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A Monthly Column

Only yesterday a friend, in casual conversation, put forward the idea that email had ended as a means of communication, superseded by texting at the very least, more likely WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, WeChat and who knows what else in this time of instant gratification. Certainly sending out photographs, as I’ve been doing, has little or no impact for an audience that receives the images on an iP of one kind or another, Pad, Pod, Phone, images that have been created on a desk top computer with a 24” screen. Large images requiring a large screen. The consequence of this being my photographic posts slowly losing their audience,even though the images are splendid historical examples of musicians, all in their startling monochromatic glory. They have now become, to the current populace, of little interest, almost unseeable.

So the question is: “How to continue?”

I have mentioned previously my weekly radio show, presented between noon and 2:00 every Wednesday on Hornby Island Radio [CHFR – 96.5 FM]; an attempt to communicate some happiness and variety through a series of musical delights suggested by my catholic tastes, not just one style, not just jazz or… This can be found at: https://hornbyradio.com/dj/jazz-gems-with-bill-smith/

Another contribution to the island populace is in the form of a column in every issue of our monthly paper: The First Edition. So this post is my column for April. Of course this still requires reading more than the first line. A habit I’ve been told of how most recipients handle email messages.


Shuffle Repeat • A Colston Willmott Story

Numerous events over the past decade have been testing human endurance, what with hurricanes, flash floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wildfires and currently the pandemic bringing about isolation, sickness and death; the latter revealing the pointless and disruptive rebellion of anti-vaxxers. If this were not enough to contend with there is, in Europe, the irresponsible stupidity of the Russian monster Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin forcing the world into yet another unwanted war. All precipitating human folly, causing deceit and self-deception, alienating us from reality and leading to disastrous consequences. Panic spread through the uncontrolled rubbish propagated on social media, snake oil influencers perpetuating fear through continuing unsubstantiated and contradictory news. Television bulletins described, I’ve read, as media noise amplifying toxic drivel.

It has been suggested by various pundits that nothing this catastrophic has occurred since the Second World War. I have been there before, being born as I was, sixteen months before the outbreak of that war. I am now an old man bored with the inability of the human race to understand the privileged life most of us live. Or have lived. Not listening to those who spread useless, harmful rumours.

As with thousands of other English children we – myself, my mother and my paternal grandmother – were evacuated by train from Bristol to a safer location in the city of Truro in Cornwall. My Dad, not called into active service because he was partially deaf from a perforated ear drum, worked at the docks in nearby Falmouth maintaining the battered submarines that were limping back from their forays with the Nazis in the North Sea.

For me, as a three-year old, there is little to recollect. A mangle outside the back door, hand-cranked the wet laundry through wooden rollers, once trapping my inquisitive hand between them. I still, all these years later, have the reminder of the crushed finger nail. The milkman, who delivered daily on a horse drawn cart with rubber tyres, would on Saturdays allow children to ride along their street, sat up next to him on his seat. At the far end of the street was an American airforce base, and the servicemen treated us to sticks of Wrigley’s spearmint chewing gum. Gotanygumchum! In those same fields were gypsy encampments, which the children were warned away from. The Gypsies came door to door selling their wares. Wooden clothes pegs and strings of onions. German and Italian prisoners of war, chain-gangs I suppose, worked as labourers, laying the new streets. My mother would take them home-cooked buns and tea in large tin pots.

As the war was coming to its conclusion there was some doubt as to the intentions of the Russians. My father had instructed us that should the Russian soldiers arrive among us we were to stand in the street, our hands on our heads, and declare “Ya Angliyski Rabochiy”. I am an English workman. Of course the Russians never did arrive in Truro, they were more concerned with racing the Western Allies to be the first in Berlin. Five days before my 7th birthday, on May 7th, the war was over and the next day named VE Day, an abbreviation of Victory in Europe. Everywhere was filled with happy celebrating people, the blackout ended and huge bonfires were built in the streets. Such a joyous time after six years of horror.

This time if the Russians arrive, I’ll put my hands on my head and declare – “Ya Kanadskiy sotsialist” [I’m a Canadian socialist]

End Notes:

Colston Willmott is a nom de plume

Bill Smith [Colston Willmott] can be contacted at: classicimprov@yahoo.ca

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