The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

The Old Children’s Hospital, Nottingham

I came across a reference to the old Children’s Hospital at Forest House recently and it brought quite a few childhood memories rushing back. I managed somehow to get myself knocked down (well up in the air actually) by a beefy Ford Consul when I was a kid and ended up a guest in said institution. When I eventually landed it was with two broken legs, one in three places, and concussion plus a few sundry cuts and bruises for good measure. I recall being upside down in the air and seeing my shoe flying up the street. I also remember then doggedly trying to drag myself to my feet using a bus stop to hold on to and looking down to see my leg bend in the wrong place. They carted me off to ‘The Children’s’ in an ambulance where I remained for a week. With physiotherapy (learning to walk again basically) my young association with that hospital lasted a year though.

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I was terrified of the place but they looked after me very well (I’ve gone on to run a few marathons as an adult so they did pretty well I guess!) but I was scared stiff of the building and the unknown in there as I thought they were going to take my legs away for good. I remember this below above so well, being taken for physiotherapy there  by my mum.

The kindest, kindest man, a jolly West Indian doctor, looked after me and made me smile – even though he was tasked with re-breaking my legs twice in operations as they had knitted crookedly. On another failed occasion they sawed the long plaster casts half through at the shins and banged wooden pegs in the gaps to straighten my legs. Looking back it was like something out of a Hammer horror movie. I wish I could thank that kindly doctor today though.

March 10, 2014 Posted by | On The Road, Times Gone By | , | Leave a comment

The Skylark – Sunshine turned into Song

IN THE DEPTHS OF WINTER it is good to remind ourselves of long, hot summer days. Some of the nicest of those days for me are when I am out walking in the countryside, with all the sights, sounds and sensations of the hills, fields and woodlands. One of my favourite sounds is the inimitable song of the Skylark, usually followed by a long peer up into the atmosphere for a welcome sighting of this beautiful creature that gives so much joy.

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There are many different kinds of lark but perhaps the one that comes to mind most memorably for people is the Skylark. Without daring to find out I am sure that Vaughan Williams had this little bird in mind when he wrote his uplifting The Lark Ascending, particularly in the way it flies very high, almost out of sight, together with its attractive signature song. It’s song has been described as ‘sunshine turned into song’, quite rightly.

You can listen to a little sunshine here:

Skylark song

January 3, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC, Ripping Yarns | , , | Leave a comment

John Archibald Frew

My dad, John Archibald Frew, originally of Musselburgh, Scotland died thirty years ago this New Year’s Day, just after midnight on January 1st, 1984, shortly after I’d celebrated the bells with him.

Consequently, this time of year is never easy – even after all these years. In those early years afterwards it haunted me.
There’s never a day passes when I don’t think of him, all he imparted to his son, the lessons he taught me. I can still hear the soft tones of his voice any time I care to listen in my mind. That last night we were together during the celebrations I kissed him during the celebrations, the first time since being a little boy.

Photo: My dad, John Archibald Frew, originally of Musselburgh, Scotland died thirty years ago today just after midnight on January 1st, 1984, shortly after I'd celebrated the bells with him. 

Consequently, this time of year is never easy - even after all these years. In those early years afterwards it haunted me. 

There's never a day passes when I don't think of him, all he imparted to me, the lessons he taught me. I can hear the soft tones of his voice any time I care to listen in my mind.

John was the product of a very hard background. Poverty meant that he often went without shoes on his feet as a bairn. It toughened him as hard as teak for the trials he would go through subsequently. Let it not be ignored though that he could show rare wisdom and at times be a very funny man indeed. 

He strived for a living in pits in Scotland as a young boy, working all day long in water. He worked on Scapa Flow then travelled the world as a proud Merchant Seaman. The German U-Boats tried their best but couldn't kill him in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

For the year coming, he would have been proud, I know, to think that the country he loved so, could have the opportunity to stand alone and look after itself.

My dad was my rock and his memory remains that to this day. I owe him much.

Fond memories.

John Archibald Frew 1921-1984 'Life's work well done'.

John was the product of a very hard background. Poverty meant that he often went without shoes on his feet as a bairn. As infants in Musselburgh he and his brother slept in makeshift beds made from the drawers of an old chest. The wee boy’s mammy, Elizabeth, died when he was just four years old. Those early life experiences toughened him as hard as teak for the trials he would go through subsequently. Let it not be ignored though that he could show rare wisdom and at times be a very funny man indeed. People told me he was a most popular and loved man in the town we lived. Wherever he walked he would speak to all and greet them cheerily as an old friend.

As a youngster he had a roaming spirit and attempted to ‘run away’ from home on many occasions. Later on he was to steadily save the money on returned ‘jeely jars’ and acquire himself a ramshackle bicycle with which he cycled from Lanarkshire to Doncaster in England before falling off the bike during the monumental journey and sleeping, exhausted, in a deep ditch for the night. A passing policeman helped him out of there in the morning when he woke.

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He strived for a living in the pits of Scotland as a young boy of just fourteen, working all day long on his hands and knees in water. He then worked on the Scapa Flow naval base on Orkney with his dear brother Alex ‘Sandy’, before travelling the world as a proud Merchant Seaman. The German U-Boats tried their best on those horrific runs but couldn’t kill him in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

For the year coming, he would have been proud, I know, to think that the country he loved so, could have the opportunity to stand alone and look after itself.

My dad was my rock and his memory remains that to this day. I owe him much.

Fond memories.

John Archibald Frew 1921-1984 ‘Life’s work well done’.

January 2, 2014 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , , | Leave a comment

Five Leaves Bookshop – The Road to Independence

During the 1990s in particular, the High Streets of this country largely lost their small independent bookshops which for most true book lovers was a great shame. I remember prior to those days the likes of Mushroom a co-operative run bookshop in Nottingham’s Hockley area, my first purchase there being the Communist Party Manifesto if I recall correctly! There were other similar interesting little outlets too.

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It’s recently come to my attention that Nottingham now owns a brand-new independent retailer, ‘The Five Leaves Bookshop’ situated centrally in the city on Long Row. Five Leaves have been doing very good things in this part of the world for some time and are to be applauded for this fresh enterprise. I intend a visit on my next trip into the city and humbly suggest others check this new business out too. No, I’m not on commission, I’m a lover of literature and reading and what these things bring to our lives. I’d like to see this trend for small independent booksellers grow here in Nottingham and other cities and towns.

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , | Leave a comment

The Tears of a Clown – 2013 in Review

AT THIS TIME of year, this blog’s host prepares a nifty resume of the past year. A few interesting facts (to me at least) one being that I REALLY need to write a little more in the coming year. Here’s hoping.

Stuart

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 66,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 31, 2013 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | | Leave a comment

Happy Christmas, 2013

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‘And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.’
Luke 2:7

December 24, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On the Buses…

I recently came across an internet discussion headed ‘Why are bus drivers so bitter?’ The person asking the question had felt let down by a bus driver not allowing him onto his bus though standing at a bus stop. Without delving into that set of circumstances I think those of us who have cause to use bus services all have our frustrations to relate.

The area of Nottinghamshire where I live is served by Nottingham City Transport Buses and also a private East Midlands bus company called Trent Barton. Alighting a corporation bus, one is reasonably likely, though by no means always, liable to experience a poor, uncommunicative or sullen attitude from the drivers whereas the Trent Barton drivers are at the other end of the spectrum, invariably behaving in a friendly, personable and helpful manner.

I agreed with many of the assertions in the discussion revolving around the frustrations of the drivers and what a difficult and trying job it must be. I think this takes it toll – these men and women do a thankless job in many respects. An interesting observation for me locally is that the corporation drivers generally drive just a few miles on their routes through very frustrating city and suburban conditions – with the resultant effect on the drivers. Just imagine driving stop-start all shift long, the abuse from some members of the public and so on. The Trent Barton drivers tend to partly drive through the city too but their routes are often longer with stretches through open countryside. The bus I use between home and Nottingham city centre is a journey of but four miles but the bus then usually continues on to Chesterfield – a full thirty mile journey with only an intermittent stop in a built up area (Mansfield). I’m sure this helps the drivers and is a mood lifter.

Perhaps more importantly, I’m pretty sure the Trent Barton drivers are trained and educated in their attitudes towards customers. The company has a smaller ‘family feel’ to it and this culture really improves relations between staff and customers. They also make judicious use of social media to communicate with their customers. The Facebook and Twitter comments they provide through the day can be incredibly helpful regarding en-route problems, cheap fares and so on.

The result is a superior service. The respect is palpable between drivers and customers and the positivity and friendliness shown by the drivers mostly delivered right back at them from their passengers. The service, as far as travelling on buses goes, is a pleasant one to use. I have a choice in my suburb of using Trent Barton buses or Nottingham City Transport buses. Guess which one I don’t use from one year to the next?

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , | 6 Comments

Sunshine on Leith

WELL, I FINALLY managed to get along to see the Sunshine on Leith movie

I can say from the heart that in no way was I disappointed – despite huge expectations.

I’m certainly not a great fan of musicals generally but Sunshine on Leith worked very well for me with the songs being melded into the dialogue opportunely and fairly seamlessly. Of course, being an admirer of The Proclaimers’ body of work helps but nevertheless I felt this aspect of it, from my layman’s point of view, was excellent. A script that possessed genuine emotion and elicited a certain caring for the characters moved things along nicely between Morningside and the old port.

The landscape shots over the city? Well, I expected to be impressed as even from my personal (and biased) view, Edinburgh is the most photogenic of cities. However, I found myself choking up several times over the true grandeur of Old Reekie in all its historic and geographic glory. Simply stunning – even to those of us who know and expect these sights and those feelings

The Proclaimers/Hibs connection was skilfully performed with no overkill and just in the right amounts.

There is nowhere like home and this eagerly awaited cinematographic ‘ribbon of dreams’ made me want to walk to my car and drive straight to Edinburgh without stopping. I can offer no higher compliment.

Well done to all.

October 17, 2013 Posted by | I CAN HEAR MUSIC | , , , | Leave a comment

From Eagle Valley

Things are looking pretty bleak for the local football club, Arnold Town, after a proud and illustrious past, formerly as Arnold St. Mary’s (and Arnold Kingswell). They perform a good service to the community, running some thirty teams for players of all ages.

It was sad to see them leave the centre of the town a few years ago when they lost their home at the King George V playing field after many a year but hopes were high with an excellent facility built-in the nearby countryside for them to use.

I’ve a few happy memories of watching them as a youngster, in particular against professional opposition in the form of Bristol Rovers and Port Vale in the FA Cup amongst many other games, here in the town and I really hope they keep a long, local tradition alive.

Come on The Eagles.

http://www.nottinghampost.com/Arnold-Town-FC-Emergency-meeting-held-eleventh/story-19865548-detail/story.html

October 1, 2013 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , , | Leave a comment

On Blogging and Journalism

RECENTLY, A STUDENT at one of the local universities requested, after browsing The Tears of a Clown that I participate in her research on the topic of blogging and it’s relationship to journalism. There were a few interesting and well-conceived questions posed and taking part became a thought-provoking exercise. This site celebrated it’s sixth birthday this month so it seemed to be an opportune time to consider the medium of blogging generally. The questions and their answers are recorded below

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Why did you decide to start blogging?

I initiated my main blog in August, 2007 after attending and being inspired by a talk at Lowdham Book Festival, Notts by a leading blogger who now writes professionally. I had previously experimented with blogs in a small way for field research and also ran a free traditional website for a while. I migrated all the previously written articles on the latter to The Tears of a Clown.

‘Tears of a Clown’ has reached 512,904 views. How do you feel that the privilege to communicate on a mass scale has been extended to anybody who has access to the Internet?

I enjoy the freedom to publish my thoughts, beliefs, experiences and knowledge in this way. Clearly, it is a great opportunity for anyone with something to say and my personal belief is that it should be respected. There were other online means previously, for example internet forums and some may claim that blogs have in some ways been superseded and outgrown by other social media such as micro-blogging etc. I still however, find it more satisfying, generally speaking, than those methods of communication. I do however, generally use these different means for different purposes.

How do you respond to the notion that blogging has undermined the privileged position occupied by journalists?

With barely suppressed hilarity I might say! Certain areas of the world of journalism undermine themselves on a regular basis with their irresponsibility and bias. Although I remain a fan and supporter of quality journalism, too many individuals and organisations have brought about their own downfall and therefore I have little sympathy that they are now being regularly challenged.

 

How do you respond to the opinion that, as a blogger, you are unfamiliar with the process of news gathering?

I respond by saying that I am not a journalist and don’t see my efforts at writing and communicating to be inextricably bound together with news gathering. In addition, my experiences of reading some (not all) newspapers is that their own journalists show themselves to be lamentably poor and indeed lazy, in regards to news gathering at times. I might cite the scanning by certain professional journalists of personal blogs and internet forae etc. for stories. If they use this information gathered to form their own story, with little basis other than a member of the public’s opinion, as I have witnessed them do, what does that say for the accuracy of their own published work?

How do you respond to the critique that blogs have received in that bloggers tend to value immediacy and comment as opposed to accuracy?

I would say that is sometimes a fair criticism. It has though to be remembered that most of us do not blog for a living and therefore only have a finite time to fact find – unlike professional journalists. In fairness, and as with journalists, I believe that there should be a certain responsibility upheld when publishing material on a blog. I attempt at all times to write what I reasonably understand as the truth before pressing the submit button. If I’m not convinced of something’s legitimacy I’ll tend to not publish it. I don’t too often write about contentious issues but I still think that’s a good yardstick to adhere to.

Do you think citizen journalism is fairly representative of the wider public?

If you mean by that, blogging then yes, I think it can be construed as reasonably representative. Of course that representation is by those of us who wish to write and communicate, inferring representation by a certain type of person or section of society. I struggle to understand at times how a journalist and his sub-editor could be seen as more representative in any case.

Would you say, blogs play a part in keeping journalists honest/holding them to account?

There are too many dishonest and biased examples of journalism still to be able to say that always works but I suppose it helps in that process. That the public have so much more opportunity for redress is a good thing in my view and perhaps, I’m not sure, it may occur to journalists that they may be taken to task in various places if people are in disagreement with their opinions and statements of ’fact’. A healthier state of affairs than existed previously I would suggest.

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , | 1 Comment

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