Childhood Mischief in Wartime Birmingham
“Brilliant – such a page turner, so very funny but also moving. I was helpless with laughter at some of the images so beautifully and wittily described but others were heartrending. A wonderful insight to a forgotten England. I highly recommend this all too short a book.” – Mrs J D Gould
Eric did two years’ National Service as an Army Education Officer in Cyprus, and seven years with the Kenyan Police in East Africa where, as a Customs & Excise Investigation Officer, he swam in shark-infested waters looking for hidden contraband. Whilst living in Africa, he joined the National Theatre of Nairobi where he performed in Shakespeare, the Classics and drama.
For almost 20 years he worked for Bass Charrington, controlling licensed premises throughout the Midlands, and also for Mitchells & Butlers in Birmingham, during which time he was with the Hall Green Little Theatre and became a stalwart member of the Blossomfield Club in Solihull, where for many years he performed, directed and was co-writer of original musical comedies produced and performed there.
At one time a presenter for BBC Radio Birmingham, Eric spent ten years with the Monitoring Section of the BBC World Service in Berkshire, becoming well-known locally for his acting talent, especially mimicry and humour, winning numerous awards over the years.
Eric was married twice and met his second wife in Henley-on-Thames, when she directed him in J.B. Priestley’s When We Are Married. At that time he was semi-retired working as a warden at Windsor Castle, where he endeared himself to his colleagues but was often reprimanded for displaying his unique brand of humour to the general public.
Retiring to Devon in 2001, Eric enjoyed boat restoration, brewing very strong cider, cultivating rare trees and plants and reading. He began writing his stories in 2004 – and also began tales from his adult life, regrettably unfinished. He and his wife performed in Salcombe, where he is celebrated in the South Hams for his performance in the famous music hall sketch ‘Dinner for One’ (YouTube – Dinner for One, Eric).
His final memorable performance was at the 2011 Dartmouth Drama Festival, five months before he died, where he brought the house down in the two miming sketches from Michael Frayn’s Alarms & Excursions, directed by his wife. His expertise was as sharp as ever and, as always, he received tumultuous applause.
In the history of Britain there is a shortage of Second World War stories detailing the lives of ordinary families living in poverty, the children’s games and the black market profiteering that history has forgotten. The story of young Eric and John is here to set the record straight. Two boys growing up in the midst of rationing, with a flair for mischief and a sense of humour history will never see again – what could happen? Quite a lot, apparently, if the exciting family life of Eric and John is anything to go by. Telling of their family life in war torn Birmingham where poverty was rife, John’s account is full of wit and the kind of humour history should remember. From the infamous Bread Pudding Incident to the charming children’s games like ‘Penny on the Brick’, you will find laughter and warm memories of time spent in an age before computers, when children had to entertain themselves. Yet there is poignancy here, too, as Eric and John find themselves swept up in the greater tide of war as evacuees, made to travel to the country with no chance of looking back… This treasure trove of Second World War stories are a must read for those wanting to know about the lives of ordinary families in the history of Britain – or indeed, anybody wanting a good laugh to brighten up their day.
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