I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Friday, 17 February 2017

A new world; the New World

"Stay at the Y," I was told when I reported for work at my new employer in Pittsburgh, late December 1965. Y stood for Young Men's Christian Association.

The USA differed in everything. Britain, now 2500 miles away, had YMCAs but I had no idea what went on inside. Possibly hymn singing and the throwing of medicine balls. In Pittsburgh the Y (see pic) was an inexpensive hotel. But as I walked down the corridor to my surprisingly generous room, old men, clearly retired, languished in the doorways of their rooms. All wore plaid shirts and trousers that started just below their armpits; they watched me speculatively in my three-piece suit, an odd bird.

Later, after a walk, I returned and asked for my key. The receptionist was talking to a visitor about jitneys. The word was new to me and their conversation left me no wiser. What mattered, however, was the visitor's behaviour; regularly he spat decorously into a tin that had contained peanuts. When he left I asked the receptionist if the visitor was ill in some way. Lungs? He laughed and his explanation was impenetrably idiomatic; eventually I worked out the spitting was a sequel to chewing tobacco.

Then it was New Year's Day and the TV in the lounge showed American football, a sport I had never seen. Coverage of the game lasted four hours. Then, quickly, another game began, another four hours. Then another. Dimly I realised the first game had been on the Eastern Seaboard, the second in California, the third in Hawaii. Coverage had followed the availability of daylight.

In my room I opened my portable typewriter and started an airmail to VR, then still in Folkestone, UK, with her parents. I had lots to say.


  1. On that really thin blue paper, almost indistinguishable from Izal apart from the colour, sometimes in a form that could be folded in on itself so bypassing the need for an envelope. I remember these things from my emigré family's past, when phone calls were an unconscionable pound a minute and had to be booked, and a couple of times a year a parcel came containing a reel of tape to be played on a machine of such size and weight it would probably fail the present criteria for Ryanair hand luggage.

    That was in another century indeed.

  2. Lucy: No, I tell myself, this can't be so. Lucy is young, belongs to a later generation. Had we lived adjacently I could imagine myself - via some agreement between our respective parents - "walking Lucy to school". The first hint for me of what it would be like to become adult.

    In fact this gap between our ages does exist but you contrive to shrink it by remembering telling details that spanned these earlier eras and delivering them to me in your posts and - especially - in your comments. You've done it many times and you have an unerring sense of choice in picking facts that will create some resonance for me.

    Did you know, for instance, that I worked briefly for a magazine called Tape Recording Fortnightly dealing specifically with the bulky pieces of equipment you allude to? All that threading of tape.

    Speaking of gifts from over the seas I always envied those with relations in the USA. Post-war, imagining Brits to be starving (and who's to say this wasn't the case) they would send "food parcels" which nearly always contained peanut butter. Often bundled up in the funnies section of the local newspaper. Occasionally the contents would include some product or other that was totally unidentifiable, proof that the USA was truly a foreign country.

  3. Grundig, that was the make, I've been trying to remember. Once my brother decided that he could teach the budgie to talk by putting the required words on a tape loop. The budgie's name being Peter (he was blue) Pip spliced a very taut bit of tape with sellotape and shouted 'Peter!' several times into the mic. It just sounded like 'ee-er' very fuzzily, and the budgie remained wordless (though still noisy enough to intrude on my later cassette recordings, made by standing the recorder very close to the Black Box one piece stereo record player.)

  4. Lucy: The Ungifted Budgie - title for an as-yet unwritten short story. You were really someone if you had a Black Box. Mine was a much cheaper imitation of a Dansette. Now extension speakers in the kitchen disgorge the highest of hi-fi to VR as she uncomplainingly cuts the woody bits out of kale.