The Auntie Doris Years: 1919

BiplaneThis was the year when flying to America became a reality. John Alcock and Arthur Brown (whose Grandon was to thrill future generations with his Crazy World) flew from Canada to Ireland non stop in a bi-plane that June. It took them less than 16 hours, and as a result they were knighted, and won cash prizes from a tobacco company (booh! – destroyers of millions of decent people, conned by greedy tobacco barons) and the Daily Mail (booh! – destroyers of millions of decent people, conned by greedy Tory Lords)

Two weeks later, Major George Herbert Scott flew from Scotland to New York and back in an Airship, in under a fortnight, with a crew, passengers, a stowaway and a ship’s cat on board. Airships were eventually abandoned as an unsafe means of passenger transport, and Scott had gone some way to demonstrating just how unsafe they were, having crashed a few in his time, eventually breaking his own ruddy neck and perishing in the fire after smashing the R101 into the ground in France.

You would never have got me up in one of those things. Or an aeroplane either. Catching a train was stressful enough for me when I was alive. I never wanted to go to America anyway. Or any of those other foreign places that people seem to want to fly to. The most exotic holiday I ever had was in Blackpool, and to be honest my Raymond ruined that for me by constantly leering at all the dolly birds. We were miles happier in our little caravan at Withernsea. No aeroplanes or airships, or dolly birds either. Just a twice daily service bus from Hull, a couple of fish and chip shops and the jolly sound of the foghorns on the North Sea. I honestly can’t understand why Withernsea never really took off as a holiday destination.

Auntie Doris’s Pop pick of 1919: “My Old Man (Said Follow the Van)” by Marie Lloyd. There went the van with her home packed in it. She followed on with her old cock linnet. A lovely song… with the moral that you can’t trust the modern police force.

The Auntie Doris Years: 1918

armisticeI can still remember the Armistice celebrations. There was a Street party outside my Auntie Beryl’s, and me and Pearl went down with our mother. She had promised father that it would be a sedate affair, or he would never have allowed her to go along, let alone take us girls. As it turned out, a few of the residents produced bottles of this and that, and the old bloke who lived three or four doors along from my Auntie had prepared some noxious concoction, so there was a bit of a lively atmosphere by the time the sun went down that day. Washing lines had been strung across the street, with flags and banners hanging from them proclaiming victory, wishing the King long life and generally celebrating Great Britain. My Uncle Godfrey had added to the display by stringing out several large pairs of bloomers and other articles of underwear, to which he had attached patriotic messages with some adhesive of his own making (Copydex was not to be invented for at least another thirty odd years)

I had my first taste of sherry that day, drinking the dregs from a bottle which the adults seemed to have forgotten about. Sweet and wonderful, with a tang of raisins,. To this day, the taste makes me think of happiness, abandonment of cares and life’s more pleasurable moments. We slept at Auntie Beryl’s that night. Pearl and me snuggled amongst pillows and blankets placed in her zinc bathtub, at the foot of the bed which Mother and Beryl shared. Uncle Godfrey was relegated to the old armchair downstairs, and Pearl and I were at first terrified by the sound of his snoring, and then, when we had been told what it was, were unable to sleep because of giggling about it.

When we returned home the next day, even Mother thought that Father would be angry, but he was surprisingly calm. I think that he too was happy for the war to come to an end. He had avoided having to fight on account a combination of his feet being of different sizes and the importance of his work at the local library. But he had had to take some stick off the local ladies, who did not think these excuses sufficient. He took all three of us for a constitutional in the local park that afternoon, I could still taste the sherry on my mind’s tongue, and everyone we met seemed bright and happy. It was a wonderful day.

Doris’s Pop pick of 1918 “K-K-K Katy” by Billy Murray. No, Katy was not a member of the Ku Klux Klan, it was just that Billy Murray had a stammer. My mum changed the lyrics when she sang it to “K-K-K Katy, swallowed a tatie…” And having heard her, I remembered my little friend Kitty, so I sang… “K-K-K Kitty, swallowed a titty” Mother gave me a clip around the earhole, but not a big a clip as Father would have done if he had heard me.