school dentist. Just a few months ago - as I sat with my mouth wide open - my dentist agreed with my assumption that school dentists have a lot to answer for. With people of our generation having phobias about going there.

My school dentist was a butcher, I apologise for the rudeness in my description but there was no other way to describe him, only perhaps ‘sadist.’

Our generation were the first children to experience dental care on the NHS and as good as the NHS was some at least of the practices of the period have left their mark. It began for me in the waiting room of what had once been another school. The brick walls had long ago been painted in a mix of bottle green and cream which was now peeling from the damp walls, but there was no mistaking that this was a 19th century building, with stone floors and wooden benches. I can’t for the life of me remember whether or not this dentist was mobile (probably erased from my memory bank along with a few good teeth) and just set up in the torture chamber he deemed to call the treatment room, or whether he was a permanent fixture in the building along with the resident mice and other cockroaches.. According to his whiffy breath he was certainly residential in the local.

And when it came to the extractions there was the application of the gas with the leather and black rubber mask this only happened if you were lucky. The mask was rarely cleaned from one patient to the other. I only ever had gas once. I have to say I didn’t take to it too well. So two big nurses who wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Russian shot-putting event, held you down while the dentist in the green apron, surgical boots, and malicious grin, gassed you. I kicked out, and I did manage to catch him a good one in his privates before drifting off into the land of make believe. Even now I can recall slowly coming round feeling sick, as everything in front of your eyes rolled and tumbled like a set of dice.

But if you were at the end of the queue and the gas had run out, then you were in real trouble. Because that only left the needle, anaesthetic was used very sparingly. The times I have felt that drill going into a perfectly good molar so that the dentist could have his whiskey chaser along with his pint of best. I am not saying it was a bad thing because the principle was fine it was the way it operated that I have issues with. But a succession of overzealous dentist butchers with their noses stuck in the NHS money trough left me with a mutilated set of gums and a mouth full of ugly black metal fillings that belonged in the black hole of a sixty-year-old, whereas I was just seven years old. I was worth more in scrap value than as a human. Most of this ill treatment of unsuspecting children would have been unnecessary. To illustrate the point I compare my oral nightmare with that of my own children, who, now in their thirties and forties, have not a single filling between them.

Therefore perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on school dentists, although, that doesn’t alter the fact that if he were stood in front of me now I wouldn’t delight in removing some of his teeth without gas or anaesthetic.

By the way, I didn’t get any treatment today as the dentist thought that the gigantic cold sore resembling the Black hole and weeping on my upper lip may infect the rest of my face if she started messing around in the cavity below. Either that or she just didn’t fancy it.

A Further 41,224 new cases reported today with another 35 deaths.

Tuesday 15/02/2022 -Day 699

It’s Raining Again (Supertramp 1982) and I was awoken early by the sound of the rainfall overflowing in the gutter and hitting the windowsill, it sounded like Niagra falls so I felt obliged to haul my backside out of bed as Mrs H gently snored through it all.

I spent the day boxing in the pipes that lead to the garden room radiators, this room was no problem as it just involved wood, it looked really good when I’d finished even if I do say so myself.

I was just having a drink and a chat with a bloke over a half in my local last night. I discovered he was worth around £4 million, and he told me the amazing story of how he got so rich.

Basically when he left school he had little or no formal qualifications, but he was good with his hands, and he knew how to sell. He knew he was never going to make it in an office job, so it was nose to the grindstone time.

He left school at 15 and bought an old series Land Rover and spent a few weeks fixing it up, he then sold it for profit. He then used the money to buy another and so on. He did this a lot over the next 35 years, buying, repairing, selling, buying again.

He eventually moved onto Defenders in the 90's and then onto Range Rovers in the last eight or nine years. Even during the real bad times he plugged away. He worked long hours as you do in the Land Rover trade, sometimes not seeing his wife and kids for days in pursuit of his goal.

Then his uncle died and left him £4 million.

A real heart-warming story.

I have had people messaging me all week asking why my Diary of a self-isolator no longer appears on the site ‘It’s Yesterday once more ( the nostalgic years), the reason is that the Admin have suspended me. I have been posting my diary on there for almost two years now, then three weeks ago the two ladies who run the site decided that I couldn’t post it any longer, because there was a link to my personal site. The admin haven’t changed, and my link has been there since I started the blog. The thing is that they expect me to post all my memories and poetry. But now they have suddenly decided they did not want me on their site. All those that have messaged me say they do not like the admin or how the page is run, sadly, I can do nothing about that, It’s just a shame that the 100 or so followers I had on that site can no longer see anything I write as I have not posted anything since, it’s a sad old world sometimes.

New cases rose lightly today to 45,849, deaths also rose to 234.

Wednesday 16/02/2022 – Day 700

Well here we are at yet another milestone in this blockbuster cornucopia of absolute drivel and total gibberish which I call my diary and has been fly tipped onto your computers, yes dear reader, it has been 700 days since I put pen to paper in an attempt to bring some cheerfulness into my mundane life and misery into yours. I want you all to celebrate by sending me sweets and cakes, I thank you all in anticipation.

When I look back to the late fifties or early sixties I remember Sunday afternoons with relish. Around 3.00pm the TV would be switched on to watch the afternoon film. George Formby or Old Mother Riley films were very popular.

Old Mother Riley was a music hall act which originally ran from about 1934 to 1954 played by Arthur Lucan, and from 1954 to the 1980s played by Roy Rolland

Old Mother Riley (full comedy name; Daphne Bluebird Snowdrop Riley) was an Irish washerwoman and charwoman character, devised by Lucan (born Arthur Towle).

Arthur was appearing in Dublin when he met and married the 16-year-old Kitty McShane in 1913. The couple had one son, Donald Daniel Towle (b. 2 October 1915, Dublin –d. 1970)

His wife played Old Mother Riley's daughter, Kitty. It was essentially a drag act but also a double act. The couple played music halls, theatres, and broadcast on radio and appeared in films. Lucan was voted sixth biggest British box-office star by the Motion Picture Herald in 1943 They also gave Jimmy Clitheroe his break in 1939 in an Old Mother Riley pantomime called The Old Woman who Lives in a Shoe and then the following year a part in their film, Old Mother Riley in Society. The Film Fun comic included an “Old Mother Riley” strip cartoon in the 1940s.

The fame of Lucan and McShane did not go much beyond provincial music halls until the first Old Mother Riley film was released. Cheaply made and highly profitable, 15 films (1937-1952) starred Lucan in the richly comic role of Mrs. Riley, making him a Top Ten star in England in 1942. The gangly Mother Riley was usually a charwoman or laundress, but some entries found her running a shop or pub with the aid of her daughter Kitty. Lucan's comedy came from Mother Riley's absurd predicaments, eccentric ways, facial and bodily contortions, and malapropism-filled tirades against all who displeased her, seasoned with "knockabout" slapstick. By 1951, Lucan and McShane had separated, and Kitty did not appear in Arthur's last film, though he continued to support her.

Old Mother Riley was the first and arguably the most influential drag act on stage and screen. Although nothing like the glamorous acts like Danny La Rue, Old Mother Riley proved that drag could be a smash hit with audiences and make you a star. The Old Mother Riley films also proved that drag could be an acceptable part of comedy and storytelling. Previous to Old Mother Riley drag was a mixture of singing acts and short comedy sketches in music halls across the UK.

New cases rose again today up to 54,035, Registered deaths were at 199.

Thursday 17/02/2022 – Day 701

Did you suffer from wind this week? Storm Dudley caused havoc up North, it was bad enough down here in the Midlands, so I pity those people up there. But it seems that there is worse to come tomorrow, especially here and in the South. Winds have been forecast up to 100miles per hour, batten down the hatches everyone.

Talking of misery, did I tell you that I received a letter from the NHS Business Service Authority a month ago? It stated that I hadn’t paid for a dentist appointment last November and that I was now being fined £100 on top of the original fee of £23.80. I phoned them immediately saying that I thought my free dentist card was ok until the end of November. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was NOT covered, and they wanted their £123.80. No thought was given as to whether or not I could afford this money.

I contacted my dentist and a young lady called Emma looked into it and immediately said it was the fault of the practise and that she would sort it out. It took her over six weeks of sending emails back and forth!

Then I opened my mail this morning and there was another demand for the money, I phoned straight away and was greeted by a woman with the broadest Geordie accent I have ever heard, there was no apology for almost giving me a heart attack, but if I paid the £23.80 immediately she could drop the charges, but what if I hadn’t got the money there and then, well I would have a further £50 added to the bill. I know these things have to be investigated but I felt that I was treated like a common criminal.

These people need a lesson in manners and protocol, they are fast becoming the online wheel clampers of the NHS. Rant over.

On this day in 1955Fanny Cradock's first cookery programme Kitchen Magic, was broadcast on television. She mostly worked with her then common-law husband Johnny Cradock, adopting his surname long before they married. The infamous 'doughnut line' is often attributed to Johnny Cradock - Quote: 'You too can have doughnuts like Fanny's', but it was almost certainly said by a Scottish continuity announcer.

Also today in 2013The death (aged 79) of Richard Briers, best known for his role in TV's The Good Life. Two weeks before his death Briers stated that he had smoked about half a million cigarettes before he quit, and a routine chest X-ray suggested that he would otherwise soon be in a wheelchair. He had been diagnosed with emphysema in 2008 and died from the effects of a cardiac arrest.

New cases fell slightly down to 51,899 whilst registered deaths posted were 183.

Friday 18/02/2022 – Day 702

Well storm Eunice has sort of arrived here in downtown Kidderminster, there are a few gusts and some heavy rain, but at the moment it’s nowhere near as bad as the remnants of storm Dudley earlier in the week. But it must be terrible for all those down South who are now without power, and of course, all those up North who are still without power after three days.

Granddaughter Alisha went for her twenty-week scan yesterday, she sent a beautiful photo through. But the gender was put into an envelope and sealed, then it was given to a friend tor ‘The Reveal’ which is happening tomorrow afternoon at a local venue, it will be attended by family and a few close friends, although, at this moment in time not even the parents know whether or not it is a boy or a girl, my money’s on a little boy, though it matters not an iota as long as mother and baby are both ok.

Whilst writing this, I was wondering about how my mother would have coped in the fifties, she had a child almost every 18 months and stopped at ten children. The early years of the National Health Service offered the 1950s expectant mother good antenatal care. For the first time, all this care was free; my mum, who in the past had been unable to afford medical treatment now saw a doctor regularly, with visits in between to midwives at the local clinic. Any worries that mum had could be dealt with promptly. One of the first things to be decided once the expected date of birth was confirmed was where it should take place. In the past it had been accepted that most women had their babies at home but during the 1950s there was a definite move on the part of the NHS to encourage hospital confinements. There were many good reasons for this, starting with the fact that both doctors and midwives were always on hand, whereas they might be delayed when a home birth was imminent. However, with the exception of her last baby in 1960, my mother had all her babies at home, she wasn’t being belligerent, it was just that within 24 hours of giving birth, she would be expected to be up and about and back on the treadmill.

Housing conditions of a large part of the population back were often vastly overcrowded. There were still people living in rows of back-to-back houses where the lavatory block in the communal courtyard was shared by all the neighbours and the only water supply was a single cold tap in the small back kitchen. We were luck in that respect, we always had an indoor bathroom. Unbelievable now, but there were council houses dating from the late 1920s that had been built with an outside lavatory only. Tenants were still expected to take their weekly bath in a tin bath brought into the kitchen or living room. Those in the country were even worse off and often had neither running water nor mains drainage. In an age which had advanced medically, hygiene was of paramount importance.

Where, you may ask, did the expectant father fit into all this? In a hospital situation he was most definitely excluded from the actual birth. He would always be advised that it will be some time before anything happens, so he should go home or back to work. If he insists on staying then he should do so in the waiting room, although few did. Eventually he would be informed of the baby’s arrival. I cannot imagine for one minute my dad stood by while mother gave birth, in at least three cases he came home from his night shift to find another member of the family. Certainly in the 1950s having a baby was very much ‘women’s business’ and this exclusion from the birth may account for why it took many men of that generation time to bond with their children.

Even when Mrs H gave birth to our first child in 1973, I was not allowed into the delivery room, but it was a really good excuse to go and ‘wet the baby’s head’ in the local inn. In 1976 when Mrs H gave birth to our second child nothing had changed. But when she gave birth to Gemma our third child in 1983 I was actually allowed in to see the birth! Six years later, when Vickie was born Mrs H was taken to another town because of complications, so Vickie was almost 2 days old when I first held her.

There were 47,685 new cases today and a further 158 registered deaths.

Saturday 19/02/2022 – Day 703

Mrs H and I are so excited, today is the big reveal! As you all know our granddaughter Alisha is expecting her first child and our first great grandchild. Well the gender was put in an envelope and given to her best friend. At 3.00pm this afternoon the gender will be revealed, they have organised a buffet and drinks for a host of people. A bit different from my day when Mrs H approached me and said:-

“Congratulations, you got me pregnant again!”

It was on this very day in 1957when British TV's first medical soap opera series 'Emergency Ward 10' began, it ran twice a week for 10 years. Set in a fictional hospital called Oxbridge it was originally intended to be no more than a six-week serial (entitled Calling Nurse Roberts), When ratings began to slide it was decided to convert the programme from a soap to a one-hour drama for Saturday nights, produced by Jo Douglas. It didn't work. Emergency Ward 10 ended in 1967 after the show had been on air for ten years. ATV executive Lew Grade later admitted that cancelling the series was one of the biggest mistakes he ever made in his career.

I hope the wind dies down soon; I’m worried about the caravan on our driveway.

We didn’t have one yesterday!

Also today in 1985we were introduced to the very first episode of the BBC soap opera, EastEnders was screened. It began with a bang as, Arthur Fowler, Ali Osman and Den Watts forced their way into Reg Cox's flat and found Reg near death. Several weeks later Nick Cotton was revealed as Reg's murderer.

Joke of the week.

Two couples were playing poker one evening. John accidentally dropped some cards on the floor. When he bent down under the table to pick them up, he noticed Bill's wife Sue wasn't wearing any underwear under her dress:

Later, John went to the kitchen for refreshments. Bill's wife followed and asked. "Did you see anything that you liked under there?"

Surprised by her boldness, John courageously admitted that, well indeed he did.

She said. "Well, you can have it, but it will cost you £500."

After taking a minute or two to assess the financial and moral costs of this offer, John confirms that he is interested.

She tells him that since her husband Bill works Friday afternoons and John doesn't, John should be at her house around 2 p.m. Friday afternoon.

When Friday rolled around, John showed up at Bill's house at 2 p.m. sharp and after paying Sue the agreed sum of £500 they went to the bedroom and closed their transaction, as agreed. John quickly dressed and left.

As usual, Bill came home from work at 6 p.m. and upon entering the house, asked his wife abruptly. "Did John come by the house this afternoon?"

With a lump in her throat Sue answered. "Why yes, he did stop by for a few minutes this afternoon."

Her heart nearly skipped a beat when her husband curtly asked. "And did he give you £500?"

In terror she assumed that somehow he had found out and after mustering her best poker face, replied. "Well, yes, in fact he did give me £500."

Bill, with a satisfied look on his face, surprised his wife by saying. "Good, I was hoping he did. John came by the office this morning and borrowed £500 from me. He promised me he'd stop by our house this afternoon on his way home and pay me back."

Week 102

Sunday 20/02/2022 – Day 704

It’s another wonderful wet and windy day here in the DEAD centre of the Midlands, I was up bright eyed, and bushy tailed at 6.15 this morning.

We had a fabulous day yesterday at the Station Inn where the big reveal was taking place, Janet and John picked us up at 2,30 pm and within ten minutes we were sat in the huge marquee, surprisingly, we were among the first to arrive. The remnants of storm Eunice were still reminding us that it was a very blustery day! We settled down as the marquee slowly filled up, by 3,00pm it was standing room only and even that was at a premium.

The reveal itself wasn’t until 4.30, So there was a lot of greeting and meeting friends we hadn’t seen for months.

Then the clock reached 4,30, Everyone was ushered outside to watch the result of the reveal. Whichever colour came out of the cannon was the baby’s gender, we all waited with bated breath, then boom, the cannon was set off and a host of blue appeared to the cheers and roars of the crowd.

Yes dear reader, as I had predicted from day one, Sam and Alisha were having a little boy.

Mrs H and I were safe at home by 8.30 courtesy of Janet and John. We left a marquee full of dancing youngsters behind, our disco days being far behind us.

I have only just realised that in two weeks’ time I will have been annoying you with this diary of misery for two whole years, I really feel sorry for you all.

I hate rainy days and being shut up in the house, not because I’m claustrophobic or anything like that, oh no, the explanation is a lot simpler than that, in short it is Mrs H. ‘Let’s go online’ she says, ‘I could do with a couple of things from Dunelm’ she says, Over £100 later – I hate rainy days!

When I was a youngster rainy days were a living hell, sometimes, I would even go and just stand in the entry which separated us from our neighbours. The problem was that our dear father always worked night shifts as a Weaver, so all eight or nine of us had to walk around on tiptoe and remain completely silent.

Even though money was short, there was always something to do. We would take a couple of sheets of that awful ‘Izal’ toilet paper, it wasn’t much good for anything else, but it was excellent as tracing paper. Another favourite pastime was making a kite, you basically needed just two sticks, a newspaper, and a roll of string. We would mix some glue using flour and water tie the two pieces of wood or cane in the shape of a cross, then fold and glue the newspaper.

Another favourite pastime was simply to throw a blanket or sheet over a couple of chairs and hey presto, you had a home-made camp. It wasn’t much, but it was an escape from all those around you, a place of peace and tranquillity, in short, it was your own bit of space.

You could always revert to that wonderful compendium games set that you had for Christmas, the only problem was that one of your siblings had been there long before you and the dice was always the first thing to go missing.

Then there was always the good old jigsaw, donated by one of the neighbours, (we had a lot of old toys and stuff given by kind neighbours) with the inevitable piece missing. If completely desperate, you could always hope that oner of your friends would invite you around to theirs to play with a railway set or a Meccano set. Otherwise, it was a lonely life in that cold windswept entry.

Today in 1757The birth of John Fuller, better known as 'Mad Jack ‘, Fuller, although he himself preferred to be called 'Honest John' Fuller. As Squire of the hamlet of Brightling, in Sussex he was well known as a builder of follies but was also a philanthropist and a patron of the arts and sciences. He was eventually elected as a Member of Parliament but was a noted drunk, which led to a number of 'incidents' in the Houses of Parliament, (not much change there then) His parliamentary career is probably most noted for his staunch support of slavery and in one such debate he claimed that West Indian slaves lived in better conditions than many people in England. In 1811, a pyramid-shaped building was erected in the churchyard in Brightling, as a future mausoleum for John Fuller. And there he was buried, in 1834.

There were 36,278 new cases today and another 88 registered deaths.

Monday 21/02/2022 – Day 705

This wind shows no sign of abating, Mrs H is taking me to the dentist at 8.00am, I took her coffee up to bed at 7.00am and it gave her quite a shock – as she hasn’t seen two seven o clocks in the same day for quite a while. I have to return to the dentists again tomorrow as my last week’s appointments were cancelled.

Were you ever a smoker, are you still a smoker? I am thoroughly ashamed to admit that I had my first cigarette at the tender age of nine years. I had been dabbling with them for a few months, One day a friend and I were walking alongside the brook. I was putting the cigarette to my mouth and blowing out the smoke without inhaling.

My mate ‘Onker’ had just spent his pocket money on five Park Drive cigarettes and got annoyed when he saw how I was smoking them. He showed me how to inhale properly, I went dizzy and immediately fell into the water.

Every adult I ever knew smoked when I was just a boy, my mum was so nervous that she couldn’t even open the front door without lighting up an Embassy. My dad was only a weekend smoker, on a Sunday evening he would put his pack of cigarettes on the mantle shelf and there they would stay until the following Friday. My Dad smoked Park drive at the time, which – along with Woodbines – were among the most popular cigarettes of the working classes in the fifties and sixties. Cigarette smoke was part of the background of everyday life in those two decades. Most men and women lit up and children as young as ten took up smoking for the first time. Although most people had a vague awareness of the health risk, only a minority gave up smoking.

Yet it was as early as 1950 when cigarettes were first linked to Cancer by Professor Richard Doll. He wrote his report for the medical establishment, but it would take a further five years before the doctors began to listen. The Royal College of Physician's Report 'Smoking and Health' in 1962 was a sell-out. But after the fuss died down, it failed to change many people's minds on the issue. Government health campaigns were even less effective.

Then filter cigarettes became available and many smokers 9mostly women) changed to them believing that they were a lot safer. Then the Kensitas brand in 1956 began to give away coupons with the cigarettes and these could be exchanged for free gifts, similar to the Green Shield Stamps scheme By the sixties Woodbines were losing their place in the market, they were seen as an ‘old mans’ cigarette. To combat this Wills tried two new brands, Bristol, and Strand. Strand famously flopped with the lonely man campaign. The theme tune from the ad was a hit record, but no one wanted a product for loners.

Wills tried and succeeded with their next brand, which was also my mums preferred choice, Embassy was launched in 1962. It was marketed with coupons and was a larger Class 'B' cigarette available as plain or filter. It soon became the UK’s best seller. Class 'B' cigarettes were seen as a mid-market, more middle-class product. Embassy smokers were seen as younger people who enjoyed a night out. The traditional working man smoking his Woodbines and drinking mild in the local pub was ousted by younger men drinking Watney’s Red Barrel and smoking Embassy.

At that time Players were Will’s nearest rival, but they too were losing sales. Their famous logo sailor on the front of packs like Weights was now outdated. Players No6 was successfully launched in 1965. The name actually meant nothing; it had been dreamed up by the marketing men at Imperial. It was to challenge Embassy for the number one spot in the late sixties.

A few mates and I, at the tender age of eleven would huddle down the entry passing around a No6 cigarette which was puffed on before school. The tip would get really hot with five or so lads taking a ‘drag’ in quick succession If we were all broke then we’d resort to half cigarettes left in our mother’s coat pockets, problem was, the tip was always heavily coated in lipstick, not a good look for a growing lad.

When it was legal for me to smoke I preferred the better value King sized Benson and Hedges. Carreras, the third largest cigarette manufacturer, launched Rothmans King Size in 1957. It quickly became a market leader and they confidently advertised it as 'the best tobacco money can buy'. I liked those too

Although there was a slow drip feed of bad news about tobacco smoking, it failed to sink in for many people. A rash of new brands and some clever marketing helped keep the tobacco industry earning healthy profits.

In the early 70s there was much more of a collective waking up to the dangers of smoking.

I, thankfully, had my last cigarette in 2002, but then, I had been smoking for fourty years.

New cases rose slightly to 38,409 today, but deaths dropped to 15.

Tuesday 22/02/2022 – Day 706

That wind has finally dropped at last, but now comes the aftermath. There is a small Georgian town just two miles from me called Bewdley. The river Severn flows right through the town. It was always prone to severe flooding until a few years ago when the environment agency installed flood barriers to the North and South sides of the bridge. Problem was that they didn’t bother with the other side known as Beale’s corner. That corner now has to rely on temporary flood barriers, but they are so inadequate that they were breached throughout the night, so many homes once again under floodwater.

The Government has promised permanent flood barriers but when that will happen no-one knows.

Well I’m off to the dentist once again today, this time I am having a tooth out, I know I am supposed to man up, but believe me, I am terrified.

On this day in 1857The birth of Sir Robert (Stephenson Smyth) Baden-Powell, English hero of the siege of Mafeking during the Boer War. His innovative approach to the situation kept morale high and his experiences led to the founding of the Boy Scouts. Exactly 32 years later on the same day in 1889The birth of Lady Olave Baden-Powell, Robert’s wife. She was Chief Guide for Britain in 1918 and World Chief Guide in 1930. Her autobiography Window on My Heart was first published in 1973. 22nd February is also World Thinking Day, celebrated since 1926. It is a day of international friendship, speaking out on issues that affect girls and young women, and fundraising for 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world.

On the 22nd of February 1956 Portsmouth played Newcastle in a game at Fratton Park under floodlights, with the match becoming the first official Football League game to be played with the now ever popular technology aiding the players’ performances and the supporters’ enjoyment.

Old Jack only had moments to live. At his bedside were his family – his wife and four sons, three of whom had blond hair, the other had ginger.

“Em, tell me please, I’ve always wondered why one of our sons had red hair. Is he really my son?”

Emma put her hand on her heart and swore fervently that, yes, he was his son.

“Oh thank goodness,” croaked the old man and he died with a smile on his face.

As the family left the room, the wife sighed deeply. “Thank heaven he didn’t ask about the other three.”

Wednesday 23/02/2022 – Day 707.

A lot calmer today here in Kidderminster, the wind has dropped but nearby Bewdley is flooded on the one side of the river Severn. It breached the defences during the night, and it doesn’t even peak until this afternoon, I feel so sorry for those residents, this is the third year in a row.

The dentist saga continues. I arrived there yesterday at the appointed time after going on Monday for a check-up. This time it was to have a troublesome tooth taken out. The young female dentist put me at ease as she froze the gum around the the tooth , As we were waiting for it to freeze I casually said:-

“You do remember I’m on anticoagulants don’t you?”

I saw her expression change as she checked my notes.

“When did you take it last?” she asked.

“This morning at 7.00pm.”

“Then I can’t take your tooth out” she replied, “You shouldn’t have taken your tablet this morning!”

I looked at her as she walked away.

“Why on earth didn’t you tell me that yesterday when I was here?”

“I should have done,” she said, “I’m sorry, I forgot, but I won’t be able to take it out today, you’ll have to miss your tablet tonight and return tomorrow I’m afraid.”

Mrs H wasn’t too happy either, it’s a fair old trip over there.

On this day in 1963Peter Hicks, a farmer who electrified his car to ward off traffic wardens in London's Covent Garden had to wait nine months before police returned his electric device and told him they would not be prosecuting.

1965The death of Stan Laurel, film comedian, born in Ulverston (which was then in Lancashire but now lies in Cumbria) in 1890. In 1961 Laurel was given a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in comedy.

Thursday 24/02/2022 – Day 708

It is, as usual pouring down with the wet stuff, although it was mostly dry yesterday, I am seriously thinking about going into the business of building Arks, if it wasn’t for the cost of delivery for timber I would. But my first job today is to go and tidy the Repair shop, yes I know, I only did it last week, but every time Mrs h asks me to do a job It gets into a mess, doesn’t stop her asking though.

Had a text from the hospital today asking if I still wanted to attend my face-to-face heart appointment on the third of March. It seems that every missed appointment cost the hospital £160. A good idea to text patients, but\t what on earth happens if you don’t have a phone?

On this day in 1926The birth of Jean Alexander, BAFTA Nominated English television actress. She is best known for her role as Hilda Ogden in the soap opera Coronation Street, a role she played for 23 years and also as Auntie Wainwright on the longest running sitcom, Last of the Summer Wine from 1988 to 2010.

Today in 1962The Beatles played a concert at the Birkenhead YMCA for a fee of £30. The audience didn't enjoy the show and the Beatles were booed off stage. They left early for a second gig at Liverpool's Cavern Club, and the rest, as they say, is history.

My regular readers will recall that last year I did a blog about children’s TV favourites of the fifties and sixties. There was not enough space to cover the subject properly so – as promised – let’s have a further look at the subject.

Andy Pandy was a firm favourite of pre-school children. It came under the umbrella of Watch with Mother (previously Listen with Mother) and was shown on a Tuesday. Andy was supposedly a three-year-old boy that acted just like the toddlers he was entertaining. It was a mixture of songs and adventures, along with his friends Teddy and Looby Lou the programme ran from 1950 to 1959.

Who remembers Torchy the Battery Boy? He was also a little boy puppet who was run by batteries, I can remember seeing the strings, but it didn’t really matter to us at that age. It was produced by Gerry Anderson (He would later do Thunderbirds etc). The programme only ran from 1958 -59 so there must have been a lot of repeats. I saw an episode recently and Torchy was really scary, he must have looked ok in black and white though.

Popeye the Sailor Man was created in1958 for TV although a comic strip long before that, there have been many spinoffs including a film, but I always remember the song which was created for the cartoon

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man I'm Popeye the Sailor Man I'm strong to the "finich" 'cause I eats me spinach I'm Popeye the Sailor Man

But as schoolchildren there were many versions of this going around the playground, some were really rude. Popeye, Olive Oyl, Swee'Pea and Wimpy were featured prominently, along with arch enemy Bluto, changed to Brutus for copyright reasons.

Crackerjack was one of the most popular childrens programmes on BBC TV. It ran from1955 right up to 1984 which meant that my younger children also watched it. Every week the same announcement.

‘It’s Friday, it’s five to five, it’s Crackerjack!’

This was met with an audience of children with the enthusiasm of an ABC Minors audience, who repeated Crackerjack at the top of their voices every time it was mentioned.

Eamonn Andrews was the first presenter, the show featured singing, corny jokes and the ever popular Double or Drop, where each of three contestants was given a prize to hold for each question answered correctly but given a cabbage if incorrect. They were out of the game if they dropped any of the items awarded or received a third cabbage. While the winner took his or her pick from a basket of toys, every runner-up won a much-envied marbled propelling pencil as a prize, which became so popular that in 1961 Queen Elizabeth was presented with Crackerjack pencils for Anne and Charles.

But basically, it was a variety show for kids, pop stars of the day queued to be invited and there were many famous stars from the decades. On the 17th January 2020 it returned to children’s TV and is still running now.

Friday 25/02/2022 – Day 709

It’s a lovely sunny but still chilly day here in Kidderminster. I must have done something really wrong to Mrs H over the past week as she has asked – nay demanded – that I accompany her to the local shopping complex known as The Merry Hill Centre (affectionately known as The Merry Hell centre amongst us lesser mortals – men and husbands).

So this wasn’t that bad I suppose, but then this turned into a double whammy when Mrs H informed me that our daughter Gemma would also be accompanying us. The words ‘Beam me up Scotty’ came to the forefront of my mind. I mean, it was bad enough that the tooth I had forcefully removed earlier in the week was still giving me gyp, but to be dragged around endless shops with two shopping hungry women was the ultimate punishment.

We arrived around 10.30 am and within a matter of minutes we were in the heart of Primark, not a shop I altogether agree with for reasons I will not go into here, but surprisingly, Mrs H directed me down to the men’s department. This was quite surprising as I wasn’t really there to buy anything – that was – until I saw the jeans at just £10 per pair, a few minutes later I had 3 pairs tucked under my arm and was heading toward the checkout. (This, ladies, is how we men prefer to shop, in and out as quickly as possible) This one act stems from my days of when I visited the pub on a lunchtime, any time wasted in shops was seen as valuable drinking time, and any more beer vouchers (pound notes back then) unnecessarily wasted on clothes was seen as criminal to us mere males.

But of course this was the modern-day man in that den of cotton and rayon, and the price I had to pay for this foray into the men’s department was to be dragged kicking and screaming into all those Ladies shops complete with lingerie departments. The only break from this assault on my male integrity was lunch. We headed toward a huge complex which was full of outlets of every type of food in the world. Me being a man of that world, I went for good old safe Fish and chips - once we had found a reasonably clean table – whilst the girls went for a soppy salad that wouldn’t have filled a baby up. Sadly, due to aforementioned dodgy molar, I was only able to eat half of my lunch before I found that due to the pain ripping my head off was a better option.

Thankfully, we were home for 3.45, with just two hours remaining before Gemma’s birthday meal tonight, oh, didn’t I mention that? More tomorrow.

On this day in 1982The European Court of Human Rights ruled that corporal punishment in schools (if it was against the parents' wishes) was a violation of the Human Rights Convention. They should have included men going shopping in that category.

Saturday 26/02/2022 – Day 710

Well, today is Gemma’s 40th birthday and 14 of us went out for a meal at the local Indian restaurant last night. Mrs H and I are basic eaters, we don’t like curries etc that set your mouth on fire, we usually go for the Tikka Masala. The toilets in there were in the same corridor, although there was a separate door for Ladies and Gents, at one stage I went for a visit and a female was in the gents washing her hands and seeing to her make-up. I asked her politely if she knew that there was a separate toilet for the ladies.

“How do you know I’m a lady?” she replied sarcastically, “I could be male for all you know, in this same gender society we live in, anyway, these toilets are same sex.”

“I’m sorry” I said, but the doors quite clearly state Ladies and Gentlemen.”

“As I said, how do you know I’m not a male?” she insisted.

By this time, I was getting a bit annoyed with her attitude and replied:-

“Yes I do realise that you could be a male, and actually, despite the fact that you are applying your make-up with a trowel, it can’t disguise the fact that you do indeed look like a man, so in this case I’ll make an exception.”

He/she left in a huff.

Also on this day in 1925The birth of the actor Harry H. Corbett. In the early 1950s, he added the initial "H" to avoid confusion with the television entertainer Harry Corbett, who was known for his act with the glove-puppet Sooty. A chance meeting with writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, who had been successful with Hancock's Half Hour, changed Corbett's life. He is best known for his starring role in the popular and long-running BBC Television sitcom Steptoe and Son. Early in his career he was dubbed 'the English Marlon Brando' by some sections of the British press, Steptoe and son first appeared on our screens in 1962, there were four series up until 1965, but for some inexplicable reason it was then dropped for five years until 1970, then it came back onto our screens until 1974. A classic comedy, who can forget Albert the ‘dirty old man’ having a bath in the kitchen sink whilst eating pickled onions, and I’ll bet there aren’t many of you know the name of their horse! Oh dear, I suddenly feel very old.

Mind, You know that you’re old when you start planning your afternoon nap while you’re still lying-in bed at 8.00am.

Week 103

Sunday 27/02/2022 – Day 711

Starting the week with a whinge, That tooth I had out five days ago is really giving me gyp, I can’t eat properly, and I am living on soup for the time being, this in turn is causing stomach problems. Tomorrow I will phone the dentist and make another appointment, then once it’s sorted, I’ll move to another practise. The current dentist has caused me so many problems since I joined them, they are really no better than the school dentist of the fifties. It’s as though – because you’re NHS patients they can treat you with contempt, anyone else had this problem?

We had the grandson Hatton (golden balls) staying with us last night whilst his mother Gemma cleared off with a dozen or so other revellers to celebrate her fortieth birthday. One of Gemma’s normal birthdays can last up to a fortnight, as this is not classed as ‘normal’ we are expecting the celebrations to continue until the end of March.

Anyway, as there was absolutely nothing worth watching on Saturday TV we (Mrs H, Golden balls and I ) decided to have a trip to the local club. There was a singer on last night and the main room was well full, so we took ourselves off into the much quieter bar and games room. After ordering the drinks I asked Hatton and Mrs H what they would like to eat, Hatton ordered a pizza the size of Wales, whilst the demure Mrs H went for the Panini. Me? Oh I had to sit and watch them stuff their faces as I couldn’t eat a thing with my sore mouth and a crater similar to one of those seen on the moon. I am soooo hungry.

We went home and up to bed, where I treated myself to a bar of chocolate that had somehow managed to survive our house since Christmas. It just melted in my mouth. Just one slight problem – Unknowingly, I must have dropped some chocolate on Mrs H’s brilliantly white bedding – she was not a happy bunny this morning and she is changing the sheets as I type.

On this day in 1932The birth, in London, of the film actress Elizabeth Taylor. Her first success was in the 1944 film National Velvet. She played the title role in Cleopatra (1963) and married her co-star Richard Burton (twice).

On this day in 2002Spike Milligan, Irish comedian and writer died, aged 83. After the death of his friend Harry Secombe from cancer on 11th April 2001, Milligan said, "I'm glad he died before me, because I didn't want him to sing at my funeral." On his headstone is inscribed "I'Duirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite", which is Irish for "I told you I was ill." He was the favourite comic of Prince Charles who wrote a letter congratulating Milligan on winning a Lifetime Achievement Award, whereupon the comic, on live TV, jokingly labelled the Prince a "grovelling little bxxxxxd".

There were 35,956 new cases today and a further 45 deaths.

Monday 28/02/2022 – Day 712

Well I was up at 5.15am with that annoying cavity, rang the dentist at 8.00am just got diverted to an answerphone, left a message with phone number. It is now 9.30 and still no-one has rung back, what on earth has happened to service in this once great country of ours?

After the comments about the dentist I thought you may want to read about another regular visitor to our Junior school. Besides the school dentist, the other most unwelcome visitor was the Nit nurse. She would drop in without notice to inspect the scalps of us poor kids. Nitty Nora the Flea explorer was as brutal as the dentist.

Our Nit nurse was a big girl, she had hands the size of a labourers shovel and as rough as sandpaper. Her more than ample bosom - to which an unsuspecting head was pressed and scraped – was the size of the Isle of Wight. The large lady in question went carefully through one’s hair looking for evidence of head lice or eggs of the same.

We would be in the playground when the black shiny car would pull up. She would alight allowing the car to rise at least a further three inches from the road. The cobbles which had been set for over a hundred years without movement, wobbled as she made her way to the headmaster’s office.

Then the school grapevine began, whispers of ‘Nora’s here’ went around the playground faster than a severe case of diarrhoea. And suddenly, for some inexplicit reason every child in the playground would start scratching the mops on their heads. What was once a reasonably calm playground became a frantic display of raised arms, gyrating bodies, and a great scratching of heads. The whole playground resembled a school of piranha’s at feeding time.

It was no coincidence that she arrived in early Spring either. It was well known that poorer families – of which there were many – rarely bathed during the cold winter months. Most boilers were heated by the coal fire, and this was an expensive and unneeded luxury in a lot of homes. Besides, it was often thought that bathing regularly during cold months brought on influenza or pneumonia. If you bathed regularly in my gang then you were labelled a ‘Cissy.’ So inevitably, we went to bed with dirty knees and soiled faces and wore our muck like badges of honour.

Of course we didn’t know back then that head lice only lived in clean hair. My Mum was horrified if we went home with nits, it was thought that you were ‘dirty’ with unwashed and unkempt hair. So it would be straight to the scruffy drawer,(the one that housed everything from old conkers to broken shoelaces for emergencies) and the steel nit comb would be pulled out. I had four brothers and five sisters, so it was some sort of miracle that there were any teeth left in that steel comb. But one by one we would kneel in front of her as she sat in the chair with a newspaper on her lap. As the comb was dragged through your hair while other siblings stood around delightedly shouting

“There’s one, I can see it.”

The nits that fell onto the paper were then quickly dispatched with a satisfying ‘crack’ by a thumb nail.

In all fairness though, this rarely happened in our house, because most Sundays (bath time) mum would sit us down and pass the steel comb through our wet hair (this apparently slows the little critters down - the nits, not the children) therefore saving us the embarrassment most of the time. Although, we would still inevitably, pick up head lice from other children in the class from time to time.

One incident I will never forget as a child happened one night in our street. I like most boys in the early sixties had a few mates and we all hung around together, not a gang, I hasten to add. Just good mates. We were all in the street as darkness fell. Ian, who had a mop of blonde curly hair had been called in by his mother. The curtains were open as we all stood and watched his mum rake the nit comb through his hair. Next day, as boys do, we ragged him mercilessly. I made sure my mum always drew the curtains on nit comb night after that. Ian’s family emigrated to Australia not long after. Hope it wasn’t because of us.

The school nit nurse of the past would run a nit comb through a child’s hair. I can tell you, this was a pretty brutal process, hence why children feared them. Sometimes the child’s scalp would bleed with the force. Besides the brutality It was also quite public which brought a degree of humiliation. All your mates would be stood in line watching the action and waiting their turn. This wasn’t too bad if you were at the end of the line, but if you were at the front, and, if lice were found, you would be handed a bottle of head lice treatment. You then had to do the ‘walk of shame’ walking past all your classmates sniggering and smirking as you clutched that same bottle, and a letter to take home to your parents telling them to get you de-loused!. My mum, took to the task with great gusto, using combs with minuscule teeth and lotions that would instantly dismiss any other ailments you had, and could peel the layers from your eyes. The following days at school would bear witness to groups of highly polished individuals who smelled of coal tar soap and displayed hair tinged delicately brown

That wasn’t so bad, but the smell of that liquid stayed on your head for days after. Other kids would know you had been treated and you would be avoided like the plague, children could be so cruel.

There were some cases where the infestation was so deep seated that children would have to attend a special clinic. They underwent a special cleaning and delousing service. Then there was the shame of returning to school with all their hair shaved apart from a ridiculous little fringe at the front. We used to say, ‘They haven’t got head lice, the lice have got them.’

The nit nurse disappeared from schools around the late 1980’s and 1990’s for several reasons. Health authority budgets were severely cut back and most found it difficult to fund the service in schools. At one time, parents had found them useful to find out if their child had nits and head lice. But the health authorities of the time thought they weren’t an efficient use of ever tightening budgets which is why they scrapped them.

These local health budget cuts came at the same time as the debate started of how the nit nurse worked in an inefficient and often humiliating way for the children. The government were looking for any excuse to save money and there was a strong belief that the antiquated school service was both inefficient and discriminatory for the children. They weren’t wrong either.

A further 39, 454 new cases today and 56 registered deaths.

Tuesday 01/03/2022 – Day 713

Happy St David’s day to all my Welsh friends. It’s a wonderful start to March with the sun shining brightly and a very mild night. I forgot to say White rabbits this morning, hopefully, my luck will now change.

Went to the dentist’s again yesterday, he reckons the cavity is not infected – even though I have a great amount of pain in my jaw. I have come to the conclusion that he is as handy as a chocolate teapot. On the way out I asked him:-

“So, you are saying 100% that my gum is not infected?.”

“No, I am saying that I think the chances are 80% of me being right.” He replied with a hint of sarcasm.

We are changing our Dentists with effect from today, that man has caused me so much pain.

This morning I got up very early, quietly got dressed, made my lunch, and slipped quietly out into the garage. I hooked the boat up to the car and started to back out into a torrential downpour. The wind was blowing at 50 mph so I pulled back into the garage, turned on the radio and discovered that the weather would be bad all day.

I went back into the house, quietly undressed, and slipped back into bed. I cuddled up to Mrs H’s back, now with a different anticipation and whispered, "The weather out there is terrible. "My loving wife of 49 years replied, "Can you believe my stupid husband is out fishing in that?"

It was on this very day in 1978that Charlie Chaplin's coffin was stolen from a Swiss cemetery. Chaplin spent the last years of his life in Switzerland with his fourth wife Oona and died at his home in Corsier-sur-Vevey on Christmas Day 1977 at the age of eighty-eight. A simple funeral was held four days later at the Anglican church in Vevey, and the body was buried in the local cemetery.

Two months later the grave was found empty and the coffin missing. The media variously claimed that fans had made off with his remains, that local antisemites objected to a Jew’s presence in a Christian burial ground or that neo-Nazis had taken revenge for The Great Dictator. The truth was that thieves had taken the coffin and were demanding 600,000 Swiss francs for its return. Oona Chaplin refused to deal with them, saying, ‘My husband is in heaven and in my heart.’ After eleven weeks the intact coffin was found buried in a cornfield. The police duly caught the thieves, both motor mechanics, one an unemployed Pole, the other a Bulgarian.

Also on this day in 1994Fred West was charged with two further murders following more human remains found at his home. He had previously admitted murdering his 16 old daughter Heather.

There was 23,891 new cases reported today, also another 15 deaths.

Wednesday 02/03/2022 – Day 715

The horrible wet weather has returned with a vengeance, the sky is grey, and it looks as though it’s here for the day. At the risk of not sounding too much like a hypochondriac, I had an appointment at the doctors yesterday to have my hearing tested. The problem is that when I’m in a pub (No, I don’t live in bars!) I can hear everything going on around me, but I can’t hear the people actually sat on my table. Now I do realise that some my male readers will see this as a sort of bonus – especially when Mrs H and two daughters are sat with me – but it really does get frustrating when I have to keep saying ‘Eh.’

Anyway, I saw young Andy at 11.10 am, he asked me lots of pertinent questions about the lugholes planted conveniently on each side of my bonce, then came the actual hearing test. I put earphones on, and he handed me a device with a button on. Every time I heard a sound I had to press the button.

He removed the headphones and triumphantly shared the contents of the test with me. It seems, after all that lad’s efforts, I was just borderline. My flappers weren’t full of enough wax to complete an effigy of Billy Bunter for Madam Tussauds’ in Blackpool as I first feared. He calmly told me that my reception wasn’t too bad, and most of my problems were being caused by normal wear and tear, to put it in a nutshell – I was getting old!

He did go as far as to show me an NHS hearing device which fitted onto the back of one ear. This would be the ear which had become slightly perforated (for some unknown reason known only to my inner conscience, a tea bag came into my mind at that very moment). But Andy – bless him – seemed to think that the results would not benefit a hearing aid. He kindly suggested that I ‘pop back’ in 12 months, we would go through the whole process again and compare the results. As I was leaving he said, “Have a good day.”

“Eh?.” I replied.

Mrs H and I left the car park in time to meet Sarah, Gemma, and granddaughter Mollie for lunch. (see above about three women at the table). This was to be followed by a – wait for it – Bingo session. Yes dear reader, for the first time in over 20 years I was going to play Bingo. I couldn’t contain my excitement; this was on a par with having my tooth ripped from my jaw a week ago. But to be honest, the full house was around £120, this went a long way to easing the agony of actually being reduced to playing this game. Meanwhile, poor Sarah began to feel unwell and was forced to go home, (she’s fine now). Suffice to say, none of us won, but I may well pop back next week for another go, those four pints of Guinness helped the few hours go with a swing.

We arrived home in time for Mrs H to become a tosser, yes, it was pancake day and she had invited all the family around to witness what a fine tosser she had become over the years. We all had our fill and a really wonderful time.

Today’s tip, Never take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night. Follow me for more health tips.

New cases saw a substantial rise to 43,838, deaths rose to 74.

Thursday 03/03/2022 – Day 716

It’s still as dull as dishwater out there in the great metropolis that has become home to Mrs H and I.

Ok, I promise that I will try not to mention my health again for the rest of the month, but I have a hospital appointment this afternoon at Russell Hall hospital. Hopefully, it is the last in a long line of appointments - for one thing or another - over the past 4 weeks. There isn’t a lot left of me that needs looking at – although, I am sure Mrs H would argue with that.

I really cannot understand what is happening to this train wreck of a body, when I was young I was as fit as a Butcher’s dog! Don’t get ;me wrong, I still had the normal childhood illnesses, things like chicken pox, measles, German measles (I never could understand why they had their own version). I mean, I came from a large family and a thing like measles would go through the house quicker than an elephant with diarrhoea.

When I caught the measles off my elder sister I was but into a room where mum put the blackouts up because of the adverse effects the light had on your eyes, we were told that many a child was left with a bad squint. My chicken pox came out virtually overnight, I woke up with spots everywhere – even between my toes and fingers! I was so itchy, mum smothered me from head to toe with Calamine lotion, but I still wanted to scratch.

Whooping cough was another bad childhood illness, although I can’t personally remember having it myself, I can recall the horrendous noise emitting from a couple of my siblings.

Of course, many childhood illnesses back then were rumoured to be devastating if you waited until adulthood to catch them, things like Rubella for girls or Mumps for boys, it was for this reason alone that we were literally encouraged to play with other children who were infectious.

Polio was a dreadful and greatly feared virus disease which could paralyse muscles, preventing or retarding their growth and function, often stunting limbs for life. It could also kill. It struck indiscriminately in the summer months and mainly targeted children. It was therefore generally known as infantile paralysis. I only learnt much later that its official name was polio. We had a lad in our class in 1959 who had to wear callipers. No one knew where polio came from or how it was caught, although, public swimming baths were widely feared by parents without, as far as I know, any supporting evidence.

Vaccinations against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tuberculosis were all provided to children by 1956

Thankfully, a vaccine against polio became available for the public in the mid-1950s. It was served as a few drops on a sugar cube. I had mine, along with other children at my Junior school We were called in large groups to stand in a long line and a nurse moved along the line, serving each of us in turn. It was all rather amusing at the time with giggles all round. Only in later life did I realise how grateful I should have been for it.

Another rise in new cases today, they went up to 48,571 with a substantial rise in deaths up to 194.

Friday 04/03/2022 – Day 717

After a completely dull start, we had a lovely warm afternoon with lots of lovely sunshine.

I know I promised not to mention my health again for the rest of the month, but as you all know – I had a hospital appointment for 2.45 yesterday, We duly arrived at 2.25pm and spent twenty minutes going around in circles whilst looking for a car parking space. Just as we were about to give up the ghost I saw a car pulling out, we made a dash and within seconds we were parked.

We made our way through the hospital to the waiting room; my heart sank as it was overflowing with waiting patients. Imagine my surprise when I was called in within ten minutes, alas, it was just to have my height, weight, blood pressure and heart rate took. Back into the hot and crowded waiting room. But then – just fifteen minutes later – I was called into another room where Mrs H accompanied me. The young nurse specialist put my mind at ease. She went through all my results, including the cardiogram from a few weeks ago. After a few more tests she informed me that I was no longer at risk, they would now discharge me, but they would keep me on the same medication to be sure. That young lady had made my day.

Anyway, the main thing is that I was as fit as a Butcher’s dog, my ticker was ok, my hearing was ok, what more could I ask. Well they always say that good news comes in three’s, so I just hope that the local carpenter – after treatment - gives me the all clear and tells me that the woodworm in my wooden leg has gone.

We have our grandson Hatton (goldenballs ) staying with us until Sunday while his mum continues her 40th birthday celebrations in a surprise weekend in Newcastle. We had to empty the boot of the car to make room for all the stuff he brings with him such as X box etc.

It was on this day in 1967That the first gas from the North Sea was piped ashore near Durham. Didn’t do us much good though did it?

Today in 1969the Kray twins, Ronald and Reginald, were found guilty of murder. The Kray twins, Ronald and Reginald, were facing life sentences after being found guilty of murder at the Central Criminal Court. The jury deliberated for six hours and 55 minutes before returning the unanimous guilty verdict for the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray twins were both sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation they should be detained for a minimum of 30 years - the longest sentences ever passed at the Old Bailey for murder.

Charles Kray was jailed for 10 years.

Also today in 1972 Kenneth Grimes, from Hampshire became the first individual to win more than £500,000 on the football pools.

And finally in 1975Charlie Chaplin was knighted after a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

New cases fell slightly to 44,748, deaths also fell to 40.

Saturday 05/03/2022 – Day 718

Another beautiful sunny day here, although it is still a little bit cool with a cold nip in the air.

Had a night out at the club last night. Our Granddaughter Alisha rang yesterday afternoon and asked us if we’d like to go out for a meal as Sam (her partner0 was off on his Christmas works party. So we booked in at the local eatery and sat down about 5.30. Alisha said she would treat us and pay for the meal. I said that I would pay.

After we had eaten Alisha disappeared to the loo, when she re-appeared she was proudly waving the receipt – she had paid for the meal for the four of us! We went out to the local social club and had a lovely evening as Sarah was in there and Mollie was serving behind the bar.

Anyone remember those fly papers from years ago, oh yes, they worked really well but you would walk into a room, and they’d be hanging there full of black dead flies, wafting in the breeze as your mum opened the window.

My dear old mum used to have a sort of pump action gun, it had a can on the end which you filled up with ‘Flit’, so, imagine this – the cooker is on, mother is cooking our tea , the top of the cooker has two or three saucepans with sprouts, cauliflower and potatoes hackling away with no lids on them when a bluebottle fly enters the kitchen, out comes the zapper and a couple of squirts later that fly is no more, meanwhile that stuff which has just killed a fly stone dead, is now settling down on those open saucepans and in the lungs of the kids you supposedly love, amazing when you think back isn’t it lol!

On this day in 1936The British fighter plane Spitfire made its first test flight from Eastleigh, Southampton, powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. It was designed by Reginald Mitchell and was the fighter plane that helped to win the Battle of Britain. Mitchell died in 1937 without ever knowing how successful his aircraft would become. The Spitfire was first put into service with the Royal Air Force in 1938 and they remained in active service (as photo reconnaissance planes) with the Royal Air Force until 1954.

Week 104

Sunday 06/03/2022 – Day 718

So here we are at the start of my 104th week delivering this diary. That’s two years ago, although I didn’t actually start it until Monday 16/03/2022.

We have been invited out to lunch today at Alisha and Sam’s home, As you all know, Alisha is carrying our first Great Grandchild, we still have her little brother staying with us so we will pop round about 3.30.

It was on this day in 1961 that at the tender age of just nine years I was saddened to learn the death of one of the best entertainers that the UK had ever known. George Formby entertained us most Sunday afternoons on the TV. George Hoy booth was born in Wigan Lancashire at 3 Westminster Street on 26th May 1904. George was born blind owing to an obstructive caul, although his sight was restored during a violent coughing fit or sneeze when he was just a few months old. He was the eldest of seven surviving children born to James Booth and his wife Eliza Hoy. The marriage was bigamous as his father had not got divorced from his first wife Martha Marie Salter a twenty-year-old music hall singer.

James Booth himself was a relatively successful music hall singer and comedian, he went under the name of George Formby. He and Eliza were devoted to each other and had 14 children but as stated only seven survived. By 1920 he was earning £350 a week (about £14000 in today’s terms}, He died on 28th February 1921, he left a colossal £25,500 in his will.

George took his father’s stage name. After an early career as a stable boy and jockey, George took to the music hall stage after the early death of his father in 1921. His early performances were taken exclusively from his father's act, including the same songs, jokes, and characters. In 1923 he made two career-changing decisions – he purchased a ukulele, and married Beryl Ingham, a fellow performer who became his manager and transformed his act. She insisted that he appear on stage formally dressed and introduced the ukulele to his performance. He started his recording career in 1926 and, from 1934, he increasingly worked in film to develop into a major star by the late 1930s and 1940s and became the UK's most popular entertainer during those decades. The media historian Brian McFarlane writes that on film, Formby portrayed gormless Lancastrian innocents who would win through against some form of villainy, gaining the affection of an attractive middle-class girl in the process.

By 1960 his wife Beryl was in very poor health. George had signed up for Aladdin in Brighton. Two hours before the premiere on Christmas Eve 1960— George received a phone call from Beryl's doctor, saying that she was in a coma and was not expected to survive the night; George went through with the performance, and was told early the next morning that Beryl had died. Her cremation took place on 27 December, and an hour after the service George returned to Bristol to appear in that day's matinee performance of Aladdin. He continued in the show until 14 January when a cold forced him to rest, on doctors' advice. He returned to Lytham St Annes and communicated with Pat Howson; she contacted his doctor and Formby was instructed to go to hospital, where he remained for the next two weeks.

On Valentine's Day 1961, seven weeks after Beryl's death, Formby and Howson announced their engagement. Eight days later he suffered a further heart attack which was so severe that he was given the last rites of the Catholic Church on his arrival at hospital. He was revived and, from his hospital bed, he and Howson planned their wedding, which was due to take place in May. He was still there when, on 6 March, he had a further heart attack and died at the age of 56.

But his films would be continued to be shown for many years on TV.

Also on this day in 1987The British-owned cross-channel ferry the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' left Zeebrugge, Belgium, with its bow doors open. The ferry capsized killing 193 passengers.

There were 38,563 new cases today and 46 registered deaths.

Monday 07/03/2022 – Day 719

A lovely sunny morning once again here in the Midlands. I am actually thinking of going outside and doing some work in the old Repair shop. I still have a few projects to complete and seriously need to get my backside into work mode. I am not losing any weight, but, having said that, I am not gaining any weight either!

Speaking of weight, I was thinking today about the food that was available when I was a child in the fifties and early sixties. I – like many of my ilk – had to eat whatever was put in front of me, There was no picking or choosing like the kids of today. Our staple diet was bread and potatoes, the spuds would be boiled, mashed, chipped, roasted, or scalloped. Bread was toasted, shown the butter knife (bread and scrape) or – when too stale – it was used for Bread pudding.

Breakfast during the Winter mostly consisted of porridge and a mug of steaming hot strong tea that you could stand a teaspoon up in. unless you went home for lunch it was usually sandwiches before you had your tea at around 6.00pm. But when you came home from school you would be inevitably hungry so you would grab a ‘piece’ scrape the margarine on it and finish with a sprinkling of sugar, On rare occasions you would be allowed a jam buttie. In those days strawberry jam contained whole strawberries, so your sandwich – if your siblings hadn’t been there prior to you – would have a few lumps in them, I have always loved jam butties to this day, but I do miss those lumps.

Tea as I said was always around 6.00pm, there was a reason for this, my dad worked permanent nights (more money) and his shifts as a weaver would be Monday to Thursday 6.00pm to 6.00am and Friday was 4.00 to 10.00pm. He didn’t want lots of kids under his feet while he prepared for work, so tea was at six after he’d left. It would mostly be stews or casseroles in the Winter months, basically anything cheap that wouldn’t take a lot of preparation, my mum’s day was already full with shopping washing etc, so anything that could simmer all day on the gas ring was cooked. Saturday’s was always fish shop chips for lunch, never had fish though, too expensive, for tea it was always mashed banana sandwiches. Sunday lunch was the only time we ever had a roast. Then it was usually tinned fruit for tea covered with Carnation evaporated milk, you could always have a ‘piece’ (slice of bread) if you were still hungry.

During the Summer months we lived on whatever was available at the time, I can’t remember my mum buying any sort of salad stuff, I do recall a lot of sandwiches. It mattered not though, because we were always in too much of a hurry to get back outside into the early evening sunshine.

Now and again, we would be treated to a plate of homemade chips, pure heaven between two slices of Mother’s Pride and a splattering of tomato ketchup. We were in bed for eight at the latest, if it was Summer then the blackouts went up to the curtains, it didn’t stop you hearing the screams of joy from the other kids in the street though.

New cases rose today up to 48.809, deaths were 47.

Tuesday 08/03/2022 – Day 720

I was lay in bed this morning wondering why Pure Mountain water that has trickled through rocks for centuries has a sell by date.

Had our first day in the garden yesterday, well, when I say our first day, what I really mean is that Mrs was in her greenhouse and I was in the Repair shop, but at least neither of us was stuck in the far too hot house. I managed to get a couple of units undercoated and prepared for the topcoat, while Mrs H was doing a lot of seed planting and moving of plants.

I did venture down the garden eventually, my lawns are in serious need of a trim and my pond needs some tlc. But it will all get done as the weather warms up, having said that – they are forecasting snow sometime this week!

It was on this day in 1859that author Kenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh, most famous for The Reluctant Dragon and The Wind in the Willows, an enchanting story involving the characters Toad, Badger, Mole and Ratty. I always remember my very first reading of that enchanting book, the adventures made such an impact that those wonderful characters are forever embedded in my mind.

Today dear reader it is National Women’s Day, Women from every corner of the globe come together on March 8, which is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Every year, this day is celebrated with a theme. The theme for this year's International Women's Day is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” I posted a poem on my site which I wrote a while back, it was about Edith Cavell a first World war nurse who really was a heroine when she secretly helped over 200 soldiers back home, sadly, she was caught and executed by the Germans, that, to me is what this day should be all about, if my mother-in-law was still here she would claim it was about her!

Today is also Commonwealth day, which is not celebrated as much as it was back in the days when it was called Empire Day.

Who remembers Green Shield stamps? Many a housewife collected these little green perforated stamps from supermarkets during the 60’s and 70’s, and woe betide the hubby if he filled up with petrol and returned without them. The stamps were introduced in 1958 and became a massive success overnight, despite the venerable glue-backed perforated dividend tokens looking like they hailed from some Edwardian printing press. This was, of course, partly the point. The resolutely old-fashioned ethos of saving up ‘points,’ symbolised by each small stamp spewed out by a little metal machine by the side of the till and diligently stuck into a special booklet (there were bigger ones that counted for ten points or more, to save on your saliva) preached hard graft and patience. But then, when enough had been accumulated, it was off to the catalogue for – yippee! – toasters, glassware, Kenwood Chefettes, and even, should you fill a comically enormous stack of booklets, a colour telly! It was consumerism gone mad, though it worked, its only serious rival being the pale blue Co-op Dividend stamps scheme. One stamp was typically issued for each 6d (2½ new pence) spent on goods, so large numbers of stamps had to be stuck into the books. At a later stage, a second denomination of stamp was added, worth 10 of the original stamps, which somewhat alleviated this problem.

Finally, towards the end, there was a single large stamp worth 40 standard stamps. This was printed with a carmine background around the traditional green shield logo.

I remember my mum suddenly going from collecting plastic Tulips and Daffodils to shouting as we left the house ‘Don’t forget the stamps.’ Tesco started issuing them in 1963 and gave the stamps a massive boost in the market, but Jack Cohen its founder, was a fan of pile it high and sell it cheap, and in the mid-1970s Tesco faced cost problems associated with not integrating its stores. In 1977 Tesco launched Operation Checkout, price-cutting aimed at countering the new discounters such as Kwik Save. A decision was made to abandon Green Shield stamps, saving £20m a year and helping to finance price reductions. This one single action would inevitably signal the end of Green Shield stamps.

This left mostly petrol stations offering stamps, Mrs H and I used to collect them in the early seventies, but inflation was high, and the amount of stamps needed for basic household items became enormous. Unscrupulous petrol stations would offer quadruple stamps to get the customer to buy their fuel, By 1973, Green Shield were offering part cash and part goods for the full catalogues of stamps. The proportion of cash accepted was slowly increased until the goods could be purchased, outright, without the need for any stamps. With this groundwork laid, the catalogue stores, warehouses and vehicle fleet were re-branded Argos in July 1973.

There you are dear reader– another snippet from the useless information department.

New cases rose substantially up to 67,644 almost 20,000 more than yesterday. Deaths also rose substantially to 212.

Wednesday 09/03/2022 – Day 721

I was lay in bed this morning reminiscing about when a ‘new hip joint’ meant I was visiting a nightclub in the sixties.

I swear I am shrinking. Why? I hear you all shout, well ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper my inside leg measurement (suits you sir!) has always been 29”, And give or take an inch or two, I have always drifted between 34” and 36” waist size. So, I am out shopping with Mrs H last week in a store I don’t particularly agree with, anyway I see these jeans on sale at £10 a pair, this alone under normal circumstances should have rung alarm bells with me. But those pound signs in my eyes were clouding my judgement.

They didn’t have my ideal size, but they did have a 30inch leg with a 36-inch waist, an inch on the old leg was quite acceptable. This resulted in me buying three pairs in different colours. Yesterday we were going out, so I thought I’d wear a pair of jeans (most advisable if going out), so I put on the grey ones. They were far too big around the waist, and I had to turn them up 4 inches just so they’d rest on the top of my footwear. I thought I’d picked up a 38inch waist with a 33inch leg, but no, the labels said 30inch leg and 36-inch waist. That company should be prosecuted under the trades description act, either that, or I am as I said earlier – shrinking.

Mrs H and I managed another few hours in the garden yesterday. The day’s work involved trimming the 15-foot tree in our front garden, but firstly, I had to rescue the Christmas lights that I had threaded delicately through the intertwining branches. I had been putting this job off for two months as the lights were over one hundred feet long. I placed the ladder against the tree and started pulling the loose end of the lights through the intricate branches which over winter had become a web that any tarantula would have been proud of. I managed to trim some of the offending branches off, this released some of the wire, but most of the time I had to pull all 100 feet of cable through.

That’s nearly three hours of my life I’ll never get back, I know one thing for sure, those lights will not be going back up at the end of the year.

I just can’t believe that on this day in 1946 one of the most appalling football tragedies happened when33 fans were killed, and hundreds injured when a barrier collapsed at the Bolton Wanderers' football ground. The dead and injured were taken from the stand, with those who had perished lain along the touchline and covered in coats. Incredibly, a little under half an hour after leaving the pitch, the game was restarted, with a new sawdust lined touchline separating the players from the bodies. It was the deadliest football stadium-related disaster in British history until the Ibrox Park disaster in 1971.

Today in 1950Timothy Evans was hanged for the murder of his wife. Three years later John Christie admitted killing her and several other women. This is one of the reasons that hanging was abolished.

And finally, on this day In 2015 Archaeologists began excavating up to 3,000 skeletons from a burial ground under London's Liverpool Street station. The Bedlam burial ground was used from 1569 to at least 1738 and included bodies belonging to victims of the Black Death. The site was to serve the cross-London Crossrail line, which was due to open later in 2018.

New cases dropped slightly to 66,055, registered deaths also fell to 123.

Thursday 10/03/2022 – Day 722

Sat having forty winks yesterday afternoon when someone thumped on the front door, probably right next to the doorbell, Mrs H got there before me and mauled in a six-foot-high cardboard box. This enormous thing was her latest acquisition for the Garden room, (I am getting to hate Mrs Hinch, she is costing me so much money) it was a giant bamboo plant! Not the real thing though, oh no, because of the heat generated in the Summer she had to buy an artificial one. In other words dear reader – plastic! Sixty-five pounds of my hard earned it cost, it’s a good job I love that woman that’s all I can say!

I was thinking (now there’s a novelty) whilst working in the repair shop yesterday. TV soaps have at some time played a huge part in most people’s lives. The regional accents especially would flummox some viewers. I suppose you would have to start back in 1957 when Emergency Ward 10 hit our screens. Set in a hospital in fictional Oxbridge it was all about the nurses and Doctors lives. Then of course came the biggest soap of all. Coronation street was only expected to have a 12-week run when it first hit our screens on 7th December 1960. But Granada were forced to extend the run when the earthy Northern characters along with excellent storylines became a great hit with viewers.

Back then, the soap kept up with all the happenings and events in real life, sadly, today it seems to have lost its way, poor characters, bad writing, and terrible storylines have all helped the decline in TV audiences. Initially written to mirror the gritty social films of the day like Saturday Night Sunday Morning and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, it was brilliant up to the end of the 20th century. But today, it doesn’t properly reflect Northern life, far too many murders, drugs and no mention of the pandemic have seen audiences leave in droves.

Then in 1972, just as we had got the gist of the Northern accent Yorkshire TV gave us Emmerdale Farm and we had to start all over again with new accents. The series originally aired during the afternoon and was intended to be a three-month television series. However, more episodes were ordered and transmitted during the daytime until 1978, when it was moved to an early-evening prime time slot in most regions. In the late eighties it had a name change to just Emmerdale and decided to concentrate on the village rather than the farm. Animals would be rarely seen, and the Woolpack seemed to be where everything went on. Run By Amos Brearly, and Mr Wilkes it was the hub of the village. There were some well-loved characters in the series, sadly now all long gone. Like the Street the soap has lost the plot, especially recently with Mena murdering five people and not getting caught or yet charged, The characters are uncaring in the mind of the viewer, the scriptwriting is terrible and asks the viewer to believe the unbelievable.

Then in 1985 we had Eastenders foisted upon us. Schoolchildren were asked to rewrite the English language when overnight the word Think became ‘fink.’ There were hundreds of east end words designed to change the English vocabulary. The real Eastenders when interviewed on local news admitted that the TV characters were nothing like them. Like the other soaps above, this too has lost its way in real life. The intelligent viewer is expected to swallow all sorts of rubbish from amateur scriptwriters. The actors leave the soap, and their accents are exactly the same in real life, they cannot get work and therefore are forced to make a ‘surprise’ return to boost the flagging ratings. The Queen Vic never even bothered to close during lockdown, so the unsuspecting viewer (and there are a lot of them) were asked to believe that every pub in London never closed! Even though there was no-one in there.

Don’t even get me started on afternoon soaps, Australian soaps, and American soaps.

New cases dropped substantially to 40,137, deaths were up slightly to 142.

Friday 11/03/2022 – Day 723

Apparently, according to Shefali, we have rain on the way here in Kidderminster. I must admit, she could be right for once, it is a bit dark and dowdy here.

I spent yesterday morning re-painting my front garden wall, but first I had to deal with some effervescent that was starting to creep through in a couple of places. So I got the ‘Salt away’ out and gave it a couple of coats. It said on the back ‘Do not spray near plants or foliage, Do not spill on block paving.’ Well I thought I’d err on the safe side of caution and cover the block paving entrance. It was a bit breezy, and I hadn’t noticed the slight gap that had blown open between the two covers, yes dear reader, you’re one step ahead of me, we now have a dark stain on the paving, Mrs H is not a happy bunny!

In the afternoon, our besties Janet and John picked us up to go for tea at what has become our favourite eatery, the Station Inn. The last time we went there I had a tooth extracted that very morning. This visit was a lot better, and those faggot, chips and mushy peas went down very well.

It was on this day in 2018 that the death occurred (aged 90) of the comedian Ken Dodd, just days after leaving hospital following a long-term chest infection. He passed away in his home at Knotty Ash, Liverpool, the home that he was born in and had lived in for his entire life. Two days earlier he had married his long-term partner of 40 years, Anne Jones. Ken Dodd made his professional debut on 27th September 1954. His lengthy stage shows were legendary (one lasted for five and a quarter hours). In 1974 Ken Dodd earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world's longest ever joke-telling session, when he told more than 1,500 jokes in three hours and six minutes on stage at Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre.

I had followed Doddy ever since my childhood, he was one of the best live comedians ever. He also had a wonderful voice. His first chart entry in 1960 was ‘Love is Like a Violin’ and reached No 8 in the charts. His first and only No 1 was ‘Tears’ in 1965, this was followed by a No3 in the same years called ‘The River’. ‘Promises’ reached No6 in 1966. He had a further 19 singles in the top 40.

But his comedy was legendary, he had his own shows on TV and would tell one joke after another, and not one swear word. Mrs H and I first saw him live in 1973 when he appeared at Butlins in Barry Island. Mrs H was pregnant at the time, and we had to stand up the whole time, about two hours into his act we had to go home as Mrs H couldn’t stand any longer (no real gentlemen around then). The next time I saw him live was in 2012 when besties Janet and John bought tickets for my sixtieth birthday, we saw him at nearby Bewdley. He opened his act with-:

“Good evening everyone, I hope you’ve brought some sandwiches with you.”

Sheer brilliance, and greatly missed.

Mrs H remarked to me that it would be nice if she came back home, and all the housework was done. ‘No problem’ I replied, ‘Why don’t you just get up earlier and do it before you leave’ that was when she hit me.

Once again new cases increased to the highest this week and the highest for over eight weeks at 72,828, Registered deaths were 114.

Saturday 12/03/2022 – Day 724

A nice sunny start in Kidderminster today. Mrs H is in TV heaven because Gardener’s World began again last night, I was banished to the bedroom to watch the Rugby, Wales v France in the six nations cup. I was praying for Wales to win as this would have been good for England who play France (unbeaten) next week. Alas, the Welsh put up a courageous fight, but it wasn’t to be.

One of the big events on a Saturday in my childhood was the football pools. In the fifties they were available on the bar at most public houses, from shops, or from a collector who would call every Thursday night for your coupon. Many large factories had at least one employee, who as a side-line, collected coupons from fellow workers.

However, many players were unaware that British law left them at the mercy of unscrupulous collectors who took their money but did not submit the coupons. This was because the Gaming Act 1845 made all forms of gambling a "debt of honour" which meant that any dispute about winnings was exempt from legal redress in a court of law. For example in 1995 a syndicate lost £2.3million when their collector stole their money and did not hand in their coupon. The group wanted to sue the Pools company, but it made it clear it did not employ collectors, they were the punters' agents. The "debt of honour" exemption to taking legal action over unpaid winnings was eventually repealed in the Gambling Act 2005.

Back in the early sixties my dad was happy to win the jackpot of £75,000, We would all sit there in that small kitchen as the Bakelite brown radio spewed out the scores on Saturday teatime. All you could hear was the announcer and the sound of a dozen bananas being mashed. You hardly dared to breath for ten minutes.

It would be 1973 before the first half millionaire was made.

Doctors have recently discovered a food that can cause grief and heartache years after it has been eaten – it’s called a wedding cake!

Week 105

Sunday 13/03/2022 – Day 725

Woke this morning with the sun streaming into the room, it was 7.45, that was a lie-in for me. Had my four Weetabix (considering increasing the intake as I’m hungry a couple of hours later, need a bigger bowl) and took Mrs H her latte up, we sat discussing what we would do today,

It was this very week (on Friday actually) that I put my very first diary on here for a bit f fun. It was so popular that I posted an update the following day, and that dear reader is how it all began two years ago.

Yesterday the sun shone in the morning and Mrs H and I decided to have another attempt at trying to tidy up the garden. My lawns were long overdue for their first trim, so I dusted the trusty mower off and started it up. Meanwhile Mrs H is attacking the overgrown Butterfly bushes with the loppers. It makes my eyes water just watching her, it serves as a timely reminder not to upset her.

I knew she hadn’t really got her heart in it when she came out dressed in a big woolly jumper, coat and wellies and a woolly bobble hat – and the sun was shining. Two hours later, we were just tidying up when three – no, I tell a lie – four drops of rain fell in the only exposed bit of Mrs H’s nose. I have never seen anyone disappear so quickly into the house’

I finished tidying up as the sun made another appearance, I dragged the heavy recycling bin out nearer the gate and swept the path. Twenty minutes later I entered the boiling hot Garden room where Mrs H was sat looking very delectable.

“What happened to you?” I asked

“Well, it started to rain, so I thought it best to come in.”

I thought about it, and those loppers came back to mind, best not to say anything.

Three hours later we were sat in the club having a drink and some food while we watched Ireland trounce England at Rugby in the six nations cup. Should have stayed in the garden I think.

It was on this day in 1935that voluntary driving tests were introduced in Great Britain and then became compulsory in June of the same year.

It was today in 1961 that the old Black and white Bank of England five-pound notes ceased to be legal tender. the printed black and white notes were replaced from 1957 onward by new, two-sided notes. The first two-sided £5 notes (series B) were blue and featured a bust of Britannia on the front and a lion on the back. Series C notes, first introduced in 1963, were the first notes to feature an image of the monarch on the front, with Britannia being relegated to the back.

Finally today we sadly remember that in 1996Thomas Hamilton, a lone gunman carrying 4 handguns killed 16 children and their teacher at a school in Dunblane, Scotland. The killer fired randomly around the school gym in an attack that lasted just three minutes but caused carnage in the class of five- and six-year-olds. He then turned the gun on himself. Hamilton had been a scout master briefly before being sacked by the Scout Association. The event became a rallying point for anti-gun legislation. Two days after the shooting, a vigil and prayer session was held at Dunblane Cathedral and on Mothering Sunday, the Queen and Princess Anne attended a memorial service at Dunblane Cathedral.

Bit of Pop history for you now, on this day in 1967 Singer Sandy Shaw released her record 'Puppet on a String' which won the Eurovision Song Contest for Britain. But the truth was that she absolutely hated that song, even though it gave her a No1 smash. She had to sing all six entries on Rolf Harris’s show, then the public would vote. Of the songs performed, "Puppet on a String" was her least favourite. In her own words, "I hated it from the very first oompah to the final bang on the big bass drum. I was instinctively repelled by its sexist drivel and cuckoo-clock tune." She was disappointed when it was selected as the song she would use to represent the country, She had to be convinced by Adam Faith (the man who discovered her) to actually go to the contest.

Also on this day in 1997The Spice Girls made pop music history by becoming the first group to top the charts with every one of their first four singles. The run was only interrupted by a re-entry of another earlier song. But the first group to have their first three records go straight to No 1 was from Liverpool, it was of course – yes you’ve guessed it – Gerry and the Pacemakers, (how many thought it was the Beatles?) they were, ‘How do you do it’, ‘I Like It’ and the evergreen ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ which still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I hear it.

There were 60,975 new cases today and 52 more deaths.

Monday 14/03/2022 – Day 726

Woke up to a good old-fashioned peasouper this morning, it was quite dense and certainly slowed down the flow of traffic outside. Good news is that this normally means that we’re in for a nice day.

Mrs H and I are now back on our health kick, so yesterday afternoon – after a hefty lunch – we donned our coats and went for a walk. These are early days, so we didn’t go too far. Mrs H felt so refreshed that when we returned she went down to her greenhouse and planted all her seeds. She returned triumphant two hours later with colour in her cheeks, then sat down in the Garden room and promptly fell asleep – bless her.

Who was that woman presenting the Bafta’s last night? She certainly needs to hone her so-called sense of humour, I sat there and -like the audience – felt excruciatingly embarrassed at some of her ‘jokes.’

This was followed by the ‘Peaky Blinders,’ a brilliant and well written programme if you are able to get past the really bad language. But I have to admit, I think the writer may have lost his way slightly, a viewer should not have to sit there constantly trying to work out what on earth is happening. I know – it’s easy for me to criticise – perhaps it will all finally come together in this very last series.

It was on this day in 1930that a proposed tunnel linking England and France was first approved by the Channel Tunnel Committee. Although plans to build a cross-Channel fixed link appeared as early as 1802. he eventual successful project, organised by Eurotunnel, began construction in 1988 and opened in 1994. Estimated to cost £5.5 billion in 1985, it was at the time the most expensive construction project ever proposed. The cost finally amounted to £9 billion (equivalent to £16 billion in 2019), well over its predicted budget.

2014Thieves who had built a 50ft (15m) tunnel to a cash machine on Liverpool Road, Eccles, got away with more than £80,000. The complex nature of its structure could have taken months to excavate and echoes a similar raid in Fallowfield Shopping Precinct in January 2012. Police said they were looking for 'people acting suspiciously, possibly covered in soil.' That, dear reader is the scouse sense of humour at work.

An 8-year-old girl went to her grandfather, who was working in the yard and asked him, "Gram-pa, what is couple sex?"

The grandfather was surprised that she would ask such a question but decided that if she's old enough to know to ask the question, then she's old enough to get a straight answer.

Steeling himself to leave nothing out, he proceeded to tell her all about human reproduction and the joys and responsibilities of intercourse.

When he finished explaining, the little girl was looking at him with her mouth hanging open, eyes wide in amazement.

Seeing the look on her face, the grandfather asked her, "Why did you ask this question, honey?"

The little girl replied, "Grandma says that dinner will be ready in just a couple secs."

There were 73,036 new cases today and 53 new deaths recorded.

Tuesday 15/03/2022 – Day 727

We had a bit of a frost today, but it was well worth it for the most wonderful sunny day we had yesterday. Mrs H and I spent a lovely day in the garden. It had been a foggy start but by 11.00am the sun was beaming down, and it turned into the most wonderful Spring day. I spent my time taking out the brickwork from around part of the pond. Mrs H wants to reclaim the ground where we once parked our garden bench. As always there is always a problem with any work done on our property, the problem on this occasion was that I had completely forgotten that I had revamped the pond surround a few years back, and I now had to break through two lot of paving as I had laid the new crazy paving on top of the old stuff.

Memories Eh? I wish I had one.

On this day in 1964Film stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor married in Montreal. They later divorced then remarried. It wasn’t that they didn’t like each other, just that they both loved wedding cake.

Also on this day in 2003The death of Dame Thora Hird, British actress. She is best remembered for her role of almost two decades in Last of the Summer Wine but played many other roles in her long career. She won a BAFTA Best Actress award for her roles in two of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues and a BAFTA for Best Actress in Lost for Words. Mrs H always reminded me of her character in Last of the Summer Wine, especially the scenes where she would put newspaper down on her kitchen floor as her poor downtrodden husband walked across it, oh yes dear reader, I’ve been there and done that.

And finally, on this day in 2014We bid a fond farewell to TV Cook Clarissa Dickson Wright, at the age of 66. Christened Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Dickson Wright, she became famous as one half of 'The Two Fat Ladies'. Wright and the late Jennifer Paterson travelled the country on a Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle and sidecar and would prepare meals for members of the public. (Female forerunners of Si and Dave, the Hairy Bikers) A former barrister, Clarissa Dickson Wright was, until 2013 the youngest woman ever to be called to the Bar, passing her exams aged 21.

Who is young enough to recall the rationing years? It was on this day in 1949Clothes rationing, which had been introduced during the 2nd World War, was ended. Rationing was introduced because of difficulties importing food to Britain by boat during the war, to ensure everyone had their fair share and to prevent people stockpiling foodstuffs.

Various essential and non-essential foods were rationed, such as clothes, furniture, and fuel. Rationing of sweets and chocolate began on 26 July 1942.

During the war, health experts from the Ministry of Food ensured that the British people had a balanced diet. Householders were told they were on the "Kitchen Front" and that they had a duty to use foods to their greatest advantage. The Ministry devised characters such as Potato Pete and Dr Carrot to put their message across.

The process of de-rationing began in 1948 but made slow progress until 1953. Then Food Minister Gwilym Lloyd-George made it a priority for his department. Fourteen years of food rationing in Britain ended at midnight July 4th, 1954, when restrictions on the sale and purchase of meat and bacon were lifted. Restrictions were gradually lifted three years after war had ended, starting with flour on 25 July 1948, followed by clothes on 15 March 1949.

On 19 May 1950 rationing ended for canned and dried fruit, chocolate biscuits, treacle, syrup, jellies, and mincemeat.

Petrol rationing, imposed in 1939, ended in May 1950 followed by soap in September 1950.

Three years later on 6th February 1953the sales of sugar were off ration and last May butter rationing ended.

Not all foods were rationed. Fruit and vegetables were never rationed but were often in short supply, especially tomatoes, onions and fruit shipped from overseas. The government encouraged people to grow vegetables in their own gardens and allotments. Many public parks were also used for this purpose. The scheme became better known as ‘Dig For Victory’

New cases dropped to 52,698 today but deaths rose to 200..

Wednesday 15/03/2022 – Day 728

Mrs H and I enjoyed another lovely sunny day in the garden yesterday. Mrs H decided she wanted more foliage behind the pond. This of course was one of her famous ‘It won’t take you long’ jobs. Anyway, two days later it is now completed, and all the cement work finished.

I even managed to do my impression of Tom Sawyer when Mrs H decided that the fence at the back of the pond would benefit from a coat of paint. I argued that the fence had been there over ten years and had survived without any paint, but I knew I was fighting a losing battle. I fetched the gallon of Willow paint from the repair shop and clutching a three-inch brush I got stuck in. I managed to paint nearly half of the panels before my arm finally gave up. I must admit, it was a very therapeutic exercise though, I had my sixties music playing and the sun was shining, what more could anyone ask? A pint of cold Guinness perhaps?

We are having a day off today as we are off to Cheltenham races, well, when I say we are off to Cheltenham, what I really mean is that we are off to our local social club down the road. We are picking John up at 12.00. Janet will join us at 2,00pm as she is the only one of our foursome still young enough to be at work. The club is putting on a qualified bookkeeper who will take our one shilling bets (just kidding). When Janet eventually joins us we will partake of lunch. Really looking forward to our day out.

On this day in 1935The first driving test pass slip was presented to Mr. R. Beene of Kensington, a pupil of the British School of Motoring. Tests were introduced on a voluntary basis and became compulsory in June.

Also on this day in 1942The first German V-2 rocket test launch. It exploded at lift-off but eventually over 3,000 V-2s were launched as military rockets by the Germans against Allied targets during the war, mostly London and later Antwerp. The attacks resulted in the death of an estimated 7,000+ military personnel and civilians, whilst 12,000 forced labourers were killed producing the weapons.

And finally on this day in 1973Queen Elizabeth II opened the new London Bridge. The old one was sold to an American oil tycoon for £1m and transported to the United States.

An old Yorkshireman lies in his bed dying, surrounded by his family he asks in a very weak voice:

“Is my wife here?”

“Yes I’m here my love”

“Are my children here?”

“Yes, all your children are here.”

“Are my grandchildren here?”

“Yes all your grandchildren are here.”

“Then why is the kitchen light still on?”

New cases went to their highest for eight weeks and totalled 92,100, deaths fell to 158.

Thursday 17/03/2022 – Day 729

A very Happy St Patrick’s Day to all our Irish friends, I just wish we celebrated our patron saint the way you all do. I hope you all have a really wonderful day with plenty of the craic.

I was awake quite early this morning contemplating a fact that I saw on a very interesting documentary last night, did you know that Dolphins, some types of monkeys and humans are the only animals to have sex for pleasure? No neither did I, I wonder where we are going wrong.

I wondered, does anyone know of someone selling cheap shirts, I only ask because I lost mine at Franche club yesterday whilst backing horses at Cheltenham. There were just five donkeys running all day and I manged to back every one of them. It didn’t help that Mrs H had two winners, that was all I heard all the way home – talk about milking it! The only good thing about the whole day was the food, and the company, Janet and John seemed to enjoy it as much as us.

Been in the garden again today, after yesterday’s full day of rain everything was nice and moist to say the least, We planted the new border which I had created with blood, sweat and tears because I worship the ground that woman walks on. I must admit Mrs H does have vision (she must have, she married me) and the border looked like it had been there forever by the time she was getting the soil from beneath her nails.

It was on this day in 1912that the death of Lawrence Oates occurred, he was a member of Scott’s ill-fated South Pole expedition and was suffering serious frostbite and therefore was hampering the progress of his companions. He had left his tent the previous night saying, ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.' Scott recorded 'A very gallant gentleman.’ Oates' body was never found. Date of birth 17th March 1880 - Died 17th March 1912.

Also on this day in 1951the comic strip character Dennis the Menace appeared in the Beano for the first time. His red and black striped jumper did not feature until a few weeks later and his pet dog Gnasher did not make an appearance until 31st August 1968. I made an appearance about ten months later dressed in just a terry towel nappy.

And final, on this day in 2015 The UK's first Bio-Bus, nicknamed 'the poo bus' was officially launched in Bristol as Service Number 2. Powered entirely on gas generated by human and food waste it went into regular service on 25th March. As passengers alighted the first trip they were asked how the service was. One disgruntled customer said:-

“It was a load of crap.”

Another added “It stinks.”

There were 89,717 new cases reported today, death figures fell slightly to 138.

Friday 18/03/2022 – Day 730

Well, here we are at last, we have arrived at the very day I started this fictitious monstrosity for a laugh just two years ago. During that time I have managed to make people think, laugh, but mostly cry – through tears of sheer stress and concern for my wellbeing. Dear reader, I can tell you know – and I mean this most sincerely folks – (oops, sorry, slipped into Hughie Green mode momentarily) that yes, I am indeed tuppence halfpenny short of a bob, I am not the sharpest knife in the draw and my lift doesn’t always go right to the top. But metaphors aside, I would like to thank you all most sincerely (Hughie again, apologies) for putting up with me for these past two years, these past 730 days, these past 24 months, these past 420,480 hours, oh well, you get the gist I daresay.

I thought you may like to read how it all began.

Diary of a self – isolator. A light-hearted look at the situation

Monday 16/03/2020. Day1.

So, today officially starts my self-isolation time, yes, sadly I am one of those poor sods who come under the veil of ‘underlying problems’ and so with the help and understanding of my brilliant employers I am now on my own little lockdown, in all fairness it’s not too bad considering I am virtually a prisoner in my own home. The point is do I risk going out shopping etc, I have already had to cancel my next charity quiz, anyway Boris and his health sidekicks are saying limit all contact with other human beings, so I think not.

The first problem is that with my ‘underlying problems’ if I did manage to catch this miserable virus then my days would surely be numbered. Second problem is that I am not ill, I am as they say; ‘As fit as a butcher’s dog,’ so how am I going to keep myself occupied, how am I going to stop myself climbing the walls?

Well, for a start I cut my lawns for the first time today, got halfway through the edging and thought – hang on a minute, what am I going to do tomorrow? – so I went back indoors to get under the feet of my darling wife and get back on my computer, seven hours later and it’s time for bed, it really isn’t all that bad – this self -isolation thing, quite looking forward to tomorrow.

Tuesday 17/03/2020. Day 2.

Well today I should have been at work for 8.30 am, but as I said the bosses at Screwfix as always are one step ahead and have approved my stay of abstinence, Abstinence is a self-enforced restraint from indulging in bodily activities that are widely experienced as giving pleasure. Most frequently, the term refers to work abstinence, or abstinence from alcohol, drugs, or food. As I am not on drugs apart from those that keep this old heart ticking – then all these things apply to me – with the exclusion of the food of course!

So, as there was no work, what should I do to fill my day, there was always the lawn edging to finish – no, can’t be bothered – but the front drive has looked like no-one lives here since last Summer, after getting dressed (advisable) I went to the shed and collected my trusty garden vac which blinked as it hasn’t seen daylight for 6 months, then out to the front drive to suck up all those stalwart leaves that have been too stubborn to rot down since last November, I wouldn’t mind but they’re not my leaves, they belong to the council trees opposite, the ones that they have decided to spare as this council are known tree haters.

Decided to dig over the borders while I was there, I was stood by the wall by the pavement in my own little world when someone decides to pass the time of day, I don’t mind but he had no mask on! So I’m keeping a fair distance from him yet still being polite, thankfully my wife called him in for a cup of tea – I really must stop my son visiting!

By 2.00pm it was job done so it was back inside for a bit of quality time on the old laptop, it was then I decided to try online shopping, I have no idea why but I went on to Iceland’s very organised site, 30 minutes later with the help of the wife we had proudly ordered everything that was available – whether we liked it or not – and went to book a slot, everything was booked up until next Tuesday, after banging a few buttons thinking my computer was broke I decided to wait until later, after all it must change to next day at 9.00pm because that was the last slot, 9.00pm came, I waited with bated breath to hit that ‘enter’ button, but to no avail! In fact nothing happened at all, just a long list of ‘Sorry this slot is fully booked’, then I thought, of course it wouldn’t change until midnight, bleary eyed at 11.00pm I carried the trusty laptop up to bed, almost in dread of touching the wrong button and losing the page, drifting in and out of consciousness I waited – finger at the ready, then 11.59, suddenly 12,00am came I hit the button so hard it woke the wife, I sat there flabbergasted as I read the message for Wednesday 19th March – ‘Sorry this slot is fully booked’, I am sat there thinking, how can that be possible? No-one has access to this day until midnight! I lay there for the next hour fuming, I finally drifted off to sleep with visions of Iceland staff taking backhanders from people desperate for a slot.

Saturday 19/03/2022 – Day 731

So here we are at the beginning of our third year together, as Tommy Trinder would have said, ‘You lucky people.’

Mrs H, Janet and John and I, are off on a journey today, we are travelling not too far from here to a luxury hotel, but it is for the weekend, in fact by the time some of you read this, we will all be safely home – God willing and with a good wind behind us. I will tell you more tomorrow..

Speaking of travel plans.

Mrs H asked me last night in bed where I wanted to go on holiday this year, I replied:-

“I have been in many places, but I've never been in Cahoots. Apparently, you can't go alone. You have to be in Cahoots with someone. I've also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you there. I have, however, been in Sane. They don't have an airport; you have to be driven there. I have made several trips there, thanks to my friends, family and work and this blog. I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I'm not too much on physical activity anymore. I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go, and I try not to visit there too often. I've been in Flexible, but only when it was very important to stand firm. Sometimes I'm in Capable, and I go there more often as I'm getting older.

One of my favourite places to be is in Suspense! It really gets the adrenalin flowing and pumps up the old heart! At my age I need all the stimuli I can get! I have not yet been in Continent, and I don't remember what countries were on it. It's an age thing. They tell me it is very wet and damp there.”

I looked across at her for a response and she was sound asleep, I’ll just have to remind her in the morning.

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