"Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited" - John Cleese

Author John Corby also writes as "Bulldogge" for the British Canadian newspaper.

A Farthingsworth of Tall Tales from Blighty's Fameless Blog
Newsflash from New York (no, not that one!) |  Are the British better drivers? |  The Story of the Telephone Kiosk |  Drinking Nelson's Blood |  Screaming Jelly Babies |  Flying to the UK is very dangerous! |  Brits to drive on the right |  Who hung the monkey? |  Upper class virgins |  Double, double trouble |  What a Lovely Morning for a War

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's a Topsy Turvy Old World

The English are standing on their heads this week. Or is it just that their world has been turned upside down? Blighty's Blog UK bureau chief Cliff Whitedover filed two reports from the Foggy Soggy Isles this week that left all the staff at Blighty's Blog head office in Canada shaking their old grey noggins.

The first item was a revelation from Britain's tabloid Daily Mail newspaper that the London soccer team Arsenal has somehow managed to win a soccer match against London neighbours Chelsea by scoring LESS goals than their opponents.

Apparently, according to the newspaper sports page headline, Didier Drogba led Chelsea to defeat against Arsenal. And yet Chelsea scored more goals than Arsenal. Perhaps the rules of the game have changed since I fled to Canada nearly thirty years ago. Perhaps a more likely explanation is that the rules of English grammar have been relaxed a little too far.

Tap Dancing in Norwich, Lap Dancing in Leeds
Britain's venerated Daily Telegraph newspaper, meanwhile, carried reports of a new dance craze at English universities. Scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit are tap dancing their way around an expose of massive fraudulent manipulation of data used to support global warming.

The weather forecast for the Norwich area, where the University is located, is for a period of unusually high temperatures. Meanwhile our business reporter has learned that the university is about to announce a rising tide of job losses over the coming weeks.

The red-faced tap dancing men of Norwich, who may soon be considering alternative employment options should think about sending their resumes up north to Leeds.

Right alongside the story about "Climategate" the Daily Telegraph carried a report that Leeds University is seeking red-faced lap dancing men.

Is it time to stop taking British universities too seriously? 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Brummie's Touching Tale

5th February 2010: There is an update to this blog post. Please scroll to the bottom of the post for details.

Blighty's Blog is taking a break from its usual tongue-in-cheek look at the British way of life to publish a very touching story submitted by a very dear customer and friend. Joyce Wildsmith, a proud native of "Brummagem" is 84 years old. Her life has been filled with strife, happiness, tragedy and very fond memories. I hope you enjoy reading her tale as much as I did.

My late parents Annie and George Wilcox managed the Junction Inn on the corner of Bloomsbury Street and Great Francis Street by Ashstead Row. There were many poor families who lived in the back to back houses in Great Francis Street. When the air raids started at 6:00 or 6:30pm the men would just be coming home from work and the women would run with their kids to try and shelter underneath the billiard hall in Great Francis Street. Their husbands followed and, not having had a meal, must have been hungry.

The Co-op butcher would give Mom bones and bits of meat and she would make soup for the people in the shelter to keep them warm. When a lull came in the bombing I would go with her across the road to the shelter and take the hot soup.  On the way home early one morning we noticed bullet marks along the wall of the inn. We both thanked the good Lord that we were safe.

One night there was not enough room in the shelter so my father took some people into our cellar under the inn - they were very happy to go in. The people began to sing and one man played a tune with a pair of spoons. Another man performed a tap dance and the children recited a poem they had learned at Loxton Street School. It was just like having our own music hall; the talent was amazing.

That particular night was one to remember. The air raids went on for thirteen and a half hours - all through the night and into the next morning. No matter how loud we sang we could still hear the bombs falling and we all wondered if our homes would still be standing when the raid was over.

The following day we heard the Germans had tried to bomb Saltley gas works. If they had succeeded we would all have been killed as the gas works was very near to the inn. Instead, the bombs hit Guys beer bottle factory. The street was littered with broken glass in the morning.

My grandparents had both passed away before the start of the war leaving their house on Warwick Road in Acocks Green to my father. My father worked at the BSA factory in Small Heath. I was just 18 and received my call-up. I wanted to join the Wrens but was sent to work at the Coop Invincible factory in Tysley. I also volunteered at the ARP post in Acocks Green where I helped dress the wounds of people hurt in the bombing.

After the war I trained as a hair stylist and took a job at Florence Partridge's shop on Warwick Road, then at Frazer's barber shop on Yardley Road. That was where I met my future husband Bert. We married in 1947 at St Mary's church. A bomb had destroyed a large part of the church roof so our wedding ceremony was conducted in a side chapel.

In 1955 I opened my own salon called Joyce Hair Stylist on Castle Lane in Olton. I kept that business for over 21 years until my husband died.

Our son Paul, who was born in 1951, trained to be a technical illustrator and was offered a job at Spar Aerospace in Canada. Paul created the drawings for the famous Canadarm used on the International Space Station.

I was alone again after a second marriage, and when in 1986 Paul offered me a home in Canada, I left Birmingham and came to live here. Sadly, Paul was killed in a snowmobile accident in 2001. At 84 I now live with my memories and new friends, several of whom are also Brummies, in a seniors community in the village of Tottenham near Toronto.

Are you a Brummie too? 
Blighty's has several copies of "Brummagem" magazine containing many stories like this one. The magazines were donated by this post's narrator Joyce Wildsmith. We'll be happy to mail one to you free-of-charge. Simply tell us your story of the Birmingham area using the comment field below this post

Joyce Wildsmith is very keen to hear from any of the staff who worked at "Joyce hair Stylists" on Castle Lane, Olton, Birmingham during the 1960s and 1970s. Joyce's employees were Christine, Gillian, Sheila, Jean and Lynda. If you recognize any of the faces in this picture please use the "comments" field below this post to contact Blighty's Blog. We will forward your information directly to Joyce.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thatcher Dies in Canada

The news was first released by, of all people, Canada's Transport Minister John Baird. "Thatcher has died". Prime Minister Stephen Harper was informed immediately.

Whether you agreed with her politics, or not, the former British Prime Minister was one of the most influential characters in world politics.

Baroness Thatcher was 84 years old and still a prominent public figure. In recent days she had attended a Remembrance Day ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London. News of her death hit Ottawa hard and the Canadian Prime Minister briefed his aides who drafted an official government statement mourning the sudden passing of Britain's Iron Lady.

Margaret Thatcher was Britain's first woman prime minister and served for eleven years from 1979 until 1990 making her the longest serving British prime minister of the 20th Century. Her strong stand against the powerful miners union and her leadership of the country in the Falklands War of 1982 earned her the monicker of "Iron Lady".

The embarassment of a terrible mistake swept through Ottawa as quickly as the original erroneous news. It was true, Thatcher had died. Minister John Baird is an admirer of the Iron Lady and had named his pet cat after her.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Thousand Quid!

Cor blimey! It don't half cost a packet to take a train ride these days. Back in the good old days of British Railways you could hop on a choo-choo for a few bob and go anywhere.

The Man With the Big Chopper
Then along came dear Dr Beeching who took an axe to the rail network in the 1960s and closed half the lines. Then in the 1990s Her Majesty's government decided to privatize the rail network. Things went from bad to worse.

Money is No Object
When the railways were nationalized (i.e. state-owned) fares were cheap because the bottomless pockets of the British taxpayer paid all the bills. Once privatized the government offered subsidies to the private network operators to aid in transition from a publicly-owned to a private network.

Yippee, Another Chance to Pay!
The subsidies are, of course, paid from the bottomless pockets of the British taxpayer. I took a trip to my former home and native land a couple of years back. For reasons of expediency, I landed at London Gatwick but I needed to be in Manchester.

Ra-ta-ta-tah  ... ra-ta-ta-tah
Back in the good old days of British Railways I would have hopped on a Southern Region electric train from Gatwick Airport rail station, rattled my way up to London Bridge station, humped my suitcases onto the Tube to Euston (mind the gap) then caught an Inter-City Express to Manchester.

World Warm 1
In the reality of the twenty first century it was cheaper and easier to fly up from Gatwick to Manchester which is exactly what I did. But, in so doing, I left a huge, honking great carbon footprint on the British Isles. Those who preach the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it as a result of World Warm 1 would have been appalled, of course.

My Bottomless Pockets
Just like the British taxpayer, my pockets are bottomless. But the bottoms fell out of my pockets as a result of wear and tear. Wear and tear from shelling out too much money for almost everything. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse I heard some news that made me rush to the doctor's office for a hearing test.

A Thousand Bloomin' Quid?
You must be joking I thought. The BBC newsreader on the jolly old telly was talking about a £1000 train fare in Britain. "Struth" I thought to myself. "Have the Brits gone bleedin' bonkers?".

But no, it was true. You can buy a First Class Return from Newquay in Cornwall to the Kyle of Lochalsh in Scotland for a cool thousand knicker! Gordon bleedin' Bennett!!!!