Family History

This is my maternal Grandmother (or Nana as we called her) Beatrice Ainslie (nee Scott) She was born in 1898 and died in December 1990. She lived most of her life in and around Sunderland but she did live briefly in London when she entered service in a shop in Edgware Road.  She married my Grandfather Christopher and they had 5 children – 4 girls and one boy. My mother was the youngest born in 1938 when my Grandmother was 40. She outlived all but 2 of her children and had many grandchildren and great gandchildren.

The other day I was looking through a bag of things that my father had given me and I found a battered small brown box. When I picked it up a medal fell out of it and my first thought was that it must have belonged to one of my Grandfather’s who both saw action during the wars. However when I turned it over I found it was addressed to my Nana.

The medal in question was awarded to men and women who were service personnel or in one of many civilian organisations for three years service in non operational areas subjected to air attack or closely threatened. I presume my nana was awarded the medal for her work during the war in munitions factories. The area around Sunderland was heavily bombed during the Second World War due to the shipyards and other industries – there were still bombsites around when I was a youngster in the 1960’s.

Along with the medal in the box was a note with the official crest on it from the Home Secretary saying that the medal was awarded for service during the war of 1939-45.

My Nana was a tough old boot – she had to be she lived through both World Wars and much more besides. My Grandfather had joined the army in the first World War after lying about his age to sign up. he joined the Cavalry and my Nana still had the spurs he wore during the war. They also lived through the great depression in the 1930’s when times were tough and jobs were few. My Grandfather was, by all accounts, like Norman Tebbit’s father who went out to look for work and din’t give up till he found some. He would later tell my mum that if she went for an interview and was asked if she could do something to say yes and worry about learning how to do it later! here he is with his family in about 1912 – a couple of years before he joined up. he is at the front on the left.

My Nana had also been a member of a ladies football team in her youth, at a time when women didn’t really do that thing. I have somewhere a picture of her holding a football when the Sunderland Echo did a feature about her when she was in her 80’s. I will have to try and dig it out sometime but in the meantime here is her medal.

This is now part of BBC Radio 4’s History of the World Project

Monday Monday

Monday mornings aren’t the best of times anyway but this morning was even worse than usual!

I came downstairs after my shower and cleared my father’s day prezzies off the dining table. I then walked into the kitchen and as I walked across the floor I noticed that my feet were wet. The floor in front of the dishwasher was covered in water. I paddled to the other side and got the mop out of the downstairs loo and started to mop up the water. However as I was mopping there seemed to be more water appearing. I opened the door of the dishwasher and the bottom was full of water as if it hadn’t drained away.

This had happened before and when it did I fiddled with the output hose and eventually got it to drain away so I thought I’d try that again. Last time as I slowly pulled the hose upwards the water started to drain but this time it didn’t and eventually the hose came out of the pipe and at that point I saw the end was full of fat (ugh). Unfortunately it wasn’t there for long as it shot out onto the floor and it was followed by a stream of water. I grabbed the dish and pointed the hose into it. The water gushed and gushed and the level got higher and higher until it started to overflow. I looked frantically around for something else to fill but couldn’t find anything. In the end I had to just drop the hose to empty the dish and then everything in the cupboard under the sink got covered in water.

The water on the floor was now worse than ever and I figured I needed to get some help. I was supposed to be setting the table for breakfast and making packed lunches for the two French students who were leaving to go home today, plus I had to do Ben’s lunchbox, my lunch and sort out Lissi and the French exchange Student who arrived yesterday for 2 weeks. I went and got Sarah who was a bit disappointed to find that I hadn’t brought her a cup of tea!

So we covered the floor in the towels usually reserved for drying cats and set about emptying the cupboard and drying it out. Meanwhile I was making sandwiches, sorting out fruit and cakes and drinks for students, Ben etc. Lissi and the student suddenly appeared as did Ben and shortly afterwards two of the cats. It was like trying to clean Piccadilly Circus on a Saturday afternoon. Eventually we got everything sorted out and as Sarah was still in her pj’s I took Ben to school.

What a day!


Over the weekend I was asked by one of the kids to print out some old GCSE Maths papers as she is taking her exam this week (2 years early) so I did. Unfortunately I accidentally printed paper A twice instead of paper B. So I took one of the copies and went back to print paper B. While it was printing I thought I would have a look at the first paper to see if I could answer the questions – after all it is almost 30 years since I last studied Maths.

Question one was about probability and a 4 sided spinner which was biased (ie doesn’t land equally on all 4 sides)

part one said the table shows the probability of the spinner landing on a 1,2 or 3 – what is the probability of throwing a 4

number probability

1  0.2

2  0.35

3 0.2

4  ?

So to work out the probability of getting a four you add up the other probabilities and subtract from 1

so the answers is 1 – (0.2 +0.35+0.2) = 1-0.75 = 0.25

The second part of the question asked if there are 100 spins how many times will it be 2?

So again the probability of getting a 2 is 0.35

So the answers is 0.35 x 100= 35

That took me about 20 seconds to work out the answers – in fact it was so easy I actually looked up the answers to make sure I hadn’t missed anything but my answers were correct. I also did the maths in my head but my understanding is that pupils are allowed to use a calculator in the exam!!!! That question also counted for 20% of the total marks from the paper.

Back Home

ne of my favourite Radio programs has got to be Desert Island Discs which I listen to every Friday morning with a regularity bordering on Obsession! I should start work at 9:30 but I’m invariably late and this bothers me every day except Friday – in fact it used to be so annoying to arrive at work on time and miss the last fifteen minutes – this is less of a problem now that the show is finally available on iplayer but it’s still annoying!

As well as the music I find the life stories of people, some of whom I’ve never heard of until they appear on the show, quite fascinating. There are stories to which I cannot directly relate and can only image what that person must have been going through, for example violinist Gyorgy Pauk telling of his life in the Jewish ghetto in Budapest during the second world war and how he was brought up by his Grandmother who he eventually had to leave behind in order to live freely in the west. Then there was Dame Stephanie Shirley who escaped Nazi Germany when she was sent to the UK by her parents to be brought up by complete strangers. Things that happened before I was born and which, as I said,  I can only imagine what it was like.

More and more frequently now  there are guests who are the same age as me and although they may have been brought up in a different place with different experiences I can still still relate to their memories and musical choices because they are from a time and mindset that is recognisable to me. One such person was Morrissey who I blogged about on a previous occasion and today it was Frank Skinner who although he is a few years older then me I recognise the world he grew up in and some of his musical choices hit the target and fired off memories of my youth.

This was probably helped by the fact that I had spent some time the previous evening looking through some carrier bags of stuff that I had brought back from the garage where we have some of our stuff in storage. A lot of stuff has been in storage in one place or another since  Sarah and I moved in together and has been too painful to sort through due to the memories of a acrimonious divorce. However I’m starting to be able to move on and in the bags I found some interesting things such as almost all my school reports – junior and secondary, my Chipper club membership card from the Sunderland Echo,  even my Baptism Certificate.

Frank Skinner’s fourth track, amongst a very eclectic choice of music, was the 1970 England World Cup song Back Home, possibly one of the first (and best – alongside Frank’s own effort Three lions)  World Cup songs ever and one which reminds me of my first World Cup. As far as I know I did watch the 1966 final but was too young to remember it. In fact my only memory of 1966 was World Cup Willie the mascot who I missed in 1970 and wanted to know where he had gone!

There were huge expectations as the Mexico finals approached, as England were the champions, but as we all know they crashed out in the second round to eventual winners West Germany, who we had beaten to win the cup 4 years earlier. We had been winning 2-0 but eventually lost 3-2 after extra time when Gerd Muller put the winning goal past Peter Bonetti who was playing as Gordon Banks had come down with food poisoning a few days before the game.  This experience seems to have been repeated every couple of years in either the World Cup or European Championships by the English football team. The constant expectations of success in the build up, the inevitably disappointing first game, followed by a scrabble to qualify for the knock-out stage only to lose on penalties or after extra time in either the quarter or semi finals!

Frank commented that football was different in those days and I think he is right. His memories of watching West Bromwich Albion were summed up by saying that football grounds smelt of Woodbines and Meat Pies struck a chord but I would have also added Bovril to that list! Watching Sunderland in the early 70’s at Roker Park would on occasion lead me to buy a cup of the meaty drink. The drink had such a wonderful smell but to me tasted bloody awful, a fact i would remember after a few sips!! He also mentioned the terraces and how small boys would take crates to stand on so they could see.

Well I never did that but have fond memories of standing in the Fulwell end on the terraces….there was a section in the middle at the back we used to call “the Chanters” which was where the most noisy fanatical fans used to stand and from where the most enthusiastic chanting used to come. It was always rough and fluid in that section and you had to be brave (or big) to stand a chance. The most wonderful thing about the terraces was the movement of the crowd. The Fulwell end was almost always full and when the team came running with the ball came towards the goal in front of us about 10,000 people would all stand on their toes to see what was happening before inevitably loosing their balance and falling forward causing the crowd to surge forward to be stopped only by the crash barriers that were spaced at intervals down the stand.

At the back of the stand where the steps opened onto the terraces there was a shop, selling amongst other things, the aforementioned Bovril, running along the back of the stand was a fence, but ducking behind the shop you could get up behind the fence and this would afford you the most wonderful view. You were right behind the most ardent supporters and could see the whole ground. The experience of seeing the fans react when a goal was scored from up there was incredible and worth the risk of occasionally getting told to get down by a Policeman or steward.

The other thing I miss is the event that used to be the FA Cup final – watching it on TV was an event that used to start at about 11 in the morning and slowly build up, following the teams on their coaches to the ground, covering their paths to Wembley and then finally the game itself and then the interviews and celebrations afterwards. I think the first FA cup final I watched was the 1969/70 final which Chelsea won after a replay. A few years later Sunderland made it to the final and although only a second division team beat first division Leeds Utd 1-0 in an historic win. Sadly I wasn’t there but watched it in colour for the first time!

Anyway my flirtation with football was short lived, I seem to recall the last time I went to see Sunderland play I was queuing up to get out when the doors opened! My first love was and still is music and bringing this back to that topic I will move onto Frank Skinner’s 7th choice namely George Formby’s Why don’t women like me? When I was growing up my earliest musical likes were Military brass bands and George Formby – a diversity of taste which has stood me in good stead for the following years! It was good to see someone else my age still has a soft spot for the ukulele wielding comedian other than me (although I understand that the late George Harrison turned Bob Dylan onto him as well) but unlike Frank I have no desire to take up playing the thing!

I loved the stories about his father, how he would not go to the pub or betting shop without putting his suit on first! he even used to say to his wife – nip down the bookies for me because if I put my suit on I’ll have to go to the pub as well. It’s strange now to think that men used to be like that. I remember my dad, who it must be said must have been quite modern and with it, expressing surprise when we bumped into a neighbour in Belgium while  we were on holiday and found he was wearing a suit even on holiday. I watched a wonderful old film on youtube the other week from 1927 which, surprisingly was in colour and in one scene there is a shot of Petticoat Lane on a Sunday and in it all the men are dressed in suits. (I was also amused by the fact that the crowd was almost exclusively men – strange given that my father used to hate the idea of going shopping).

So that’s it for my trip down memory lane for now but in the near future I will scan some of the things I found and no doubt pour forth on a variety of subjects triggered by memories.

Government waste

There has been much talk of finding “efficiency” savings in the public sector so i thought I would offer some observations of my own.

A couple of weeks ago I had to scrap two cars – my Seat Alhambra and the Citroen Xantia that i had been given. I sold them both to a scrap yard and was duly given the slips from the log books which I duly sent off to the DVLA along with the tax discs from the two vehicles which I had attached to the refund claim forms I had downloaded from their website.

A few days later I received the certificates of destruction from the scrap yards for the two cars.

The over the next couple of weeks I received the notification of transfer forms from the DVLA and the refunds for the tax discs.

I had sent all of the documents to the DVLA in one envelope.

The scrapyard sent me the two certificates of destruction in one envelope.

However the forms and refunds from the DVLA came in at least 3 different envelopes.

Then yesterday I got a notification of tax renewal for the Seat! Even though the DVLA had already sent me the notification of transfer and the refund for the tax.

The answer as to why the notification still arrived could be found on the reverse side. Apparently the notifications are printed 6 weeks before they are sent out.

So look at the waste of money from the DVLA – if you take into account the additional postage involved in sending out the information in dribs and drabs and sending out the renewal form for a car I no longer own then the additional costs would be around £2 for just this one incident.

If you then extrapolate this across the entire department bearing in mind that there are somewhere in the region of 2 million car sales per year in the UK. If this situation arose in 50% of the cases then the waste would around £2 million per annum for this one department.

If you then look at similar situations across the whole of Government then the savings by just simply not creating this sort of waste could be quite considerable. Individuals and small companies can see the sense in saving costs by sending multiple documents in one envelope but it seems to beyond the ability of Government departments.

World Cup quotes

My favourite quote that I’ve heard over the past week was from former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks who was talking about the much disputed third goal in the 1966 final against Germany. Geoff Hurst’s shot hit the bar and bounced down onto the goal line. There has been much speculation over the years as to whether or not it actually crossed the line but in the event, after much discussion between the Referee and Linesman, the goal was given.

Gordon Banks offered his view the other night. It was, he claimed, definitely a goal as he saw it cross the line and after all he had a perfect vantage point to see it!

The runner up award goes to the News of the World for their headline on Sunday after England’s current goalkeeper made the most awful blunder to let in the equaliser in their opening match against the USA.