WEEKEND WEB: It’s how you find them

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

It often comes up in conversation, and it seems to have been ‘open season’ of sorts lately, as I am asked why or how I know or have known so many what could be best described as total barm-pots or complete idiots with the possible exception being incomplete idiots but they are doing their best to keep up and are working hard at it.

Some of it was sparked via this very column you are now reading as I have mentioned a few along the way in various situations and I am often asked how did I meet these people and the safest answer is I didn’t go looking for them.

They have sort of turned up in a manner of speaking, some in human form with others questionable as they are waiting for test results from their doctors or vet’s to follow on but hopefully the following might shed some light on it with it all crystal clear and if this is the case, please do let me know as I am as interested as anybody else.

I was born at an early age and since then it’s been one long haul in a sense as you have to appreciate that as a family we operated an ‘open door’ strategy to anybody and at times, any thing that seemed to wander over the threshold to seek knowledge or a cup of tea, that seemed to basically set the mould if you like for meeting or knowing folk with my mum, of the people for the people, being a leading exponent in this field of human endeavour.

If it was an Olympic sport, she would have been weighed down with gold medals galore and she would be the first to moan about the cost of the Brasso and dusters to clean them with.

Being brought up in an age of making one’s own entertainment – this was the PD age as in Pre-Digital – as we communicated with one another by speaking to each other (unlike today where hand held devices are used if mere feet way) and in some cases many at one time and this was called in some circles ‘crowd control’ and came in handy at football matches and the humble but basic jumble sales before they became elevated to car boot sale status.

It was the people that I grew up among or near that have left an impression most – some did a very good Tommy Cooper sort of ‘Just like that!’ and if you closed your eyes, you would swear he was standing there next to you but if Mavis at the local fish and chip shop impersonated his voice and it was only her tag line of ‘Do you want any batter bits chucking in with your order?’ that shattered the illusion.

One form of ‘entertainment’ meant you briefly saw people depending on how quick you were and this was the fine art of ‘cherry knocking’ in that you rung somebody’s door bell or played the Anvil Chorus on their ornate door knocker, then allow a few seconds before running off in the opposite direction as the occupier went to the door.

This has all but vanished although I understand it’s used as a ploy nowadays by various parcel deliverers who have made it their own by knocking on your door, leaving a card to say they have been (polite or what?) then clearing off with your parcel/item still with them but I have never worked out what they gain by it unless they have shares in or they partly own printing companies.

One delightful way of meeting assorted folk was mum’s (or our) kitchen which at times resembled a fortune teller’s tent or cubicle as assorted friends, combatants or frankly the deranged that had somehow come to this oasis of culture to have verbal exchanges on things or people that were doing things in the world, or two doors down that ranged from ‘We knew he was up to no good anyway – I mean, that crowbar’ and ‘How could they get Planning Permission to do that as it floods most of the time – I want cremation when I go, no messing about’.

Expected but unexplained visitors were a joy at times to break the excitement up.

Due to my background – it’s the small clearing with the wooden shed – I often had folk, supposedly intelligent types (they inferred...) who came to see me for assorted reasons, research or what have you although at the time, I was now up and away from mum’s emporium of wonderment but I would take the occasional doubtful person/case over to meet her – she liked the challenge I think.

One such case in question was Educated Edgar, writer and researcher and all-round ‘mummy’s boy’ who was doing research on whatever the flavour of the month was then, whom seemed to be impressed with mum.

During a verbal challenge with her he mentioned he had ‘come away with a First from Oxford’ to which mum replied with ‘well, it may have cost a few extra bob for the ticket but at least you had the carriage all to yourself I suppose..’ He covered his shock well on hearing that but pointed out it was a degree he was referring to and straight as a die, mum replied with ‘I have always liked that Diana Ross and she had done really well for herself since leaving the other two – nice hair as well..’.

To this day when I see a train, on time or not, my mind seems to wander to Diana Ross but with others it might be the ‘Flying Scotsman’ but to me, it’s Diana Ross.

The then culture as well as the people was totally different. In those days if anything went remotely wrong, the cry of ‘It’s a fair cop – you got me bang to rights’ would or could be heard as those offending where basically all but banished for their misdemeanours as opposed to nowadays where after the dust has settled with no real result of sorts such as who was to blame, the phrase is now ‘Lessons have been learnt’ which equates to those who have indeed been caught out will be moved on, promoted even and be but a mere speck on the pages of history until they surface later on to do the same again but differently – and much more quietly.

I will admit I do miss those brainstorming sessions now a long time ago in mum’s kitchen that could well translate as some bizarre form of training ground that had so much in common with TV’s ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ that gave rise to the thought of just how did, or do, the supposedly intelligent lot get on with their antics or more to the point how do they assess they are indeed brighter than the average paraffin lamp?.

Mum was at a local community fair event with a friend and was looking at the assorted cage birds as in budgerigars etc as she overheard one ‘hooper class’ lady say ‘Isn’t height (it) amazing they nev-var (never) get any bhiggar (bigger) in shiz (size)’ to which mum suggested they would not get any ‘bhiggar’ as they were walking around on a sheet of sandpaper in the bottom of their cage and obviously wearing their little feet away in the process and so would always be small and why eagles are bigger because they don’t walk around on sandpaper.

It would have been a dream meeting – my mum and Sir David Attenborough – although it’s possible a gorilla did venture into her kitchen but she never kept any bananas in the fruit bowl.