Last weekend, Remembrance Sunday, 11th November 2018, was the 100th anniversary of the armistice and the end of fighting in the First World War, and I spent time thinking about my lovely grandfathers, Ernest Swinard and Harold Manterfield. Both of them, thankfully, and unlike many, returned home after military service in that appalling conflagration.
During the Remembrance ceremonies on the TV and radio, I heard ‘Rule Britannia’ being played, and some of the words stuck in my mind;
“Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves. And Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.”
But we are slaves. We are all slaves, like most of the world, to the vast corporations and the obscenely wealthy and powerful who set the agenda, who promote wars and profit from them, who set us against each other to distract us from their activities, who own and direct the majority of our media to spread lies and misinformation in furtherance of their own greedy, self-serving schemes, schemes that are to the detriment of the majority and that add to the destruction of our environment.
Those of us who are fortunate, through accident of birth, to live in relatively wealthy countries and to have a certain amount of personal freedom, must take more care in choosing who to vote for. We must look carefully at our choices and try to select candidates who are independent of the rich and the corporations, or of those who are stoking the flames of nationalism, xenophobia and false patriotism for their own personal gain.
Remember who profits from war, and remember who suffers from it, because they are not the same people.
‘The Old Soldier’, shown above, is a moving poem by Harry Fellows that I posted on social media for Remembrance Day. The poem was written in 1987 by Harry Fellows about his friend Walter Smith; they were both living at the Willows Elderly Persons Home where my wife Sue worked at the time.
By William John Loftie FSA. Illustrated by Yoshio Markino. With an introduction by Marion Harry Spielmann FSA and an essay by the artist.
An interesting read, peppered with period Victorian/Edwardian morals and outlooks, and fascinating historical details.
In the introduction, Marion Harry Spielmann talks of “London by warm gaslight on Chelsea Embankment, or by cold electric rays on New Vauxhall Bridge…” and when discussing Yoshio Markino’s depiction of Baker Street Underground, he describes the “sulphur and noise”.
Later in the book the arrival of cars and the decay of fashionable life is lamented; “…we cannot expect ever to see again. The gay throng has been broken up by the invasion of motors” and “…motors render impossible that slow and stately pacing, the long waits under the trees, the show of fine horses and carriages”.
Originally published in London by Chatto & Windus in 1907; this edition was published in 1914.
A selection of the fascinating illustrations by Yoshio Markino.
When the nights begin to draw in and there’s a hint of autumn in the air, Nottingham residents talk of ‘Goose Fair weather’.
Then the time approaches for the show people to congregate at the fairground, and local children watch with anticipation as the rides are constructed and the fair starts to take its familiar shape.
Goose Fair is acres and acres of colour, lights, sounds and fun, with mushy peas and Grantham gingerbread, gentle Edwardian roundabouts and white knuckle stomach turners for thrill seekers, all mingling to make Nottingham’s annual spectacular.
Visitors travel from far and wide to experience the crowds, laughter, squeals and sights that give Goose Fair its distinctive atmosphere.
The fair normally has its official opening on the first Thursday in October and runs through until Sunday.
Further Information (click the title to go to the page)
These dates are all taken from my ‘Events and dates in Nottingham’s history’ pages.
Goose Fair Painting by Harry Haslam
Not long ago I won this wonderful painting of Nottingham’s Goose Fair (1907) by local artist Harry Haslam in a Nottingham Post and True Colours Art Gallery competition.
Harry Haslam paints from old postcards and takes photographs of the buildings that still remain to get more information. Harry reproduces the detail as accurately as possible and in every one of his pictures hides an image of his faithful dog Jude.
This is a slightly random assortment of dates and snippets of information about Nottingham that I’ve been collecting on and off since the early 1990s, or thereabouts. It isn’t an exhaustively researched academic treatise, I’ve just compiled it out of personal interest and because I like lists.
As a matter of convenience, for me, I’ve broken the information down into these periods (click to go to):
I’ve collected the information from a huge number of places, including my memory of events since I came to live in Nottingham. A few historical dates I’ve come across have alternative years cited, so I’ve quoted the date that seems most valid to me, depending on the source, background information and related material.
One thing I didn’t do when I originally compiled the list, and now regret, is to cite source material. I will gradually address this, but due to the huge variety of sources it will take a very long time.
I’ve put the sources of information I can remember in the References section and hope that I’ve not made too many mistakes in writing the lists. I’ve also inserted one or two events that were external to Nottingham, just to give a little context.
I will update and add information as I come across it and I will be very grateful if anyone reading this would let me know of any information that is either wrong or missing.
Needless to say, if there are mistakes, they are mine.
We owned a small local shop in the 1950s; Legion Stores at 13 Front Street, in Birstall, just north of Leicester in the English East Midlands.
The shop was in the oldest part of Birstall, quite close to the River Soar and opposite the very old St. James Church; relics of a Saxon window were found during major restoration works in the 19th century. The peel of church bells always takes me back to childhood Sunday mornings, either in the old shop, or at number 5, an old cottage we’d later rented, just down the road.
For the first few years that we had the shop food was still rationed and Mum used to bone and slice the bacon and measure out all the rationed portions of cheese and meat.
Mum and Grandma did most of the serving in the shop because Grandad didn’t like working behind the counter; he didn’t have much patience and always said he couldn’t put up with the ‘chatting women’.
Almost everything had to be weighed and measured out by hand, hardly anything came pre-packed. Things like sugar came in big bags and were measured into small bags for the customer, bacon was sliced by hand and parcelled up, cheese, lard and butter had to be cut into chunks, weighed and wrapped.
In the kitchen at the back of the shop we had a small butter churn, like a small wooden barrel with a turning handle that we used to make our own butter. I don’t actually remember if we churned the butter that was sold in the shop, although I do remember my Mum and Grandma patting the measured chunks of butter into blocks with wooden paddles and wrapping them in paper.
Particular delights for me were the rows of jars full of sweets, unfortunately out of my reach. Something I could actually reach were the eggs, dozens of them in stacks of trays. My mother told me that one day I picked up some of the eggs and when she told me to put them down, I just dropped them on the floor. I bet the cane that she kept behind the bread board came out that time.
One of my favourite parts of the shop were the rows of little wooden drawers behind the counter and below the shelves of sweet jars, tins and jams. These drawers were full of various dry goods, such as salt, with small metal scoops used to measure the contents into bags. The drawer I liked most of all contained lots of button badges, these must have been given out by the suppliers, because I seem to remember them advertising things like Saxa salt.
The shop did steady business and just about paid its way for a few years, but self-serve food stores started to become popular in the 1950s, gradually turning into the chains of supermarkets that most of us buy our food from today.
By the late 1950s the old shop on Front Street wasn’t doing very well, loosing customers to the newer shops in the village at Sibson’s Corner, so when Mum and Dad moved in 1959, to a new house on a new estate off Greengate Lane, Grandma and Grandad Manterfield gave the shop up and moved into the old cottage that we’d rented at 5 Front Street.
So that was the end of our little retail experiment, but it left me with many happy memories of a quieter time in a small corner of a very old village.
A conversation at work recently reminded me how differently we treat food these days, compared to fifty, or so, years ago.
Someone was sniffing and scrutinising the milk, prior to making a hot drink, and decided it was time to part company, because the milk wasn’t quite as fresh and youthful as it had been (I know the feeling) and it reminded me of how we stored and used milk before we had fridges.
(Gripping stuff, are you sure you don’t have anything better to do; clip your toenails, put the cat out?)
When I started to think back I was quite surprised at how much our shopping, cooking and eating habits have changed since the 1950s. In fact before long I might also use it as an excuse to blather on about the local stores that we had before supermarkets arrived on the scene.
(Incidentally, why is the cat on fire?)
Anyway, back to milk. Before the widespread appearance of supermarkets in the late 1950s and early 1960s, most people had fresh milk delivered daily and, without a fridge, it was kept in the coolest place in the kitchen, pantry or cellar. We sometimes also had bottles of sterilized milk, which kept longer unopened, but didn’t taste as good as the fresh stuff.
Fridges didn’t become very widespread in British homes until the 1960s and 70s, so milk was normally used the day it was delivered, but if it happened to hang around a little longer, particularly in hot weather, it would start turn a little too sour for regular use.
Now I don’t know about most families at the time, but ours didn’t often throw it out. We kept it in a cool place until it had thickened up; I think Mum used to mix something like a little lemon juice in to curdle it. Then it was poured (well, perhaps glopped would be a better description) onto a piece of muslin, which was gathered up with the ends tied together, then hung over a bowl to allow the liquid to drain off. Once it stopped dripping it had a consistency between cream cheese and cottage cheese and was ready for use. At some point it was mixed with salt to improve the flavour and keep it fresh for longer, but I can’t remember if the salt was added at the end or before it was strained through the muslin.
The storage and shelf life of fresh food has altered a lot; food didn’t have ‘sell by’ or ‘use by’ dates until the 1970s, and then it was a bit sporadic. We used to pick up and examine our food; if it smelled okay and there are no unsightly slimy bits, then we would just eat it. If the cheese had a bit of mould growing on the outside, we would cut a layer off. If the bread was getting stale it was made into bread pudding, stale cake was made into trifle and so on.
I’m loath to trot out the customary ‘it never did me any harm’, but I do think we waste too much food. It would be more practical to inspect our food carefully and cook it thoroughly and with care, instead of just chucking it out for what sometimes seems to be an arbitrary date that depends on too many variables to be completely accurate.
We used to store some fruit and vegetables for months. Onions, for example, were cleaned up and kept dry, tied together and hung from hooks in the shed. When we wanted one, it was pulled or snipped one from the bunch and with luck they would keep all winter, or even longer.
Apples, as long as they were fresh and undamaged, would keep for months stored in a cool, dark place with a good air circulation. Similarly, we stored clean, dry, undamaged potatoes for a long time in paper or hessian sacks kept in cool, dry and dark conditions.
Anyway, you get the idea, before this turns into an episode of Gardener’s Question Time.
Another pre-fridge piece of equipment we used was a meat safe fixed to the wall outside, on the north facing side of the house, to keep it cool and out of the sun. The meat safe was a small metal cupboard with mesh covered holes to allow air circulation, but keep flies and vermin out, and we kept dairy produce, joints of meat, sausages, dripping and potted meat in it, particularly in cooler months.
In an old village shop we once managed, we had a cool and damp cellar that often served as a fridge. Mum made a trifle for a party and stored it in the cellar; it may have been for my birthday, but I don’t remember that. What I do remember is that when she went down to collect the trifle, there was a large frog sitting, apparently quite comfortably, in the centre. I don’t think we ate the trifle, although Dad wasn’t so fussy and probably scooped out the contaminated bits and scoffed the rest.
The etymological, not entomological, origins of my school nickname.
At school, well at junior school, I was known as Dandy, which had a dual or ‘punning’ basis, coming both from my alleged dandyism and from watching, and being somewhat obsessed with, the Saturday matinee film series of Zorro at the local village cinema.
The theatre was the Lawn cinema in Birstall, just north of Leicester, run by Bert Pollard. According to the Leicester Mercury the cinema had been opened on Monday 5 October 1936. It was named after Lawn House, which had previously stood on the site in the centre of the village.
I loved the Saturday matinee; it was the entertainment highlight and treat of the week for quite a few years and my introduction to cinematic science fiction through Flash Gordon and to the wacky humour of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello & The Three Stooges.
I can’t remember exactly how much the matinee cost; it was quite cheap, somewhere around 4d or 6d, and my favourite sweetened, pink and white popcorn, sold in a greaseproof paper tube for about 3d.
The Lawn keep going for 34 years, finally closing in October 1970. After it’s demolition a supermarket was built on the site.
Anyway, I’m deviating; this minor historical tangent has little to do with my nickname, just happy memories of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
I was fascinated by Zorro’s spectacular fencing techniques, but my friends, instead of calling me Zorro, named me after Zorro’s unmasked screen character.
Zorro (Spanish for fox) was the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega; this was heard by young ears as ‘Dan de Yaygo’, which in turn became ‘Dandy Yaygo’, and, in the case of my nickname, was abbreviated to just ‘Dandy’.
The perception of me being a dandy, the secondary source of ‘Dandy’, arose through my mixed pronunciation from having an East Midland father and a south coast mother. Words such as grass with the short ‘a’ of the East Midlands and north would often emerge with the longer ‘ah’ of the south. Likewise I would sometimes pronounce words such as plant, dance, branch, demand with the long ‘ah’ sound (plahnt, dahnce, brahnch, demahnd).
Due to this intermittent southern, or posh, pronunciation my school friends erroneously perceived me as having an upper-class background. So ‘Dandy’ fit both the perception of who I was and my obsession with Zorro, whose alter ego, Don Diego de la Vega, was thought to be a bit of a dandy anyway.
In a slight revisiting of my school nickname I did take up fencing in the 1970s, starting at night school and then with the Nottingham YMCA Fencing Club for a few years, where I met my wife Sue.