Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Time to re-think

It is some days now since I posted a request for advice whether to go ahead with publishing the Iris story...
It would appear from the absence of comments that there is a total lack of interest and I'm seriously thinking of winding this blog up.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Time to expand?

I think I’ve mentioned before that last summer, I was encouraged by a friend to write about Iris. It was coming up to the 25th anniversary of her death and I was feeling so very low. She told me that it would help me to get out of my melancholy so I gave it some thought.
We were meeting quite regularly then and every time we met, I would tell her how far I’d progressed with my writing. I still had about a dozen poems I had written plus a few negatives that had survived the years. With those bare mementos, I cobbled together a thirty-odd page booklet containing the poetry and the pics. I added some text describing briefly how we had met and how devastated I was when she died so tragically. I also added several anecdotes as well.
Another friend suggested I write a blog where I could further develop the contents of the booklet.
She told me that it would be very therapeutic and that she had found her own blog a good medium for airing views and sharing problems. She proved right and since starting this blog last New Year, I expanded on the story and I reckon I must have written the equivalent of about sixty or seventy pages of text about Iris and I’m nowhere near finished relating the first year of our partnership. It was, quite honestly, the best advice I had been given about Iris and how best to come to terms with my recurring sadness. I shall always be grateful to her for the concern she showed me while, at the same time, trying so very hard to deal with her own problems.
I remember my saying that I would never again write another romantic poem but last February, I wrote a Valentine’s Day poem as I always did for her every year. I recently discovered two more that I wrote for her some thirty years ago that weren’t included in the booklet. During the past couple of months, I have written six new ones. I would imagine that I could write a 200 page book quite easily but I’m afraid it would only have a limited interest and would in no way become a best seller.
What it would all boil down to would be just a love story between a man and a woman. (rare these days!) I don’t suppose it would be much different from many stories of that nature, only this story is so very special to me as it is OUR story! Whether or not it would find favour with a publisher, I don’t know. Those of you who read my blog may care to comment on this...

In your view, would such a publication be popular or not?
Would it be appreciated as a biography of Iris or would it be considered just another “Mills & Boon” sloppy?

Your comments are very important as it would probably help me decide whether to go ahead with publication or to leave it in blog form for a limited readership.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


With the end of that first summer, I concentrated on my club bookings. Not only did they provide a cheap night out for us, I was also getting paid into the bargain!
I remember one time, I was asked to compĂ©re a series of stag shows that were just beginning to become popular. The venue was at a private club a little way out of the city and the shows consisted of a series of strippers who, after stripping on stage, would walk around the club audience starkers. In between the strippers, I was on stage rattling off gags that would never have been heard in any pub or social club. The fees were very good, the place was only a few miles away and the weekly shows were held on Wednesdays. I very rarely had a booking on those evenings and usually Iris and I would enjoy a night in. When I told her about the bookings, she wasn’t all that happy about my doing them as it meant that I would be away for most of the evening. However, as I said, the pay was very good and I promised her an extra special weekend away somewhere out of the proceeds.
After a couple of weeks, Iris asked me what these shows were like and one evening, I took her with me. I had warned her what to expect before we went and I fully anticipated her either to be embarrassed, disgusted or both! However, she really enjoyed the show and later, I found her sitting with three of the strippers when I came off stage in an interval. She told me later when we got home, that the girls had recounted several incidents that had happened to them in the course of their work. Some of the stories were absolutely hilarious and Iris was still laughing about them in bed later.
Iris accompanied me a number of times to these shows after that and made friends with several of the strippers including one who did a spot with a six-foot long python! One of them asked her if she fancied doing a strip one evening but Iris said that all the stripping she’d ever done was to a wall that needed redecorating! Mind you, one evening, after coming back home from one of these shows, she did actually do a strip routine but that was for my eyes only!
I originally thought that she’d be jealous of the strippers but it never entered her head that I would go off with any of them. Indeed, she was perfectly right; I wouldn’t. I had everything a man could wish for in Iris and nobody else on earth could ever have come between us.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Memories of our first summer

The summer of 1973 was memorable. From two nights a week, with Iris, I was soon spending four! We didn’t go out every night but we got as much pleasure from sitting around watching TV or entertaining friends, than we did in going out. We still went out quite a bit as I had my club bookings to fill. These were very important, as the money paid for the extra expense of helping Iris with the household bills. It is said that two can live as cheaply as one but in reality, it costs twice as much!
Writing these last few blogs about our holidays has been very enjoyable. They were good days; happy days. There is a wealth of stories still to tell, as up to now, I have only covered the first few months of our partnership. We were together for eight years and in that time, we crammed in an awful lot of living! They were years to remember.
I shall be writing about other holidays and other events. About the time we got ‘married’ and the time we got ‘rumbled’! These, and other reminiscences, should keep my blog going for a long time yet!
There will come a time though, when I shall have to recount the final days and I don’t really know how the hell I’m going to do that!
Meanwhile, here’s one of the poems I rediscovered recently; I wrote it for her 40th birthday.

To Iris -Forty years young Jan. 1978

Forty years and young at heart,
You have not changed since first we met
I’m proud to know you love me so,
And you excite me yet!

Six years we’ve been together now,
You’ve given me all your love and more.
Though years pass by, my heart and I
Still love you as before.

Remembering the early days,
When I first saw you all alone,
Right from the start, you stole my heart
And kept it with your own.

You’re there beside me through the night,
My arms around you as you sleep,
And come what may, for every day
Your deepest love I’ll keep.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Later holidays

That holiday was the first of many we had in Berwick.
One year, Andrea, my secretary, and her new beau joined us for one of the weeks and the four of us had a whale of a time. Another year, while up there, we got married. Yes, we did! It was a memorable occasion and I’ll write about it in due course.
I have often been asked why we invariably spent our holidays in the same place. The main reason is that we made a lot of friends in the area and we never tired of it. Another reason was that it was a handy setting-off place for exploring many other parts of Scotland. We would often go from the caravan to stay overnight around Loch Lomond, Stirling and Inverness. Iris, while she loved Berwick, liked to travel all over the place. I suppose it was because she never had the opportunity before. There were occasions, however, when we would go to other places for long weekends.
I once surprised her by dragging her into a photo-kiosk to have her pic taken. This was before the days of digital cameras and it was the easiest way of getting a passport photograph. I shall recount the story of our mini-trip to France in this blog at a later date.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A very welcome break

I had occasion to stay with a very dear friend for a few days this last week. The weather was warm and sunny and she showed me round several interesting places. Some of the scenery was marvellous and the panoramic view from the heights of the South Downs was really spectacular.
I don’t know that part of the country at all, East Sussex, and it was a most refreshing change. We went out for dinner a couple of evenings and one night, she produced a meal that was absolutely first-rate.
I think we must have covered 30 years of nostalgia in our conversations and all in all, it was a very enjoyable break. I’m looking forward to another visit before the end of the summer season.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Memories of yesteryear

I’ve been enjoying the summer air and writing a couple of articles al fresco on a laptop. I couldn’t help but think of Iris as I was sitting in the glorious sunshine.
I wrote this one while sitting outside our favourite pub in Derbyshire. Some readers of this blog will have been there.

Memories August 2006

Deep in the reaches of my heart,
The memories keep flooding through,
For all those years we’ve been apart,
You know I’m still in love with you.

Those far-off times are just as true
As though they happened yesterday.
I’m never all that far from you,
However long you’ve been away.

Those happy days are brought to mind
When you were always close to me.
Those nights we lay, our arms entwined,
While loving you so tenderly.

A million years have passed, it seems
But now, I want you even more.
I want to tell you all those dreams
I wish I’d said to you before.

So why can’t I just let you go?
And tortured thoughts of you erase?
I can’t forget and this you know,
I’ll love you till my dying days.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Another interlude

Recently, I have had quite a bit of spare time on my hands and I have taken advantage of the warm weather to get out and about.
A couple of weeks ago, I was clearing out a spare room at home and I discovered a couple of poems stuck behind a drawer in an old bureau. I published one of them in my blog while writing about our first holiday together; that one was written in 1973. Another was written in 1978 on the occasion of her 40th birthday. I shall, of course, publish them in due course.
As I sat in the glorious sunshine drinking ice-cold beers outside a favourite countryside pub, my thoughts turned once more to Iris. I couldn’t get her out of my mind and remembering those recently discovered verses, I started jotting down the framework of a poem. As I was writing, I thought about her more and more and I finished up writing two more poems in just one week!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Holiday pics

We took a lot of pics of our holidays over the years but this is just about the only survivor of Berwick.

This is the famous chain-link bridge between England and Scotland spaning the River Tweed. Iris was not very happy going over it as it swayed alarmingly!
Historian’s note… Berwick has changed hands between England and Scotland over 16 times since 1147. Even now, Berwick Rangers, an English soccer team, play in the Scottish FA!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Our first real holiday. (Part 6 Further afield)

Even though we were on holiday, my natural curiosity for delving into things didn’t wane. We discovered several old places of interest and Iris was fascinated by many of these. She was quickly amassing a collection of souvenirs to take home for friends and it was a common cry when passing a gift shop for her to say “Hang on; I must get this for so-and-so!”
Iris was keen to visit Edinburgh and one day we set off northwards and arrived there shortly before lunchtime. After parking the car we walked around the centre and up Prince’s Street in time to hear the mid-day gun sound from Edinburgh Castle. We found a place to eat and while we were there, Iris saw a photograph of the Forth Road Bridge; she just had to see it! We drove across it and toured around for the rest of the afternoon and went up as far as Loch Leven. Iris wanted to see a Scottish loch! Loch Leven isn’t the most picturesque of lochs but it was a loch nevertheless. We weren’t much more than a stone’s throw from some close relatives of mine who lived in Glenrothes. I knew they would be very pleased to see me but to explain what I was doing with a strange woman hundreds of miles away from home deterred me from a visit!!!
We went back to Berwick, cutting through the Lammermuir Hills and found a delightful pub at a little village called Chirnside. For its size and for such an out-of-the-way place, the pub had a very impressive menu. It was getting late so we decided to have dinner there. The steaks were melt-in-the-mouth delicious!
We arrived back at the caravan around 9.30 pm and immediately went out again to the Ponderosa pub! That first holiday will always remain in my memory even though we went back there time and time again.
The days passed so very quickly and it was soon time to return home. We arrived back late Saturday night, tired and ready for bed. When I left Iris on Sunday morning, she couldn’t help crying a little. It tore at my guts to see her like that; however, we were back together a couple of days later. We managed several weekends before the summer weather was over and we were getting into a permanent partner relationship. God, how I loved that girl!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Our first real holiday (Pt 5 Exploring the area)

There is a wealth of lore and history in the region around Northumbria and the Scottish Borders. There are dozens of old abbeys, ruined castles and other places of interest. Over the years, we must have visited and photographed just about every one of them.
At the time, I was using a cine-camera quite a lot and I still have several reels of cine-film together with the projector. One day, I’ll transfer the film either to video-tape or DVD. Once again, many of the still photographs were lost.
Sometimes we would drive into Scotland and explore the coastline. We went to Dunbar and North Berwick. North Berwick was quite entertaining but Dunbar, we always found a bit starchy.
St Abb’s Head was a small out-of-the-way place but there was a caravan park and a holiday centre there, with a clubhouse that we discovered one Sunday lunchtime. It was very lively with an on-site entertainer.
Back in Berwick; we got to know one or two places that were to become our favourite haunts in years to come. One of these was the local social club. It was miniscule by normal club standards with a concert room that would seat about thirty at a push!
This was strictly for the locals and I think that we were the only tourists that had set foot in there for at least a month! After the second time there, I got chatting to the steward about entertainment and the lack of it. He said that they saved money by asking local members to entertain during the summer months in order that they could afford decent artistes in the closed season for the benefit of regulars.
Mistake number one… I happened to mention I was a club entertainer back home and the next thing I knew was that someone has stuck a microphone in my hand and was propelling me towards the stage.. Stage? Well, it was more of a single step up to where a pianist was playing in the corner. I could hardly refuse and quite surprisingly, I went down very well indeed! Several freebie pints later, I agreed to return later in the week.
Wednesday evening, the place was packed solid (about 40 all told) and I must confess I enjoyed it just as much as my audience! Iris had bought a couple of raffle tickets and we won a breakfast consisting of six rashers of bacon, four eggs, some black pudding, four sausages and a few mushrooms. Berwick Labour Club was going to be a favourite place from now on! We went there many times over the years and we always got a warm welcome.
Our days consisted of breakfast around 10am and then out to anywhere we fancied. If the weather was warm, we went on the beach and swam in the sea. We were lucky that first holiday, as there was more sunshine that fortnight that there had been for the few previous weeks. Iris and I both tanned that holiday and she went a beautiful bronze colour. She looked absolutely gorgeous!