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.

The exhibition… a true story

Continuing my week of true stories:

There was a girl and her family moved to a new town when she was sixteen; where she had lived before she’d had lots of friends, and lots of boy friends,  but only a few ‘boyfriends’ and those little romances had been very brief and fleeting and not serious.

Not knowing many people in the new town, the girl and her sister spent their days in the summer holidays before going to their new school just wandering around, which was quite pleasant, but not very interesting. There was an outdoor art exhibition of local artists work which the girls drifted through. They were both quite good at art so they liked looking at the work, some of which was terrible and some of which was quite good.

The girl saw a picture which made her stop and stare. It was among a collection of other works, mainly scenes, but a couple of other pieces too. This picture was of a grove of silver birches in autumn; the sun was shining on the white bark and the gorgeous gold and copper and bronze leaves. The sky was a brilliant, pellucid blue and the picture was so vivid she felt as if she could almost walk into it.

It wasn’t very expensive, but more than she could afford; she was looking for a part-time job in the town but hadn’t found one yet. She looked at the signature on the bottom of the painting, T. Stewart. The next day in town again, the girls split up, the sister went to look at clothes in a new boutique, the girl went back to the outdoor art exhibition. Sitting beside the picture of the birch trees in a fold-up canvas chair was a young man; was this T. Stewart? Was this Mr or Mrs T. Stewart’s son?

He was a few years older than her, maybe twenty, maybe a little more, and his eyes drifted over her without even noticing her. She pretended she hadn’t noticed him either, and went along the line of picture and then went and looked at the work of other artists, pretending that the young man was not stunning looking, a little like a young Steve McQueen.

Over the next week of the exhibition, she realised that the young man was indeed T. Stewart, and that his name was Tim. She was desperate to think of something to say to engage him in conversation, but she was even more desperate to have the picture of the birch trees in the autumn sunshine. The more she saw it the more she loved it.

The exhibition finished, and the girls started at their new school. The girl didn’t forget Tim Stewart and the birch trees, and occasionally she saw his photo in the local paper. Years went by, many, many years and the girl moved away from the town, married had children, and then unexpectedly for various reasons she and her family found themselves living back in the town. Some years after they settled happily in their new home she was reading the local paper and there was the name ‘Tim Stewart’, who was holding an exhibition of his paintings.

The painting! She could now afford the painting… but of course it wouldn’t still be there so many years after that summer exhibition, it would have been sold, or lost, or thrown out… he would have progressed and changed as an artist and probably never painted pictures of trees any more. Well, she would go and have a look at his work, go and see what she thought of his painting now.

To be continued…

Tim Stewart isn’t the real name of the artist by the way!

A mystery… a true story

Here is another true story; these episodes I’m sharing are literally true – some of them may have happened to me, some to friends or family, but I have changed the names and the places and all the details which could identify those involved. This story is a true mystery – even today, many years after the events took place, the people involved talk about it and puzzle about it.

Sonia went away to University, to a city far from her family. She quickly made friends and got to know the others in the same classes as her, and some across the rest of the faculty. She and her friends noticed among the other students a couple of lads; one was quite handsome, greeny-blue eyes, rather wild brown hair, tall and very upright, with metal segs on his shoes so they could always hear him coming down the corridor. His friend was shorter with piercing blue eyes, high forehead, straight broad nose, wide mouth, high cheekbones and shoulder length hair.

Sonia got into conversation with the shorter of the pair, he was in several of the same classes as her. His name was Bohdan Yevtushenko and everyone called him Dan or Danny; another student commented on his unusual name and Danny said it was Ukrainian. Later he and Sonia laughed about the girl who had asked where Ukrainia was. Soon there was a group of friends including Sonia, Danny,  Danny’s friend Chris, and Nick, another lad. In the second year Sonia, Danny and Chris shared a flat, and they stayed together for many years. Chris got married and moved away and Sonia and Danny continued to live together, still very friendly with Nick.

Danny was a very private person, and said little about his own family, but Nick and Sonia knew that he had a brother, Nikolai, also called Nick… it amused them as Sonia had a sister called Nikki. They had never been to visit Danny’s family, but Sonia had an address and would send him postcards when she was visiting her own family and he was with his at Christmas for example. Sonia moved away but still kept in touch, seeing Danny and Nick quite regularly over the years, always exchanging gifts at Christmas, and on birthdays, Danny’s birthday was 21st November.

Tragically and suddenly Danny died, only in his early fifties. Nick and Sonia discovered the address they had for Danny’s family was false… so Sonia had been sending cards to the wrong address. They went to Danny’s funeral and they met his family for the first time… It seems that Danny’s brother wasn’t called Nikolai, he was called Bohdan… The friend they had known for over thirty years was not Bohdan, he was Filip… It might seem strange that for all that time the person they knew as ‘Danny’ had concealed his real name… He was a private person, very private, even to his closest friends. It actually was strange that the name he had chosen to be called by – not just by his friends but by his teachers at uni and his employers and colleagues, was the name of his brother.

Some years later, Sonia visited his grave; she had to smile when she looked at the memorial stone… his birthday was in August… he had even concealed his actual date of birth. He was a very private person.

The true story of a careful driver

This week I am sharing some true stories I wrote some time ago… here is another, and I promise you, it really is true!

This a true story, but the names and some of the details have been changed to protect the guilty!

Raymond was a lovely man, a true gentleman, very kind, very helpful, the nicest guy you could ever meet… but he was soooo boring! He really could bore for England; he was nick-named Tirpitz after the German Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, why he acquired the name is another story.

Tirpitz was a very precise and particular man, as you might imagine; he was a reliable colleague, utterly trustworthy, a happy and devoted husband and father. At lunch time it was inevitable that he would join a conversation and soon everyone would be almost comatose with boredom as he went on, and on, and on, and on… He got a new car, and being the man he was he kept a record of every gallon of petrol he put in the car, how much it cost and how many miles per gallon the car could do.

Many a lunchtime was taken up with the latest mileage of Tirpitz’ spotless car. Alf and Neville who were in the same department as Turpitz had to listen to his stories before work, at coffee break as well as lunchtime and in the sitting about time after work when everyone relaxed and chatted.

One day, Tirpitz was most exited… his car had over the last week done ten extra miles per gallon! It must be his careful driving (he was an advanced driver… but that again is another story) The following week Alf asked him about the car and its MPG… great news! Turpitz’ careful driving, not accelerating too quickly, keeping the windows shut at all time, checking the tyre pressure regularly, had all given him another extra 8mpg!

The following week, by combining journeys so he made fewer trips, by coming to work earlier so he avoided the rush hour he had added another 3mpg!!!

I cannot tell you the end of the tale, I don’t know how the story finished… but I will tell you that Tirpitz did not have a lockable cap on his fuel tank, and I will also tell you that when they had a spare moment, Alf and Neville would nip out, take out the gallon can of petrol Alf had in his car and pour some into Tirpitz’ car. You have heard of syphoning out petrol, this was syphoning it in!