New Boots and Panties

“Arseholes, bastards, fucking cunts and pricks” screamed Ian Dury in  the opening line of “Plaistow Patricia” from his superb debut album “New Boots and Panties” in 1977. Was anyone offended? I don’t know, I certainly wasn’t as a 12 year old boy listening in my bedroom and turning it down so my mum couldn’t hear. Now she would have been offended but she would never have listened to Ian Dury and to my knowledge Engelbert Humperdinck never swore on any of his albums so no harm done there. That dear reader is the point, the current wave of poor souls complaining to anyone that will listen that they have been offended by what they have seen and heard needs to stop. There is a time to be offended and time to mind your own business.

The analagy I want to use is this. If I heard Gethin Jones say “fuck” on Blue Peter I would be offended. There is obviously no place for swearing on childrens television. Now, if Gethin was on “Friday Night With Jonathan Ross” and he said “fuck” I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Everyone says “fuck” on “Jonathan Ross” I know what to expect. My wife has chosen not to watch Ross because she finds him offensive, choice put into action.

Which brings me to the the infamous Ross/Brand/Sachs incident. What they did was infantile but not offensive in my view but I would choose to listen to Ross and Brand and know what to expect. There were virtually no complaints at the time it went to air and they only started pouring in when people who would never listen to Ross and Brand read about it in the press. They have no right to be offended by the report of an incident that was not intended for their ears. My 79 year old mum listens to Terry Wogan on Radio 2 because she knows what to expect, she would never listen to Ross or Brand because it’s not for her and she knows it, simple. If Terry said “I hope all my listeners over 70 die painful deaths this week” my Mum would be offended and rightly so, if Russell Brand said it she would neither know about it nor care. She loves Paul O’Grady even though he’s “one of them” (my Mum’s words) he’s perfectly safe at 5pm on Channel 4. My Mum would never watch O’Grady as Lily Savage therefore would never be offended by O’Grady’s alter ego, not her business. 

The recent furuore over Carol Thatchers “golliwog” comment, said in private, is ridiculous. I can be racist, homphobic, ageist and sexist in equal measure in my own home mostly without meaning it or really thinking it. Hand on heart who isn’t? Honestly? But I know in public where to draw the line, I know not to offend and I know that if I told an innapropriate joke in the wrong company then I deserve all the vilification that would come my way.

The Dail Mail reported today that on QI comedienne Jo Brand likened Margaret Thatchers name change to Lady Thatcher to a feminine shaving device . That is funny, approprite for the show and completely inoffensive. It has become offensive to those who will now complain because The Mail have brought it to their attention. When I have finished this post I will complain to the press authorities about the Mail persistantly telling me about things I wasn’t meant to hear. I hope you all join me.

In conclusion, if you know you don’t like something or someone, excercise your right not to watch or listen. If you enjoy Last of The Summer Wine on a Sunday night and Russ Abbott is shown full frontally naked, excercise your right to complain. If you read about something in the press that wasn’t intended for you, excercise your right to mind your own business.

As a footnote New Boots and Panties was re-issued as a tribute album a few years ago. Shane MacGowan performed an excellant version of Plaistow Patricia and Robbie Williams performed Sweet Gene Vincent. I’ve often wondered how many parents of young Robbie fans bought the album only to hear “arseholes, bastards, fucking cunts and pricks blaring out of the family stereo. Would they have the right to be offended?

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My Photo 

There is an internet phenomenon currently gathering half a million hits per day and media coverage all over the world  http://www.wwar1.blogspot.com/ is the letters from William Henry Bonser Lamin a soldier from World War 1. The “Blogger” is his grandson and with a stroke of true genius he is publishing the letters exactly 90 years to the day since they were written. It is a wonderful insight into the life of an ordinary soldier and his life in Word War 1 which has captured the imagination of millions all over the world.

I came across the Harry Lamin Blog when there was a story about it on Yahoo news. As I have recently posted some cards and telegrams from my Dad’s time as POW in Singapore on my blog I thought I would take a look.
I found a beautifully presented blog which is extremely evocative of it’s time. The photo’s and original documents draw you in to Harry’s world and the personal, intimate nature of the letters make you want to find out what happens next. As I’m sure you’ve seen from the comments many people are keen to share their stories of their relatives time during WW1 and WW2. As indeed I was when I discovered my Dad’s correspondence.
From my own point of view the 2 wars represent a time of honour, bravery and right among the ordinary people which is a complete opposite of the apathy of today. No claims for compensation, no claims for “Gulf War Syndrome” just an absolute belief in doing the right thing regardless of the cost. I truly believe the majority of people yearn for a return to traditional values but we are all swamped by the media rollercoaster that drives us further down the road to degredation, cruelty and apathy. Harry’s world and his letters give us a taste of another time, a time of war, poverty, death and illness but some of us believe (maybe a view through rose tinted glasses) that people were basically happier because they were not part of todays “want” culture and rampant consumerism. Having less choice left less chance for disappointment. A different version of the Buddhist 4 Noble Truths if you like.
There is also of course the basic intrigue of a great story. It’s like a soap opera and each letter is like the cliffhanger scene in any daytime soap that makes you desperate to find out what happens next and tune in to the next episode.
The internet will always throw up this kind of phenomenon and word of mouth and ready access to the internet makes The Harry Lamin Blog the perfect “Have you seen” for the workplace, the media and families. If I was a teacher I would certainly use this as a teaching aid,  far better than a boring text book.
I stated in my post on my dad’s time as a POW that that perod of time ask questions about todays society that could be saved for another day. Well this is that day.
It is inconceivable to believe that a time of world war could be perceived as a “better” time than 2008 but it depends on your perception of “better”.
Harry Lamin in WW1 and my dad Bill Ross in WW2 and millions like them fought for a cause they truly believed in with out question or hesitation. They were prepared to risk everything for what? I believe it was for their country, for their King, for their family, for God, for their identity and their Britishness. I know the racist police will claim that what I’m about to write is wrong but ask yourself a simple question. “Would you or your loved ones put their lives on the line today for their country, their queen, their family, their identity, their Britishness?” I would bet that some of you would agree with family, but the rest, I doubt it.
Harry and Bill were English in a time when being English meant something. They identified with their neighbours, they identified with every Englishman wherever they were in their country. They recognised the need to protect that identity, they were proud to be English and the German war machine was threat that was going to take that freedom away. They were prepared to give everything to keep what they knew for them, their famlies and future generations. How disappointed they would be to see being English in England something not to be celebrated but to be hidden away behind the threat of a racist accusation? The Cross of St George is banned in some cities as being inflammatory, St Georges day our national day is not celebrated for fear of upsetting non English and the only time it comes out is during the bi annual football tournaments (not this year obviously). We are being stripped of our identity without a fight or even a whimper. I understand immigration is a natural progression, evolution in action, we are a haven for any waif or stray from around the world, we have no need for a guilty conscience. We have done our bit and continue to do so regardless of the consequences.
In less than 100 years, the very thing that was fought for by so many over 2 wars has been eroded by government apathy and ineptitude. We are a country in decline, riddled by segregation not integration. The reason Harry’s blog is so popular is because it pricks peoples sub-conscious and reminds us of a time before the politically correct brigade convinced us all that identfying with your country, your history and your flag is wrong.
Long live Harry and Bill’s memory and long live everything they stood for and fought for.

 Bill Ross Picture

My dad William “Bill” Ross was born on November 20th 1921 and died on November 4th 1992. He lead an unremarkable life, married for 40 years, 4 children, job with British Airways for 32 years and an all round decent man. I was lucky to have him as a father.

There is however a pasage of his life from 1942 to 1946 that was anything but unremarkable. It was his time in World War 2. A time he never spoke of, he was a prisoner of war in Singapore under the Japanese. It was a time I know very little about. My Dad chose, for his own reasons, to keep his own council about what went on. I remember him talking of “Pebbles” an Australian colleague so named because of his build, my Dad’s ability with engines that it appears got him through some of the more difficult times, a severe illness that nearly killed him and his de-mob suit and 200 cigarrettes he was given when he got home weighing 6 stone ( 84lbs). I don’t want to overglamourise something I know so little about there’s a danger that you can undermine the facts by guessing at fiction. I would love to put some of the pieces together and find out what really happened. Anyway my Mum showed me some documents I didn’t know existed and feel the need to share them, maybe someone will see them that can help me discover the facts.

I have often drawn strength from my Dad’s time as a POW. “If Dad could deal with that surely I can cope with……….” Recently I have succomed to self pity, apathy and a feeling that life doesn’t give out what I deserve. Well, these were surely thoughts that never crossed my Dad’s mind and are thoughts I need to put back where they belong. I hope this helps.

These documents require no narrative, I will fill in bits that require “local knowledge” and take you through a chronological history of 5 years that must have been constantly in my Dad’s thoughts but never, ever impacted on those he loved and who loved him.

 A copy of a will made when Bill signed up in 1942.

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Everything was to be left to his mum.

The First Cable Home 3rd February 1942 from the boat on the way to Singapore

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My grandparents lived in Bury, Lancashire and it was where my Dad was born and spent the first 21 years of his life.

The second cable home 27th March 1942 from Singapore

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It would appear that this was sent prior to the British surrender and capture of thousands of British troops.

First postcard home 12th July 1943. News that Bill was a prisoner of war

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Bill’s parents had moved to Ashford, Middlesex by now, obviously Bill wasn’t aware and this card was sent via Lancashire and Ashford, Kent before finally ending up with his parents.

Army recognition of Bills Predicament. Thanks!

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I don’t know who M L Gittings was, it appears he was an officer safely based in Bombay.

A local newspaper cutting tells the story

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A local Ashford, Middlesex paper carries the story.

Undated Postcard Home

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Postcard Home Christmas 1943

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Don’t know why this was typed and not handwritten. I do recognise the signature as my dad’s.

Postcard Home 7th August 1944. 1 Year a POW

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I can only guess at what my Dad was refering to.  Unfortunately none of the letters my dad recieved survived.

Postcard Home 21st March 1945.

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I cannot read this postcard without a huge swell of emotion. I just can’t imagine my Dad’s situation and feelings as he wrote “I’ll make it”

Postcard Sent From Home 1st July 1945. Returned Undelivered

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The normality of what is written is staggering. This kind of information, obviously so personal, must have kept Bill in touch with reality despite the unreality of his situation.

Cable home from Colombo after Bills release. 18th September 1945

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Cable home September 24th 1945

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Letter From The King September 1945

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Army Release Payment

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55 months as a Private serving his country earnt my Dad 65 pounds, 11 shillings and sixpence!

 In an age when we expect so much from life without putting much back, this collection of documents show how much  my Dad and millions like him gave without question or hesitation. He expected nothing in return and in fact only collected his medals a few years before his death. There was no claim for compensation given or expected.

This post is hugely personal but shows how things have changed through the whole of society. I hope anyone viewing this post takes a minute to re think their prioritys and how we all take our comfortable lifestyles for granted. Their are many political and social issues from this period in our history that bring the way we live our lives today into question but they can be saved for another day.

I am hugely proud of my Dad and will continue to draw strength from this period of his life and the way he continued to live his life despite the horrors he witnissed and suffered. I miss you Dad.