Happy New Year, Jackdaw Spotters

However you decide to spend your evening, my friends, scattered as you are throughout the world, I hope you all have a great night.


And when the morning arrives, whether it finds you beneath sunshine, rain or snow, I hope it is the first of 365 inspiring and fulfilling days. With the odd lottery win thrown in.

See you on the flip side. Remember me in your will.


Pitt Of Horror

I used to be a bit of a blood thirsty kid. I think I may have mentioned that before.

When I was growing up I was a huge fan of Hammer, and idolised the likes of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Sir Christopher Lee, no less. I was gutted when I first heard of the death of Cushing. And, as a horror fan, films like The Vampire Lovers and Lust For A Vampire had everything that a teenage lad could want. If you know what I mean.


I recently read the autobiography of Countess Dracula herself, Ingrid Pitt, the Polish born actress who was regarded as the Queen Of Horror.


I wanted to read her book, in particular, as I knew that her story was not the usual Hollywood actress fare. And what a story it was.

The second part of the book included the usual name dropping anecdotes. How she played cards with John Wayne, rode a motorcycle with Clint Eastwood, and practiced karate with Elvis. But it is the retelling of the early part of her life that sets this book apart.

Her childhood coincided with the madness that consumed Europe in World War Two, and her early narrative tells of a last glimpse of her grandparents and (temporarily) her father, as she was led on a journey that eventually led to her being imprisoned in Stuthoff concentration camp along with her mother. A five year old girl, taken from everything familiar and suddenly surrounded by such cruelty and death, some of the memories related of this time in her life are harrowing. She remained imprisoned there, until, at the age of eight, both she and her mother escaped into the forest as they were being marched by the Nazis to face a firing squad.

They then lived in the wilderness among partisans, until the red army approached and the war came to its ignominious end.

What comes across in the book is the indomitable strength of her mother, who kept going on behalf of her child, with a strength and endurance she discovered because of her child. Together, they got through their hellish ordeal and eventually emerged on the other side.

Although her difficulties did not end there, I will leave it for you discover for yourself how she eventually became the famous actress and writer who was much celebrated by we Hammer fans. Suffice it to say that Pitt’s is a remarkable story of overcoming the odds in one of the darkest and shameful chapters in man’s history.

I read a comment about her autobiography, the original version of which is entitled Life’s A Scream, by a man who knew her. He said that she told him that she had wanted to call her book From Shit To Champagne, but was persuaded otherwise. I think that would have been a perfect analogy of her life journey. She herself said, in one interview, that acting in horror films was easy, because she had seen what real horror was.

R.I.P Ingrid Pitt 1937-2010


Happy Christmas From The Ragamuffins

I’ve not featured any old photographs for a while, so I thought I would post these, highlighting a  charity that has been helping the people, and particularly the children, of Manchester since 1869. Still going today, my wife and I regularly donate clothes, toys, and books that are passed on to families of the area who are in need of a little help.

This is a queue of hungry children, lining up for the soup kitchen, around 1900. Please sir, can I have some more?image

This photograph is known as ‘The Deansgate Ragamuffins’ and was taken around 1880. Look at the poor boy in the middle, in bare feet. His friends, at least, have footwear. The Mission used to give out clogs. Synonyms of ragamuffin are urchin, guttersnipe, and waif. You get the picture, with the help of Google.


A thronging crowd of kids around 1900. A sea of dirty, forgotten faces. If they were lucky, they would go on to live through two world wars.


During severe periods of unemployment, homeless men were also helped. This is from around 1910. It’s like a Steinbeck scene.


I thank you for indulging me in my love for old photographs. May I wish you all a Merry Christmas on behalf of the ragamuffins and Father Christmas, taken around 1930, and myself, definitely in 2014.







The Christmas Tag

Although I am grateful for the nominations and awards other fine bloggers bestow upon me, I don’t normally carry through the questions part. But it is Christmas, after all. So thank you to Nad over at Hugs x Heart. Technically challenged as I am, until one of you show me how to highlight the word ‘here’ to link to other blogs, I will have to give you the full link:


So, here goes.

1.What is your favourite Christmas film?

Around this time we go through the rigmarole of trying to find my wife’s favourite film. She says it is a particular version of A Christmas Carol, or a ‘Scrooge’ one. Old, black and white, set in Victorian times (that narrows it down!) but we never find it. We go through the whole TV guide. Our entire Facebook community mobilises to identify it, but we never do. Personally, I don’t think it exists. But we do this Every.Single.Year. As for me, It’s A Wonderful Life is great, but I like The Muppet Christmas Carol. I think our own cockney actor Michael Caine is great in it. But Miss Piggy is intimidating.


2.Have you ever had a white Christmas?

Of course. One year I managed to talk my uncle (sadly no longer with us) into coming to our house for Christmas dinner. He suffered from Motor Neurone Disease, and rarely left the house. As luck would have it, a blizzard set in while he was here. When it was time to take him home, I went to push him out of the door in his wheelchair, and his foot got tangled in the wire of the Christmas tree. “Timberrrrrr!!!!!” I then had to push him up a hill in the snowstorm, wheels spinning, eyes scrunched against the wind and snow, while he froze in silence. What I didn’t realise was that his cap was down over his eyes and he couldn’t see a thing the whole way. I asked him the following year if he wanted to come to our house again? “No.”

3.Where do you usually spend your holiday?

At home. Always.

4.What is your favourite Christmas song?

The Pogues and Kirsty McColl’s Fairytale Of New York is brilliant, but I’ve always been a fan of Lennon’s music, and liked this song long before I knew that it was by him.

5.Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?

Absolutely not. The Christmas Demon is both watchful and vengeful.

6.Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?

I could re-name them for you, if that helps? Okay:no. But everyone knows the red-nosed dude. I reckon the others resent him.

7.What holiday traditions are you looking forward to the most?

The whole shebang.

8.Is your Christmas tree real or fake?

I don’t like to think of it as fake, more like ‘representative’.

9.What is your all-time favourite holiday food/treat?

Christmas pudding. Just that one a year.

10.Be honest:do you like giving gifts or receiving gifts better?

I’m not one for either. I don’t bother about receiving gifts, I just enjoy the Christmas period. My better half is the shopper. I give her moral support. When people ring to thank us for the presents, I tell them that they are welcome, as I cover the mouthpiece and ask Jen what we got them.

11.What is the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?

Maybe the iPad I am now writing this post on. Connections.

12.What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?

I don’t think I would like to spend Christmas away from home, but if I did, definitely not somewhere sunny and hot. That wouldn’t feel right. Sweden is on my visit list, so maybe there. Ja?

13.Are you a pro-present wrapper, or do you fail miserably?

I am notoriously terrible. I start to wrap, find I have not used enough paper, so cut off a little bit more. Then I spot another gap. It ends up looking like a patchwork quilt.

14.Most memorable holiday moment?

When I was a kid, my younger brother excitedly shook me awake. “Andy, come on, it’s Christmas!!!”  I’m not sure what time it was, but it was still dark. He sprinted ahead down the stairs, whereas I, the sensible one, stopped to first put the light on. There was a sudden flash, the light went back off, and the bulb fell and smashed on my head. Really. Explains a lot.

15.What made you realise the truth about Santa?

What do you mean, truth? Santa is real. There is a consumer-swallowed conspiracy to try and get us to spend more money on buying presents, but we don’t need to. HE brings them, if you leave room.

16.Do you make New Year resolutions? Do you stick to them?

Nothing specific, maybe a general sense of what I want/hope for from the coming year.

17.What makes the holidays special for you?

It’s an old cliche, but family time.

Bonus questions (you can answer if you want)!

18.What do you wish for Christmas this year?

More sprouts.

19.Favourite Christmas smell?

Not those sprouts. Maybe spiced drinks. Not spiked, spiced.

20.What is the worst/weirdest gift you ever got?

I couldn’t possibly divulge. Not in public.

21.Favourite holiday drink?

Mulled wine.

22.Have you ever spent Christmas in another country?

No, but I enjoy reading about how you lot spend yours, scattered all over the world like you are. A kaleidoscope of customs.

23.What place/landmark in your town do you love during Christmas?

The Manchester Christmas markets, unfortunately I didn’t make it to them this year.


24.Were you naughty or nice this year? You know Santa is watching!

I asked my wife-her response was just a raised,quizzical eyebrow. I asked my seven year old daughter, and she said that I’ve been nice. Although I think she is now borderline suspicious that it is I who supplies the presents, and is just hedging her bets.

Merry Christmas to you all, I look forward to reading your replies. Tag-you’re it!!


When Is Holy Wholly Holy?

From this day last year, and all years.

City Jackdaw

In three days it is Christmas Day. Of course you know that.

Christmas Day is considered a holy day in the Christian faith, holy because that is the day that the birth of Jesus is celebrated. So it is Jesus’ birth that causes the day to be regarded as holy. You know- the reason for the season. 

But what if the date is wrong? Would the day still be holy?

The thinking is that the date of December 25th, one of many suggested and argued about over the centuries, was chosen to coincide with the many non-Christian, pagan festivals that took place around this time. This made it easier for the people to convert, as they were used to observing ritual practice and celebrating around this time. It has been suggested that the actual day that Jesus was born could have been in summer, or autumn,  rather than in the…

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