My father Jack Spackman was never terribly good at looking after his finances and his role as militant unionist Red Jack in the China Mail industrial dispute was never going to contribute to an improvement in the baseline requirements of a steady income.
In my teens I hit a brief insomniac phase and often ended up in the wee hours drinking endless cups of lemon tea with my fellow insomniac father, whose delight at having some company overrode his responsibilities of ensuring I was in good shape for school.
It was on one of those nights he told me that he and the other seven contracted staff had nothing to gain from the China Mail dispute. “In fact, we had everything to lose. Who was going to employ us after this – especially me,” he said. Continue reading
Every child needs an extraordinary aunt. If Nature fails to provide, one must invent or appoint one. Mine was Aunty Joan. Strictly speaking she was my dad’s cousin, and therefore an Aunt by Appointment. But since she was most notable in my life for her absence, I did sometimes feel I had invented her.
Fifty years after she sailed with us from Australia in 1967, I finally got around to asking what she’d been up to when she left us to pick up her own adventure. And, not unexpectedly, it’s an extraordinary tale. Continue reading
I fell in love with the longbow on the battlefield near Hastings where the Norman invaders settled the course of English history 950 years ago in 1066. I had turned up in 1989, a little after the event, to cover a medieval festival for the local newspaper.
Your Girl Reporter was earnestly taking notes while a big fellow in chainmail explained in some detail the intricacies of recreating the armour and weaponry of Ye Olden Tymes. “And it’s heavy too,” he said as he stuck his broadsword into the ancient turf with a manly smirk. “Go on, see if you can lift that.”
I obliged by failing to budge the thing an inch and that would have been the end of it except for the arrival on the scene of a man in Lincoln green. “Hey Robin, show the Girl Reporter your longbow,” he said and then, in case I was expecting an effete experience, “you have to be really strong to use one of these.”
Well, Gentle Reader, I surprised us all that day.