Archive for June, 2010

Chewing Gum In Inappropriate Places

June 30, 2010 1 comment

Did you chew gum as a youngster? Perhaps you did and still do. Was Station Road a mess because of  spat out chewing gum from your jaw sagging mouth?  Which brand did you like? Were you a bubble gummer and if so how big were your bubbles?

I await the answers to the above survey with interest but there is a bigger question: what do you think of of those members of Parliament that can be seen chewing away like depressed cows during televised Parliamentary business? There are only a few of them but one is too many.

During my career I attended many meetings with members of the public but not once did I chew gum, or anything else,  during them. It simply was not good form to do such an unprofessional thing. Lately I have spotted a few MP’s chewing away at a speed that suggests chewing gum is the item being chewed. The reputation of Parliament remains in tatters owing to many inappropriate claims to expenses by some members; you would  think that chewing members would seek to convince the electorate of their professionalism not encourage more distain. It surely cannot be a sponsorship arrangement because, apart from anything else, the gum manufacturer cannot be identified;  there again one company has the lion’s share [rather than the cow’s share] of the market so maybe there is some lucrative auto suggestion going on. Tongue in cheek there; just a bit.

I come to the question of chewing gum disposal; please monitor the methods being adopted by  parliamentarians and report back if you will. I am particularly curious about whether any of them are in the habit of sticking used gum in inappropriate places.


Categories: Memories

More Creative Writing

June 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Here are a few fond and genuine memories expressed in a way that has been much influenced by my attendance at the local university writing course. I hope you enjoy them:

Walking was the default mode of transport in the coal mining villages of the 1950s. But the experience wasn’t all dirt and grime. It could, and often did, produce memories inspired by nature with a cast of thousands:  Bluebells carpeted the wood, smiley sunflowers decorated Mr Dean’s garden, Mr Hope’s carnations popped up at village weddings, and dog roses appeared everywhere, other than at weddings. Two of nature’s spectacular specialists, thunder and lightning, occasionally lit up the stage, with support from unforgiving rain that lashed in their wake.

But Nature’s theatricals came at a cost. Parental condemnation, brought about by ill prepared rain sodden explorations, expressed itself sharply in a motherly fashion, ‘You stupid boy, why did you not take a raincoat?’ Her question was unanswerable but it was followed, like night that follows day, with an act of love made tangible by clean warm clothing – and Spotted Dick, if my luck was really in.

String, steam, and skewer were the enablers that etched themselves into my memory bank. The string secured the greaseproof paper that overlapped the basin’s sides and the steam process contributed to producing a pudding far superior to that other fraudulent alternative, the baked version. The skewer, having being inserted into the pudding at the allotted finishing time, to test for readiness, confirmed it by coming out clean and uncluttered. Much later the ever remembered cooking process would eagerly bring forward powerful and nostalgic yearnings for that 1950s version of the comforting, sweet and substantial Spotted Dick. Its availability was never guaranteed and a familiar substitute, equally remembered but seldom lauded, was the tired left over Yorkshire pudding; it was forever in alliance with blobs of strawberry jam and filled my non protesting young stomach with qualified contentment, if the pudding was not soggy or brittle.

One particular Sunday produced a well of excitement and expectation within me; it was signalled by a smiling father’s directive, ‘’Meet me by the buffers at two o’clock’’. He had a tremendously special job at the colliery and had promised to share it with me. I anticipated being the envy of a league of junior school personnel: the pupils, the teachers, the canteen ladies and even our caretaker, a man not easily impressed by much, if my little chit chats with him were a reliable guide.

 Shortly before the appointed hour a proud and noisy show off announced itself with some rhythmic chuff chuffs;   it became bigger and noisier by the second and its plan was to meet me. A different mode of transport, flight, was under my active consideration, but I stood my ground against a giant that seemed both friendly and intimidating. My guardian, the driver, my father no less, smiled a knowing smile as he scooped me up from the footplate into his cabin; the inner sanctum was full of puzzles, noises, threats, fiery glow and uncertainties – but he was a confident, well seasoned operative, and I knew it.

Father tugged the whistle cord, despite it being Sunday, and opened the regulator to control the passage of steam from boiler to cylinder. With the safety valve shut down – signified by a clicking noise, we began to move away from the buffers towards the colliery, known as the pit. I began to relax and remember that I had not eaten since breakfast, but that disconcerting thought was brushed aside by means of parental planning, provisions and a big shovel. It became clear to me that the fiery locomotive furnace, immediately in front us, was to be the cooking method; the ingredients would be bacon and eggs – they had suddenly appeared from under dad’s cap – and the shiny shovel would do the rest. First to submit were the uncooked eggs closely followed by the bacon. The treat was all the more delicious because of the entertaining and novel means of production which father had orchestrated with panache.

[Wilf Bell asserts his moral rights to be identified as the author of this work]

Categories: Memories

Inspiration Delivered Daily

What do you like most about your job? (Or studies, etc.)

via Plinky.

Categories: From the WEB, Stories Tags: ,

My Favorite Summer Memory

I guess my fave summer memory, has to be my holidays in Newquay in Cornwall as a young boy. We drove down form Ushaw Moor down to Cornwall over a couple of days, stopping overnight at Tewkesbury. I guess that was my first memory of Surfing, at least surfing of a sort, on a poly short surf board, but it was great fun.

Stayed in a touring caravan with my sister Mum and Dad. I was lucky to get away so often as I did, spending most weekends away in the caravan.

Happy Days

Categories: Memories

Disconnected Thoughts

June 28, 2010 1 comment

I like to think I am a free thinker but that thought is very suspect

Some of the people on Ushaw Moor Facebook are really interesting

Why is it that often the driver that fails to signal left or right is found to have a defective brake light?

How can students spend three years at university and come out feeling religious?

Harriet Harman has done well in recent question time confrontations with Cameron 

Will it be raining in Ushaw Moor on 17/7?

England’s defence was a shambles but Germany’s is not that good either

Will we ever find new blood authors for this site?

The world would be a better place if more people took up Nordic walking and read Johann Hari

We do not need oil to run cars 

Why go to restaurants when you can have fun cooking for loved ones at home? Less dicky stomachs are a bonus as well


Categories: Memories

A Few Residents Of Albert Street

June 26, 2010 2 comments

In the very early part of the 20th century John Brady and his wife Mary were living at 1 Albert Street Ushaw Moor together with their daughter Mary; John Hagan was their lodger for a time. Billy and Emily Nicholson lived nearby with their children Mary and John.

John Brunskill and his wife Emily were not far away in Albert Street; their children were Candais, Hannah and Jane; Tommy Price lodged with them.

There were quite a lot of lodgers in the village and perhaps that reflected a shortage of housing as well as itineracy. Lodgers contributions no doubt enabled some tenants to survive economically.

Do you recognise any of those names?


Categories: Memories

A Bicycle, Pen And Thomas Hardy

June 25, 2010 2 comments

My parents gave me a lovely new bike at Christmas in 1957 and it gave me freedom, variety and occasional calamity. I recall the freedom to go to ‘that bridge’ and look down upon the Flying Scotsman. Paul Clough will be more familiar with that bridge and certainly will know how to spell its name –  Relley Bridge perhaps – and confirm whether or not I am relating a false memory about the Flying Scotsman flashing underneath it.

I recall a minor accident on the road outside Neil Davies’ home in Bracken Court during 1958. It might have been me that failed to negotiate a parked vehicle. Or was in Neil? Or was it Allan Burn? Which leads me on to some creative writing.

I have just recently completed a  creative writing course at the local University and I enjoyed it a great deal. One of our tasks was to write a short piece about an inanimate object and I choose a pen. Hopefully the result is coming up shortly [cut and paste on the new package is still a minor mystery]. Before coming to that piece of work can I say that I recall ink pens at New Brancepeth school in 1952. Being left handed it was never easy for me to prevent the black blob and smudge. Can any other reader identify with that problem? Now then, the exciting bit. Can I cut and paste on this new package?

The Pen

Here I am, a wooden pen with a bright brain, lying in my glass prison. There’s a computer set back to my left and a pencil to my right. Let’s face it – they look as bored as I feel in this badly decorated box room.

Here comes the master. I could write so much that is meaningful but he never listens to me. He trots out the same old lists: five pounds of potatoes, cheesecake, tea….

 When he suffers writers’ block he chews and squeezes me. His son is just as guilty. One day one, or both of them, might damage my brain. One of my neighbours, the pencil, has a rubber top so never gets chewed; mind you he does get squeezed – I have seen it happen so often.

When I am taken out I frequently cannot see a thing – when stuck in a top pocket or thrown to the bottom of his brown bag –has he not got one in another colour?

Oh look! He’s compiling one of his ‘to do lists’. Much of it never gets done; it’s more like a ‘not to do list’ if you ask me. He has just written ‘vacuum the box room’ but I hope that he puts that off because that vacuum cleaner is far too noisy.

Life is not all bad. I enjoy the internet even if my master’s choice is limited and predictable: Richard Dawkins, Derby County, Robbie Williams, A C Grayling and Johann Hari. On he goes to the newspapers: The Independent, The Guardian, Times and Telegraph – always in that order. I hope he goes back to that article about James Dyson – the man with a more efficient vacuum cleaner.

My master sometimes uses my ink to doodle and deliberate upon the internet’s complexities but more often he can be found to be forcibly tapping my stomach against his bony thumb in a most inhuman and painful way. I can do little to rectify his behaviour but I welcome any suggestions from whatever source.

I like writing thank you letters; in doing so I imagine I am giving lots of pleasure. His spelling is not too bad but he’s a bit mechanical – on the other hand his wife can’t spell but has the sensitivity he lacks.

In my quieter moments I wonder what the purpose of my life is. Is it just to write? What will happen when my ink runs out? Is there a place where pens go for a nice time when they are inkless? Am I refillable?

Oh! Out of his pocket has come a sleek and slender silvery pen. I am not familiar with her – I wonder whether she is going to try and replace me or join me.    

Thanks for reading that. Now for Thomas Hardy. Back at college decades ago I was lambasted by the lecturer for daring to criticise  that highly regarded writer Thomas Hardy.At the time my immature but decisive brain signalled yawns when it was time to do Hardy. Imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago a young, clear eyed, pleasant looking young graduate declared that my writing reminded her of Thomas Hardy! It related to a longer piece of mine and although it was flattering and wrong to link me with a greatly accomplished writer it has nevertheless given me some confidence to persevere; I will try to ‘ hack through the wood’ and go onto better things. I have twigged that creative writing will improve my observational skills and in the long run enrich my vocabulary.


Categories: Memories

England 4 Brazil 2

June 22, 2010 1 comment

Does that football scoreline appeal to you? Believe it or not that is a real scoreline albeit from 1956. It is a strange scoreline and the players’ wages were even stranger, being more  akin to those of supporters that went to the game to support England. The players had some colour about them: Reg Matthews was a brilliant and brave goalkeeper and Johnny Haynes was a master of the accurate and perceptive pass. Duncan Edwards was a youngster of towering proportions and played like a young giant; he was a member of that brilliant Manchester United team of 1957 and I had the privilage of seeing him, Roger Byrne and Tommy Taylor as part of a United team that enjoyed a 2-1 win at Newcastle United just prior to their deaths in the Munich disaster.    

When England’s matches were on the television, usually on a Wednesday, I used to dash home from the school in Temperance Terrace to watch them and I was seldom disappointed with the result. The players played with pride and understood the fans in a way that is not always possible these days.

The players of that generation were not separated from the public by an enormous disparity in wages and as far as I know never appeared in magazines such as Hello. Neither did they live in mansions. To be honest I welcome a huge rise in the wages of professional players; what I do not like are the rates that amount to a pigs’ trough and make a mockery of the relationship between fans and clubs. I have said it before: I would not pay thirty pounds to see Derby County play Man U or Newcastle play Sunderland even if the game was only five minutes away from my door. I will go further and say that if Slovenia beat England I will  not care a great deal.   The English game is sick and is propped up by wonderfully skilful foreign players  at a cost to up and coming English players. So that being the state of affairs do not expect me to get excited about a 1-0 win against Slovenia but do expect me to be a tad cheery in the event of defeat.   

I do try to think globally, and welcome free trade, but football needs to sort out its identity; is it 100 per cent business or perhaps 70-30 business and sport? The English game needs sorting out and perhaps an early exit will do its team good in the long run even if it leaves the leisure business crying to the bank.

 Come on Slovenia.


Categories: Memories

1959 Was A Bad Year For Science

June 21, 2010 3 comments

We went a whole year without science teaching at a time when grammar schools and others were pumping in facts to help open up minds and maximize  GCE results. It was a travesty and a disgrace that reached far beyond our headmaster and the County Council. I recall that we were entertained by a personable and  no doubt knowlegeable teacher called Mr Fawcett. I guess  he was filling in and he did it with much humour. I was not impressed by his goal scoring in our school team’s 4-1 victory over the teachers; well yes I was impressed because he took it well – but it was salt being rubbed into our science starved eyes. 

Coming up to date – the theory of Evolution is accepted by the Pope, and many other influential people, but despite that too much of American education is siding with a world that took seven days to form. I ask you! It gets worse: if you believe  media reports the outdated emphasis on creation is also much closer to home -at first I thought it was Sunderland but now believe it’s Gateshead.

I do hope the theory of evolution is put firmly in front of young minds by means of the curriculum. I do hope that the elementary facts of science fire the imagine of youngsters in such a way that they are enabled to appreciate the brilliance of Professor Brian Cox and others. I do hope that I can put 1959 to bed safe in the knowledge that youngsters are free from the taint of superstition and entranced by a better magic called science. If such a dream comes true it might  help to save the planet one day!


Categories: Memories

Tories To Tread Carefully Or Suffer Electoral Disaster?

June 20, 2010 Leave a comment

This article has little to do with Ushaw Moor memories but it is written by a lad that walked the Ushaw Moor walk in the 50s and what a walk it was. Some of the windows in Temperance Terrace looked a bit rough; window curtains were not universal and I saw many a newspaper headline up at windows on my way to school. It was a time before Tax Credits and Supplementary Benefits  as we now understand them. If you were in work the food on the table was tolerable but if you were not…

The then Tory prime minister said we had never had it so good, but be that as it may, at one point one of our neighbours could not afford a custard tart from the travelling shop and mum helped out with a penny that made all the difference. Even though my step-father was in regular work I found myself on the eve of a school cup final without football boots.

Tuesday will be a big day for the coalition; cuts there will be but where will they apply? There is a hint that the middle classes will take some pain and many of them can no doubt adjust to it. If cuts are fair to society, as a whole, then that is to the good but it still begs the question: will the timing and scale of them be wise? I do hope Mr Osborne has some wise advisers because the decisions to be made are immensely complex in that one thing can adversely affect another so easily. I see it as an opportunity for the modern updated Tories to come out and show us what they are. It was not that long ago that they were poised to financially disintegrate;  they had been seen for what they were so surely now they must chart a socially fair course; the alternative might be a public backlash the like of which have not been seen for a while. 

With regard to coming out the Prime Minister was all over the place recently regarding Gays. He blustered over his past record of voting and even asked for the interview to restart. That in itself suggests spin over leadership. Currently Tory spin is particularly good but the substance has to be revealed and we shall see what we shall see over the next year or so.  


Categories: Memories