Local Historian and Writer
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Welcome to Mike's Blog
This is like jumping into deep, icy water. I've no idea what it will feel like, but am full of anticipation of a shock.
I'm a bit of a writer and I do like to have my say. I think that when one reaches retirement age, but still aware that one doesn't know everything, one has the right to have one's say. We've lived life, endured life, survived life and not yet met death. So we could be said to know what we are talking about (well, in some cases, anyway).
I do have a website (www.freespiritwriters.me.uk) and I have definitely had my say on there. But on Bridlington.net I will confine myself to Bridlington matters, how they affect me and mine and how things should be done in a perfect world - which it ain't.
Last Saturday, I was minding my own business at the computer when the doorbell rang.
At the door were two elderly gentleman and a small boy.
One of the men said: "Can I ask if you know Jesus?" and made to hand me a copy of Watchtower.
Normally I am amused at this, and am instantly ready for a discussion, a somewhat heated discussion I might add.
When I told him I had no need of God, he started to reply. But I was angry now, really, really angry.
What right did these old men have to drag a young boy around the estate with them on a Saturday afternoon when the lad would probably have been better off fishing, or train spotting, or even putting money in the one-armed bandits in the amusements in town. Not that I encourage one-armed bandits. But they would have provided a few minutes pleasure, I suppose. But being dragged from door to door while their elders were taking the word to the ill-educated, well, that was awful.
By the time I closed the door, I was in a fury, that religion makes it right to fill a child's mind with unsubstantiated clap-trap. I know, I know, you're offended. Well, tough!
Bring me some evidence, real hard-core evidence of what you believe in, and I'll certainly listen to you. Don't dare mention the Bible, either. One book! You're basing your whole life on the words of one book, by a bunch of amateur know-nothing writers from 2,000-odd years ago? Surely not.
When I deliberately asked the men if they actually believed that Jonah lived in a whale for three days, they said yes. That's sad! Really, really sad. Those men are living in a world with stuff that two hundred years ago would have been magic: computers, spaceships, heart transplants, all of which were invented by men. Not one churchman had anything to do with these improvements to life. Not one, not even the man at the supposed top of the putrid heap: the pope.
I was brought up a Catholic, a member of the Holy Catholic Church of Rome. I had it drummed into me that this - the Catholic faith - was the one, the only one, guaranteed to get me to heaven. I could go into any Catholic church in the world and follow the mass. The mass was conducted in Latin of course, so it was international. Its first pope was St Peter. The St Peter on which, Jesus said: "I shall build my church." So, to me, a young unknowing lad, being Catholic was being at top of the tree.
Oh, how far have I fallen since then. Or rather the church has fallen since then. It was decided to change Latin to the language of the country of the churchgoer, and it was decided that, after all, the planet would not disintegrate if I had a sausage on a Friday.
So far have I travelled from that upbringing, that I now have a real problem with all religions. Perhaps a big problem with those two elderly men and that young boy. I told the boy not to take any notice of what he was told, but to ask questions to find out for himself.
I asked the men if they believed I had a giraffe in my shed. I think they could not work out whether the answer "Yes" would illuminate their stupidity, and whether a "No" would make them start to think about truth. Their non-answer was illumination enough. They couldn't respond as either answer went against their religion.
Jehovah's Witnesses might be harmless fun, but other religions take things much too far. Judaism actually mutilate boys' genitals for their faith. They still do that. Islam tells its followers to carve the genitals of girls, too. Hundreds of girls in England make a journey to have this process carried out. Both acts are deplorable. Really really deplorable, disgusting, mindless, stupid, how many more adjectives do you want?
If the Witnesses call on you, please help them on their way, with a firm word. Or several if you can conjure some up which you think will make one iota of difference to their hide-bound ideology.
If you are a Witness, please have a quiet thought, and ask yourself, are you wasting your time.
I know a former vicar, now retired, and I guess he's now asking himself whether he's wasted his life. He has.
I wasted a lot of mine, I know. If only I was told as a young man that I had the right to question religion, I would have done so long ago. But I didn't. My parents didn't encourage me to ask, they accepted the faith for what it was and they conducted their lives around it. What a shame for them, too.
Please do what you can to eliminate faith from our daily lives. Prayer has never been answered - just ask yourself "Why won't God heal amputees?" then go to the website of that name. Visit "The Atheistic Experience" on YouTube for some down-to-earth observations. If you are even half a believer, you'll be shocked. I was - at first. Then I realised there was a lot of sense being said.
So I researched more. I read Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and others.
Now I am an atheist and a humanist. We get what we get by our own endeavours. There is no-one in the sky to help us out. God wasn't around much in Somerset recently was he?
Must stop now. It's becoming a rant.
Come on out of the shadows and into the light of reality.
I had a visit to York the other day. The river was swollen but it was obvious that the waters had receded somewhat. There was mud everywhere in this little park and the opportunity to fall all one's length in an inch of sloppy mud was there. Luckily I avoided doing that!
I wandered all through the city centre and was vastly entertained by a group of six East European guys giving it all they were worth on musical instruments. They were brilliant! Hardly stopped to catch a breath, just kept blasting away.
On the bus there I read half a novel, and finished it off when coming back.
It was a lovely spring day - heck, there were even folk wandering about without coats on!
I would normally have gone to the railway museum, but the Streaks (Gresley's A4s) were not there.
I'm arranging to have my books published for print on demand in the hope that folk overseas will buy them. I'll let you know how I get on.
Say what you mean, and mean what you say!
I'm quite sure that I will get more than 'four chips' if I order this. I know they mean 'four portions of chips' so why don't they say so? All round, it is better to be accurate.
I've heard that my Bridlington Historic Timeline has been uploaded on to Facebook. The fact that someone has done that without my permission is the very reason why I won't use Facebook. Anyone can put anything up and claim credit for it. Had the person asked me, I might have been persuaded that it was well worth doing. After all, it advertises me then as a writer and as a person interested in Brid history. Which I am. But I don't want others having credit for work that is not theirs.
Well, January disappeared quickly, didn't it? Life has slowed down a bit because of Diane's stroke.
But I have to confess. I've been conducting a bit of an affair. I've met a young lady, a professional. No, not one of those professionals! She's a singer, actress, comedienne and she's rather glamorous. I've spent a lot of time with her this last week and it's been most enjoyable.
Like all elderly men, I found it easy to be smitten.
Oh, I'd better explain. The lady in question died seventy years ago! Yes, seventy years ago.
She was Madge Temple, and I have been pursuing her across the internet for a couple of weeks. I already had a good collection of her photographs and some personal items of hers too.
The photographs were sold as postcards - by the tens of thousands, I guess - between 1906 and 1916, when she was at the height of her fame. And high it was, too. She appeared in theatres all over England - perhaps I should say the United Kingdom even - and was a real star in Australia and New Zealand.
After a week of work on the computer I now have a 48-page illustrated booklet telling Madge's story.
Why did I first become interested, you may well ask. She was the wife of the one and only Herman Darewski, famous musician, writer of thousands of popular songs before the Second World War, and one-time Director of Music at Bridlington Spa.
I wrote a piece about Herman which was published in Down Your Way in March last year. They paid me too.
Now that I've finished my Madge book, I think the next thing I'll do is create a book for Herman.
Here is the front cover:
Okay! Okay! I look a bit of a dipstick, but it was Boxing Day lunch, with crackers and paper hats. But I thought this was better.
I hope you had a good Christmas break. Diane's sister came up from Godalming in Surrey for the holiday. She's found out through Twitter and Facebook that the river Wey had broken its banks and the water reached the end of her street.
Fancy spending a lovely holiday in sunny Brid then going back to find your house had been inundated with four feet of water! Doesn't bear thinking about.
Brid businesses suffered during the tidal surge recently, but luckily no domestic properties suffered.
My computer is now fully back to normal, so I might start on another book. I had one complete in the old computer, but lost it. I didn't save it properly. Mike Smith at MCS Computers on Bridge Street is to be thanked for getting meback to normal.
Here's hoping you have
A Merry Christmas and
A Happy New Year
Christmas for us means watching A Christmas Carol, more than once. We thought the Scrooge film with Kelsey Grammer was brilliant and the cartoon version was also very enjoyable.
Dickens wrote a good story there, and the other great story for Christmas is the one about the baby born to a virgin.
I'm afraid I think that's all it is: a story. It was penned hundreds of years ago, by unnamed authors, many years after the supposed event. Nowhere in history is this event recorded; it appears in one book only, the bible.
I've come out at last: I'm an atheist. I cannot bring myself to accept the stories they told us were true. For many years I accepted it all. Then I realised as I grew up that I was reasonably well educated. After that I realised that no matter how clever I felt I was, I knew that I didn't know everything. So therefore there was a remote possibility that God exists.
Later, when I started looking into the claims of religion, I found my brain was overwhelming my heart and I no longer believed.
Even more research, and the reading of books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, opened my mind to the possibility that I had been duped all along.
I am so sorry that my parents were unable to open my mind, while they were slavishly following the faith they had. My Grammar School education was wasted, as it wasn't until I had retired that I considered what I could have achieved had I not been held back by my Roman Catholic upbringing.
Don't forget the pagans were celebrating the longer days way before Christianity was ever thought of.
Despite my disbelief, I wish you all you wish yourselves at this festive time of year.
Despite the windy and wet afternoon, there was a good crowd to witness the unveiling of the plaque to those who died at the rail crossing on 17th September 1947.
Ten German prisoners of war and two British Army personnel died when the truck they were in crashed through the crossing barrier into the path of a train.
For many years, the incident had been forgotten. But local men Richard Myerscough and Richard Jones researched the event and the end result was this plaque on the wall of the privately owned ex-signal box at the junction of the road and the railway.
Both men made a short speech telling those there about how the plaque came into being.
The unveiling was carried out by a member of the British Legion, Mr Morris.
Another visitor was the daughter of one of the Germans who died that day.
Standards on parade.
Richard Jones relates the story of the event and the plaque.
After the unveiling.
The crowd during a one minute's silence.
The remembrance plaque.
Richard Jones at the remembrance plaque at Burton Agnes road/rail crossing.
Drastic day on November 23. My wife had a stroke. And my PC failed. Diane was put in an ambulance and arrived at Scarborough Hospital, unable to move her right arm and right leg. Luckily her speech, sight, hearing, understanding and her brilliant smile were unaffected.
On December 12, she was home, thank goodness. I will not credit God with her recovery because I ask myself who gave her the stroke. Don't get me going on this topic because you will open a box of anger.
During the few hours when I wasn't keeping the home going, feeding the cat, shopping and washing her clothes, I visited her at Scarborough and every day at Brid.
I was also struggling to solve my computer problem. My PC uses XP and could not be repaired, so I bought a former council computer from an office on Bessingby Industrial Estate. Once I got it attached to the multitude of wires needed, I found Vista would not operate my QuarkXpress software, essential for my book production.
So I had to take my faulty PC in, have everything removed and XP reinstalled. After that I had to reload all my software. What a job that was. Eventually things returned to normal the day after Diane came home.
Diane's first trip out was to Spotlight for the annual Christmas party for their supporters. It was a great night.
Diane has progressed so well that she now has most of the use of her hand back, although cutlery is awkward. We manage. She still does the Stroke Ward Shuffle occasionally while using her walking stick, but I hope things will get better eventually.
Eventually she will have to appear at DWP so that she can be considered fit for work, although she has been off work due to epilepsy for 23 years. While DWP is chasing her, I'm sure that there are dozens of fully able people skiving and claiming benefits. Don't get me off on that one either.
On another topic, I've resigned from the Bridlington Sailing Coble Preservation Society. After more than ten years supporting the Three Brothers coble, and seeing her through her centenary and complete renovation, I can do no more for her. It's time for others to take up the reigns and take her into a new era. Mind you, I'm not saying I left without some problems. But don't get me going on that either.
Hopefully the new year will be a little more settled.
And now something for the festive season. This is my take on the nativity story:
THE SHEPHERDS' TALE
I’m to tell thee a tale that’s as old as the hills
It’s one of the best ever spun.
For hundreds of years it’s been handed down,
By shepherds from father to son.
Three shepherds were watching from t’top of an hill
Caring for t’sheep throughout t’night
When all of a sudden God’s angel stood there;
It didn’t half give ’em a fright.
“Follow that star to find your new king,”
Came a voice that thundered and roared,
And there, right before ’em, hanging just over t’trees,
Were a light that blazed like a sword.
“Wow!” said the shepherds, “Let’s see where it leads;
“The sheep’ll come to no harm.”
So they gathered their cloaks, and made off down the hill;
All around it were peaceful and calm.
They arrived down in t’town and were gobsmacked at t’throng;
Summat was happening without doubt.
“Come on,” they said, “Let’s see for ourselves
“What all this kerfuffle’s about.”
Together they scurried along all the streets
Down lanes and round corners and such,
Until up in front were a jostling bunch,
But from t’back they couldn’t see very much.
They excuse-me’d and sorry’d their way up to t’front
’Til they fetched up at t’door of a barn
And there in a manger were a baby, just born,
Kept warm by t’animals from t’farm.
Bairn’s mother sat there, a tiny wee lass,
As innocent as t’day she were born;
While behind her in t’shadows were her husband . . . it’s said,
Pair of them tired and worn.
“That’s nobbut a bairn,” said one of the men,
“Somebody’s having a lark.”
“Aye,” said his friend,“You’re probably right.
Who’d follow a king born in t’dark?”
Just then from down t’street came a raucous to-do
And some strangers made their way in.
T’bairn must have known they were coming his way
For his face fair lit up in a grin.
Three of them there were, a dark shade o' brown,
Wearing garments all glittering bright;
They bent to their knees and offered t’bairn gifts,
And t’ barn were flooded with light.
Mother thanked t’kings for t’myrrh and for t’gold –
Aye, from t’Orient on camels they were –
Frankincense too were the third of their gifts,
Then t’kings joined their hands in a prayer.
The shepherds were dumb-stuck and fell to their knees
As they gazed at the bonny wee lad,
Who smiled and then grinned at everyone there,
But the eyes of his mother were sad.
The shepherds just knelt there, speechless, amazed,
As their hearts were filled up with joy
For they knew that their lives had been changed for good
With the birth of that heavenly boy.
What a lovely story. But that's all it is: A story.
Diane and I went to see Greg Davies at the Spa Royal Hall last night. The show was packed and it was great to see the Hall full of buzz. Greg was hilarious and had all of us in stitches with his stories. He encouraged one or two people on the front row to be part of the show and they added to the fun. He introduced us to a new catchphrase, which was originated by his mother when she heard of some of his jokes for the show: "It's not normal, love." He went on to tell us that none of us was really 'normal' and all were a little odd in many ways.
After the show, we queued to meet Greg and for him to sign the programme. Earlier in the day I had left a copy of my book Bridlington Remembered for him and he said he had enjoyed looking through it.
All in all, a great night! Another feather in the cap for the staff at the Spa.
Watch out for a brilliant start to the 2014 season!
Sorry for the poor quality. A telephone photo, not one of the best.
Maybe two/three months ago, I was queuing in the Post Office for my pension. It was a Monday morning. I was chatting to a fellow I'd met occasionally, but I don't know who he is. We passed each other as I was at one side of the barrier and he on the other. Within a few seconds of losing sight of him, there was a sudden big thud behind me. I looked round and the poor guy was on the floor, breathing really hard. Staff and customers alike leapt to his rescue, made him comfortable, and then phoned for help. Eventually, I was served at the counter and left just as the paramedics arrived. And that was that. I thought he was a goner!
Today, as I was leaving the bus station, there he was in front of me, beaming and grinning all over his face. I couldn't believe it. How fantastic, I thought. Good to see you again, old pal. The best of luck!
Seeing your smile today really made my day!
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