Had He Only Known!

A Belisha beacon was an amber-coloured globe lamp atop a tall black and white pole, marking pedestrian crossings of roads in the United Kingdom, Ireland and in other countries historically influenced by Britain. The flashing light warned motorists that this was a pedestrian crossing.

It was named after Leslie Hore-Belisha, the Minister of Transport who in 1934 added beacons to pedestrian crossings, marked by large metal studs in the road surface. The first one became operational on July 4, 1935.

These crossings were later painted in black and white stripes, thus are known as zebra crossings. Legally pedestrians have priority (over wheeled traffic) on such crossings. (I believe they’ve been replaced over the years by WALK signals for pedestrians.)

This little incident apparently happened not long after Belisha beacons were set up in London. The King and his Queen were enjoying a pleasant drive through the city in the royal limousine when they passed an intersection where one of these lights had been installed.

“Pull over up ahead,” King Edward instructed their chauffeur. Then his said to his wife, “I want to try walking across at one of these crossings and see how it actually works.”

The chauffeur stopped the car and the King got out. He walked back up the street to the crossing and about five minutes later he returned.

As he climbed back into the car he was chuckling. The Queen looked at him curiously and asked, “What’s so amusing?”

He grinned at her. “One of my loyal subjects just called me a doddering old fool.”

It pays to use kind words. 🙂

This is my response to today’s Ragtag prompt: UNAWARE

Life’s Wonderful Things

A joke or a song or a handshake,
a letter that comforts or cheers;
a meeting or parting, more precious
because of the smiles or the tears.

A five minutes’ sit after dinner,
a “Thank you” that lends the heart wings;
all these are but trifles, yet surely
they’re also life’s wonderful things!

Author Unknown
From the 1969 Friendship Book of Francis Gay

“Are You A Nazi?”

An old BeeGees song comes to mind:
“It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.”
Or
to praise and honour you
to despise and insult you
to blame and incriminate you
to acquit and justify you
to inspire and encourage you

WORDS: Comfort or Cudgel?

Fandango’s prompt word for today is REPRESS
Words are our tools, with which we express, impress, repress
— or resist repression.

ME? A NAZI?

I was working at the doughnut shop one evening, doing a bit of clean-up during a slack time, when one of my co-workers, a young man in his early 20s, walked in. Totally off work and out of uniform, he strolled behind the counter — where he had no business being.

At almost the same moment the staff entrance door at the back opened an ex-employee strode in quite purposefully. He’d quit several months before, so he certainly had no business coming in that entrance. Age: mid-thirties, wearing a long black trench coat, he walked behind the counter like he owned the place and helped himself to a jumbo coffee. Then he turned and handed the first co-worker a fat roll of bills and left by the back door again. My co-worker pocketed the cash and remained standing behind the counter.

I was initially stunned. This was a flagrant violation of our rule about being on shift and in uniform when behind the counter. They were also displaying a major contempt for me — a contempt I’d often felt while working with either of them in the past. I didn’t see the need to speak, since neither of those guys were going to listen to a word I said. You don’t need to say one word to show your contempt for someone. I had a strong suspicion what this was all about, which made it all the more insulting. They were dealing right in my face, as it were.

A moment later I protested to my co-worker that he had no business being behind the counter in street clothes. Maybe he saw me as repressive because he lipped off with this reply: “What are you, a Nazi? Are you the Gestapo?”

I put on my best German accent and answered, “You haff to obey ze ru-els.” His response was a disgusted snort and he walked out.

Could I have claimed “defamation of character”? Since I’m not a racist nor a German, I could hardly be a Nazi. And since I’m not a member of Hitler’s private police, I couldn’t be one of the Gestapo.

Alas! We seem to be in an era where accusations are flying left and right without proof or legal repercussions. I’d better qualify that: unless the recipient of your vitriol is from some racial or ethnic minority or the remark is deemed to be sexist. My co-worker and I were both white and Nazi isn’t exactly sexist. So there I was.

Also without witness. He was always quite careful about that.

DEFINE “NAZI”

For some, the definition’s simple. “Anyone with rules I don’t like.”

In my understanding a Nazi is someone who belonged to the Nazi party in Germany, or at least subscribed to their political platform. Or someone who belongs to the new Neo-Nazi movement I’ve heard about. To my co-worker it meant, “I don’t like you or your ideas and I’m not going to listen to anything you say.” Which might include any parent, employer or worker who thinks their offspring, employees, or co-workers should follow the rules.

Ideologically, my rock-band-drummer-pusher co-worker and I were on opposite ends of the universe. “Nazi” was a handy rock to toss at me right at that moment. Maybe I shouldn’t complain, though. There are a lot worse verbal rocks flying these days.

Well, I have something in common with the US President now, seeing he’s often been called a Nazi. As far as actually subscribing to the Nazi political ideology or being a member of that party, I wonder if he’s any more of a Nazi than I am? I’ll leave that question to more informed people than myself, but to me the term seems to be saying, “I hate whatever he stands for.”

One thing I wonder: Do those folks who suffered such atrocities at the hands of the real Hitler and his real Nazis feel disgusted when we with such cushy lives sling this term around so freely?

WHAT’S A STUPID QUESTION?

I made a quick stroll around the internet this morning and stopped in for a discussion with Kristian (see Tales from the mind of Kristian) about the word STUPID. We’re in agreement: out with it!

If “I didn’t sleep a wink” and “It’s raining cats and dogs” are outdated clichés that must be avoided now, I propose we add the word Stupid to the list of outdated clichés and forget it. Along with Idiot and Imbecile. (Dough-head was one of my dad’s favourites.) You can probably think of a few more.

They’re only words, but cruel ones, and they’ve been around too long.

THE MOST HELPFUL WORDS

I visited J.S. Park’s blog this morning, too, and read his answers to a reader’s question about helping someone get through depression. “Working Through Depression As A Team.” His closing thought is worth echoing around the world. I trust he won’t mind me repeating it here:

What’s the Most Helpful?

Once in a while, tell a person you love them just because. No reason. Many of us who struggle with depression feel like we’re bothering everyone all the time. They need to know they’re loved in the middle of that. That’s a God type of love. “I love you just because.” That’s a really big deal, to be loved that way.

In life we’ll meet lots of people who sling angry words at us and point out our failings. Don’t we all wish for someone to come along side and just care? A friend who looks at us honestly and still sees a few good points, who encourages us and praises our efforts even if we’re down in the dumps? And to be a friend like that?

As the song says, by using our words wisely we can win hearts.

The Seat or the House?

This morning my thoughts went to the words, “the seat of the scornful.”  And the inspiring poem, The House By the Side of the Road

David, writer of Psalm 1, gives this caution about who we choose to hang out with and where we sit down.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
Psalm 1:1

The seat of the scornful seems to be a crowded place in this day and age — and maybe always has been. I must admit that I’ve occupied that spot too often myself. I’ll make a comment about something someone’s doing, then suddenly I catch an undertone of, “Well, I would NEVER do a thing like THAT.”

Judgement is not scorn. We need judgement. We need to be able to draw from our own experience and observing the experience of others to determine where to put our feet. We need to form sound conclusions for our own safety and avoid the slippery slopes others may be saying are “great fun. We don’t need to scorn them when they disappear down that slope into the mud puddle at the bottom.

Sam Foss has a great attitude and many have found his poem inspiring: Here’s the second verse:

Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Nor hurl the cynic’s ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Have a great day, everyone. 🙂

Rethinking the Woodpile

Firewood pile

Fandango’s challenge for today: ACCOMPLICE
Ragtag Community Daily prompt: GROOVE

Which brings to mind a short tale I once read, one that goes back to the days when every rural home had a wood stove in the kitchen, a tree stump that served as a chopping block for splitting logs, and a pile of firewood near the house for easy access in winter.

The Seventh-grade boys put their heads together at recess one afternoon. They were feeling kind of bored and wanted to think of something fun and different they could do sometime. Several ideas were advanced and vetoed.

Then someone offered the suggestion: “Why don’t we get together after dark some night over at old man Haskell’s place and play some trick on him.” This suggestion piqued the interest of the others.

‘Old man Haskell’ was their community’s equivalent of Oscar-the-Grouch. Living just out of town, gruff, abrupt, and somewhat crippled, he didn’t have a lot of patience for young boys. He grumbled when they cut through his yard to go fishing and if he saw them hanging around town he’d scold them for being idle. They should be working hard like he always had to, and so on.

At school the boys sometimes mimicked his mannerisms. Grabbing a stick for a cane, hunching over and hobbling along, they’d turn and scowl at the other boys just like old man Haskell would. They never let teacher catch them at this, though. Teachers were pretty strict about respecting your elders.

“But what trick could we play on old man Haskell? Upset his outhouse?”

“Nah,  that’s old hat. But I have an idea,” said Len. “Let’s un-stack his woodpile.”

The others looked at him curiously. “We can scatter his firewood all over his old yard,” Len explained. ” I think that would be a great trick to play on him. He’d have to pick it all up. That’d keep him busy for awhile and he wouldn’t have time to gripe at us.”

One of the other conspirators beamed. “Yeah, let’s! Wouldn’t that be fun – and serve him right for being such a grouch.”

The fourth conspirator, Rudy, scuffed his toe in the dirt. He didn’t really see the fun in tossing wood for hours, but did see possible consequences. “What if we get caught,” he asked. Much as he wanted to be part of the gang, it niggled at him how his dad would react if he heard this? Rudy had been taught to respect older folks and other folks’ property.

“It’ll be dark,” Len retorted. “Old man Haskell will never see us. And for sure he’ll never catch us — you know how slow he moves. What do you think, guys? Let’s meet in front of his place at nine tonight and have some real fun.”

That evening four boys crept away from their respective homes. Just after nine o’clock Len and his three accomplices slipped into Haskell’s yard and began tossing firewood off the pile. It became a game to see how far they could throw it. Still, there was an undercurrent of tension. They worked quietly, glancing often toward Haskell’s shack to see if the curtain moved or the door opened, though they knew he was hard of hearing.

With four pairs of hands working, the woodpile was soon scattered all over the yard. When they were done, Len rubbed his hands on his pants. “Okay. Let’s beat it, guys.”

“Won’t it be a joke when old man Haskell gets up in the morning and sees this mess? Wish I could be here to see his face. Ha ha!”

Rudy had been quiet most of the evening, his conscience stirring uneasily. He made his way home again, hoping he could slip in without his parents hearing him? But could he face his Dad in the morning? His dad was pretty sharp.

He tried to not make a sound but his father heard him come in and questioned why he’d been out so late on a school night? Rudy was evasive, but finally revealed the prank. “But old m…I mean Mr Haskell is such a grouch. We thought he deserved it.”

“Yes, Mr Haskell does seem cranky, but you boys don’t know what he’s been through in life and what he’s suffering now with his health issues. It’s going to be extremely painful for him to gather up all that wood and put that pile back together.”

Dad looked at him quietly for a few minutes and Rudy blushed under his silent disapproval. Suddenly Dad stood up. “So let’s us play a good prank now — and a joke on your school mates at the same time. Come on. Let’s get your brothers up.”

Dad called Rudy’s two brothers and he and his three accomplices went back to old man Haskell’s place. Working in the light of the moon for several hours, they not only put his woodpile back together, but stacked all the wood much closer to the house so he wouldn’t have so far to go to fetch his firewood come winter. They were enthused about the task and made good time once they got in the groove. When the job was done, they surveyed the neat yard and exchanged satisfied smiles. Near as they could tell, Mr Haskell never heard a thing.

“Now, boys,” Dad said, “Isn’t a prank like this a lot more fun than just making trouble for an old man? When Mr Haskell gets up in the morning and looks out, instead of seeing a huge mess he has to clean up, he’ll see his woodpile has moved twenty yards closer to his door.”

“Oh, yeah. Wish I could see his face when he gets a gander! That’ll be a neat joke,” Rudy’s younger brother said as they turned toward home again.

Rudy’s older brother nodded. “One he’ll appreciate right well, I reckon.”

Rudy grinned as he thought of Len’s reaction. “Len’s eyes are going to bulge right out of his head when he hears about this.”

“Let’s not tell anyone we did it though,” Dad cautioned. “Let them keep guessing who came here after they did.”

“That’ll be the best joke of all.” Rudy imagined the shock the other un-stackers would get when news got around. He knew Mr Haskell would never keep quiet about his walking woodpile.

Love Rewarded

This is my response to today’s RagTag daily prompt word: HEART

One day, a century ago, a boy of three was brought to an orphanage and placed in the hands of the kind, capable housemother. He’d never known his parents, so he took to Miss C right off; whenever she put her arm around little David, he clung desperately to her.

She had a heart for the little boy and did her best to bring him up as a proper gentleman – though he could be such a mischief. Keeping him on the straight and narrow proved to be a constant challenge for her as David grew up, in spite of the boy’s deep affection for her. Yet Miss C persevered because she believed in the end he’d do well. David didn’t disappoint her, either. He went on to be a successful and well-respected business man in London.

Miss C tackled the job of housemother at that orphanage for thirty years; she gave the children all the love and help she could, but there came the time she needed to retire. The future looked a bit rough right then: she was sixty years old and no home of her own to go to. However would she manage her rent and daily expenses on just her pension?

David came down from London for the send-off. When he got wind of her financial situation he patted her shoulder and told her, “Don’t worry; just leave it all to me.”

He went out and bought a nice little home in Nottingham, just around the block from Miss C’s brother, and had the place repaired and redecorated. Then he handed Miss C the key – it was all hers – in return for the home and motherly love she had given him in his boyhood.

Story retold from one that appeared in the 1972 Friendship Book of Francis Gay.