For anyone who knows my Father, you know he has the gift of the gab, which is defined as the ability to speak easily and confidently in a way that makes people want to listen to you and believe you. He is quite the entertainer! This blog is being started to record his memories of family and friends through the MANY, MANY photos he has taken throughout the years. Beginning with black and white slides, to coloured slides, to printed photos, and finally to the digital age. I'd like to be able to keep this in chronological order, but with as many photos as there are, and as they are in such a hodgepodge state, it makes it rather difficult. This will be written as though he's writing it, because he really will be! I'm just moving it over here so it will actually get posted and not "lost" out there. So here we go!

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

The War, 1942

I believe these photographs were taken in 1942. The house in Carshalton, Surrey, my parents rented from a Jewish family who had fled to South Africa when the invasion of Britain seemed imminent. Look closely at the garage door where my parents tandem is visible. I think it is my father standing in the doorway. 



My mother had taken me to Wales to visit Grannie Garth only to find upon our return the front of the house had been damaged from a bomb blast, after which we escaped to the relatively safety of dear old Upper Boat.

Friday, 6 May 2022

August Bank Holiday 1960

I found these photographs which Mom had painstakingly pasted in a book. I would not remove them and photographed each one independently.

August Bank Holiday week 1960, we traveled overnight from Braintree to Wales. No small achievement in those days as there were no motorways.
We had only known each other two weeks before going on holiday to Wales. Mom fell in love with Wales and it
had a special place in her heart.
(The full story of this visit is here, in an earlier post.)


Chepstow before crossing over into Wales.


Grannie Loughor, Uncle Merth, and a neighbour. We had breakfast, unpacked, and headed to the Gower.


The castle at Three Cliffs Bay.




Care for a cuppa?





Rest Bay, Porthcawl



My cousin Margaret & Vernon, who drove us to Porthcawl with Auntie Blod.





There are always strong winds at Porthcawl.


Coney Island Fun Fair.
Margaret was seven months pregnant with Ruth.



Friday, 29 April 2022

James Bond, Look Out!

So much fun and so many memories with our 1960 Bond Three Wheeler Saloon. Fibre glass top, aluminium body, and an average of about 85 m.p.g. with a two stroke engine running on a mixture of petrol and oil. Flat out it could achieve 50 m.p.h. (with luck), but I think that could only have been with an undernourished midget behind the wheel; whilst going up steep hills we were often passed by racing bikes! One windscreen wiper which on occasion needed assistance. It had no heater or radio, and the side windows were sliding plastic. Weighing about 800lbs, two people could move it a short distance and which we did on several occasions.
 
I couldn't afford driving lessons, my father refused to give me any, and the Bond was the next best thing as I could drive it on my scooter license.

 A tiny engine mounted on the front wheel with a chain to the back wheels, but every so often the chain would loosen and miss a cog. Whereupon, Ulrike would promptly insert a broom stick to tighten the chain whilst I tightened the bolt with a bloody great spanner. Two people were required to perform this procedure.

We went to a posh Christmas dance given by the Rover Car Company in Cardiff. Driving into a parking space was fine, but there was no reverse gear for backing out and Ulrike had to push me in all her finery and stiletto heels! Otherwise, it could turn on a sixpence.

On one trip to the seaside, we packed in a friend visiting from Norway, Peter and his chum, Phillip, Ulrike, Lassie, and myself, plus some folding chairs and a picnic hamper. We pulled up alongside a Bentley and decamped much to the horror of an elderly couple lunching within and from the look on their faces must have thought, "There goes the neighbourhood!"

We had just moved into the bungalow when I had a puncture, but of course, no spare wheel. Undaunted, my neighbour removed the tyre from a contractor's industrial wheelbarrow. A swap was made and the replacement tyre was tickety boo!
 
Our Bond was second hand and three years old which cost £159, whilst today I saw the following at auction for £5,000 as they are now collectors items. If we only knew then what we know now in so many ways.


Thursday, 28 April 2022

My Grandparents and Family


A family picture of the Thomas Family, whereas, the only family photograph we ever had taken was of my mother, Annette and myself at Clacton-on-Sea in 1952. Which is why I am forever snapping away as a family can never have too many photographs. Opportunities missed can never be recovered and those taken sustain memories for future generations yet to come.  

Uncle Tom was a protestant minister who after a twenty year engagement, married my Auntie Mary and prior to this they were staying in Upper Boat when my sister was born during a snow storm. The next morning, Auntie Mary took me to see my little sister, whereupon, instead I dashed outside to look for Mother Goose and her mighty fine gander, inasmuch, EVERYONE knew she brought the snow. I didn't know Uncle Tom too well as being a clergyman I always held him in awe and he told me I talked too much!!! Imagine that! He also suggested I go in for the church or politics!

Uncle Tom christened me at the Ebenezer Chapel in Garth, and I was to be named Alan. However, en route to the christening, my mother had a change of heart and I was christened Paul, although I never followed in his footsteps! By a twist of fate, my best friend for the last 71 years was to have been christened Paul, but at the last minute his mother decided upon Alan. The ever fickle finger of fate.

Auntie Blod was the backbone of the family, with a heart of gold and her house always had a pot of tea on the ready and a welcome second to none. So much happiness and memories from Alfred Street, and Eiluned and Margaret who taught me to ride a bike and indulged my madcap ways. Suppers of fried cold potatoes and cabbage, but Spam or corned beef with lots of pickled onions and lashings of piccalilli, followed by endless cups of tea whilst family history was discussed when a nod was as good as a wink when it came to a bit of scandal. I was closest to Eiluned and Margaret than to any of my cousins. Yesterday, and again today, I enjoyed a long telephone call with Margaret, who I hadn't spoken to since 1988, and together we travelled back through the passage of time to Maesteg in those wonderful days when there was so much less, but so much more.

Auntie Mag lived high above on Golden Terrace and she was a class act, full of fun and I remember a mischievous twinkle in her eye and sadly died far too young, but according to mother, she was quite a prankster. Auntie Mag had three children, William Samuel, Doreen and David. William Samuel and his wife Thelma visited us at Colesville and LaVale. Her grandson, Peter, came visit us in Colesville for a holiday, stayed in America, married Nancy, and now live in Ohio with their family.

Auntie Kate settled in Coventry and in those days, for a visit one might have as easily sailed to Ireland and no recollection of her until she came with Auntie Liz to stay with us in Colesville for a month. I could write a book about that visit, and boy was she wicked with a fantastic sense of humour! Auntie Kate had four sons, Cynwyd, Ronald, John and Gwyn. Cynwyd I hero worshipped as a kid when he came to Upper Boat in his RAF uniform and gave me his Boy Scout knife. Ronald and John I knew just a little, and I never met Gwyn, more is the pity. John came to Upper Boat on holiday and we caught frogs in the canal. He ended up with a big toad and myself a little frog which we put overnight in adjoining jam jars only for his toad to climb out and eat my frog. Of course, I held him responsible for the act of cannibalism which was never forgotten! During the war, Cynwyd was evacuated to Auntie Liz, and Ronald to Auntie Blod.

Auntie Liz is where we stayed when visiting Llangynwyd and a very direct, "lump it or leave it lady", but the salt of the earth, strict and who called a spade a spade but very caring. Auntie Liz came thrice to America; the second time for Uwe's christening. During her third American holiday with Auntie Kate, they insisted on having a cup of tea in Ocean City, Maryland, despite my misgivings. The good ladies spat it out in disgust calling it "pishoo crix" which is an acceptable Welsh term for "gnat's piss!"
Americans make excellent coffee, but the most awful tea one can imagine! Auntie Liz had two daughters, Joan and Megan, and they both visited us in Colesville with their families.

Uncle Will, the youngest son, moved to Leytonstone after serving in the British Army throughout Burma during the war. Rugged and a "Man's Man" who brooked no nonsense and with strong socialist values, but an uncle I greatly respected. Uncle Will had one daughter, Megan, who is a lot like her grandfather with a very droll sense of humour!

Grannie Garth, of whom I have no recollection, although I have vague memories of the house and falling downstairs. There were buffalo horns on the wall atop the stairs, which apparently frightened me. A deeply religious woman and the sabbath was indeed holy with food prepared on Saturday night to be cooked for Sunday dinner with pots, pans, etc, put in the sink and covered up for washing on Monday. Thou shall not work on the sabbath.

Grandpa Garth, a retired coal miner, died shortly after this picture was taken and how my mother worshipped him. A deacon in Ebeneezer Chapel, and lay preacher who had an ear for music which despite his lack of formal training could play the piano and compose music. He gave elocution lessons and maintained those who could speak Welsh spoke the best enunciated English. We could do with him today!! Grandpa Garth was a rascal with an inordinate sense of humour and brought home a monkey, but that is another story. He loved playing tricks and one night his butties were returning home over the mountain from their shift at the pit when he jumped out covered in a sheet, uttering fiendish shrieks and sending them fleeing in terror to the valley below. So many stories my mother told me of Grandpa Garth which would take too much time to recall and wish I had known him as he was quite a character.

Gwynneth, my lovely mother died far, far, far too young and was such a beautiful girl as the picture attests. She adored Peter and Astrid, and we were thrilled when they came on holiday to Virginia in the summer of 1970, but she died the following spring after they had booked their flight to come over that summer. To this day I miss her, and my fondest memories are from Upper Boat where I enjoyed a childhood in the mountains second to none with clear memories of popular songs from the 1940's which Mam always sang along with on the radio.

Auntie Muriel was a renegade and moved to Hartland after the war, and hence my connection and the family's love for Hartland. This lady took no prisoners and God help anyone who fell out of favour as she was a woman to be reckoned with, but after saying that we always received a fantastic welcome on our visits to the west country. Then again, she was my godmother although legend has it she declared herself for that role and nobody dared gainsay her! Upon Uncle Tommy's retirement, the local council proposed awarding him a watch for long and faithful service, whereupon, Auntie Muriel stood up and told the council to stick the watch up their respective nether regions (but not so diplomatically) and they wanted the money! Donald Trump would have loved her! Auntie Muriel had two sons, John and Michael, and her grandson spent a summer in LaVale with us.

These are my recollections and I have a hyraeth for Wales, which with Ulrike's passing is ever more so, but one would have to be Welsh to understand. Peter and Uwe missed out on that!

Monday, 25 April 2022

The Beginning

The Beginning...

Ulrike left Germany at eighteen, speaking almost no English and giving up the position of a legal secretary to work as a domestic at Black Notley Hospital in Braintree, Essex, to learn English; which still amazes me whenever I think about it. 
Nurses Home at Black Notley Hospital in 1960

The view from her room


Vati said she only had to pick up the phone and money would be cabled immediately to the hospital for her return to Germany. Ulrike said that made her more than ever determined that come what may she would stay the planned two years in Britain to get her certification in English, thence to France for two years, with another two in Italy when she could return to Germany to a highly paid position in the government or private industry. The only fly in the ointment was me, and I'll never to this day understand why she picked me as she had some very handsome, successful, and wealthy boyfriends in Frankfurt; one actually met her in London the week after we had met. 0h, the ever fickle finger of fate as she could have had a much, much easier life in old Germany, but so happy she picked me.




Sixty one years ago (August 31, 1960), we had only known each other two weeks, when we arrived in Loughor on an August Bank Holiday Monday from Braintree on my Vespa. Back then there were no motorways or Severn Bridge, and we traveled 252 miles through the night. I had a list of towns we would pass through; Dunmow, Bishops Stortford, Aylesbury, the Cotswolds, Cheltenham, Chepstow, Cardiff to Swansea and 'twas a totally different world back then.
       Unpacked the scooter, hugs and kisses from Grannie Loughor who hurriedly made sandwiches and after packing an apple tart and thermos of tea, we left for the Gower, only for the clutch to burn out upon arrival a few miles from the coast. Nonetheless, we had a wonderful day despite having to carry a heavy blanket and a hamper of food, towels, etc., and stayed on the beach until evening.
       The worst day of the year to break down and we queued forever to get on a bus with other holiday makers to Swansea, as in those days cars were a luxury and most people used public transportation. Queued again for the Loughor bus and it was dark when we returned to Gwyder Place where Uncle Idwal arranged for the local garage to pick up the Vespa, but it took almost a week to be repaired.
     Thus, we headed by bus to Maesteg (three buses as a matter of fact) to meet the family who adored Mom and she won their hearts. My cousin, seven months pregnant, insisted we visit Porthcawl where she proceeded to go with Mom on the roller coaster and other rides! The following day we returned again to Porthcawl by bus where Mom contemplated kidnapping a Corgi but that's another story! 
The Welsh Corgi adopted us for several hours


Thence back to Loughor where Mom met the Griffiths side of the family; bowled them all over and 'twas time to head back to Braintree.
     Mom noticed the difference between the English and the Welsh; inasmuch, the English were friendly but reserved, whereas, the Welsh loved to hug and kiss!! Four months later we were married and August, 1962, returned to live in Wales, leaving for America in August, 1969, but it all began early August, 1960, through the ever fickle finger of fate when we met for the very first time. Sometimes fairy tales really do happen.

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Those Precious Hands 🙏

I originally wrote this for my Momma nine years ago in February 2013.
I have since added to it.


These hands held me as a baby.
These hands carried me when I was tired.
These hands comforted me when I cried.
These hands tucked me in bed.
These hands fed me when I wouldn't eat.
These hands held my hand when I walked.
These hands picked me up when I fell.
These hands helped me get dressed.
These hands scratched my back whenever I asked.
These hands spanked me when I needed it.
These hands helped me to swim.
These hands made my dolls clothes.
These hands knitted our treasured afghans.
These hands held all three of my babies.
These hands still make the German pancakes I love.
These hands still try to pinch my bottom.
These hands still hug me tight.
These hands, I love these hands.
I love you, Mom.


These hands are now in the hands of Jesus, who she loved so very much and was so looking forward to being with.
These hands are free of pain and deformity that she had to endure for so long.
These hands are now holding the hands of loved ones who have gone before her.
I believe these hands are now covering us with her love and prayers, waiting to hold us once again when it's our turn to join her.
I love you, I miss you, and will treasure my memories of you, my most precious Momma.
I wish I could hug you one more time.

Friday, 10 December 2021

An introduction

For anyone who knows my Father, you know he has the gift of the gab, which is defined as the ability to speak easily and confidently in a way that makes people want to listen to you and believe you. He is quite the entertainer!

This blog is being started to record his memories of family and friends through the MANY, MANY photos he has taken throughout the years. Beginning with black and white slides, to coloured slides, to printed photos, and finally to the digital age. 

I'd like to be able to keep this in chronological order, but with as many photos as there are, and as they are in such a hodgepodge state, it makes it rather difficult.

This will be written as though he's writing it, because he really will be! I'm just moving it over here so it will actually get posted and not "lost" out there.
So here we go!

********

My parents had a tandem and sidecar, cycling for miles into the countryside from Carshalton. This was in 1942 when London (just 12 miles away) was being bombed at the height of World War II. We would ultimately move to the relative safety of dear old Wales.

This is the only family photograph my father ever took.


Here's Ulrike in London, 1959, before meeting me.

Shopping in Braintree, 1959, a year before we met.