Tuesday, 14 April 2009

31 July 1942

To doctor.  Urine OK.  Trouble no doubt caused by cold. On our side no sun until afternoon.  Many others suffering same complaint.  Out 5.20 – 6.15.  Started PT by By but stopped by PB as B not able to remember exercises of previous day.


Another effort on the part of my uncles to amuse me was the ‘down’ bed.  I suppose that I myself with my then limited vocabulary was responsible for the description.  Our house and that of my grandparents were only a matter of 50 yards apart although in different streets.  We were ‘just round the corner’ from each other, with the result that ‘Smithy’, as I called myself, was rather oftener to be found in the latter house than in the former.  So when I issued the decree, ‘Smithy sleep here tonight’, the down bed was conjured up.  This bed was nothing more or less than a small mattress which was apparently kept under the bed in my uncle’s bedroom but it was made like a magic carpet to me.  Before retiring, Johnnie would take me into the bedroom, and standing in front of the real bed, with many mysterious passes of the hands and cries of ‘Open Sesame’, would cause the ‘down’ bed to come forth from its lair.  And while I gazed with eyes round with wonder, the ‘down’ bed would glide from under the valance, a few inches at a time with each call of the ‘Open Sesame’, and pass with the hands.  This magic impressed me very greatly and it was quite a long time before I discovered that my uncle Joe, concealed under the bed, was responsible for the mysterious progress of the ‘down’ bed.  Oh, happy happy days!  And what could equal the joy of a party on Hogmanay night, which was a real family reunion in the best sense of the word.  And as the years passed more grandchildren appeared, several marriages having taken place in the family in the interim, it seemed to be a case of ‘the more the merrier’.  On that great day, we children were put to sleep early in the afternoon and awakened only in time to dress and fully wake up about 8pm.  These parties followed the main, year after year, a sort of fixed routine in so far as the same songs were sung, the same games played.  But these, generally speaking, had a significance for our charmed circle only.  Take for instance, ‘The Demons and the Fairies’.  How this originated, I do not know, but it was never neglected.  All the children and some of the male grownups would go out of the sitting room where the company was assembled.  My aunt Innes, that dear self sacrificing soul (and it was always Innes) would sit down at the piano and commence a tremolo of tinkling sound on the high keys.  This was the signal for the children to come dancing into the sitting room doing their best to represent the ‘joie de vivre’ of the fairy world while the company applauded their efforts.  This was no sooner accomplished than the tones from the piano changed to a  deep bass rumble which gave their cue to the Demons represented by the few male grownups, who would then burst into the room on hands and knees, growling like beasts (or demons) and with gnashing of teeth would endeavour to grasp the children with their fearful claw like hands.  Such shrieks from the children, such awe inspiring growls as filled the air for some minutes!  a veritable pandemonium.  But of course the Demons never succeeded in their fell purpose.  The rest of the adult company would protect the Fairies and then drive the Demons with a combine rush out into the outer darkness of the lobby.  Each child had its opportunity of singing a little song, giving a recitation, or a dance, and I do not believe that any of them ever neglected the opportunity.  My cousins, Elizabeth and Margaret sang on one occasion a duet of which I recall only the following:

‘Oh, the sports of childhood
Roaming through the wild wood
Tripping through the meadows
Happy and free.’

and which was voted a great success.  Another childish song, by whom rendered I fail to remember was:

‘I’m a little busy bee, roaming in the clover,
Here I go, there I go, all the meadows over.
Hear me singing merrily – Bzzz- Bzz.
Ever singing merrily – Bzzz – Bzz.’

Of all the items rendered by the grownups I believe the most popular was always my grandfather’s rendering of ‘I traced her little foot steps in the snow’.  This ditty dealt with the going astray of a loved one during a snowstorm and the chorus of ‘I traced her little foot steps, etc’ was always accompanied by a few steps of a dance of grandfather’s own invention.  An innovation which he introduced one year quite brought the house down.  At the last chorus, he dipped his hand into his jacket pocket and brought out a handful of confetti which he sprinkled over his head while doing the dance.  It was a huge success.  The we had my uncle Jim who gave us the ballad ‘Lucky Jim’.  This ballad, a humorous one, dealt with ill luck of the singer as compared with that of his friends. ‘Lucky Jim’, the last verse related:

‘Years rolled on and death took Jim away, boys,
Left his widow and she married me
Oft I think of Jim so long at rest, boys,
Sleeping in the churchyard by the sea’

Chorus:  ‘Oh lucky Jim, how I envy him.’

or words to that effect.  It was a great favourite.  There was always a vocal item by George Rickart, my aunt Helen’s husband, who sang a song in Irish dialect which commenced:

‘As I went out one evening to Tipperary town,
I met a little colleen among the heather brown.’

which ended with :

‘Och, the little pigs had done
Oh, the dear little girl.’

Then there was the duet by Helen and George ‘Prithie, pretty maiden’ which is I believe, from one of the Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas, and Helen herself singing ‘My dear soul’ and ‘My curly headed babby’/  What a treat were their solos and what a glorious contralto voice she had.  I believe Helen once had an offer to record for ‘His Majesty’s Voice’ records and declined.  A great hit of the evening was always my uncle Pat’s rendering of ‘Every bullet has its billet’ which contains the lines:

‘Pass the grog round
Mind don’t spill it.’

and which was always, by general acclaim on the part of the men folk, repeated ad lib, until my aunt Margaret, who acted as barmaid on those occasions took the hint and recharged the glasses with mountain dew.

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