Tag Archives: David Newman

A Life in a Year – 1st August, Cigarettes and Tobacco

A significant event of 1965 was the banning of cigarette advertising on television on 1st August and after that Marlborough could not peddle its macho image and Consulate could not claim that a menthol cigarette was as ‘cool as a mountain stream’ .  I am thankful for that because at eleven years old I was at my most impressionable and I am quite convinced that I might otherwise have been seduced by the images that cigarette advertisements used to lure teenagers into everlasting tobacco dependency. 

It was about this time that I enjoyed, or perhaps more correctly endured, my first cigarette.  My friend David Newman had slipped some woodbines from his dad’s half empty packet and we went into the fields behind his house for a smoke.  David’s dad, Harry, wouldn’t have noticed a few fags going missing because he used to smoke about sixty a day and that certainly helped to bring his days on earth to a premature ending. 

Woodbines were untipped and maximum strength and we lit up and I can clearly remember trying to adopt an adult demeanour and puffing away  without inhaling until an unfortunate combination of sucking in and speaking at the same time involuntarily drew the foul vapours into my lungs, filled my brain with noxious gasses and made me giddy and unsteady.  I literally fell over as though someone had punched me in the head, turned an unpleasant shade of green and was violently sick, much to the amusement of my pals.

I tried smoking a few more times after that, as we all did, but I have never forgotten that thoroughly unpleasant experience and gladly never became a real cigarette smoker at any time ever after that. 

As an experience flying has mostly deteriorated in quality since the 1960s except in one important area where there has been massive improvement.  In the 60s passengers that smoked were still allowed to light up a cigarette on board which meant that because of the way airplanes recirculate air in the cabin everyone else had to as well.  To be fair they did all have to sit at the back of the aircraft, a bit like Dante’s Inferno, and puff away together but after a couple of hours there was a horrible acrid odour of stale tobacco and the entire cabin smelt like an unemptied ash tray.  Actually it wasn’t just cigarettes but pipes and cigars as well and this was so bad that even the cigarette smokers complained about this.  Pipes and cigars were banned in 1979 but a ban on cigarettes had to wait for another ten years. 

A Life in a Year – 6th March, School Pals

One thing that I am really bad at is remembering people’s birthdays and every year it is a certainty that I will offend someone by forgetting to send a card.  It is a little strange then that although I haven’t seen him for about thirty-five years I still remember that March 6th was the birthday of my school pal David Newman.  Along with Tony Gibbard David was my best pal and we used to spend long days playing and getting into mischief together in Hillmorton, which was the village where we lived.

The house we lived in was built on an old tip and over the back was a big hole perfect for sifting through and finding old junk and behind that was ‘The Bank’, which was a strip of trees and undergrowth that was good for playing jungle war games.  A narrow path ran from Sandy Lane to Tony’s garden at no. 37 where two trees, one large and one small, were converted into tree houses and frequently doubled up as a Lancaster bomber and a Spitfire fighter.  You certainly had to have a vivid imagination to achieve this childhood fantasy transformation.

What is now Featherbed Lane used to be Sandy Lane, which was an unpaved track and in the adjacent trees was a long abandoned car that in our imagination we converted into a Churchill Tank.  Beyond Sandy Lane was the ‘Sand Pit’, which was a bit of a forbidden zone on account of the large number of rats that lived there.  Mum didn’t like us going there and with her exaggerated warnings of how they would either dash up your trouser leg and chew your penis off or alternatively take a flying leap and rip your throat out was enough to make you think twice about venturing too far inside.  A few years later they built some houses on the sand pit and a lot of them fell down quite soon after because of inadequate foundations in the soft sand.

Further down the road there were some derelict old terraced houses that had been condemned by the Local Authority that we convinced ourselves were haunted, they were knocked down a few years later and some Council flats built there to replace them.  We used to go inside and frighten ourselves half to death exploring the empty rooms looking for their secrets. 

 On the road down to the Locks and the canal there was the site of the old Hillmorton Manor House that lay in ruins surrounded by dense undergrowth of trees and vegetation.  This is where Constable Road is now.   Around the Manor House the bigger boys in the village had constructed a scramble track (a sort of pre-BMX thing) where we had bike races and pretended to be the Brandon Bees motorcyclists. 

This wasn’t my favourite game I have to say because I used to prefer to go down to the canal and mess about on the locks.  This is where David lived and his parents allowed us to build a camp in an old outbuilding in the garden.  The canal was an incredibly dangerous place really but of course we didn’t realise that at the time.  During the summer we used to wait at top lock and offer to open and close the locks for passing canal craft in the hope that we would receive a few pennies for our labours.

School was about three hundred metres away and to get there we had to pass what was euphemistically called the ‘corn field’.  There never actually was any corn in it of course it was just a piece of uncultivated land with long grass that was waiting to be developed and it wasn’t long before the Council built a clinic and some houses on it and took away another useful recreation site.  At the back of the school was the Elder Forest, which wasn’t a forest at all just an area of overgrown vegetation with a predominance of Elder Trees.  That’s all been grubbed up and built on as well of course now. 

David and I went to Dunsmore school together but in 1970 I went on top sixth form and David left to go to work.  A couple of years later I went to University and David joined the army so naturally we drifted apart and I never saw him again.

Tony Gibbard’s birthday was the 17th May.

Dogs – Hairs, Fleas and Rabies

My Uncle Brian and his Alsatian

Unless there is a very good reason for it, like being a shepherd or a police dog handler or something, I have simply never been able to understand why people keep dogs.  I prefer cats because they are so much more intelligent and generally speaking don’t go around attacking people, although I am not including man-eating tigers in this statement, obviously.

Let me apologise right now to canine lovers but I just do not like a single thing about dogs, how stupid they are, how greasy they are, the smell they make and especially the way the tongue hangs out of the mouth dripping saliva everywhere.  What I do not understand is why would people ever think of keeping dogs in the first place? On a pet scale they are just slightly less pointless than stick insects.  They generally serve no purpose, if you don’t keep them clean they can make the house smell unpleasant, they cost a small fortune in food and air freshener, you have to take them for a walk and pick up their poo in a a little plastic bag and worst of all they are a complete nuisance when you want to go on holiday.  Let me illustrate the point, if an average dog lives for fifteen years and costs £2 a day to feed that is £11,000 in pedigree chum and dog biscuits alone.  That doesn’t include vet’s fees and kennelling charges.  I’ll try and put that into some kind of perspective, at an average of £40 for a return flight to Europe that is two hundred and seventy-five Ryanair flights to interesting places.

Now, as you have no doubt gathered, I really don’t like dogs and this isn’t completely irrational because they really don’t like me either.  My dislike for them started as a boy when I was taken one day for a walk by my grandad and on a piece of waste land opposite my parent’s house in Leicester an Alsatian dog knocked me to the ground, pinned me down and stood on my chest with its dirty paws and dribbled in my face with its putrid breath.  The inconsiderate owner had let it off its leash you see and it was looking for a young child to kill and devour.  I was absolutely terrified.  Lucky for me that grandad was able to shoo it off and chase it away or else I was sure to have been a 1958, child chewed to death by a dog, statistic.

The next detestable canine that I remember loathing was my friend David Newman’s Boxer because although, admittedly, it was almost certainly soft and harmless, it always did that other thing that I hate most about dogs (after biting me of course) and sniffed my groin and left a smudge of dribble on my trousers, which until it dried made it look as if I had a nasty little bathroom accident.  Why do dog owners let their animals do that? It’s just not nice, but they always assume that because they like the slobbering thing themselves that everyone else will too.  I really do hate that groin snuffling business more than anything else because I am actually quite picky about who or what sniffs my genitals and I am never very comfortable about the close proximity of a set of canine jaws so close to a part of my anatomy that I am just as fond of as the Queen is of the Crown Jewels.

As soon as people with dogs realise that I have an unnatural and unexplainable fear of them then they seem to take sadistic delight in subjecting me to the terror of their company.  If the people responsible are reading this they will know exactly who they are!

Once out with my mother, when I was about nine or ten, she stopped to chat to a neighbour, Mrs Gamble, who was the local Freeman’s mail order catalogue agent, and who just happened to be walking her mangy black mongrel dog called Blackie (people who have dogs rarely give them imaginative names) past the house where we lived.  I kept a safe distance from the flea bitten thing but the woman assured me that it was perfectly harmless and that it wouldn’t hurt me so in a moment of total rashness I extended a hand of friendship to pat the thing kindly on the head and thirty minutes later I was sitting in St Cross casualty department waiting for a handful of stitches in a hand scarred for life and a painful anti-tetanus injection for good measure.  And for those people who say that a dog won’t attack without warning, you are wrong!  Since that day I have never again been taken in by an owner’s reassurance that a dog ‘is only trying to be friendly’, because I know that given half a chance it will sink its teeth into me and rip my flesh to shreds.

I have had even worse experiences than these.  Once on a beach on the island of Thassos in Greece there was a dog that I sensed was paying more attention to me that I was comfortable with and sure enough it started to chase me and because my mobility was impaired by carrying sun-beds and other beach essentials it was soon too close for comfort and barking and snarling like a rabid beast.  I’ve always had an irrational fear of rabies and what I’ve been led to believe can only be prevented following a bite with an excruciatingly painful series of injections.

If you are unlucky enough to get rabies then treatment isn’t very pleasant at all and involves one immediate dose of vaccine and five more over a twenty-eight day period.  Half of the vaccine is injected in the region of the bite with a great big needle so that’s obviously not great news if you have been bitten in the arse!  Even this is better than it used to be however because in the past it was all injected into nerve city central in the solar plexus with a large needle inserted through the abdominal wall, which goes a long way towards explaining my fear!

Back to the dog on the beach, I kicked some sand in its face but that only aggravated it and by now I was beginning to attract a lot of attention from the people on the beach but none of them made a move to help.  I called for assistance (actually I think I’d lost all control by this stage and literally shrieked for help) and embarrassed by the scene I was making my family disowned me and moved away a discreet distance of about five hundred metres.  Finally I fought it off with the sharp end of a beach umbrella and it moved on to a family of German sunbathers who simply gave it a welcome pat on the head and it was then to my horror I realised that it was no more than a harmless playful puppy.  It took some time to live that down I can tell you!  I still not keen on dogs though.