Tag Archives: Michael Caine

No time To WaveGoodbye

If you have read any of my posts you will know that I am a Londoner, and although I haven’t lived in that fascinating city for some 50 plus years I still think of it as home.

I was born shortly before the Second World War broke out and have described how I grew up during the bombing by the Luftwaffe, thinking this was how all people lived.  And it wasn’t until many, many years later while talking to a German Pastor over coffee, that I realised that there were also German children growing up under the same conditions.

Earlier in the year, I wrote a post about evacuation but mainly about those children who were sent to Australia without their parents’ knowledge or consent – Oranges and Sunshine .  A plan that while made with good intentions (?) went horribly wrong.

Because we lived in the East End of London and the Docks were the target of the bombing, many children were evacuated to the country out of harms way.  But Mother decided we would all stay together; I think she didn’t trust strangers to look after her three precious daughters.  We did go to stay with an aunt in Nottinghamshire for a short time, but the aunt wasn’t Mother’s favourite person and we three were miserable so the stay was very short.

The plan was to evacuate the  school aged  children (without their mothers)  from the East End of London and areas around the docks in Liverpool and Glasgow and while it was made with good intentions it went horribly wrong in places. Mothers with children under school age, children and expectant mothers were  encouraged to evacuate.  Official figures put the number of evacuees at:

  • Schoolchildren (827,000) and their teachers
  • Mothers with children under five (524,000)
  • Pregnant women (12,000)
  • Some disabled people

Some of the evacuees had a great time, but of course, many were homesick and ran  back home.  Most hadn’t been away from their homes at all and many had never seen grass or cows.  It must have been a rude awakening.  And some were very badly treated.  They were used as unpaid household and farm help and many were kept in deplorable conditions.

The decision to evacuate was made by politicians and people who had no concept of how many children lived in the poorer areas of the land.  These decision makers were used to sending their own children (or at least their sons) away to boarding school at the age of 6 or 7 and they had no idea that this would be a totally foreign concept to most of the population.  But the decision was made.

Book cover

My very tattered copy.

In 1990 on a sunny afternoon in Toronto we were invited to accompany our hosts to a party on a launch.  Here we met Ben Wicks, a journalist now a Canadian  who had been evacuated when he was 12  and had decided to write about not only his own experiences but also those of other evacuees.  He posted advertisements in papers in the UK, Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa asking for those who had been evacuated to contact him.  He had an overwhelming response.

The book brings history to life as told by the people who lived this experiment and makes compelling reading.  The twins who were sent to separate houses, the boy who slept under the stairs and had to have the fire lit and the kettle boiling for breakfast before the family rose in the morning and even then he only had what was left after the family had eaten, the brother and sister taken to a farm and who slept with the animals in the barn; and then there were those who were treated beautifully.  The two brothers who were treated as the two sons the couple never had and with whom the brothers kept in contact for many years, and the young girl who was given piano lessons.  One of the famous people who was evacuated is Sir Michael Caine  (aka Maurice Micklewhte).  Sir Michael’s  family lived in Southwark, South London, and he was evacuated when he was six and remembers being one of the “filthy kids from London with funny accents.”

In the book this greatest movement of people that Britain ever experienced is recalled  in interviews Ben Wicks conducted with those evacuees who made themselves known to him.  And Wicks noted that an important repercussion to the evacuation  was heightened political awareness of the injustices of the British class  system.

 

Cider House Rules

Dr Larch and Homer Wells

Dr Larch and Homer Wells

Filling in a couple of hours on a cold, spring day, I turned the television on and watched Cider House Rules.  This was shown on a channel that regularly screens older movies.

It’s a 1999 movie starring (Sir) Michael Caine and  Tobey Maguire.  Maguire plays Homer Wells an orphan who was adopted and returned twice to the orphanage that is directed by Dr Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine).

Dr Larch is a secret abortionist and is also addicted to ether which he applies to himself on a regular nightly basis. Homer Wells has no formal education but Dr Larch trains him in obstetrics and abortions and he becomes Larch’s assistant.

The story follows Homer Wells growing up in the orphanage and becoming unsettled, wanting to see the world.  The opportunity arises when an airman arrives with his lady friend who will have an abortion.  The airman agrees to take Homer with him and arranges a job on his family’s apple orchard.  The apples are picked by a team of itinerant pickers and then they are turned into cider.  Homer bunks with these pickers and as they can’t read, reads them the Cider House Rules.

I don’t want to give away any more of this movie.  But would say that if you haven’t seen it, it is well worth a trip to the movies or to get on video.

Having seen this movie I remembered seeing photos of a Cider House in a book that my father gave me years ago.

Book cover

The book is entitled Rural London and was published way back in 1951.  It contains fantastic photos of parts of London way back then.  There is a chapter on East and South-east London and I remember some of scenes as they were when I was growing up in the east end of London.

But the cider house.

At the time the book was published there were three “hostelries” in London that differed from all other pubs in that they sold only cider.

Cider house

The Goat Tavern in Stafford Street

The Goat Tavern still stands in Stafford Street, off Old Bond Street.  The building probably dates back to the end of the seventeenth century.

goat tavern

The Goat Tavern today

We are told that the Goat Tavern is ‘female friendly’ and ‘gay friendly’.  Well, that’s a relief!

Men in cider house

Men drinking in cider house

The “hostelry” pictured above was in the Harrow Road and was formerly a carpenter’s shop that held a  licence that allowed only the workmen to drink on the premises.

This book is one of three that I am delving into at present.  Reading is not the correct word because I read something in one and then remember seeing something of a similar nature in one of the others.

3 books

And I am grateful that I have these books only one of which is relatively new. The other two Rural London and Mayhew’s London are both now tattered and well worn but are great to reread and learn about my home town in years gone by.


“I feel sorry for people who don’t drink.  When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.”
Frank Sinatra

Waking in the night

“Be like a duck.  Calm on the surface but always paddling like the dickens underneath”
Michael Caine, CBE, British actor .

Does this describe my blogging friend at counting ducks? When I read his post today (well I am assuming it is a he) I thought how  profound are some of our thoughts in the middle of the night.

I am one of the lucky people who decide to go to sleep; turn out the light and go to sleep for the next 7 or 8 hours.  Rarely do I waken in the night.  When I do I lie there and wonder what has awoken me.  Is it Lotte moving around on the bed, is it a loud noise from the street, the kids next door finishing up after a party.  But whatever the reason I usually take about an hour before resuming my sleep.

In that time I usually get up and make a hot drink, camomile or ginger and lemon tea and take it back to bed with my notebook and pencil.  Sometimes what I write doesn’t bear reading in the morning as it makes little or no sense.  But just occasionally, I have a break through and one such was my recent poem on grief.

More often I think about what I have done and as my mind settles on a memory I realise just how lucky I have been in my life.  I have seen places many people will never visit, I have made friends around the world, I have a lovely and loving family and a warm and comfortable home in which to live.  And I have the memories of a life shared with my dashing (not so) young, Scotsman.

My friend at counting ducks says rather eloquently that “Ultimately though it’s what you’ve done, who you’ve known and how you acted when there was no compass or someone to judge your actions that measure how your using your brief time on this planet.”    He adds as a conclusion “Just connect with whats around you and people who matter with you.”

This is a profound thought and one I really endorse.  I choose how I will spend the rest of my life and the people I will share it with.  There are some acquaintances that I know are toxic to me and so I no longer have anything to do with them.  Does this wisdom come with age?  I think the answer (at least for me) is yes as it has taken me a while to arrive at this point.

So thanks to counting ducks for giving me the idea for today’s blog. No disturbed sleep last night.  Eight hours solid.

“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying.  It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep. ” Dale Carnegie