Christmas Day 1944

By mid-December, Lily was aware she was pregnant, and immediately a much greater dilemma loomed over us. With Ben gone, expecting a baby, looking after me, and living in a furnished room were hardly practical. Options were limited, however. Possibly, we could have moved in with Ben’s parents, but that was probably a last resort.  The only other option was to return home to Belfast. With Christmas almost upon us, Lily decided for the moment to remain in Lowestoft.  She wrote to Ben telling him the good news, and no doubt to seek his advice. She also sent a letter to Pop exploring his feelings about the two of us returning to Northumberland Street. Mail in wartime was very slow, so she had to patiently await answers to both letters. 

On December 25th I awoke at the crack of dawn to find that fabulous Jeep and garage waiting for me by the fireplace. The same jeep I had eyed in the shop window for so long was mine at last.  Christmas morning of 1944 was indeed a very happy time. I had no inkling of the disaster looming over my life, or the events that would shatter everything I believed.

Just a few days after Christmas, the postman delivered a parcel.  It was wrapped in brown paper and secured with string; it had at least a dozen foreign stamps above the address. A thrill of excitement ran through me as Lily placed the mysterious package on the kitchen table. Looking back many years later, I often think of the song ‘Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String’.  In 1944, it was, without a doubt, one of my favourite things.

The parcel was from Ben, now stationed in India, and had taken almost three months to reach us. Opening it was very exciting, just like Christmas all over again.  Lily began removing the string and paper, careful to save both items for later reuse. Under the wrapping was a large, square biscuit tin with an oval shaped lid. Using a knife to pry it open, she revealed a banana, the first I had even seen or tasted. The skin was black rather than yellow, which I knew from pictures that bananas were supposed to be. It was overripe it was almost beyond use, and the best Lily could do was to spread it on two slices of bread.

Small details like this didn’t bother me. A banana was still a banana, and regardless of the colour, it tasted delicious. There were also two very mouldy oranges, so green and smelly we had to throw them out, and two 1/4 lb. packages of Indian tea, which Lily was delighted to find. Unable to remember the last time she’d tasted a real cup of tea, she immediately put the kettle on. Also enclosed were some silk material, thread and needles, a can of meat, and a jar of jam.‘Wow!’ I thought – this was even better than Christmas Day. Opening the parcel was a happy event, and one I’m sure cheered Lily up, perhaps helping her.

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No toys on Christmas

During the war no manufacturing of toys took place. Industries were geared to the maximum output of war materials and essential goods. Shortages existed everywhere, and toys were at the bottom of a long list of priorities such as food, clothing, pencils, paper, soap, and a host of other things. Born only months before the war began, I was unaware of the shortages. I couldn’t begin to miss things I had never had – sweets, fresh fruits, or ice cream. It didn’t mean I had no toys or didn’t receive Christmas presents. Quite the contrary, I remember handmade toys far more ingenious than anything in the toyshops today.

Almost all of our toys reflected the theme of war and its dreadful violence. Boys often received handmade models of the famous Spitfire. Other toys included tanks, ships, guns and soldiers, all made of wood.

I must confess, I have little idea what girls received – perhaps a dollhouse or cradle, again made from wood. The only metal toy I remember owning was a tin air raid warden helmet. The rim had very sharp edges that were quite dangerous.





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On that wonderful Christmas morning, I unwrapped a hand-made cargo ship and torpedo. It was the most amazing toy I had ever seen. The ship was about a foot long, with a small trap door on the port side of the hull. The door was held in place by setting a mechanism similar to a mousetrap. I had difficulty setting it and often required help. Once secured in place, the ship would float with the door partly below the water line. Next came the torpedo, which, aimed at the trap door, sprang it open on impact and sunk the ship.

Tragically unaware, I happily played with my toy in the bathtub while the same thing was happening to real ships crossing the Atlantic. I don’t know who made my ship; possibly it was made during the long hours of convoy duty by one of Ben’s shipmates.

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Weekend Funnies

Crazy Thoughts

2,000 pounds of human hair en route to a wig factory fell onto the highway when the truck carrying it overturned. No one was injured, and everyone is looking for clues as to why the accident happened. State Police, in fact, are still combing the area.

Curious as to why cowboys always want to “die with their boots on,” a greenhorn from the city asked one of them one day. “Well,” said the cowboy, “I reckon it’s so we won’t hurt our toes when we kick the bucket.”

At the last ball game, I was at, I discovered that the man calling balls and strikes had been born in Rome, Italy. He grew up in Rome, New York, and currently made his home in Rome, Georgia. Yup, he was the Wholly Roman Umpire.

I’ve always wanted to be the guy who tests the mattresses. It seems like such a dream job.

Is a giraffe family reunion the necks of kin?

My uncle was arrested for throwing bombs off a boat, but they dropped the charges.

If we’re not careful to conserve our water resources, we could go from one ex-stream to another.

I cannot tell a lie. I’m a great dancer. That’s right, I cannot bear false witness to waltz fitness.

If you trade a sausage for a sea bird, have you taken a tern for the wurst?

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Leroy

Uncle Leroy got a job down at the broom factory.

On his first day the straw boss (floor supervisor) calls Leroy into his little office and says, “You the new man huh? What is yer name?”

Leroy replied, “Leroy.”

The straw boss says, “I don’t call anyone by first names. It breeds familiarity and that leads to breakdown in my authority. I refer to all employees by last names. Now what is your last name.”

Leroy sort of smiles and says, “Its Darling – Leroy Darling!”

The straw boss said, “Now Leroy, the next thing……..”

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Reality of Life.

A Pessimist sees a dark tunnel. An Optimist sees light at the end of the tunnel, A Realist sees a freight train.

The Train Driver sees three idiots standing on the tracks

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Today’s Green Shopping

So let me get this straight. I go to the grocery store and buy a kilo of sliced ham wrapped in plastic, a loaf of bread in a plastic bag, a pack of napkins wrapped in plastic, a Greek salad in a plastic container, a plastic bottle of mustard and a plastic bottle of tomato sauce, and they won’t give me a plastic bag to carry it home because plastic is bad for the environment????

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Science Fact 

If you took all of the veins from your body and laid them end to end, you would die.

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Names 

I phoned my wife earlier and asked her if she wanted me to pick up fish and chips on my way home from work but she just grunted at me.

I think she still regrets letting me name the twins

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Hitchhiking.

Picked up a hitch-hiker. Seemed like a nice guy.

After a few miles, he asked me if I wasn’t afraid that he might be a serial killer?

I told him that the odds of two serial killers being in the same car were extremely unlikely

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A Shy Visit To The Dentist

A shy little 4-year-old came in to the dentist for his first cleaning and check-up. The hygienist tried to strike up a conversation but no response.

After the cleaning, the dentist was called in to do the final check. The dentist tried to strike up a conversation as well.

“How old are you?” No response.

The dentist then asked, “Don’t you know how old you are?”

Immediately four tiny fingers went up.

“Oh,” replied the dentist, “and do you know how old that is?”

Four little fingers went up once again.

Continuing the effort to get a response, the dentist asked, “Can you talk?”

The solemn little patient looked at him and asked, “Can you count?”

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The Doctor’s Surgery 

So, this man called his doctor’s surgery for an appointment.

Receptionist: “I’m sorry but we are very busy and you will have to wait at least two weeks”.

Man: “But I could be dead by then”!

Receptionist: “No problem. If your wife lets us know, we’ll cancel the appointment”.

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At the Post Office.

A woman walks into a post office one day to see a middle-aged, balding man standing at the counter systematically pasting ‘Love’ stamps on bright pink envelopes with hearts all over them.

He then takes out a perfume bottle and starts spraying scent all over them. The woman’s curiosity gets the better of her and she walks up to the balding man and asks him what he is doing.

The man says: “I’m sending out one thousand Valentine’s Day cards signed, ‘Guess who?’”

“But why?” asks the woman. The man replies: “I’m a divorce lawyer.”

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Guitar Players 

A guy at the Pub last night asked me to name three Qatar players.

Easy.  I said Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Jimi Hendrix

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Christmas

Christmas is indeed the most wonderful time of the year. While I will never forget the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, there is something special felt in the air. It’s a time of expectation , of surprise, an unexplained feeling of wonder and joy. Without a doubt it is my most favourite time of year. A time when I remember all my Christmas days from the past. Some were amazing, some were unhappy and some in the dark days of the Second World War. Some are memories of my childhood and some are memories of my own children. I’m sure many will agree, there seems to be something magical about this time of year. The Christmas music and carols ringing out in the malls and stores, the twinkling of lights and colourful decorations. They all add a special feeling of celebration and joy. The warm glow of the church services counting down the Advent candles to birth of Jesus. Of course I understand the season has sadly become so commercialized, yet I chose to remember the older days of Christmas. In the following days I will post some of my Christmas memories leading up to the 25th.
I wish everyone the very best wishes for Christmas, and remind each of us, that many people will have little joy to celebrate. Please think of those less fortunate and offer a helping hand.
God Bless and keep reading.

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My First Christmas Memory

Christmas of 1942 was the first year I really began to understand what it was all about. As the special day approached, I grew more and more excited.  On Christmas Eve Lily put me to bed early with a warning that Father Christmas would not come if I were awake.  Falling asleep on this particular night wasn’t easy for an excited little boy.  I lay in bed worrying what might happen if he arrived and found me still awake.  In my very active imagination, the events taking place on that night would for many years remain real rather than a dream. First, I would hear a strange noise outside my bedroom window. My bed was against the window, making it easy to stand and peer into the dark night sky.

Air defence posts routinely swept the sky with powerful beams from searchlights probing the dark sky. In one of these bright rays, I would see something so incredulous I hardly dared to believe my eyes. There was Father Christmas, driving his sleigh through the sky, complete with six reindeer. I suddenly became very scared. Had he seen me in the window?  Would he still come, knowing I was awake?  At that point I would dive under the covers and out of sight.  I prayed he hadn’t spotted me, and laid very still, hardly breathing and trying very hard to fall asleep.  It must have worked, for the next thing I remember is Lily waking me, telling me to come see what Father Christmas had brought me. All my life, I have retained the wonderful memory of that magical night. Was it merely a child’s imagination?

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Recommended by a Very Important Person (VIP)This is a story told through the eyes of a young sailor who joined the Royal Navy in 1955 as a Boy Seaman 2nd class, the absolute lowest rank in the Navy. Follow his induction at HMS Ganges, the toughest boy’s training establishment in England, if not the world, and his first assignment to HMS Cockade in time to visit Australia for the opening of the 1956 Olympic games. This is a thoroughly amusing tale, tempered with dark moments of despair, as he visits islands in the South Pacific, tours Hong Kong, Korea and Japan, passes through the Suez Canal enroute to Malta and Gibraltar, helps to capture an Icelandic boarding party during the Cod Wars. He dives in a submarine to play cat and mouse with our Cold War adversaries, surfaces through the polar ice at the top of the world, feel the tension in the submarine as it sinks toward crush depth. Laugh at the antics of his fellow sailors and the strange situations they found themselves in. Learn the meaning of the acronym PASAHB, and sympathize with this naive young sailor as he falls for one of the oldest tricks in the book.Whether a sailor or a dreamer of the sea, this is one voyage not to be missed.

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Inane Advertising

It cant just be me that finds so many of the current advertisements absolutely unbelievable. As a really silly example I will offer the following one from CIBC. This ad begins with a young couple who love to travel. However, she is expecting a baby, and the couple start thinking of all the items they will need for the new baby. Things like a crib, baby car seat, baby stroller etc. They begin to worry that they will not be able to travel any more because they will be baby poor. Step in CIBC with this amazing budget calculator, oh joy the couple can still travel and have a baby. Must be some very special budget calculator, maybe I should look into getting one. Maybe not, we are not expecting a baby anytime soon. Oops! Sorry, I have to go, my bank just phone to tell I’m richer than I think!
God Bless and happy banking eh!!!

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Point Deroche

One has to wonder, who, if anyone now still believes in the government trio of King, Myers and Compton. They are still trying to convince Islanders that the Point Deroche is quite legal and fits within the Lands Protection Laws? After reading the weekend full page ad that laid out the facts in plain reading, could anyone defend this project. Will be interesting to hear what smart mouth answer Might Mouth Myers has to say now. This disgraceful attempt to fool islanders has to stop now, and this project stopped permanently and the beach returned to its natural state.
God Bless and keep reading.

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Weekend Funnies

Which Child?’



It turns out that when asked who your favourite child is, you’re supposed to pick one of your own!!



I know that now!



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Storage Place



My son asked if a punch bowl is where you keep the names of people you want to punch.



I usually keep them in my head, but, storing them in a decorative crystal bowl seems really classy.



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Parking Rage



Someone just honked to get me out of my parking spot faster.



So now I have to sit here until both of us are dead.



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Shopping’ (





I got in touch with my inner self today, that’s the last time I’ll buy 1 ply toilet paper at the dollar store.



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Fighting Boys



I was the substitute youth leader at a local synagogue when two boys who were fighting were brought to me.



They were brothers.



I asked what’s the problem?



The first answered, “He called me ugly!!”



The second one said, “That was after you said I had a face like a frog!”



I tried very hard not to laugh… they were identical twins!



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Supporting the Family



Jake had proposed to young Gina and was being interviewed by his prospective father-in-law.



“Do you think you are earning enough to support a family?” the older man asked the suitor.



“Yes, sir,” replied Jake, “I’m sure I am.”



“Think carefully now,” said Gina’s father. “There are twelve of us…”



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Travel Advice



Wife, “I have blisters on my hands from the broom.”



Husband, “Take the car, next time.”



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Going Nuts



A man walked into a bar, sat down, and ordered a club soda. As he sipped the soda, he heard a soothing voice say, “Nice tie.”



Looking around, he noticed that the bar was empty except for himself and the bartender at the end of the bar. A few sips later, the voice said, “Beautiful shirt.”



At this, the man called the bartender over. “Hey, I must be losing my mind,” he told the bartender. “I keep hearing these voices saying nice things, and there’s not a soul in here but us.”



“It’s the peanuts,” answered the bartender.



“Say what?” replied the man in disbelief.



“You heard me,” said the barkeep. “It’s the peanuts…they’re complimentary.”



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Author of LILY & ME , and THE ROYAL NAVY & ME
Visit blog and website?? http://www.irishroversbooks.com

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Ministers Discretion

Ministers are first of all “NOT “:experts, so this idea of using their discretion when deciding if a questionable project may proceed, it’s absolutely inane. Premier King, Minister Myers and Compton are most decidedly not experts on shore line erosion. For any one of them to tell the public that Point Deroche granite armouring blocking the beach, is merely grandfathering. I wonder what they think we islanders are???stupid! Do they really believe they can say anything and we will accept it as fact. I have great respect for Brad Trivers for speaking out about erosion along our shore lines. While he was careful with his words, he was clearly referring to Deroche Point along with other issues. He noted the laws in place and suggested they should be followed and strengthened. He didn’t come out and say it, so will say it for him. King and his gang of grandfathering experts need to think again, we will not stand for their claimed discretionary powers.

God Bless and keep reading.

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