When he bought the first birds
home, and left them gently cooing
in a cage in our living room
mum was livid –
‘better not make a mess on my carpet’

He held one, passive in his hefty hands,
smoothing down the feathers
with his thumb. He passed it to me like a prize.
It was light and soft as sponge cake.

He cut up a cupboard to make a loft.
Replacing the roses in the garden.
Painted dove in that grey town,
It stood out like a tanner in a sweeps ear’ole’,
as dad would say.

We ferried the birds to their palatial home,
where the sun pearled their feathers,
and through the grill
they could watch the sky
and hear the taunts of the thieving sparrows.

Our fleet grew,
and on Saturdays they raced and flew
for miles, and almost always
found their way home because
of my determined rattle of a tin of grain.

I would watch the flock
circle as they spied their palace
between the dull bricks of London.
Dad won rosettes, well, his pigeons did.
Displayed them on the living room wall.

Mum complained about them
gathering dust. More often I had her to myself
and we snuggled on the sofa watching
Corrie on the telly before bed.

While at the pigeon club in the pub
Dad spent the evening getting drunk
and softly cooing at the barmaid,
holding the bird in his hefty hands.

Before long, those homing pigeons were gone.

And so was dad.

Izzy Wizzy Let’s Get Busy!

Since my post yesterday bemoaning my broken Sooty eggcup, it has come to my attention that some of my wordpress friends have not heard of Sooty (stands back in horror…!)  This seems astonishing to me, but then, he has been around in England since before I was born (blimey..I hear you say…), created by Harry Corbett in 1948.  His TV show has been aired since the early fifties.

Sooty is a glove puppet (don’t tell him.. he thinks he’s a teddy bear…) who attempts magic with his magic wand, and is an occasional xylophone player.  Together with his friend Sweep, and the goody-two-shoes panda, Soo, he gets into all sorts of mischief without saying a word – Sadly Sooty is mute. Sweep does squeak, and Soo speaks in an annoying school-marm voice (I never did like Soo). I’ve pinched the show’s catch-phrase for the title of this post – Izzy Wizzy Let’s Get Busy,which was always accompanied by a wave of Sooty’s wand of course.

When Harry Corbett retired in 1976, his son Matthew took over Sooty’s errmmm…glove, and on his retirement in 1998 he found a replacement in Richard Cadell who is still to be found on TV with his puppety friends.  These day’s Sooty is quite modern and even has his own website http://www.thesootyshow.com/

I’ve had fun browsing through some of the old shows to be found on youtube, but think this one pretty much optimises it as I remember it, though as a kid I watched it in black and white.   Simple times….enjoy!

Broken :-(

Posted in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge – this week’s theme ‘Broken’

This is my Sooty eggcup.  It was an Easter present, complete with chocolate egg, that I received when I was seven or eight years old – that means that this little eggcup is now getting on for sixty. It got broken like this when we moved house some 22 years ago, and for some reason I didn’t have the heart to throw it away.

I don’t really know why I have kept it so long. It’s like a ghost of my childhood sitting in the kitchen drawer.  I can actually remember getting it, and being quite excited, after all there is nothing quite like a boiled egg and soldiers out of your own Sooty eggcup.  It’s also a reminder of how clumsy and lackadaisical I am –  originally I had the broken off piece and had intended to stick it back together, but of course that never happened and the piece has long since disappeared.

Perhaps, now I have taken photographic evidence of it I should throw the darn thing away. Lets face it,it’s junk and it takes up valuable space in my kitchen drawer.  Will I though??  I’m pretty sure you and I both know the answer….

Home but not a house

I never thought much about it when I was growing up, it was just where we lived, but when I told my husband that we lived over a motorbike showroom that was squashed between an off licence and a salvation army hall, with a bus stop right in front of our front door, he swore there must be a story in there somewhere.

Now I come to think of it, there probably is, but I’m not going to explore that now.  I’ll just tell you the facts. It was an old building in Tooting, South London, probably a warehouse at one time. Certainly, our first floor living room was of warehouse proportions, and a devil to keep warm, especially with the three tall drafty sash windows that lined the front wall.  We used to stuff newspapers in the gaps between the panes to stop them rattling in the wind. We had no central heating, and relied heavily on a two bar electric fire at the end where the sofa and tiny TV stood, and a terrifyingly temperamental paraffin heater at the other end beside the slightly out of tune piano that my sister used to endlessly practice ‘The Elizabethan Serenade’ on.

Next to the living room was the kitchen/diner, always steamy, with a kettle on the boil, and the oven alight to warm the room.  The old radio would be humming ‘sing something simple’ or ‘The Goon show’ while we sat at the table for our tea.

The bedrooms were on the second floor.  My sister and I shared a long narrow room with another newspaper-stuffed sash window at the far end.  The room was decorated with willow pattern wallpaper, and we used to entertain each other making up stories about the little Japanese people that were crossing the ornate blue bridges.  When she got married and left home I was allowed to choose the décor and went for a vivid plain orange paper, which I loved, but it had no stories to tell.

When I was very young we didn’t have a bathroom, and on Friday nights mum took as into town to the public baths where my sister and I shared a soak. Eventually though, my dad did a bit of home bodging and put in a bathroom and indoor toilet – luxury!  Like most of his projects, I don’t think it was ever quite finished off, but he did paint the walls using a feather duster dipped in different coloured paints to give a rainbow effect. This was long before fancy paint techniques were discussed on the TV.  In fact, it was long before any DIY shows were on the TV!

Our home was dusty and drafty. There were lots of stairs and a spider filled basement, which had been used as an air-raid shelter during the war, and which I didn’t dare go in, not only because of the spiders, but also because of the scary stories my sister used to tell me about witches and bogey men that lived down there.  I was so frightened of it that I always sidled quickly past its wooden door to get out into the small walled garden.  I seem to have a vague memory of a corrugated iron Anderson shelter out there at one time, but I guess that must have been taken down when I was very young.

Sometimes, but not always, our garden had flowers, once I had a much beloved guinea pig who lived out there, but over-ridingly, there was the huge white pigeon loft which took up pretty much half of the space. When Dad got into pigeon racing, everything else went.  The apple tree in the middle of the grass.  The flower beds.  The guinea pig.  My swing-in-the-door.  Instead, the pigeons became his, and by default, our focus. Trying not to knock the jelly off the window sill where it had been left to set, while we leant precariously out of the kitchen window to see if they were on their way back after a race, or standing outside rattling tins of food to entice them to come down to have their racing rings removed and be ‘clocked back’ became our standard occupations on Saturday afternoons.

Dad’s craze’s and eccentricities were a central part of my growing up, and many of them formed the memories I have of my childhood home. Often when I think back to those times I think of the many Christmas’s when he insisted on decorating the front room with an elaborate spider’s web of crepe paper strips. I have no idea where he got his ideas from, but I have never seen the like since.  I remember being mortified at the time and really just wanting tinsel and paper chains like all the other kids had.  Now, the memory of the ‘ta da!’ moment when we all stood round with our fingers crossed while he cut the strings that temporarily held the strips of paper up, to reveal that they were in fact self-supporting, is a warm memory of home I will never forget.

Written as part of the writing 101 challenge – write about your childhood home with sentence length in mind.