Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

There is a stand of trees where I walk the dog. A few weeks ago I was walking under their shade trying to escape the overpowering heat of the sun but more recently, I walked below them trying to escape the wind and then yesterday, I avoided them in order to walk in the sunshine and capture what remains of the warmth.  Still, the trees will be there, summer and winter, whenever we need them.

Last weekend, we lost my cousin Alan, the oldest of Ethel’s grandchildren, which makes me now the oldest of Ethel’s grandchildren.  He was 86 and I haven’t seen him since his 80th birthday, before he was overtaken by dementia. I’m remembering him as a handsome young sailor in the 1950s, during his national service. Another older cousin, also called Alan, was in the RAF during his national service.

National service ran on and off throughout the twentieth century, finally finishing in 1963. My two cousins were among those caught up in the post-war version, which required 18 year-old males (not females!!) to undergo “service” in one of the armed forces for 18 months or more. (If they were due to go to university, they could postpone the service until they completed their course).

Airman Alan reminded me the other day that he had played a role in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.  He was part of the services parade which accompanied the Queen to and from Westminster Abbey.

Now, I remember having the day off school for the Coronation in 1953, but the most exciting thing about the day was that grandma bought a television! In those days a television cost the princely sum of £60, which is the equivalent of around £1200 today. I’m surprised that she was able to afford that. Maybe she’d saved it up through not having to pay her private doctor’s bills – another reason to give thanks for the NHS! Televisions were big pieces of equipment but with tiny screens! Their component parts were quite different to now (that’s as technical as it gets). The parts – including valves – heated up and the TV had to be turned off from time to time in order to cool down. The TV engineer came and set it up, tweaked the picture and left us to enjoy the great day, which, of course, we did. Unfortunately, we got hooked on the whole thing and obviously didn’t give the thing sufficient opportunity to cool down. So, with a certain inevitability, it blew up!

Luckily, it was soon mended and I began my lifelong fascination for all things televisual. It continued through The Flowerpot Men (I liked them because they were anarchic, although I obviously didn’t know it at the time), Andy Pandy (though I thought he was a bit of a softy) and Muffin the Mule (I had the puppet!) to – eventually- Hopalong Cassidy, Circus Boy (an early starring role for Micky Dolenz of Monkees fame), Champion The Wonder Horse, My Friend Flicka and many, many more Westerns as I grew older.

I think my obsession with all things spurs and chaps might have begun when my dad took me to see ‘Annie Get Your Gun’. Now, I can’t remember if we saw the film or the theatre production and I have no idea why just dad and I went to see it. I’m not sure what it was about “Annie Get Your Gun” which inspired me. Maybe it was the strong woman with my name that I identified with but, anyway, I’ve been a fan of nearly every western series which has appeared on the TV. And – I’ve downloaded the Ethel Merman version of “Annie Get Your Gun” and have been happily singing along to it ever since.

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