Saturday, 31 October 2015

My Nan talking about the Second World War in London...

Six years ago, I got a camcorder and I went to visit Nan... my Nan... in Swindon.

I don't know why I did it.

I heard her talking about, you know, watching flying bombs from her window when she was in Labour with my Dad.

And, I don't know why but I wanted to ask her some questions about the War, Second World War, in London...
and I know she was moved around the country.
I was just curious.
So here's the chat.

It goes on for a LONG time.
So I'm going to be breaking it up into different videos.

I wish I'd followed up with some questions afterwards but I just left the tape in its box - I've just digitised it now. And transcribed it.
The full transcription is below.

But this is what we talked about.
And I'm sorry if I missed anything or didn't follow anything up because...
I can't do it again now. But it's a nice thing.
It's a bit of family history in there,
bit of social history,
bit of oral history,
and some stuff about the Second World War.

Nan talking about the Second World War in London - part 1/5

You were a researcher, weren't you?
When you started off? Yeah, yeah.
Which is... 15 years ago this summer.
How many? 15.
Only seems the other day, doesn't it. Yeah. Yeah.
They were playing um... they had erm records playing in the car. You know the Top 40 Pick of the Pops.
Oh yes. From that year, and it was like 15 years ago.
I know. Jean went to see Priscilla in the week, at The Palace.
Who's Priscilla?
It's a film. Ooop.
It's a musical show at The Palace.
It was all about transvestites.
Oh Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.
Queen of the theatre. Yes.
I think it was the Queen, or was it the palace. Ooh. That's me.
And she said it was 1988 music.
Oh, you'd know that. She knew the music, you see. Her time.

[EDIT] (1:24 How Kathleen was called up.)
I got discharged then.
When you got pregnant with with Dad?
Your grandad had just got forms for me to be an officer.
Not just a Leading Aircraft Woman.
He wanted me to have a commission, cos he'd got one.
I don't know where to start really.
Actually, I was called up in 1942.
That was working in the Ovaltine Offices. It was called Wander, a Swiss firm.
And then I had papers in and they'd got me... called up?
I was called up. They got me delayed for a while. Said they needed me.
What the Ovaltine Factory?
Offices. No. In Kensington. All the offices.
What did you do there?
Oh well, I was learning shorthand, so I was doing shorthand typing.
I was getting to be a short-

because once you were married then, you had to leave the firm you know.
You couldn't stay on. A woman left, because she got married, so I got the job. Manage the shorthand typists.
This was 1939? Yes it's be 1939, '40.
So did you start working there before the War started?
Yes. Yes I started before.
And then war was declared. Declared in 1939, and I got the call-up papers you see, and they deferred me. They got me deferred for a while.
The company managed to do that?
They must've done. I got deferred for a while.
But then I was called-up and they couldn't do any more again. You see they got deferred me for a while, I don't know how many months.
Yeah. Because first of all I went for an examination for the ATS (Auxilliary Territorial Service). And they wouldn't accept me because I wore specs.
What's the ATS? The Army Girls. Territorial Army. Yes. They wouldn't accept me for that, but they accepted me in the WAAF (Women's Auxilliary Air Force).
And did you choose to go to the WAAFs?
No I didn't choose anything. They just said what I was to do. I didn't choose anything.
Cos I didn't want to volunteer. When it was the WAAFs I didn't mind.

So then I went to Gloucester. Called up and went to Gloucester. And the family saw me off at the station. And er, I got kitted out there. We... what were these army sheds? You know those Army huts... Nissan huts? Nissan huts, thank you. You'll have to come to my rescue. Stayed the night in a Nissan hut, with lots of other girls. Wasn't used to that sort of situation.

So where were you living when you were working at Ovaltine?
I was in Ealing. With mum and dad. Sometimes I cycled there.
And what were they doing at the time?
Your Mum and Dad.
Dad was a printer. And Mum, I think sometimes Mum did making jam. Two teachers retired, and they were private schools I think and they were making jam. Mum must have seen a notice somewhere, and she was helping them. She took their dogs out for a walk. And she was buying us a piano was it? It was something.
She did jobs like that to buy a piano for us to have music lessons.

And this was in Ealing. Where you lived, because I don't know any of this, do you know where it was, the address or anything?
I don't remember where because she used to go when they went away, she used to go to their house and take the dog out. You know for walks and things like that, and I can't remember what the address is now.

So you lived in Ealing, and you commuted into the Ovaltine -- Kensington,
yes. Every day.
And you were there before the war. And then-- do you know roughly when you joined the WAFF.

Yes in um, 42. 42?
So it was a good 3 years in the office?
Oh yes, I must've been. I must've gone there at 15. Must've done. And went through different departments. Until I got to be a Manager's typist. Shorthand typist.
I know I cycled. And yet when I first bought a bike. Well my dad bought me the bike. I said I'd pay you back, but I never did. It's only about 30 bob then. I used to go out with Grandad, with Eric. And we used to go riding around somewhere. I wouldn't go right! Cos I couldn't go right. So I had to keep going round to the left. Because you were scared to turn in the traffic? Scared to turn right yes! And then in the end I cycled to Kensington! So I got over that.

So I don't know when did you meet Grandad?
16. Oooh I was 16 at evening classes. So that was around 193...8? 1940?
(Twenty one, thirty one...) about 37 wouldnt it be. When I was 16. No it was before 16 when I met him. I'm sure I wasn't 16. Cos what was I doing? I was learning shorthand you see. In evening classes? In evening classes. He was doing everything. Like Accountancy, and Drama. Everything - what different lessons? Oh yes. Cos he said he saw me... I don't know whether the Principal was probably acknowledging us all, and thanking us for going. And coming, and do this that and the other, I can't remember what we were told to do. And he was supposed to have seen me. In the thing. And he must've said to someone, who is that over there? And they said oh that's um and they thought it was somebody else. He didn't know it was me, my name at all. So he must've got to know me that way. I don't remember all that. I must've met him there and got chatting, and preceeded from there.

(Hoover Factory, or Headquarters. Perivale. Or is it Greenford. London. Or Middlesex.)

And what job was he doing at the time?
He was working in Hoover's at the time. That was his first job. Hoover's in Perivale.
Do you know what he did there?
No, I should just think he was an office worker, I should think. Cos the next job, then he went to um, went to Hayes, Borough Council. Then he went to Greenford. Borough Council? Yes, and that was all to do with Ealing borough council. All to do with that.
And was that in cleansing? Must've been. Yes, must've been. Don't know whether it was called cleansing, suppose it was.

And then of course when he was called up, when he got discharged, he did all the exams for engineering. Cos he wanted to go to University. But he couldn't pay for it then. I don't know if they were taking adults then, after the war. Do you? I wouldn't know that.
He did it at home, it wouldn't be like... the Open University. That's where he did all his exams. He did two lots of engineering. I threw the certificates away when we moved from Castle Dore.

So when you were working at Ovaltine, Grandad was working in... Hoovers. Hoover, but was he immediately called up?
No, he volunteered. Knowing your Grandad. He would volunteer for something he wanted to do. He wouldn't want to be told what to do. Or what services to go in!
So he went to the RAF? Yes, RAF, volunteer reserve. Was it called volunteer reserve? See I've forgotten lots of these things. Neil, I'm not very good. Volunteer reserve, I believe.

He was a volunteer first of all in the RAF.
So then, that was in 1939, he went straight away, into the RAF?
39, yes.
Was he based in Northolt then?
He went to Northolt. West Drayton. Northolt. And then Uxbridge.

And then of course, I think it was the year I was pregnant. So that'd be 44 wouldn't it. Jan/February, he was called abroad then.

Full transcript and the other videos, are all here...

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Putting the worst possible two things together for better script ideas... it's Sacred and Profane! #Screenwriting

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Friday, 30 October 2015

Putting the worst possible two things together for better script ideas... it's Sacred and Profane! #Screenwriting

Every week I catalogue ten new things, from the Sacred and the Profane.

There's a theory that if you put the two together, you might end up with more provocative story and scene ideas.

Think this one's my absolute favourite.

Steptoe and Son playing scrabble

From the scene from that sitcom here (on youtube).

Family game (Sacred, sacred) vs. Profanities (Profane)

Language (Sacred) vs. Point scoring at all costs (Profane)

Whip round
School Play

Road markings
Used Car salesmen
TV studio

Got any more? If you're kind enough to leave some in the comments below (or click here) thanks

The big fat list of Sacred and Profanes is here

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Four types of sketches and comedy scenes... my little list #screenwritingtips

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Thursday, 29 October 2015

Four types of sketches and comedy scenes... my little list #screenwritingtips

Wrote this down years ago, from a behind-the-scenes thing on a Radio 4 show.

It's a list of different types of comedy sketches.

Twisted Format
(eg. "You are the Weakest Monarch... goodbye")

Exaggerated Characteristic
(eg. Very stupid George W. Bush being congratulated on tying his shoe laces)

Knocking Satire
(eg. Listing observations in the Archers)

Personality in Wrong Situation
(eg. Thora Hird in brutal murder play)

There's only four of them (which probably says something about the radio show), but it's always come in handy for cricking ideas for comedy scenes into something, so I've added it to my page of scriptwriting things here.

Got any others? Comments below

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My sweary T-shirt that I swear is swearing at me

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Sunday, 25 October 2015

How can I get my kids to steer clear of disagreeable people? #BritishDadStuff

I think the hardest thing to pass on to my kids is that there are disagreeable people in the world.

It's an actual thing - Agreeablenes is one of the "big five personality traits"
(along with Openness To Experience, conscientiousness, extraversion and neuroticism)
- and there are people who score very low on the agreeableness scale.

They happily look after their "email trails" and use words like "outcome", "scope" and "by end of play".

And what sucks is... you end up doing it too.

Because it's the only way you can communicate with them.

They expect you to work for them... even if you don't. Let's take a really low level example.
I had an old mate over visiting me at work.
A disagreeable producer, let's call him Dan, sees me after and he knows my mate from way back.

"(GLUED TO HIS SCREEN) Can you give me his contact details."

"Sure, it's..."

"(GLUED TO HIS SCREEN) Just email them to me."

(I CAN GIVE THEM TO YOU RIGHT NOW) "Sure, but I've got them right here, it's..."

"No, just email them to me".

I've got to work for you.
We all do.
Even though we don't work for you.
Because you are disagreeable.

I've got a theory that I haven't thought through.
That all of these are connected, and are this way round:

Alpha and Beta Males
Concrete and Abstract senses of humour.
Disagreeable and Agreeable

(and there might be a touch of extrovert and introvert in there too).

So I'm calling this current theory a disagreeability strain.

Our interactions - all of them - on a one to one basis, or of nations, or multinational companies - all the friction is caused by people who score low on the agreeability scale.

And the rest of us have to indulge it.
There's no way round it.

People who are disagreeable run things.
And what I want my kids to know is that Nature has a beautiful balance.

Because when they get exactly what they want...
...they are still not happy.

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Eggs, bacon and toast. Eggs, bacon and another all-time fave TV moment...

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Friday, 23 October 2015

Writing better comedy things by combining Sacred with the Profane... #ScreenwritingTips

Every Friday, I try to add to a growing pile of things which are Sacred, and things which are Profane.

If you put the two together, you spark concepts and stories which have more impact.


The imagery of Stephen Hawking

Brilliant mind and profound Science (Sacred, sacred)
...conveyed from a metal carriage, with a robot voicebox (Profane, profane)

Here's today's adds...

The Moon

Family home
Making love

Got any others? Thanks if you leave some in comments below (or click here)

The big fat list of Sacred and Profanes is here

Previous post...
Why Hipster drinks cost soooo much... #BritishDadStuff

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Thursday, 22 October 2015

Why Hipster drinks cost soooo much... #BritishDadStuff

You know you're a Tightwad Dad when...

... you realise Hipster cafes serve expensive drinks that are small,

because their tight trousers limits their ability to go to the toilet.

And a big coffee would get in their beards.


PS when taking an overly literal photo holding a measuring tape to show the scale of the tiny china mug with one hand and the camera in the other hand you might want to...

Huh. Really shows the scale.

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My Gold Badge. For surviving the 70s. Giving it to my son. #BritishDadStuff

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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

My Gold Badge. For surviving the 70s. Giving it to my son. #BritishDadStuff

I love this. And its yellow box.

I kept my (ASA) Gold Swimming Badge.
(Silver came in a white box. Bronze in a red one.)

It was hard won. Old Bill, the lifeguard/swimming instructor at the Kentish Town Baths was a massive alcoholic. He stank of booze. He got the rules wrong, and all I remember is failing twice having to pick up the brick from the bottom of the pool while fully clothed.

Maybe the Nation owes the kids who survived the 70s and 80s a medal.
(See also: "my tower block concrete playground").

Anyway, I gave the Gold Award to my son for swimming 5m.

It'll get him ready for the GCSE differential I'll bore him senseless with come 2024.

Comments below

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Why men keep strange things under their bed #BritishDadStuff

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Saturday, 17 October 2015

Why I cant stop watching a load of Eurovision announcers getting ready to give their points... Fave TV #30

Don't know why I watch these videos all the way through.

A load of Eurovision - what used to be called jury announcers - getting ready for their big moment.

Paulina Chylewska, Poland / voting circuit

It's compelling... I don't know why I can't look away...

Maybe it's a really super-specific form of voyeurism...

ESC2013 - Croatia / voting circuit 1

And the dress rehearsals... a big show in normal clothes... one day all TV will be like this...

ESC2012 - 3rd dress rehearsal mix

Added it to my list of fave stuff on the web

Previous post...
Writing drama and comedy from 2 wrongs at once... #writingtips

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Friday, 16 October 2015

Writing drama and comedy from 2 wrongs at once... #writingtips

There's a basic theory of comedy that pairing something sacred with something profane usually gets to something with a bit more bite. Or impact.

Every Friday, I try to add to my Sacred and Profane heaps... here's today's one.

Snow White.

Princess/Royalty (Sacred) a coffin/death (Profane)


Credit card
Fast food packaging
Prison Van

The big fat list of Sacred and Profanes is here

Previous post...
How to remove permanent marker pen like Sharpies from carpet #BritishDadStuff

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

How to remove permanent marker pen like Sharpies from carpet #BritishDadStuff

I'm a great Dad.

I got the kids to pause Netflix for entire minutes to write out a birthday card.

In Sharpie marker pen.

On our landing carpet.

Over the years I've benefitted from hundreds of Youtube videos (well, tens, probably) where someone has taken the time to make an answer to a really super-specific how-to.

How to remove permanent marker pen from carpet

If you're here to actually find out how to get marker pen out of carpet - it's surgical spirit. In the UK, it's called Surgical Spirit. All the US How-To's call it "Rubbing Alcohol". Dab surgical spirit on with kitchen towel and dab it to lift out the ink.

That's all.
Some other tips videos say spray hair spray to lift it out afterwards, but I didn't and it still works.
The only downside is the bit you clean becomes very clean.

So now you have "clean patches".
I don't have a How-To video to deal with that.

If you're interested - I only ever made one other how-to video, once - after I couldn't work out how to set the clock on a Lamona oven.

There wasn't anywhere on the web that had that answer, so made this video, and now it gets me thousands of views here on the blog.

I didn't "monetize" it.
Because I can't.
Because I was afraid to put it up on my own channel.

(Because, you know, how could I live with the possible rejection of
"This Lamona oven-clock-setting video sucks!".)

But making videos like this feels weird.

More weird if making video is your regular day job.

It's a bit like a builder doing some DIY on their own house.

It's got to be done.
But it's a whole different dynamic.
Anyway, I'm going to make more of these.

I'll do an unboxing video yet.
Of my camera.
How meta.

Are you here to get pen out of your carpet?
If it worked, leave me a message here!

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Previous post...
An introduction to Daddanomics - economics of being a tightwad dad.
They're The Man. But you're The Daddy. #BritishDadStuff

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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Introduction to Daddanomics - economics of being a tightwad dad. They're The Man. But you're The Daddy. #BritishDadStuff

Daddanomics... the economics of being a Dad works like this.

"Last week, I worked for over two hours... that I can earn the money that we are now spending here in Caffe Nero
with my family for less than half an hour."

Dads do sums like this.

It's called Daddanomics. The economics of being a tightwad dad.

I wish I could turn that part of my brain off.
But I can't.

I wish I could earn more money.
But I'm not.

So there's an irony that when I am spending time with my family - which is why I'm earning the money - I'm not actually earning the money.

Why can't I get paid, for just being with my family?

Or better, or worse... how can I get my family to spend less.

And just embrace the fact that I might just possibly be... a tightwad dad.

I've long since given up trying to be the Alpha Male in this situation.

It's like, I'm at the helm of an organisation... and cuts can always be made.
And the organisation won't exist if it goes bust.

That's my only job.

No-one else thinks it's my only job.

But it's my only job.

And, because of the Daddanomics, there'll always be a tension between being available to my family, earning the money, and spending the money with them.

At the weekend, we went to the cinema and bought some sweets in the supermarket round the corner.

This is a heinous parenting crime.

Taking food or drink not purchased in the cinema.

Forget piracy.

Consuming cinematic contraband is what's killing the Hollywood creative industries.

But, weirdly, this store had every treat imaginable... every brand and flavour of sweets, chocolate, crisps and snacks... except popcorn.

Innocently, I asked a shelf-stacker where it was.

Oh sorry, they banned us from selling it.

(SMIRK) You're kidding.

No - the cinema's the only place allowed to sell popcorn on the whole complex.

(DEADPAN) You're kidding.


Now, I don't know if any of that is actually true.

But I want it to be.

(The retail park, supermarket and cinema chains all declined to comment.
And I'm not a journalist.)

Time was spent on this. Counsel was sought.

There are large organisations, involving contracts and lawyers... negotiating the exclusivity rights over a bag of popcorn.

They are The Man.

But I'm The Daddy.

And it gives me hope.

Because it means there are other Dads out there - like me - who are at it.

Got an example of some Daddanomics?

Tweet me. Or leave a comment on the tiny "comments" link below.

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A picture of my new inner arm tattoo this week. #ArmTattooWisdom

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Sunday, 11 October 2015

My digital graveyard. Also known as my C Drive. Why I keep so much stuff. #BritishDadStuff

In an effort to avoid the Pants Audit™ - it's unavoidable, only delayable. I'm finally backing up my computer.

I'm using CrashPlan - and it looks great. (Because it's got reassuring status bars, and estimates that the backup has 6.1 days remaining to finish. This is after 18 days - eighteen days - where I've left the computer running to get it done).

My wife says "how do you know it's actually there, or you'll get the stuff back when you need it."

I don't.
But it's not about that.
It's about turning off that part of your brain that's saying "I really need to back up my computer" every 12 minutes.

The system lets you decide which folders you want to back up.
The stuff I've got that I not only want to keep, but want to carry with me is 195.3GB.

195.3 gigabytes.


And what happens to all of it when I die?

Where will it go?

This has got to be happening to people already.

In the future, there will be the digital equivalents of "Who Do You Think You Are" where Archaeologists will sift through the fourth mp3 track from my precious incidental music album from the TV series, CHiPs...

or trying to make sense of the photos of my mates Rob and Giles pretending to climb over the Berlin Wall next to Checkpoint Charlie c. 1988.

Why will Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, SquigglyDelve or any other online cloud thing need privacy for people who've been gone for decades?

Will going into personal folders be a bit like treading on someone's grave?

You know it isn't right, but everyone does it and only feels a bit wrong after, because it's only grass isn't it?

It's now gone back up to 18.4 days remaining.

So my cleanup started by deleting CrashPlan off my PC.

And in the meantime, I worked out that the stuff I really want to keep... is the stuff I'll probably end up putting on here.

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All my British Dad Stuff is here

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UK Telephone Code T-shirts from the 1990s. Another thing I chose to keep and not throw out. #BritishDadStuff

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

UK Telephone Code T-shirts from the 1990s. Another thing I chose to keep and not throw out. #BritishDadStuff

We have thrown out so much stuff.

We have bare shelves. And empty drawers.

But we used the Marie Kondo method where you hold every item you own,
and if it "sparks joy inside you", you keep it.

If it doesn't. You let it go.

This is one of the items I wanted to keep.

I could not throw or give this away.

Take a deep breath, and let your eyes drink this.

It's an advert from the Clothes Show Magazine c.1990, for telephone code T-shirts.
(The codes themselves date this between 1990-1995).

I don't know why I can't let this go.

I think it's maybe a reminder of how barren we were for new cultural references,
that, what?
A new telephone code?
For my city?
I've gotta wear me some of that.

I've not got enough time on my hands to wonder if anyone from "towns and cities not listed" ever did phone their Hotline number. And if they did if they ever saw their STD code immortalised in baggy casualwear.

It does remind me that it would have been the era when as a teen I died a death chatting up (aka reality: trying to talk to) a nice girl on holiday. She told me she came from Manchester.
I cannot type the next sentences.
I will try.

Ah, Manchester?
(LONG PAUSE) So, urm, your... telephone code is 061?



Kids, if you're reading this now, in the future - because these blog posts are my legacy - you have no idea how lucky you are that my DNA made it there.
It was touch and go for many decades, it really was.
Touch and go.
The wrongest phrase to describe it.

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There's no right way to drive past a gritter... #BritishDadStuff

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