Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The attraction of Maryhill

I was walking my dog around the streets of Maryhill tonight, the suburb in which I live, and it occurred to me just how tied to this suburb my family has been. I mean, my extended family: my grandparents and my mother, her brothers and sisters and their children.
I don't know enough about my great-grandparents places of abode to include them, so I'll start with my grandparents on my mother's side (my father's family lived in the UK all their lives).
My grandparents bought their first house in Elgin Rd, about five minutes' walk away from where I now live. At some point early in their marriage they moved to a second house, in Stanley St, also about five minutes away from where I live. They stayed there until they died.
Meanwhile, my mother, who was brought up in the Stanley St house, went to Australia for a few years, married, had me (her only child), separated from her husband and came back...to Stanley St, the house where my grandparents and two uncles lived, and where I was then brought up.
I'm trying to keep this simple, but I can see someone saying it's really complicated....hopefully it won't be.
My mother stayed on in Stanley St until she was 68. By this time, of course, I'd been away from there for a long time. I'd left that house in the mid-sixties (though I'd already been living briefly in a couple of other New Zealand cities). I went to England for six years, met my wife, and we came back here (supposedly for a couple of years, but ultimately, as children arrived, we stayed here).
We came back to Stanley St for a few months, and then got a flat in Maitland St - which is not in Maryhill. But then the landlord said we had to move. He was dividing the flat in two, which was a pity, as it had a lovely large room downstairs.
We began to rent a new place, not in Maryhill, but in the bigger suburb of Mornington that is alongside Maryhill. It was still less than ten minutes' walk to Stanley St. And then, after two and a half years, we moved...to Maryhill. In fact almost on the corner of Maryhill Terrace. Our house was, and of course still is, in Glenpark Avenue.
Glenpark Avenue is about five minutes' walk from Stanley St. In fact the cable car used to stop outside our door in Glenpark Ave, and I fell off it once when I was a child because I was in a rush to disembark.
In due course the Stanley St house, which was deteriorating, was sold, and my mother moved into a newly-built second storey on our house. She was now about five minutes away from both the two homes she'd lived in.
When I was child, one of my uncles and his family lived in Crosby St, about three minutes' walk away from our current house. One of my other uncles and his family lived about two minutes from Stanley St for a time. A third uncle, after starting off in Kaikorai Valley Rd - on the land, incidentally, where my great-grandfather once had a farm (so I'm told) - moved to a another house...in Maryhill Terrace, two or three minutes' walk away from where I now live. This uncle, after his children grew up, moved with my aunt to another house, about two minutes' walk from...Stanley St.
But while he was in Maryhill Terrace, the uncle who'd been in Crosby St, moved next door to him. These were all maternal uncles; my maternal aunts were a bit more adventurous, one winding up in Mosgiel, less than fifteen minutes' drive away, another went to the Wellington area, and a third, the eldest, after moving around various places in the North Island, settled in Wellington city.
What about my cousins? Around twelve of them (out of twenty-five) grew up in Maryhill, or on the fringe of Mornington. One still lives up the road in Benhar St, less than five minutes' walk away, next to the school I attended as a small child. One of her sisters, for a time, was in a house further down the hill, but still in Maryhill.
I think that's the sum of all those who've lived here.
What was the attraction? Maryhill is a lovely area, with wonderful views of the sea and the harbour, and quite a few hills, varying from moderate to steep. It's well-established, and there are some houses that go way back (ours is getting on for a hundred years old) and some streets that go way back to the origins of the suburb - one is like a terrace on the side of a hill, and narrow.
I don't know why my family was so attracted to this area, but they were, and in considerable numbers....

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Latest addition

The latest addition to the Hannagan clan: Mason Andrew Kellett, born on Saturday the 24th April. 7 lb 15 oz.

Mason is the grandchild of Jane (Hannagan) and John Kellett, and the son of Peter and Bex.

According to the Family Tree relationships graph, this makes him my mother's brother's daughter's son's son, which to me seems a rather long-winded way of putting it. He's my cousin's grandchild, would be a lot easier! I think it makes him something like my first cousin twice removed, but I'm not at all sure on that.

Here he is, presumably with his father...or maybe his grandfather...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I come to a sudden halt...

I've just discovered that the next letter I have in the pile containing those I wrote from the UK to NZ in 1970 was written in December 1970. The ones following that are equally spasmodic. This doesn't mean I suddenly stopped writing; it just means that I probably have the letters written between March 1970 and December in another place. In fact, I've just hauled out a huge pile of letters from another part of the house: there may be a couple of hundred letters here. Not all of them were written by me to my mother; I've already found some from relatives and friends.

So my next task is to sort these into some sort of order. So far there have been several from the time when I toured around NZ with the NZ Opera Company. Plainly they'll have to be dealt with separately to the English ones.

I'll blog again when I've done the sort-out!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

24.2.70 Mostly about the new job

This letter is out of order in these blog posts, but the list of blogs shows where it should fit.
24.2.70 [Typed on both sides of three and a half narrow and short, pale green, sheets of paper]
Dear Mum, I was all set to sit down and write to you and discovered I seem to have run out of air letters, so I hope the look of this didn’t shock you too much. Still no news from the CIB which naturally enough I’m finding a bit distressing. The stage we’re at, at the moment, is that of the girl making up her mind what she thinks of me from the scanty information she has and the shocking photo. Obviously it’s a difficult task! I can’t contact her personally at all until after she has replied to the CIB to say she’ll have an ‘introduction arranged for her’ and then they write to me again, and tell me I can write to her but still through them ˗ Oh! What a complicated business! It’s only after she then replies directly to me that either of us finds out who the other is and where they live! The more I think about it the funnier it seems. I’m glad I went into that like that because it’s shown me the funny side of it that I’d lost sight of. I read a little CTS pamphlet the other day which had a quotation from a poem by Francis Thompson (whom personally I don’t much care for but who seems in this case to have come up with a very nice little saying). It was:
Is my gloom after all
Shade of His hand outstretched caressingly?
which, once you’ve worked out the slightly upside down grammar is rather to the point, though in our usual way we manage to think God is mismanaging things for us instead of probably (quite definitely!) the other way around.
I had Michael T and a girlfriend of his, Mickey, and Kevin Rowlands up to lunch on Sunday afternoon, and though Kevin bought a bottle of vino with him (I have bought one and so had Mike) he doesn’t drink, and so we other three, possibly a little rudely, but....sat round and drank off one bottle ˗ the other two can now wait for another party sometime! He seems a pleasant sort of chap though not a conversationalist to any degree which makes things a little difficult (and Mike wasn’t as co-operative in this department as usual; he’s getting all introspective lately) but we all survived, and he has returned the compliment and I’ll have to wend my way down to his flat (with two other guys and four cats and three dogs!) sometime when he calls to arrange a date. I hope he’s more at home in his own place. There’s not much of the theatrical about him ˗ he strikes me as one of those totally theatre people whom you could still pass on the street and barely notice. He’s tall, a little heavier than that photo Mrs Leslie showed us, and generally quiet. And strangely enough reminds me a lot of Kevin Flaherty. (Have you ever noticed how people of the same name tend to have certain characteristics [in common]? Or am I just making that up to suit my argument? But even in our family at home the various namesakes are all more than a little alike, whether they would necessarily admit it or not.) (Perhaps it’s just what we take from the name: when we meet someone else of the same name as someone we already know we start to look for similarities.)
Well, I started my new job yesterday, with the worst nerves I’ve had in a long while; though it may also have been the fact that I slept very badly the night before. I had thought I’d grown over all that sort of thing, but it would appear not. I certainly wasn’t the only one ˗ even our instructress, a Mrs Bullitt (would you believe?) seemed nervous, which was rather nice. She’s nothing that her name might imply; it has rather Dickensian overtones, and one imagines a gaunt upright severe person who has a not a jot of patience with dunderheads. She is, however, a littler lady, about 5’2” or 3” with a pleasant though tired expression and isn’t always quite with what is going on, so that her smile tends to follow after the joke, and after everyone else has laughed. She is inclined to not always quite say what she means though generally the meaning is clear, and only needs verification. That is the classroom Mrs Bullitt. The extra-tutorial Mrs B is even more pleasant, not so tired, taller (?), and ever so slightly livelier. I hesitate to think that it’s because she has been doing the job for a good while, but I suspect that’s the case. She is probably in her late forties, though the classroom Mrs Bullitt seems somewhat older.
Did I tell you that we have seven weeks training before we’re let loose on the public? I think they have to have us at some stage before that but I’m not sure. And we’re paid throughout ˗ though 2/- less for some reason, per week. We spend this time round Cannon St or Wren House, which is opposite St Paul’s. So it’s an area I’ve not really spent a great deal of time in before and it’s rather interesting. One of the other men and myself went for a walk at lunchtime today and went over the London Bridge where they are at present building a new one while the other is shipped, stone by stone, to America. The Tower is five minutes’ walk away, and it’s altogether one of the older parts of London. I go to Liverpool St on a real train, not a tube, from the station three minutes away (instead of ten or twenty as they were before) and it’s 6d cheaper than before, and then walk for about seven minutes down to Cannon St. One could go by the main roads from Liverpool St to C. St, but fortunately the ancient residents of London beat pathways between all these which still exist in the form of one-way alleyways, and by following about four of these down, I save quite a bit of time. They all connect to each other practically, so obviously I’m following in the footsteps of some old Londoner who wasn’t bother to spend his time touring back and forth when he could go direct.
Our class has already dwindled from eleven to eight in the first two days: two of them never arrived and one middle-aged lady just didn’t come back today. The rest of the class consists of two other men (thank God ˗ one poor bloke two weeks ahead of us got stuck by himself in a class of women) (and spends his afternoon teas alone. He seems a nice enough guy, though not bubbling with personality ˗ how cruel can women be? And anyway I thought they were the predatory sex? What are they doing?) [More to the point, perhaps, what on earth am I talking about?] one of whom is probably somewhere along the line of Jewish extraction and is called Jerry Levi, and seems a not too bad guy, married with a couple of kids, thin (don’t be fooled by the two cardigans, his wife, I have no doubt, has made him wear under his shirt) with a wide grin of a mouth, and a smoker’s ˗ a heavy smoker’s ˗ laugh. About 45, let’s say.
The other guy is Larry Boyles (what a name, I ask you?) ˗ huge, weighs sixteen stone, looks about 25 or so, but an Eastender, which means he has a certain non-youthful characteristic. For example, he talks like an old man, seems to find life just a little on the puzzling side, and never manages to hear what you say in quite the way you say it, because like most Eastenders, he assumes what you are going to say and gives the answer to that, when in fact you may have been a little more subtle. Perhaps it’s me ˗ I don’t speak so good, maybe?
The women are two middle-aged buddies (though I suspect they’d never met before yesterday), both divorcees-again-married, both the bright sparks of the company; a quality of their age more than their personalities, since one who is married to an American (previously to a Chinese!) and who has lived around the world for some years has few of the qualities one associates with a well-travelled person, and the other, who used to work at Scotland Yard (and who claimed she’d heard and seen everything there ˗ I felt like telling here where I’d been for the last six months!!) and who has been nicknamed Fuzz, seems only to be a cynic, and doesn’t really the true appreciation of the funny side of life that makes a cynic bearable.
There are two quite young girls (one named Miss Weller, who, being an Eastender, reminds me irresistibly of Sam Weller in Pickwick Papers) and a girl of I suppose twenty-two or so, who is something like a beanstalk in a mini-skirt, with glasses. But everybody is very friendly in that they return your smiles and only laugh at you because they’re glad they didn’t put their foot in it.
The building is very hot in true Civil Service style ˗ though as everybody is at pains to point out, the Post Office is now a Corporation not a Govt. Dept., and I stopped wearing the t-shirt that I had on under my shirt today in order to try and let a little air in. I always thought that 60o was the sort of comfortable temperature but I’ve seldom struck a place that is as cool as that. (The theatres here, particularly the Opera Houses, are horribly hot in winter.)
About your [Bonus] Bond(s) ˗ I hope that you eventually get something out of them ˗ it would be nice for you to be provided with a decent sort of ‘pension’ as it were for your old age. (I mean when you’re pushing one hundred or so!)
About the books: it seems that we’ve nearly got everything sorted out again. Would it seem like very bad manners on my part if sometime in the near future I made up another little list? You could stop two or three of these postal orders you aren’t supposed to be sending me to compensate, couldn’t you? It’s some odds and sods books which I’ll think about; but one or two may come in handy for the teacher’s exam. Doris had a friend of long-standing over here who died recently and left her all his music. Perhaps I should say that he left me and some other pupils all his music, as this is where it seems to be finally ending up. I have bought one lot from her so far for a £1(quite how the economics work out I don’t know) which in fact would have cost me a lot more, secondhand, to buy and even more new. About £10 at least. So I’m glad. And I’ve bought some other music off her that is old stuff she no longer can use, for very minimal amounts, which will come in handy for sightreading and perhaps teaching music.
Remember Margaret from work, at the cinema? We had a huge chat on the last night, when she stayed right through my working hours sitting just to talk. I’ve given her my phone number and she’s already rung me once since ˗ and I told her she must come up for a meal, because for a start she lives on her own. I don’t think there is any danger of things getting involved ˗ I hope not; perhaps I’m a bit thick where women are concerned, but from what she has said (I’ve had a good deal of her history) it seems unlikely that she is interested in me for any other reason than friendship. Friendship in the quite ordinary sense. Oh dear, I hope things won’t be messy. No, I don’t think they will. What’s this? [the last line ran downhill on the page.] Love Mike.

[The last half page has a line across the top: Been trying to think what to do with this]

14.3.70 An evening with Jerry

[A bit of a hiatus in terms of carrying on with blogging these old letters...tied up with music rehearsals and performances over the last several weeks.]

14.3.70 [two aerogrammes]

Dear Mum, you’ll be glad to know that the cold seems to have been dealt a blow on the head, in a way I hadn’t quite anticipated: but at least it’s been gotten rid of. I explain how, presently. [Actually I never get round to explaining why!]
You know, it seems to be one of my things in life (I remember Margaret saying that everyone seems to have a particular thing: she says she had never had to worry about money, for instance, it just appeared) to be picking up lame ducks and attempting some sort of repair job; though it’s only in the last couple of years, or even less, that I’ve really been reasonably capable of doing it. [That might have been overstating the case, I think.]
Remember Jimmy Wilson at school? He must have been about the first. Well, you will recall that in my recent letters when I talked about the PO class, I mentioned Jerry Levy? I’m afraid (no, not afraid, but...I don’t know what the word would be) he’s my latest acquisition. He has let drop the occasional hint of some unhappiness at home (he’s 38, has a boy and a girl, and ‘a wife of independent means’ as he puts it) and quite obviously doesn’t have a happy marriage. Anyway, yesterday after work, we finished up at Wren House, getting our lockers etc in order for next week ˗ we will work there in future (right next door to St Paul’s; what more inspiring locale could you have?). Jerry, who normally rushes off, mentioned ultra-casually that I might like to have a cup of coffee if I wasn’t pressed for time? I wasn’t, and so we went to the nearest joint. One thing led to another and we finally spent the whole evening together talking and drinking, and he finished up on half of the bed at the flat here. I slept on the floor on the mattress part of it ˗ quite comfortably; in fact, I suspect I was better off altogether.
 It transpired in the coffee shop, after a little prodding and coaxing from yours truly, that Jerry wasn’t going home that night, again ˗ he’d spent the previous night in some hotel ˗ and he suggested going and having a drink. He was obviously not looking forward to spending the remainder of the evening on his own, and so I said if I could have something to eat I’d have a drink or two. We went to a place still nearby, in the newly-built St Paul’s Piazza or whatever-it-is, and over the meal we got to talking and I got some more out of him. To be fair, he did some prodding and prying of his own, which made me feel less rude (rude? not the word either). But due to this conversation and the ensuing very lengthy one in the St Christopher Wren, just round the corner (it could be very old ˗ it could be very fake) we seemed to discover that we were sort of soul-mates, to put it in an odd way. But do you know what I mean? When you find that someone is quite content to be in your company and to talk and be rude to you and laugh at your jokes and put with all your foibles (while also pointing them out!) and you are equally content to be in his.
At that stage of the evening I hadn’t really felt in the position of assisting his lame-duckness ˗ we were quite on a par, friendship-wise, and just sitting around talking, keeping each other alive. Jerry, it seems, has had a sort of recurring thing where he goes off and leaves his wife ˗ or is told to go (I think the latter often as not), and after a while they somehow come back to each other, through some indefinable ‘x’ factor that holds marriages like his together. On the last bout, he went off to Spain for two months until he was forced to return because he couldn’t get any more work, and he doesn’t know how long he’ll be away this time. He was off to find a bed-sit when I last saw him today. It’s terrible, isn’t it? But it’s nice to know that the Good Lord looks after everybody, really. This guy is so no particular believer, or any more good than the next guy, but somehow or other our paths have crossed, and, last night, at least I was able to fill a gap for him.
He’s mad on old films, too, and for much of the time we just talked favourite film scenes. He was amazed that I’d seen so many films that were made before I was born even, and at one stage said, in a sort of grateful way to no one in particular, that he had to meet up with some bloke from 12,000 miles away before he could talk on his own level about a subject like this. It’s all rather incredible, isn’t it really?
I gave up thinking about going home at any particular time in the end, and just let the evening go on unplanned. One of the strangest things of the whole rather strange evening however was when, after I’d been to the loo and had come up the stairs thinking ‘I wonder if he’d sooner come home to the flat and spend the night there; (rather than spend it in a bleak hotel room in Kings Cross as he planned?) and had practically decided that I couldn’t really ask him, he then turned round and asked if he could kip down on the floor at my flat! Now, that is odd. I was very glad he’d asked and naturally said, Yes.
Anyway, after we’d finished up at the C Wren, he suggested going along to the Spanish Bar which is near Leicester Square, just for a last drink, or some similar ridiculous excuse. So we went, and eventually found ourselves in the hot and smoky and atmosphere-laden basement bar: it was as phoney as a film set, and full of real Spaniards and phoney ones. Jerry was one of the phoney ones! He has Spanish ancestry not very far back, and with that and
[second aerogramme]
the recent Spain trip, and the fact that he is quite a linguist: (he has German and French up his sleeve too) he was able to speak quite reasonable Spanish to the people who would talk to him. Actually the atmosphere was quite friendly, and people were talking on the most casual bases. But, for some crazy reason, he was determined that he shouldn’t be an Englishman for the night, and neither should I and I finally wound up being, at his decision, a Norwegian! And the funniest thing was that we had a couple of people on! A little Indo-European man and his Derbyshire girlfriend were the victims ˗ Jerry’s victims I hasten to add; I barely said a word, though I rather put my foot in it. I was not supposed to be able to speak English, and Jerry and I were talking in awkward German as a sort of mutual language (I can’t remember whether he was supposed to be a very linguistic Spaniard at this stage or not) when the girl asked how long I’d been here, thinking no doubt it was strange I hadn’t picked up any English. I said, like a fathead, in a mixture of sort of bad German and bad English, 18 months, and she then said to Jerry, assuming that I wouldn’t understand that it was a bit odd that I hadn’t learned any English in that time ˗ how on earth did I get around? After that I shut up and pretended to be a homesick Norwegian or something, and looked especially gloomy, and Jerry carried on bantering them in Spanish and English and heaven knows what! All extremely mad, and highly improbable, but never mind.
It got fairly late and we were there till nearly closing time in the end. (They do have a sort of cabaret at this place ˗ Spanish dancing and guitar-playing, done on an infinitesimally-raised level, so that you to be six-foot tall to see; but since you don’t pay any special price, this is what you must put with.)
Anyway, Jerry and I wended our way to a bus and eventually got home. By this time he was starting to fall apart quite a lot, which surprised me really, as he seems generally to have bags of energy. We got home and he must have nearly gone berserk trying to figure out who all the people were ˗ it was one of those nights when they all arrived one after the other, and there seemed to be no end to the stream. So finally David and I put him to be, as it were, and shut up shop. But he kept making me feel as though I was making him a special guest of honour and showering him with riches. I told him to shut up in the end, and he did, pretty well. But in fact I wasn’t really treating him any better than I would have done if Mike had come or someone like that.
To hark, way back, to the lame duck bit; this seems to have come about late in the evening, when he lost some of his verve, and I became sort of father to the child if you see what I mean. So that’s the general picture of our Odyssey (the situation reminds me somewhat of James Joyce’s Ulysses where a young man and a middle-aged man become friendly over the space of one night).
Why do older people get on with me at all? I ought to make them feel out of date or something, shouldn’t I, by the law of the average statistical man? I think though, last night’s happening(s) came about partly by my new policy of trying to be open (at the risk of getting another mess) the same as I did with Margaret (who incidentally hasn’t yet been any bother, and if I have room I may be able to explain why I think this is so). And if it’s going to help somebody through an otherwise miserable and lonely night, I’m glad to do it, because I’ve had the same sort of loneliness myself at times. London is a terrible city for this, and I don’t intend to let it do its damage to anyone if I can help it. (New Policy Ruling Number Four!)
Thanks for your comments on the CIB (not CID, mother!) business. You’re not being old-fashioned in what you say about the financial side of things, though I must say I have the feeling that these days the girl herself contributes more to the marriage that she might have done 20 or 30 years ago, finance-wise. But I don’t rely on that. I must admit to feeling a little too impoverished to even be contemplating such a thing as marriage, but since there is not a great deal I can do about that at present, I can only save as much as possible (more possible in this job ˗ though not when I’ve spent the night drinking!) and remember my promised daily bread. And it does come. I don’t really get too uptight about money matters; whenever I do, I think, This is ridiculous ˗ I’m ten times better off than a lot of folk.
Jerry and I were discussing marriage quite a lot last night actually, though not from this point of view, and it would seem I’m pretty idealistic about certain aspects of it. But I don’t think I’m foolish about it. I know marriage is bloomin’ hard work, and I think I’m prepared for that. 
So! What a funny letter. I hope you don’t think I’m taking up with all sorts of odd people ˗ no, I’m sure you don’t ˗ but helping them helps me, and I’m one of the most incredibly selfish people around!

Rod, one of the flatmates, has a party on here tonight, so I don’t expect much sleep. I think I’ll go up to the laundrette actually! Lots of love, Mike. 

I haven't been able to identify the two pubs mentioned in this post: I think the Christopher Wren may no longer exist, and perhaps the Spanish Bar is now a restaurant. But perhaps not....

Monday, February 01, 2016

4.3.70 - new job, snow, life, women, fathers, etc

4.3.70 [Two aerogrammes - it’s likely there was a letter between this and the last one recorded]
Where has this wretched year gone to already? I was all prepared for a few more days in February and when I looked around next it was March.
I seem to have mixed up a bit over Kevin Rowlands, though it doesn’t matter at all. Mike didn’t bring him up here, but just said he’d known him at home, though for the life of me I can’t say I saw much sign of recognition! [No idea what that means.]
About the job since you’ll no doubt be a little concerned. We’re all settling in, without any further losses [of trainees, I think], and now have the distinction of not being entirely new ˗ there being another class behind us. We have done quite a lot of time (an hour each day) on the switchboards, consolidating what we learn in class. There are still dummy switchboards, but have the advantage of someone being at the other end (as opposed to our Mrs Bullitt making the appropriate noise beside us in class) turning on the right lights and sound effects.
We spent all last week learning how to cope with connecting up people from overseas to people in Great Britain, and this week are reversing the process and starting to put through calls to overseas places. The whole business is fairly complex, and taken on terribly easy stages, so that none of us can fail to pick it up. When we’re out at these switchboards at these moment, we have an instructor behind us helping us along if we go wrong, and so you’re really mollycoddled all the way. What an incredible system it all is though! You can dial straight to all the places in the world except China on the boards we will use, and though your man in Little-Chipping-on-the-Mud wants to speak to his brother in Afghanistan, all he has do is pick up his phone, and after he has passed through about three exchanges in England, he arrives at us, and we then put him on his way, via another two or three exchanges; the thing is that it’s only at his end, and at our middle section and at the other end that he actually comes across operators; the rest is done by innumerable permutations of numbers connecting him via the unnamed exchanges. Everything, but everything is coded, and no doubt eventually the operators will only be required to patch up mistakes that the machines or the nuisance human subscribers make. Just at the beginning of this week they brought in direct dialling for the man in the street in New York! [China actually came on board while I was working in the Exchange, sometime later; though we waited all the first day for someone to actually want to ring the place.] Just imagine what equipment there is behind it all: satellites, cables, radio links, etc.
That motley bunch of folk in my class that I described to you last week are sorting themselves out. Mrs Rogers and Mrs Ingle remain buddies, and the only things they have in common are their two marriages, and nerves every time before going to the switchroom. Mrs I is a Catholic (though how she managed the marriages bit, I'm not going to ask), and is much more the pleasant of the two ˗ about fortyish, always well-dressed, bright as a button, and with a mad sense of humour; Mrs R is more severe somehow, though not without humour, and is a good example of the permissive society at work; she doesn’t question it, one gets the impression, but somehow agrees with its tenets, and takes advantage of her up-to-dateness. She is not to be argued with as both Mr Levi and I have found out, not because she’s right, but because she thinks she’s right, and there isn’t another point of view. She’s survivable, however, because she is only a shadow in the brightness of Mrs I who has ten times the amount of real life in her. 
Mr Levi and I get on generally very well. He’s only half a Jew and hasn’t any of the mannerisms, and is only different from your average middle-class Londoner in that he is aware of things around him, and has a very good sense of humour : he is quite prepared to have the Mickey taken out of him and more often than not to take it out of himself. He is more sensitive than one might expect at first sight, and keenly aware of his own shortcomings. If it wasn’t for the sense of humour he would have a nasty chip on his shoulder stating that he is a ‘failure.’ As it is he can state this and smile. He is married, strangely enough, to a Catholic (what incredible Catholics there are in London) and doesn’t seem to get on with his wife at all by what he says. I suspect however that there is a good deal more security to his marriage than he would ever let on, and he is probably, paradoxically, secure in his failures. If you know your own faults, that’s half the battle; it’s only the small matter of correcting them then! [This long profile of Jerry Levi is interesting in the light of our future relationship: he was probably an alcoholic, though he had it under control enough to work, and we often went out after a shift and spent some time in a pub (this could be in the early hours of the morning, sometimes. He was a surprisingly open person, and we clicked strongly; he was like one of those slightly irresponsible uncles you have in some families. We worked for some time together (because the people you went through training with tended to wind up on your rosters. I don’t know whether the letters I have cover what happened with him: I went on holiday for a week at one point, some months later, and came back to discover he’d died suddenly, possibly from a wrong combination of alcohol and the medication he was on. I was in complete shock; he seemed to have been snatched out of my life. I never got to meet his family, nor heard what happened to them.]
The other guy, Hoss (as he’s nicknamed - he resembles in size, anyway, the Hoss of TV: I’m ‘St Michael’ ˗ so is the brand of Marks and Spencer clothes!; both of these are Mrs I’s doing) turns out to be the victim of the mass media mind, with an appreciation of trivia that would be hard to beat. Still, he is immensely good-natured, and on the surface, certainly, doesn’t appear to have a spot of badness in him. [I’m presume the ‘Hoss’ is the character from the TV series, Bonanza. I don’t know this fellow’s real name; it may have been Eric, as Hoss’ real name was, but it could have been something else entirely. Anyway, he was a big boy.]
The beanstalk girl of last week, is twenty, Irene, and gay. [‘Gay’ in the old sense.] She is the surprising product of a divorce but has the advantage of having always, obviously, been reasonably resilient and good-humoured. (It must be that only good-humoured people take on this job!) She is interesting to talk to, likes going round the city in her lunch hour looking at things (churches, what-have-you), reads books (unheard of amongst 90% of the trainees) ˗ there are about fifty or more) and is filling in time like the rest of us, I
[second aerogramme]
suspect, though it appears she is rather thrown out on the world due to the nature of her parents’ present situations; and is too tall for me. Anyway, she isn’t a Catholic so it matters not!
The other two girls are thick in different ways; one is an inverted snob and thinks she’s always being [There’s a long article online about working in the Exchange, situated at the Faraday Building, across from St Paul’s. You could look out some windows and see the Dome floating above you. Women worked day shifts only ˗ except Sundays ˗ and men worked all the night shifts. So we lost track of the women who’d trained with us very quickly, since our paths never crossed after that.]
got at and tells you to shut up if she can’t cope with you having her on, and the other, who is twenty-one, is just plain dumb, though impressionable with certain facts if persevered with!
...I’m finding life rather more trying than it was. This is no doubt the explanation: life has always been right for me, and I was content to go merrily along saying, Oh yes, I’m a Catholic, can’t you see? But in fact people couldn’t really see, and I think He wants something more from me, not just Mass two or three times a week and patting little children on the head, and giving a couple of bob to beggars, but some statement within myself that shows Him that I’m not only on the right road but am walking along it too ˗ not just sitting in the sun at the side. I’m no doubt being all waffly and vague again, and it all means something to me, but probably won’t by the time it reaches you! 
I haven’t heard from the CIB yet, and no doubt the Good God has that all worked out too, but as usual Crowl thinks he knows best, and says there is something wrong. In the words of me mum, we’ll offer it up and He’ll let us in on it all when He’s good and ready.
It’s been snowing here today (started overnight) and up this way it’s about four inches thick and turning to slush. I was tripping daintily home after work (here we’ve been getting off a quarter of an hour early each night, and tonight three-quarters of an hour, because the weather was bad! Talk about kids!) carefully keeping my feet dry and walking along in the thicker stuff which hadn’t been trampled to muck, when I jumped down off the kerb to cross a driveway onto what I thought was cleared, wet gravel and it turned out to be a miniature Lake Erie; I gave up after that and sploshed along in the best of the slush, with at least one thoroughly sodden foot. (Yes, yes, I was wearing four feet this evening ˗ clever!)
Margaret and I went and had a meal the other night (she went off to Paris the next day) and sat there for four hours talking! She is incredibly open about herself and inspires confidence in others to be the same. So we swapped stories of ourselves and our troubles and joys back and forth, and spent a quite pleasant evening. However in spite of all the laughter that came of it, I came away rather depressed: Life does seem to be a messy business, doesn’t it? Very few if any folk escape some muck-up, and for all the good it seems to do you, you often wonder if it’s worth it. (I’m not feeling suicidal, it’s okay.) And that in spite of faith. Only goes to show that we’re lacking in faith somewhere, doesn’t it? Marg’s a strange person: she told me things I never thought to hear from any woman (except perhaps a future wife!) and yet it wasn’t sensationalism on her part or anything ˗ she manages to convey the joys and sorrows of things without making them coarse or obscene. I feel actually that it doesn’t do a man any harm to know an older woman very well if she is open like this: it helps him to understand women so much better and to be able to understand a woman of his own age; because one of these will never be so open ˗ it’s a fact of her age. And yet how else are you to understand the females? If not from themselves? [Perhaps thinking I now knew everything about women. I didn’t.]
In your last aerogramme you talked a bit about dad; if it doesn’t hurt you too much, or do anything harmful to you, would you mind whenever you have a spare inch or two of an aerogramme left over and don’t know what to say, just writing some things about him that I don’t know? I have an incredibly incomplete picture of him. Only if it won’t upset you, mind. [It was about this time that I started feeling more and more than there was a hole in my life, in terms of my father, whom I hadn’t seen since I was three. Nor had I had any communication from him since then. He died in 1965, something we only discovered after the funeral was over. At the time it made little impact, but gradually the loss crept up, and eventually took many years to completely dispel.]
I haven’t been cutting my own hair recently, though I’ve only had one haircut since and can now do with another, but thanks for the thought anyway. Tell Des that I tried again to get his trimmer, but they say here that they are such a rarely-asked for item, that no one seems to stock them.  Love, Mike.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

18.2.70 - a new job, starting immediately.

18.2.70 [two aerogrammes, both handwritten]
Well, well, well, the order of things in this world does change rapidly. In my last letter I said that I’ll think about getting a new job tomorrow, meaning, in the future, but someone pulling the strings has taken me up literally, and the day after that letter, I was informed of what I’d already heard from Rumour’s mouth ˗ that the powers-that-be wanted some changes made. Examples: two in the pay-box all the time, instead of one, ten more hours work for a pound a week more money (!); complete change of rota, so that we’d be working through from afternoons till the end of the show (instead of just evenings) or from the morning till later than we do, and starting earlier. So after saying I’d let him know next day, I gave him a week’s notice then, and started on the great job hunt.
Well, I tell a lie there, because in the post on the day of the news came a notice from the telephone exchange saying that they now had a vacancy for a part-time telephonist, but, since that pays only £8 or so a week (on which I’d die) I inquired about full-time work: anything between thirty-six and forty-three hours a week, at about $16-10-0 gross (goes up when I’m twenty-five) (plus another £2 or so a week when I ‘qualify’. I’ve got to train for, I think, six weeks in the day time, and then will work evenings and nights (overnight sometimes ˗ that’s when you work fewer hours a week). So I’ve got the job ‘subject to all my filled-in forms being sent to Enoch Powell to see if I can be allowed to work for the British’ ˗ or somesuch! I start on Monday (as long as my great-great aunt wasn’t a Chinaman) and they seem to think I’m bright enough to work in their International Exchange ˗ when I come out of school. Heaven knows how dumb some of the people tested are (as dumb as the tester who insisted I try and read a chart without my glasses even though I told her I couldn’t see a thing glassless. There was a guy at home when I went for my driving test who did the same thing: only there I had to look down some long funnel thing; I haven’t found out yet what was at the end of that!) because it was all incredibly easy; the form-filling-in was considerably more difficult. The tester-lady seemed quite surprised that I should know so many British place-names so well, and eyed me with some suspicion, I felt, when I said it was because I’d read English books, and had seen English films.
About the new management ˗ as I said before it’s all drearily staid, but gentle. The fact of the £1 extra pay for ten hours is that apparently Mr Neilsen had been paying us the total rate already (I’d always thought it high for a part-time job) and the extra hours have nothing to do with it: we ought to have been working them anyway. But it doesn’t matter ˗ I am fed up with the place ˗ Margaret is the only one who has any life in her, much ˗ and I’m also fed up with the people in and the general monotony.
So!! I don’t know that I greatly care for the eventuality of working all night but it may be interesting ˗ there will shortly be no time in the twenty-four hours that I haven’t worked! It’s all experience cont...
P.S. Good Grief; don’t buy a David Copperfield: £3.50 [or possibly this was meant to be $3.50] is far too expensive. Hope we’ve sorted all these out now; sorry to have confused you.
[second aerogramme]
And I think it may have the advantage of finally giving me a job which I can actually fall back on! 1970 may yet turn out to be the year at least when I finally set my life in order. It is fitting that it should be done in my (good grief) 25th year, isn’t it?
Have you started your new Rite of the Mass yet? Our Parish Priest said Mass this morning and we had bits left in and things left out and he seemed to know as little about the whole proceedings as anyone. He’s left the Offertory Prayer out a lot lately which means that you have half the congregation waiting for it and half ignoring it altogether. I rather like it all (but as you no doubt know I’m rather prone to change!) though the depleted Confiteor is a bit disquieting just yet, and only saying, ‘Lord, I am not worthy’ once is positively upsetting ˗ I always said it several times more anyway because neither the Good Lord nor I have any illusions about my worthiness!
We have a new guest in the flat (and when he leaves will have Chris, Angela’s sister, back!), called Andrew Tansley ˗ seventeen, and a very pleasant young guy. Recommended to us by Hazel with whom he’d worked. He’s there till he finds a flat, and is working in a new mystery play (with Anthony Quayle) as a props man. [The play was probably Sleuth.]
I went to see some Ionesco plays done by the Tower (amateur) Theatre on Sunday night. This is the group Ian and Angela and Rod are all associated with, and their standard was surprisingly high. After the plays, on the way back Ian and I got into a discussion which eventually lasted till two in the morning (Ian is out of work, again, just now ˗ oh! these artists) and in which we tried to reconcile his argument that he puts up a barrier to protect his ‘inner’ self from new relationships and mine which was that hiding oneself in oneself is not as much use to one as risking getting to know people better, quicker ˗ even though one may be hurt. There’s always the chance one may be helped. (Sorry about the preponderance of ‘ones’ but I’m not allowed to use ‘you’ once I’ve started, so I’m told!) We did reconcile it all eventually (with help from each of the others as they came and went ˗ to bed), after covering the same ground about fourteen times; because I still put up my own barriers (though I’m getting past them more quickly) and Ian knows that what I said has its own value if he cares to apply it.
I have this crazy urge of late to know everybody ˗ properly, not just superficially the way I often have before. And I think I’m even going to the extent of appearing to pry ˗ I hope not, as I don’t really intend that.
Kingsley came up for lunch on Sunday (dinner, I mean) and seemed all right when he left. Now he had something on his mind, and while he told me a lot that surprised me, and interested me, and showed that he too as matured (and has a Lenin-style beard!!) I couldn’t somehow get past the barrier?!!?
On this Sunday Mike is coming up with one of his innumerable collections of ladies, Mickey, by name, and guess who? Kevin Rowlands! And Mike knows him apparently. So that sorts that out!!
Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you what time I’m starting at the Telephone place. 8.15 am. Love (yawn), Mike.

P.S. Still nothing further from CIB ˗ you can have an unlimited number of tries for the price of one! (I think ˗certainly more than one; after too many goes I should think they’d advise giving up and doing something else!!)