Ivy Freeman 20th March 1925 – 7th February 2014

In loving memory of Ivy Freeman, great grandmother, gran, mother, wife, sister, friend, neighbour and all the wonderful things, my Gran was to so many people.

Laid to rest at Hollinwood Crematorium on the afternoon of Friday the 21st February 2014, my Gran was much more to me than I think I ever told her.

The service by Canon John Sykes, featured professional music (Bette Midler’s Wing Beneath My Wings). I haven’t listened to it since that day without welling up in tears. The poem, Look for me in rainbows, by Conn Bernard and Vicky Brown featured.

Psalm 23 and John 14:1-6, 27 were read from the Bible. With the Lord’s Prayer by Il Divo preceding the commendation and farewell, before a dismissal by the Canon John Sykes. On leaving Andrea Bocelli, played over the speakers, Time to say goodbye. The procession moved on to The Millgate in Failsworth, Manchester.

The below is the writing of my Aunty Susan, I believe.

Ivy was born in Failsworth in 1925 – the second daughter of John and Mary Harrison. Her father died when she was 10. Her mother baked and took in washing. Despite these poor economic times, her mother ensured that her sister Mary and herself were always well dressed with gloves and hats.

She went to Mather Street school, where her second husband John was in the same year.  Ivy and John were courting when they were both 17 years old but opposition from John’s mother due to health concerns stopped them from seeing each other. 

War started and Ivy worked in the munitions factory and volunteered with the fire service, taking calls. It was joked that it was a wonder we won the war because Ivy probably sent the fire crews to the wrong address. She had no sense of direction.

Following the war, she met and married her first husband, Eden and had her first daughter Carolyn. Unfortunately, she was widowed early and left to bring up a young child on her own. Within six months, Ivy had also lost her mother.

In 1956, she married her first boyfriend John and went on to have two more daughters, Susan and Elaine. Ivy was widowed again a second time at the age of 60. At the age of 12, John had a kidney removed and the surgeon said he wouldn’t live to be a man but he had lived to 60, spending 29 years of marriage with Ivy.

She had various part time jobs whilst the children were young but was a machinist by trade. Whit week was a particularly busy time for Ivy, when she made Whit dresses and knitted cardigans for her daughters. She had a lovely voice and liked to sing as she did her housework – notably, Molly Malone.

As her daughters grew older, Ivy began work as a Home Help. She enjoyed helping and meeting people. Ivy was a very kind, caring woman and she often visited and helped her patients in her own time. Once, she didn’t return home from work until early in the morning, leaving her family frantic with worry. She had stayed at the bedside of one of her favourites Mr Ward, until he died. Ivy didn’t want to leave him alone.

In her later years, Ivy found a companion in Ernie and married him in hospital two months before he died. She had spent many happy times with Ernie.

Ivy loved life. She was a vivacious but quiet, thoughtful woman who always looked for the good in everyone. Right up to the day she died, she never lost her sense of humour and hope. Ivy believed that you should treat everyone equally and had a good knowledge of what was happening in the world around her. Although, not as political as her younger daughters, she would ask ‘Which apples am I not supposed to buy?’ during the boycott of South African goods.

She enjoyed reading, walking and spending time with her family. Even in her eighties, she would say ‘I didn’t wait for the bus but walked from Oldham to Failsworth and now I’m jiggered!’  In her sixties, she decided to give aerobics a go with her two younger daughters. It was Susan and Elaine who gave up going first! When walking started to get difficult and Ivy had breast and bone cancer, she resisted using a walking frame saying they were for old people. She was 87!

Ivy had 10 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren and enjoyed their company. She spent many happy times in Nottingham with her daughter Carolyn’s family only stopping her visits because of ill-health. She enjoyed listening to what her grandchildren were doing and gave support whenever she could. She had a close relationship with her sister, Mary, who helped her through difficult times. They were very close and always lived near each other. Mary’s recent death affected Ivy greatly and she lost her best friend.  

Ivy spent her later years at Earls Lodge, where she made many friends, especially Mavis. She had an active social life and there are many photos of her dressed up at various parties. Quite often she started her sentences with “Mavis said…” and at times her daughters would joke “perhaps we shouldn’t let her play with Mavis… she’s a bad influence”

After her death, one of her grandsons, John commented

“Humble, strong willed, independent, brave, modest, selfless. Rest well Gran, for you have been a hero and an inspiration to me. Those you have touched, will remember, and we’ll miss you. Keep on doing headstands. Gran, 1925-2014.”   A very fitting tribute.

Look for me in Rainbows

Time for me to go now, I won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, way up in the sky.
In the morning sunrise when all the world is new,
Just look for me and love me, as you know I loved you.

Time for me to leave you, I won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, high up in the sky.
In the evening sunset, when all the world is through,
Just look for me and love me, and I’ll be close to you.

It won’t be forever, the day will come and then
My loving arms will hold you, when we meet again.

Time for us to part now, we won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, shining in the sky.
Every waking moment, and all your whole life through
Just look for me and love me, as you know I loved you.

Just wish me to be near you,
And I’ll be there with you.

Music and lyrics: Conn Bernard (1990). Vicki Brown

‘This poem was found on the memorial card for Ivy’s Maternal grandmother, Ann Clarke who died in 1907. (My great, great grandmother)‘ – Aunty Susan

How dearly we loved her

When on earth she dwelt.

How we do miss her

No tongue can tell.

God grant us her spirit –

That we may prepare

To meet her in Heaven

Where there’s no parting there.

To live in hearts we love is not to die.

Manchester Baby (Happy Father’s Day)

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

The Manchester Baby, A.K.A., the small-scale experimental machine (SSEM) was not a device of torture or something living. It was a huge innovation and giver to the future. Here’s a little more about the Manchester Baby and how it came about on the 21st June 1948, just 71 years ago.

F.C. Williams sounds like a football team. There is a Manchester connection. It doesn’t involve a centre-half called Tom Kilburn. Kilburn, from Dewsbury in Yorkshire, resident of Blackpool, was actually a regular at Old Trafford. His being a Manchester Utd fan should exclude him from my writing but Tom Kilburn CBE FRS alongside Stockport-born Sir Frederic Calland Williams, CBE FRS changed the world. Much of our modern world owes itself to this dynamic duo. Geoff Tootill, from Chadderton, where my Gran worked at Avro once, also worked in the Electrical Engineering Department of the University of Manchester.

Freddie Williams was a dreamer and a doer. This pioneer in radar technology carried on a wave of momentum following World War II and applied his science to research for numerous years. Look up his thesis, ‘Problems of spontaneous oscillation in electrical circuits for some light reading. Much of what was written then is widespread knowledge now. He’d be known for Manchester Baby and the Williams tube (or Williams–Kilburn tube) – a device of computer memory. Geoff C. Tootill passed away on 26th October 2017. His contributions are long and illustrious. There’s a replica of Manchester Baby in the Museum of Science and Industry (Manchester), created in 1998, by the Computer Conservation Society. Tootill’s extensive notes and recollections made this possible.

Without this trio of grafters and trend-setters, the computer era could have been years, if not decades away. The Manchester Baby and Ferranti Mark 1 are iconic technological advancements. They represent the first electronic stored-program digital computers. Famous mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist Alan Turing ran a programme on Manchester Baby, having had it initially debugged by Geoff C. Tootill. Turing and the National Physical Laboratory had also been trying to make their own programmable computer. The former codebreaker and his team also spent much time in Manchester and greatly contributed to the future.


Happy Father’s Day Dad!

My father, David Acton, or Dad as I call him, because that’s what he is and always will be has given me many great memories. Caravan trips to Cleveleys, Morecambe and countless other days out have been had. There could have been more time spent together, but for divorce, Dad’s work schedule and other factors. It is water under the bridge now. Not every day growing up was wonderful, much was spent in anticipation and uncertainty. Other kids have had far worse feelings, but my dread was all I knew. On the days when Dad and Pup, or my elder brother Asa were around, then it was delightful. Having dinner at my Nana’s house, seeing my Granddad and listening to his many war and travel stories were treats.

I don’t look back with sadness on having my parents divorce so young. Around me many of my friends were in the same boat. That’s life. It is what it is. I was lucky. Some friends had lost their father at a young age, and some never even knew who their father was. Growing up in Manchester, you weren’t far away from a fatherless child. Then, I also knew kids who grew up with fathers who were abusive or neglectful. So, which is best? There are templates and ideals, but for many these were distant dreams not granted to us. Dad did his best, and always has done his best, and understanding my Dad is key. He’s laidback, relaxed and I love him unreservedly.

Dad often took me to Manchester Victoria station, where I’d meet his colleagues in a bland room above the main railway concourse. Broken biscuits, piping hot pint mugs of tea and natter would be had. Or, we’d nip over the road, down some steps to a subterranean Railway Men’s Club with the best corned beef and onion barmcakes (a bread roll) with proper mustard. When Dad wasn’t working, we’d be at the allotment on Joyce Street, Moston. Our dog Pup would be alongside us, and I’d be let out of the back gate alongside my best friend Pup. We’d run riot on Broadhurst Park, climbing trees, jumping the valleys and over the red brick stream within the park. We’d often sit together on a perch overlooking the allotment and Dad’s plot, watching as Dad bodged a greenhouse together or planted row after row of potatoes. Just by the Ronald Johnson Playing Field, Pup and I used to chase footballs. That’s now the site of F.C. United of Manchester. I like to think that Pup and I had a pooh there. I’m certain that a bush doubled-up as an open toilet for me, at least.

From time to time the Ronald Johnson Playing Field would host cycling events. It was the first place that I witnessed competitive cycling in Manchester. How lucky the city of Manchester has been since. Wandering within the confines of Broadhurst Park, Pup and I would never cross the line at Nuthurst Road, and we’d rarely walk down Lightbowne Road towards the junction at Kenyon Lane. My Gran and Ernie lived near there (off Judd Street), plus my Aunty Susan was on Joyce Street, just down Kenyon Lane. The risk of being seen was too high. We were sometimes allowed out of the allotment front gate and crossed over the road by Dad. Here in the armpit of St Mary’s Road and Joyce Street, up against the railway was a new scrub of parkland that ran behind Newton Heath Train Maintenance Depot.

Newton Heath Train Maintenance Depot, mostly known to us as ‘Newton Heath Loco’. It may or not have had a connection to a certain Manchester Utd., but for me it was a mysterious place full of oil and metallic smells. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company had long maintained a presence at this depot. My grandfather George Acton had worked here, as did my Dad at several points. Sometimes, Dad would drive into there to grab some tools or paints for his job. With Dad and Granddad, I was lucky enough to see under a train once or twice and wander around guided in ways health and safety executives now would grimace at.

The railway was central to my youth and time spent with Dad. Train rides to see aunts, uncles and relatives was normal. From time to time, car rides out to parks, the seaside and to see Nana and Granddad at the caravan were treats. I can recall numerous pilgrimages to see the legendary Blackpool Lights, with return trips sat on old Intercity diesel trains in the luggage and goods compartments. Lugging bags of seaweed for the allotment and garden was standard practice, in Dad’s eyes. Asa said how he, as a teenager, held a greenhouse on the roof of the possibly old Princess car, as it hurtled down the steep hill of St Mary’s Road towards Moston Brook. The residents of St. Mary’s Nursing Home may have seen a flying greenhouse as Asa lost his grip.

Dad’s cars have been antiquarian at best. Workhorses over shiny pride. I can recollect a Lada Riva in beige and faded cream. Further to that there was a black Ford Mondeo with air conditioning. The air-conditioning being electronic windows that seldom worked. Sometimes they’d roll down, but never roll up. There were occasional diesel railway vans and pick-ups. Dad had been for a long-time part of British Railways and then Network Rail as a painter and decorator. His job description was pretty much paint anything and everything – but not the trains. Work was scattered nationally but mostly confined the Lancashire and Greater Manchester area. Between work Dad, would have us nip up to what is now Julie’s Homebrew by Jessie Street and Copenhagen Street off Oldham Road. The Sharp factory would be nearby, so as sponsors of Man Utd, I was allowed to boo.

Taking Nana to Newton Heath market was always exciting as it usually meant a custard slice or Chewits. The dentist’s nightmares were through fault of Nana spoiling me. If I said that I liked a Cadbury’s Boost, Nana, a diabetic would fuel my requests. We’d even jib over the canal, Nana on the concrete walkway parallel to the Old Church Street road bridge, and me springing over the dangerous wooden canal lock gates. What is now Lidl, was once Kwik Save, and our Asa would sometimes be seen working out the back or on the graveyard evening shifts at the weekend.

Our ‘Ace’ was a hero to me, as a kid, and even though we never spent much time together, I always wanted to be him. I had brown curly unruly hair. Asa had well-kept curly black hair. Asa has and had chiseled looks. I resembled a pallet of spilt paint. My freckles and pale skin was quite far from our ‘Ace’. The good thing about ‘Ace’ was that he liked computers and would rarely touch my books. Books were everywhere and I’d pick up anything with words. Asa preferred computers, coding and all that. Picking up books from barrow stalls at Manchester Victoria was something Dad and Mum both gifted me. With my many questions, Dad would often have an answer and if he didn’t, he’d point me at a book or tell me who to ask.

Anyway Dad, have a Happy Father’s Day – see you for a drink and some City as soon as possible.

All my love, John

goater

John Nichols: You Know His Name

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

/vɪm/

noun

informal
noun: vim
  1. energy; enthusiasm.
    “in his youth he was full of vim and vigour
    Origin: mid 19th century (originally US): perhaps from Latin, accusative of vis ‘energy’.

Today I am mostly going to talk about Vimto. Well, maybe not talk, but write. Yes, today, I’ll write about Manchester’s John Nichols and Vimto. When I was at RAC Inspection Services in Cheadle, Stockport, we used to have a fizzy Vimto option on the drink vending machine. It’d pump out gassy and sugar-free purple liquid into a disposable cup, or mug if you remembered to place one down quick enough.

I have always enjoyed Vimto. My Gran and my Nana used to give me steaming warm cups of it when I was too young to touch the top of door frames. Not that the height of doorframes was a prerequisite for drinking the purple-golden cordial. I can even remember having it pumped on draught at the Working Man’s Club in Newton Heath and Morrison’s supermarket in Failsworth. Since those days, I have supped this drink at the Etihad Stadium, in Abu Dhabi’s airport and on Hua Hin beach in Thailand.

Vimto was originally a health tonic. It contains about 3% fruit juice concentration. The key fruits are possibly from Lancashire: raspberries and blackcurrants. There are grapes too. Don’t ask me which valley of Lancashire they came from – I can only assume Bowker Vale. It sounds plausible. Herbs and spices are bunged in too. Preston’s Ellis Wilkinson Mineral Water Manufacturer produced the water early on. It was really a health business on a healthy path of growth.

“My father used to go into work on Saturdays in those days, back in the mid-to-late ’60s, and so there was a fascination. And in those days my grandfather, who invented the product in the beginning, was still around.” – Grandson John Nichols

(John) Noel Nichols came from Shortridge, Scotland to 19 Granby Row, Manchester. By 1908 he had invented his new drink, just off Sackville Street, and around the corner from Back Acton Street. After 4 years his vim tonic was shortened in name to Vimto. The wholesaler of herbs, spices and medicines had found something quite popular amongst local people – especially in the shadow of the temperance movement and the new 1908 Licensing Act. Soft drinks were a new and exciting market. It changed from health tonic to cordial by 1913 and the rest they say is history.

It is not clear if John Nichols would have approved of the Purple Ronnie character or the slightly rude Giles Andreae poems (friend of screenwriter Richard Curtis). These highly marketable poems and colourful animations appeared in the 1990s and set a tone for a trendy drink – as an almost indie alternative to the giants of Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Nowadays the family link is retained within Nichols plc. Grandson John Nichols is the Non-Executive Chairman. His two sons also work within Nichols plc.

“We have a very open, friendly approach and encourage any member of staff to talk to the management team about their ideas for the business. Innovation has been key to our success in developing the iconic Vimto brand and identifying new brands, products and market opportunities.” – John Nichols, interview with Warren Partners.

Vimto Cordial has diversified from its original form, to sugar-free varieties, fizzy carbonated cans and bottles, cherry and strawberry editions. Then there is Vimto Remix. And sweets. Ice-lollies too. With new space needed, Vimto moved to the edge of Manchester into Salford’s Chapel Street, now home to the luxury Vimto Gardens apartment complex. By the year 1927, they then scattered to Old Trafford (then home to the teenage-aged Manchester Utd. F.C. who had by then picked up five senior domestic trophies) before heading back onto Mancunian soil in Wythenshawe by 1971. Nowadays the multi-billion dollar American-Canadian beverage and food service provider Cott Corporation produces Vimto in Leicestershire and Yorkshire. Presumably both exotic locations have better access to grapes. Traditional bottled soft drink manufacturer A.G. Barr in Forfar and Cumbernauld still make the pop too.

Vimto Soft Drinks and Newton-le-Willows based Nichols plc retain the license alongside other favourites like Panda Pops. Under their Cabana name they manufacture a fair range of soft drinks and post-mix solutions – both at home and overseas to around 80 plus countries. Outside of the traditional market, Vimto enjoys huge presence in the middle-east and Arabian countries. It is made in Yemen, The Gambia and the Saudi Arabian city of Dammam City. It is apparently produced under license (since 1979 by Aujan & Brothers) in order for demand around Ramadan and other occasions that demand fasting. Vimto is so international that it is even made by Mehran Bottlers in Pakistan, is once again back in India, and Nepal’s Himganga Beverage Pvt Ltd. There are currently no products available in China or Taiwan or Hong Kong. Macau? No.

Granby Row has a park now, called Vimto Park with a statue to the drink. It’s a very Mancunian statue erected in 1992. Most cities celebrate iconic politicians and movements, but Manchester being Manchester, we celebrate the birth of a soft drink. The artist Kerry Morrison carved wood from a sustainable forest. Again, forward-thinking and considerate!

12th July 2015 Manchester centre and City campus (15)

Anyway, I’m sat in Dongguan, China, parched and thinking, maybe, I need a meeting. Who wants to invest? Drop me a line. During these COVID-19 outbreak time, we need more sunshine. Let’s bring the purple to the red land of China.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Was it Mohandas Gandhi who said that? Arleen Lorrance?

Round Our Way

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste


TOUR

Well, I’ve booked flights to return to Blighty on the 31st of July, with the return to China slotted in on the 15th of September. That follows four days in Yokohama (Japan) watching English Premier League Champions Manchester City, and a trip that takes in Nanjing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to see the City face West Ham Utd, Europa League-bound Wolves or Newcastle Utd and then Kitchee SC. It is expensive and beyond my bank balance, but you only live once, I think. Money isn’t all there is to life. If your nation is billions in debt and U.S.A. is trillions in debt, and you don’t fully agree with capitalism, then flip it, live for the moment and the future, at the expense of yesterday. We can always make more money, but we can’t make more days of living. Our species has had more warnings than we care fit. Godzilla: King of Monsters, even delivers this cheesy message. Just do thes best you can, and to quote Braveheart, every man dies, not every man really lives. Something like that.


IMG_5346.JPGI may die without offspring, and in debt but I’ll be damned if I will die unhappy. If I pass on a few smiles and some good advice along the way, then I am happy. Morbidly happy. I can’t wait to get back and enjoy summer with family and close friends. I miss so many good friends. I certainly miss my family. Homesickness seems to creep in as the football season ends, and my eyes firmly focus on a summer trip home. It has happened this way since 2015. This year my holiday is extended by a few weeks – and also, I will request Christmas off, to visit home. I need to see my family I owe it to them.


MANC AIRPORT ANNIVERSARY 2013 (25)Summer in the U.K. will probably see some football, London for the Community Shield, a few Premier League games, some Aberystwyth Town jaunts and whatever suits. I hope to see Bristol Balloon Festival when near our Ace’s. Chadderton Duck Race should be in there for Dr Kershaw’s Hospice. There has to be an airshow to visit. Perhaps some Tour of Britain cycling action, Vincent Kompany’s Testimonial game and a memorial tree planting. Everything is possible with your own powerful mind. Oh, and Doves near Acton town. That’s a must. Perhaps the Ramsbottom World Black Pudding Throwing Championships. Sadly, I fly back the week before Egremont Crabbing Fair & World Gurning Championships. Hopefully, I will find a way to see the great Lancaster Bomber fly, whether over Saddleworth, Southport or Blackpool, I don’t know!


I want to spend some of summer researching my family tree too. I know so little about my heritage.

gran and aunty sue

My Mother’s side:

Ivy Harrison was born on Densmore Street in Failsworth.  At the age of five Ivy attended Mathers Street Council School in 1930.  On April the 13th 1939 Ivy became a machinist making night clothes for Smith and Nephew (a Hollinwood based company).  In 1943 during the Second World War Avro Ltd. recruited Ivy to make munitions and aircraft pieces. Parachutes were also made. The war effort needed everything. In the wake of a recovering U.K. climate during 1949, Ivy married John Hitchin.  In May of that year, Carolyn Hitchin was born.  In 1955 John Hitchin died from a severe heart attack.  Ivy became a widow aged thirty.  And in 1956, Ivy’s mother died aged sixty-nine.

In late December 1956, Ivy remarried, to John Roberts.  John came from a long line of North-Wales’ Welsh men. Susan Ivy Roberts was born upon the 5th of October 1957. Soon after, Ivy’s third child Elaine June Roberts was born upon the 20th of June 1961. John Roberts died in my early years. My Gran remarried at the deathbed of her companion Ernest Freeman. She would pass away as a widow in February 2014 and leave behind family who miss her most dearly.

To be continued…

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

IMG_5346.JPG

J6: 2005 – Granddad Ernie

On the 10th of April 2005, following a lengthy period in Fairclough Hospital, in Bury, Ernie died.  A few weeks before his death he had married my Granny.  The wedding was held within the hospital owing to his ill health.  The hospital provided a ring and the cake.  Mum found out on the phone later that night.  I had visited Ernie only a week before his death.  He looked very ill, very underweight and was incoherent.  He still knew who I was and gave welcome to me by his bedside.  Granny and I walked him to the toilet, but this seemed to strain him of any strengths he had left.  Granny and Ernie had looked after me when my sister was taken to hospital after she was knocked down.  On the day we went to the local station and watched as the trains passed by.  That night I stayed my Granny’s house.  There were many of the times during the difficult week that followed that merited a waterfall of tears.

 

 

On a Tuesday, some days later, myself, Paul, Paul junior, and Astrid set off to Granny’s house.  Granny had lived in north Manchester, in Moston for over 16 years.  In 1989 Granny had met Ernie.  They became very close friends and eventually moved in together.  Ernie would always look after my Granny.  Granny and Ernie would always visit us in south Manchester.  We would sometimes visit markets together.  Ernie would look out for many collectable goods, e.g. steam memorabilia.  We would sometimes visit museums and places where we could see working steam engines and many other engineering pieces.  Ernie was a steam enthusiast.  One Christmas when I was young and still at primary school Ernie and Granny treated me to a working steam engine model.  I was very proud to be given such a gift.  The gift had clearly cost my Granny and Ernie a large amount of money, but it would always be of sentimental value. I plan to power it up this February.

We arrived at Granny’s house for noon.  Paul junior and Astrid went to the shop to buy some fizzy drinks.  Myself and Paul had a cup of tea with Granny.  Aunty Carolyn and her husband Phil arrived with my cousin Kelly soon after, as well as my Great Uncle Eric and Great Aunty Mary.   A few friends of the family also attended.  Many well wishers passed by and offered my Granny their deepest sympathies.

The procession set out and arrived later on at the cemetery.  A procession passed through Blakeley and most of Moston.  We passed some kids and in my mind, I had judged them to be no good kids but one of them removed his cap to reveal that he was paying huge respect to the passing procession.  This was a touching moment.  We arrived at the cemetery close to half two in the afternoon.  The coffin was carried into a large room, within this large room stood the priest of the front.  The priest recited some sermons and read aloud some psalms.  He then paid tribute to Ernie Freeman.  The final piece of music before we left the room was that of a steam engine puffing up and sounding its horn.  Outside the priest thanked us and offered us his blessing.  Flowers were lay on the ground outside as a tribute to the man we were paying respect to that day.

I sat in the funeral car, and the door blew in the breeze.  The door creaked.  Ernie would have oiled the car door, or taken it apart just to fix the problem.  This thought made me cry.  I will always miss him and will always wish that I’d got to know him better.  He was a very interesting man who I admired greatly.  He was honest, caring and considerate.  He was witty and a true gentleman.  Even though he was not my real biological grandfather I will always call him my granddad.

Our procession then went to a public house in Fallowfield, of the name of The Willow.  Here we ate sandwiches and had a few drinks in the final way of paying tribute to Ernie.

My Granddad George was admitted to hospital once again in March 2005, and the next month did not look so bright for family matters. Dad’s friend Bert died on the day his wife was buried in early April 2005. It seemed to be a cursed year. It made me feel helpless.

My Granddad, George Acton passed away. I won’t write about this now. I want to write far more about each grandparent soon.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

John II

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Mum and Paul soon needed a larger house; there were five of us and only two rooms.  We arrived at Broom Avenue, off Broom Lane in 1991.  This road was located in the district of Levenshulme.  Levenshulme was famed for its antiques village, and very little else.  I started at a new primary school, this time Chapel Street Primary.  The new challenge of making friends was not easy.  Year 3 was not easy.  The bullies soon discovered new prey.  Who better to pick on than a dictionary-crazed, mathematically-ahead-of-them, wildlife-loving kid who was way ahead of them, or seemed to be because he didn’t eat erasers or fart the national anthem using his armpit as an instrument. I never thought I was better than anyone. They projected this onto me. Made me feel inferior by appearing superior. I hurt lots. Every day. Every year for nearly four years straight.  I became more and more distant from the other kids, as I often found people would reject me as a friend. I didn’t trust anyone, initially.  Troublesome Peter Ridyard, and snobby Alex Muir became my friends.  It was rare I would play out with them until year 5, as they lived far away at the other end of Broom Lane [although just 2km away, it seemed, back then, to be closer to London].

Within days of moving into Levenshulme, Pup had run from the house, and Astrid had run after him between parked cars.  Astrid was hit and landed many feet from the point of impact as the car screeched to a halt.  I remember the day as it was so confusing for me.  I had been taken to see trains go by with Ernie (my Granny Ivy’s partner) at Levenshulme station.  We were eating Gregg’s Bakery pasties on the platform and he was telling me and Grannyny Ivy all about how trains worked and the good old days of steam.  We returned to my house to discover from the neighbour’s Mary and Bill that they had all rushed to hospital with Astrid.  Later that day Paul returned with Paul junior.  He told us how it had happened, and how Astrid was.  She had suffered severe head injuries and a broken leg.  It would take weeks at Booth Hall Children’s Hospital (where I had my hernia operation aged 7), and months of intense physiotherapy and treatment at Rodney House Specialist Support & Outreach School before Astrid with recover.

The day after the accident Dad collected Pup from our home.  The only way I would now see my closest friend was when Dad would pick me up.

During May 1991, within days of starting school I finally swam my length at Levenshulme swimming baths.  It was apparent I was not going to be a channel swimmer, but I did progress from a width to a length.  Class 4PC as dictated by the tyrant Miss Clegg started with a bang.  Within two weeks I had many things confiscated by the hairy-nosed teacher.  Two Lego men, countless Micro Machine cars, and twenty pence (as provided by the tooth-fairy) went into her large laundry-bag-come-personal-suitcase.  My attendance at school however was excellent.  I did enjoy learning even if I hated the bullies.  Miss Clegg referred to me as a loner on many occasions but made no effort to help me make new friends.  I was behaving sensibly (to mix and mingle amongst the other monsters may have got me into trouble and maybe even eaten by Miss Clegg).

Miss Clegg was an enforcer of learning.  Whilst under her control, our class worked as hard as possible.  We worked on as many ways as to wind her up on the class trip to Levenshulme library [a place of dreams], we sneak off and hunt down the Anne Hooper’s books for a giggle.  We also rotated the “who can throw a rubber [eraser] at Cleggy and get away with it” game amongst ourselves.  At parents’ evening as with many years of schooling, I’d be told alongside my parents that my work was great, and my work rate was above average but my handwriting was poor.  Maybe then I had foreseen the Computer-typed work age.  Besides in Miss Cleggs class would I shiver often at the thought of being told to slow down and let others catch up.  That, and I had to keep an eye on my back, at the bullies. How could my handwriting be neat under those conditions?

In September 1993, a wise and witty teacher by the name Andrew Jones began to teach us.  He allowed us more room with our imaginations and helped us with our vocabularies.  This teacher was dedicated to his job.  He helped my confidence, encouraged me to be recognised by the class in teams, and congratulated me on a determined improvement of my handwriting.  During this academic year several pupils visited Ghyll Head Outdoor Education Centre, close to Lake Windermere.  The car park view looked over the great lake.  Our supervisory teachers included Mr Jones, Mrs Treanor (the deputy head-teacher), and Miss Spencer.

On the Monday we explored the site grounds of Ghyll Head, climbed the rope course, and I also met numerous mallard ducks.  They were already hand tame and loved the bread I had brought them.  On the Tuesday, we enjoyed rock scrambling on Humphrey Head overlooking Morecambe Bay.  We also kayaked across Lake Windermere seeing several swan eggs along an island to the West of the lake.  The other days varied from horse-riding like John Wayne, to gorge walking, tunnelling two miles up an underground flood drain, caving in Ingleside (Yorkshire) and singing on many mini-buses.  On the final night we had a barbeque and Mr Jones claimed he was drinker a Larger drink, but we all knew it was Lager!  During my stay at Ghyll Head, I had to sleep for five nights in room Gimmer.  There was also five others there, and we chatted late into the night with mad post-mushy-peas farting epidemics. The older kids were friendlier than the younger students there. I didn’t feel threatened.

The end of year five arrived, and before departing for home for the summer period, Mr Jones very kindly gave me a set of encyclopaedias he had learnt from as a child.  It was a very generous and touching gift, and I thanked him.  Mr Jones was my greatest Primary school teacher.  In fact he remains my greatest teacher of all time, and I hope he is doing very well for himself.

Miriam Roe was our next teacher.  6MR was a very lively year, with me, Osman and Alex always doing Smashy and Nicey impressions (characters from the TV show, Harry Enfield and Chums).  We even allowed Evangalia Votski into our group, she was a very kind friendly Greek girl. She was also the first girl I ever found attractive and wanted to kiss. It wasn’t to be. Miss Roe taught me that even when I wish to be independent that asking for help at times when I required it would not be frowned upon.  I survived a year of bullying, and Chapel Street Primary school with its giant six-foot-plus headteacher that was Mr Gary Kershaw.  I no longer had Mr Kershaw to guide me through school, and help me avoid trouble.  After Summer, I would enter high school in Reddish Vale with classmate James Cliff.

To summarise my early years, I had a coin ride obsession when I was a wee toddler; I most likely kept Professor Peabody’s in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens open for trade; enjoyed many a holiday in Cleveleys and Morecambe with Nana and Dad, and many other family members; I remember getting drenched one birthday in Blackpool with Neil Fanning and my Mum;  I even remember pushing my sister Astrid, aged two, up the Great Orme in Llandudno; and if anyone invites you to Scarborough for a holiday, say no.  Scarborough can boast grey skies that would rival the likes of a winter in Wales. But now, after three primary schools and years of relative comfort, the ride of life would begin…

TO BE CONTINUED