I seem to be in a reflective mood at the moment. Now I think about it, it may not be such a bad idea actually to log some memories down before I lose many more marbles. Certain things I see on tv are triggering memories from when I was young, especially about my mum and dad. I’ve done postings about each of them recently and here’s another about my mum which I’m certain you’ll find slightly intriguing…

I was watching an edition of the antiques reclamation series featuring the very unlikeable Salvage Hunter Drew Pritchard. He was visiting a dealer who specialised in mid-century furniture especially from Scandinavia. But he also had some nice pieces made in England by furniture brands Ercol and G-Plan and I remembered that my mum was a big fan of the latter. The High Wycombe-based company were founded by Ebeneezer Gomme (one for the quizzers there), the initial of his surname gave rise to the furniture range introduced in the 50’s. The idea was to produce an extensive affordable range of matching furniture that could be collected piece by piece. But it was only when the company recruited Danish designer Ib Kofod Larsen  to produce a Danish-style element to compete with the more attractive styles coming out of Scandinavia that G-Plan became rather cool and collectable. Mum bought her things from one of Blackpool’s top furnishing stores (in the days when there were several to choose from). It was run by a guy called Charles Wolff if I remember correctly and over the years he became a close friend selling my mum a big dining table and chairs, a fantastic floor to ceiling extending light, loads of amazing carpets and tons of bedroom furniture. But my favourite I think was the  G-Plan labrenza like the one below which sort of provided a divider between the open plan dining area and hall way area. It was of its time but very cool…

But this posting isn’t really about her furniture choices – though she was a pretty savvy collector – but about the effect she had on numerous men who seemed utterly devoted to her throughout her life. I guess if she kept on returning to buy things she would be popular but it was more than that. I was reminded of another very good friend called Ken just yesterday, watching an episode of Car SoS where the guys were restoring an old Citroen Traction Avante like this one…

It’s always been one of my favourite cars, like it’s successor the frog-eyed DS. I did a posting years ago on my favourite French things including these two if you’re interested. Anyway I became captivated because the Bertoni design was just so chic and it was Ken who had one. He would turn up in it almost every other day and would occasionally take us for a spin. It felt like we were being taken around the Peripherique. So Gallic.  Now who’s Ken you ask? Well he was a chap employed at the local electrical suppliers in Poulton-le-Fylde  – a specialist in repairing Hoover vacuum cleaners, indeed anything produced by Hoover like their automatic washing machines. In fact he could fix anything electro-mechanical and he went on to open his own repair business. Now mum did like her Hoover products and occasionally they would need repairing and Ken was the guy who popped round to sort them. I guess he must have repaired things on what 3 or 4 occasions but he must have visited a thousand times for a mid-day natter and cuppa with my mum.

There was also Guy, the guy who sorted out the landscaping of the rear garden. He only did that once, of course,  but would  always be popping by afterwards.  There was Rudi the dashing architect of our home who hailed from one of the Caribbean islands and he was big mates with the Lancashire cricketers, Clive Lloyd especially. I was good friends with his son and went out with his daughter for a while. I think he was probably the only black guy in P-l-F at that time and he was amazingly charismatic and a highly creative architect. His own home was a stunning contemporary build.  Now you’d imagine that having gone through the build and sale process with my mum and dad’s home, he’d probably be done with them. Nah. He’d be always popping by for years afterwards and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t checking up on the house. He liked my mum’s company.

There was another chap whose name I can’t remember but he was a self-made businessman who I think became pally with my dad through the Masons. But he’d come round every Sunday morning in his old Bentley for chit chat with my mum over a coffee or more likely tea. There were many more. The neighbours on either side of where we lived in our first home in P-l-F were Kath & Joe and Lois & Bernard. They became life-long friends to mum and dad even after we’d left and moved elsewhere. But I always remember that Bernard and Joe were big fans of my mum and would often pop in for chat unaccompanied by the missus. Joe especially had a happy habit of accidentally dropping in whenever my mum was sunbathing in the back garden in her bikini. It was uncanny.

Now I know what you’re all probably thinking. It must sound like my mum was very generous in how she showed her menfriendship.  But I can assure you that wasn’t the case. She was utterly devoted to my dad and vice versa which is why he never ever had an issue with all these chaps over the years. I can demonstrate how trusting he was. Firstly I was christened Paul after an early boyfriend of whom she was fond. My second name is Robert after my dad – it never bothered him that that was her preference name-wise. Before she met my dad she had another local boyfriend in Blackpool called Doug. They spilt up when my mum left for Manchester, where she met my dad and married before returning to the Fylde area. You’d think that’d be it. But Doug was an accomplished decorator and Bob, my dad, was the greatest bread salesman but utterly useless at DiY. So Doug was called in every 18 months or so until the day she died to do the house top to bottom, inside and out. And Doug, though happily and well-married himself, would cancel every job he had to take on my mum’s work and spend time with her I guess. And Bob never batted an eyelid.

I think the thing was she’d found people (men) she could utterly trust and that was the important and only thing to her. No that’s not quite all; she did, of course, value their friendship too.  Whether any torches were being held for her I don’t know. She was heck of a woman; fun, engaging, attractive and opinionated. And the most besotted man? Bob of course.


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About Paul

Having decided on a change of life by moving home from the UK to Italy, this is the story and thoughts of a man on a personal journey from the Blackpool Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in search of la dolce vita. After several olive harvests he's now back in London but en route he shares his very personal perspectives on life.

10 thoughts on “Reminiscing

  1. Lovely story mate, and the Traction Avante was our wedding car! Still have a scale model of it on a bookshelf. I remember the drive down to the reception hotel that was really rutted and potholed and bouncing around all over the place in a brand new company Renault. Went down after the marriage service and the Ciroen just glided over them – didn’t feel a bump or spill a drop. J slightly annoyed at the guest welcome, as all the blokes were stood around admiring the car, not her! They admired her later though xx

    • Hi m
      Great talking with you just now S and great story re the TA. Such a technical advanced car. Whatever happened to Citroen’s design capability after the DS? Love to all m

  2. Pretty sure Paul, without checking, the Citroen Traction Avante was the world’s first front wheel drive car.

    • You know Al it wouldn’t surprise me. I was just telling my old boss S who you may recall, that they slung the gearbox in front of the engine to allow them to drop the whole profile giving it its rakish look. A brilliantly designed car and totally French. Looks like its shape was based on a woman. They should have come up with a better name for it.

      Stay well


  3. We all have the time to reminisce right now and you got me thinking about your mother’s love of G-Plan furniture. G-Plan was very popular in Nelson and district where I grew up because they operated a factory here. In 1960 G-Plan bought Clover Mill, a redundant weaving mill, in Nelson and carried out upholstery work there. I don’t think that they made any furniture there but the staff had the benefit of staff discounts for any G-Plan products and believe it or not most of those workers and many, many “friends”. Production ceased there in 1990.
    Bit surprised that you haven’t posted on the current Dom Cummings debacle. I am really looking forward to your comments on the recent do as I say, not as I do fiasco.
    Don’t keep me in suspense for too long!!

    • Hi John

      Many thanks for the history update – very interesting. I never knew GPlan had an operation in Lancs but now you mention it, it does make perfect sense with all the textile capability for upholstery etc. I have only one bit of knowledge about Nelson. My nan had three daughters and one son and long after her husband had died she married again, to the father of her second daughter’s husband.

      Still with me? It was one of those later marriages where two older lonely people marry for companionship as much as anything. He was called Eddie and he hailed from Nelson. He was fiercely proud of his hometown (though probably hadn’t lived there in 30 years), declaring that it was as distinct from Burnley as Barnstaple even though it was nestled 5 minutes along the same valley. We all know that up north that means a different accent, culture, football team, everything. I had no prob’s with him as a proud northerner. I actually respect that. But….(I know you shouldn’t talk ill of the dead)… Eddie was just about the most miserable old git I’ve ever known and far from companionship, he just brought her complaining bickering. And she was an angel. I lived with them for a year ( which is a whole story in itself ) and he resented every bloody moment of it. Ah well it’s all water under the bridge.

      I’ve been v tempted to do a Cummings posting as you can imagine but I just figured that people were probably sick of me complaining about the Gov’t’s failings over this coronavirus thing. It feels like they were just about getting on top of things (thank god) when this dipstick goes and opens up the ‘one rule’ for us/them scenario, which you more eloquently described. Yesterday’s briefing in the rose garden was just bizarre. Why he just couldn’t simply say I was v concerned about my son’s care and I did something which wasn’t terribly smart in terms of the guidelines and for which I apologise. But I’m a parent and that’s what you do under a concern for their welfare sometimes. If people are upset I understand and will tender my resignation to the PM immediately.

      I think people would have been a lot more understanding and inside 3 months (if not weeks) he could be back advising Bojo. I still think he might have to go and the PM’s credibility will be further undermined by procrastinating.

      You shouldn’t tempt me to offer an opinion, ha!

      Take care folks


  4. Eddie’s pride in his home town was commonplace at the height of the cotton weaving years. Nelson only had a 3rd Division North football team but Burnley were top flight. Nelson was less than half the size of Burnley and so had far fewer looms, but Nelson was known for the high quality Egyptian cotton goods and later synthetics whereas Burnley concentrated on cheaper volume weaves so the Nelson weavers, all 12000 of them in the early 20th century, were proud of their own town. Goodness knows what they thought of that Colne lot just up the road.
    As to Cummings, The Sunday Times cartoon caught the mood. Boris at his desk and a thought bubble from Boris “I can’t sack Dom until he tells me I can”. Falling on swords seems to be out of fashion.
    Keep smiling,

    • Great cartoon line. Interesting history about Nelson; I’ve learned more from yourself inside 2 sentences than I did from Eddie in 12 months. I think the Cummings story still has legs, mind.

      Love to Cx

  5. Sorry to keep this on going, Paul, but I got onto my favourite topic, the rise and fall of the Lancashire textile industry and as Eddie hadn’t lived in Nelson for many years he may never have been involved in that industry. He would however be very much aware of the great competition between the cricket teams in the Lancashire League which during and after WW2 drew capacity crowds at places like Nelson, Burnley, Colne and Accrington et al. In the 1930’s the great Sir Learie Constantine was the professional at Nelson and in the 9 years there, Nelson won the league championship 7 times so stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Burnley, as we say hereabouts.
    Chris’s maternal grandfather’s surname was Nelson and claimed to be a good friend of Learie, but then so did everybody else once he started scoring runs and they all got over the racism that he encountered on his arrival in the town.
    That’s it, no more on this one, look forward to your next offering.

    • Hi John

      Of course yes I remember the Lancs league as a lot of the West Indies players had connections with Blackpool CC too. The Lancs county side were a hell of a team in those days too. Great learning about these smaller towns in my old region (not Burnley of course). Btw I used to play school footie against Burnley GS and it was always a tough encounter. But never quite as windswept as playing against Bacup and Rawtenstall GS.

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