Chapter 5: Pets

Over the years we had many pets at 201. We had a tortoise that we kept in the backyard. And a  large brown toad that would turn up now and again.  We called him Percy.  Dad’s favorite was a green budgie called Cecile. Dad loved to let him out of his cage and let him fly around the room. Dad loved it best when Cecile would fly around the kitchen and land on his beer glass. Cecile would then proceed to drink the froff of off the beer. After about 5 minutes Cecile would then try to fly around the room again.  But now he would into the fly into the mirror, which was hanging above the fireplace. From there he would crash to the kitchen floor. Dad would then pick him up laughing his head off. And then put him back in his cage to sleep it off. Yes, the little fucker was drunk! from drinking beer froff.  Dad would also like to get these little round balls, from a kids game and put them on the kitchen table and he would get Cecil to kick them around the table, which was fun to watch. then dad would get Cecil to talk. and he trained him to laugh as we do, that was something special to hear.

We used to get a lot of cats to come up to the back kitchen door. If I spotted a cat I would tell dad and he would go to the sink and pour some cold water into a bowl. Then he would slowly open the door to the back yard and then pick up the bowl of water. by then the game was on. The cat would sense that something was up and would start to run towards the back of the yard to escape the dreaded bowl of water in which he was about to be soaked. Dad would come back into the house laughing his head off.

The first job that I ever had was a  paper round, halfway tho’ my paper round was a fucking great black giant poodle. His owner would let it out in the morning on its own. If he ever saw me he would come charging at me. and I would run like fuck into one of the apartment entrances, and get behind a door. The poodle would sit outside the door growling but would eventually fuck off, and I would live to fight another day.

One day I was at the dog’s address, thank god there was no poodle around. But I was watching my back in case the bastard got me from behind.    As I was putting the newspaper through the mailbox slot, it was grabbed by the fucking poodle who was waiting on the other side of the door. The bastard was waiting for me! It scared the shit out of me. So I thought, ” I’ll teach that fucker  a lesson ”

vicious poodle

So I held on to the newspaper and the dog pulled on the newspaper some more I could hear and feel the newspaper giving up the ghost. Yes, with me hanging on to the paper and not letting go, it drove the poodle nuts. I could hear him growling on the other side of the door. He let go of the paper and I wriggled it at him through the letterbox. So he attacked the newspaper some more. I was loving it the poodle was getting madder and madder. The paper was slowly getting trashed when I heard the dog’s owner yelling at it. Then I could hear him beating on the dog and the dog yelping. I ran out of the mansion laughing like a drain.

I couldn’t wait to tell Denis what had happened.  Denis was as scared as I was off the fucking dog. We laugh about that bastard dog walking all the way back home that morning.


Petticoat Lane London

More on Petticoat Lane.  I went to the market at Petticoat Lane with my Dad, a lot as I got older.  To get there you had to take the tube. Get on the Bakerloo line and change to the Northern Line to go to Liverpool Street .. Liverpool Street …. Petticoat Line consisted of acres and acres of land. Some of it cleared bombed sites stools in side streets. Etc. Just one big mess of people selling things.  You could buy anything there  from drawing pins to steamrollers. You had to be careful about what you did buy. Dad bought some stockings for mum for Christmas one year. When she opened up the packaging there was no one matching pair. There were stockings with two heels, there were stockings that had two or three feet in them there were stockings that were two different lengths. No two stockings were the same colour. But at the end of the day, we all had a good laugh over them. 

We were not rich we were properly one level up from extremely poor.  No matter how poor we and other people were there was always money for cigarettes and beer. dad used to go to the pup every Sunday morning where he would play darts with all his mates. One particular Sunday, dad was very late returning home from the pub, so mum put his dinner plate on top of a saucepan of water.  With the stove plate on it would keep the plate and the food on it warm. ( No Micro Wave yet) So dad arrives home a little worse for wear and sits up at the dining table. mum put his food in front of him. He has a few mouthfuls and asked mum for a glass of water. So, mum gives him his water and he then proceeded’s to pour the water on his dinner. Mum said,

“George, what are you doing?’

He said,

“it’s too hot so I,m cooling it down”!

With that Mum picks up his dinner plate takes it to the back door opens it and then proceeded to throw the dinner and plate outside onto the lawn. So after that dad never poured water on any meal. Ever.

At the age of 11 or 12, I was good with my hands making things. So I built a kennel that Roxie the dog that I bought down Petticoat Lane lived in for many years.  Along with the kennel I built scooters and carts. 

So that now when I got to Secondary School I was ready to work with metal and more wood. To me, hands-on stuff just came naturally. So on reflection becoming a Tool and Die maker was a natural step after leaving school  But art was where I should have stayed with.  Who is to know where I could have gone with painting. Although I did get to The University of  Guelph at the ripe old age of 70. There in the art class, I got good to high marks at painting and higher marks in sculpting. Which we worked in wood and then metal. Well working with metal was a breeze

  • I was not about to tell them that I was a retired tool and die maker. I loved the University of Guelph. and when after about being there for five and a half years part-time. I had 11 credits. So I had 9 credits to go for my 20 credits to get my degree.

But I decided that I did not want to spend the last few years of my life writing art history essays.  I had done all the hands-on stuff painting sculpting and I didn’t want to work on Essays alone. I had learned a lot about art, knowingly and unknowingly. So I resigned so I could spend my time writing this book and painting abstract art and portraits.

Back to my growing up. one of the highlights of any week would be going to the pictures on a Sunday. Back in the ’40s and 50’s you would get to see two pictures. “ B “ picture and the main feature an “ A “ picture.

About 1949 when I was 8, Mum took me to the dentist to have a filling done. The dentist overlooked the Cut  ( Canal ) at Little Venice Paddington. But back then I don’t believe that it was called Little Venice.

Well, back in those days the drill was a noisy belt-driven machine. which was enough to scare the shit out of any self-respecting eight years old.  So I let the dentist drill the hole in my tooth. But when it came to filling the tooth I took a whole different attitude. When  I saw that fucking great syringe coming towards me to put the filling in my tooth,  that was enough. I lept out of the dental chair down the stairs and up the road towards Maida Vale,   Mum chased me pleading with me to go back but I absolutely refused to go back.

While I’m talking about the canal we would love to hang out at the canal ( the cut ) The barges would come along some driven by a motor. But at that time most of the barges were pulled along the cut by huge cart-horses on the towpath with a long rope attached to the front to the barge. One feature that stood out on most of the barges was the exterior paintwork. They were highly decorated. The barges were long and slender. And we’re used to transporting goods as far away up to the Midlands. Not only did the barges carried goods but the owners of the barges used to live with their families on board. When I ever saw them they reminded me of what I would have thought of at the time, as, gypsies.

We just loved used to fish the Cut.  And we had a rather unique way to catch fish.  

horse pulls barge in canal
horses were used to pull barges along the canal

First of all, we had to find a bicycle wheel. We would then take all the spokes from the wheel and we were left with the bicycle wheel rim. The next thing was to find some old sacking. Then some string. We would then cover the bicycle rim all the way across with the sacking. then we would stitch the sacking around the rim with the string. The next thing was to tie about 3  three foot length of string to the rim in three different places. Spread equally The next step was to join the three pieces of string together above the centre of the rim and the sacking. Then we would get some rope from somewhere and tie it to where the three pieces of string met.  Now we were ready to fish. We would put bread crumbs on the sacking with a rock placed there as well This was to give weight to the fishing thingy. I don’t remember what we called it. Thingy will do for now. Must not forget the bread crumbs that was the bait. we threw the crumbs on the sacking  Now we were all set. We would lower the fishing thing into the water once on the bottom we let it sit for a little while. then we would haul it up fast.  Keeping the pressure of the water on the fish so that it could not swim away.

stickleback in London canal
Kids fished for sticklebacks in London’s secret canal using bicycle wheels

Once the fishing thingy hit the surface. If we were lucky the might be a stickleback laying there. If there was we would then pop it into a milk bottle filled with water. At the end of the days fishing, we would take our milk bottle home to show our parents our days catch. They, in turn, would give us shit for playing around the Cut when we knew that it was off-limits.  And if we fell in we would drown.  ( Which was properly true as we hadn’t learned to swim yet. )Then to boot, they would flush our days catch down the lavatory.   This would piss us kids of. So as we got older we got smarter and wiser. So when it came to telling them anything that went on in our lives we told them nuffing.

When I was making big bucks as a high-level paperboy. I was able to buy a fishing rod, a nylon line with a reel and fishing floats, fishing hooks and floats and fish like adults did.    

Back in the 40’s the treats and sand some of the foods of the day were. Tizer an orange flavoured drink. Mars bar is still around today. And I also remember Wagon Wheel which is also around today.) large chocolate covered biscuit.  Which was named because of its size Which today should be maybe called Tiny Wheel or the like Because it has shrunk almost down to nothing  Tizer was a great drink that we liked to buy on a stinking hot day to quench our thirst.

Wheatabix cereal
Weetabix is a whole grain cereal arriving in UK in 1932 from Australia.

In the ’40s Weetabix was the cereal that mum would buy for us along with Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Porridge was a staple to along with Shredded Wheat.  I remember eating porridge at Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire.  The brown bread “Hovis “was a bit of a luxury to eat. Remember we were just out of the war. food was tight and still in short supply. We also ate and liked Smiths Crisps. Which came in a bag with its own twist of blue paper with salt in it. Smith’s crisps were and still are sold at the pub and mum and dad would bring a bag home as a treat.

There were two parks near my house at 201.  To the left was Queens Park with swing and lots of grass and trees and shrubs.  Queens Park was about four or five blocks away. We would walk there. I liked to go to the park with my cousin Tony Rogers. A Block from the park was a bakery on the corner at the bottom of Salisbury road. There was a window at street level if it was open we would call out to my Uncle Charlie. Tony’s dad. He worked at the bakery. And sometimes he would come outside and talk to us and give us a penny bun each.  We were in heaven. Treats were in short supply. To the right 1949. about six blocks from 201 Not too far from Kilburn Park Road were Paddington Recreation Ground it also had swings and roundabouts. And a large red gravelled area on which we would play football for hours and hours.  Till exhaustion.

One feat that I am ashamed to tell you about, but it has to be told. I would be about eight or nine at the time  I would guess,  and I  was in St. Augustine’s Junior School at the time.

Dad was off work with a broken foot or leg. He was getting around with a caste on. I went into the bedroom and  I stole his last one pound note.  Things were really tough in those days and for many days after. Money was always tight. I didn’t have to be told that. Kids can sense things.

Anyhow, I took the stolen one-pound note to school and come lunchtime I took a bunch of kids to the ice cream shop and bought them all ice cream. I think that it was  Ann Williams. Reggie’s older sister was sent up to our house by her mother to tell mum and dad that I was spending lots of money on the kids at school.  When I got home from school that day I got the biggest hiding of my life, with Dad’s belt on my arse.

To me to this day,  this was a character making an event of my life. I still regret to this day taking dad’s last pound note. I was glad to take hiding because what I did was wrong. And I was truly sorry, It still hurts to think about this event,  I never ever stole anything again. My dad was a good man and did not deserve that.

Across the road kitty-corner from St. Augustine’s School was the St. Augustine’s church gardens. Most lunch hours weather permitting we would run races around the church garden block. at the time the only shoes that seemed to be available were Plimsoles.  They were made of black canvas and black rubber.  They were just cheap shoes for kids  In the autumn we would go over the church gardens to get the ‘ Conkers “ from the horse chestnut trees.

Eleven plus  In 1952,  In England at eleven years, we had the eleven plus exam at junior school.   Which  ( It’s been a long time )   is to grade all the students. Then, at that time after the exams, the kids were slotted into three groups. This was to ship the students on to the next stage of their scholastic careers.  1952. I came up between Senior School and Grammar school.  This scared the shit out of mum and dad. The conversation was on buying school uniform. They could not afford it.

So I was sent to North Paddington School, on the Harrow Road in Paddington. Paddington being next to Kilburn. At the time the schools were run by the London County Council. It was a biggish school built solidly of dark brown greyish bricks. With the  girls playgrounds on one side of the school, and the boy’s playground on the other. the side of the school. In the urinals, where I lost many a weeks dinner money to gambling. I believe that a week’s dinner money at the time was two shillings and a penny.

Being brought up in England it was all football. I used to love to play football Mum was a charlady and once she brought home some men’s dress shoes for me to wear at football, as I didn’t have any football boots.
So I played a game for the school team. I wore the dress shoes on the pitch at Wormwood Shrubs. The pitch was beside the prison.

It had been raining and the pitch was really muddy. Well, I could hardly stand up, I could not play. I was at the point of tears. I was so upset I never said anything to mum. But I never complained to Mum as I knew that they could not afford to buy my football boots.
But once I did get a pair of football boots for Christmas. They were almost like today’s safety boots. When they got wet the soles used to get soft. This caused the nails in the studs to come through the sole and dig into the soles your feet. It was painful to play football with them.
The football back then was made of leather and when it got wet it hurt to kick it as it soaked up the rainwater which made it extremely heavy. We would play for hours at the Paddington Rec. Sometimes we would play all day. Even the whole weekend.

Now here’s the thing, talking about two shillings and a penny. Back in those days, there was a three system of money. Pounds, Shillings, and Pence.  At times this three system, system was so complicated for foreign visitors to England, that they would get ripped off by taxi drivers and the like. One example would be at the Queen’s Coronation when the Capital was filled with visitors from abroad.

Since then it has been changed to a two system, system.     Pounds and Pence.

Being brought up with the three systems monetary system it is as easy as falling off a log when it came to using it. But try to explain this system to a complete stranger and even with all the coins on display, it was very difficult. I have tried in the past to explain the three-tier monetary system and usually failed.

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