Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Dads Boss

My  homework  by Micky Edwards (aged 7)
23, Latimer Rd.,  Southampton, England, April 1943.

My Dads Boss                                                        

Mr Sneads fat and shorter than my Dad. Hes got a red, round face and a mousetash like Adolf Hitlers, and a pot belly with a watch chane hanging over it from one pocket on his waistcoat to another. Dad says the chanes made of real gold.  Mr Snead always wears the same dark blue suit with light brown shoes, which Mum says look low-class and dont go together.
Dad works for Mr Snead at Westminster Bank. Hes the chief clark and Mr Sneads the manger. The bank looks after peoples money so it doesnt get stolen by burglers and people like that. When the custermers want some money to spend, they write out a check saying how much they want and then the tellers give it to them.     
Mr Snead and Dad keep all the money in a great big safe in the cellar that has an iron door on it that ways about a ton. Nobody can go into the safe if they dont know a secret number and a special key thats made in two bits. Dad has one bit and Mr Sneads got the other one, and when they want to get more money they have to put their bits together to make one key that opens the lock.
          Dad doesnt like Mr Snead very much, and gets angry when he plays golf on work days, leaving Dad to look after the bank and tell all the people what to do. Sometimes he plays too days in a week. He tells Dad he only does it to build the business, so he can make friends with people who could be custermers. Dad says hes a lazy bugbear, and that when the bank inspectors come every year Mr Snead pretends he does all the work, and never tells them how hard Dad and everyone else does.
Mr and Mrs Snead havent got any children, but every Christmas they have a party in there big flat over the bank. The kids of all the grownups who work at the bank come, and lots of others from custermers families. There are little sardine and tomato sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and lemonaid and brandy snaps and playbox biskets and scones with goosberry jam on them. They used to have ice cream but now the wars on you can't get it any more. Mum says we wont see any ice cream again till peacetime comes.
          Sometimes Mr Snead has a conjerer at the party who can turn sheets of white paper into five pound notes with a little machine. Once my brother David, whose eleven, asked him for one of the notes, but the conjerer said he couldn't have it.  David said why not, wouldn’t it be easy to just make himself another one? But the man looked really cross and went as red as his Turkish hat with a tassel on.  Then he put the fiver in his pocket, made a mouse disappear and took a pigeon out of Mrs Sneads purse.
          The best thing about Mr Sneads Christmas parties comes just before we go home. We all go downstairs into the dark spooky bank.  Mr Snead gets out a cart they use to take the money in a lift from the safe to the counters where the tellers hand it out to the custermers. You can get four or five kids on the trolley, and we take turns. When wear all on it Mr Snead pushes us round behind the counters really really fast.  He shouts out all aboard, and then zoom, zoom, zoom as we go along, and turn the corners so fast you think your going to fall off.  Because we can't see over the top of the counter, it's like rushing through a dark scary tunnel in a fairground.
          But last Christmas the party was different. We were playing musical chairs just before we started tea when the air raid warning siren went off at the bottom of Canal Street. Mr Snead got up on a chair and told us not to worry and everything would be all right, and said to follow Dad down into the cellar where weed be safer. He said not to run, but to walk down the stares where weed be told what to do.
          We went down lots of stares and it was a bit dark down there. Dad and another man were lighting candles to make it look more Christmassy, and someone else carried down the gramophone and started playing records. Mr Snead got us all singing songs like Run Rabit Run and the White Clifs of Dover and Therell Always Be An England, and when weed sung for a while we heard guns firing. A few girls cried a bit but David and me started going back up the stares, hoping we could see the searchlights and the shells going off, but Mrs Snead ran after us shouting and made us go back in the cellar.
There must have been a lot of germans flying over on their way up the river to London, because the guns went on and on. By then, the grownups had brought all the food down and we played blind mans buff and charades and games like that. But then all of a sudden there was a great big bang not far away. Everything shook and little bits of whitewash and stuff fell off the ceiling.
Dad and Mr Snead must have thought a bomb might land on top of us, because they put their bits of the safe key together and unlocked the safe. They pulled and pulled to get the heavy door open, and then Mr Snead said come in boys and girls and dont touch anything.
So we all went inside and it looked like a sort of Alladins cave. There were shiny metal shelves with thousands and thousands of pounds of bank notes in bundles with paper bands around them. There were also little sacks of pennies and shillings and things, and lots of drawers with keyholes in them.
We all sat on the floor talking and the conjerer came in and told us jokes. They kept the door open and it was fun in the safe, and sort of exiting. But we hadnt been there long before we heard the all clear siren. Everybody walked out and went upstares again and Dad and Mr Snead locked the safe up. Dad told us later that Mr Snead wouldve lost his job if anyone knew hed broken the rules and let us go in that safe full of money. Dad said it was reprahensable.
Before we went home Father Christmas came and gave us presents. He was a fat little man with a red face and Peter said it was Mr Snead, but I knew it was really Santa. I got a kit to make a Spitfire and Peter got one for a Junker 87 Stuka dive bomber, the one with the funny turned-up wings.
On the way home we walked along Market Street and there was smoke going up in the air on the corner of Park Road. A bomb had dropped on Mr Gladwyns grocery shop at the corner of Park Road and Market Street. The shop was still burning and a fireman told Dad that Mr Gladwyn was all right but his wife was dead. She was sitting listening to the wireless in their sitting room above the shop when the bomb came through the roof.  There was an ambulance outside with its lights flashing and another fireman said theyd put Mrs Gladwyn in it.
Mum said we didnt need a big supper after eating at the party all afternoon, so when we got home she made us a fried Spam sandwich and a mug of cocco.
When I said my prayers at bedtime I said one for Mrs Gladwyn but David said that was silly, because she was dead. I really liked Mrs. Gladwyn. She was kind and nice and I cried a bit before I went to sleep, but quietly so David wouldn’t hear me.                                                                                                                                    
                                        THE END
Micky  Edwards

Michael Edwards: Good story, but very poor spelling!
See me.
Mr. Smales

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Napoleon labeled the English “a nation of shopkeepers.”  But he was wrong – we Brits are a nation of gardeners. Gardening’s in our blood, we love it and we’re good at it. Ask any group of Americans which nation they associate with gardening, and more often than not the English and the Italians will be way up there in the poll.
True, I may be a trifle biased about the Italians. I’ve seen their gardens, and they’re nice enough, so include them if you must, but they don’t quite match up to the Brits’. The Italian talent’s limited to gardens in the villas and palazzos of the wealthy, while in England the passion transcends wealth, class and social status, which I have to admit is a paradox in the world’s most snobbish and class-conscious country.
There are several reasons why we rate so highly in the gardening stakes. The first is that it rains a lot, and this is what makes the British Isles and Ireland so startlingly green, lending a chocolate-box beauty to even the humblest back yard, and making village cricket pitches look like pool tables. Perhaps this is God’s compensation for dealing them some of the world’s most depressing weather.
Two other reasons are history and good soil. The British have been on their knees and up to their elbows in rich brown earth, sowing and planting and weeding their plots for at least two thousand years. The Romans, originators of the Italian garden, knew a thing or two about horticulture, recognized good soil when they saw it, and so became the founders of an ancient tradition in Britain. This was later nurtured by the lords of the manor and the aristocracy, and perfected by such gardening giants as ‘Capability’ Brown, once a gardener’s boy who, in the mid-1700s, rose to become the greatest landscape gardener of all time. It was he who created what the world chooses to call ‘The English Garden.’
So what’s all the fuss about? What is a typical English garden, and  exactly what distinguishes it from those of other countries? Primarily it’s the antithesis of  the great formal, geometric gardens at the Palace of Versailles, or the lavish and incredibly beautiful spreads of the great Russians, Peter and, later, Catherine the Great near the Neva river in St. Petersburg. To begin with, there are no straight lines in the English garden, no neat rows or circles of identical plants, no disciplined box-tree hedgerows, and no rigid pathways. If you like, it’s the art of deliberately creating a disorder that is at the same time orderly -- a natural but deliberately balanced contrast of ying and yang.
If that’s too esoteric, here’s Dan Pearson, a London gardener quoted in an article in The New Yorker, who describes the English garden style with crystal clarity. He calls it “a juxtaposition of formality and informality . . . a controlled chaos, all tumbly and jumbly, where one plant is spilling and spraying over into the next.”  
In the same article Vita Sackville-West, author, poet, wife of writer Harold Nicholson and Virginia Wolff’s lover (and also, for decades, the gardening editor of Britain’s Sunday Times) explained the difference in just ten words when writing years ago about her own famous garden at Sissinghurst Castle. “If roses stray over the path,” she said, “the visitor must duck.”
The British are pretty good at grass, too. As the originators of tennis, cricket and soccer, they became masters of growing the perfect lawn, which is evident not only in sports fields all over the country, but also in city parks and on village greens, and in every dwelling place from hundreds of stately manors and mansions to millions of modest suburban homes. You’ll find none of that bright-green plastic stuff on the pitch at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, or at the stadiums of top-class soccer teams such as Chelsea and Manchester United.
It should be said that gardening’s a great deal tougher in America, and even the most passionate and persistent American garden-lovers are up against natural forces about which their British counterparts know nothing. To begin with, there’s hardly a single four-footed species of plant-eating predator in England. True, there are wild deer in the national parks from the Lake District in the north to Salisbury Plain in the south, but they’re nowhere near as numerous or as voracious as their once-colonial brothers and sisters. They don’t sneak around the suburbs and open countryside by night and in broad daylight, gobbling up every new seedling and emerging shoot, or munching on hibernating flowering shrubs and newly-planted trees. The only groundhogs the English have ever seen were in a silly movie with Bill Murray, while rabbits have never proliferated in England since an outbreak of myxomatosis years ago. As if all this weren’t enough, American gardeners fight a perennial battle with the weather. It’s either too hot , too dry or too cold. Real droughts are commonplace over here, but rare in England.
There’s a story about an American tourist who stood amazed at the lushness and perfection of the lawns at King’s College, Cambridge. An aged gardener stood nearby, leaning on a fence, and the visitor turned to him.
“Gee, that’s mighty fine grass you got there, sir! I never saw anything like it. How do you do it?”
The old man took his hat off and scratched his head.
“Well,” he said, “There ain’t much to it, really. First you rakes it well and puts down some seed. Then you spreads ‘orse manure and bone meal on it, and waits for a bit of rain. Then you rolls it . . .”
“And then what?” the visitor asked.
“Well, it’s easy after that. You just  go on rollin’ it an’ rakin’ it every day for four or five hundred years.”
And that says it all.