A true story of a strange fellow

This is a true story, but I have disguised everything which might identify the people involved.

Rachel was seventeen when she met Jimmy; they met at a disco, many, many years before. She and her gang of friends used to go to different clubs and places around town, and Jimmi was one of the guys who was always there. He was two years older than her and a guitar teacher, which seemed glamorous to Rachel and her friends! They went out a couple of times but it wasn’t destined to be anything more than casual.

Rachel moved away the following year, and didn’t return to live in the town except to visit her brothers and parents. Her brother Rick used to bump into Jimmi from time to time; Jimmi went through a bit of a bad patch, not professionally, his guitar teaching was as busy as ever, but he had a few personal difficulties.

Rick always thought Jimmy was a bit of a strange guy ‘an odd-bod’ as his parents described him. Rick realised that Jimmi was actually a couple of years older than what he’d originally said, but that was ok… he was pleasant enough, but they drifted out of each other’s circles – Rick was involved with the rugby club and socialised there. Rick married and he and his wife had lots of different interests which kept them busy. Jimmi, as far as Rick knew, still went to the same clubs and discos, and still wore the latest fashions, even though he was by now quite a bit older than the other ‘clubbers’.

Rick and his wife had children and became involved in their children’s activities – rugby, like their dad, swimming, scouts and guides… all the regular stuff kids do. Rick and his wife had their own social life, they went to a dance class to learn the tango, she joined a book club, he learned the ukulele and joined a little band, they had a wide social circle and went on holiday with friends as their children became older and wanted to do their own thing.

Phil was waiting at the station for his wife to come back from a trip to London when he was greeted by a weird-looking guy wearing a wig – it took Rick a few moments to realise it was Jimmi! Jimmi was a couple of years older than Rick, but he was wearing the sort of clothes Rick’s twenty-year-old son wore! They had an awkward conversation and Jimmi asked after Rachel and then he had to go, he had a ‘gig’, he said.

Rick mentioned this to his parents, who said they’d always thought Jimmi wore a wig, and they’d always thought he was very strange…  Years passed and Rick’s children left home, married settled down. Rick and his wife retired and were very busy and active – they had a camper van and travelled far and wide round the UK, Ireland and Europe. They were always busy and active, Rick still very involved in the rugby club and was on the committee, his wife now teaching the tango, and both of them members of the village society and involved in the planning of the annual fruit and produce show, the autumn carnival, Christmas activities, and the spring duck race.

It was the town’s food festival and Rick and his wife drifted along to meet up with their children and grandchildren. Rick had wandered off and was looking at a stall selling Greek olive oil when he noticed a little impromptu coffee bar nearby. He couldn’t help but stare at the odd-looking person sitting there. Espadrilles, ripped jeans, long shirt, leather jacket, bracelets, plaited leather wrist-bands, tattered bands from festivals, beads, rubber charity bands – the usual random collection of things a kid might have. There was a mass of gingery hair and a reggae Rasta beanie, which Rick only knew as a slouch because his grandson had told him. Rick caught a glimpse of an artificially tanned face hidden behind massive blue-lensed glasses; he looked away, took the change from the Greek olive oil man, and hurried back to his family.

A couple of days later, Rick was taking a short cut to avoid traffic but met another queue along a narrow country lane. The reason for the little tail-back was a car parked in a gateway but protruding into the lane. As Rick squeezed past, giving a thank-you wave to the car coming in the opposite direction who’d waited for him, Rick saw the owner of the parked car, shutting the boot. The man, hitched a guitar onto one shoulder, a low slung canvas bag hanging off the other. He adjusted his Rasta beanie, locked the car and went through the gate.

Rick glanced after Jimmi… the man might want to look like a twenty-year old but in reality – and his parents’ word ‘odd-bod’ came back… After seeing Jimmi at the food festival, Rick had done a little research; Jimmi was actually ten years older than he’d said when he went out with Rachel… so now Jimmi was actually seventy-one… A strange fellow and sad, very sad…

Inspiration… just a little tickle of an idea…

I usually flick through the BBC page for news, but also for articles and videos in what they call their magazine. Today my eye was caught by a photo of a young man, just head and shoulders, leaning back against a wall. He looked a little like a young David Bowie. The question was posed ‘when was this photo taken?’ A tricky one because looking at the rather handsome young face, the tousled, longish hair, the expression, it could have been taken yesterday, or any time in the last thirty or so years. A reporter went out onto the streets of London and asked passers-by when they thought the photo was taken, and answers ranged from recently to the sixties.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/entertainment-arts-40523826/the-colourist-changing-the-appearance-of-historical-photos

As you can tell, they were all good answers, and the thing which shocked everyone was that it was actually taken in the 1865!! The reason they were deceived, and I was too, was that the photo had been coloured digitally. There were other photos too, a whole range, some very moving and one tragic and heartbreaking.

I was intrigued by the photos – I’ve seen other similar photos from bygone times which have been coloured and it really does bring those real people who lived before to life. It’s possible to engage much more with such pictures. A little thread of an idea came to mind, a little idea for a story which revolves round old black and white photos of people which have been digitally enhanced. I won’t say more until I have jotted a few ideas down – I may share the first draft here!

Here is another short film about colour photography:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/magazine-39266423/photographing-the-russian-empire-in-colour

If you want to read my books which all started with a little trickle of an idea, here is where you can find them:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

By the way – I would love to see my featured photo in colour… i wonder if I could do it…

The Professor… again

Looking at different ways of telling true stories, so the bones of the narrative are there but the flesh and clothing are different, my writing group read some of the pieces I’ve shared here. One they particularity liked was ‘The Professor’ – I have shared it here before, but here it is again.

This really is a true story, although I’ve concealed the identities of those involved:

Snick was the most generous and kindly man who would open his home to anyone who had need of a meal, a chat, a whisky or two, so when the wife of an in-law asked if he could visit an old gentleman in a care home, an old gentlemen whose family all lived far away and could rarely come to see him, Snick was happy to go and meet him. The old chap’s grandson had been engaged to the in-law’s daughter, which is how there was a connection.

The old man was the father of a very well-known – famous in fact – actor, much respected and admired, and was the grandfather of the actor’s three children, all of whom became household names in varying fields.  I shall call the old man Mr Smith, and his son Raymond – nothing like their actual names!

Every week, but on different days, Snick would visit Mr Smith; he was an interesting old man, full of stories and still with great curiosity about the world despite being a little decrepit due to his age. After knowing him for several months, Snick invited him home for Sunday lunch, which Mr Smith very much enjoyed, especially meeting Snick’s family.

One day, when Snick visited, he found Mr Smith had something on his mind; his son Raymond, the famous actor, was visiting and he wanted to take him out for lunch but was hampered by his infirmity and the fact that he didn’t know which restaurant to go to. Snick asked if perhaps Raymond and the old man would like to come to lunch, chez Snick. The old man was delighted and excited, and so it was arranged.

Snick was on his own, his family away from home. He had pondered on the menu but happened to have been given a pheasant; however it was rather small for three people so as he also had some tenderloin of pork, he combined the two, a delicious meal was on the menu!

The visitors arrived and were welcomed.

“Ah, Professor! How kind of you to invite me and my father for lunch, delighted to meet you!” exclaimed Raymond.

Professor? Snick was not a professor – how mysterious, but before he could say anything the old man was telling Raymond what a wonderful friend ‘the professor’ was, how kind, how generous, and there was no opportunity to say ‘Actually, I’m not a professor‘. After a pre-lunch drink, with conversation flowing easily between the three men, they sat down to lunch.  The pork and pheasant dish, accompanied by perfectly cooked vegetables, including broccoli and runner beans, was greatly enjoyed, so much so there was little left for Snick to have as a meal the next day!

As the weather was clement, they took Mr Smith out for a walk round the village in his wheelchair, chatting easily and comfortable. Home for a cup of tea and then, with the old man flagging a little, it was time for them to leave.

After this, Snick continued to visit the care home, occasionally meeting Raymond on visits; he was always greeted as ‘Professor’, although the father and son did call him by his name in conversation. One day Snick received a call from the care home, not unexpected as the old man had been failing in his last few visits, but Mr Smith, at the age of ninety-four, had died peacefully. A few days later the care home rang again with details of the funeral, and Snick decided he would go along to say farewell to his elderly friend.

As Raymond and his children were so well-known, Snick anticipated that there might be a real crowd of onlookers as well as friends and family of Mr Smith. He decided that he would arrive just a little while before the service commenced, and just slip in at the back of the chapel. However when he arrived, he was greeted with cries of ‘the Professor! The Professor is here!‘ and an usher whisked him into the chapel to a reserved seat in the front pews.

After the service the family pressed him to come back to the ‘reception’ which he did, and much as he wanted to explain he was not and never had been a professor, he just let it go, and murmured he was ‘retired’.

Later he pondered on the mystery of it all… In fact his brother had been a professor, but there was no way the in-law who had originally asked him to visit Mr Smith would have confused them, especially as she had never met his brother. In the end, he decided that the in-law had deliberately promoted him… He didn’t mind. he had very much liked Mr Smith and Raymond, and the members of the family he had met… and being ‘the Professor’ had amused him… and it made a better story!

The Professor – a true story

This really is a true story, although I’ve concealed the identities of those involved:

Snick was the most generous and kindly man who would open his home to anyone who had need of a meal, a chat, a whisky or two, so when the wife of an in-law asked if he could visit an old gentleman in a care home, an old gentlemen whose family all lived far away and could rarely come to see him, Snick was happy to go and meet him. The old chap’s grandson had been engaged to the in-law’s daughter, which is how there was a connection.

The old man was the father of a very well-known – famous in fact – actor, much respected and admired, and was the grandfather of the actor’s three children, all of whom became household names in varying fields.  I shall call the old man Mr Smith, and his son Raymond – nothing like their actual names!

Every week, but on different days, Snick would visit Mr Smith; he was an interesting old man, full of stories and still with great curiosity about the world despite being a little decrepit due to his age. After knowing him for several months, Snick invited him home for Sunday lunch, which Mr Smith very much enjoyed, especially meeting Snick’s family.

One day, when Snick visited, he found Mr Smith had something on his mind; his son Raymond, the famous actor, was visiting and he wanted to take him out for lunch but was hampered by his infirmity and the fact that he didn’t know which restaurant to go to. Snick asked if perhaps Raymond and the old man would like to come to lunch, chez Snick. The old man was delighted and excited, and so it was arranged.

Snick was on his own, his family away from home. He had pondered on the menu but happened to have been given a pheasant; however it was rather small for three people so as he also had some tenderloin of pork, he combined the two, a delicious meal was on the menu!

The visitors arrived and were welcomed.

“Ah, Professor! How kind of you to invite me and my father for lunch, delighted to meet you!” exclaimed Raymond.

Professor? Snick was not a professor – how mysterious, but before he could say anything the old man was telling Raymond what a wonderful friend ‘the professor’ was, how kind, how generous, and there was no opportunity to say ‘Actually, I’m not a professor‘. After a pre-lunch drink, with conversation flowing easily between the three men, they sat down to lunch.  The pork and pheasant dish, accompanied by perfectly cooked vegetables, including broccoli and runner beans, was greatly enjoyed, so much so there was little left for Snick to have as a meal the next day!

As the weather was clement, they took Mr Smith out for a walk round the village in his wheelchair, chatting easily and comfortable. Home for a cup of tea and then, with the old man flagging a little, it was time for them to leave.

After this, Snick continued to visit the care home, occasionally meeting Raymond on visits; he was always greeted as ‘Professor’, although the father and son did call him by his name in conversation. One day Snick received a call from the care home, not unexpected as the old man had been failing in his last few visits, but Mr Smith, at the age of ninety-four, had died peacefully. A few days later the care home rang again with details of the funeral, and Snick decided he would go along to say farewell to his elderly friend.

As Raymond and his children were so well-known, Snick anticipated that there might be a real crowd of onlookers as well as friends and family of Mr Smith. He decided that he would arrive just a little while before the service commenced, and just slip in at the back of the chapel. However when he arrived, he was greeted with cries of ‘the Professor! The Professor is here!‘ and an usher whisked him into the chapel to a reserved seat in the front pews.

After the service the family pressed him to come back to the ‘reception’ which he did, and much as he wanted to explain he was not and never had been a professor, he just let it go, and murmured he was ‘retired’.

Later he pondered on the mystery of it all… In fact his brother had been a professor, but there was no way the in-law who had originally asked him to visit Mr Smith would have confused them, especially as she had never met his brother. In the end, he decided that the in-law had deliberately promoted him… He didn’t mind. he had very much liked Mr Smith and Raymond, and the members of the family he had met… and being ‘the Professor’ had amused him… and it made a better story!

How did I get here? How did they get there?

One thing leads to another, but not always the other I expect! I get fascinated by a little something and before I know it I’m thousands of miles away on a different continent. Names interest me, and I side-track into finding out about the person with the unusual name… So it was with the name ‘Edwin Clogg’. There is a grave in a local churchyard to an Edwin Clogg who gave his life trying to save a young boy from drowning. Interested in the name I pursed it and found here were many Edwin Cloggs, mostly coming from Cornwall… but one who cropped up in a newspaper report from Australia.

It seems that one of the Cornish Cloggs went to Australia with his young family, including an Edwin, and later this Edwin became the licensee of a hotel called the Camberwell Hotel. I couldn’t be sure when I found that snippet that the Edwin I had found was actually connected to the Cornish Edwins. I looked into the history of the Camberwell Hotel and deviated from Cloggs to George Eastaway, the man he bought the land and built the hotel – the Camberwell Inn when it started.

Here are some of my notes:

The Camberwell Hotel, formerly the Camberwell Inn was opened in 1857 by George Eastaway. George, in many articles about the inn/hotel, is said to have come from Camberwell in London after which childhood home he named his hotel. In actual fact George came from Bristol with his family and it was to Bristol he returned when he gave up the Hotel. George was born in Bristol in 1805 and became a boot maker/master, a skilled man, and employing six men; this was a works, not a little cobblers shop. He was married to Martha and had several children,  including Elizabeth, George, Susanna and Catherine in Denmark Street, in a house called The Bunch of Grapes. George junior was  a bonded warehouse clerk before the family left for their new life and new adventure in Australia. Elizabeth, however, had married a Frederick Cooper and stayed at home.

The family arrived at  Port Phillip, on 21st January, 1853, aboard the Barque Velore, George, his wife, Martha, his daughter Catherine and son George. However, eight years later, Martha died on 12th May 1861; George lasted another six years until his health broke down and in June of 1867, he retired and returned to England, to Bristol with Catherine. They lived with Elizabeth, now a draper’s assistant, and his granddaughter also called Elizabeth.

The area in which George purchased land in the early 1850’s was known as Camberwell because it actually did have a similarity to the original London area as a junction for different routes and roads. Gradually a little settlement grew up, but it was the area gave the name to the inn, not George, it already had that name when he arrived. Like many settlers at the time, George, had different occupations as well as the hotel; he had bought the land and while everything was being started out, including the building of the place, he did other work in the area including a time at Red Gum Flat, Baroondara where he may have been a gardener. He was licensee from 1857-61 of the Camberwell, and then a man named James Bulley took the hotel. George returned in 1863 and remained there until he departed for England on the good ship Norfolk in 1867; he was held in great esteem by his friends and neighbours, who wished him God speed when he left. George was the first landlord/owner, and he was obviously well-remembered, but others held the license until Edwin Clogg took it over in 1887, twenty years later.

So the Hotel had quite a history before Edwin and his wife Ellen bought it; the other landlords must each have a story to tell, but not here, not now.

So you see, from a grave in our neighbouring village, to Cornwall (via conscientious objectors in WW1, confectioners and importers of Japanese goods in Derby, fruit farms in Somerset, cobblers in Bristol, land purchase in Australia) I end up at a hotel in Camberwell, Melbourne… and there is a whole other story to tell about the Australian Edwin’s son, Edwin John… who had some very strange and distressing experiences… but that’s a story for another time.

I have checked my research, but I may well have made errors, even major ones – so if you see a mistake I have made, an incorrect assumption I have drawn, please do let me know!

My featured image, bu the way is in Bristol, a five minute walk from where the Eastaways lived.

Meanwhile, if you want to read about other places I have mentally wandered off to, then you can read my totally fictitious and totally imaginary books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_7?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=lois+el%2Caps%2C154&crid=2LCHAVDWH04R9&rh=n%3A341677031%2Ck%3Alois+elsden

Umbrellas

I shall shortly be making a train journey, not to London as the real people in my true story did! I shared this some time ago, but thinking of trains, makes me think of Jim, a friend of my dad’s who went with him to London one Saturday

Is it something about the name Jim which makes men with it such characters? I had a friend JIm who I taught with who had an interesting experience with ducks… but I was reminded the other day of my dad’s friend and colleague Jim.

Jim was a very eminent scientist working at the Low Temperature Research Station in Cambridge in the 1950’s and 60’s. He was what might be called a larger than life character and there was always some tale to tell when he and Donald went out with friends.

One year, in the 50’s or 60’s, they and a group of others went up to London and then to Twickenham, Twickers, to watch the rugby; I don’t know for sure, but it was probably the Varsity match, Cambridge University vs Oxford University, but it may have been an international or a Barbar’s game (the Barbarians, as it says on their website is ‘a rugby club which brings together players from different clubs to play a few matches each year to enjoy the camaraderie of the game and play attacking, adventurous rugby without the pressure of having to win’; these would be the elite players from each club)

Having watched the game, and no doubt enjoyed a few pints, the chaps went into London for something to eat and a few more pints. Jim managed to imbibe sufficient to make him very merry indeed, and wherever he went he was always leaving his umbrella behind and someone would be dashing after them with or running back for it. On the underground the wretched umbrella poked other passenger, hooked itself round bag straps or handrails, got wedged between closed doors, got left on seats, but somehow the blokes managed to hang onto Jim and his umbrella.

And then  it was time to catch the train back to Cambridge and as they got off someone had to leap back into the carriage to rescue the umbrella which had been left on a luggage rack. Outside the station they bundled Jim into a taxi and gave the driver directions, then had to flag him down again to give Jim the umbrella.

The next morning at work everyone agreed the day out to Twickers  had been a great day, most enjoyable, good game, good fun, good times! Jim breezed in looking fresh as daisy and joined in the opinion that it had been a fine day out, but there was one puzzle.

“Umbrella,” he said. Surely he hadn’t left it in the taxi, surely after all the difficulty it had caused he had managed to get it home? “This umbrella, I just wonder whose it is, it seems to have come home in the taxi with me and I have no idea who it belongs to!”

The story of a painting… and a painter…

Yesterday I shared part one of a true story about a young girl who fell in love with a painting… here is part 2:

I told a true story yesterday, with a name change, of course! It was about a girl who visited an outdoor art exhibition when she was sixteen, and saw a painting of silver birch trees in autumn, painted by a young man a few years older than her, who reminded her of Steve McQueen. She couldn’t afford to buy the painting, but she never forgot it. Many, many years later, after a moving away from the town and then returning, she saw that the same man, who I called Tim Stewart, now had an exhibition on display.

The exhibition was in town in some rooms above of all places, an undertaker’s premises; the girl, now a woman, and her husband decided to go and see the work. As they climbed the stairs there were pictures on either side of them, some abstract and brightly coloured, but they were too close to be able to be appreciated properly. There were some landscapes and views of buildings in the town, and also some paintings by a woman – more town and landscapes, and a picture of a cat dozing in a window.

On the small landing were more paintings by the woman and a few by Tim Stewart; there was a small room at the front of the property and within it was the main exhibition, and what had been described as an installation. The subject of the paintings in this room was the Battle of Waterloo, and there were portraits of the main participants, battle scenes, and paintings of groups of soldiers. In the middle of the small room was a gazebo, an ordinary garden gazebo, a table with a few random artefacts and two lights,one red and one green which flashed intermittently on the paintings.

Sitting in what looked like a garden chair was a grey-haired, bearded man, who proved to be Tim Stewart himself… who no longer looked anything like Steve McQueen. He was friendly and explained that he had always been fascinated by Waterloo, Napoleon, Wellington… and Nelson, who of course had died fifteen years before Waterloo.

The woman and her husband looked round all the paintings, including some which were in a tiny kitchen just off the landing; there were none which particularly appealed although it was interesting to see the artists’ work. They said cheerio and left Tim Stewart in his garden chair next to the gazebo, and they went down the stairs and out into the lovely summer’s day.

The woman had thought she might mention to Tim Stewart that she had very much admired his painting of silver birches in the autumn sun so many years ago… but she didn’t.