Saturday, 27 August 2011



My Liberal Education

Miss Madden who taught me in junior school was - at least I think she was – a fairly cultivated sort of person.  She loved poetry and stories and we loved listening to her reading to us. She wasn’t a beautiful woman. I could see that, even at the age of eight or nine, but she wore nice clothes with bright dangling beads and her straight black hair worn in a fringe was tight to her head as if she wore a helmet. I liked Miss Madden who must have been in her forties when I knew her.

And she taught magical history lessons. How we beat Napoleon and won the battle of Trafalgar; described the treachery of an Indian prince and the Black Hole of Calcutta; and about when we whipped the Spanish Armada and how our soldiers beat off the savages at Rorke’s Drift in South Africa; and about Wolfe’s troops in Canada, scaling the Heights of Abraham, to defeat the French. What examples to all of us. Never any doubts about us and our courage, because we were a strong, adventurous, noble race. How could we not win?

Usually the teachers you like will occasionally tell jokes but I remember only one joke from Miss Madden. In the days before photo-copiers you had to put a ‘skin’ on the tumbler and then turn it by hand and the copies would slowly chug out. But before operating the machine it was smeared with a thick, black, gooey ink which came out of what looked like an oversized tooth-paste tube. That was when Miss Madden used to crack her only joke which, though expected, always seemed so fresh and newly minted.

She would hold up the tube of black ink and say: ‘Darkies toothpaste.’ And how we laughed and smacked each other on the shoulder and repeated the words to each other. Darkies toothpaste. Ridiculous. We all knew that they had white teeth.

Maybe after that we’d have singing and many’s the time we sang ‘Swanee River’ about the ‘darkies’ on ‘the old plantation’. Why children in north-east England in the 1930s were singing about such an alien world mystifies me now but the adults of that time did not question such usage.

Even my grandfather, a jokeless man if ever there was one, used to refer – in what context I cannot recall – to ‘a ginger-headed darkie’ and we used to laugh at the absurdity of the image.

In the book, Mr Pybus the schoolmaster speaks to his class of the glories of the British Empire with the same casual abandon and the same unquestioned assumptions of English superiority.  Note the emphasis on ‘English’. 

'We've got a new world map.'
Mr Pybus was unrolling it, holding it by one hand under his chin until, opened out, it covered his knees.
'And look here,' he said, waving his free hand airily across the surface in front of him, 'this in red.  See it?'
He paused like the proprietor of a well‑stocked emporium, smiling at the class as though he was about to reveal a personal triumph to them.
'This in red?  Eh?  Well, it's all ours.  Belongs to us.  The British Empire.'
Any other day Joshua would have been enthralled.  To learn that he was heir to all that, that others owed so much to him and his fellow Englishmen, would have entranced him. Even today, his neighbour, Michael Lawrence, with no elbows to his jacket sleeves, swelled with the pride of ownership.  The four other occupants of the Windsor desk were equally impressed.  All these darkies they had beaten.  India.  Africa.  Jackie Udall eased his feet in his brother's cast‑off boots.  Betty Wright stopped picking at the purple‑daubed spot on her face; Ernie Pattison's open mouth betrayed his black and broken teeth; and Alan Hogg ran his hand through the fringe in front of his close‑shaven scalp.  The whole class, every one of the sixty boys and girls, treated the information with proper respect and wonder.
'Think of these people before we went,' Mr Pybus told them.  'Poor, benighted savages.'
'Not all darkies either,' Mr Pybus was saying. 'Up there,' ‑ he pointed at Canada ‑ 'they were Frenchmen.'
Now he moved to Australia and New Zealand.  'They're ours too.  And they're white.'
Mr Pybus paused to take a deep breath, heightening the drama of his tale.  It was important to him, to these bairns, to know what Englishmen were doing for people in other places, people without advantages.  He tugged at the ends of his generous moustache, preparing to launch into the next stage.  He would just be brief today, give a broad picture, let them know of Wolfe's victory, the gallantry at Rorke's Drift, the treachery of the Indian prince at the Black Hole of Calcutta, the lack of civilisation before the English reached Australia and New Zealand.  He would give more detailed accounts of each event later in the year.
'The White Man's Burden,' he was saying when there came a knock on the glass pane of the classroom door. 

Enlightenment, Mr Pybus is telling them. It’s our gift to the world.

And it’s what Miss Madden in her history lessons implied and her comment about the ‘darkies toothpaste’ never struck us or our parents or grandparents as other than a really good joke.

And it’s from these kinds of long-fermenting memories that stories come

Hope you found this interesting. Do respond! And if you did, do forward it to others!

I’ll be back next week!!!

And Such Great Names as These by Allen Makepeace
Sample or purchase this e-book on
This book is also available on Amazon Kindle
75% of the book’s profits go to the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association

Friday, 26 August 2011

Got it just about right now

Some of my followers (at the present count there are two of you: there were three until I managed to remove my presence earlier today for I’m the last person who would wish to follow me) are likely to be mystified by the sequencing of the three previous blogs. Simple – ‘Bewildered’ comes first, then ‘Settling in’ and then, the most recent, ‘Blooging Vampires.’ I've had problems! But I've got it about right now!

Tomorrow I shall post the first of several blogs related to my novel, And Such Great Names as These. I shall endeavour to post the blogs at least once a week. The title is ANATOMYOF A NOVEL. It’s not litcrit, not heavy stuff, but it is an attempt to look at the genesis of the story and how my own background in some ways influences the telling of the tale.

In brief the story is set in 1916, during World War One, and the action is located briefly in the battlefields of France. Most of the tale, however, takes place in north-east England.

There are four major characters; a working-class woman who is having a love affair with an officer recuperating from war wounds; a deserter from the carnage of the Western Front; and a ten-year-old boy who becomes closely attached to the three adults. 

So this is a war story, a love story and an account of a boy growing-up in very difficult circumstances.

The book was highly praised when it was first released. See the reviews on Amazon.

And perhaps I may need to tell you that that Allen Makepeace is credited as the author of this book. But I’m Johnnie Johnson and I created him!!


I don't quite know how I have arrived here. Up till ten minutes ago I was bewildered, uncertain which button to press but in blind optimism I went ahead and here I am.  Fact is that I arrived at some point last night and sent off a blog but I didn't address it to anyone so it probably way out there. What I think I'm letting you know is that I'm not at ease with modern technology nor indeed with the vocabulary. I just do not understand so amny of the words of instruction: why do they allow computer people to write the instructions?
Anyway, just to let you know that I'm here though I do not know who will receive this or whether it's just graffiti on the cell door. Perhaps if there is anybody on the outside you'll let me know. Just to say, hello and tell me that I'm not just talking to myself.

Settling in...just

Goodness, I’ve just been away for a couple of days in Holland and I have come back to an avalanche (that ought to read ‘fifteen’) of responses to a blog I sent out sometime last week.  I had no addressees and didn’t know quite where it would end up – if anywhere - so I’m astonished that so many of you have found it. Thank you for your welcome.

I must say that I’m quite overwhelmed and not a little abashed because the sites are so beautiful, so skilled and professional. I have to tell you that I’m not into providing anything so elegant. Of course I’ve looked at the suggestions but they are going to take some time to work out. Truth is I am not comfortable with the computer. Never have been. In the last year or two of my working days I was offered a machine but declined. I didn’t think that a chap as naturally inept as I would gain much benefit and nor would those who employed me.. So it wasn’t until my retirement in 1988 that I began my uncertain relationship with the computer.

In addition to your kind offers of friendship, the lady who looks after my computer needs has emailed to tell me that I have opened two blogs, both named Blue Eyes, and recommends that I get rid of one of them. She makes no comment about the fact that I have managed to follow myself, which I imagine to be quite rare, but I fancy that I might have cleared up that matter now.

I am aware that this is a catch-all blog but I’m unsure of the courtesies. Ought I to write to each of you personally or should it go out as a general blog? Think I’ll try it as a general blog but only after I’ve worked out what to do with these URL things.   

Just a last word – the above is serious. It’s the real me. I’m not playing for laughs.

Blooging vampires and others of that ilk

I never really thought that this blogging business would keep intruding so much. As I told you, last week we were in Holland - well, that's a perfectly acceptable reason for not appearing here - and then no sooner were we back than relatives from US were staying with us. They went earlier today and so I can again get down to continuing my career as a blogger. (In a recent post to another recipient I inadvertently referred to 'blooging' - my fingers are all over the place on this machine - but I fancy it's a very useful alternative, a Freudian portmanteau word - 'bloody' and 'blogging'.)

But really what I intended to say was that I have been looking in some depth at book publications and reviews and have been surprised, though I ought not to have been, by the number of books about vampires, horror figures and werewolves which are now being published. I mean we had Mary Shelley and Poe and Bram Stoker who kept us more or less satisfied with this sort of thing for years and years and now there's this sudden onrush. How has it come about? Maybe the sainted JK Rowling has unintentionally nudged readers in this direction. Anyway, should we be pleased at this development?

Friday, 5 August 2011

I feel as though I've been invited to a party and I'm the only here so far. I've been looking around the place and getting a mite confused. Nobody here but I'm receiving all sorts of instructions and suggestions and I've tried to accept them - it's rude not to accept offers when you're in a new place. And I've done something crass beyond measure: I've got a follower and it's me. I'm following myself. There's a story I read somewhere - maybe Poe (and I'm not throwing the name around to impress you because I'm lost here) - about a man following himself. 
Anyway, I'm going to send this off into the ether though there's no addressee so it may be hanging round up there for God knows how long.
So, here!