On the Beat at Aston Cross
Every time I come onto the Cross I get that good feeling, I love this beat,
Here you meet real Brum people and to be amongst them really is a treat.
It gets pretty lively round here every Saturday,
Like when the men finish work and they start their play.
On the way to the football matches a lot come through here,
Four abreast sometimes and all in good cheer.
In the evening some families gather at the pubs or by the clock,
They meet their neighbours,splendid in best clothes sometimes just brought out of hock.
The young couples often use Island as their meeting place,
Some nights the Triangle's so full you'd have a job to find a space.
The horse cabs still have a rank and work from here,
Many is the night I've seen them take a gent back home after he's had his beer.
I'm just taking note of the youngsters over there sitting on the edge of the road,
Just reminding them that these steam trams can't stop that quickly especially when they're pulling a big load.
I have my little four legged friend with me again,he follows me round most of the day,
He will stay with me until I get up by the gas works, then he'll go his separate way.
Seeing the sweep reminds me that I've got to get my own chimney swept soon,
I'll walk down to see him after lunch because I finish duty at noon.
To end my round today though I'm heading down to Aston Hall,
I'll be back here tomorrow and I'll love it because this place has it all.
This tells the story of five Ragamuffins who have just returned from an outing with the
The Cinderella Club being an organisation that was formed and supported by wealthier people to give poor children a respite away day to the clean air and green open spaces such as Sutton Park.
Here one of the Children tells us :
Wiv been to Sutton Park to-day,
Some men and ladies took us there to play.
We got up early an went on a great long train,
Some of em got seats by the windows, but we dain.
When we got off the train they gave us all a cake and an apple to eat,
And when we got to the park the grass dain arf feel nice on our feet.
There was millions of trees and tons of grass,
And you know, you couldn't smell any gas.
Down by the pool one of the men learned us how the duck mecks it's nest,
And down there I sin Ernie find a tennis ball and he hid it up his vest.
We had rounders, races and footer in the afternoon,
We just dain wanna stop, but it was all over too soon.
Here we are, back on our own patch you see,
I got to go now and have a wash or our Mom won't half give it me.
The painting depicts my vision of a typical 1950's - 60's school Playground. The location
could be anywhere but I choose to see it as part of the Aston area.
Most of the usual playground activities are shown and I painted it hopefully with a touch of the Lowry atmosphere.
To go with the painting I composed a short story. This is about a distracted pupil at this same School during one of his lessons.
All Names are fictitious as are the events in the story,
PHOO, DEAR O DEAR, when is the School buzzer going to sound off for the afternoon break? I want to get out onto the Playground and have some fun with me friends. I'm sitting here in Mr Tatum’s class doing Maths (we call him TATTERS). I don't think he's any good at teaching.
They've just brought him a cup of Tea so it must be getting close to the buzzer. I'm dying for a drink myself. Tatters is trying to teach us Long Hand Decimal Multiplication. He's put six questions up on the board, I've had a go at the first two, trying to do the third one now. This one says "Multiply twenty 0ne point five by twelve point five."
(Boring, what a waste of time).
Ernie Wilson told me at dinner break that his little brother had done another runner from the school this morning. He says his brother was in Mrs Bovin’s class and asked to go to the lavatory and then did a runner. Ernie says that the school are bringing in the School Board Man to fetch him back again.
[Set up this Sum, put one number under the other].
Villa are playing the Blues this weekend at Villa Park. Really hoping Dad might take me. He says that with it being a local derby they'll be getting a really big crowd and I think that he's a bit worried about taking me in case there's some crushing amongst the crowd. I'm not worried about that, I just want to go and see the Villa give the Blues a good beating.
When we get out onto the playground we're going to finish off the football match we started this morning. We're losing three goals against four at the moment. I want to practise using my left foot a bit more. Dick O'Malley scored us two smashing goals this morning.
[Put the Noughts in the right place, ready to start multiplying].
I don't know why they've put those Netball posts in the middle of the playground, that's where we mostly play our football and sometimes the posts get in our way. I suppose it's mainly for the girls, I don't play Netball, it's a bit Girly for me.
The thing is, when we all go out to play at break times, the Girls don't bother with playing netball, they do their hop-scotch, skipping top spinning, circling, line following, hop bumping and things like that. The boys play football, tig and tag, shoulder wrestling, conkers, marbles, leap frog and those sorts of things.
[Two fives are ten, carry one].
Here we go! Bobby Turner has just put his hand up because he wants Tatters to know that he's completed his six sums. Turner is the brainy one in the class. Tatters is going over to Turners desk with the smile of the cat that's just found the milk. I'm expecting that one day Tatters is going to kiss Turners bum.
[Five fives are twenty five, carry two.]
Jack Tomlinson told me that his dad's going to buy a second hand car before Christmas. I bet they're pretty rich.
Pete Stoney's going to give up his paper round because he says that he's going to help some old fella keep his garden in shape and that it will give him more pocket money, besides that he won't have to get up so early.
[Add up my three rows.]
Tatters has just gone back to his own desk. I'm sure he's glaring at me. I feel like giving him the Bunky Eye look back.
I like Miss Pattersons lessons, she does English, she's very kind and she somehow gives you time to take in what she's saying. She is the girls netgall coach as well.
I'm going to marry someone like Miss Patterson one day.
[Put the decimal point in the right place, that's two in from the right.]
[Got my answer to this one]
[I've got down as two hundred and sixty eight point seven five. Looks like it might be about right.]
We've got Miss Patterson for our last lesson to-day. I'll like that.
Great! The Buzzers going. Hand our books over to Tatters and let’s get out to the playground and have some fun. Got to have a drink from the Tap first.
I hope Mr Browning is looking after the playground period, he very often gives us an extra couple of minutes before he rings the back to lessons bell.
My left foot is going to do some good stuff in a few minutes time.
I'm with my young master "Sid and his sister Daisy”. I'm called "Sandy, I'm a mongrel I think. Anyway, we've come upon this place that's got some lovely smells coming out of the door. It's definitely got something in there that would be good to eat. We're more than a bit hungry as usual and I think that they are giving away something here.
The problem is that I don't think whoever’s in there would let a dog in there, especially a smooth operator like me.
Master Sid seems to be weighing up the situation and trying to make up his mind whether to go in. I think he's a bit undecided how to go about this. I don't think Daisy will come over yet, she's a bit cautious is Daisy.
There's eight in the family (not counting me). They lost the Dad sometime back. We could always do with a bit more to eat.
I'm going to have a go! I'll try a bit of persuading the master (I'm going to give him me paws, wag me Tail and make a couple of gentle grunts; should do the trick).
He's a good master to me, we make a good team. He's quite determined when he takes a mind to it. If he gets anything from here he will share it with us (the scraps will do me fine). He will go in eventually I'm certain. I just wish he would hurry up.
This painting depicts a controversial time during WW1 (Christmas 1914).
Although Fraternisation between opposing forces was strictly forbidden, it was ignored in some areas of the frontline and both sides joined together to celebrate Christmas. I think you can only wonder at the thoughts that must have gone through the minds of all involved at the time. There surely must have been a mixture of uplift,relief,doubts and confusion.
FROM OTHER RANKS
"Some of them speak a descent bit of English"
"One of them has been showing me photos of his girlfriend and his Mom and Dad"
"Is it all over do you think,like they said it would be?"
"I'm going out again to show them some of my photos"
"There's a Fritz out there offering to do haircuts"
"I recon there will be trouble over this from the Top Brass"
"I'm just enjoying the break"
"I've swopped some cigarettes for a German spiked helmet, Tom's swopped some sweets and cigarettes for a Fritz penknife"
"I'm not going out and mixing with them, it doesn't seem right"
"They seem to be the same as us, I wasn't expecting that"
"Hey Taff, throw the football up will you, Brummie thinks they might be able to get a bit of a kick-about going ".
FROM OFFICERS AND SENIOR NCOs
"I feel I should put a stop to this"
"I'm going to use this opportunity to request recovery of our blokes bodies out there"
"I've not been notified of any changes to discipline as yet, I'm not sure what to do at the moment"
"I can't see this being accepted by Headquarters"
"I've told the men that no Germans are to be allowed in or near our trench line, I've also detailed some of the men to stay armed and keep guard on our trench"
"We've not yet had any instructions come down the line as to how we're supposed to handle this".
This painting and story dialogue is put together based on reading various accounts from books and the Internet.
The Aston Hipps my pitch to-day. I like this one. Nice dry day, people are starting to arrive, it's going to be a good one.
Over the years I've met some pretty special performers down here. I often have a tipple in the Bartons after I've done me show and I've had a chat in there with the likes of George Formby and Gracie Fields after they'd done their stage acts.
Once while I was performing out front Donald Peers had a word with me. The women really go swooney over him. Lovely voice. I've been working on a couple of new numbers, Im trying to introduce a bit of the Donald Peers type songs into me show.
Moving me equipment about does get a bit awkward at times, the Drums a bit of a problem cause I've not got a car or anything, I manage though because I like what I do. The Tram chaps are helpful sometimes, they've pulled up between stops a few times and helped me to get the kit aboard. The odd Copper moves me on sometimes while I'm performing. Obstructing the footpath is what they say.
I've done me show at the Odeon in New Street a few times and I've done Villa Park a lot. My old lady wants me to give it up, she tries to tell me that I'm getting a bit old to be carting me bits about. On the singing side she would be right though cause I'm struggling a bit with me top notes in some of the songs.
I'm looking forward to the Pantomine coming here again, when the kids come along they're a real joy to entertain.
Cheers then, on with the show.