14. Tales from life.
Real True Life Events
The idea for this article came whilst having a drink with my mates. One of them told a story about one of his pigeon fancier mates. He was in the other bar at the time so I was able to verify the details. (It is the first story told).) It was medially funny at the time, and it got me to thinking that there are many wonderful bar tales told that are never recorded. I decided there and then to put them down best as I can. Although they are not repeated exactly verbatim the events, dates and sequences are as told. I have, at all times, tried to verify the exact details and unless stated they are all, to the best of my knowledge true.
Edward Tubby was a racing pigeon fancier, who lived in Choppington, Northumberland. He was an enthusiastic member of ‘The Lord Barrington Racing Pigeon Society’ His pigeons were his pride and joy; he lived for his birds. It has been said that he felt more for them than he did for his wife and kids. Each week during the racing season he sent scores of birds in the hope of a win or at least in the upper half of the lists. Trouble was he very rarely came in the first half dozen, or anyway near, in the many club races he entered his birds for.
Eddie also had a weakness; he loved his birds so much that he just couldn’t bring himself to get rid any of the many birds he had bred. Consequently every breeding season his loft numbers rose until space and the cost of keeping them was all too prohibitive. He had tried to give his lesser birds away to other fanciers but because of his lack of racing success he very rarely had any takers for them. Eventually his loft had got to the point where it just couldn’t accommodate any more birds; he would have to get rid of some of the lesser birds. This, as every other fancier did, meant killing excess birds. Eddie just didn’t have the heart to do the liquidation. Try as he might he just could not summon up the courage to ring the surplus bird’s necks.
Eddie had an idea, he co-hearsed one of his club mates, Benny Hall, into doing the culling.
It was arranged that Benny would stand inside of the loft and Eddie having pointed out a bird that he no longer wanted, would indicate it to Benny. Who promptly and efficiently, caught the bird and rung it’s neck. He then cast it casually into a plastic bag and waited for Eddie to indicate another. Whilst the actual killing was taking place Eddie would look to one side. About five birds were quickly dispatched that way without Eddie seeing any of the killings.
Eventually Eddie said Benny. "That is about all I want to get rid of."
Benny looking around at the still far too many birds said, "Surely you must have more to get rid of than that?"
"No I need all the young birds and what’s left are my past successes."
"Past success’s?" Queried Benny in the certain knowledge that Eddie had rarely been in the fore running for any prizes. "What about that straggly looking red checker in the corner?" Indicating a sorrowful looking bird.
"Oh no!" said Joe "That bird was my first in from Grantham last year."
"Well what about that Blue Barred Hen there?" indicating another old looking bird.
"No, that was first from Hatfield."
Benny still looking perplexed indicated another rough looking old bird.
"Certainly not, that was my first from Beauvais across the channel." Was the pained reply
"Hold on Eddie you’ve never had a club or a fed first in all the time I’ve known you" retorted Benny
"Oh no, not club firsts; of the birds I sent they were the first of mine back to my loft after a race."
"Joe gave up.
Jack lived in Middleton, Leeds 10. After seeing a documentary film about Army dog training he decided to buy an Alsatian puppy. He made up his mind to train it along the lines of how the services handle their dogs. An eight-month-old female puppy was duly acquired. And was re-named Elsa.
Jack then visited the Leeds central library to research dog handling, diets and recommended training techniques. Armed with all this acquired knowledge the training of Elsa began.
Jack had stipulated that no other member of the family was to feed the dog but himself. Elsa would get two balanced meals a day with plenty to drink.
It was envisaged that his dog would not be let out unless it was on a proper lead. Even that had to be held in the correct manner with the dog heeling to Jack’s left hand side with the lead held in the left hand about nine inches from the collar. The right hand held the other end of the lead at high port. No other, but himself was to take the dog out.
Times without number Jack took the dog to the local field to try out his new found training techniques. Either the book was wrong or Jack wasn’t doing it right. The dog steadfastly refused all the aspects of training.
Try as he might the dog would not respond.
The dog had been supposed to be house trained at the onset but that proved to be untrue. Elsa just did her business when and wherever she felt like it. Very rarely did it do any business on the field during training trips but seemed to keep it held back until they were returned indoors. When this happen it was ushered outside where it would then try to escape the surrounding garden.
Jack did not like the idea of chaining the dog up outside when he and his family were out at work or at school but there again it could not be left inside the house alone either, Elsa chewed up everything insight.
Jack built it a smart comfortable kennel and it was allowed to roam around the garden that had a five-foot high stone wall surround.
The dog was now around twelve months old and all attempts or hopes to police train the dog had been abandoned. Because the dog was stupid, Jack’s interest in the dog was non-existent. It always seemed to do the opposite of what it was ordered.
Around this time another dog began visiting Elsa by easily jumping over the five-foot wall. This dog was almost the clone of Elsa. One would swear that they were both from the same litter, perhaps they had been but Jack had no proof of this. To anyone who didn’t know either dog they could have been twins. Elsa soon learnt also to jump the wall with the other dog, to freedom.
Jack or one of his family would come home in the afternoon to find either two dogs in the garden or none at all. The other dog was allowed out to roam the estate at will. This dog would help Elsa to eat its food and then they would both go off exploring, probably not coming back for hours.
Jack was in a dilemma he couldn’t keep the dog indoors whilst the family was out at work nor did he like to chain the dog to it’s kennel because consistent barking to be free annoyed the neighbours. He hated the idea that his dog roamed the streets at will but he was in a ‘catch twenty-two’ situation.
One evening Jacks dog did not come home at all. Jack rang the RSPCA and was informed that the dog warden in the Middleton area had picked up a dog. The dog transpired to be Elsa and a five-pound feeding and kennel fee was demanded for its release. The RSPCA said that an identifying tag should be attached to the dogs collar, Jack complied
Elsa's look alike had not been caught it was too wily for that. Jack vaguely thought if only I had bought that dog rather than the senseless one that he had.
Four months later the dog Elsa was again caught by the Dog warden and a phone call informed Jack that it was again being held down at the Armley RSPCA branch. Another fee of five pounds was demanded for its return. Jack had the idea of leaving the dog there but now the dog was traceable to him. He again went down to secure the dogs release.
Elsa and the other dog remained inseparable and when Jack’s dog was kept in the house it would howl unceasingly until it was let out to rejoin and roam with the other dog.
Eventually Jack decided he had had enough of the dog and tried to find it an alternative home but no one wanted a two year old second hand Alsation.
Jack had a son of eighteen who, for the past two years, had not lived at home. One day his son David asked his father if he could come back home to live. Jack agreed. And David returned home to live.
The second evening Jack asked his son if he would like to earn himself a fiver. When asked how? Jack said by taking Elsa to the RSPCA dog’s home to be put down. At that time it did not cost anything for animal disposal other than a small donation to the collection box. David agreed and said he would do it the next morning. Jack arranged that a five-pound note plus bus fare money and donation would be left on the kitchen table before he went out to work the coming morning.
Jack left the money as arranged and went to work. On his return he noticed that the money had gone but the dog was still in the garden. Jack was incensed that the money had been taken but the job had not been done. When David arrived back in later that evening Jack immediately jumped on him berating him for not doing the job but still taking the money.
"But I did take the dog." Replied his son. "I took it first thing this morning."
The truth dawned on Jack His son had taken the wrong dog. It was an excusable mistake, Jack and the regular members of the family knew the difference but newcomer David did not.
What could be done? Jack immediately phoned the Armley Road, RSPCA but was informed that if the dog had been brought in before mid-day then without doubt the dog had definitely been put down.
The next day Jack arranged for the dog Elsa to be taken by David to the dog’s home. That evening when asked if he had done the deed David said that when he had again taken another dog to be disposed of the receptionist refused to take the dog. She accused David of picking dogs up in the Street threatening to call the Police. David beat a hasty retreat, later sneaking back to tie the dog up outside the RSPCA’s railings.
To tell, or not to tell, the owner of the other dog? That was a problem Jack decided to keep it quite, for a while at least. The less said the soonest mended.
Jack did inform the owner, Tommy Preston. of the other dog about three days later offering to pay him what his dog originally cost. He was very understanding accepting how the mistake could have been made. His parting comment was " Don’t tell the wife she was very fond of that dog, she assumed the gypsy’s at the local fair had stolen her."
To this day I think she still assumes that.
Tony E. is a down to earth sort of character, a man you could trust your life on. He will recognise himself and will not be offended if I say he is not one to worry about him not being at the height of dress fashion. He is always comfortable in whatever he wears. Every year about a dozen mates get together for a male only holiday in Benidorm. We have gone there for the past Eight years and are looking forward to the next eight. We always go the Spanish festival week in November; any other time would be unthinkable.
A great boozing week is always enjoyed by all.
Last year after having another good time we entered Alicante airport for our return journey to the UK. Our suitcases had been checked in and aeroplane seat tickets assigned.
We proceed to the departure lounge and the duty-free area. First we had to walk through the magnetron metal detector. In Alicante it is just like walking through and open door-case without the door. A bell sounds if it detects any metal presence about the body.
My belt buckle caused the bell to ring and on taking off the belt and passing it to one of the Spanish guards, I passed though the detector without it again sounding. One other of our party had to hand in a heavy Zippo lighter to the guard before he could pass through. Everyone else passed though without the bell warning of a metal presence, everyone that is except Tony.
He took of his belt and after walking through the bell sounded again.
He handed in his lighter and walked, still the warning bell sounded.
By this time all our party had stopped and was watching the proceedings. Other travellers were walking through with no bell sounding but as soon as Tony tried to get through the alarm went off.
Next came his metal coins, still the alarm sounded.
Numerous groups of travellers were watching the now hilarious proceedings, wondering what metal could Tony be carrying. Tony’s attempted assurances that he wasn’t in possession of any metal carried no weight with the guard.
Then Tony remembered the metal plate that carried his upper false denture plate. It could hardly be them he tried to reason but the guard was insistent that he could not proceed until the warning was silenced.
Tony took out his false teeth plate, thinking there may be some metal amalgam in them. He handed them to the guard in a supplied paper handkerchief. Still no joy the alarm was as loud as ever.
By this time crowds had stopped to witness Tony’s embarrassment and to have a good laugh at his expense.
The guard physically searched him with his hands but could find no metal about his person. Still the warning sounded.
At last the guard decided on another tack, he went into his little side cubicle and produced a hand held metal detector. He began to scan the instrument over Tony’s body, starting at his head and working slowly down. No alarm sounded until he reached his feet then it went off. Tony realised that he was wearing industrial steel toe-capped shoes that he had been issued with at work.
Embarrassed at the discovery and at the obvious amusement of the crowd, Tony had to remove his shoes before walking through the Magnetron once more. The detector remained silent and a huge applause sounded from the onlookers. Tony took a bow.
If I had been in Tony’s shoes, literally I would have wished the ground could have opened up in my embarrassment. Not Tony he took it all in good part, even having a good laugh at himself.
As I’ve indicated, the likes of Tony are the salt of the earth.
The Thorpe Hotel. Middleton, Leeds 10 was often nicknamed ‘The Rat-Trap’, why? I will explain a little later in the story.
There were many wags and characters that frequented the Rat-trap but any regular of the Thorpe Hotel will instantly recognise the name Eric MacAndrew, Eric Mac for short. Eric was no intellectual, far from it, but he had an extremely agile mind. He was a very skilled Domino and card player and when circumstances deemed fit could cheat with the best of them. There are untold numbers of stories about Eric but I can only relate my own experiences. For instance:
Eric said to me one night "Jack what are you and your brother doing tonight?" When I replied "Nowt" he suggested that my brother Jim and I go with him and his mate, Kenny, down to Hunslet drinking for a change. He’d won a little money on the dogs and the drinks for the night were on him. Anything for a free drink, Jim and I readily agreed. A taxi was booked and the four of us were soon ensconced in the Anchor pub. After a short pub-crawl in the Harrogate and Brassy, Eric said that there was a darts and Domino match in the Robin Hood pub next door.
When we arrived the domino match had just finished Eric said to one of the visiting team, "Who’s your captain?" The man replied that he was, (Eric had known this all along) "Fancy a game on the side?" The captain agreed and they set up a domino table. "And I’ll play the vice captain." added Kenny. Again a second table was set up at the side of Eric’s.
The agreed initial stake was half a crown first to four chalks. I sat to one side watching Eric hand of dominoes to see how he played. It was Eric’s go and I saw him knock when he could go. Do I tell him? The unwritten rule is none players off the green, see all and say nowt. I kept quite. Times without number Eric knocked when he could go and he easily got beat that first set of games. A few times when it was a count up Eric threw his dominoes in saying to his opponent, "I’ll give you it." Even though he had little to count himself. Half a crown I owe you, make it five bob or nowt? Asked Eric. The other man agreed it was like taking candy from a baby.
Soon Eric, by his own fault, lost the next game and now it was ten bob or nothing. From his opponent’s point of view, Eric seemed to be out of his depth and losing badly. When it became two-pound or nothing Eric allowed himself to just win that game by four to three. Having manipulated the stake to two pound a game Eric was now having luck He soon cleaned the visiting domino captain out of his money and then asked if anyone wanted to challenge him. Plenty of takers came forward. All this time Kenny was playing steadily in the background. I couldn’t see if he was winning or losing. To cut a long story short the pub was closing and eventually we four made our way out to an awaiting taxi.
"Kenny give Jimmy a pound note." Said Eric "And I’ll give Jack one. I made Thirteen pound ten shilling’s. How much did you make?"
"Seven came the reply"
"Hold it Ken, you won eleven quid. You played the first game for a dollar and lost, then the second for a…" Eric then went on to describe every game that Kenny had played. He not only remembered the result of every game that he had played in but also the scores and who won..
"Oh! Yeah he said pulling out two one pound notes from his top pocket "yeah you are right Eleven Quid.
Obviously both of them had earlier agreed to share their winning’s. I later found out that the night had been planned in advance and that they both carried out their scam regularly. Jim and I couldn’t have cared less we’d had a complete free nights booze and a pound note on top. A good night was enjoyed by all.
Another story about Eric Mac:
I, along with five others, was playing three-card brag. Brag, for those who don’t know the game, is a gambling card game where each player is dealt three cards face down. The winner is the last one in with the highest hand. A player can stake money on his cards as his turn comes round. He can either brag ‘Blind’ (not looking at his cards) then he pays the set ante or ‘open’ (having looked at his cards) paying double the ante. If a player does not think he has a good enough to win the game then he discards them
The game finishes when only two players still have their cards and the winner is the one with the highest hand.
Having no way of knowing the strength of other players cards quite often one can throw away a hand that could have beaten the eventual winner.
We had been playing about an hour when Eric walked in and came over to our table. Just then it was generally agreed to halt the game momentarily for a couple of players to go to the toilet. I remained seated.
"Fools game that Jack." Eric over the table to me, said.
"Yes I know Eric but it passes the time."
"Let me show you something he said picking up the cards. He shuffled them and handed them for me to cut. I did so. Eric then proceeded to deal four hands of three cards face down.
"Look at you cards he instructed me and three others who were sat round the table. "Tell me if you’d brag on the hand."
"I’d brag on these." I said keeping them close to my chest. I had an Ace King Queen. A very strong hand in a normal game it will win 85 games out of a hundred.
"How far would you go with them?" Eric replied.
"All the money in my pocket and then I’d go borrow some more."
The other two players said they had good hands as well and would certainly keep on bragging.
"Then you would all lose. Turn your hands over."
I turned over my AKQ
The other two respectively turned over three queens and three Aces. Queens being the third largest hand possible and the aces the second.
"And you would all lose there is the winning hand." And with a flourish he turned over his three threes. The highest hand possible.I didn’t do much three card bragging much after that.
Eric loved to go on the land ‘rabbiting’. He often took out his Jack Russell dog and ferrets netting rabbit holes and sending his ferret down the burrow to catch the bolting live rabbits. After he would usually call in at the Rat-Trap taproom for a pint. His dog would sleep quietly in a corner. More often than no any old aged pensioner in the bar would be given a free rabbit, otherwise they would be sold off for a half crown (12 1½ p) each
His ferrets would be held in a draw-string banker’s bag and left on the table. This particular evening Eric decided to have a bit of fun
"I’m going to draw the Christmas handicap prize tickets." He loudly announced to the room. "Can I have a lady to draw them?" Eric walked over to Mrs Fetch and proffered the open drawstring bag to her, indicating she should draw a number out of it. She did as she was asked but wasn’t expecting to feel a soft furry alive creature in it. As soon as she felt the ferret she gave out a shriek and quickly withdrew her hand but not as fast as the ferret. It gripped its teeth into Mrs Fetch’s fingers and when she withdrew her hand the ferret came with it. The whole pub could see the funny side of the joke and burst out laughing, not so Mrs Fetch. She was in pain
Eric quickly took hold of the ferret and squeezed his fingers at either side of the ferret’s jaw and it released Mrs Fetch’s fingers. Eric profusely apologised he hadn’t meant for the lady to be bitten or hurt. He went to the bar and bought her a Rum and Peppermint. This quietened her somewhat; in fact Eric bought her many rums that night so all was taken in good part.
A third and final story is how ‘The Thorpe Hotel’ got its nickname "The Rat-Trap.
Eric Mac had been 'Ratting' down at the local refuse tip with his Jack Russell dog. He fetched a half-dead rat back with him and placed it on the toilet paper holder in a cubicle in the ladies toilet.
Alice Crosswaite, an older regular customer, went into the cubicle for a pee. She sat down and as she raised her eyes they became level with the rat. She fled the toilets with her nickers round her knees screaming that a rat had tried to attack her. The rat may have moved because it had been still alive, but it was in no state to attack her. A good laugh was enjoyed by all and thereby a pub nickname was born.
It was November 1953; I was just turned seventeen.
Being young and foolish I decided that I wanted to look more virile and resolved to have a tattoo on my arm.
The county town of Yorkshire was the only tattoo parlour that I knew of, so York it was to be.
On entering the parlour I was amazed at the tattooist arms, they were covered in a blue permanent skin stain. Every time he wanted to check his needles were sharp enough he would test them on his own arms. He had been doing the job for years consequently there was no skin on his arms that had not been penetrated with his needles.
The walls of the parlour were covered in a myriad of emblem designs. I eventually chose a tiger’s head to go on my right forearm.
Initially the skin penetrating needle hurt but I resisted the urge to pull my arm away. Nevertheless I was glad when the engraver had finished. I felt so proud it made me feel older than my years.
I now wanted to show off my manliness. Being tall I looked old enough to go into the local pub, The Thorpe Hotel. Middleton, Leeds 10
As soon as I entered the pub taproom I took off my coat and rolled up my sleeves. I tried to make it appear, as that is what I usually do. The rest of the clientele had kept their coats on and were muffled up after all it was November and the pub heating wasn’t very efficient. I carried my pint of bitter to a table where my Uncle Fred was playing a game of dominoes with three others. Sitting down I nonchalantly tried to show off my newly acquired tattoo. No one seemed to be looking at it or showing any interest.
I put my right elbow to the side of the table and touched my cheek with my fingers.
"Got a new tattoo have you Jack?" my uncle asked.
"Oh! My tattoo, yeah." I wanted it to sound off-handed as though it was an every day occurrence.
George Show him yours."
George was an old sailor he was my Uncle Fred’s Uncle.
"Away Fred lets get on with the game."
"Show him yours George. Come on it’s a long time since I’ve seen it anyway."
George genuinely wasn’t bothered about showing his tattoo. But eventually he decided that the domino game would not continue until his tattoo was shown.
In those days most men wore a suit, shirt and tie. George unbuttoned his coat, took off his tie, undid the first three buttons off his shirt and pulled his shirt wide open.
I was amazed at the tattoo on his chest. I could only see part of the permanent skin design but what I could see was most impressive. Uncle Fred then described what the tattoo was supposed to be about. He said that it depicted Madam butterfly who flew too near a lighted candle and got her wings burned. The centre of his chest showed a naked flame candle. The nude human form of Madam butterfly, with multicoloured wings, was drooped over the candle. I could just see that the edges of her wings looked singed from the candle flame. I was told that the tattoo started at neckline, spread down either arm, covered most of the chest and the depicted figure stretched way down below pubic hair level.
In my travels I have seen many tattoo’s from ‘Death before dishonour, ‘ to hounds chasing a fox that is disappearing down ones backside but to this day I have never ever seen a more finer tattoo on any person or on any paper design for one.
After a suitable period of time I rolled down my shirtsleeves and put my coat back on.
In 1971 I was working for Roy Roofing Ltd of Leeds when they gained a contract for roofing work within the Newcastle area. Three mates Jack, Jim, Laurie and myself were dispatched to carry out the contract. It was scheduled to last Six weeks, on a week on week off basis. We got weekly B. and B. in the Whitley Bay area.
Every evening, after first having a drink in ‘The Royal’ or ‘The Avenue’ the four of us would visit a night-club from midnight to Two am.
Mr Pickwick was the owner/manager of the Pickwick club in Whitely Bay; the club we visited. The club was in the cellars of the building overlooking the sea front across from the Spanish City amusements. His proper name was not Mr Pickwick that was only the nickname we attached to him.
One of the four of us, whom I will not name but will call Billy, had an aversion to strange toilet seats. He always tried very hard not to use any public toilet unless it was urgent. Consequently he had a habit of never sitting down on a strange toilet seat but instead would lift the seat lid and stand, crouched down, on the pan to do his business.
On particular evening Billy felt the urgent need to ‘go’. Mr Pickwick was in attendance overseeing his club and nodded to Billy as he entered the Gents outer toilet door.
As usual Billy crouched down on the toilet pan to do his business. He had no sooner began his motions than he must have put two much weight on to one side of the toilet. The toilet securing screws came away for the pan’s floor base and it overturned, shattering to the floor. Billy opened the cubical door and was aghast at the solid waste and water that was now awash on the floor. He sobered up instantly. As he was about to make an attempt at cleaning up the mess he heard the outer toilets door being opened, someone was about to enter. Not knowing what to do for the best Billy adjusted himself as best he could and went to stand at the urinals in the pretence of having a pee.
A man entered and immediately his eyes lighted on the mess on the toilet floor. Billy decided to pre-empt the man's comment and said. "Have you seen that mess? Some vandals will never learn."
The other man nodded. "I’d better inform the manager about that." He said and with that he turned about and left.
Billy’s heart skipped a beat, the damage was almost certainly attributable to him and almost certainly he would have to pay for it. The destruction of the toilet would cost him the earth. He had very little money on him or even back at the digs.
Billy could hear the outside door open, then close, and then open again. As the inner door opened Mr Pickwick entered. When the shattered toilet pan and the water and solid waste on the floor were pointed out to him, he immediately said. "I know who has done this."
Billy’s heart sank.
"Who?" enquired the other man.
After what seemed like ages to Billy the manager answered. "It’s the Newcastle Mafia they are always vandalising my premises. They have made me an offer to buy me out but I ‘v so far refused. This must be their way of warning me, that they will not tolerate any more refusals.
Billy heaved a huge sigh of relief; he was in the clear. He nodded in feigned sympathy at Mr Pickwick dilemma.
From that day to this Billy has never again crouched down on a toilet seat. Now he crouches down with his feet fixed firmly to the floor.
Where Brian Old lived when he told me this tale is anybody’s guess for he was of NFA. No fixed abode. He was born and bred in Leeds and married and divorced a Middldeton, Leeds lass. All his life he had been self-employed and if you were to ask him, "what at?" His reply would be "Anything that brings in a dollar." He was a working class entrepreneur.
I was in a pub with him one day and happened to ask if he had any snide Rolex watches left. Snide meaning fake. Three months earlier he had sold seven of these fake Rolex’s to customers of the Thorpe Hotel for six pounds each. He had rightly informed them that the watches, although not genuine, were very good copies even to having a serial number engraved on the back. As most of the buyers had never seen a real Rolex anyway they were happy with their purchase and quite happy to part with their money as much as Brian was happy to relieve them of it. This was in the sixties when fake designer gear was in its infancy and very few people had come across it.
In answer to my question of, " had he any watches left?" the answer was. "No but therein lies a tale."
After selling four of the fake watches in our local Brian had eleven left. The next day he decided to go to the Ebor Horse Race Meeting at York to get rid of a few. As he began the salesman’s pitch to each would be punter he would hint that the watch in question was the subject of a jewellers robbery and that it was genuine, even to proving it with the engraved serial number. Because he had lost heavy on the races, here was almost a hundred-pound watch going for a twenty quid. After much haggling he would allow the punter to barter him down to giving him around half of what he originally asked. He sold the lot, except one, within the afternoon. The last one he decided to hang on to and get the best price possible.
A very good business acquaintance, called Mick came up to him and said "Brian have you any Snide Rolex’s left?"
Brian said that he had only one left but that he wanted the best price possible, certainly over a tenner, for it.
"Give it to me, I think I’ve got just the punter for it. Meet me in the Horse and Jockey tonight just after Seven thirty and I’ll pay you out." Brian handed over the watch, he could trust Mick, there was honour among thieves at that time.
After the race meeting Brian had a few beers in a couple of pubs and arrived in the Horse and Jockey pub at a half past Six. There were a few people in the bar but not his mate. He knew that if his mate had said seven thirty then seven thirty would he be in. As he was standing at the bar four people came in, two males accompanied by two females all of about twenty. Brian described them to me as ‘Hooray Henrys’ he said he particularly noticed that one of them was wearing a snide Rolex and he had not sold it to him.
The four drinks were ordered and Brian was in earshot of what they were saying. One of the males said to his group, "If Mick does not come into this bar before Seven as he promised then we are on our way."
Mick did not enter the bar and exactly on the stroke of seven the four drank up and left the bar.
Just after seven thirty Mick came into the bar and joined Brian. Brian said to Mick that there had been four ‘Hooray Henries’ looking for him in the pub earlier but they had left at Seven. Mick grinned then went into his pocket and surreptitiously handed Brian a sheaf of notes. "Forty pounds there, that’s for the watch."
Brian was of course highly delighted with the amount. "How come you got so much?"
Mick described that earlier that afternoon he had approached the four earlier mentioned persons whom he knew vaguely and asked one of them for a loan of a hundred pounds. They refused, he was not known to them that well. Mick emphasised that their money would be safe as he had a tip for a horse in the last race. It was a certain winner; he had inside information on it. They still refused to lend him the money.
"Look," Mick said, "I leave my Rolex with you as surety. It’s worth all of a Hundred and Fifty quid. I will meet you in the Horse and Jockey tonight to reclaim my watch and repay you the hundred plus a good interest on the money. The horse is certain to win my watch is as safe as houses."
At the suggestion that Mick would leave this valuable watch, one punter realised that he couldn’t lose on the deal. He agreed to lend him eighty pound against the watch provided he told them what the name of the horse was. Mick told them a name that he had already looked up in the card and picked the least horse possible to win the last race. He told them the name and when they looked at the horse’s form they laughed, in that it had no chance of winning. But Mick was on a hiding to nothing and it was no skin off their nose; eighty pounds was handed over.
Obviously the horse lost. As far as the ‘Hooray Henries were concerned the watch was now theirs. It was highly unlikely Mick would be able to redeem it. They had entered and left the pub exactly as previously arranged feeling that their obligations had been fulfilled. Now they wanted to be as far away from the pub as possible just in case Mick returned to redeem his watch.
The wages of greed.
Joe, he will not mind if I call him an old sea salt, drank in the Lord Barrington Pub in Choppington, Northumberland. I got talking to him one Sunday afternoon and from that time on I hope he considers me as a friend.
Joe’s retired now but all his working life has been spent at sea. From leaving school at fifteen he worked the off shore fishing smacks and served a portion of his time in the Merchant Navy. He’s visited more of the countries of the world than he’s missed.
He had a number of tales to remeniss about and when he learnt that I had been born and Bred in Leeds he began a story.
"The last time I was in Leeds," he began, "was in 1952. Earlier that year I had been called up to register for my two years National Conscription. At the Medical when I was asked what service I wanted to join I naturally answered the Royal Navy. I was told that to join the Navy I would have to enlist for a minimum of Three years. When I protested that I only wanted to do my minimum two years they replied that I would have to register for one of the other two services, the Army or the Royal Airforce. I opted for the army and was soon on my way to Catterick after enlisting in the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.
To cut a long story short I couldn’t stand the regimentation. Little snotty nosed lieutenants still in their mother’s nappies acting like god. Warrant officers and sergeants yelling down my ear on the parade ground. Shitty Lance Jacks telling me to clean the ablutions whilst they stood over me telling me they were not clean enough.
No," Joe continued, "it was not for me. First chance I got I was over the wire and away I reckoned that the Military Police would soon be looking for me in Blyth where my last known address was so South it was to be. I began hitching a lift down the A1, The Great North Road it was called then. A lorry stopped that was going to Leeds so Leeds seemed as good a place as any other. That night I kipped out on an outside market stall. I didn’t want to risk going to the railway station where it would have been warmer for fear of being picked up by the Redcaps for I was still in uniform. Later in the afternoon I met a fellar in the Mad House pub (Market Tavern) who arranged for me to get some cheap civvy clothes. He told me that there were labouring jobs going on a large building site up Chaple-Allerton. Anyway I got a job on the buildings and soon a cheap bedsitter. I had been in Leeds a few weeks and all seemed to be going well but I missed the Northeast. I met this woman and took her out to the pictures, the Odeon Cinema on The Headrow. The film had just about begun when suddenly it stopped and all house lights went up. At every exit was stationed a bobby. An announcement was made that the police was about to interview everyone within the cinema. At the time I thought that it seemed a bit extreme going to all this trouble for me just because I was AWOL. When they came to me I admitted who I was and gave myself up. The police placed me under arrest and I had to wait for a Military Police escort to take me back to my barracks.
My CO gave me fifty-six days in the Military prison at Colchester and that experience made me not want to AWOL ever again. The irony of it all was that even after serving the fifty six days it didn’t count towards my National Service I still had to do my recruit training and two years conscription.
I later learnt that the Police were not looking for me, the reason they had invaded the cinema was that two youths had earlier tried to hold up a jewellers on North Street with a loaded pistol. When the jeweller had resisted the lad holding the pistol had panicked and fired. After the attempted robbery one of the two had been witnessed to fleeing into the cinema.
The jeweller subsequently died. Both were later apprehended and charged with murder. The death sentence was in effect at the time and they were both found guilty. Because the one who fired the shot was under eighteen he got away with a lifetime jail sentence. The other, who took no hand in the shooting, was over eighteen and was topped."
I could relate to Joe’s tale. I was born and bred in Leeds, I knew both youths who had committed the robbery. Although two years older than myself, the one who fired the shot originally went to the same school and only lived a few streets from me.
I will not name here the two youths but it is quite a well-known robbery.
Soon after Joe was demobbed he got a job with a sea fishing fleet and eventually made it his full time occupation. He recalled many events about his maritime career but the most memorable one he related to me happened just off the coast at Blyth, Northumberland. One summer evening just two of them, his skipper and himself were trawling for cod a couple of miles out between Whitley Bay and Blyth. The trawl nets they were using were stretched out over 600 yards in length. (About 650 Metres) This particular evening they felt that they had what they considered to be quite a good weight in their nets and so they began to haul them in by hand.
Towards the end of the net a naked mans body was revealed. Joe remembers it as a ghastly sight the flesh had obviously been eaten away in parts by fish. The eyes were still open but one of the eyeballs looked to have been eaten away. The remaining flesh resembled a white jelly that surrounded the bones. The fish in their attempt to escape the nets were thrashing about making the body move to and fro as if alive in the nets. Parts of the flesh were becoming dislodged from the skeleton and a few fish could be seen eating it.
The hauling in of the nets had to stop and the skipper radioed out to the coastguard at Newbiggin to report the event. The skipper was ordered to continue sailing towards Newbiggin harbour and then anchor just outside the mouth of it. On no account were they to enter the harbour or make any attempt to land the corpse.
Joe tells me that every time he looked at the corpse it seemed to be looking at him from its single solitary eye.
The skipper did as he had been ordered and a coastguard vessel soon arrived. With a tarpaulin covered scoop the body was borne away. The operation was carried out in a most efficient manner, to them it was just another one of many that they had extracted out of the sea.
Some of the flesh was still attached to the fishing boats net twine and although a water hose washed most of it off, some slight remains were still in evidence.
He has dreamed many times of the occurrence.
It transpired that the corpse was the body of a young man in his early twenties who had perhaps a few too many to drink suddenly announcing to his friends that he was going skinny dipping in the sea off Whitely Bay. Unfortunately he must have got into difficulties and drowned. Six weeks later his body had been caught up in Joe’s skippers nets.
Tom was a German; I met him on holiday in Tenerife 1998 I know Tom sounds an odd name for a German but I swear that is his name. He now lives in Robhaupter Strasse, Munchen. One of the reasons we got on together was that I had served in Berlin with the British Army and he had been born and bred there. He liked to practise his English and I my broken German. Tom told me as a boy he grew up in communist controlled, Eastern sector of Berlin with his father, mother and younger sister. His father, Hans Otto, was a minor bureaucrat in the local communist government. They lived in a two bed-roomed flat with a small front room. The kitchen, bathroom and toilet had to be shared with another family on the same floor as themselves. His mother and father occupied one bedroom whilst he and his four year old sister shared the other. By all accounts this accommodation was considered quite luxurious as was befitting a minor local government employee.
Out of the rear window Tom said that he could see the famous Berlin wall; although at that time he could not see the significance of it. He was much too young to understand the politics of the area. It had been pointed out to him that if he stood on a chair and squinted sideways he could just see the checkpoint at Freidrich Strasse. Although again, it wasn’t important to him at the time for he knew not what Checkpoint Charlie was. Not that anyone in the East called it checkpoint Charlie anyway.
He does however remember hearing gunshots at one time, he thought it was a car backfiring, his mother rushed to the rear window to look out. When he joined her she pointed out a figure that was entangled among the primary barbed wire fence about ten metres from the actual wall. The figure was not moving and the East German guards did not go to examine the inert figure but kept their distance. The body of the man, Tom assumes it was a man, was left in place all the daylight hours and no one attended to it. By the next morning it was gone, the guards must have removed it during the night. He remembers asking his mother for an explanation but all she would say to him and his sister was that could happen to you if you go too near the wire. He remembers being quite frightened of even looking at the twenty metres of ploughed land before the wire and then the wall. It transpired that the person, a man, had tried to cross from the East half of the city into the Allied West by trying to climb over the wire and then the wall but the Vopo guards had fired on him without giving any warning. His body had been left in place, as a deterrent to any other would be escapees.
Later, as a sign of respect, Black, Yellow and Orange ribbons of the German national colours and a photo-plaque were placed adjacent to the spot where the man fell but were soon torn down and discarded by the border guards.
Towards the backend of 1962 when he was just about ten, he remembers that his father seemed to work a lot more hours that he ever did before. Prior to this his father always played with him and his sister before being tucked up in bed with a story. At this time rarely did he see his father other than a few hours of a weekend. He didn’t put much score to this for he was far too young to understand the coming implications.
Tom told me that he recalls many of his physical memories but he later has had to rely on his mother’s explanations to see the overall picture of events.
One time he remembers being woken up from his bed whilst it was still dark and being told to dress quickly and quietly. When he entered the front room his father mother and sister were fully dressed but the room light was not on. When he tried to speak he was hushed into silence. His father whispered instructions that at no time must anyone say anything unless asked. Total silence must be kept on their coming journey. When Tom tried to ask where they were going on the journey his father, more sternly this time, told him that he would answer all his question when they arrived wherever they were going but that he was not to question anything that was about to happen.
A plan of action must have been pre-formed because after opening the front door of their apartment and making sure no one was around his mother, with his sister, left leaving his father and himself behind. What seemed like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, his father checked the corridor outside and taking him by the hand ushered Tom out. They both moved out of the apartment building into the early morning darkness. Where his father led him Tom does not know but it was around a five-minute walk from where they lived. All the time his father hurried him along keeping close to building walls and looking furtively around. Soon they entered what appeared to be a derelict building. It looked as if it had been bombed during the Second World War and probably had without any reparations. Among the debris was what appeared to be a manhole cover strewn with bricks. Tom’s father began moving the bricks to one side and began clearing the metal cover. From out of the darkness another figure emerged and helped Toms father lift the cover. Tom was urged down the hole where he could just see a wooden ladder where down below he could just make out a faint light. His father followed and the other man replaced the cover. Tom could hear the bricks being replaced atop of the cover as camouflage.
On reaching the bottom Tom found himself in what he now knows to be a sewer where many of its sides had caved in. The sewer tunnel came to an abrupt end where it had totally collapsed. Here now was his mother and sister waiting calmly for the next turn of events. There were also about twenty others also waiting patiently. Initially Tom says he was very frightened by the close surroundings but everyone else seemed calm so he urged himself to remain so.
At right angles to this main sewer another tunnel had been newly constructed and the sides and roof shored up with timber. Tom could see that it was reasonably lit by candlelight. Men were crawling backwards pulling sacks of what he assumed was earth and stones then returning for more. Obviously the tunnel was not yet complete.
People were now allowed to quietly whisper amongst themselves. Up to this stage Tom or his sister had not said a word. Tom’s father explained to the waiting group that the tunnel was about complete but that they dare not break through on the other side until night-time some fourteen hours away. He said to make ourselves as comfortable as was possible and to try to get some sleep then the time will seem to go faster.
Tom was too exited to go to sleep and asked his mother what this adventure was about. His mother replied that they were going to live in a free land on the other side of the wall. She explained that they would be happier there. Tom remembers this an odd explanation didn’t anyone pay for the things they needed, was everything free? What was wrong with the place that the lived he was happy there, wasn’t his mother and father happy? He liked the idea of things being free though.
Many preparations must have been made for the long-stay underground for food and water was offered at intervals. Tom’s mother handed his sister her favourite doll for comfort and then gave Tom a ‘Happy Families’ card game for him to play with another boy of about his age. A chessboard was produced and the adult members gathered round and a game commenced.
After what seemed like years another man announced that the time had come to proceed further. The women were instructed to make sure their children went first along the tunnel with themselves going behind them urging them forward. Each were told of their position in the queue. The leader would be a man but the rest of the men would take their turns at the back. Tom’s father explained to his wife and children that for a short time they would be separated but would soon join up at the other side.
Soon it was time for the leading man and then the children of the first family and mother to enter the tunnel. Six people entered before it was Tom, his sister and mother’s turn. He was very apprehensive about entering the small tunnel; he estimated it to be around 1 metre in height and width. No one else was complaining about the closed in conditions and his father had assured him all would be all right.
After what a very long crawl the tunnel came to an abrupt end again a stepladder was in position and the climb out to the surface was possible. The outside was the cellar of another apartment block. Willing hands helped them all out. There now seemed a lot of strangers present men who were not there initially. Perhaps they were there to greet them to their coming new life. All the families now seemed to be out and the women-folk were now waiting for their husbands.
Suddenly there were muffled shouts coming from within the tunnel. Two or three men were scrambling out of the hole. "There been a collapse" one mumbled. All the women who had not got their men out surged forward to the hole as if their presence would help to extricate their man. After about ten minutes another man came out and announced that a total collapse had occurred in the tunnel about where it had crossed the street, before the wall, on the Eastern side.
"Has anyone been buried?" someone urgently asked.
"It appears so but how far back the collapse is it’s hard to tell." The same man then gave instruction that the cellar had to be cleared of women and children. Tools had to be brought from this side and digging would have to be started.
The cellar was cleared as ordered
It transpired that on the eastern side where the tunnel crosses the road a heavy tank-transporter had driven along the road. The roadway had subsided under the weight. Later it was discovered that a tunnel had been dug. Four men had been arrested trying to dig their comrade out of the collapsed tunnel. One man had died from suffocation. Tom’s dad had been one of the arrested men. He was later tried in a court for offences against the state and was jailed for eight years. Tom’s mother was not allowed to re-cross the border to visit her husband, she would have been arrested and tried; nor were her children. Hans Otto died in jail before the wall came down never having seen his wife and children again since that fateful day. Tom thinks it was from a broken heart.
Tom is still looking for something that is free in the West.
Jimmy was a collier who worked at the Boomer Sund mine in Choppington, Northumberland. He had worked there from being a lad of fourteen now being twenty-one. The year was early1939 and Jimmy was working the 'Yard Seam' as a coal-filler.
His job entailed working a seam of coal, a yard, or in most cases under a yard high shovelling coal into tubs.
The more tubs he filled the more money he got. Trouble was that because of the many coalmines around, there was no urgent need for coal. Wages were at an all time low and one had to work at full capacity just to provide a liveable wage.
Then disaster struck, water began to seep into the seam. The further the advancement of the face the more water crept in. It was estimated that an overhead dyke was about to be breached. Water would seep onto the face for many months to come until the seam's advancement past it. The seepage of water did not affect other off face workers but to hand fillers like Jimmy it was the most uncomfortable job down the pit.
Water money was granted but it was a small pittance when compared to the disagreeable conditions. Jimmy and his like had to work whilst kneeling in almost three inches of water. The water had a high salt content and often dripped from the strata above down ones back. A rash of sores spread upon Jim’s back and soon enough was enough.
In June 1939 Neville Chamberlain held up his piece of paper after visiting Adolf Hitler an announced to the world that there would be "Peace in our time." And almost everyone believed him, everyone that is except the German Chancellor who was about to invade Poland. Of course at the time nobody realised that a war was in the offing.
" I've had enough, I’m calling it a draw." Announced Jimmy to his mates "I’m off to join the Army"
Most of his fellow workers couldn’t blame him but unlike Jim many had families to keep.
Jim joined the Northumberland Fusiliers and soon began training as 397 Fusilier Jamieson. J.
Incidentally shortly after this time it was decided by management and the coal owner of Boomer Sund Pit that the Yard Seam was uneconomical to work coal prices being what the were at the time. Yard Seam was closed and more lucrative seams opened.
If Jimmy had only waited a few months his problem would have solved itself. But too late Jimmy was in the army.
Basic recruit training, at that time was very severe and more than once did Jimmy think he'd made a serious mistake in joining up. To Jimmy it was like being in a strange life all these soldiers with stripes on their arms could order Jimmy to jump and all Jimmy could do in reply was, "how high?" Jim was out of his depth his eight-week training period was the loneliest time of his life. Many times he felt like absconding back to the life and coalmine that he now regretted leaving.
But soon his eight-week basic training was completed and he was posted to his where his battalion was stationed, Aldershot. Life was a little easier but not that much, anyone with a stripe or a pip could tell him what to do which never went down easy with Jim.
In August 1939 Britain declared war on Germany.
Early 1940 Jimmy and his regiment were posted in France. A big Push by Germany left the British main expeditionary force stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk desperately waiting for evacuation back to the UK. Jimmy was a member of a platoon whose duties was rearguard defence. He and most of his platoon became cut off, captured and taken prisoner. He, along with many others, were entrained and sent deep into Germany to be incarcerated in Stalagluft 137 at Dousseldorf.
For the rest of the war Jimmy relapsed in this prison camp until early 1945 when he was transported to a prisoner of war camp nearer Berlin, there spending the rest of the war until the American allies released him.
Jim was soon on his way back to England and was demobbed. He returned back to his native Choppington with a grey pinstriped demob suit and severance pay, which was a tidy little sum by those day’s standards.
He soon took up courting the lass he had been seeing before leaving to join the army. Marriage was on the cards and planned for.
Jimmy’s severance money was not going to last long without gainful employment; it soon began to dwindle. Jimmy had to get a job; trouble was there were many hundreds of other ex-servicemen also looking for jobs. Immediately after the war positions were not easy to come by.
There was only one solution open to him; he would have to go back down the pit.
Jim secured a job back down at the Boomer Sund.
Jim soon found out about the Yard Seam that had closed, soon after he had left, because if uneconomic reasons. Three years into the war, coal was at a premium; the country just could not get enough of it. The yard seam had to be re-opened.
Within weeks of taking up his old job Jimmy was back on the Yard Seam filling coal. The seam was still leaking water and the conditions were just as unbearable, it was as if he had never left. But things were different, now he could not leave he had a wife with a bairn on the way.
"Have you heard about Norman C.s ghost?" My dad said to me.
"No, what's the story." I replied.
"I don't know the full tale," replied my father, " but that house he bought is supposed to be haunted."
Norman C. was a comparatively newcomer to the coalmine where both my father and I worked. He was an ex. Navy man and having done his three weeks mining training he began working underground. He had bought a house in Holbeck, Leeds and set up home with his wife and six-year-old daughter. There was much gossip at work about the haunted house but I could not verify it first hand because Norman worked in a different part of the mine.
One shift I just happened to be visiting Norman's place of work. It was months after my father had told me about Norman C. but on seeing him I remembered the ghostly gossip. As soon as I had chance I began quizzing him about the presence in his new house. He was at first very reluctant to tell me the tale. But this is the story exactly as he told it to me:
Soon after he and his wife had set up their home things began to move; they never saw them move but sometimes items would be in a different place from where they had been before they went to sleep the night before. Both blamed the other for moving the items even to the extent that they may have been moved whilst one of them was sleepwalking. It got to a point that before going to sleep, they would note to each other where items were placed in the bedroom. Sure enough next morning something would have been moved. The ornamental candlesticks may have move to the center of the dressing table instead of at the sides; the alarm clock would go off at the far end of the room rather than on the bedside table. Small floor rugs would be turned upside down.
They often heard sounds upstairs as if someone was moving around but upon inspection found nothing amiss. They put the noise down to old house movement and tried to dismiss it.
A few times their Six-year-old daughter had awoken with cries that the little old lady was keeping her awake and would not go away from the foot of her bed. Again they tried to ignore the signs making the excuse that the young girl was dreaming
One Sunday evening Norman's wife was out visiting her mother. As was usual Norman was getting ready to go to his local pub for a drink a a game of darts. He decided that it was a little too cold in the upstairs bathroom and decided to get washed and changed in the kitchen. He took his suit, which was still on its clothes hanger, from the bedroom wardrobe and took it down stairs. He hung the hanger on the doorknob of the door that led from the living room to the hallway and went through into the kitchen. When he came out of the kitchen into the lounge, his suit had seemingly disappeared. He searched both downstairs rooms but found nothing. He decided that he must have only thought he had brought his suit down and that it was still upstairs. He opened the living room door to the hall stairway and his suit swung in from the other doorknob. There was no other person in the house. It shook him. He realized that it would have been possible for him to have hung the clothes hanger on the outside of the door and then swung it sideways before closing the door fast. But why should he want to do a thing like that.
A week later Norman was on shifts about. One afternoon he had just finished work and was entering his outside door into the hallway, the staircase was in front of him. Looking up the stairs he saw a woman walking up the last few steps and was just turning round the stair corner at the top. His wife worked and their child was at school. He was not too concerned for he thought perhaps his wife was not at work and had fetched the lady visitor home. He opened the living room door to his right but no one was there. He looked into the kitchen, again no one. Calling his wife's name upstairs, there was no reply. He ran up the steps to see who the visitor was. There was no one to be seen. He searched all the upstairs rooms in such a manner that no one could get past him to the stairs. He said his search was so thorough he even took up small carpets. Why he did this he does not know but such was his thorough search of the house. No one could be found. He was definite that the person he saw on the stairs was no apparition. It looked just like any normal lady would.
This, he said, was the final straw. He and his wife contacted their local church and explained the weird going’s on in his house. A priest came and chanted prayers and sprinkled holy water in every room.
Norman said that after the exorcism, the visitations, movements and noises had ceased. His child was not now reporting seeing 'little old women'.
I said. "Wow! What a weird tale. So everything at the house has now stopped has it?"
He replied, "Yes. It's been quite for months now. But funny enough last Wednesday when I came home from my afternoon shift I came into the lounge and my wife had asked what had I been doing in the hall. I answered nothing, explaining that I had merely been hanging my coat up and had come straight into the room, why did she ask? She said you must have been doing something as you've been making noises in the hallway for a few minutes I could hear your heavy breathing.
"Oh! Yes I said quickly, I did spend a few minutes out there. I had been hurrying home and I was catching my breath."
He confirmed to me that he had spent very little time in the hallway before going straight into the lounge. But he dare not upset his wife and tell her that.
Norman’s house was on Cemetery Road, Holbeck, Leeds 11. The house number is known to me and is still there. As the road name sugests it is very near to Beeston Cemetery.
I've told the tale exactly as I heard it from Norman C.
I met Radfan Philips in 1965 whilst serving with the British Army. We were both on a Physical Training Course in Aldershot. The course was Sixteen weeks in duration and on successful completion would qualify one into becoming a Physical Training Instructor.
Radfan was serving with the Second Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. As soon as I met him I immediately respected his para-wing badge that he wore on his sleeve and his maroon beret. The army does not give them away lightly, these have to be earned. The fact that he was in the paratroopers and also wore a medal ribbon on his left breast proved that he had served as a proper soldier in a theatre of war. Up to that stage of my service all I had done was train for any coming role in armed conflict.
Strange that; the services are one of the very few employers in which the employees are always training for a job for which they are very rarely called to do.
Anyway Radfan and I were talking in the N.A.F.F.I and I happened to ask about his unusual forename. It was a nickname had been given by the other members of his platoon a couple of year’s back.
His platoon and others were on patrol in the foothills of the Radfan Mountains in Aden, which was at that time a British protectorate. Philips’s responsibility to his platoon was as a medic. In normal circumstances his position in the patrol is to the rear.
On this particular patrol his platoon came under fire from the guerrillas who’s fight was for the British to leave Aden and for them to be self governing.
The point man was hit by a snipers first shot and then others randomly firing at any opportunity. All soldiers dived for immediate cover. In Philips case this was the first time he had been under fire and he told me he was terrified and all he wanted was for the ground to open up and swallow him. Bullets were flying around from sall directions. Radfan described literally trembling from head to foot.
The RSM. (Regimental Sergeant Major) shouted an order for Philips to go forward to the injured mans assistance. Philips in turn was too scared to move the last thing he wanted was to extradite him from the safety of a hollow in the ground he had managed to find.
"Philips get out and go to your mates aid." Repeated the RSM this time the order was bellowed parade ground fashion.
Philips was unsure what to do. He was certainly afraid of the bullets flying around but equally his training had made him afraid of disobeying any order from his RSM.
At the RSM’s shouting and without thinking further Philips emerged from his depression in the ground and keeping himself as low as possible began dodging from cover to cover, rock to rock, depression to depression, until he reached the fallen man. Radfan managed to pull the soldier behind a nearby large rock thus protecting him and himself from further fire.
The wound the soldier had sustained proved not to be life threatening but only a deep flesh wound to his upper thigh. Philips treated the wound with direct pressure and a large wound bandage. Soon the firing ceased and the bandits melted away to the safety of the Radfan mountains.
The wounded man was transported back to BMH. (British Military Hospital) Aden where he made a full recovery.
Philips’s action was proved to have probably saved the soldier's life and he was recommended for a medal.
Later an MM (Military Medal) was awarded and as an added bonus his mates nicknamed him RADFAN PHILIPS. MM
Tommy Mac was a ganger for the Leeds highways department. His team consisted of himself; Billy and a young apprentice named George. Billy was the gang driver of a 3-ton Bedford.
Tommy was renown for thinking on his feet; he was very street-wise. Whenever a quick pound could be earned Tommy was first in the queue.
Many times him and his team would do moonlighting jobs for themselves during working hours using Leeds City Council time, materials and tools.
Often Tommy or his mate Billy would knock on doors in the district that they happened to be working in asking if the occupier wanted any quick Tarmac-Adam laying on their paths or drives. Cash received in this black economy would be shared out equally among the three.
One time after laying a driveway the house owner expressed an opinion that the black tarmac drive would look superb if a few white limestone chips could be distributed at random over the drive and rolled into it. Tommy agreed but didn’t like the idea of going across Leeds to get the limestone chips. There was always a fear of being seen by any superior Leeds Highways chief.
He had an idea; he told his driver Billy to bring the wagon round and then directed him to the cemetery in nearby Cottingly. There they took a few handfuls of white limestone Chipping’s from one of the marble kerbed graves. Back at the driveway they were duly deposited on the driveway and ‘rolled’ in. The customer was highly delighted and even gave them a couple of pounds extra for a drink.
One Monday morning after tooling up in the Highway Departments yard they proceeded, as usual to the Green Man café in Holbeck. They normally had a breakfast before going to work. On entering the Café and discussing the situation they discovered that there was no money between them to get a breakfast other than a cup of tea. More important they had no cigarettes between them for the coming day. It looked like very bleak day indeed. Looking out of the Green Man Café window Tommy could see Morrison’s Supermarket. He had an idea:
"Come on, get into the wagon. Drive it into Morrison’s Car Park, I’ve got an idea."
"What? What are we doing?" Spluttered Billy.
"Trust me," responded Tommy, "when we get into the car park find a spare trolley and put it on to the back of the wagon." Billy did as he was bid and Tommy left them, going into the main Morrison’s entry.
Tommy asked a checkout girl, who and where the manager was. He was summoned and Tommy introduced himself, saying he worked for the Leeds City Highways Department. His LCC coveralls and donkey jacket confirmed that. He told the manager that this morning whilst inspecting the M1 just over a mile away they had found one of the Morrison's trolleys almost astride the inside lane. Motorists were having to swerve to miss it.
Conscientious worker that he was, Tommy had illuminated the amber warning light on his truck and retrieved the trolley. He had now brought it back to its rightful owner.
Tommy agreed with the manager that he understood that it was not the fault Morrison's Supermarkets that the trolley had been left on the motorway. But the fact remained that he might well have prevented a serious accident. He had averted adverse publicity
The Manager was delighted that Tommy had been so conscientious and returned the trolley. He thanked him profusely and was about to return inside the store.
Tommy then laid his egg. "Don’t you think that was worth a drink or a few cigarettes?" He asked.
"Yes. Oh yes of course." The manager replied, reaching into his coat pocket for his packet.
"Can’t take from you personally," said Tommy understandingly, "it’s not your fault the trolley had gone missing. Surely Morrison's should provide the ciggies,"
"Yes I understand, I’ll get you a packet of ten from the store, can you wait here?"
"A ten packet is that all the deed was worth? Is that all the mighty Morrison's can afford?"
"Ah, yes I'll make it 20." Returned the manager what brand do you smoke?"
I smoke Benson and Hedges." Said Tommy. "Billy smokes Park Drive and George here smokes Regal."
The manager looked questioningly but said nothing. He went off but returned later with twenty cigarettes each of the named brands
All, except the manager, was delighted at the result.
C and S
Cheryl and Sam (not their real names) were the parents of two boys 7 and 8. Theirs was a loving household and usually all ticked along fine.
Both the boys were treated equally in love, attention and all material things.
All progressed well until just of late the two boys began falling out and fighting.
Most of the time they got along but suddenly and without warning they would begin an argument that would inevitably lead to physical pushing with an occasional blow being struck. Both boys were equally responsible for their actions.
Both parents tried everything they could think of to remedy the situation.
They tried talking to them about acceptable behaviour, explaining how wrong it was.
Threatening them with punishments, grounding them, taking away their computer games, earlier bedtimes etc
All to no avail.
One day, mother Cheryl had a brainwave she sat them down and began to explain how unacceptable their behaviour was, and with tongue in cheek, she said “Unless the fighting stops your father and I will have to get rid of one of you.”
The statement made the boys sit up. Both instantly wondered which one would be chosen to be got rid of.
Of course that threat would never have been carried out, but the boys didn’t know it.
From that day forth the fighting stopped.
They are both a couple of years older now and other that an occasional tiff all is well in their relationship.
Once again the family home is happy and peaceful.
Let me start by saying that Bob is not this person’s real name but he will easily recognise himself once the story begins.
Bob lives in Wallsend and has just turned Nineteen years of age. All his life he has been on the outskirts of crime. He is the product of a family of police known criminals. He tells me that both his father and mother are deeply involved within the drug scene. His bother and older sister are both in prison for aggravated burglary whilst his younger bother is well known to the police for shoplifting but he is still under the full age of responsibility. Unless the young one mends his ways he is destined for the proverbial hang-mans noose.
Bob tells me that although he has been involved with petty larceny, shoplifting etc. in his youth, he has never been involved with any serious crime. Since meeting his present girlfriend he has put all that behind him and fully intends to lead an honest life. He has no intentions of following in his father’s footsteps. He is holding down a responsible job in a superstore and is attending evening classes to better himself.
He admits that on occasional nights out with the lads he has been involved with a little fisticuffs with rival factions now and again but he has never been involved in any assault on a serious scale. He puts his fighting down to youthful exuberance. The one and only time he has seen the inside of a police station was when he was involved in a minor fracas outside a pub, one of his mates had said something wrong at the time. The fight was no big deal with minor bruises and a nosebleed being the only injuries. In normal circumstances both fighting parties would have let matters rest when one had got the better of the other. Bob cannot remember what the fight was all about or who came out on top but honour had been satisfied. Bob had given as much as he had taken and neither one nor the other had taken advantage.
It just so happens that a police patrol vehicle arrived on the scene just as the fighting had been mutually stopped. The police had been heavy handed towards the two fighters and probably because a bit of backchat was given to the police officers they were both arrested.
On arrival at the police station they were produced in front of the station sergeant and the arresting PC laid out the charges. When Bob’s name and address was given the sergeant then went on to pour scorn on his criminal relations. Bob felt deeply ashamed when the sergeant clarified to the other officers present about the family's suspected drug involvement.
When Bob was told to take everything out his pockets a small wad of what looked like cannabis appeared on the table. He swears to me that the produced cannabis was not his nor, to his knowledge, was it in his procession before entry to the police station. He says that it is possible that the other arrested youth could have placed it in Bob’s pocket surreptitiously prior to him emptying his pockets but he does not really believe that. He concludes that one of the police officers planted it there because of his family history.
Bob was verbally accused of being in posession of illegal drugs. However much he denied the charges he police was having none of it. An interviewing officer said that they had hard evidence that Bob was a pusher in the many pubs that he frequented. Despite protestations of innocence to the cannabis find, all to no avail, Bob was thrown into a cell.
A search warrant was applied for and issued to enable the police to search Bob’s house for further evidence. This was done and a small quantity of heroin was found in his father’s residence. Rather than allow Bob to take the blame for something that was evidently not his Bobs father admitted it was there for his personal use.
The following Monday Bob was later charged, with the other person, of being in an affray. He was fined One Hundred and Forty Pounds in a magistrate’s court. The Cannabis that had supposedly been found on his person was not offered in evidence on any drug-related felony.
Bob’s father was also charged that day with being in possession of an illegal class A drug. He was placed on magistrate’s bail to appear in court at a later date.
Since the fight, the problem had seriously escalated. Bob’s dad had blamed his ex-mate with into stashing the cannabis into Bob’s pocket. If that fact had not taken place, his father reasoned, no search warrant could have been issued hence the Heroin find. No matter how Bob tried to calm the situation down his father would insist on putting the blame squarely on someone else.
Since the fight date, about six weeks ago, his ex-mates house had been firebombed. A Molotov cocktail, (Petrol filled bottle with a burning rag insert) had been thrown through the kitchen window. Fortunately the bottle did not smash and landed in the kitchen sink. The house did not completely set alight although serious fire damage could have occurred.
The ex-mates family was also of known repute and not taking things lying down. They have supposedly put out on the streets an offer of five hundred pounds to anyone who commits any serious act of violence to any member of Bob’s family.
Bob’s younger brother will now not go to school because of bullying by older youths. His mother is afraid of going out of the house without an escort and he himself socialises further afield rather than around Wallsend. He is constantly looking over his shoulder and it is beginning to affect his courtship of his girlfriend.
I suggested that he move out of his locality to set up home by himself far removed from his past criminal element. He agreed and it just so happened that I was aquatinted with a local housing official who may be able to help Bob relocate.
Since writing the above article Bob has managed to move into a small council house with his girlfriend. They intend to marry later this year. At his request the superstore that he worked at in Wallsend have placed him with a position in Ashington where he now lives. Things for him are on the up but for his family things are on a downward trend. His older brother has just come out of jail and has taken up the dispute. Both his father’s house and his ex-mates house are permanently barricaded up for fear of fire reprisals. His ex-mate has been seriously assaulted by an unknown person and is at present in hospital with a broken pelvis.
A separate shooting incidence has occurred but again no responsibility can be attached to anyone, although everyone knows who is responsible for both, and many other, incidents.
Bob fears that the feud will not stop until an individual dies or someone is put in jail for a long time.
In June of this year, (1998) I was in The 'Ear' Bar in downtown Manhattan, talking to my son Christian whom I was visiting. During our conversation I remarked about the book I was scripting concerning bar room tales and the types of story it included. Christian remarked that he had heard a story a month ago that I may be interested in. He beckoned over an American friend of his who was introduced to me as Hank. My first thought was why are Americans always called Hank, Duke or some such why can’t they have proper names like Jack or Colin, sorry I digress. My son asked Hank to recount the story as told some weeks earlier and Hank complied.
Hank’s brother had a son who was eighteen that day, Friday. All relations had given the usual presents and cards to the birthday boy. His mother had arranged to celebrate his birthday with a party the next night, Saturday.
In the evening the boy’s girlfriend visited him at his house. Because his mother and father had said they were to be out of the house most of the evening the young couple decided to say in and watch television. They would be alone in the house and so would have some privacy
Just before his parents left, mother said to her son. "I’ve put some washing in the washer and the cycle should be over in a half hour, will you go into the basement to switch the cycle off and take out and fold the still damp washing?" Her son agreed and mother and father left.
Now alone the son and girlfriend soon coupled up on the sofa and before long light petting became heavy. Both teenagers undressed each other and were generally larking about in the nude.
The phone rang; it was his mother, using her mobile, ringing to ask if he had taken out the washing from the washer in the basement. He confessed that at this stage he had forgotten about it. Mother asked if he would do it now because the washer was faulty and may leak or even begin a second cycle and ruin the clothes. The son said he would do as asked now. When he told his girlfriend where he was going she decided, in a fit of playfulness, to accompany him and as he was going down the basement steps jumped naked onto her boyfriends naked back. He bore her weight piggyback style down the darkened steps. As soon as he opened the basement door all the lights came on and a robust cry of "Happy Birthday." Went up. There the nude young boy stood framed in the doorway with his naked girlfriend on his back looking on at the numerous guests to his surprise birthday party. Can you imagine his face?