Can you hear me now?

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

I say nattering away but in fairness I think the newly available disease of shouting into mobile devices, telephones and letterboxes is slowly taking over the world as people now seem to shout at each other as opposed to just speaking regardless they are mere feet or inches way from each other.

The gist to those of us in a small circle or radius of, say, about thirty feet or perhaps forty three litres in metric nonsense, was that one of them had recently retired and ‘not before time’ so assume he meant he finished on the early shift where he worked.

The other shoutish responded with he “was amazed he had lasted that long in the job” as it must be at least that many years that he had been performing at the place of his former employment and after a bit of this and that, the other was not brought up at any point, they worked out between them that he had worked there for the best part of 40-odd years, with no mention of the even years if this accounted for the odd ones.

In this day and age you can’t help but know about other peoples business etc whether you like it or not as the thing appears to be one of shouting and a whisper is now relegated to being a well known chocolate bar.

Years ago people seemed to be more or less discreet (nowadays to some ‘discreet’ would be the name of their aftershave or armpit lubricant) as the thought of every total stranger within earshot knowing your inner or outer business was a complete no-no, which is the opposite to yes-yes.

As a comparison, one instance took place in my mum’s kitchen, she of the people for the people, when her friend Jean was telling her of her latest ‘personal news’ of sorts but as I was there trying to sort out mum’s washing machine that was playing up, it meant that anything slightly ‘hush-hush’ was said in a lower voice but with ‘Foghorn Jean’ a hardy task indeed.

To keep up to speed on this, boring history bit then.

Jean with her hubby used to run a boarding house or in the real world they took in paying guests (mostly until it was pretty obvious they were not going the whole hog in this area of actually paying coin of the realm and then ‘did a moonlight’ as it was called then and perhaps still is today) but all this went merrily along until Jean’s hubby also did a moonlight, oddly about the same time as the lady who lived across the road also ‘disappeared’.

Jean was the last to find out that they had gone off together and she said she honestly liked the lady as she used to call the bingo numbers out every Sunday evening when they had bingo in her place for any and all of the guests staying/interned as she thought she was good at it as she seemed to run it so that it was always towards the end of any game when a lot of the numbers had been called that anybody won.

Mum never said anything untoward but replied that perhaps it was just down to luck perhaps.

Since this social upheaval had taken place Jean had given the boarding house business up as she couldn’t cope on her own and did what she did before getting married and running the boarding house, which was hairdressing.

However the ‘latest news’ being that somebody had suggested she reopen her boarding establishment and start up for business again as he/she/they were willing to ‘put real money’ into the venture.

As she was explaining to mum, with keeping an eye on me as I was delving into the washing machine’s innards, and speaking behind her hand it would seem that she thought she could make a ‘real go of it’ together this time with her new, unnamed, partner/s as they would not have to skimp on things.

When she and past hubby ran it there were various cost cutting ideas they used as in: instead of toilet rolls, she used to cut up newspapers into squares and bunched them together on a string and these were the ‘toilet roll’ and hung on the toilet door – initially it took a day or so before they realised it was best to have them hanging on the inside of the door.

She even went to the local library, reference section, and read all the newspapers to ‘test’ which was the softest as it were, so she was caring - to a degree.

Any guest who questioned the state of the ‘toilet roll’ was informed that this was part of the ‘in-house quiz’ only open to guests and the object in a manner of speaking, was to find a page with a number on and compare it with a list in the lounge to see who had ‘won’.

The ‘prize’ usually was a money off voucher or coupon to use in one of the local shops in the area that gave these to her as a promotion, so net result was money saved on toilet rolls and the ‘prizes’ cost nothing – Arkwright, eat your heart out.

As all the rooms, apartments or ‘suites’ were situated on one floor, there was a shared toilet arrangement apparently in that it was divided between x number of inmates, sorry, guests.

However as there was no lock or bolt on the door, the idea was whoever was using the facilities within should whistle or sing while going about their needs to deter anybody from entering – this concept is not new of course.

Jean then slurped her tea and stared wistfully at the ceiling and told mum that in all those years she never, to her knowledge, had a yodeller or if there was one he was a quiet one.

One guest could sing the Doris Day number ‘The Deadwood Stage’ from the film musical ‘Calamity Jane’ regardless of whatever bodily function he was doing/performing at the time.

Mum stared in my direction and we both seemed to raise an eyebrow together as to how did she know that? – whatever bodily function? – did they point it out to Jean once the number was over? – could it have been a possible future Olympic event?

Sadly the re-opening of the boarding house never happened for unspecified reasons and Jean carried on hairdressing and died quite unexpectedly, as she was indeed quite a fit and able person, in her mid fifties.

Mum attended the funeral together with some of Jean’s friends, relations and loyal hairdressing customers and as the coffin was carried in, mum wondered if the lid was secure and listened out for a possible refrain of ‘The Deadwood Stage’ but it never happened although a (quiet) yodeller would have been more appropriate.