Thursday, June 8, 2017

Cajun Weekend

It's the end of May, 2017, Memorial Day weekend and all that. There's a big festival in Shreveport, "Mudbug Madness," which is a celebration of Crawfish (Mudbug) eating and Cajun music dancing. We chose to go south a couple of hundred miles and sample Cajun culture at the core: Eunice and Big Mamou.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Notes from the Road

Notes from the road. We have many notebooks with random scribblings. I found this in a notebook torn up by the puppy, Abbie Sue. (Ah bisou.) 41690 mileage

Leaving Moraga for San Diego at 10:15 on 9 Nov. '06.
We have a show in Rancho Bernardo at 1:30 p.m. on the 10th (tomorrow) and we have about 500 miles to drive. Well, we'll see how far and how much time. We've just done two shows for Doug Jones/Ken Armstrong.
42123 After breakfast at Denny's. It's 10:32 a.m. and we have driven all night and cruised to a halt in San Clemente. Marsha telephoned Dickie to let him know we're in the vicinity of his old hero (Milhaus). We arrived in our parking lot about 6:40 a.m.
    Sat. 11/11. It's Remembrance/Veterans' Day, the week that the Democrats took back the Senate and House of Reps from the assholes. We are driving up the San Diego freeway (405N) in Los Angeles, near LAX, and we're going towards Ventura to take pictures at Mission San Bonaventura on 101. We have just filmed at San Juan Capistrano. Yesterday we were close to San Diego (filmed the mission in the evening) where we showed "Hello Louisiana" for a community of oldsters.
It's a cloudy day in LA at 1:26 p.m. Last night stayed in a Rest Area between LA and SD. We're in the region where movies come from: Culver City on the sign. In front of us, the Santa Monica Mountains and Beverly Hills. 


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

British Columbia, 1947

  
Our first Canadian car.
        
So, our father bought a car, our first Canadian car, a 1940 Dodge. It was so much bigger than any car we'd had in England, and it took us to the Cariboo, a frontier region perhaps 300 miles north of Vancouver. 
        The roads were paved part way there, but eventually they gave way to dusty gravel highways tended by big yellow "graders." You could see someone coming quite a long way off as each vehicle was followed by a cloud of dust.
       The first part of the drive, the lower Fraser River valley, was relatively flat but after a town named Hope, you were into the mountains and a section of road known as the Fraser Canyon. I don't know how long this part of the drive was, but it was certainly the most spine-tingling and seemed to harrow on forever. Perhaps it was less than a hundred miles but it was chock full of hairpin turns, suicidal hills, and views over a hanging edge of rushing river through a narrow rocky canyon. It seemed like death was possible round every scary turn. 
       It was a great relief to get past the Canyon and into the cattle country beyond. Reaching the town of Lillooet (Mile 0) would have been my father's first culture shock. No mistaking: this was the Wild West. We drove on, past ranches, grasslands, forests, a place called 100 Mile House, onwards to a grouping of log cabins, and one major central log building, on the shore of a spectacularly beautiful lake. This was Emerald Lodge on Lac La Hache where we were booked to spend the summer. 
Stagecoach @ 100 Mile House
       Lac la Hache is a very romantic name in French. It comes with a story about a gold prospector in the 1850's who lost his axe while breaking ice: the lake just swallowed it up. In English it is Axe Lake, but like most things, it sounds better in French.  
     The photo of "our first Canadian car" also includes the log cabin which was our home for the summer of 1947. I would be quite content living in such a cabin forever. 
   The Cariboo was the site of one of North America's premier gold rushes after the one in California showed the way. In the 1850's, thousands of fortune-seekers, from Europe, China and California came to the Cariboo much the same way we had, via Vancouver and Lilooet, and some of them actually struck pay dirt. I found out much later that a relative of mine, a poet known as Cariboo Jim, was involved in the Gold Rush.

       It was a wonderful summer with many happy memories. We went fishing on the lake, several times, and caught lake trout and something called Char, from the deep water; some were as  large as 20 pounds. We swam a lot; actually, I paddled a lot because I didn't learn to swim for at least another year or two. One time we witnessed a skunk getting cornered under one of the cabins. It was my first time getting a whiff of that inimitable skunk stink. 
      We ran into a genuine American family and their dog, Mac, who in my memory is a black-and-white English spaniel. The most memorable thing about this family came from my father's rendition of them calling for their dog in heavy throaty accents: "Heere Maaac!" It was at Lac la Hache I discovered that Americans were bigger and fatter than other nationalities. 
       I loved the log cabin. I think it had a bedroom for my father and a kitchenette and a bathroom, but we all pretty much lived in one room. Dad did the cooking and I'm guessing this was where he learned how, We drove in to Williams Lake to do the shopping, though there were probably some rudimentary foods for sale right there at the lodge. Williams Lake is a little Western Cow-town which still has its annual Stampede; like Calgary, but smaller.
        At the end of the summer we returned to Vancouver, the dreaded Mrs. Dryvenside, and Athlone School. Our father rented a little apartment in a big old house near Cambie Street and began working as a physician. One of his first jobs was connected to the Jericho Army base. 
       

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Eng-a-lish Pubs (A Poem by Marsha Brown)

              Eng-a-lish Pubs    ©2011 by Marsha & Monty Brown BMI




The Chorus:
Oh we love the pubs in Eng-a-land, there’s many to be found
They stand on every corner ‘n every city, village, town.
If it’s music, food, or drink you want, take this tip from me
You’re welcome to pub-sit all day long or pop in for a pee.
no no no!   P - I-N-T ---P!

There’s folk night and there’s shanty night, 
There’s quiz and skittle, too
Bingo, dart, and billiard nights, 
Just to name a few.
A night for Curry, Bangers‘n mash, 
And Leg O’ Mutton stew
My favorite night’s the night 
When I kin order Steak fer Two!
Yo ho ho...  order steak for two...            

Oh the names do get me tickled, 
The Pickled Newt is best
The Bucket & Spade, The Cat & The Fiddle, 
The Crown, The Traveller’s Rest
The Queen’s in need of a Number Ten
George found The Golden Fleece
The Dog & Gun’s in Hardy’s Well
And still The Fox Goes Free.
Yo ho ho...  still the fox goes free... oh             


The Valiant Soldier tells us
That his Square & Compass broke, so
The Stag Hunters Stumble Inn 
The Firkin Royal Oak 
The Captain’s Wife she caught 
The Cock And Bull by the neck
Now let’s get out our Pack of Cards
And deal a Quarter Deck.
Yo ho ho... deal a quarter deck ...  


We’ll meet The Mermaid, Mary Rose,
And board The Pilot Boat
We’ll weigh the old Blue Anchor 
Keep The Cutty Sark afloat.
The Push Inn or The Barge Inn, or
The Boat holds Prince of Wales
We’ll hit The Jolly Sailor, 
Let the old tars tell their tales.
Yo ho ho...  the old tars tell their tales...  

The Yachtsman he sailed Halfway Inn
The Hobby Horse’s Stables, 
Wye Knot Rest and Be Thankful that
The Lamb’s on Admiral’s Table.
The Butcher’s Arms have Bird in Hand
The Skipper can’t be found
Lord Nelson got so pickled that
He ran The Ship Aground.
Yo ho ho... he ran the ship aground... 

The Strugglers Inn, The Smugglers Inn,
The Beach and Barnicot,
St. Peter’s Finger’s in The Swan, 
The Cat and Custard Pot 
Good Knight it’s time to push The Plough
Heave Ho The Candlestick
We’ll Stop Inn at The Drunken Duck
And eat some Spotted Dick!
Yo ho ho...  eat some spotted dick...  

(Chorus)
Oh we love the pubs in Eng-a-land, there’s many to be found
They stand on every corner ‘n every city, village, town.
If it’s music, food, or drink you want, take this tip from me
You’re welcome to pub-sit all day long or pop in for a pee.
no no no!   P! -I-N-T   Order a pint for me!
          
(slowly)
Now sometimes there’s a real twit
What wends his way in here
And quietly gets ‘over served’
On Porter, Stout, or Beer
And should that twit get reckless, rude, or rowdy, 
Don’t you fear... 
The Publican’ll gladly toss him outside
On his... EAR!
ear rear rear... outside on his ear... 

(and VERY slowly)
Now Hen-e-ry met Anne Bolyn, it happened---in a pub!
Shakespeare wrote his Sonnets, he wrote ‘em---in a pub!
The apple fell on Newton’s head, just outside---a pub!
An’every month we meet our best friends, right here---in a pub!      

(Chorus)
Oh we love the pubs in Eng-a-land, there’s many to be found
They stand on every corner ‘n every city, village, town.
If it’s music, food, or drink you want, take this tip from me
You’re welcome to pub-sit all day long or pop in for a pee.
no no no!   P! -I-N-T   Order a pint for me!



Sunday, February 19, 2017

So, Memoir/ Emigrants

So: Memoir chapter 2. . . 

       This segment starts in April, 1947. I am six years old and I've heard enough about 'America' to have conjured up images of what it will be like. For one thing there will be Indians (Native Americans) sitting around campfires on the Western Plains. They will have colorful Indian blankets draped upon their shoulders and they will be seated cross-legged on the ground with flames from the fire flickering on their faces. At the same time there will be skyscrapers in New York. The tops of the buildings will literally scrape the sky.
        Until the time of our departure from England, I had been a happy camper. I hadn't 'suffered' from the War, though not far away there was widespread death and destruction and we could have driven just twenty miles to Sheffield, for instance, and had a first-hand look at some of that destruction. For the past two years, my country has been clearing up after the disaster.
       But there's no use dwelling on the past. We are moving to a new country: Canada. One of our last activities in the 'Old Country,' (which is how it will be referred to by many Canadians), was an estate sale. Gradually, Renong the House was emptied of comforts and possessions. I believe my brother's sidecar went for a goodly sum.

My brother writes: I don't have memories of the house at Tickhiil being emptied; I think there was an auction of contents; I may have been away at boarding school. (Worksop.) In hindsight, our father reckoned he should have shipped most of the furniture to Canada. As it was, the money he received from the sale couldn't be transferred to Canada because of the currency controls in place to pay off the War Debt, and not long after we migrated, Britain devalued the pound, so the proceeds from the sale were effectively halved in value. 
       I remember being teased at Worksop College when I told my school-mates we were going to Canada. I had mentioned our Uncle Keith's house was made of wood. The story of the Three Little Pigs must have influenced my school-mates beliefs as to what materials were needed to build a good house. 

       I remember nothing of the trip to Southampton where we boarded the transatlantic ocean liner, but I have a few crisp memories of the voyage. Our ship was the MS Batory. Like most large ocean liners of that era, Batory, a Polish ship in the throes of a developing Cold War between  the Communist World and the West, had been a troop carrier; it was embarking on its maiden voyage since being refurbished for passenger service.
MS Batory in Gdyna, Poland. 1937.

       While we were still in port we (Peter and I) followed our father on a tour of the ship. There were two bars, one sporting red leather barstools and chairs, the other, brown. There was a big dining room with thick white linen napkins and tablecloths. Our stateroom had a porthole, a bed for my father and bunks for my brother and me. Off we went.
       It didn't take long to realize this was not to be a smooth trip. My father had some experience with ocean, having signed on as ship's surgeon on a voyage to Vladivostok and back soon after graduating from Med school. He told us about finding our sea legs and in one moment I said I enjoyed this 'gentle rocking' but the next moment things got dizzy and I got queasy and threw up into the wash basin. Peter held out for a little while but soon he, too, succumbed to mal de mer.
      
      Of the sea passage to North America, the 'gentle rocking' incident is perhaps my main memory. I still can feel queasy on a boat until I get my sea-legs, but the only time I've vomited was on the MS Batory. On other occasions, I might have wished I could throw up and be done with it!   
       For the next couple of days we gradually found our sea legs. My father never did get seasick so he achieved a certain amount of local fame by being one of the only people on two feet during the first days of Batory's maiden voyage. Even if it took two whole days to get vertical, we still had plenty of time ahead: it was a week's voyage to New York.
       I got quite active. There were still rough seas featuring forty-foot waves ( I just invented that number because it seemed like it) which gave rise to a wonderful running game out on the deck. Obviously the ship didn't want to take these waves sideways because that would lead to dangerous rolling motions. No. The ship plunged head first into the waves so the bow and stern were alternately going up and down the whole time. It must have been pretty tiresome for the person at the wheel, but it was great fun running up and down the deck. You'd be speeding downhill and then the next wave would cause you to run uphill.
       There were no mishaps on the deck but one day we were inspecting the swimming pool when I tumbled off the ladder and hit the bottom. Unfortunately there was no water in the pool. It was too rough to fill the pool so it was basically off limits; but somehow I managed to fall into the empty pool. I walked with a limp for the last couple of days into New York, but my spirits were not dampened and my limp was a badge of honor.
       At first, New York was a disappointment. The so-called 'sky-scrapers' were by no means scraping the sky. They looked much shorter than I had been led to believe. We stayed in New York for a couple of days, walking the bustling sidewalks and eating at lunch counters and diners. Two new things: Coca-Cola (ewww!), and black people (fascinating.)
New York harbor with skyscrapers.


       In New York there was an incident in a shop, possibly a Woolworth's. At the check-out, the sales person asked our Dad if he had 'a penny'. She was looking to minimize the change for the transaction. Our Dad, newly arrived from England, thought she on recognizing his English accent was asking for an English penny as a souvenir. When he handed over an English penny she got quite huffy. 'Wise guy!'
       
       The next leg of the journey was by trans-continental train: we were heading for the Pacific Coast, specifically White Rock, British Columbia, Canada, a few miles south of Vancouver. There was a bit of a glitch ordering the tickets for this trip. My father stated his destination but the ticket seller was unable to locate such a place: would British Guyana be acceptable?
       Since British Guyana was on the north coast of South America and British Columbia is on the west coast of North America, no, it was not acceptable. To this day I would be interested to know how the ticket person planned to get us there, but eventually the correct destination was discovered.
       The trip was broken in Chicago where we spent a day or two before boarding the train for Seattle.  
                     
 I don't recall being in Chicago overnight, but we did go to a movie to kill off some time. Was there segregation? I recall rest of the audience was Afro-American.

The train probably would have been the Great Northern's 'Empire Builder' on post card (left) and coming out of the fog west of Chicago, below right.


       I recall the 'British Columbia' incident, but a little differently. From Chicago we were to take the train to Seattle, where our Uncle Keith was to meet us with his car and drive us up to his place in Canada. In Chicago we went into a telegraph office (Western Union?) to send a telegram to Uncle Keith to update him on our expected arrival in Seattle. It was in the Western Union office that the problem of locating British Columbia occurred. It got sorted, but I remember the agent asking if British Guyana would be alright! 
       If our Dad had said he wanted to send the telegram to Canada, the question probably wouldn't have arisen. General knowledge of geography is not great. I remember a colleague in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory receiving a package mailed in Winnipeg, Manitoba with a customs declaration on it. The sender in Winnipeg apparently didn't realize that the Yukon Territory was in Canada.

       Since my father was constantly amused by the sounds coming out of the mouths of Americans, my main memory of this next leg, running up and down the train corridor, was of the little boy (perhaps aged between me and Peter) who stated that he was going home to Seattle, Washington. My father heard this as "Sea-addle-War-shing-tun" with the emphasis  on the WAR. 
       We headed for White Rock because one of my father's eight or nine brothers lived there. Uncle Keith, Aunt Rae, and my thirteen-year-old cousin Ian lived on a little farm in southern BC. close to the American border. I remember the place as 
Dad at Uncle Keith's, 1947. House of wood.
being bright, white and clean, but I felt that Uncle Keith was a glowering presence who shooed me out of his flower bed. There are two hit-parade songs I associate with the White Rock farm, "Zip-a-de-doo-dah," and Eddy Arnold singing "Big Bouquet of Roses."
       We were there for Easter, 1947, because that featured the incident pf the Chocolate Elephant. I had always been one for saving and savoring pleasures; in fact, I understand it's a personality trait. Some people indulge immediately (my brother, I think, I've referred to as 'wolfing' down his food) and others save for later. 
       Anyway, I got a large Chocolate Elephant for Easter; I'm thinking it was perhaps 7 or 8 inches tall. At the same time, Peter got a Chocolate Chicken. The chicken and the elephant were not built to the same scale, the chicken being roughly the same size as the elephant so nobody could have felt cheated. I sequestered my elephant in a drawer and Peter ate his chicken. A day or two later when I went to nibble on my elephant, it was gone. Naturally I blamed my brother but he has maintained his innocence to this very day! Maybe I was wrong and my cousin Ian stole it. Or the evil Uncle Keith. Hmmm. There were dark clouds gathering even before we went off to school.

       I really don't remember eating the Chocolate Elephant, but I do remember the furor. And although Uncle Keith's farm was very close to White Rock, I always think of it as Cloverdale because that was the postal address - RR2 Cloverdale.

        The worst day of my life, to that point for sure, arrived while we were staying in Cloverdale/White Rock. That was the day Peter and I were dropped off at Athlone, an English type boarding school that our father arranged for us in Vancouver. At the corner of 49th and Granville, Athlone was basically a large private house which had been turned into dormitories for boys Grades 1 through 6. It was presided over by a cold, sadistic creature by the name of Mrs. Dryvenside.
       It all happened so quickly and I had no forewarning. We drove to Vancouver and the three of us, my Dad, my brother and me, who had been together happily for several weeks, starting in Tickhill, England, and traveling across an ocean and a continent, rang the doorbell of this huge house. A moment later someone answered, there was a hasty conversation ("It's better if you just leave them") and my gather was gone!
      When I realized what had happened I began to wail and it seemed like I went on wailing and sobbing for hours. I was not to be consoled. There was talk of me being a "war baby" and therefore emotionally unstable, but the fact is I felt abandoned. 
     We lived in Vancouver from 1947 until 1950 and after that we were living between Victoria and Prince George, B.C. I really liked Vancouver and have managed to identify myself with it for the rest of my life. Our father made good friends there, especially Marie and Bill Harrison-Eke. They lived originally in an apartment on Haro Street, downtown, and it was like home there. Marie was a surrogate mother to me and Bill was like a favorite uncle, funny and fun and never mean or strict like most of the adults we knew from Athlone School. The only negative thing about Vancouver was that Athlone School was there and during the school year we lived at the school, pretty much seven days a week. We were allowed to go out Sunday afternoons, but there was always that sense that we would have to return Sunday evenings.
    When our Dad was available, which he usually was, we would go on an outing with him to Stanley Park or Kitsilano Beach, and perhaps end up with supper at the White Spot. Or we'd all go some place with Bill and/or Marie, or go to their apartment. During school vacations, of course, we'd live with our Dad at a small apartment he'd be renting.
    I remember the school holidays as being very enjoyable. Vancouver was a wonderful city to grow up in. Bill and Marie's next door neighbor on Haro Street was the manager of the Orpheum Theater, a Mr. Ivan Ackery. Ivan and Bill were great fun together and now and then we'd get free entry to movies at the Orpheum, which was the largest Picture Palace in Vancouver. 
    The Orpheum was the gem of its block on Granville Street, Vancouver's main business street. The Capitol Theater was number 2 and it was on the same block. There were a couple of other cinemas on Granville, notably the Vogue and the Studio, which played British films. The Studio ran "Tight Little Island" for weeks and showed all the "Doctor" comedies as they came out. In those days, the 1940's, there was no television so the movie theaters were thriving. 
    Going to the Orpheum was the biggest thrill. Peter and I would arrive at the box office on Granville Street, and we'd ask to see the manager, I imagine this was pre-arranged. We'd get to Ivan's office and he'd be carrying a bunch of keys. Then, instead of taking this massive carpeted staircase in the chandelier-hung lobby, we'd be conducted through a ground floor office area and out a door into the back alley. We'd cross the alley with Mr. Ackery who would produce his keys and let us in through a door into the auditorium part of the theater. It was very exciting and we felt quite special. The Orpheum always showed the blockbuster features of the day and on Saturdays there would be children's matinees.
Log cabin in the Cariboo.
          Before we had much acquaintance with Vancouver, however, we met the Cariboo, the mid-section of British Columbia.So, to recap, we spent our arrival time with my uncle Keith's family; had Easter and lost my Chocolate elephant, April; got dropped off at Athlone School, May; and not long after that, thankfully, it was time for the summer holidays, June, 1947.
 



            
      
       






 

  
      

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

OH Rain!

English Weather (Oh Rain!) by Marsha Brown

Oh it blows back in and it blows back out
and it blows back in again
oh it’s rain and it’s mist then it’s rain and it’s fog
Hey! it’s sun! nay, it’s rain again. (Amen!) 

If you can see Wales it’s going to rain
My friend Martyn was complaining
Look again! If you can’t see Wales
It be… cause it’s already raining   OH Rain

Oh the sun came out and me eye went blind
Tis good one eye is sound
Then it clouded up, down came the rain
and me other eye was drowned   OH Rain

Well the sun peeked out then the rain poured hard
so hard it sank me tanker
now I can visit twice a day
when the tide’s out at Blue Anchor   OH Rain!

Well I got me Wellies & I got me ropes
and a hat, case the sun should shine
then I rowed me dingy through the mist
to a find that tank o’ mine.   OH Rain 

Oh many a day twixt night & noon
thar seeps a wicked drizzle
It pours so wretched constant-like
It cause me fire to fizzle   OH rain

Though me cloudy tale seems full of gloom
it come wi’ a silver lining
See, oft times twixt the sun and rain
there be’s a rainbow shining

there’s a brill of a rainbow shining!   OH rain

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Tickhill. Memoir, "So . . ."

          I was in trouble right from the start. It was England, October, 1940, and there were incendiary devices dropping all around. It was noisy, smokey and just downright dangerous, especially for a babe in swaddling clothes who had not yet had a chance to develop defenses. I didn't even have a gun. On the night of my birth, for instance, a bomb took out the Balham tube station in SouthWest London. There was nothing I could do about it. The tube stations were used as refuges from the chaos of a Luftwaffe-gone-mad, but in this case the people of Balham were hung out to dry.  
          As far I know, I was in no immediate danger on the night of October 14th, 1940. I was born a couple of hundred miles to the north at my Uncle's nursing home in Doncaster, Yorkshire. Some may quibble that I was way too young to have memories but I'm pretty sure that my earliest recollections were of my time in that private nursing facility during the first week of my life. I remember the bars of the crib and lying on my back looking up at a mobile. I mention this merely for scientific purposes, because it's generally accepted that people don't have real memories until they're three or four years old. I beg to differ, but it doesn't really matter: there's no one around to confirm or deny these early "memories."
            I discovered the plaque at the Balham tube station in the year 2010. My daughter Justine moved to Balham in 2006 just so this could happen. There has been no particular benefit to me in discovering the truth about my birthday (i.e. in Balham it is a day that will live in infamy) except that I have learned to avoid situations where bombs are falling. There are many such places in the world today (Syria springs immediately to mind) and so far I have steered clear of them. 
          I live now in Louisiana in the southern United States where it's more likely I would  be hit by small arms fire than by bombs, though foretelling the future is not my strong suit. The sepia photo on the right is of me and my brother Peter who is wearing the headgear. I am on the deckchair and we are in the backyard of our house in Tickhill, near Doncaster, Yorks., England. There is something festive about the photo: perhaps it was my brother's birthday. Peter is three and a half years older than me. 
          It is spring or summer in this picture, so it's unlikely to be my birthday. The season is revealed by the netting (left rear) which was strung up around the tennis court, by my father, each spring. I remember this annual net-raising event because, typically, an innocent hedgehog would become entwined in the netting. My father liked to play tennis and I liked to hear about the hedgehog. I don't recall ever seeing a hedgehog, but I remember thinking I wouldn't want to pick one up by the quills. Anyway, my father took care of all that by carefully removing the creature from the netting and sending it on its way.                         
       We  had a large back yard, large enough for a tennis court, perhaps four or five fruit trees, and a greenhouse. My father loved his yard and he grew his own tomatoes. He also grew fruit, but I forget which. Probably plums, apples and pears. I remember his tomatoes, however, and the fact that he and I both loved the yellow tomatoes that he produced. I enjoyed the unorthodoxy of the yellow tomato. By the age of six I was already aware that a yellow tomato was a bit of a rebel. 
        Our garden was also tended by a man named "Cannings." Cannings worked part-time  for my father to keep our yard looking spiffy, and I think he did a good job. He served a similar function at St. Mary's, the village church which dated to the 11th Century. I assumed Cannings had always been there.
        I suppose the fruit trees and greenhouse helped us eat well during the War, but most of our food was obtained from the shops through the rationing process. I was never hungry; in fact I didn't have much of an appetite. This was a cause for concern amongst the women of my families, who often remarked upon the very different eating habits of my brother and myself. He ate like a horse and generally had hoovered his plate by the time I had my napkin in place in readiness for my first bite. I remember that I didn't like parsnips, but I could stomach carrots and turnips. 
        There were certain foods we couldn't get during the war. I'm thinking particularly of bananas because those who had eaten them before the war seem to miss them terribly. Some people spoke of bananas in hushed tones, as though they were the forbidden fruit. During the War they were impossible to come by. I'm guessing that banana boats would rather not challenge the North Atlantic blockade the German U-Boats posed between Europe and Central America. Bananas started getting through to Britain by 1946 or '47, and when they finally arrived on our table it was quite a moment. I disliked them immediately (ewwww!) and my reaction was interpreted as a childish response to an adult taste. My brother wolfed them down like they might be banned again at any moment.
         
         My father, Dr. Hugh Montgomery Brown, was obviously fond of me and we spent a lot of time together during my first six-and-a-half years. Our red brick house named "Renong" (a Burmese word?) was built in 1905 by a couple retiring from the British foreign service in The East. Upon returning home from a career in the Colonies, they built themselves a house which had servants' quarters and four family bed rooms upstairs. There was a nice long staircase to the main floor which I tumbled down from top to bottom one time. The wooden stairs were thickly carpeted, but on the wall at the bottom end there was a large Chinese gong which produced a satisfying BONG as my little head crashed into the metal radiator.  
         
Me at Renong, 2007.
My brother and I shared one bedroom (that would be the upper windows on  the right as you look at the house); we had twin beds and my father had the other front bedroom. My mother had already been divorced from our life in Tickhill by the time I can remember. One of the other family bedrooms was turned into a playroom where I had a huge, red London double-decker bus and plenty of other toys. I loved the double-deckers and planned to make a career out of driving them. In real life, there were different colored buses that served our area, drove by our house, and stopped right in front. There were yellow and green, lots of green, there might have been blue, and there was red. There were also single-deckers, but they weren't nearly so exciting. Closest in appearance to my big London Transport bus up in the playroom, the dark red buses were operated by the "East Midland" company.

        My brother liked to build and tinker, and quite logically he grew up to be an engineer. Perhaps it was the time I was given a Fairycycle, my first two-wheeler, that he spent several days building a fully functional side-car attachment. He can't have been more than nine years old, but it was the sort of thing he did. If he was given a gift with any number of moving parts he would generally disassemble it immediately.
        The aforementioned Fairycycle became my double-decker bus. I would spend hours riding around our yard picking up and dropping off imaginary passengers. I forget whether the side-car was attached as I drove my routes, but the little bike got a lot of use.
        Despite the War, life was quite idyllic for me. I lived in a big house which had a cook and a housemaid as well as my father's business which was that of village doctor. He was a General Practitioner. Thus he also had a receptionist for his business office, or surgery. He had hours of business and he made house calls, or rounds. "Rounds" simply meant driving around his area and dropping in on patients who were along the route. I went with him on these rounds frequently. I waited in the car a lot, often dreaming I was on my bus route. 
        We had a couple of cars during the war: one was a Morris, I believe, and the other an Alvis which was kept in the garage. The Alvis was low-slung, sporty, and burgundy-colored;  there was something just a bit risqué about it. Rationing allowed so much per car: the Alvis spent most of its time in the garage. Perhaps my father needed more petrol because of having to keep up with his patients, but I know what you're thinking: there was something underhand going on. (I can't imagine my father doing anything underhand.)  

At this point, my brother had a comment and I realized that he and I working together could do a much better job informing our target audience (our children and their children, than I could on my own. So, red print indicates my brother (Peter's) contributions.

My brother emailed me:  I got to thinking more about your memoir during the night, he wrote. My thought on the two cars - the Morris could have been for redundancy during the War years. The extra petrol is an interesting idea, but I would have thought the Government would have provided an allowance sufficient for the local travel needs of a doctor with a country practice. I think one could be expected to justify travel.


Mrs.Teal and I in front of her house.          
        Downstairs in our house there were two front rooms, with bay windows. The dining room on the left as you entered through the front door, and the lounge on the right. Towards the back on the left was a medical suite: surgery, dispensiary and waiting area, and a separate door for patients. Mrs.Teal was my father's receptionnist; she was a war widow and I met her many years later, a long time after she had retired. 
                                                                                                 
          One year when Marsha and I went  to visit Tickhill we came across Mrs. Teal, my father's old receptionist from the 1940's. She was living in a house (above left) which had been part of a small subdivision owned by the doctor whom she had wed. They had taken part of the property bought from my father — our tennis court and back yard — and retired to one of the bungalows he had built. The doctor had passed away, but Mrs.Teal (actually Mrs. Something Else) lived on.
        Renong was my world during the War and for two years afterward. But I gradually began to broaden my horizons into the village around me. I started school at age four. Sometimes I took the bus, which cost one big copper penny. It was collected by a uniformed conductor and dropped into a big squeaky leather bag. The conductor, usually a woman, would then activate her ticket machine, produce a long paper ticket and a silver ticket punch, "click" the ticket and hand it over. It was all very exciting. The bus driver, meantime, was enclosed in a little booth where he could concentrate on his driving (he was always a man.) I would make my way upstairs where I would aim to sit in the front seat, over top of the driver. 
       Very often, though, I would walk to school through St. Mary's churchyard, past the village shops and the "Buttercross" to the small private school run by two gray-haired ladies, the Misses Goodwin. Their education was, I'm sure, very traditional and I learned a lot. So much that when I started school in a Canadian private school a couple of years later, I was allowed to skip the first two grades. I started the Canadian third grade when I was still six.
      One of my first homework assignments from the Goodwins was to recite a poem, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again." Before I started school, though, I was nearly always around the house or in the garden. I followed people around to see what they were up to. I talked to the cook, Vera, a tall, gaunt woman who tolerated me but didn't show much affection. 
       We had a couple of different housemaids, I think, but only one at a time. One I liked very much, and trusted, apparently, at least until one particularly painful event. I was walking along the pavement (sidewalk) with her, chattering away, when I devised a little plan. I would close my eyes and depend on her to guide me. I revealed my plan to her and I thought she signed on to it, as, (tiny British voice) "Now I'm going to close my eyes, so I'll need you to tell me when we come  to the curb." Clearly she hadn't paid close enough attention to me because the next thing I knew I was bloodied, flat on my face and squealing on the pavement.
       Another time I was navigating the tops of the furniture in the Lounge when I slipped, fell against the corner of a table, and cut open part of my forehead over my eye. On that occasion my father carried me into his surgery and sewed me up himself. It was convenient having a physician for a parent, though often the first question I'd get from him after we'd been apart had to do with the regularity of my bowel movements.
       Between bumping down the staircase and these two last misadventures, I seem to have been having a dangerous time. But life was good at Renong and I didn't often need special comforting. I noticed that my mother was never there but since she never had been there as far as I could recall, it didn't seem odd to me. My brother, too, was often away. He would be at some boarding school my mother (née Margaret Boyle), (standing at left)
or perhaps my father, had arranged. Peter went to Worksop College during our last year in England. We visited Peter at his school on special days, and once a bird shit on my head. 
       Sometimes, perhaps, Peter would be staying with my mother and her family. My mother's family lived in Doncaster, which was the nearest city to our village, just seven miles away. In fact the address of our village usually included the words "near Doncaster."  Our address was Renong, Worksop Road, Tickhill, nr. Doncaster, Yorks., England. I learned to write and recite our address at a very early age.
        When I speak of my mother's family, it is mostly the group that lived at Cairlinn on the Barnsley Road. My grandmother was the head of household. A feisty woman, by all accounts, she had recently suffered the loss of her husband Peter Boyle, who died just before the War, a couple of years before I was born. Peter Boyle, my grandfather, was born in Ireland, in a town named Carlingford. The Celtic way of saying this town's name is "Cairlinn," hence the name of the house on Barnsley Road. My grandfather was a professional football (soccer) player who enjoyed a modicum of success during his career. He was twice on teams that won The Football Association (FA) Cup, and he fullbacked several times on the Irish International squad. These are no mean feats for a footballer, even around the year 1900. His team was Sheffield United which is why he wound up settling in Doncaster, just a few miles down the road from Sheffield.
         So my grandfather had departed this life, but my grandmother had always run the household. She'd had eight children; five girls and three boys. My mother, Margaret, was the youngest of the girls, and at this time was living with her mother. The other four, in descending order, were Anne, Cathy, Julia and Mae. The boys were Tom, Jim and, the youngest of all, my uncle Peter. Tom followed in his father's footsteps and became a moderately successful footballer and then a publican; he played for Sheffield United and won an FA Cup, too. It may be the only time such a feat has been performed by a father-son duo. Uncle Jim became a schoolteacher, eventually a headmaster, and my uncle Peter, a doctor. 
         The eldest child, Anne, married a wealthy surgeon, Moir Shepherd, who owned the nursing home where I was born; Cathy moved to London with her husband who became wealthy in Real Estate; Mae married a Policeman/Social Worker. As far as I knew, Julia never married.* She lived with her mother and my mother at Cairlinn after all the rest had left home. I liked Aunt Julia a lot. She was always very loving towards me, as was my grandmother. I'm told they both "doted" on me and I'd say that's a wonderful thing for a child.


*I understood that Julia did eventually marry Albert Bamford. I gather Ma (our grandmother) did not approve of Albert, so Julia may not have married until after Ma died.
I have good memories of Ma, but she must have ruled the roost. It is sad to think that Fiona (our half-sister) was never allowed to meet her. And that's another story.
         
       My mother would come and pick me up from Renong and take me to Cairlinn to visit.  The visits were tinged with sadness because my mother always seemed unhappy, and she was never able to keep me totally comfortable. For instance, she didn't have a car so we'd take buses (OK) but then we'd have to walk from or to bus stops: often not OK. There was a long walk from the bus stop at Barnsley Road to the house, Cairlinn, and I was often tired and cranky from the journey and just wanted to be carried. The bigger I got, the harder I was to carry. During the War there was an Italian Prisoner of War camp on Barnsley Road and my mother and I would have to walk along beside it, to and from the bus stop.
         I can only imagine now what an ordeal this was for my poor mother, traveling with a bad-tempered brat complaining about having to walk, while a bunch of horny young Italians were wolf whistling and yelling lewd remarks. I remember the sound of them and in retrospect they seem to have been hanging from the fence like baboons in a zoo.
         By this time, it could have been the spring of 1945, it seemed we'd been at war all my life. (I checked later: we had! ) There were the daily news broadcasts from BBC radio telling us about fresh successes; the sound of airplanes overhead; (they may have been our aircraft;) there were stories of nighttime automobile accidents and incidents caused by darkness. One time this involved my father's car hitting a horse. The headlights were mere slits which would help another car to spot you, but would not light up the road very well. Anyway, the horse went down, then got back up again, leaped over a fence, tore across a field, and disappeared into the dark.
         One thing that has only recently occurred to me is that my mother had another life during the last bit of the war and the following years. She had a job in Glasgow (she became a professional cook) where an affair with a South African army officer led to the birth of my half-sister, Fiona, a year after the war in Europe. I didn't know anything about Fiona until the mid-1950's, and I didn't meet her until 1958.  

        In the 1940's our village was much more rural than it is now. I remember going for evening walks with my father and discovering turnips which had fallen off a farm wagon, and, of course, horse manure on the road. We had farmers for neighbors, the Durdys, and they had at least one child (John?) who was roughly my age. From visiting the Durdy farm, (was it Stancil Farm?) I learned to speak with a broad Yorkshire accent, though this didn't please my father, who was a great exponent of the King's English. Once I witnessed the killing of a pig. It was the terrified squealing I remember most, punctuated by a sudden gunshot; then silence from the pig.
        On the home front there were the yellow tomatoes, the toys in the nursery (the play room), even visits to the seashore. I have photographic evidence of myself at the beach at Cromer or Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast, and I appear to be three years old or less. That would date it to the summer of 1943 or 1944, which means that though we were in the thick of the War, we could still enjoy a day at the beach.
        Re: the trip to Cromer. It was made in the Ford V8 belonging to the lady holding you. The younger woman in front is the older lady's daughter (and I think the young girl on the right the daughter's daughter.) I think permission to make that journey by car was obtained because of my ill-health, and petrol would have been allowed for the journey. I must have been  a bit of a sickly child — ear, nose and throat issues. The trip to Cromer may have been just after I had the bout of pneumonia. No anti-antibiotics — Dad treated it with chest poultices, standing in front of a heat lamp, etc. 
        Your memory is of me going away, but after the hiatus when our mother  took us away from Renong, the only times I would have been away, other than for the odd visit to Barnsley Road, would have been when I went off to Worksop College. (pictured below) 

That would have started some time after VE Day, which was after I was eight.  I have a memory of coming home from Misses Goodwin's school, and as I was walking on the bend near the hotel close to the Millpond an older boy passing on a bicycle called out that the War had ended. Well, in Europe it had. Later, after I had started at Worksop College, 
I remember learning that the atom bombs had been dropped and the war with Japan was over.

       I'm just reading one of Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel  Dalhousie novels, 'The Novel Habits of Happiness.' 
       One of the characters talks of her husband's unhappy childhood — '...Robert went to one of those dreadful boarding schools. It was down on the South coast. I think some very unpleasant things happened there. So many lives were distorted by such cruelty...' 
       "Isabel closed her eyes momentarily. Those schools, and the attitudes that allowed them, were a largely spent force now, but their shadow was a long one....."

       I wonder if McCall Smith had been a boarder? (At an English school.) Probably :-)
Do you remember *Catherine Brookbank? She had a nice house near Tickhill Castle. My hair was blond early on, and there was an incident where her horse stood on my foot, and was nibbling at my hair. The ground was soft so no damage, but  I was unable to move. Probably tears!
       I recall hearing about *Catherine Brookbank, but I don't remember her in person. I have a vague memory of an attractive woman in riding britches, who may have been involved with our father, but I don't know where that comes from.
       I also think of Catherine Brookbanks as an attractive women in jodpurs. And there may have been a 'relationship' with our father.

       Do you remember *Basil Weir staying with us in Renong on returning from his war in India? I think he had been in the Pay Corps. His military kit had a distinct odor.  
        I don't remember Basil staying with us. On the other hand, I remember being with *Basil Weir whom our mother called "Weary" whilst rolling her eyes. She seemed to think that he, a drinking buddy, had something to do with the break-up of the marriage. 
       The breakup? Who knows. Basil was probably off to India by then.  Maybe something in the legal record of the divorce.

       Obviously this is not childhood information. Our mother would have talked about it when I was 18 or older. 
       Basil may have introduced our mother and  father. 
        He came on a road trip to Barnard Castle sometime before our little family trio left for Canada. I think our father was going around saying goodbye to some friends and family. Anyway, I stuck my head out the car window during the whole trip and got a hell of an earache for the next couple of days. It may have been on the same trip that we went to visit Uncle Dougald in Newcastle. My father, the youngest child, had two sisters and nine brothers. He was born in Newcastle.
        Another trip we took as a family was to Sheffield to see the Pantomime. This was a pre-Christmas tradition in Britain, which has, by now, largely died out. The hero was a young man played by an actress, and the villain, or villains, were male actors in drag. Think: Aunt Edna. The Panto I remember seeing was "Jack and the Beanstalk."
The mists of time - and stuff I didn't understand.
I remember bananas at Worksop College, but that was of course after the war had ended, at least the war in Europe. We had banana sandwiches!

I've enjoyed your memories, and they made me think back.

I REMEMBER...
by Peter Brown

I remember well the occasion when I learned that VE Day had occurred. Why I remember it so well remains a mystery to me. I would have been just eight years old on that day in May, my birthday being on April 29. I was on my way home from Miss Goodwin’s school in Tickhill.    I was walking on the footpath by the bend of the main road just near the "keep" where a lane leads past a pub to the mill pond.
As a small boy living in an English village, the War itself would have seemed to have had very little direct impact on me. Tickhill, a few miles from Doncaster in Yorkshire, and where my father was a medical practitioner, was not a place which attracted much interest from the enemy. My father, beause of his age and occupation was not called up. He donned the uniform with other members of the Home Guard.
The only person I can remember who would have gone off to war in fact was my father’s best friend, Basil Weir. Basil went to India with the Pay Corps. As to the effects of the War, we were always fed and clothed, although I suppose the adults might have complained about rationing, which I would not have understood.
There was plenty of evidence of the War, for anyone who would have known otherwise. There were concrete anti—tank obstacles on the main road just outside our house, we had thick "blackout" curtains on our windows, and convoys of army vehicles rumbling through the village were commonplace.
My father’s cars (apparently he needed two to ensure that he had one that was roadworthy all the time) were fitted with "blackout" lights and I suppose it should have been exciting living though the narrow country lanes on those times that I was allowed along on a visit to a patient after dark. I can also remember being awakened and going to the air raid shelter during one period when I was boarding at a convent school, and l can remember the summer evening sky being filled with waves of aircraft, bombers flying eastwards to take the war to the enemy.
But what l do have memories of most vividly, on what I recall as a warm sunny afternoon, was a boy a little older than myself, who I might have known, riding towards me on a bicycle, and calling out to me that the war in Germany was over.