Monday, 26 December 2011

And another Christmas Dadism

"Well, it's been a lovely Christmas" said in an attempt to try and close off the frantic pressie opening and general excitement and opening the door to having a post dinner nap. I found myself saying this on Sunday to no avail...

Two from Christmas

1. When returning to the house on Christmas Eve afternoon Dad would ask, before locking the door: "Anyone going out to midnight mass?"

2. When opening the door [only partially] to a fully anticipated guest [eg Mum at Naworth on Christmas Eve]: "No milk today, thank you".

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Rabbit food

Just a quickie, while I remember it. I was just having a salad for lunch and remember Dad dismissing Mum's suggestion of a salad as "just rabbit food". Speaking of salad, I also also recall his penchant for fruit salad which usually ended up as some oranges and dates with a few over-ripe grapes thrown in for good measure.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Summer round-up - and a great letter

Here's a few that Beck and I came up with mainly over the Bristol and Naworth weekends:

- "I'll read that in bed tonight": when provided with some bulky reading material.

- Making wavy actions (usually too many) with hands to indicate a shapely figure.

- 'Middle piece': a catch-all term to cover the nether regions.

- A peculiar way of pretending to box - involving one fist and the other hand cupped under the chin.

- "Go and see/pay the lady/man": an instruction to make an enquiry or pay for something which you don't want to do yourself.

- "Bring back as much change as possible": what to aim for when you pay the man.

- "Move over the bed": a request for mores space regardless of whether you're in bed or not. (Usually you're not).

- "Oi!": startled response whenever someone switches off the light in the room you're in.

- A knowing nod with eyebrows raised when greeting someone.

Letter of the month: Here's an absolute classic from Beck. Click on the extract below or here to read all six pages of the steamy revelations - mainly from a party which Adam went to as well. It's all there: passionate snogging with "Life Assurance Simon" then "Ken" (who?) spraying Beck's hair blue and gold to say nothing of the "gussetted playsuit" for which I think we really need an explanation. Very funny in a Bridget Jones sort of way with some great one-liners and I love the pace it's all written at.

Friday, 19 August 2011

A trip down Memory Lane

Here's a mini-movie of our holiday house in St Bees in 1979. It's the last one in the terrace. I remember the steps and, I think, peeling the potatoes at the bottom of them as well as the view over towards the golf course. My (frighteningly nerdy) holidiary came in handy for finding the location. Reading through it (as Jenni did in a mocking voice down the pub on the first night) I reckon that St Bees was the last holiday we went on as a complete family. Beck joined us via train a few days in. It was also the holiday when we came home to find the freezer had switched off. Mum and Beck buried the stinking food in the garden.

St Bees is a peculiar village. It still has that depressed air of a former mining settlement and, despite its fabulous beach, seems reluctant to be considered a seaside destination. Most people come only to leave – on the Coast to Coast Walk (which was only six years old when we visited so probably wasn’t such a big thing). The kids dipped their boots in the water (below) as you’re supposed to mark the start of the walk – but we only went along the first few miles of the route around St Bees Head. The path continued inland and we proceeded to Whitehaven – exactly as we did in 1979.

The first sign of the town was what’s called The Candlestick (right) which was an air vent for the mine that’s design was thought to have been inspired by the favourite candlestick of the chap who owned most of the town. The last mine closed six years after our previous visit and Whitehaven has much improved since. I enjoyed the architecture trail (it has the greatest concentration of Georgian buildings in the UK, Beck) and we all walked around the harbour. The waterfront has been tastefully regenerated with a fancy wave sculpture, for instance, but the ‘gold for cash’ stores (a couple of bar stools at a counter in an otherwise empty former shop) on the High Street seem better to meet the needs of the locals.

Curiously and fittingly (considering where the rest of you lot were) Whitehaven has three connections with the US: George Washington’s granddad is buried there; the expansion of New York City was modelled on Whitehaven’s street grid layout and the town was the site of the only attack by the US on the UK (by a seaman trained in the town, pictured left, in 1778).
We planned to catch the train back to St Bees but went in the wrong direction. I had a tizzy, we got off at the first station and took a taxi from Whitehaven home, a slightly unsettling experience given the reputation of taxi drivers in these parts. We’d spotted the infamous taxi rank earlier.

Finally, here’s another mini-movie memory: showing the railway line near our holiday cottage where we used to place coins then return in the morning to see them flattened. When we weren’t doing that we were finding lost balls on the golf course. Happy days.

(By the way, you can view all the pics at full size by clicking on them).

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Suffolk round-up

Whenever we're together the Dadisms involuntarily flow. Here's a round-up of some that Beck and I found ourselves saying in Suffolk.

- Referring to people not by name but by the relation they are to the person you're talking to. For instance: "Can you pass that to your auntie?"

- Dolly bird. [Come to think of it have we had "nice pair of nylons" yet?]

- "I'll try a glass of beer, wine, or whatever". As if you're going to try it and reject it.

- Pipe down [we may have had that one before].

- "Now you're talking!" Usually said, for instance, when cream is presented to accompany an otherwise uninspiring dessert [not that Mum produced any of those, of course]. I came out with this when Beck suggested egg mayo as the sandwich filling.

- "Can I wipe down the tops with a hot, soapy cloth?" The most important and rhetorical post-prandial gambit - usually followed by an over-zealous, swirling wipe of every surface in sight with sufficient pressure to remove the design from the table mats.

- "Looking after" - in the context of, for instance, "have you looked after the driver?". In other words this is an instruction to provide someone with service that their endeavour barely merits.

- "Worried about". Used to describe something that you have an interest in rather than something of genuine concern.

Pic of the day: Here's Beck with a Pig - at the Black Country open air museum, I think. One of my favourites of Sissy.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Pencil sharpening

While building Aidan's tree house earlier this week, I used a pencil for the first time in ages when marking the wood, and sharpened it using a Stanley knife rather than a pencil sharpener. I recall Dad's preference for a pencil and how they were all sharpened to perfecting with his pen knife.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Another sporty one

Last night at Cubs I was bowling in a game that's a sort of cross between dodgeball and rounders. "Spread the field, spread the field. We've got a big hitter here," I instructed, waving my arm behind me when one of the older lads stepped up to the crease. Which is what Dad used to say when we played cricket or rounders in the garden or beach.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Two more - and first radio clip

I have a feeling that I'm now blogging to about the same number of people as I broadcast to on hospital radio. Anyway, here are two more:

- "Can I make a suggestion?": usually asked when a suggestion is not required and will be summarily ignored anyway.

- "What time is it on your watch?": as if it would be significantly different if the time was read on anyone else's watch.

Radio clip of the day: Let's go back to 1985. We're on the Radio 1 breakfast show and Mike Read is about to reveal all (well, a bit, anyway) about Paul and John's love lives ...


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Grannie Easter special

Here are two that Mum came out with while having a pub lunch on Saturday. I record them on her behalf:

"Does anyone mind if I don't talk for a while?" - said when a meal arrives after a long wait and usually followed by sarcastic: "Oh, yes, we do!"s.

"Complete amateurs" - Dad's verdict on any agricultural personages participating in TV programmes, as actors or professionals.

Letter of the Day: Mum was a prolific letter writing during my university days. Here she is in 1983 talking about Beck and Mitch, Grannie's old fur coat, John's fireworks party and Adam's efforts in the back passage (ooh-err, missus) among other things. Click on the first page to take you to a folder where you can read them all:

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Stage connection

Here's a couple I've found myself saying recently:

"Untouched by human hand!" - said proudly when actually to touch the object in question with your hands wouldn't matter at all.

"Come here, you wee bugger!" - said to entice a ball from under a rather low bush often while thrashing at it furiously with a tennis racquet. I came out with this one involuntarily during a game of soccer in the garden with Bertie.

Pic of the day: We've had TV footage, archive audio and letters - and now it's time for the medium of the stage. We went to see Goodnight Mister Tom (a WW2 evacuee drama) in Leeds last weekend. When reading the reviews afterwards I saw this pic of Mr Tom. His quizzical expression in particular reminds me of Pa.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Letter from Beck 1975

Come on, Beck! You've been notably absent from the blog for a while - and if this post doesn't get a reaction then I will be concerned.

I'm now plundering a thick envelope full of family letters dating from the mid-70s to early 80s. Lots of gems from Mum, Beck, John and Pig, many written to me at university or to the family from holidays. To start, click on the envelope below for one of the oldest items: a letter from Beck to me (when I was on a school trip, judging from the envelope) from Sept 1975.

Loads more where this comes from - including various tales of Beck's Ladywood love life, post-Steve c 1981.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Shoe polishing

I polished my shoes this morning for the first time in years and made me recall the zeal and enthusiasm Dad put in to keeping his shoes shiny. Pretty much every morning as I recall, but certainly for church on Sundays, the old tin with fragments of dried out polish and mangy brushes would be brought out. His patented technique of clenching the heel of the shoe between the knees and then vigorously shining the toes by pulling the cloth back and forth at high speed, still works a treat.

Not sure where this sudden burst of Dadisms has come from...

Monday, 7 March 2011

Boiled eggs

Just a quicky: When finishing your boiled egg (as Aidan did this morning), turning the empty shell upside down so it looks like it's whole again. Then having the "fun" of crushing it or pretending you had not eaten it etc.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Funeral speech - part 2: The family holiday

Pauls bit:

I want to take you all to the seaside. To beaches like Woolacombe in Devon, Red Wharf Bay on Anglesey and Rhossili in the Gower. These are places where we went on family holidays in the seventies and which provide my favourite childhood memories.

Invariably, Dad is first into the changing tent. Mum has made it – from thick, towelling in a pattern of orange and yellow daisies and with a piece of elastic around the neck. In the wind it flaps around his body like a spinnaker on a sailing boat as, bent over, he staggers as he steps into his voluminous trunks. All of us wolf whistle as the wind blows the tent up his legs. Having attracted the attention of everyone else on the beach Dad finally flings off the tent with a flurry and a fanfare. He likens himself to Charles Atlas and strikes a muscleman pose. A fine figure of a man – to use his expression.

He then jigs off towards the surf. Entering the sea he runs in as fast as he can for as long as he can. Then he spins round onto his back to immerse himself and kick like fury creating as much foam and the highest spray as possible. He puffs out his cheeks and whoops and hollers. (I use this technique to get into the sea every time. In fact, a week ago today, on holiday with my family in Scotland, I used it again in a tribute to Dad. I’m glad to report, it still works).

Dad comes out of the sea and later watches over Beck, John, Adam and I as we swim. He paddles about 30 yards away from us. His trousers are rolled up to his knees and he wears a red cable pattern jumper (also made Mum, I should add). He reads a book – about the Boer War, a favourite topic. It’s not a paperback but one of about a dozen weighty tomes that he has got out from the library and previously tied up in a pile with a length of string. His hair is tufty from being dried so vigorously. Wrapped around his neck – like jumpers on a cricket umpire – are towels for us. We are soon rolled up in them and blissfully cosy next to Mum at the back of the windbreak.

To me, Dad will always be that man standing in the sea. Often in the distance but always there and utterly dependable.

Funeral speech - part 1: The farm sale

I came across a dog eared version of this a few weeks back while clearing out some drawers and I enjoyed reading it again a few years on and thought I'd add it here even though it doesn't strictly fit. I've just included the snapshot bits in two parts (to avoid clogging the screen up too much) - this one was my part on the farm sale and the other is Paul's from the family holiday.

I start with Dad the working man that consumed so much of his life. Carrying the John Kerr name, I initially started to follow in the hallowed footsteps of my father and grand father in the agricultural auctioneering business at Thimbleby & Shorland. I often worked the school holidays at Reading cattle market and at various farm dispersal sales, and it is these that I would like to recall.

In my admittedly rose tinted view of the past, this farm sale is on one of those endless summers’ days in the rolling fields of England’s picture postcard countryside. The day before the auction is spent preparing. Dad is at his most content as he views and values the cattle – simply by thrusting his hand between a cows legs and having a good rummage around the udders he is somehow able to accurately age, value and give the expected milk yield of the by now rather startled cow.

The rest of the day is spent setting up a make shift arena using bails of straw, building the relationship with the farmer (always a strong point of his) and documenting the herd individually. While Dad is checking Buttercup’s details and admiring the “hind three quarters” (or something of that sort) I tackle the rather more hair raising task of plastering the cows behind with a patch of toffee-like glue using a wooden spoon and then sticking on a lot number.

The day of the auction is to see my father in his element. His is an effortless, if somewhat pedestrian auctioneering style but all the while, behind the bluff and the banter, you can see him working hard to do his job to the utmost of his ability: He works the characters in the crowd with the same old corny gags, draws from a deep knowledge and appreciation of cattle and uses his skill as an auctioneer to build up the demand for each lot.

With the sale over, I am at liberty to relax and check out the sold farm machinery lots – often apparently scrap bits of metal that he had somehow got good money for. But Dad is still there, working hard for the client and helping out wherever or whoever needs it. Finally, with the last guinea counted and lot picked up, we are the last people left and he drives us home. His dedication, integrity, hard work and way with people are the hallmarks of his career and things that, to this day, I strive to match.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Archive letter

Time for another golden oldie, I think, partly prompted by the passing of Feb 27 which always makes me think of Pa. Here's the first letter he sent me after I'd gone up to university (Oct 81). It includes some funny gags, a mention of Doris and good Dadism too ["exercise your personality"]. Click on the icons below once to open the letter so it fits your screen and twice to see it at full A4 size. Several more where this comes from.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Whenever one of us caught Dad in just his voluminous underwear (quite a common occurrence given the Kirkwood lack of modesty), we would feign shock only for Dad to claim "They're clean and they're Woolsey!" Not sure why being Woolsey was meant to make his appearance seem more respectable, but logic wasn't meant to enter in to these quotes.

There were several more that came up over the weekend, but sadly I didn't note them at the time and now can't recall them - perhaps you can Beck?

I will though leave you with the sight that greeted me early Sunday morning when I came down early for breakfast. Mother had kindly laid out the breakfast things (plate, bowl, egg cup, cutlery etc). As I sat there eating my Weetabix, I could almost see the old boy shuffling about in his slippers, white hair tousled and wearing a karkhi v-neck jumper, as he got my porridge ready and repeatedly asking whether I wanted a boiled egg or not. I badly missed his company.

Friday, 18 February 2011

How to describe expense - and another vintage sound clip

Things aren't expensive. They cost "many, many pennies" [said in a weary Scottish accent perhaps shaking head from side to side].

Clip of the Day: Here's something that was almost left on the cutting room floor after my Christmas Day 1977 edit. The best bit's at the start when John's asking the maths question. Doesn't he sound like a prep school pipsqueak? I sound like a jerk - and Adam sounds exactly the same as now. Still all lovely accents - and that's the reason that Mum said she and Dad shelled out for our education ...


Monday, 14 February 2011

more randoms

Forgot to put in my last comment that you unwittingly did a Dadism in your post re the video, Paul, by saying so specifically the date of its appearance. Dad was always one for remembering the exact year something rather obscure happened. eg - talk of say him winning the featherweight boxing bout at Reading School...Year? 1941 (or whatever..) I never can remember years, so I have not inherited this trait.

Re:random Frenchisms - had a great chuckle over i-en, i-en, i-en - had completely forgotten this one - THANKYOU FOR REMEMBERING!! . His other French favourites were to declare with gusto; "mais oui!" Not forgetting of course my formal title of "Mademoiselle L'eglise de Bois".

Friday, 11 February 2011

Random selection

Paul suggested I stick the one I made on a recent email on here for posterity: Mars bars being given their full name. Also, related to this, the odd habit - that Paul and I carried on for many years - of slicing the Mars bar up and serving it on a plate. Somehow made it taste so much better.

I also mentioned on the email about the "competition". I recall the eagerness we all had for the "first one to see the sea" game when we were nearing the destination on holiday, with the promise of a Mars bar to to the winner which, I think, was never very forthcoming...

And finally, Dad's strange habit of speaking French phrases in a strange nasal accent e.g. "Tre bein" followed by "i-en, i-en, i-en". Not sure where it cam from or if there were any others?

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Two more - and a video of me on the TV

We should log a Dadism identified by John in his recent e-postcard: Dad would always start any post-holiday inquisition with the question: "So you left home at what time?"

And one more I thought of the other day when I heard the phrase on the radio: "manners maketh man". (Note a Dad original, of course. Google tells me it's first attributable to the 14th century Bishop of Winchester).

Video of the day: Don't know if this clip really belongs on the blog - but it is archive and family-related. It's of me in the audience of Top of the Pops as an 17-year-old in 1981. I was desperate to be on the telly hence the regular head-turning to see if I'm on the monitor. How vain - and embarrassing. I first appear (white t-shirt with red neck coming in from bottom right of screen) after 11 secs then again at 1:11 and 1:21.

I also appeared on another show - albeit more fleetingly - with The Ramones. If you really can't get enough of shots of the back of my head then click here for the video of that one. I'm wearing my green Portsmouth Poly sweatshirt this time - which you can spot initially in the bottom left corner at 1:47 and 2:29 (head turning again). OK: that's enough time-wasting self-indulgence for one post ...

Monday, 17 January 2011

First post of 2011

Here's one we should capture from Beck's recent email: "eating out of house and home".

And another driving one: feeding the steering wheel carefully through your hands in the style of a learner driver, in a sort of shuffling motion. Which I still do.

Pic of the day:

Last one, I think, unless I come across any more in the rear recesses of my drawer. A couple more sounds clips to come, though, and some scans of old Dad letters. Watch this space and keeeeeeeep posting!