Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

This is my great great great great great grandfather. He was a neoclassical painter from Germany of Bohemian origin. I have no idea what that means but I’m hoping Bohemian means something hippy, zen and a bit gypsy-like. He was obviously a dog lover too. I’ve definitely got some of his genes ;).

Here’s his bio:

JohannZoffany with dog, Roma

Johann Zoffany with dog, Roma


Jim with his bowls

Jim with his bowls

Today is my dad’s birthday. He would have been 90. He died in 1992 from stomach cancer after a life dotted with health issues all stemming from a very poor beginning in life. Not that he ever complained. That was probably what killed him. He didn’t like to let anyone know he was suffering and always tried to turn everything into a joke, even the most blackest or darkest situation. He was a really wonderful man and I miss him as much now as I did when he died. I find that I think about him almost every day, usually when I am behaving most like him. Over the years I have come to realise, I truly am my father’s daughter and I wish he could be here so I can show him he succeeded in his mission to bring us up as normally as possible, despite our problems.

He would always be on the lookout for an opportunity to turn something he’d found into something wonderful. That’s how it seemed to me as a child anyway. He was the ultimate recycler. He’d find a way to re-use things most of us today would laugh at. He hated throwing things away. The best place in the world to be with my dad was in his shed. Dad’s shed was a magical world to me as a child. It smelled of grass, oil, tobacco and compost. I remember onions hanging up ripening (I am guessing) in pairs of mum’s old tights, held up by old nails. He had shelves of little tiny jars of paint for touching up radiators. He had things with windy handles, putty, bags of cement, bricks, car parts and I don’t know what else! It fascinated me.

We used to collect seeds from the garden from late summer on. It was my job to collect them in brown envelopes and write on the front things like ‘marigolds, mixed, right border, sew april’, ‘cosmos, tall, pink, put near coal scuttle, sew may-july, deadhead often’. I had no idea what some of this meant at the time or how he knew these things, he just did. I wish I had asked him or could ask him now.

Receiving a salesman of the year award

Receiving a salesman of the year award

He had a vegetable garden too and he won a few first prizes at the horticultural shows. He grew tomatoes, beetroot, potatoes, lettuce, mint, onions, cabbage, swede and all sorts. I remember his favourite thing was to pick beets and cook them in a huge pan. We would eat them with our Sunday tea with ham and big chunks of bread smeared in butter. I have never tasted beetroot like his since.

If he found a pretty or strange looking stone in the garden he would declare ‘ That’ll make a nice necklace for your mother’. He would spend hours in the shed preparing the stone, find something to set it in (usually a washer!) and either add a pin or a chain for it. He’d present it to mum as a gift. I used to think it was wonderful that he had made this thing from stuff he found. Mum wasn’t quite so keen (at the time I thought she was most ungrateful) but she’d kiss him on the cheek and say ‘you are the original Dust Hole Fairy’. And he was too. He was the only man I know who would come back with more than he went with to the rubbish tip.

I never knew a more gentle, kinder, funnier man than him. Love you dad, miss you dad. Wish I had  the chance to tell you once more how truly wonderful you were. RIP James Edward Morland. I will see you again one day.

My first regular wage came from my awesomely awesome Saturday/three evenings a week job in a sweet shop in Elm Park – Hollicks if memory serves me. It was awesomely awesome for four reasons:-

  • I could nick loads of fags and not get caught (or so I thought until I got sacked)
  • I could eat endless sweets and not get caught (ahhhhh ….. /facepalm/)
  • The overall (blue, zip up nylon with large pockets for …. well pocketing things, which in my case, was mainly Mars Bars, 1/4 of rhubard and custards or chocolate chewing nuts
  • I could read all my favourite magazines without having to buy them – faves were: Jackie, Bunty, Smash Hits.

Apart from that, the perks and promotion opportunities were limited!

Doll Toilet Roll Cover

oh the inhumanity!

That job allowed me to save up tons of cash a few quid to spend on mum and dad at Xmas rather than the usual; mum buying the presents and giving them to me to wrap up. These were usually

  • mum – peg bag/amusing apron/tights or a new knitted doll thing that you put over toilet rolls
  • dad – bath salts/monogrammed hankies/cossack hair spray or possibly Brut/Old Spice aftershave

Hey, come on! It was the 70’s!

Anyhooooo …. I decided to ask what they wanted so I could get each of them something meaningful and from the heart.

Me (to mum): What do you think dad would like for Christmas?
Mum: I don’t know dear. Why don’t you get him some hankies?
Me: No I don’t want to get hankies, I want to get him something special, something he really wants
Mum: Oh, all right dear, whatever you think is best
Me: So, what about tickets to a concert in London (dad was a huge classical music fan)?
Mum: Well, probably not dear. Why don’t you get him some cigarettes?
Me: /stomps off/

Me (to dad): What do you think mum would like for Christmas?
Dad: Hankies?
Me: No I don’t want to get hankies, I want to get hersomething special, something she really wants
Dad: Monogrammed hankies?
Me: She wants monogrammed hankies? I was thinking of getting her tickets to see an opera (mum loved opera, in particularly Puccini)
Dad: I doubt it. Why don’t you get her some cigarettes?
Me: /stomps off take 2/

So, I got dad tickets to see John Lill play Beethoven’s 9th at The Royal Festival Hall. I got mum tickets to see Madame Butterfly.

Oh and of course, a carton of cigarettes each! Players No 6 was their cigarette of choice.


SF out

I need to laugh more. I’ve noticed I’m watching things on TV or listening to programmes on the radio that make me feel miserable, depressed, angry or scared. Why on earth am I doing that? I’m not really sure but last night I decided to change that and am determined to watch or listen to nothing but comedy or music.

I am so glad I did, as on Gold last night I watched Bring Me Morecambe & Wise. This is a documentary series with rare and never seen before sketches and routines along with comments from famous fans. I was guffawing my little socks off last night, particularly when they showed this great sketch with Andre Preview Previn ;).


I ‘d forgotten how much I loved Morecambe & Wise. I miss watching their shows so much. My dad based most of his comedy routines on Eric Morecambe which is probably why I hold them so dear in my heart. We never missed a Christmas special either!

Favourite line: I’m playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order

Me with my home-made hair cut

Me with my home-made hair cut

I was an angel in the nativity play at school when I was 7. I had been chosen with 3 other girls to play the angels in the nativity. We were selected based on our ability to sing, our long blonde hair (mine had been cut by dad – badly) and because we were considered angelic-looking.

I was on cloud nine (haha) and couldn’t wait for the play to come around. Rehearsals began and us angels (a gaggle? a brace? a swarm?) were shown where we would be standing during our number.

Our school headmaster also played the school organ (have to say it – must be the Essex in me – oohh errr mrs!) during assembly and had a special area built on the stage to house it (double ooh err). To access it, you had to climb a little set of stairs and there was a plinth where he would stand and address us pupils then sit down to play a hymn or two.

This was where we were going to be during the play and where we would sing Away In A Manger. We rehearsed positions and our hymn over and over. Things were going well.

Two weeks before the play the teacher gave each of us a sheet of paper dtailing what we would be expected to wear as an angel. It said we would need:

  • Golden Halo (must hover above head)
  • Satin Dress (with golden cuffs and collar)
  • Large golden Wings
  • Golden harp (small) or wand
  • Golden slippers

and gave a few basic instructions on how to make these items or where it might be possible to buy them (this was before  t’tinterwebnet). My mum was a seamstress beyond compare. She didn’t even have to use a tape measure. She could tell your measurements by eye (before she went blind that is) and would run up an outfit that would fit perfectly. So, an angel costume would be a doddle for her. Only problem was, she was in hospital again and, as always happened, we didn’t know how long for.

This left only one course of action. Dad would have to handle this very important project. He was a practical man, always looking for ways to make things rather than buy them. He decided he was going to make my costume for me. How hard could it be?

The night before the nativity play he presented me with my costume. Here’s his version of the costume:

  • Golden Halo (must hover above head) – my extremely itchy white woolly hat with massive chin strap and gold tinsel stuck top of it.
  • Satin Dress (with golden cuffs and collar) – white vest, pants and bed-sheet with a hole cut in it for my head. A belt from a dressing gown.
  • Large golden wings – two Kelloggs cornflake packets cut into wings and painted with what looked like yellow house paint to me.
  • Golden harp (small) or wand – wire coat hanger straightened out with tinsel stuck on the end.
  • Golden slippers – white school socks looking like he dipped them in the same yellow house paint.

I looked completely mental! The thing is, I didn’t really mind. He must have been through hell back then trying to bring up three kids on his own while my mum was in and out of hospital. He was always there for us. Anyway, I don’t know what it was about  him but somehow it was impossible to feel embarrassed or angry at anything he did.

He was like Caractacus Potts from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He’d spend hours squirreled away in his shed and there would be all sorts of strange noises and smells emanating from it. He’d wander out hours later with no eyebrows and a lawn mower made out of a washing machine engine and garden shears (really!!) or some mad piece of jewellery he’d made mum out of an old washer and a stone he’d found in the garden. Bless his heart.

Anyway, I performed my role perfectly and had a wonderful time as an angel, singing Away In A Manger with my angel sisters.

So, I’m sure you’re dying to know. Did dad buy me the most amazing angel costume I had ever seen ensuring that no-one laughed at me in my vest, pants and woolly hat? Did he bollocks! Personally, I think it was the highlight of the evening!

When I was about 15 I went on and on  at my mum and dad to buy me a leather coat. I absolutely had to have a full length leather coat as I was into heavy metal and hanging out with head-bangers down The Bull, a local pub frequented by metal heads (I’d ditched the bay city rollers look).

I wore them down until they reluctantly agreed to pay half of it, as long as I saved up the other half. I’d already taken a Saturday job in the local newsagents (Hollicks) to pay for the odd pack of ciggies, trips to the cinema and my elicit visits to the pub where I was admired (in my view) for my skill at making a 1/2 pint of cider and a bag of salt and vinegar crisps last me all night.

I managed to increase my hours at the newsagent to Saturday, Sunday mornings and two nights in the week and was bringing home a massive £8.50 a week! After deductions:

  • fags = 60p  (Rothmans)
  • cinema = £1 (with Revels)
  • pub excursions = £1-2
  • magazines, makeup, chips (from Wimpy naturally) = £2

I thought I could save around £2.50 a week. The coat was £45 so I had to get £22.50 saved up and it would only take me 9 weeks! Nice one ;). I duly saved the money and mum and dad were true to their word and the leather coat was purchased. It was truly sublime and I couldn’t wait for Friday night and a trip to The Bull so I could swish into the pub in my new coat, make my way to the tiny mosh pit and head-bang to some heavy metal man, yeah.

As I left the house, my dad asked where I was going (to a friends/cinema/wimpy – that’s what I usually said, anyway one of those) and he asked me if it was a good idea to wear my brand new coat. I scoffed at his concern and mumbled how I wasn’t an idiot (he plainly knew that I was). Well, don’t lose it or ruin it because we won’t get you another one he nagged as I stomped out of the house. Oh Pater really – as if :).

Oh …… an hour later ……..

The Bull mosh pit …

very hot, very sticky, too much hair, take off coat …

put coat on chair nearby. Complete headbanging session …

retrieve coat … don coat … huge fag burn right on the front right boob .. can’t miss it

first thought .. dad is going to kill me

second thought .. I can fix this

I got home and made it to my bedroom without a hitch. I’d taken my coat off before going in and hung it over my arm with the burned side hidden. I examined the hole more closely and formulated a plan to fix it. I decided on a Blue Peter approach and wrote a list of all the things I’d need before starting the job:

  • Tracing paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Hiding place

Saturday morning arrived so I offered to go and get the shopping for mum (dad immediately moves to amber alert) so I could buy my list (didn’t want to risk using anything in the house in case they noticed).

I got home then locked myself in the bathroom with the coat and my tools. I traced out the shape, cut it out and then used my template to cut a bit of leather from the inside of the coat hem (so far so good). I then dabbed glue on the edges of the hole and attempted to glue the leather to the hole from the back.

Oh ……. although it was the right size  I was worried it wouldn’t stay in place if I just held it there. I decided to put it on the floor and press down on it until the glue hardened ….


The glue? Superglue!! I ended up gluing the coat to the bathroom carpet. Nuts!

Ok don’t panic, don’t panic ..  I used the scissors to snip away the coat from the carpet.

I carefully cut the coat away from the carpet and it came free. My repair now had cream fluff on it and the carpet had a hole! Flippin eck this was not going well. What to do? I waited for my brain to come up with a cunning plan …….

……… *whistles*

……………. *study nails*

………………….. *daydreams of owning a guitar and my own camel*

aha!!! Simple – cut some carpet from behind the loo, stick it with the superglue over the hole, then move the bathroom mat to cover said hole.

It all worked perfectly, apart from the fact that my coat now had a badly-patched, slightly fluffy left boob (not terribly rock and roll). Oh, then mum wanted to know why our bathroom carpet had a big hole in it. When she got round to washing the mat, she found it glued down. She’d pulled it so hard it tore a massive hole in the carpet!

Did I get away with it? Did I bollocks! I confessed …. everything.

My aunt Dot passed away last night after a brave battle with cancer.


Dorothy Gibson nee Beachcroft

Goodbye to a beautiful lady, inside and out. I will miss you terribly, especially your wonderful giggle. Say hello to Ron, mum and dad for me.