I REMEMBER vaguely and no doubt inaccurately a great painting and attendant comment about an ideal utopian world where “the lamb will lay down with the lion”.

We are certainly not anywhere near that perfect world.  Nor is it even achievable.  Murder sanctioned by religion points that out to us every day.

Obviously Marjorie has not given up hope…(picture taken some time ago and made digital today)

alan skeoch
March 2018


1960’s:  These were different times.  Less up tight years  for Eric, Marjorie snd me…we  were young and  life was pretty good.
If the bottom story seems abominable to you then there is nothing I can say to change your mind.  We live in different times today.
Far more fearful times.  Less tolerant of  idiot behaviour.  More judgmental…up tight.   Our story below was  just part of  our
life journey.  The serious, academic, compassionate, well behaved facet of our personalities may not be as evident as some
readers may like.    Give us a little space to be silly.  Takes  some space yourselves.



alan skeoch
march  2018

I blame my brother Eric for our shameful performance as Canadian visitors to western Europe  back  in 1965.  His  fault.  He set the tone
for the trip when he organized a stag celebrating my marriage to Marjorie Hughes.  She was the ultimate ‘nice person’ everyone said.  Some
friends even cautioned her that she could  have made a better choice as a marriage partner.  Looking back, I  have to agree.  Marriage to
the North Bay judge’s  son might have been  wiser.   But women  have a  twisted streak and  often look for the man whose behaviour they
can twist into shape.   If that was  her plan, it did not work out too well as this photo essay  proves. 

So Eric  invited  a bunch of our friends to the SKEOCH MONASTERY just before our wedding , August 24,1963…somewhere around that date.
We had  a good time, ‘ Windows’ Bill Doyle set a fine example.  Eric nicknamed  him Windows because he was  the first friend to get glasses.
 Windows promised  his mother he would  never touch alcohol until he turned 21.
As fate would have it the stag date was his 21st birthday.  We missed him for much of the stag and found  him semi  impaled in a  large 
forsythia hedge at the farm.  He was making up for lost time.  The stag was  great fun…all our friends together.  Nothing sordid.

A year or so later, when  Eric  and  I were employed as history teachers at Parkdale Collegiate , I got a great idea for the summer of 1965.

“Eric, how would you like to join Marjorie snd me on a trip to Europe?”
“Three of us?  Are you joking?”
“We could save money…three travel cheaper than two.”  I got that ides from that goddamn book “Europe on Five Dollar a  Day”…turned  out
to bre wrong.
“Suppose I could.  Are you sure I won’t be in the way, if you know what i men?”
“Nah!  Marjorie likes you…enjoys your company.”
“Have you asked her?”
“Not yet, but I will.”
“Let’s do  it”

So we flew to Europe with a skimpy budget.  And did we ever have a time.

We  started off in some cheap B and B places.  Charming as you can see above.  Eric had  a separate room.
Marjorie did  not sleep with her suitcase…she made room for me.  I  love this picture.
We looked for inexpensive places…like this one…note the wall paper.  

I was  a little nonplussed when hosts  assumed Marjorie and Eric were husband  and wife and I  was just a hanger on.
Perhaps that was because  he carried her bag often.  That gave me  an idea.

“It would  be a hell of a lot cheaper if we all stayed in the same room.”
“What does Marjorie think of that.”
“No problem.”
“Have you asked her?”
So we did.  Eric was unwilling to split the costs 50 50 though.

Beds on night trains were not the best

“If we use the European trains,  we can sleep in rooms on the night trains…they hold six people…really cheap.”
“How do they get six beds into a room?”
“Stack them up…three bunks high…a little tight…but cheap.”

Read the sign.  I know some of you cannot read…as I expect som you are only looking at my pictures.  The sign
says “Danger…Keep Children Under Control”.     We had entered  the slippery slide back  to childhood….

Marjorie became less amused as our money began to run out.  She only complained once…the day we had no meals for the whole day.  She even called  her guardian, Phyllis Morgan,
saying:  “We are down to one meal  a day…and that meal is usually Bread, cheese and a couple of bottles of Bulmer’s Hard Cider.
I am losing weight but having s good time.”  She may have said  other things.

We rented a  small car…really small…and visited Lower Wooton Farm … relatives or bonded friends from our grandparents past.   Nancy  Griffiths  killed a
couple of chickens which  Marjorie plucked and we all ate.  Predators.   In previous stories  I mentioned events here.  A cow was having a breached birth
Cyril called us to action stations.

“Boys,  need  you in the barn now…trouble.”
“I will reach in the cow and  tie this  rope to the calf’s feet,”
“What is wrong?”
“Breached birth…twisted…just pull when  she contracts…firm but gently…work with her…don’t try to be heroic.”
“Now! Pull.”
And the calf flew out with all the afterbirth and landed on Eric who was  wearing view one and  only suit.  Yuck!

“It could  have been worse Eric.”
“It could have landed on me.!!”

In 1965 we seemed  to have relatives everywhere…and we stayed with them. This is
Una Dunne who later became a Roman Catholic Nun.  I am not sure but I think we
helped her decision making.

Things started to get really twisted.  Our diet started to cause gastric problems.  One incident comes to mind.
We were standing in line to buy s post card  to send back to Mom.  Eric handed me the card and left
the store with Marjorie.  He left something of himself behind.  An  odour.  A ‘futz’ as they say in German.
The ladies behind me said “Oh, someone has passed  by” and held their noses.  And looked at me. Eric and Marjorie were hooting
with laughter outside while I was assumed to be the carrier of  Night Soil in the lineup.  Not funny?  Right.

Eric took off to Spain for a few days.  He was chased by some young girls on the train who called  him ‘Blondie…Blondie’  in an effort 
to corral him.   Female toreadors looking for a Ferdinand.   (Children’s story…read it)  I  think they failed.   But we were on the downhill slide now for sure.

Above is a picture of  Marjorie in the vast Hofbrau Beer hall in Munich.   That is a quart she is  drinking…not a puny British pint…bigger…a German quart. (litre)
Take a look at her drinking buddies.  The cream of German beer hall society  Marjorie became a star here.  Really did.

“Alan, look at that poor msn.”
“Don’t look over there Marjorie…those guys want…”
“Alan, look at him.  The front guy.  He has passed out.”
“So what?”
“His cigarette is burning down to his fingers…he will burn himself.  I am going to help him.”

And she did.  Took the cigarette and stubbed it in the ashtray.  Was Marjorie ever a hit.  Other Germans came over and sat with us.  Bought us
another round  of beer.   The barmaids by the way could  carry six or eight steins of beer at once.  They washed the used ones with a quick dunk 
in laundry tup   We did not care.  Then a really weird thing hopped.   Something grabbed my pant leg from under the huge table.. Another  msn emerged  …he was pretty drunk as well.
It became quite a party in which Marjorie was no longer just another tourist.  She was compassionate…warm hearted…a cigarette stubbed.
Those of you who only  drink in sophisticated society right be horrified.  Us?  Not a bit.

Eric was  still in Spain.  When Marjorie and I left the Hofbrau  house we left with our steins…someone paid for them.  Germans from another table…sober
Germans…saw Marjorie prevent the flesh burn of the fellow in the picture.  They loved her.  We all sang loud  and  long.  Then we left.  

“Where will we sleep, Alan?”
“Right here in this park…nice green grass…good for s nap.”

We flopped down and  slept.  Some time later s police officer poked me.  He pointed to dome sign…something saying ‘Verboten”.   Marjorie was
still sleeping holding her stein firmly.   The cop said  something about vagrancy but he wasn’t really mad.  We got up and headed back
to our B snd B.

Eventually we met up with Eric. To this day he does not remember the “Blondie Blondie” sirens on that Spanish train.

Back in London things got really interesting.

The next stage in our decline into insanity was due to Eric noticing a loose board in a
fence at  the Portobello Road  antique (and junk) market.

“Some one behind the fence, Alan…odd?”
The board flipped up.
“You lads need  new hats.  How about these?”
“Very British…you can sashay across  London Bridge with all the toffs with these …”
And he held out two beautiful derbies
“How much?”
“Five quid.”

So we were now part of the British establishment
Marjorie left us for a  while and  visited her aunt and friends from North Bay who happened to be in London.  They stuffed her with food.  Eric and
I tested  our hats in a local pub … Plowman’s plates of mish mash food and  a pint  of bitter.  Good  stuff.  And we searched for a cheap  B and  B.  
Marjorie joined  us  refreshed. 

“Where did you get those derbies?”
“Never mind.  Look at mine…got Harold MacMillan’s initials inside…think he’s the Prime Minister of something…must
have lost his hat.”
“You didn’t steal them I hope”
“Nope, bought them from an antique dealer…” (the less  said the better about that)
Things  kept sliding from bad to worse as our trip wound down.  I can only find one
picture to prove our decline but it is a good one.  We flew home from Dublin, Ireland with a 
short stay in Iceland to refuel.

Refuel?   We did  not need  any refuelling ourselves.  While  waiting for the flight we joined a Roman Catholic priest and
his father…real father.  The priest was  a pioneer.  Means he did  not drink.  His father on the other hand enjoyed a pint
of Guiness now snd then.  Well we had  too much Guiness by the time our plane was ready.  We put on quite a show.
Good natured but twisted.

Proof?  No better proof than this picture.

Guess who took the picture?  Not me this time.  For some TWISTED  reason while we were airborne on the way to Iceland, the
stewardess got the caption to come back  and se the three of us.  Nice guy.  I took a picture of him and have it somewhere but 
he took my camera and snapped this priceless shot.   He even put on my derby.  Little wonder we got so much station on that flight.  Today they might
even turn around and put us in he slammer.  We were in fine shape.  Notice the derby is back on my head.  And notice Marjorie.  She was  a huge hit.

I may look drunk but I sobered up fast. The real reason the pilot came back to our seat was not just a jolly bit of  friendship.   There must have been a
reason…a concern.   He took one look at us  and relaxed.   Just young  Canadians with a little too much Guiness in them.   Marjorie decided  that the whipped cream
on her cabin dessert could  be good  finger paint and she proceeded  to write her name on my face.  Something she thought was hilarious.   

“Here, Alan, let me paint your face.”
Alarm bell rang in my head
”Sober up, Alan.”
“How is Eric doing…seems qjuiet.”
 Eric was vomitting into the little bag provided by all airplanes.  

“Alan,  call the stewardess.”, Eric said
She arrived  with a grin.”
“Here take this  away…”

And Eric  handed her his pillow and put the vomit filled bag behind his head.  

The trip was  coming to an end but there was one more moment I will never forget.

We landed  in Iceland for a couple of hours.  Eric was still sick.  Still vomiting or getting ready to vomit as 
we all sat in the holding room.   A nice young girl came across the room,

“Are you Mr. Skeoch?”  she asked.
“Yes…” he slurred.
“You were my practice teacher at Humberside last April.”
Eric tried  to hide  the vomit bag.  

Eric and  I returned as history and  English teachers at Parkdale Collegiate.  Marjorie  had a teaching job
st Emery Junior High School.  ” Hurrumph!  Fine  examples of teachers!.” you say sarcastically.   We were, I believe,
closer to the  wave lengths of our students.   They never heard our stories  but had we told this story back
then I believe we not have been reviled as  outcasts.   I have often  wondered what that little girl reported about meeting Eric in

When I began to write this story that song intruded again and again.  What song, you say?

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la…

Those days re gone.   Well, not really gone.  I think about them now and  again.  I see Marjorie seductively
wrapped  in that bed sheet and  Eric with his derby…not  those days are not gone.

We’d smile at one another and we’d say
Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose

Alan Skeoch

March  2018

38th Rover Crew… 1956 : CATAWBA IS CHEAP WINE: TED IS DEAD

MARCH 2018

Those were grand  years, the 1950’s.  I thought they would never end, as the song goes.  But they did and as  near as  I can  see they have not been repeated.  The innocence, sense of  adventure, opportunities, simplicity, thrift, tight friendships  of those years are difficult to replicate today.  This  picture for instance, was taken on one of  our winter camping trips with the 38th Rover Scout troop led by Ed Hisson (right) where we tramped into a huge log cabin built by a group of older WW2 veterans deep  in the Canadian  Boreal wilderness north of Parry Sound.  They shared it with us for some reason I cannot fathom…perhaps just the Rover Scout bonds.  That’s  Big Red Stevenson in the foreground, one of my lifetimes friends and me in the background.  Our coats come from the War Surplus stores of which there were many in the 1950s.


WE did not belong to a fraternity at U. of T. but we went to this fondly remembered fraternity party one night.  Eric, Marjorie and I.  No pocket money for beer.  just enough for one cigar as you can  see.  Then we hit a bonanza in the dark.

“A half bottle of red wine, here…”
“Take a  swig.”
“finish it off before the owner comes back”
“What are these lumps?”
The bottle had been used as an ashtray.  We did  not notice until we got some distance down in the bottle.


BEGAN OCT. 7, 1989
alan skeoch
march  2018
Parents have to let go at some point.  If they don’t want to let go then their kids will take off anyway.  That is our experience.
About the time the Berlin Wall came down, both Andrew and  Kevin took off. Left the nest to explore the wider world.  I think it was October 7, 1989…the Berlin Wall  came down a  month later…both boys just took off in different directions.  We didn’t know why their rite of passage occurred on the same day but it did.

Lower Wooton Farm…Marjorie and Nancy plucking chickens

alan skeoch
march 2018
LOWER WOOTON FARM is  a designated  historic  property near Almely, Herefordshire, England.    When I first visited the farms back in 1960 the farm was just a name…no directions, no real  address.  But Grandma  and Granddad Freeman talked  about the place  regularly back in Canada and since I was
working in Ireland the chance to find  Lower Wooden Farm presented  itself.  I was travelling blind. Flew to London when Irish job was over then took a train from London to Hereford and then stood on the platform, a confused and obviously lost 22 year old Canadian.

Continue reading “Lower Wooton Farm…Marjorie and Nancy plucking chickens”