23 February 2004

First draft: South Shields. Postscript to Brian

Over the next few days I heard through Dad the story of Brian. Apparently Brian had got off the evening Express bus at Milnthorpe and gone into the nearby Bulls Head Hotel to enquire the directions to Kidside mentioning Mr. Irving's name that the publican knew well. As an afterthought Brian had asked the publican if he could have a room for the night? "He didn't want to disturb the Irving’s with an unexpected arrival at this time of night". But there was a slight problem "could he put the bill on the account of Mr. Irving"? Brian said he had left one of his bags by mistake on the bus with unfortunately his wallet in it.

The publican very familiar with lost wallets and bad debts with some reluctance agreed. Next morning Brian enquired of a taxi service and was given Mr. Broomby's phone number who came and delivered Brian to Kidside.

The suspicious publican alerted Mr. Broomby and suggested he alert Dad. Mr. Broomby told Dad the publican's story of the "lost" wallet and the booked room account. Dad paid Mr. Broomby on the spot for Brian's taxi fare asking Mr. Broomby if he would kindly phone the publican on his return to say he would settle Brian's account tomorrow. We didn't have a phone in 1950... they were not too common in private homes. Dad did all this, without anger or a word of reprove to me.

I spent the rest of my holiday with feelings of acute embarrassment blaming myself for causing so much trouble. At last my holiday ended and I returned to South Shields to complete my final term.

Returning to South Shields I mentioned to Mrs. Greenwell of Brian's visit to our home. She almost dragged me into her kitchen and sat me down while I related the story. She then related to me the story from her end.

It appears Brian had arrived back from the crisp factory and true to his word produced a carton of packets of crisps 2days later. Mrs. Greenwell asked where the other cartons were. Brian said he was unable to get any more cartons and the crisp factory was going to refund her money.

Mrs. Greenwell then told me that Brian had been 2 weeks behind with his board money before I had gone on holiday and he kept blaming his problems on the pay clerks office, they had mislaid his records and consequently could not pay his wages. Mrs. Greenwell said she gave him one week to sort the problem out including the crisp money and then she would take stronger action.

True to her word she said that she first obtained the phone number of the crisp factory, called them and was put through to the foreman in charge and told him Brian’s’ problems with his missing pay. The foreman said to her didn't she know Brian had left the crisp factory and he had been paid up to date?

The foreman continued that this had occurred over 6 weeks ago; in point of fact he had been sacked for laziness. To add to this he said he had found Brian the laziest b..... he had ever come across spending most of his time sitting on his a... talking. As store man he was there to load cartons of crisps on to the lorries when they came in for delivery distribution. When one arrived Brian seemed to be always able to make himself scarce and the lorry driver to maintain his schedule ended up loading the lorry himself.

And as for the crisp order of half a dozen cartons the foreman said the order didn't exist and suggested he may have pocketed the money. Further more the store had a discrepancy of cartons and said he knew where to point the finger but no proof.

Later, if I remember rightly Mrs. Greenwell rang Brian's father who told her he had washed his hands of Brian, goodbye.

Mrs. Greenwell, confronting Brian with the evidence and said he readily admitted everything including pocketing the crisp money. She had no alternative to tell Brian to pack his bags and go and cut her losses and knowing full well she would not get a penny out of Brian only promises to "try and put things right".

What happened to Brian I'll never know. The trouble is that all who came in contact with him liked Brian including I and found him very pleasant company. Every so often I think of Brian and I wonder what became of him and I feel a pang of sorrow for him. Unless he mended his ways... I didn't think of this at the time... I had met my first confidence trickster. Is that what he became? I hope not.

20 February 2004

First Draft: South Shields. The Life of Brian

I found after a while at Mrs. Greenwell's that old faces go and new ones appear. I arrived back after classes one day and found in the lounge a new face sitting reading the paper. He quickly sprang to his feet and introduced himself as Brian, an old resident of Mrs. Greenwell's.

Brian would be 2 years older than I, I suppose, just under 6 feet tall with lank dark blond hair parted down one side and straight across. I found him very polite with a well-modulated almost accent-less voice. He was I learnt an ex-student at the College and was here for a while.

A day or 2 later, it was Saturday and just about everyone was out and I was in the lounge pensively deciding what to do when Brian walked in. As we chatted asking each other questions, Brian's story slowly emerged. Brian came from the Home Counties near London and had attended public school down there. Wanting to go to sea his father had sent him to South Shields Marine College where he had completed the course and failed his examinations. Studying and sitting the examinations again he, with "a spell of bad luck" failed again and "Father was none too pleased".

Yes, Brian failed again for the third time and said "I'm afraid Father went a bit wacko when I broke the bad news and demanded I return home... immediately". Brian then said, " I gave him a few days to cool off before I returned home, usually by then Father can be reasoned with".

Brian then told me his father had washed his hands of him and suggested he make his own way in life. To this end he had given him a cheque to bank to give him a start and Brian had headed back to South Shields "where all his good friends were". He was now in the process in looking for a job and he thought his prospects were good through his network of contacts. He had returned to stay with "kind Mrs. Greenwell who always made him feel at home".

As the next few weeks passed Brian became the polite friend to everyone always ready to listen to anyone's story or have a sympathetic ear for anyone’s woes and a kind remark. He had got a job shortly after he arrived as a store-man in a local potato crisps making factory and as he told Mrs. Greenwell "everyone has to start on the bottom rung of the ladder" and he was "determined to climb that ladder to better things".

I hope the story of Brian doesn't get too mixed up from here on. Some of what I am about to relate came to my ears second hand a few weeks later after the end of term break, some before the term break and some from Brian himself.

One morning at breakfast Mrs. Greenwell popped her head round the lounge door and said something like "Oh. Brian I want to see you about the rent, can you drop into the kitchen before work?” As most of us left the lounge to pick up our books for classes we could see Brian in earnest conversation with Mrs. Greenwell at the kitchen door. I at least didn't think much of this at the time. A few days later Mrs. Greenwell again put her head around the door asking if everything was alright... about the meal that is and said to Brian "Brian have those tins of crisps arrived yet?” Brian said " within two days Mrs Greenwell, my apologies for the delay".

Again I didn't think much of this short conversation between Mrs. Greenwell and Brian. The term was coming to an end and I was exited and looking forward to going home to see my parents once more and all the familiar homely things. John and Gyp, to walk up the green paddocks and bike down to Milnthorpe and a hundred and one other things.

After a few days at home, one morning Dad had come in for his 10 o'clocks’ when there was a knock on the door and Mum answered the knock. A male voice asked for Mr. Irving could he speak to him. Dad came to the door and went out. I could hear the buzz of voices he came back in and said to Mum "Mary, can you get me some money from the drawer?" Mum returned with the requested amount and he went out again, there was more conversation and then the sound of a car starting and driving away. Dad came in and said to me "here’s' a friend to see you" and on the doorstep stood Brian. I can tell you my heart leapt, I didn't know what to say... or do. Without another word Dad went out to continue his work.

It was a woe begotten Brian who sat on the sofa and he told me his tale. He had been thrown out of Mrs. Greenwell's for rent arrears and something about a pay records mix-up at the crisp factory and no wages for him. Nowhere to go, he suddenly thought of me and "by jingo, my address just happened to be in his wallet, and here I am". "Could I help?"

All kind of thoughts were running through my mind, Mrs. Greenwell came flooding back, the rent, the crisps, my address... I didn't remember giving it to him. Brian didn't ring quite true. I sat there I remember saying little to him; a wave of embarrassment had flooded over me. Was it my fault he was here?

Dad came in at lunchtime and Mum appeared, she had made herself scarce, to leave Brian and I to talk. Brian stood up as Dad came in and mumbled an apology for the trouble and upset he had caused. "If only he could stay for a few days to get his self together, he'd be off". I remember Dad saying in a firm voice "No lad, we haven’t room for you here. There's an Express bus through tonight, I'll help you with the fare". I think Brian mentioned returning to South Shields, I'm not sure now.

So Dad ran Brian down to the bus and saw him off. I never saw Brian again or heard what happened to him. But there is a postscript to this tale.

11 February 2004

First Draft: South Shields. Tussling with Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse was of course the inventor of the Morse code and yes, I had quite a tussle in both sending and receiving of the code. With sending it was the case of being left handed and sending from a right-handed position. The flow of my Morse dots and dashes were uneven and not too good to copy.

With receiving I had a problem with pausing momentarily to think... what letter was that and in the end missing one or more following letters following letters. This habit took a lot of shaking off. In learning to receive Morse there are often two plateaus’ where you seem to stick and not be able to receive faster. These are usually 8-9 words per minute and again at about 15-16 words per minute. Mine were a little longer than normal.

When our speed of sending progressed into double figures we would all sit around the table and each of us in turn would do a period of sending to the others. Some of us were good even senders and easy to copy others were ragged and uneven and more difficult to copy. I was I'm afraid one of the worst ones and a groan would go up when it was my turn. The instructor once or twice a week at this stage would sit in on a session of sending and monitoring each student in turn observing progress. At the end of that student's session he would if it were necessary advise how to improve in the sending technique.

But we will leave that for now.

Adult Students

The College had a few adult students on a shortened course. These were ex forces personnel who had done their 2 years national service in the Army or RAF as wireless operators. Their Morse was close to the speed required and they just needed polishing and learn procedures. They had a smattering only of radio theory and practise so the course concentrated on this area only. Most seemed to be in their early twenties and to us seemed to be able to send at very fast speeds. We only saw them when they had one of their Morse practise sessions using the same room as us. They always ignored us teenage youngsters.

6 February 2004

First Draft: South Shields. A Financial Dilemma

Whilst at Lawe Road I had a financial problem, how this came about is now lost in the mists of time. All I remember is I had spent most of my pocket money during the weekend and I had expenses coming the week.

What little I had left I remember thinking glumly, I might as well have nothing at all. Suddenly a thought flashed through my mind. The dog track at the stadium at Westoe... go up there, take a chance... I can't be much worse off.

Off I went, I was all fired up walking all the way. As I walked that evening the knot of excitement in my stomach grew tighter and the Adrenalin was running. I joined the queue entered the stadium and looked at the race card which had been shoved in my hand. As I looked and worked out what to do I realised it was no good putting anything on the favourite, the odds always seemed short. I spotted the second favourite list , the odds were better. I divided my money up and realised I had enough for 4 races. Yes, I would put a bet on the second favourite each time.

I went up to the Tote window with the shortest queue and when my turn came I gave the name of the dog and proffered my money. The man looked hard at me and said " your not 18, your not even 16. get off with you!". I turned away a couple of paces and stood dejectedly, my face burning red with embarrassment . An arm came from the queue and tapped me on the shoulder and as I turned round a cheery voice said " I'll put in on for you, son. How much and which dog?" I gave him my money and waited. As he left the window he gave me my ticket and said " not a bad choice". Then as an after thought he said " if you want any more bets. Look for me " and he, as he started to walk away said again "if you don't see me go to the the tote when they are busy, they don't have time to check".

The results came up on the board, I'd won and in a daze I went to collect my winnings. The next 2 races I saw my cheery new friend and he put monet on for me again. I again selected the second favourite in each case. I won both times again. I was in a bigger daze. The next race My fiend was not to be seen. I took his suggestion and went to one of the windows when the tote was busy and stood in the queue, my heart in my mouth. The queue was backing up behind me and then my turn came. In a gruff voice with my coat collar turned up I said " a shilling on Black Baron to win". The man's eyes never looked up he took my money with one hand and turned the tote machine handle with the other and handed me my ticket. I breathed a pent up breathe and my heart raced, I'd done it.

Of the 8 races, putting my money each time on the second favourite I won on the first 4 races and lost on the 5th one. I won again on the 6th and 8th races and lost on the 7th race. I decided at that point not to chance my luck any further, be satisfied with my winnings and go home.

As I turned to go my cheerful new found friend passed and enquired of my luck. I told him of my 6 wins and 2 losses and with a surprised look said " thats better than I did, how did you manage that?" I then told him how I had picked the second favourite in each race because the favourite paid such poor odds. My new friend paused, digesting this piece of information and then he burst out laughing and said " you don't know much about dog racing, do you?" I said "no, but I've won over 16 shillings". He walked away still laughing and shaking his head in disbelief.

I left the stadium and caught the next trolley bus going back to Ocean Road. I was over the moon with my winnings, not only had I got my 10 shillings pocket money back I had increased it further by almost 7 shillings. I was full of the exuberance of youth, you can do anything when you are 16.


I never went back to the stadium again to try my luck. In fact I've seldom had the urge to gamble throughout my life other than the odd lottery ticket or raffle. Occasionally I will have a go in a sweepstake or go into the Casino to have a look and then spend my loose change. I've never had the compulsion.

4 February 2004

First Draft: South Shields. A Change of Address

Coming up the to the end of the first year I began to get the itch of change. I don't know if it was the regimentation of the hostel or the lack of my course companions... Jock had now finished his course and obtained his qualifications... or was it that everything was deck orientated at the hostel?

What brought it to a head was a conversation with another student on my course. He knew I was in the hostel and he asked me if I was interested in going boarding, the establishment where he boarded had a vacated bed. I thought it over and visited his boarding house. I liked what I saw and decided to ask my parents if I could move.

The Westmorland Education Department administered my scholarship and the decision to change was in the their hands. Mrs. Greenwell who ran the boarding house was registered with the South Shields Marine College as suitable and the boarding fees were ?4.00 per week, a little more than the hostel fees but were considered acceptable. I was free to change if I desired.

So after a year in the hostel and after the Easter break I moved down to Mrs. Greenwell's at 47, Lawe Road, a short walking distance from the College in Ocean Road. Lawe Road began at the bottom of Ocean Road and was on rising ground overlooking the park, the River Tyne harbour seawalls and out to sea. The terraced house was large and 3 storied with a semi basement level below. My room was large on the top floor and shared with 3 other students and our 2-dormer window looked out to sea, a terrific view. Even with 4 students and 5 beds and wardrobes the room still seemed large.

Of the other 4 occupants of the room I only remember 2 of them distinctly. One, Clive Jewel who was an Angelo-Indian, very quiet and polite. The other, I think his name was Ken was from Oxford, heavily built and dark tightly curly hair. His claim to fame was he always used to smell sweaty and his bed was next to mine. He was also very pushy and a bully if he was allowed.

Mrs. Greenwell in her early fifties was a pleasant lady and friendly, always willing to pass the time of day for a few moments in her busy day. She had a daughter of about 16-17 and a husband who appeared to be partly invalided and helped her to run the boarding house. They lived in the rear half of the ground floor and the basement below. Mrs. Greenwell ran a "tight ship" and was quick to point out any misdemeanour and that way we all lived in harmony.

Of the regular boarders, a mixed bunch, most were attending the Marine College. Some like me doing their initial courses and one of two upgrading qualifications. Then there was the floating ones, a chief engineer boarding while his ship was being overhauled, and a journalist who stayed occasionally. 3 seafarers from a Norwegian ship also in for overhaul, a failed ex student working temporarily in a warehouse. And more.

The permanent students numbered about 10 in number and today over fifty years later I only remember some of them now, the ones who caught my interest.

A large front room was set aside for the boarders? use and double up as the dining room at meal times. Mrs. Greenwell would come bustling in and shush out at meal times while she prepared the table and the seating. Sometimes if she had a full house with meals there would be 2 sittings.

It was here whilst at Lawe Rd at the age of 16 that I learnt to smoke? now to my disgust. Smoking certainly put pressure on my pocket money even though I only smoked a few at this time. I continued to smoke for the next 25 years until the mid-1970s when I saw the light and ceased, after watching a TV program showing the effects of smoking.

Yes, I enjoyed my time at Lawe Road with more to come.

3 February 2004

First Draft: South Shields. Study and Problems

As the weeks and months passed, the first term completed and into the second term I began to have problems. Small ones at the beginning. It really began with the concepts of A.C. theory and sine’s, cosines and tangents of the angle if you are into trigonometry. Each little piece of information was understandable but to put it all together and understand the basic concept wasn't. I did not fully understand it and as the course progressed I started little by little to drop behind.

At the start of this section of the course we were given a quick refresher into trigonometry. Everyone was conversant with it and I dare not put my hand up to plead my ignorance of the subject. Everyone was at least 16, sat their G.S.C.E. and passed in maths and therefore conversant with trigonometry. At 15 and not having attended grammar school I was a little out of my depth, especially when we moved on to the deeper the mathematical concepts.

To cut a long explanation short I did my best, learnt or memorised what I could, at 15 my mind and memory was fast and wide open to new information. Fortunately the tutors through periodic test papers realised my weakness and kept a sharp watch over my progress.

All course work was written down on the large blackboards. Whether it was explanations, formulae or circuits, everything was written in full. This we copied into our workbooks. If a particular explanation was too long to write up on the board it was dictated from the tutor's notes or sometimes direct from his memory. From these written notes and further amplified by the Admiralty Handbook everything we were required to know was at my fingertips.

I managed to get over this big hump with at least a working knowledge but it dogged me to some extent for the rest of the course. Otherwise I found the course work interesting and I enjoyed it especially when we came to radio theory and the time flew by. By this time waveforms, radio waves... sine waves, were starting to make a little more sense to me along with cosines and tangents. These were the basic building blocks of the understanding of electronics and radio.

The course by this time was moving at a fast pace and as I noted earlier I was having trouble keeping up. It was as though I was on a treadmill. As fast I had almost mastered one area we were into another section at full steam ahead. With the confidence of youth, I was virtually 16 now; I did not really think of failure, I told myself I would scrape through the course.

I just had to keep plugging away but more of that will come later.

Note: Like other entries I have written where I seem to be making excuses or seemingly complaining I leave the piece open to rewriting.