• Upcoming trips



    13-23 January, 2018 Cruise out of New York around the Caribbean on the Norwegian Gem. Note : this trip has been cancelled altogether because of the damage caused by the hurricanes to the Caribbean islands.

    October 31st - 11 November. Caribbean cruise to break up the winter. Note: The itinerary has not yet been determined owing to the havoc wreaked by the hurricanes.
  • theatre and Concerrts

    October 8 Went to BAM, for the first time since Ethel died, to hear a wonderful modern opera composed and written by Matthew Aucoin called “Crossing”. It is based on Walt Whitman’s experience and the libretto is largely taken from his poetry.

    The story is multi-themed, as modern plays tend to be; the first is a harrowing anti war depiction of the suffering wounded seen through Whitman’s eyes when he volunteered as a nurse during the American civil war; the second is Slavery and its effect upon a run-away slave who fights on the Union side; the third is treachery portrayed by a guilt-laden deserter who spies for the South. And forth, inevitably these days, is the (entirely fictional) homosexual one.

    The powerful music fits the story perfectly and the voices of the lead singers and the chorus is magnificent; Rod Gilfry, bass-baritone, sings the part of Walt Whitman, Alexander Lewis plays John Wormley, the deserter, and Davone Tines, whose baritone reminded me, distinctly, of the sound of the legendary Paul Robeson.  Both Christine and I were extremely moved by the work. We newly discovered Walt Whitman’s poetry, too.

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Macy’s Fireworks and memories

When I was an urchin of ten or so, I remember begging my mother to let me have some discarded clothes for Guy Fawkes day, the fifth of November. I would sew or wire the jacket and trousers together and stuff the result with old newspapers. For the face, I’d buy a ha’penny mask, with an elastic band attached, from the sweet shop around the corner. Then I would ball up some more newspaper to the appropriate size and slip the elastic band over it to hold the mask in place. If no cloth cap was available for burning, I would fashion a pirate’s hat out of newspaper and stick that on top of the balled-up paper head.

Incongruous , or not, the resulting effigy satisfied my entrepreurnial requirements so I pinned a notice to its jacket, penned in my best handwriting; “A Penny for the Guy”. If I remember correctly, there was a perambulator at 57 Kimberly Avenue available for the borrowing at that time and I trundled my Guy Fawkes in it to Seven Kings railway station and touted for fireworks money. I would garner, perhaps, as much as ten pence on a good day–as well as a good deal of ridicule from younger passers-by. In those days, small bangers cost a ha’penny, larger ones a penny and canons cost as much as tuppence! Similarly, Catharine wheels cost a ha’penny, a penny or two pence according to size. Keeping my purchases to the cheapest offerings, I was able to acquire a respectable number of fireworks with which to impress (and, perhaps, scare) my school-mates.

My father, who shared my youthful delight in making things go “BANG” and the traditional burning at the stake of historical effigies, supervised the ordained destruction of my handiwork. He would stick an old broomstick into the ground in the garden, then tie my Guy to it and pile twisted newspapers and firewood at its newspaper feet. When family and friends were properly  gathered around, he would pour some paraffin on the pile and, from a safe distance, throw a lighted match at it.

The resulting roar of the flames engulfing my artwork  gave rise to as many involuntary ooh’s and ah’s as I remember at any official display I have seen since! My father usually bought the family a box of fireworks to be let off while the guy was burning. It included one or two rockets, which he fired from empty milk bottles, which would reach an incredible 30 feet up into the air, streaming a trail of golden sparks behind them. Then there were ‘jack-in-the boxes’, ‘Vesuvius’s’ and ‘jumping crackers’ to frighten the ladies with. Heaven on earth for little boys!

Like cigarettes today, fireworks were considered hazardous to one’s health and carried a warning. Quaintly it read: “Light the blue touch paper and retire immediately”! Very few of we onlookers were old enough to retire so we stood where we were, prepared, though, to jump back smartly if any sparks came our way.

The ha’penny days are long gone! I watched Macy’s firework extravaganza from the roof of the Waterford on Tuesday–60,000 rockets  at an average cost of $1,000 apiece were fired into the sky for half-an-hour or more. Very impressive. But I still preferred lighting my own ha’penny bangers!

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THE FINALE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing your story… I too would have liked to see your “guy” light up… I kinda think yours better and funnier than Macy’s. Thanks again for sharing. Nereida

  2. Nereida. Many thanks. Although there were none of the electronic marvels that exist today and none of the rights–I still think that the children of my day enjoyed a simple happiness far beyond that possible for those in the current stress-filled society.

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