James and the Giant Gaff

1979 and my three eldest children share the same pony……a fat would-be Shetland called Willie. That is, until Mr Snow arrived on the scene. Willie was a black, rotund, hairy character with a most endearing habit of lying down to roll when the mood took him, even when being ridden. So dismounting was a skill the children learnt very quickly.

One Saturday morning on a Bank Holiday weekend and  ‘en famille’ we were looking at bedroom furniture in our local store. We knew the owners quite well. All was calm, no piped music in those days, just  the odd couple browsing beds and wardrobes, some flicking through carpet samples. Our friend James, the proprietor , wandering through his domain, spotted us deliberating over a new bed and came over to pass the time of day ( and hopefully secure a sale).

A quiet, respectful and gentle man with a kindly manner, he knew our children well and made small talk with them; hands behind his back rocking on the balls of his feet slightly.Willie I can see him quite clearly as he looked down on my small son and asked ‘ So, what are you going to do this weekend then? Are you going to get your Willie out?’



Buying a Pram


Joyce tells me there are at least twenty charity shops in Chester – le – Street . None of them sells second-hand prams.

But you can get a good one off e-bay for little money.  In the end she bought one off e-bay.

Joyce didn’t want another pram really; well, she did, but it was for her husband. Not exactly FOR her husband,  but to give to him as part of the equipment for his new hobby.

He’s got a cap with a suitable motif on the peak, an embossed tee-shirt,  casual slightly elasticated cotton trousers, for bending and  a pair of non-slip trainers.. To her surprise, the grand-children have taken a keen interest too in this pastime, so they have  the same ‘gear’ too….all matching. The pram was the last piece of equipment they needed. It had to go in the  back of the car with everything else so it needed to fold down.

Health and Safety measures don’t allow charity shops to sell used prams but that wasn’t going to put Joyce off. She still visited every single charity shop on both sides of the main road in Chester –  le  – Street;.well, I suppose you never know. That was while Ian stood outside, hoping for success. After more than half of the shops explained why they didn’t handle prams any more,  Joyce  simply said to the assistants, ‘Don’t say ‘No’ to a pram if you’re offered one……we don’t want it for a  baby. This is our telephone number. Thank you very much’.

It’s exciting having a new hobby. As a grand-parent myself, I can see how there is a definite attraction to participating in an activity with one’s grand-children: especially when it is akin to something close to your heart  during your professional life……well, nearly.  Ian was a sub-mariner.

I think Joyce is happy to see her family enjoy themselves, but, sadly, she can’t participate because of the new puppy. She has to keep  Sheeba at the other side of the lake as they while away the hours ‘of a Sunday afternoon’: and sometimes Saturdays and all of the school holidays.  But she assures me that the dog is really good company and that she’s met lots of nice people at the far side of the lake because of the dog.

Seemingly, most of the other participants have a second-hand pram too  as part of their equipment. Joyce can keep an eye on it from the far bank.

Have you ever seen a grown man pushing a pram laden with remote-controlled boats?