The Definitive History of the Surname STABLES in Yorkshire

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The Autobiography of Brian Stables (Part 14)


Blackpool, Tickhill

This is the fourteenth part of Brian Stables's fascinating and very funny autobiography, which is written in his own words.

Brian was born in Tickhill in 1929 and emigrated to Canada in 1976. He is currently serialising his life story for us.

He has also provided a superb collection of photographs to accompany his story. Click the photo for a larger image.



blackpool illuminations.jpg (16980 bytes)
Blackpool Illuminations














wpe3.jpg (12441 bytes)We had once again arranged to visit London and this time we stayed in a small hotel in Chelsea for a few days. After looking at some of the usual tourist spots and taking in a couple of shows we rented a car and set off to visit our respective parents and other close relatives.

As adults, neither Val nor I had ever visited a ‘popular’ (English) seaside holiday town, other than Bournemouth of course, and whilst we were visiting Val’s parents we decided it was time to correct this situation.

We chose Blackpool, I do not know why, perhaps we had read of the illuminations that had just been switched on for the winter months, who knows? (Who cares, did you ask?).

Due to our having travelled to many places around the world, and certainly more than the immediate family members, there was a bit of leg pulling and fake Lancashire accents put our way, one Aunty jokingly, (I think) passed on the advise to watch out for bedbugs.

Apparently there was a widely held opinion, that many years previously, somewhere around the end of the nineteenth century, during the time when Blackpool was the favourite holiday spot for the mill workers of the North of England; bedbugs were reputed to have been a problem.

As bedbugs were a problem with lots of working class families in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century I could actually give some small credence to this advice. I thought back to the verminous accommodations I had occupied over the past little while, in places such as the Aden transit camp for example and I reckoned I could handle it. I thought that if it were true, it would likely provide Val with a new experience.

We booked ourselves into a small, ‘family’ style Hotel on the North shore, arriving just in time to get a leisurely bath and a change of clothes in time for a supper meal. I put on some clean underwear that had been stored unpacked since my departure from Aden, and then down to the dining room we went, eager to experience the Haute Cuisine of Blackpool North.

...we were happily getting to the first name basis with our new acquaintances, when I felt a distinct creepy sensation around my backside...

We shared a table with a young honeymoon couple who were trying hard to demonstrate that they had been married for years and years. The meal had got as far as the conclusion of the soup course, and we were happily getting to the first name basis with our new acquaintances, when I felt a distinct creepy sensation around my backside that I thought I recognised all too well.

Horrified, I tried to get Val’s attention as unobtrusively as possible, but it was totally impossible to do so without alerting those around us never mind the couple sharing the table; I seized whatever the irritant was by grabbing the seat of my pants, and standing up in great haste I hissed across the table; “Val, quick get out of here and get up to our room, quick”.

I will say this for Val, she could see there was a crisis and with widening eyes and narrowing lips she rapidly followed me out of the dining room and upstairs to our room.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” were the first words she, (not unreasonably) spoke through clenched teeth as we got behind the door. “Quick Val, get the blankets off the bed” I ordered, I was too agitated to give explanations, she gave me with a rather quizzical look, but being the intelligent lady she is, and recognising that there was more to this than meets the eye, she started stripping the bed, “for goodness sake tell me” she begged.

I was busy trying to get my pants off with one hand without disturbing whatever it was I had trapped in the other hand all the while trying not to shake up the rest of my clothing in case of other horrors so far undisclosed.

I continued my, military style, instructions to Val, telling her to grab whatever creature fell out of my underwear as soon as I released it onto the sheet. Sure enough it was a bed bug!

It had obviously lain undisturbed for the past couple of weeks since my arrival from Khormaksa transit camp and I guess it was getting hungry by this time. After it was captured and disposed of, I got dressed once again and I then set off to finish my meal.
“Where are you going?” my lovely lady asked.
“I’m going to finish my meal of course”, (what’s wrong with the woman anyway?)

She was looking a bit petulant, she was dragging her heels; even I could see something was troubling her.
“Come on” I said, “Let’s go”
“With the manner you got me out of that dining room and up here, there is no way I am going back in there right now, in fact, I am never going in there ever again,” she indignantly, and somewhat angrily retorted.

Then; “Where are you taking me for supper?” she demanded.
Where indeed?

It was ironic that after the leg pulling we had received regarding bugs it should be me who would be guilty of delivering one. I just hoped we had not missed any. We searched through the remainder of my stuff but it was the only one we found.

There came a peculiar cold feeling about the place, it was as though one had opened a door in the middle of a Canadian winter and the room was filled with cold air...

We visited my parents in Tickhill and it was there that I had to revise my ideas of what constitutes normal phenomena.

I had taken a few colour slides of our stay in Hong Kong plus a few of my posting to Aden and visit to Africa and I set up a screen in the front room to show Mum and Dad the pictures.
“I shan’t be bothering wi’ that bloody tripe” said Bill in his inimical and endearing style, and off he went to the Club.

Having lost fifty percent of my audience I was a trifle put out, but I pressed on and switched on the slide projector.The bulb immediately sent up a small column of smoke and burned out. I had two spares so it was only a matter of moments to replace it and start again. A curl of smoke and, to my astonishment, the second bulb also indulged in self destruction! I put my last bulb into the socket and watched the smoke come once again, this time I was ready and switched off before the bulb actually blew out.

There came a peculiar cold feeling about the place, it was as though one had opened a door in the middle of a Canadian winter and the room was filled with cold air, the dog scurried into the corner and started whining. We banked the fire up, decided to watch a TV comedy show, and we switched on the TV. The tube went ‘pop’ and went blank. Every fuse in the house electrical box blew out with a loud bang and, except for the firelights glow, we were plunged into darkness.

...I happened to glance up and saw a strange lady standing in the open doorway to the room...The dog was still cringing and showing the white of her eyes huddled into the corner...

In those days fuses were a small strand of wire that passed between two points on a ceramic cartridge which was plugged into a fuse receptacle, the wire was supplied in long lengths and one cut off the amount and type as required. Using candles and flashlight I was concentrating on the repair when I happened to glance up and saw a strange lady standing in the open doorway to the room, “You might have told me you had a visitor Mum” I remarked.

I turned to the visitor and said; “Good evening” but she just smiled and backed out of the room. The atmosphere was very peculiar. The dog was still cringing and showing the white of her eyes huddled into the corner, Mum and Val stood transfixed with very odd expressions on their faces.

“Well, who is it?” I asked.

After a moments hesitation and in a strained voice Mum said; “Bry there is no one here except us three, but there is something very odd going on around here, just look at Sally”, (the dog) “I am not leaving this room nor going through that door until you get the lights working properly”

It was then that I realised that the outside doors had not opened, and, as I had only just come from the other part of the house it was not possible for someone to have entered without my knowledge.

Was it a ghost?

I have no idea; I do know that whatever it was, there is no doubt, I saw a very ordinary person, dressed in a vaguely Victorian manner, but very ‘solid’, there was nothing about her that suggested anything out of the ordinary. To me at that moment, and even now in retrospect, it appeared to be a real person, albeit no one I recognised.

After about five minutes or so the cold sensation disappeared but the TV was still inoperable.

Somewhat discomforted, I concentrated on getting the lights working as quickly as I could, I then very warily searched the house from top to bottom but found nothing untoward, the outer doors were locked and all the windows closed and secured. After about five minutes or so the cold sensation disappeared but the TV was still inoperable. I did not try the slide projector again that night but it worked just fine the next evening.

The following day mum got a TV repairman in to check the TV set over but when he switched it on, it worked just fine. It was, and is, a mystery to which I have no logical answer.

From Tickhill we went to visit Val’s paternal Grandmother in County Durham.

I was unsurprised to find a very active and lively lady who was in her mid seventies at that time; she was another matriarch whose word was law in her home.

We had not planned to inconvenience her as we knew she was restricted in available accommodation, but she would not hear of us leaving after a short visit, nor would she countenance us staying anywhere else, she told her son Raymond to find a bed for himself at the home of another member of the family around the corner, then Val and “Her man” were ordered to take possession of the now vacant room. She then proceeded to get herself ready for a night out and I was delegated to supply the transport.

We were made so very welcome and I enjoyed the company both of Grandma and all of Val’s other relatives in County Durham.

It did not seem long before it was time to pack up the old kit bag for B.A.O.R. and it was off to catch the troopship ferry at Harwich, cross over to the Hook of Holland and then by train to Germany and pick up the threads of the cold war.

It was time to get back to soldiering once again.

Read the next installment: Family Life Begins

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Last modified: May 10, 2010