God and ASDA

Stories and thoughts: past, present and future

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Locked Inside Woolies

When I was in the W.R.A.F. in the early 1960s, one of the places to which I was posted was R.A.F Mount Batten, Plymouth in Devon.

My Dad was delighted when he learned that I would be stationed in the same city where he served as a Fire-fighter during the blitz on the city in March 1941. During my stay in Plymouth, Mum and Dad came to visit on one occasion and my Dad was visibly moved to be there again almost twenty years after his heroic wartime action . He sat on Plymouth Hoe looking out to sea and I knew that I must just let him sit there and remember. But my time in Plymouth was much happier than Dad’s.

Now that I’m living in Devon again, my husband and I visited the city quite recently. Before we left home, I planned to show him all the things I remembered from my time there. I knew that the city had changed quite a bit but I also knew that the two main shopping streets were almost as they were.

I was telling him about the times we used to go into “town”, meet up in the mezzanine cafeteria at Woolworths (or Woolies, as it was affectionately known), and have a really good time for the price of a cup of tea (about 1p in today‘s money!). We’d look over the balcony, calling to our friends or maybe even calling to lads who weren’t (yet) our friends!! (Some things never change!). It was a good time to be in Plymouth. The city was beginning to grown again and the horrors of the war were beginning to fade.

So you can imagine my surprise when, on arriving outside Woolworths we discovered that it had closed its doors for the last time in January 2009. Since that day, the building has been left empty, shuttered up and left to decay.

Plymouth Woolies

As I looked at that well-known façade I noticed that a bird was nesting in one of the letters of the name. At least he’d found a use for it!


I felt extremely sad. All my memories of those wonderful Saturdays gone forever. Or, are they? Those doors that were shut have enclosed every single one of my precious memories and, as my fertile imagination works overtime, I can still hear the laughter, music, chatter and hustle and bustle of those days. They’ll never go away, they’re locked inside until someone opens those doors again. What a cacophony that will be!

But thinking about Plymouth itself, how it was damaged almost beyond any hope of regaining it’s former glory, reminded me that Jesus was beaten, spat upon, whipped and crucified – practically damaged beyond all hope. But He rose again, as He said He would, and we can know that Resurrection joy if we follow Him.

    Jesus said (to her), “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Do you believe this?

    (John 11 verses 25,26)

Whatever your situation, no matter what you’ve done or how broken-hearted you may feel, turn to God and He will restore you.

In Psalm 51 verses 10 – 12, when the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, David wrote:

    “10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
    12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

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School Camp

A couple of days ago I was held up in traffic whilst a group of school children boarded their ‘bus to take them to school camp. On the pavement beside the ‘bus was a great pile of rucksacks, bags, tennis racquets, a net of balls and so on.

As I was sitting, patiently waiting to move off, I was reminded of the time I went to school camp back in June1953 when I was eleven years old.

I was living just outside Birmingham in the industrial Midlands, at which time it was a smoky, dirty place with factories belching out the foul-smelling residue of their activities. There were ironworks with their furnaces and gas works where the gas supply for the area was stored, not to mention domestic fires polluting the air. Not a nice place for kids in which to grow up, you will agree, I am sure.

So, every summer just before the end of our final term, the top class of our junior school went to camp located near the Wyre Forest in Worcestershire. This was a really magical place for children such as myself who lived all their lives in the grime of industry.

We travelled in a coach but our luggage consisted not of rucksacks but suitcases. These were often quite small so there was not much room for “additional extras” – not that we had much in those days!!

When we arrived at the camp site we were separated into two groups – boys and girls! The accommodation was a wooden hut in which were beds – but no mattresses! This was all part of the “fun”!. After our first meal we all gathered in a large barn and proceeded to make palliasses for mattresses and pillows. I think by the time we’d finished stuffing our mattresses there was more straw on the floor and in our hair than in the covers! It was at this stage that I realised that we were going to have to rough it somewhat!

During the daytime we would go on rambles, drawing and identifying flowers (no picking allowed!), also bird-watching and all sorts of other nature-related activities. Our days were filled with lots to do and by bedtime we were ready for sleep, regardless of the uncomfortable palliasse!.

We could only have been away a week, but to me it seemed like ages. Some of the girls received food parcels from home and one thoughtful parent also included some shoe polish for her daughter – result, one sponge cake tainted with polish – yeuck!! After “lights out” we would chatter quietly, but this didn’t last long as we were all so tired at the end of each day that we’d soon drop off to sleep.

Even though my memory has dimmed somewhat, there was one incident which has remained in my mind. We went on a walk and all I can remember of the terrain is a long and winding road (idea for a song title?). We walked for a while until the road began climbing; teacher was in front and I was one of the “stragglers”. Child protection and health and safety were things of the future at that time, so there was no adult bringing up the rear. Suddenly a boy behind me fell with quite a crash – he must have tripped over something – but he went down and didn’t appear to be getting up. The group had by this time disappeared around a bend. Decision time. I called out with my little voice but obviously no-one heard me, so I waited until the boy recovered and we decided to stay put. It seemed like forever but eventually the teacher came dashing back, having realised that two of his charges were missing. I was near to tears with relief and so it all ended happily; just a grazed knee and a tear-stained face.

And the same applies to God. We can follow Him, and we might get lost on the Way, but He’ll not leave us lost and forlorn. No matter what we do, He’ll be there whenever we need Him, to dry our tears and mend our broken hearts.

    “Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you.”
    (Hebrews 13 verse 5b)
    “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
    (Joshua 1 verse 9)

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More Playtime Stories

I recently added up how many different addresses I’ve had since birth and, amazingly, it’s 23! That’s an average of just over three years per address. Given that I lived in our family home from birth until I was 15, that’s a lot of addresses where I stayed for only a short time!

But, as I said, I was fifteen years in my first home and I recently went back to visit it whilst I was in the area. I now wish that I hadn’t done that. It was looking so sad – now 55+ years older than when I left and the area around was no longer the fields I remember but more houses; lots more.

When I was living there we had only to cross the road (with very little traffic passing) and we would be in an area that we used to call “the bank”. In the Midlands a “bank” is not a place where money is held but a small hill, however, I’ve searched all the dictionaries I can find but it appears in none of them. It must have been a local name.

Whilst we played there it could have been anything we wanted it to be – a kind of theme park 1940s style!! Or sometimes we would stage plays or play hide and seek; other times we would separate boys from girls and do our own gender thing. The boys would be playing cowboys and Indians or flying aircraft with their arms outstretched as they banked and rolled, and we girls would be film stars or models walking around in our beautiful clothes showing off, waving and smiling at our adoring public.

At the back of our house was a small farm and we would spend hours playing in the farmyard. The old farmer must have been well into his eighties but he loved to see us kids in the yard. He still kept a couple of cows and a few chickens and ducks, and there was always a haystack in which to play. This place was paradise to us. I remember there was an old cart which was once used for delivering churns of milk in the area, very much like the one in the picture.

Horseless Carriage

We girls would make it our carriage and go to so many places. There was never any shortage of ideas for using the cart.

Then, off we’d go down to the field towards the haystack, but first there had to be the “challenge” which I dreaded every time. Across the entrance to the field was an iron bar to stop the cows from wandering back into the yard. It wasn’t really a gate per se , just a barrier as a deterrent. However, before entering the field we had to get over this bar in order to enter. If you didn’t do it, or, as in my case, very often couldn’t, then it was “No Entry“ (These rules were set by us kids, not the farmer!). Several times I was left just as an onlooker, watching the others gambolling and jumping in the haystack, having failed the “test”. (Everybody say, Ah!!).

Beyond the haystack was a small wooded area where we would sometimes play “witches and fairies”. There were plenty of places to hide in the wood and it was really a most enchanting place. We took turns at being the good fairy or the nasty old witch. We also used this area for our adventure game of “discovering new countries” and one of the boys would be a native of this “unknown” land and, of course, there would be a chase involved as we tried to escape him – they always loved a chase! Countless times I would return home with bloodied knees or a torn frock; a casualty of our games.

As we girls grew older our games became less energetic and more ladylike until it was, unlike many young girls today, simply a matter of looking at Film Star books, or “School Friend” comics. (No mobile phones in those days!!) My favourite film star in the mid-50s was Richard Todd – star of “The Dambusters” film. I thought he was the most handsome man I’d ever seen, next to my Dad, of course!

But all that has gone and things change. Heroes come and go, fads and fancies change. But I’ll tell you one thing for sure. There’s one Person who has never changed, and will never change and that’s Jesus Christ.

Hebrews Chapter 13 verse 8 tells us:

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.”

That’s amazing, isn’t it? He’s the one constant, never changing, always there when you need Him. All you have to do is reach out to Him. Ask Him to come into your life and He will. He will. He loves you and wants the best for you – always.

Read Revelation Chapter 3 verse 20 (N.I.V.):

    “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”