And now, a post Halloween story by Nunmoreblack-a loyal reader
This so beats spam about viagra…Thank you Nunmoreblack-you have made me very happy. And I will soon be seen wandering around in fields near Preston
LANCASTER, JACK AND ME.
The thing is, I’ve moved from west London and I live in this place called Lancaster. It’s way, way up north. It’s a city, only small. I work for Dave. Dave’s a builder. He hasn’t got no City and Guilds or nothing, but he’s got ladders so that’s alright.
A while ago we did this job for this old bloke. Jack. He’s the oldest person I’ve ever known. Dave says he’s about ninety five. I like him. Dave says Jack makes up stories. Tells fibs. Whoppers.
While we was working there Jack did tell us stuff. About when he was young and that.I used to listen to him. Once he told us about being in some war. I think he called it the Second World War. That or some other one. That was when he told us about the ammunition.
See, in Lancaster, there’s this little hill. And on it is a castle. Or a jail. It don’t matter ’cause soon it’s gonna be a Primark. At last. I need knew trainers. Anyway, during this war, they melted down the cannons from the castle to make ammunition. Jack told us that.
Also, he says he got something called Victoria’s Cross. I don’t know what that is. But I didn’t tell him. He says ho got it for something he did in Tunisia. Or somewhere like Tunisia.
Later, in the pub, I asked Scarface Ray what Victoria’s Croass is. He said it’s a medal of some sort. Made by some queen. I pulled my phone out and looked it up. I found Jacks regiment, the Duke of Lancaster, and they’ve got what they call an Honours List. Only Jack isn’t on it. Fibber. I don’t mind though.
One time Jack tells me and Dave about this crime that happened. It was in a place called Dalton Square. This fella goes nuts and kills his missis. Then he kills the maid. Then he chops them both up in the bath. It was 1935.
There was this song that everyone sang in the pubs about it. Jack says it was him that made it up and wrote it on the bog wall, in a pub called the Square. He sang it. I didn’t know it. Something about red stains on the carpet. Jack says the tune for it came from “Red Sails in the Sunset”. I don’t know that niether. But I think it might have been Coldplay.
Later, in the pub, I asked Scarface Ray about it. He says he thinks he heard about it at school. So I pulled out my phone and looked it up. The fellas name was Doctor Buck Ruxton. He was from India. Or somewhere like India. He gets jealous ’cause his missis might be playing away. She’s called Isabella. So he strangles her. Then he strangles the maid. She’s called Mary Jane Rogerson. Then he chops them up, wraps the bits of bodies in newspapers, and dumps them in Dumfriesshire. That’s in Scotland. Or Ireland. Same thing.
Antway, he screws up. One of the papers is a special edition of the Sunday Graphic. You could only get it in Lancaster. Plod traces it straight to him. It says on my phone that this started modern police forensics. I thought that was CSI.
In the bit I read, it says they took the bath out of Bucks house, took to somewhere called Preston, and put it in a field so police horses could use it. Northern horses must be very small. I’m only joking. I think they were really talking about his hot tub.
Another time Jack told us about this lady called Ella. She sang on the stage. Jack knew her. It was 1952 and she snuffs it during a show. Jack says he was there. He says it was in some theatre called the Grand. At the time Jack was a member of something called the Footlights. I don’t know what that is.
Later, in the pub, I asked Scarface Ray about it. He dosen’t know what I’m talking about. So we both pulled our phones out and looked it up. The Grand is the third oldest theatre ever. Some people formed the Footlights in the 1920′s to support it. They bought the whole place in 1951 to save it from getting knocked down. They’re still around. I might go and look at it. I’m not gonna see a show or nothing. Don’t be silly. I told Scarface Ray.
Scarface Ray said he might go too.
The ladys’ name was Ella Shields. She was from Baltimore. That’s in America. Or somewhere like America. Early on, she can’t make a living over there ’cause of something called the ‘Depression’. I think my brother had that once.
So what happened was, she came over here and got famous. She was bigger than Adelle and everything. She played the very first night at something called the London Palladium. I’ve never been there. I think it might be near McDonalds. Also, in the 1940′s, she did the Royal Command Performance. That’s a big show for the King. I think Ant and Dec presented it.
In her act, she dressed up as a fella and sang a song called “Burlington Bertie from Bow”. Bow’s in the shitty east. At the end of the song she collapsed, and died later. She was seventy two. The bit I read said a nice thing about her so I read it out to Scarface Ray. I said, Ella showed great courage in the face of adversity, and her fortitude was an inspiration to women everywhere. Scarface Ray said, was she a dyke.
This week, me and Dave have been working on this womans house. She’s alright but keeps talking about her son which is boring. He’s in the army. And Afghanistan. There’s a picture of him on the sideboard. He’s a right ugly sod. I didn’t say that to her though.
Next to his picture is stuff about his regiment. He’s in the Duke of Lancaster regiment. Same as Jack. Except here it says the regiment was formed in 1970. That can’t be right. So I pulled my phone out and looked it up.
Before it was the Duke of Lancaster regiment it was the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire). They’ve got an Honours List too On it is Jack. I wrote this down ’cause I knew I wouldn’t remember the letters.
CAPTAIN JOHN(JACK) STOKELY CRAGG. VICTORIA CROSS. 10th MARCH 1943. GUIRIAT EL ATACH, TUNISIA.
I told Dave I was gonna go and see Jack and tell him he wasn’t a fibber.Dave said I might not get a response ’cause Jack died a couple of weeks back. I felt bad about it.
Later, in the pub, I told Scarface Ray. Scarface Ray said I shouldn’t feel bad about it ’cause Jack was well old. Scarface Ray said the only fibber was Wiki. He’s quite clever sometimes. Anyway, I got myself another lager and sat on my own to think about it for a bit.
And here I am.
See, it’s about this. Since I met Jack I look at things differently. I see things around me more. Sometimes, if I’m bored, I just wander about. If I see something I like,like a big building, or a street or something, I pull my phone out and look it up. There’s nearly always a story about it. That’s ’cause Lancaster is a city full of stories. Jack told me that. I think I’ll stay in Lancaster.
Next week, me and Scarface Ray are going to the library. I’ve never been to one before. Scarface Ray went to one once. The internet was down so he left. Obviously. A library is the best place to look things up. Jack told me that too. He said I should go there. So I will.
So it don’t matter that I didn’t tell Jack that he wasn’t a fibber. Or that I didn’t tell him I found the stuff about Victoria’s Cross. All that matters is that I don’t forget all the stuff that Jack told me. So I wont.
I feel better now. I’m gonna get myself another lager and tell Scarface Ray about it. Tomorrow I’m gonna tell Dave.
Ella Shields (Ella Catherine Buscher)was touring the UK for the last time and her show in Lancaster was the last show of the tour. I am not certain that it took place at the Grand, but I cannot think where else it could have been, given that she was such a huge star. I stand to be corrected.
She opened with her trademark ‘Burlington Bertie from Bow’ but instead of singing “I’m Burlington….”, she sang “I WAS Burlington….”. She finished the song, collapsed, and died three days later in Lancaster without regaining consciousness. Her body was taken to Golders Green crematorium where there is a plaque dedicated to her. She remains relatively unknown in her native United States.
A popular myth at the time suggested that the line, “The Prince of Wales Brother, Along with some Other”, in Burlington Bertie, referred to Jack the Ripper……
For Buck Ruxton.
Red stains on the carpet, Red stains on the knife, Oh doctor Buck Ruxton, You murdered your wife.
Then Mary she saw you, You thought she would tell, So doctor Buck Ruxton, You killed her as well.
I believe the bath is still in a field near Preston where it is used as a trough for police horses.
Note. Horses to NOT bathe in hot tubs whilst sipping Martinis.