School Teachers Photograph. Mr Whelan: 1978.

When I was at school (Which wasn’t very often) this group of teachers had the pleasure of trying to teach me!!

The gentleman to the front and centre was the deputy head for over 30 years. His name was Mr Whelan. He was a retired Sargent major who had served his country during the latter years of the second world war. I remember him being a very strict task master. Nobody was allowed to put a foot out of line. He used to have the whole school march around the school grounds every morning before first lessons in perfect single file. (No wonder I chose to go hiking through the local woods when I should have been in school)

However, he was strict but fair. When he noticed me marching in the morning he would make a beeline for me, and shout “You managed to make it today Burns! My office at lunch time”. I swear to this day that he had a slight smile on his face as he walked away.

When I knocked on his office door, he would shout through the door for me to wait outside. 10 minutes later he would shout “Come” and I’d go in, shut the door behind me and hold my hands out for the leather of the strap to warm them up.

‘Six of the best’ every day I could be bothered to go to school!

It didn’t seem worth going to school, did it?!

He would always say the same thing to me before he allowed me to leave his office. “Don’t waste what you’ve got Burns, wake up”.

I never really fully understood what he meant so I can only take a guess now that I’m a fully grown man.

Strangely enough I didn’t feel any animosity towards him for punishing me, I felt a respect for him that I’ve never felt again for anyone else in authority.

He would ruffle my hair if he passed me after the bell that signalled the end of the school day and say “See you tomorrow Burns ” knowing full well that it was a lottery!

I also believe that he had a hidden respect for me.

I heard that he died a few years ago.

I wish I had known because I would have liked to have gone to his funeral to pay my respects.

My three grandsons, Asti in the middle, Harry is on the left as you look at the photograph and Connor is to the right.

Love them so much. It was Asti’s birthday on Sunday 9th, he was 11. I didn’t get to see him but I get to spend most of this weekend with him. Lots of time to spoil him silly.

Holmewood: Where The Devil Feared To Tread

I enter the scene of this true story walking very slowly, sombrero pulled down to cover my eyes, cigarette hanging loosely from my trembling lips, Jeans slightly soiled at the back, the music from the good, the bad and the ugly accompanying my quivering entrance into a place that god dare not go!!

Welcome to Holmewood in the 70s and 80s, a village where the most battle hardened SAS veteran would probably defecate his pants!!

Holmewood in the years mentioned was a bloody battleground, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. I coined a phrase after working in the village for a short time in the late 80s, I called it ‘Britain’s first open air prison’, a prison that violently refused to have a warden.

So, I’ve painted the picture, now I’ll tell you a few stories about the place.

I worked in and around the village during the mid to late 80s. At that time, I was working for Northeast Derbyshire District Council, moving from property to property as a draft proofer. Over a period of about 2 months, I was part of a small team that worked on properties that were occupied, attaching strips of pliable pvc strips against doors and windows in an attempt to make the property draft free.

I had heard stories about Holmewood from friends but I didn’t really believe them until I actually worked on properties in village. The village was a bit of a bomb site back then, with shop windows missing, rubbish floating around front and back gardens and clanish pubs were outsiders were rarely welcomed. One particular house springs to mind. It was occupied by a single man who had one of his children living with him. (I actually remember his name, but dare not say it 🤣)

When he opened the door to us, head shaved, wearing a vest and scowled at us, asking us who the f$#k we were!! It was only after we explained that we were from the council to improve his house that his teeth stopped grinding (Probably anticipating the taste of our flesh) and he allowed us in, slamming the door behind us.

Once inside, his demeanour chilled out quite alot. He made me and my work mate a cup of tea and followed us around the house chatting away. He was surprisingly articulate but his house was a virtual gym, with weight benches in the living room and in his bedroom, with hardly any sign of furniture, apart from his son’s bedroom, which had large glossy posters of half naked women alongside model aeroplanes that hung from the ceiling and school clothes hanging from the curtain poles. Now, me and my friend didn’t ask him about his son, he just decided to talk about him and why his son lived with him. Apparently, the large gorilla type who was talking to us had taken great joy in repeatedly beating up the man who was having an affair with his wife!! He told us every detail and his eyes shone with excitement. He had discovered who the other man was, marched to the football pitch where a Sunday league match was underway, walked up to him, knocked him out and sat on him, patiently waiting for him to wake up! When he did wake up, he beat him unconscious again and waited for him to come around so he could repeat his punishment!! The football match came to a halt and everyone watched the assault without attempting any intervention. Whilst he was telling us, his mate walked into the house to tell him that the “Wanker” had just walked into the gorillas ex-wife’s house. (I felt sorrow and pity for the said “Wanker”) Gorilla looked at us and ‘Told’ us he would be 10 minutes and that he would trust us to carry on until he came back!! Then he took something that was metal and shiny from a kitchen drawer and disappeared out of the door.

He came back after a short while, put the metal thing back in the kitchen drawer, washed his hands, turned around to the two of us and asked very cheerfully if we fancied a cup of tea!

His gorillaesque friend looked at us and asked the lead gorilla, without taking his eyes off us, if he should go and get the lads for us?!?!

The gorilla of the house told him we were ok and told him to f$#k off, which he did. Baring in mind that myself and my work buddy were pretty big and physically fit at the time, I don’t mind admitting that I was beginning to hatch a plan of escape in my mind.

As it turned out, we were safe to complete the job (Double time) and get out with all limbs still intact!!

Strangely enough, I bumped into him a few years later on a Sunday morning. He was managing the Holmewood football team that was playing on a football pitch local to me. My mum loved to watch Sunday league football and came with me. The gorilla was pacing up and down the touchline, following the on-field action. He walked past us and started ranting and raving, every other word an expletive. I was chuckling to myself and so was mum when he turned around, recognised me, nodded, turned to my mum and apologised for swearing in her presence!!

So violent gorillas have manners!

That was the last time I ever saw him. I wonder what he’s doing now?!

I’ll carry this on in a later post.

Marooned

Went for an interview today for a job a really wanted. I didn’t get it, I blew it!!! I’m a little bit pissed off with myself.

So right now, I wish I was sailing in that yacht alone with a nice bottle of single malt.

Old Friends

Christmas day, 2019, enjoying a little bit of Christmas cheer with friends I’ve known for over 25 years. This is the first time I’ve ever gone to the pub on Christmas day, ever. I couldn’t miss the chance to enjoy the peace and quiet because it was the first Christmas we’ve had without the kids and grandchildren around us at home.

I enjoyed the small get together but I missed the noisy excitement of the grandchildren opening their presents.

Last Taxi Home

As referred to in the ‘Taxi’ series, the characters who jumped in and out of the black and white I was driving for the father in law, were a jumbled mixture of extreme loveliness, quirkiness and occasionally, volatile individuals.

I recall parking in the centre of town every Friday and Saturday night, sat waiting for a customer whilst people watching intently. The sights of the people mixed with the muffled sounds of the music booming out from various pubs gave it an edge, possibly similar to the night life in ibiza (Although I’ve never been there)

I remember two ladies in particular who I picked up after being flagged down and dropped them off in the middle of the beehive. When I saw them in the distance I, and everybody else, could see they had very little covering their bits n bobs. (No imagination was required) One of them got into the back seat, the other one got in beside me. As soon as they started talking to me and too each other, I knew what their aim was for the evening!

The one sat beside me actually said to her friend that she thought her skirt wasn’t short enough! She asked me for ‘Unbiased’ confirmation and I replied “You have a skirt on”?!! She and her friend laughed and gave me a nice tip as the car came to a growling rest in the town centre. The one in the back shouted “Let’s go and get some ” as they both slid out of the taxi, shamelessly not even attempting to adjust their lack of clothes. They both walked past the front of the car and waved farewell to me as a group of guys clocked them and started whistling and shouting. Unbelievably, the women crossed the road and lifted what little skirts they had on to reveal they had ‘forgotten’ to put underwear on, for the benefit of anyone watching (Which added up to quite a few) I couldn’t believe my eyes and forced myself to take another look! Anyway, the group of men about turned and followed them, walking in front of moving taxis to keep up with the women.

Working through the winter was strange because the people who jumped into the taxi were either exited or depressed, especially around Christmas and new year, but nearly all of them were pissed or on their way into town to get pissed. One youngish couple flagged me down during the wee small hours of the morning and told me where they wanted to go (Actually, the woman demanded I take them home!) whilst he sat quietly beside me. As I drove off from the starting position she pointed at the metre and virtually screamed into my left ear “What the f$#%ng hell is that price?! You’re ripping us off”!!! He asked her to calm down before I tried to explain it was a standard charge set by the council and had nothing to do with me. She was having non of it. If she had been a cartoon character, steam would have been visible, escaping from both ears with her head turning a darker shade of purple.

What made it comical was she was slurring every word, which caused an unwanted half smile to attach itself to my face. When I pulled up outside of their house her partner apologetically paid the fare whilst she was still ranting! She looked at the side of the taxi and proclaimed for the whole sleeping street to hear “I’m writing your number down, I’m reporting you for ripping us off”!!!

I actually tried to explain to her, with a calm and quiet voice, that the number on the taxi was obsolete, but she could ring the new number if she wanted to complain”. (Which was the truth) But she carried on trying to write the number down whilst calling me a lying bastard!! Her poor suffering partner apologised and ushered her in the direction of their house.

Thank Christ people with her particular character were few and far between and the majority were lovely people.

So many other things happened during my time as a taxi driver, maybe one day I’ll write more about it.