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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Author Philip Whiteland

As promised, this week I've got the pleasure to introduce you to Philip Whiteland, who has supported AOS from the early days. Not only is he a wonderful person, but also a great writer.

Philip is a 56-year-old university lecturer in Human Resource Management and occasional outplacement counsellor. He doesn’t tend to tell too many people about this as he is acutely aware of their eyes glazing over as he speaks. He lives on the edge of the Peak District, or, as it sometimes seems, just lives on the edge. He was born and brought up, like so many things, in Burton upon Trent and much of his writing over the past few years, for the Derby Telegraph, Burton Mail’s “times gone by” magazine and Mature Times has featured his recollections of growing up (allegedly) in the 1950s and 1960s. Philip has also broadcast a number of articles in Radio Derby’s “Did I Ever Tell You” series of stories. He has occasionally been accused of humour. “Steady Past Your Granny’s” is Philip’s first, self-published, collection of stories.
Click on picture to buy from amazon.
Steady Past Your Granny’s – Blurb
The perfect present for the "baby-boomer" in your life.
If you, or someone you love, remembers the sheer horror of ballroom dancing at school, the ”flying wedge” football formation involving one person actually kicking the ball and the rest of the team running after him, or chewing gum machines that gave an extra packet every fourth turn, then this book is for you.
Phil Whiteland is well known for his very funny insights into growing up in the 1950s and beyond, from the 'Yesterday Today' supplement, the 'Bygones' column of the Derby Telegraph and the 'times gone by' magazine from the Burton Mail. Other readers may recognise Philip's particular brand of humour from his articles in the online newspaper 'Mature Times'. If you're new to the slightly odd world of Phil Whiteland, this book is a great place to start.
And here an excerpt for you to read:
You remember the classic song, “The Long and Winding Road”? Well, a large part of my youth was spent tramping up and down a very long and very straight road, allegedly the longest street in Burton, which seemed to be a permanent feature of any journey between my home, and whichever pub I was frequenting at the time.
I’m talking about Uxbridge Street. If you’re unfamiliar with this fine thoroughfare, let me tell you that it stretches from its junction with New Street right down to Anglesey Road, if you include South Uxbridge Street, and I don’t see why you wouldn’t. I don’t know how true this ‘longest street in Burton’ tag really is but, having plodded my weary way home on many occasions, I don’t have any argument with it.
Uxbridge Street was always, and still is, a wonderful mixture of shops, takeaway food houses and pubs. I believe at one time it was said that you could be born, live and die and have all of these events catered for in Uxbridge Street. Certainly, in my memory, you could purchase most things. Do you remember Fox’s, suppliers of most things but particularly school uniforms? How about Curzon’s, a tailors shop straight out of “Are You Being Served”? Then there was Kidger’s newsagents where I was a particularly tardy paperboy, and Beales’, a regular cornucopia of animal feed, animal bedding and, occasionally, animals.
Beales’ lives particularly in my memory. As an inveterate keeper of rabbits from an early age (me, not the rabbits – oh I don’t know though), Beales’ was the place to go for rabbit food. The order was 3½lbs of oats, bran and pellets – don’t ask me why 3½lbs, for some obscure reason it was the optimum quantity. Also for hay or straw, dependent on how rich you were feeling and how well disposed toward your rabbit. Hay and straw were obtained from what must once have been stables at the rear of the shop. You took your empty sack or bag and attempted to cram it as full as possible with the dried grasses, ignoring the ominous rustlings from deep within the stable, before hauling your collection back to the shop for weighing. Beales’ always had a wonderful smell and the sacks upon sacks of various animal feeds never failed to intrigue me. Pigeon mixture and charcoal biscuits particularly seized my imagination. All of our budgies commenced their lives at Beales’, well, in eggs, if you want to be pedantic, but at each purchase we were solemnly assured by the Manager (whose name escapes me but I think it might have been Granger?) that the bird in question would undoubtedly be a cock. Each and every time they cleaved to the female gender. It became a running joke!
None of this adequately explains the title of this piece. It was what my dad always used to say to me as he and I, in my misspent youth and his misspent middle-age, weaved our somewhat unsteady way back from whichever licensed premises had been our most recent place of entertainment. My grandmother’s house was situated about two-thirds of the way down Uxbridge Street and I used to always attempt to stride purposefully past this section of the street. Quite why I bothered I have no idea. I think I had some sort of suspicion that, even if she wasn’t observing my movements through the net curtains, which she wouldn’t have been, being either sound asleep or ensconced in front of the television, then somehow she would know. It seemed to me that the house itself pursed its lips and tutted as I shambled past.
Of course, a purposeful stride was particularly called for as you neared the end of your journey, still carrying internally the quart or so of Burton’s finest. Smith’s Refrigeration seemed like a lifetime away from home in South Broadway Street and its beckoning sanitary ware. The Argyll Arms marked the last leg of the journey, so called because by then I was usually on my last legs. Head down and with quiet determination I would march resolutely home, every brain cell, every fibre of my being dedicated to emergency bladder control. It was in this physical and mental state that, one fateful night, I crashed into our entry door. In my defence, I would say that this was a door that had never been closed in 14 years of our occupancy. In fact, I don’t even think I was consciously aware that a door even existed. On this night our neighbours, who had received a delivery of something that had been stacked in the entry, had decided to close the door to secure their purchase. As I wheeled into our entry, locked firmly on to a pressing engagement with our W.C., my world suddenly exploded into an unyielding chunk of green painted wood. The pain was indescribable. I almost certainly broke my nose and developed a couple of black eyes for good measure. With the sort of irony that always seems to dog my life, I was scheduled to have my photograph taken the following morning, along with a team from work, to celebrate the amount of funds we had raised on a sponsored walk. The resulting picture was to have pride of place on the front page of Grants of St. James’s staff magazine. The final illustration of a group of very attractive young ladies in GSJ t-shirts accompanied by someone who looked like the valiant loser in a major heavyweight contest, will remain forever etched on my memory.
The solution to the bladder control problem at the end of Uxbridge Street, apart from a catheter, which would probably be taking things too far, now enjoys a restored and venerated existence at the former Bass Museum. I’m referring, of course, to the Victorian metal W.C. that used to grace New Street, just opposite the old General Hospital. Each night - a dilemma. To risk the uncertain occupancy of the dark, invariably unlit, recesses of this ancient, evil-smelling construction or to gird one’s loins, and any other parts of the body available for girding, and set off down the toilet-less wasteland that was Uxbridge Street. Whichever the choice, the old advice remained – “steady past your granny’s”.

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