Angry Young Men


Alan Sillitoe: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (4*)
John Braine: Room at the Top (4*)

Two more nineteen-fifties, angry-young-man novels: tales of northern working-class life set just after the war before the sixties and seventies provided an escape route from lives which would otherwise have been as predetermined as those of our parents. Thank goodness I was not born ten years earlier. I would never have had a chance, let alone a fourth chance after blowing the first three.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning begins with a nauseating scene of drunkenness and extra-marital sex … (read full post on Blogger)


Mrs Quackworth (reposted by Smorgasbord Blog Magazine)

Sally Cronin’s fourth and final selection from my archives for her Smorgasbord Blog Magazine is a post from a year ago about a next-door neighbour we nicknamed Mrs. Quackworth. I dont know how she ever put up with our muck-chucking fights across her garden.

It has been interesting to see which items Sally would select, it being hard to know for sure which posts others particularly like. Had I been asked to select four myself they might have been completely different. Thanks, Sally, for the many hours you must have spent looking back through our archives – not just mine but all the others too.

The Smorgasbord repost invitation is here

The reposted post is here

Mrs Quackworth


Until I was ten or eleven I had to share a bedroom with my younger brother. We were sent to bed at the same time, which meant he got to stay up later than I had at his age and I had to go sooner than I thought I should.

It was not even dark in summer. We could hear Timmy from next door-but-one bumping along the pavement on his trolley, made from a long board and some old pram wheels. We were in bed but he was still playing out at ten o’clock at night. That was really unfair. He was two years younger than me.

Downstairs we could hear the next-door neighbour talking with our parents. She sounded like a duck, as did her name …

Read original post on Blogger  (~1200 words)

250 Words A Minute

Funny what you find to read in holiday cottages.

This year among the usual Readers’ Digests and paperback novels in a well-stocked bookcase we found a history of hymns which gave us an uplifting Sunday morning sing-song, and Teach Yourself Pitmans Shorthand, something that has long been a mystery to me: impenetrable lines of squiggles, like Persian or Arabic.

I left the book out on the breakfast table with a notepad to practice. Obviously, no one is going to learn shorthand in a week but at least I might gain some understanding of how it works.

What an amazing skill, clearly equal to skills needed in many higher paid men’s jobs, say, in manufacturing and transport. Yet they were “only” shorthand-typists … (read full post on Blogger)  (~700 words)

Research Before The Internet (reposted by Smorgasbord Blog Magazine)

Sally Cronin’s third selection from my archives for her Smorgasbord Blog Magazine is my review of Antonia Byatt’s novel Possession along with an account of how it brings back to life what it used to feel like carrying out university research before the days of abundant electronic resources and the internet.

The Smorgasbord repost invitation is here

The reposted post is here

Research Before The Internet (as evoked by A. S. Byatt – Possession: a Romance)

The plot concerns two modern day scholars researching the lives of two fictional Victorian poets, and it’s a lot more exciting than that makes it sound – a cracking mystery story in fact.

For anyone whose university days predated the turn of the century, when we had to go to libraries to look things up in books and journals, or even use primary sources, perhaps researching a thesis, dissertation or final-year project, Possession brings it all back. You feel as if you are researching the Victorian poets yourself.

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Review – Stan Barstow: A Kind of Loving

BarstowKindOfLovingStan Barstow
A Kind of Loving (4*)

Continuing to catch up on books I wish I’d read at twenty, A Kind of Loving captures the young northern working-class generation around ten or fifteen years older than me, aged twenty in the late nineteen-fifties. I think of my uncle getting washed at my grandma’s kitchen sink, putting on a clean shirt and brushing back his thick dark hair, all spruced up, ready to catch the bus for a Saturday night out on the town …  (Read full post on Blogger)

Great Yarmouth, June 1960



Early nights, top entertainment and lots of healthy fresh air: that’s what you got with seaside holidays in the nineteen-fifties.

As it’s the holiday season (so I might go quiet for a while), here is a posthumous post from a guest contributor – my dad – written shortly after a week’s holiday exactly fifty-nine years ago in a boarding house at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

(read full post on Blogger)

Grandad Dunham’s Flight Simulator (reposted by Smorgasbord Blog Magazine)

Sally Cronin’s second selection from my archives to share in her Smorgasbord Blog Magazine is Grandad Dunham’s Flight Simulator which like the first is from November 2015.

The Smorgasbord repost invitation is here

The reposted post is here

Grandad Dunham’s Flight Simulator

Grandad Dunham's Chair - Flight Simulator

Like something from the future, it was the most amazing colour graphics workstation we had ever seen. I had got a job in a university where it was being used to understand complex proteins by constructing and manipulating computer-generated images of the kind of ball and stick molecular models photographed with Watson and Crick in the nineteen-fifties.

It came with a set of demonstration programs, among them a flight simulator called SGI Dogfight, which was well in advance of anything any of us had seen before. You may wish to speculate about the relative amounts of time we spent flying aeroplanes and modelling proteins.

Yet my brother had a flight simulator twenty years earlier in the early nineteen-sixties. How could that be possible?

Read original post (~750 words)