The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Football on St. Mary’s Rec

I love this picture of my old school’s football team appearing on St. Mary’s ‘Rec’ at Redhill. Memories of wearing that red shirt a good few times, Denis Law-style with the cuffs pulled down over my hands and giving the ‘Lawman’s’ single fist salute after scoring and dreaming that I was playing for Scotland. In the background is St. Mary’s Church which has stood on that spot for a mind-boggling thousand years. The church around which the town was built.

redhill

I recall one particular sports session at school where we were due to play football and a few of us turned up without kit as there was a foot of snow on the field. The games master who was very much a 1970s stereotype with his nylon track suit and bullying nature threw a pair of gym shorts each at us and made us go out and play bare-chested with no shoes or socks in deep snow and sub-zero temperatures. We survived – thought it was a bit of a laugh actually (except when you caught the rock hard size 3 football on your bare flesh). I’m just imagining what the authorities would make of that now.

The rec was the scene of many. a multiple-hour game of football between me, my pals and basically anybody who passed by. We played in all weathers in much worse conditions even than pictured I remember being engrossed in many-a-side games on the evenings in the late sixties that both Celtic and Manchester won their European Cups, running home hell-for-leather for a place in front of the black and white TV at kick-off time to watch the games with dad. Probably with a bowl of mum’s Scotch broth in front of me. Those were the days.

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , | 2 Comments

Arnold Local History Group

Looking to the future with one eye on the past.

For those interested in history, I’ve taken charge of an overhaul of my local history group’s website. The Arnold Local History Group is an established and growing organisation that offers education courses, events and exhibitions based on the town of Ernehale ‘The place of Eagles’, as it was formerly known.

image

The Old North Road of ‘immemorial antiquity’. Mansfield Road, Redhill, Nottingham pictured in 1925

Mansfield Road (above) which travels through our borough and close to my home fulfilled the role of joining the North and the South of England together and is arguably one of the oldest roads, if not the most ancient, in the United Kingdom. Almost certainly, a Stone Age animal path wending its way through Sherwood Forest originally it rose to prominence and importance as the main road from London to York. There are records of a 9th Century Danish Viking invasion marching from York to the city of Nottingham four miles to the south along the predecessor of the byway and accounts of William the Conqueror travelling what later became known as ‘The Turnpike Road’.

The site has some unique and high quality content for anyone with an interest in or link to the town and thereabouts or for those with a liking for history in general. The Arnold Local History Group site is available at:

ARNOLD LOCAL HISTORY GROUP

Regular updates can also be found on the ALHG Twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/ArnoldHistory

January 22, 2015 Posted by | Times Gone By | , , , | Leave a comment

Nottinghamshire History: The Extraordinary Story of Kitty Hudson – the Human Pin Cushion

KITTY HUDSON WAS BORN IN ARNOLD, NOTTINGHAM in 1765, the granddaughter of Mr. White, a sexton of St. Mary’s Church, Nottingham who she was left with from a young age. During the latter part of that century, Kitty’s strange story became infamous and saw her achieve something of a minor celebrity status due to it’s extreme oddity.

Photo:Kitty Hudson Photo:Kitty Hudson Photo:Kitty Hudson

Artist’s impression of Kitty Hudson.

Available at: http://www.ournottinghamshire.org.uk/page_id__973_path__0p32p.aspx (R B Parish)

As a young girl of six years, Kitty was detailed to help out in St. Mary’s in keeping the place of worship spick and span and worked with a servant at the church, a young woman who would give Kitty instructions as they worked alongside each other. It is said that the servant girl would implore that Kitty pick up and collect any dropped pins and needles while sweeping the pews and aisles of the church and reward the youngster with a stick of toffee for every mouthful that she produced. The young Arnold girl diligently set about collecting the pins and needles and storing them in her mouth as she went about her work and it becoming a firm habit. The habit became so engrained in fact that it was said that Kitty could barely sleep, eat or drink without the strange practise of storing pins and needles in her mouth, even to the point of constantly disturbing her sleep to replenish the store of pins and needles in her mouth, that she might rest peacefully. Friends recorded at this time that Kitty’s teeth were ground down almost to her gums.

After time, the young girl reported an enduring numbness in her limbs and intense pain along with difficulty in sleeping and was taken to hospital in August, 1783 after numerous failed treatments. With inflammation in her right arm, a pair of needles were discovered under the skin adjacent her wrist and were removed. Other needles were also found in her arm and painfully extracted.

image

In an incredible story, before Kitty was finally discharged from hospital in the summer of 1785, the sexton’s granddaughter underwent a long series of operations to remove huge numbers of pins, needles and bone from her arms, legs, feet and other parts of her body. Both Kitty’s breasts had to be removed as needles and pins were lodged around her breastbone. Amongst various alarming notes taken during her two-year plus incarceration in hospital it was recorded that Kitty passed a needle through her urine and also vomited a needle. The minutes from her hospital stay were said to be voluminous and of extreme interest to the medical profession.

There was an extraordinary ending to Kitty Hudson’s story as she survived her self induced ordeal and was discharged to go on to marry her childhood sweetheart from the town of Arnold. The young man, by the name of Goddard, had coincidentally been an out-patient at the same hospital, being treated for a head complaint from which he subsequently lost an eye. Her to-be-intended would cheer Kitty’s spirits by telling her he would marry her should her life ever be spared. The young Arnold girl would later claim that it was her sweetheart’s faith and love that delivered her through her many sufferings to become well again.

The young couple married and, incredibly, Kitty bore her partner nineteen children. In this period of history with infant mortality so high, the practice was for children of the parish to be Christened within three days of being born. Duly, eighteen of Kitty’s children were baptised though sadly just one survived infancy. That child, a daughter, died at just nineteen years of age.

During her later years, Kitty carried the post on foot from Arnold to Nottingham – a round walk of some eight miles – twice daily. She was described at this time as being six feet tall, stout and somewhat masculine in appearance. She would wear a small bonnet about her way and drab clothing of worsted stockings, a coarse woollen petticoat, strong shoes and with a leather post bag slung over her shoulder.

In 1814 Kitty’s husband died and she remarried to Henry Ludham of South Wingfield in Derbyshire where she bore no further children. Interestingly, her step son, Charles Ludlam the village shoemaker stated in the Marlborough Express of 1907 that the legacy of Kitty’s swallowing of pins and needles remained with her for the rest of her life. That journal recorded thus: ‘To the end of life pins and needles kept coming at intervals from her body. At first a black spot would appear and then it soon began to fester, the head next came in sight, and it was pulled out, and the wound soon healed.’  Her step son stated Kitty’s body to be as ‘a colander, full of tiny holes.’ .

In spite of this, Kitty was able to live a decent and good life and remained fit and able to carry out her daily duties until passing away at seventy years of age. So ended peacefully the remarkable story of Kitty Hudson, the human pin cushion of Arnold, Nottingham.

June 5, 2013 Posted by | Ripping Yarns, Times Gone By | , , , | 6 Comments

Nottinghamshire History: Richard Parkes Bonington

The town near where I live Arnold has one or two famous sons and daughters like most places of any size or history. Romantic landscape painter, Richard Parkes Bonington is just such a figure from Arnold in Nottinghamshire.

I’ve recently been witness to an informative talk also by a local Redhill resident which included a description of how he had been refurbishing a statue of the artist for the past twelve months which will go on public display. Richard Parkes Bonington is commonly described as coming from Arnold although I have heard a claim of late that this theory is somewhat spurious due to his time spent abroad. Having always been of the opinion that he was an Arnold man and in respect of the talk, I decided to do a little research about this assertion

image

The artist and his former Arnold home

Bonington was born in Arnold in 1802, his first home was at 79 High Street in Arnold. The fine old manor house has long been the premises for the Labour (Social) Club in Arnold. His mother opened a school in the town just after he was born whilst his father was the Governor of Nottingham Gaol. Bonington’s father nurtured his son’s talent whilst he was growing up in Arnold, resulting in his work being exhibited in the city of Liverpool at the tender age of just eleven years. After this time, his parents opened a lace factory but as a result of great industrial unrest of the time decided to emigrate to France in 1817 when the young artist was fourteen years old, firstly to Calais, before they moved to Paris the year after.

File:Richard Parkes Bonington Venice Grand Canal.jpg

Venice Grand Canal, Sunset – Richard Parkes Bonington

The young Bonington spent parts of 1823 touring Belgium, much of 1824 in Dunkirk and several months of his short life in London in 1825. He further travelled extensively in Italy and made several extended stays to London before later returning to the Capital where he died and is interred.

To summarise, Bonington was born in Arnold of parents who lived in the town. His first home was in Arnold and he spent fourteen of the twenty-five years of his life being brought up in Arnold. He is also known to have been a skilled artist, with at least one exhibition, at a very young age (though not yet formally trained) whilst in Arnold. In addition to hailing from the town, he has not been in any other part of the world for nearly the length of time that he spent in the Nottinghamshire town.

I’d have to offer the humble opinion that it’s a perfectly reasonable claim that Arnold can call Richard Parkes Bonington one of its own. The artist is additionally, rightly celebrated with a local school and a theatre named after him.

April 9, 2013 Posted by | Times Gone By | , , , , | 4 Comments

The Back Twitchell

The word ‘twitchell’ appears to be a peculiarly Nottingham word. I have never heard its like elsewhere. It denotes an alleyway, a wynd, a ginnel or whatever is the favoured word in your part of the world.

My parents’ house when I was growing up had a short twitchell next to it which was a short walkway from Redhill through to a small housing estate leading to Arnold. It was unremarkable and only characterised by the six to seven-foot private hedges that so many people used to own in the 1960s lining it on either side.

image
Nearby ‘Back Twitchell’ had much more of interest. It lined, as it still does, an outer perimeter of Redhill School. The other side had the one-after-the-other ends of back gardens of the neat council semi’s from a nearby crescent. Half way along the twitchell lived Ted, the car mechanic with his higgledy-piggledy little wooden workshop at the end of his yard. A trusty blue overall which was mostly oil and a French beret at a jaunty angle. A big bear of a man, a former RAF serviceman with a long bushy beard and always a kindly word for us young laddies – especially if he knew our dads. For decades Ted had a row of motors in various states of decay and disablement along the black ash twitchell. We knew it was the end when all those old motorised carcasses were finally strapped up and towed away…

The twitchell was also used for conkering, hide and seek, practical jokes on passers by, football, letting off fireworks and many other childhood pastimes. Then came a certain age and girls…

All grown and at work, still that twitchell persisted as a short cut through from a pint or two in Arnold back to Redhill, under the stars last thing at night, considering the world. Halley’s Comet came along and I remember standing transfixed for several minutes on that old twitchell of my childhood, looking up at this wonder in the skies from the inky blackness and thinking of the several decades I tramped that familiar, dark ashy path.

Most of all I remember the wonderful distant childhood sight of my dear dad walking home from Arnold during the afternoon. Always clad in an immaculate navy blue suit incongruous with the overgrown old twitchell, head held high and his unmistakable, slightly nautical gate earned from many years at sea in the Merchant Navy. As he got closer and smiled at me I would see the familiar sprig of hawthorn he would always pick from the hedges and pop in the corner of his mouth. I would give everything I owned to see that sight just one more time on that little pathway.

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , | Leave a comment

Football days in Arnold, Nottinghamshire

A little more local stuff today and something about the town I’ve lived close to for a long time, Arnold, Nottinghamshire. I always liked the situation of the old King George’s Rec just behind Arnold market place. As a boy I attended the old ‘British’ School which stood approximately where the market place is now and would often attend Arnold St. Mary’s football games just over the road. I came to play a bit of cricket on those same playing fields too, not to mention tennis and in younger days the playground adjacent for general tomfoolery and falling off the slide and swings scraping my knees and tearing holes in my clothes regularly. Often the latter arose from balancing on top of the playground slide, fighting with several others for a free view of the game going on over the hedge.

028_crop1

King George V Playing Fields, 2010

I particularly loved the odd Midland League evening games that Mary’s would play, the two Scots forwards Joe Boucher and Bobby Tait and the midfield playmaking skills of Pete ‘Shonkey’ Burton et al. After the game my pals and I would head for the delicious chips from one of the several chip shops on Front Street before heading back to Redhill, just in time for the latest episode of Dad’s Army! Continue reading

April 3, 2010 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ring Ring Goes the Bell!

The year was 1966. Here I was, a young laddie dawdling down through the streets of Arnold in Nottinghamshire down towards the main shopping place. I had my new school uniform on for the first time, never having worn one before it was causing no little irritation. A black blazer, grey short trousers and a black cap with an embroidered badge on the front proudly proclaiming The British School in a white on black design. The cap was too big and was slipping down over my ashen face, the shorts were itchy and the jacket stiff unyielding and boxy. I really, really didn’t want to be here

Walking to junior school that first morning was a trial. Stomach churning and gurgling, I looked around for a familiar face only to see much bigger lads who looked like they could easily bully me, especially in the slightly sneering gangs they appeared to be formed in. Finally I spotted a friendly face. It was my friend Victor, also traipsing forlornly along in his brand new uniform. Although Vic was a big raw-boned lad, his own new school cap was pulled right the way over his face, the brim almost touching his chin. Vic liked to wear his cap that way. For some reason he thought it made him cut a dash. It’s not recorded what he said when he inevitably bumped into lampposts and other various inanimate objects.

Taking our hearts in our hands we walked over the zebra crossing and pausing for a last breath of freedom, entered into our new school together, looking around desperately for familiar faces but to no avail. Finding a quiet part of the youngsters playground we waited for the death knell of that first school bell at 9am. Exactly on time it rang out whilst our inner shudders echoed to it.

Have you ever watched sheep being herded into a pen? Well this is exactly how it was as the new flock of petrified boys in their identical blazers and caps were ushered abruptly inside the old building. Presently Mrs. Burgess arrived and she was terrifying. An older lady nearing retirement, her years of teaching had sadly left her hardened and without compassion for us young lads. She barked us into our new classroom and ordered us into seats. School life was about to change forever I thought.

The first thing I noticed was how different to my old school my new classroom was. It was decrepit, not that I knew what decrepit meant in 1966. What I did know was that the strange, scurrying noises up in the roof above the high ceiling sounded a lot like pigeons roosting. Surely not? The lines of ancient desks still had their ink wells for dip-in ink pens. The gloopy blue liquid being supplied in turn by a reticent ink-monitor. (I was holding out for one of the coveted milk-monitor positions.)

brit1

The British School, Front Street, Arnold, Nottinghamshire circa 1960

Mrs. Burgess was soon into her blunt, hard-nosed and shouty lessons. I hated them. On one memorable morning for all the wrong reasons she bade me out to the front of the class to complete a sum on the blackboard which nobody else had been able to thus far. I failed too, I didn’t have a clue. she made me stand there however and humiliated me until I fell into tears in front of the whole class. The classroom was otherwise hushed apart from her shrill haranguing and my quiet sobs. Thankfully the playtime bell came to my rescue when my new mates commiserated with me in the playground and said how much they hated ‘the old cow’.

There were some good memories from the school. A great source of interest to us lads were ‘Batman’ cards which we bought voraciously with packs of bubblegum which was chewed with equal enthusiasm. The newsagent and sweet shop on Front Street just up the road was the main source for our collections. Other favourite pocket-money purchases were Milk Chews costing a penny each, Sherbet Dabs with their stick of liquorice and tart reaction, also Blackjack and Fruit Salad chews at four for a penny, the Farthing coin being no longer with us.

The sporting front in Nottingham at that time showed the two city clubs, Forest at the top of the First Division and Notts County at opposite ends of the four divisions with around ninety places between them. Forest were battling manfully against the Manchester United of Best, Law and Charlton whilst the local Reds boasted scoring machine, Joe Baker plus Ian Storey-Moore and Terry Hennessey. We lads quickly got into collecting football stamp cards on glossy art paper. One George Best being worth a Roger Hunt, a Bobby Moore AND a Jimmy Greaves.

00000tmp

A starker, older view of the ancient school showing the playground with its high walls in the foreground.
Yours truly’s classroom was behind the two windows to the lower right,
the adjacent doorway our road to freedom for a ten minutes ‘playtime’ morning and afternoon.

The school year remorselessly ground on. Cricket and our other games in the playground seemed the only relief from one mean-faced teacher after another. Games of marbles through the surrounding streets on the way home washed away our thoughts of the days. It was a year of Victorian-style education. I’d like to say the discipline was a good lesson for me but in my heart I can’t. There seemed no compassion towards us, no quarter given and little praise, just a grey time. Perhaps the only vivid memory of my time at ‘The British’ besides the episode with the tears was in Mrs Burgess instructing us that the year was 1966 and that it that such a date only happened ‘once every ten years’. Startling stuff. I think my true education from that time was more gleaned from the vast array of comics I would read.

The British School had originally been a boarding school and had a history going back to 1868. This was to be its last year in the sun as after one year, I and the rest of its pupils were dispersed to other schools in order for it to be demolished. Things moved back into the 20th century with a move to Church Drive Junior School for me which was an entirely happier experience I’m glad to say. Mrs Burgess retired when the school was emptied. Her time was at an end.

For people who know Arnold in Nottinghamshire The British School stood on the east side of Front Street exactly where the Arnold outdoor market is situated now. Where those stalls have sold their wares for the past thirty-odd years was our high walled playground. Memories yes but I lament it not.

April 4, 2008 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , , | 9 Comments

Can Arnold do it? Yes it Can!

Now it has to be said, I live in a quite respectable area. It’ s possibly one of the oldest areas of Nottinghamshire being situated adjacent what was once called ‘The Great North Road’ from many hundreds of years ago. Redhill is a neat and tidy and well-established suburb a few miles north of Nottingham and is close to open countryside and cheek by jowl with the larger suburb of Arnold with it’s shopping area, facilities, and a population of approximately 38,000 people.

I’ve lived here in Redhill a long, long time and I like it. It suits me.

Opening the curtains the other day though I noticed a sight that is becoming more common these days – that of a collection of used beer cans stood outside my neighbour’s garage. It’s a trivial thing, maybe just a couple of young guys having a drink on the way home from the pub or youngsters messing around. It’s not the dawning of Armageddon or the end of civilisation in Redhill as we know it. In fact in nearby Arnold there are reports that the huge proliferation of litter, and particularly beer cans, gathered up on the main shopping thoroughfare, Front Street, is now being used in some very ingenious ways. Hurrah for Arnold! Well done to the neighbouring conurbation. It’s very much a case of waste not, want not in Arnold these days. Read on to view some great examples:

Continue reading

January 23, 2008 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , , | Leave a comment