My Raymond used to get the Reader’s Digest. He had it delivered every month. Without fail. If you have never seen it, the Reader’s Digest is a monthly paperback book style magazine, which “digests” articles from other magazines and journals and converts them into a simpler easier to read format, with nice photographs and illustrations. The sad thing is that it reads like an edition of “the Watchtower” or “Awake”
Raymond was in the Reader’s Digest World Record Club an’all which is how the house got filled with boxed sets of LP records called things like “Magical Worlds of Melody” “Hugo Montenegro Plays” and “The Immortal Jim Reeves” (which was ironically released almost a decade after Jim slammed his aeroplane into the ground and died of a broken ruddy neck.)
He also filled the house with Reader’s Digest “condensed books”, which were books that people might have fancied but didn’t have time to read, that had been condensed until all the joy had been edited out of them. They were packed four to a volume, and looked nice on your bookshelf, because they were bound in that vinyl made to look like old bookbinding leather, like those boxes you used to be able to get to put your videos in when they first came out. (We had a ruddy shelf load of those an’all at one point – I threw the sodding things out after he died.)
He also had a fair few of their more lavish volumes; “The Reader’s Digest Atlas of the World,” “The Reader’s Digest Road Map of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” “The Reader’s Digest 100 Great British Countryside Walks,” “The Reader’s Digest Guide to Victorian Sexual Etiquette,” “The Reader’s Digest Wonders of the Undersea Realm.” In fact he used to buy all sorts of stuff off them. He was such a good customer that they used to send him little presents like plastic pens done up to look like they were made of metal, or pre-aged vintage style maps of the world. And when they had a prize draw, they always sent him a few extra tickets. They must have really loved him.
But it was the monthly paperback style magazine that fascinated me. It started with a quiz “It Pays to Increase your Word Power” and finished with a really seriously condensed book. And in between the articles had fantastic titles like “The Day I Had The Miracle of Sight Restored,” “I am John’s Kidney,” “Across the Arctic in a Hot Air Balloon,” “Fistulas at the Back End – What Every Self Respecting Person Should Know” or “I Heard Them Pronounce Me Dead – And There Was Nothing I Could Do!” There were also little collections of light hearted stories and jokes; “Laughter… The Best Medicine,””Humour in Uniform,” “Life’s Like That.” It was a pleasant enough way of spending half an hour if you had already read that week’s “People’s Friend” and any stuff the Jehovah’s Witnesses had brought around.
Any road, over the next couple of weeks I would like to share “Doris’s Digest” with you. Together we can enjoy some short items and articles in the style of My Raymond’s favourite reading matter. You never know… You might learn something.
How many people who died too young died in ruddy plane crashes? Glen Miller, Otis Redding, John Denver, Buddy Holly and his pals and Baron Von Richtofen. If it wasn’t for me putting a full stop after that last one, the list would be never ending. And I haven’t even mentioned Jim Reeves yet.
I used to like Jim reeves. He had a lovely deep golden, gentle voice that used to turn my knees to jelly. And deep blue eyes that looked out at you from his LP covers with a clear, honest stare that could turn the toughest beef into dripping.
Raymond couldn’t stand him, but and April May used to collect his LPs. Whenever we went into town, we used to buy one, and she kept them all in the radiogramme that our Cyril had got for her at cost price from work. Some of them were in Stereo an’all, but it made no difference to me because my left ear was always a bit funny. He sang hymns, and sad songs and funny songs and love songs and allsorts, but maybe my favourites were the ones where he didn’t sing at all, but just talked, telling stories with that lovely sincere voice of his. We used to have a record called “Talkin’ to Your Heart” which had them all on. On the cover, he was standing in front of the fire with a pipe in his hand, just like Harold Wilson (and they both had a wife called Mary!). The stories were marvellous, about an old man who is told he can’t sing in the choir at church any more because he sounds ruddy awful, about a farmer standing in his field praying out loud to Jesus, and best of all: “Old Tige” about a little dog who comes back from the dead to guide his master home in the dark past a burst dam. All ruddy ridiculous, but when the tears of laughter stopped rolling down your cheeks, there would be a lump in your throat, and perhaps a few real tears. After all, Old Tige had saved his master “from the bull that gored his dad to death” And that’s no laughing matter.
And it was no laughing matter when Jim crashed his plane into the rain swept Tennesee countryside, and broke his ruddy neck.
There was no faithful little doggie to pull him out of the wreckage either, and even if there had been, it wouldn’t have been any use. He was already as dead as a doornail, his spirit passed over to the other side, where he could join in with some of the other dead musicians from Country Music’s Hall of Fame such as Hank Williams, Tex Avery and Patsy Cline.
He had a lot in common with Patsy. She had been killed in a plane crash a year before Jim, and she had only been 31. I told you, that list is ruddy endless….