The Joy of Hitch-Hiking in the Seventies

in the late 70’s Victor was posted back to the UK, to the Royal Military Academy.  In those days it was much more often that people would hitch-hike across the length and breadth of Britain.  Nowadays many employers ban their truck drivers from picking up hitch-hikers.

In the 70’s Victor would often hitch-hike from near London to the Yorkshire Dales, usually alone, occasionally with one son, aged 9, once with both sons, aged 9 and 10.  The time he brought both sons with him, his luck was in.  Only two lifts needed, both divorcees, wanting to rant on about their ex-wives.  I think they both wanted an agony aunt, as well as three passengers.  The second trucker dropped all three of us at Leeming Bar Motel on the A1(M), five miles away from Grandma.

The final stretch had to be paid for.  Simple.  Taxi.  Twenty minutes later, three tired but cheerful males arrive in Grandma’s village.  Now the fun begins.  It’s 11pm.  The late night Hammer House of Horror film is on.  Grandma and Auntie B are watching the film.

The military training came in useful.  Creeping, crouching forward, opening the garden gate slowly, father and sons approach the house.  Bend down a bit more.  Squat just below the living room window sill.  Three pairs of eyes look at each other.  The sergeant gives the nod to his two troops.  Slowly three heads emerge over the window sill.  Sudddenly two women jump out of their skin in their armchairs, not expecting any late night visitors at the window.

Have a scare-free day, won’t you!


Sunray at Seventy

Sunray should be seeing the big seven-oh, his seventieth birthday, at the end of this month.

Task for this weekend, besides having the commuter’s lie-in and do my laundry (living out of a suitcase precludes having a huge pile of dirty laundry to do) is to buy Sunray a birthday card and a present.

Fortunately I know what I intend to send him:

  1. A 70th birthday card.  A quick trip to the supermarket or Hallmark should sort that out.
  2. A tenner in his card.
  3. Special bonus present: a laughing sack.  I can save giving the pedometer some hammer by ordering one online from  This looks the ideal gift for Sunray, and will keep him amused for hours and days, just like the Best of Ricky King double CD album I bought him in 2009, to remind him of how he used to deal with noisy neighbours’ offspring in the married quarters back in the 1970’s.

The laughing sack was always a family in-joke in the 1970’s and 1980’s, together with:

  • Mattierzoll “Erste kommt der kleine Bunker, und dann kommt der große Bunker” quote (you had to be there)
  • Who ate the next-door neighbour’s Christmas cake in 1962? (We never did find out.)
  • Who lives at Stubbing Nook?  (It turns out, the answer was Clarence Pask.)
  • Who is the smelliest postman in North Yorkshire (ICATQ: I cannot answer that question)

and another 94 one-liners.

Little things amuse little minds, I guess…

Have a laughter-filled day, won’t you!

Tales (Mails) from (or to) the Dales

Johnny P was a scrap dealer living next to Mrs Woodbine in the hamlet of Burrill.  Victor and Alpha were sons of MAW, serving in HM Forces.  In the days before spam, there was “proper” post, brought by the postman (or postwoman).  Burrill had a postman.  In bygone days of yore, there was no Sunday shopping in the UK, except for the newspapers.

Victor and Alpha used to read the Sunday papers from cover to cover.  There was little else to do on Sundays in those days.  Well, except, clip out the adverts, especially for holiday brochures and goods on approval.

Fast-forward to the following week.

A conversation across the dry stone wall.

Mrs Woodbine: Now then, Johnny.  

Johnny P: Now then, Mrs Woodbine.  ‘Ow are you?

Mrs Woodbine: Alreet thanks.  I see t’postman brought you a big package this morning.  ‘Ave you ordered summat f’ t’wedding anniversary?

Mrs Woodbine: Nay, some bugger ‘as gone an’ ordered me a pair of size 15 wellies.

As Victor  would say: And I laughed.

More Tales from the Dales

Conflict and war cost Governments a lot of money.  Here’s one case study for you. Victor was a full-screw (corporal) in the British Army.  He was awarded a GSM (General Service Medal) with a clasp for service in Northern Ireland, two tours, the first being Operation Motorman.  His second tour of duty was spent at HMP Maze, somewhat less risky from a life insurance point of view.  Enough of the history lesson, however. The saying goes that, “War is 95% boredom and 5% excitement.”  Northern Ireland service at HMP Maze was 99% boredom and 1% excitement.  The 1% excitement came from the telephone in the guardhouse.  Remember, good people, we are talking pre-internet, pre-remote control, pre-digital watch days.  In fact, let’s get purr-lit-i-curl, pre-privatisation days.  We are talking of the days of having to wait weeks to get a phone line installed.

So, what did people do to stay in contact, pre-internet, pre-SMS days?  By post and by phone.  Mrs MAW was Victor’s mother and lived in the tiny hamlet of Burrill in the Yorkshire Dales, Village life in the Dales in the 70’s was 93% contentment and 7% excitement: 2% – the daily visit of the travelling shop, 2%  – the arrival of the postman, 3% – the weekly phone call from Victor, serving Queen and Country at HMP Maze, while the inmates were serving time there. Imagine the scene.  The kids of the village playing hopscotch, skipping, hide and seek and chatting outside the village phone box and postbox  (actually, it’s a lampbox).



The payphone rings.

“Hello there.  “Who’s that?”

“Evening, it’s Kathy H.  Is that Victor?”

“Aye, it is.”

“How’s it in Northern Ireland?  Been to any riots today?”

“No, I’m still at the prison.  Can you go to … and tell Mrs MAW that Victor’s on the phone?”

At the speed of a thousand leaping gazelles, all the kids of the village, all ten of them, dash to MAW’s house and tell her Victor is on the phone.  No need to rush.  The Army is very generously paying.  Two minutes later, MAW takes her coat and waddles along, Woodbine hanging out of the corner of her mouth, off the Burrill phonebox, and chats with her son for a few minutes, bring him up to speed on all the village gossip.

  • George S from next door is claiming sickness benefits, but still able to dig in his back garden.
  • Mrs Cathcart from number 7 sent off a big parcel from the village sub post office and moaned about the cost.
  • Mr P from across the road has got some new underpants (dark blue).  I saw them hanging on the washing line yesterday.
  • Glen, the travelling butcher, had run out of pork chops by the time he had reached Burrill this morning.

Phone call over.  MAW waddles back to make more scones, probably also to make more notes on the villagers’ activities. Next phone calls to:

  • Brian B, old schoolmate and neighbour, recently emigrated to Australia
  • Random number in Alabama, America, to ask if it’s snowing there (at 0300 local USA time)
  • Wolfenbüttel Primary School the next morning towards the end of night shift, to wish his eldest son happy birthday

In 1976 the phone bill for the British Army in Northern Ireland was 3 million pounds.  2.5million was doubtless due to Victor at HMP Maze…