Soft Ice Cream Seller – Dire Experience!

Long ago, while still a student and still doing what students do, i.e getting a job at the start of the long holiday to garner some money for the obligatory hitch-hike to southern Europe, I landed a job selling soft-icecream from a van.

I thought I had landed in heaven, a job where I was out and about all day long, as much soft-icecream as I could eat and getting paid for all of this pleasure.

To add to this was the fact that I got this job immediately after being fired from my job in a sweet factory (see story here), so I really thought the gods were smiling upon me.

I was right, and also very wrong, as you will see.

I got the job from the labour exchange, and was told to report to the depot the following day early in the morning, which I duly did.

I was given a very friendly reception and I was introduced to my mobile workplace, how it all worked, the cleaning schedule – hygiene was of the highest importance I was told with icecream especially the soft variety, as it bred germs at a rate of knots given half a chance,

My van was really rather impressive, a Ford Transit with a couple of those machines which ooze soft icecream in a rather disgusting manner as well as a large fridge for ice-lollies and other frozen goodies, and most important of all, the set of chimes, which in my case was a rather nasty version of Greensleeves that played only the first couple of bars over and over again – I would come to HATE Greensleeves before I finished this particular job!


This isn’t the van I had (obviously), but it was pretty much the same as this one.

Before they would let me loose on the public, I also had to be taught how to dispense soft icecream properly, to get just the right twiddle on it as it oozed onto the top of the cone, a real skill I discovered, how to ensure that the icecream was the correct temperature to be soft, and not rock hard, or totally liquid.   How to give change and all the many arcane skills needed to be both the driver and server of such an icecream van.  And last but by no means least, i was shown the route I had to drive every day.

Not only the route, but at what times of the day I should be at any particular spot, as apparently it was of cardinal importance to always arrive at the same time of day every day, so one’s customers could plan their icecream consumption properly.   By the way, my route was so designed that I would make two rounds of it every day.  The implications of this small fact didn’t occur to me until much later, but turned out to be very worrisome I discovered.  More about that later.

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More Odd Images For Teachers

Here are some more photos I have found that I felt would be useful for language or writing teachers.   If you look at the following images, each and everyone of them should spark off ideas in the fantasy of your students be they kids or adults.

I try and find images that I feel are sufficiently strange or thought provoking so that they are guaranteed to make anyone looking at them stop, think and make up a story about how the situation captured in the photos came about.

For instance, look at this one and stop and consider what it is you are looking at.   Why is he there, getting something out of the wall, putting something into the wall…?  What is the backstory behind his being there in that strange and empty place?   What country?  When? and so on. man staircase

As you can see, an image such as this can lead to endless questions, and thus, if handled correctly, can generate an almost endless stream of ideas.

Or what to think of this one?

head in hole

What on earth is that guy doing?   It seems to me that there are almost endless possibilities in this image.  Why has he apparently dug a small hole in an apparently perfectly good road surface?  I can imagine that it should be possible to write a short story based on this image, one that probably gives away the reason for the man poking his head into that small hole in the very last sentence of the story?

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Vladiswar Nadishana, Extraordinary Musician

The world is full of the most amazingly creative people – happily – and one of them is assuredly this guy, Vladiswar Nadishana, a multi-instrumentalist musician from Siberia of all places (name me one other Siberian musician….), who plays an amazing range of percussion and blown instruments, as well as developing some very odd, but captivating ones, such as this unlikely instrument, a saucepan lid and a bowl full of water..   Unlikely, but enjoyable.

Isn’t that amazing?  Strange little voice it has….   Personally I find it extremely endearing.

He also plays what I assume is a Siberian version of a Duduk, that haunting Armenian instrument, the Siberian version being called a Duclar, similar name, similar music.

Here he is playing the Duclar with a fellow musician who is playing what I believe is called a RAV drum, a variant on the oil can drums of the Caribbean musicians….

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Where Have All The Flowers Gone? A Universal Song

My wife is currently reading a book called “Gone To Soldiers” by Marge Piercy, and I found myself gazing at the cover yesterday and wondered why it sounded so familiar to me.

And then it dawned on me why…  it was because of the “folk” song by Pete Seeger that was so popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s of the last century, “Where have all the flowers gone”.

So I sat there, racking my brain trying to remember whose version of it I had loved all those years ago,   Was it the version by Joan Baez?  Or the Peter, Paul and Mary version?   Or whose?

Simply couldn’t remember, so off I shot to my favourite music reference library, Youtube, and was astounded to see how many people from so many countries had recorded this song.  I then went to Wikipedia to see what it had to say about the song.  And it confirmed what I had seen on Youtube, this is a truly international song, as you will see on the list of recordings of this song I shall put lower down in this post.

But first, lets hear the original version by the guy who wrote it, and go from there.

Apparently the words were actually from an Ukrainian Cossack song called  “Koloda-Duda”, which had the phrase “Where are the flowers, the girls have plucked them. Where are the girls, they’ve all taken husbands. Where are the men, they’re all in the army.”

Here is a rather touching version of that song…..  Though you would probably do best to only watch the first part of this video, as it goes on at some length in Russian and Japanese….  Unless of course you happen to speak one of those languages.

Anyhow, this song became a more or less instant success, and has gone on since its inception in 1955 to become probably the most famous protest song ever…

However, as I said above, this song has now been sung in just about all the more or less mainstream languages, ranging from English, through German,Danish, Dutch, Japanese, Basque, Catalan, Estonian, Hebrew and loads more….    So I thought it might be fun to have a listen to this famous and significant song in some of those versions, so to kick things off, here it is in Hebrew.

I have no idea what these good folk are actually doing, but nonetheless, our song is what they are doing it to.

And now, we have it in Basque….

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Bill Yates – Images Of 1973 Tampa

A few days ago I came across an article in an English newspaper all about an American photographer who had just discovered a box full of negatives of photos he had taken in Tampa Florida in 1973, and never actually looked at in all the following years.

Bill Yates is the photographer and this set of images of a roller skating rink that he visited in 1973 looking for subjects to photograph while he was studying to become a professional photographer powerfully document how life was back in 1973 for a lot of people in the USA, and Europe too.



Apparently he went out one evening looking for subjects to photograph and came across the Sweetheart Skating Rink by pure chance, went in and proceeded to take a series of photos, most of which in themselves and at that time, were not of any special interest, and he only saw them as a technical exercise in taking photos of people.  However, looking at them in 2016 they have a very different function – they have become a fascinating window into a sort of world that may still exist, but will look very different in so many ways.

For example, look at these images and tell me what it shows that would be totally impossible in the Western World today……

smoking kids smoking kids02

smoking again

See what I mean?

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More About My Life In Films

Here is a further instalment of the continuing saga of my relatively brief experience working in the film industry, carrying on from my gazing in wonder at Jeanne Moreau’s feet elegantly clad in battered old gymn shoes as she busily worked away at seducing one of her guards officers in the filming of Catherine the Great. (follow this link to discover what that was all about).

I finished that post by mentioning the fact that I was also on the sound stage of the filming of Half a Sixpence, starring Tommy Steele (now there is a name to conjure with!!   Remember him?), and much as with the Catherine film, I spent my days being “on call”, which meant effectively doing nothing all day long….    The only thing worth mentioning about the set of Half A Sixpence was that they had constructed a vast old fashioned Sea-side pier, with a full size, fully functioning roundabout on the end of it, and surrounded all of this with a sort of fabric back drop that went around the end of the pier, was about 40 feet high and consisted of a gigantic colour photo of the sea and clouds…  All of this having been built in order for them to be able to film a dance number lasting all of three minutes on the pier…


Exciting stuff I think you will agree..

Money no object

On the topic of expense, I was continually boggled out by the way that money was thrown around in film making.  As an example of this, while I was there they were making some film or other about spies, and in it a Rolls Royce has to be blown up (no idea why, or even what the film was called).   So rather than doing what you or I would probably do, which is to go out and buy an old non-working Rolls Royce, they instead bought 4 brand new, never driven Rolls Royces, and then one by one, using different camera angles, blew them up on the back lot of the studio…

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I Discover The Reality Of Working In Films

Many year ago I worked for a while in the film industry.   Having just left art school I was at something of a loss as to what I should (or could) do to earn a living..  I knew all about making sculptures, but not much about anything else, so I had a problem, obviously.

However, a mate of mine who had left art school a year earlier than I, had found his metier working as a model maker in a film studio, and he kindly offered to see if he could get me a job in his studio.   Obviously the idea appealed to me enormously.   Working in films???  Me?   Wow, I thought, this will be great!  Rubbing shoulders with film stars, famous directors and so on….   Wild!

Well I am here to tell you that it wasn’t great.   As far as excitement went, it was much the same as the sweet factory I worked in.

The studio I was going to work in was the famous Shepperton Studios, where among other good or lousy films, all the James Bond Films had been made, so as you can imagine, my hopes of having a romantic and exciting time were very high indeed.    But it was not to be.

I duly pitched up at the main gates on my first day, and was greeted civilly enough by my new boss, and taken off to what was to be my work place there.  A shed at the back of the studio, in which a number of other guys (including my mate) also worked away merrily.

My work was as a Model Maker, which I had imagined meant that I would be making all manner of highly detailed models of cities, space ships or who knows what other amazing objects.  Well in fact, what it actually meant was the following….   I had to make extremely accurate short lengths of ceiling mouldings in clay, which were then taken from me, sent to the mould makers shop, where fibre glass moulds were made from my master, and then lengths of  the ceiling moulds were produced by the plasterers, sent to the paint shop and painted, and then sent on to the scenery builders, who would fix this ceiling moulding in place at the top of the walls of the set that was being built for a film all about Catherine the Great.

Not really a high degree of involvement in the actual film, sadly.

This was merely the first of a whole string of disappointments I suffered about the world of film making, and the following weeks did nothing to dispel my disappointment about it all.

Every day I worked in that shed was much the same, only the things I made changed a bit… So instead of making ceiling moulding, on another day I would be told to make a section of skirting board, or a length of decorated moulding to go on the door of a cupboard.. and so it went.

One of us got to make a very amazing full size imperial eagle, which I was very jealous about, but he was a guy who had been working there since the days of silent films (I felt), and was thus the senior worker among us modelmakers.   As was often the case in Britain in those days, length of service was judged to be more important than skill, so whilst this old fellow was competent enough, he was definitely not the best modelmaker there, but because of his length of service, he got any good jobs that might come along.

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Military Idiots – Some Truly Stupid Soldiers

While I was looking in Google Images for some photos I needed for a project I am working on, I came across this extraordinary image of a bunch of North Korean Generals, and was so taken with the sheer straight-faced idiocy of those men, I felt I had to share it with you and then add a few more weird and wonderfully silly military people doing what they do best…. Looking daft.

korean generals

How on earth did they win so many medals?   I have never seen people with so many medals that they need to pin them onto their pants….  And to be able to stand there with a straight face as well….   Surely they must feel totally stupid.    But as you will see from the photos that I am about to add, one thing military people are very good at, is looking totally straight-faced whilst doing something or wearing something completely idiotic.

So here we go,

Firstly a couple of photos of the totally absurd dance routine that the Indian and Pakistan armies go through on their border every day as they pull the flags down at the end of the day.


And here is another one…..


Actually, this ballet is so unbelievably silly looking, I have to add a video of it, so you can really appreciate how absurd the military mind can be…  Now watch these cockerels stomping and displaying at each other….

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My Time Working In A Sweet Factory

Many, many moons ago I worked for exactly one week in a sweet factory, and that one week has been a scar on my soul ever since.

It was one of those summer holiday jobs that all students in my day used to take on in order to get some money to have a decent break in the second half of the holiday, and I had managed to land a job as an unskilled worker at a large local sweet factory.

On my first day I was sent to help the guy who made chocolate.   This was intriguing to begin with, as it seemed to entail him slinging apparently random quantities of milk, sugar and cacao powder into three large vats, each of which had three huge stone rollers rotating slowly in them.


This is roughly what they looked like.

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Tytus Brzozowski, Creator Of Dreamlike Worlds

Tytus Brzozowski is a young Polish architect and painter, who paints rather strange and gentle surreal water colours of his native city Warsaw.   Many of his paintings at first glance appear to be completely normal paintings of a beautiful old European city, but when you look a bit closer, you discover that they are really strange…  Houses on stilts, balloons with pianos hanging below them and similar.

I suspect he uses water colour rather than oil or acrylic as it gives his paintings a sort of genteel faded quality, which the brilliance of oils and acrylics would tend to destroy.

Curiously enough, he also paints pictures of the most appalling sweetness and banality, which is rather odd.   Ghastly paintings of flowers, or landscapes or pretty girls, done in the most “Sunday Painter” manner you could imagine.   Not sure why he does this, unless of course it is either that he is taking the piss out of that way of painting, or he is simply a very sentimental young man…   No idea.   But for whatever reason he does this, it is odd.  By the way, he does those sort of paintings with the same technical skill obviously, so they are not unsuitable to hang on the walls of a barbers shop or restaurant.. just not in my home!!!

Here is a sample of that style of painting to give you a taste of that side of the man.


See what I mean?   Competent, but in no way remarkable, and certainly not a style of painting I would bother to write about here.

The way in which he more often paints is in much the same style, but the subject matter is odd and much more intriguing, and certainly worth writing about on my blog.

To give you an idea, here is one to tempt you to read on, I hope……

Pic 01

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