BACKSTORY – NAILCLIPPERS (1959)

This photograph is a gentle everyday scene of my aunt giving the budgie a kiss in my gran’s house in Toxteth.

Bluey, (for that was his name), was only allowed out of his cage under the strictest control, for it stood in the front room of the house very close to where the vestibule, front door and therefore possible ‘budgie freedom’ were located. Nevertheless, to all intents and purposes he was a happy soul – sitting on his perch chirruping away through the day, until – in the late evening – someone would throw a tea-towel over his cage in an attempt to urge him to shut up and go to sleep at night. There were a few versions of Bluey who lived in Hughson Street over that time, and each of them loved just as much as this particular little tyke was. Exactly why there were so many budgerigars processing through the house at that time I was never told, although the fact that the family also had cats living in the house might have had something to do with it!

welsh_elizabeth_budgie

Anyway, I digress. All this idle chatting about budgerigars is just an aside really, for what I really wanted to talk about was nail clippers – more specifically, my auntie’s silver-plated nail clippers with the hole in them. The hole? Yes, you read that correctly. A hole which had been perfectly formed and cut right through the blade. But how was this possible?
It’s easy…

You know the score. When you’re three years old you’ll pretty much play with anything, and at times most of these things you really shouldn’t go anywhere near. Of course you don’t know this until later however, when a grown up – possibly your Mum or Dad – catches you out, gives you a smack behind the knees and yells ‘Now that’s naughty!’ at you in a loud stern voice. The tears flow, you stop whatever you’re doing, (permanently, if you know what’s good for you), and life carries on. The majority of us will then grow up to be perfectly rounded individual’s who will learn a valuable lesson from the event, and forever resist the urge to be scarred for life in the future, through being subjected to the occasional bout of corporal punishment. And so it was with me and the nail clippers.

I’d obviously picked them up from somewhere, and although I can’t actually remember doing so, I must have thought to myself just how much like my Dad’s wire cutters they looked, as he’d worked on the radio in the corner of the room earlier that day. You can clearly see the radio in the photograph. Also note the mains cable, that twisty brown cloth-covered stuff which was forever getting itself into knots, which snaked out from the shelf to disappear into the plug on the wall behind the budgie cage. Talk about a tempting sight!

Of course the difference was as follows:
a) Dad’s wire cutters had rubber insulation on the handles, the nail clippers didn’t.
b) Dad knew that above all else you should always respect electricity, and of this, I hadn’t a clue.
c) Finally, Dad had carefully switched off the power at the socket and pulled out the plug before he went anywhere near the radio….
….and I’d done precisely zip!

The outcome therefore was somewhat inevitable.

With no adults in the room to stop me, I decided to follow my Dad’s lead and have a go at rewiring the radio. As the blade of the nail clippers cut into the live mains cable there was an almighty bang and a very bright flash of light. The adults all came running into the room at once from the kitchen, and at first were somewhat confused because I was nowhere to be seen. According to what my Dad told me years afterward, they didn’t quite know what was going on as there was a strong smell of burning insulation in the room and I’d apparently disappeared without a trace. It was only after they heard my groaning coming from underneath the sideboard, and spotted the nail clippers on the carpet with a perfectly round hole cut through the two blades, that they finally put two and two together and worked out what had happened. They picked me up and started consoling both themselves and me at the same time.

Clarks_Joyance_1950s

Somehow, incredibly, I’d survived. It could have been the insulating power of the thick soles of my Clarks shoes which saved me, but the force of the blast had blown me right off my feet and flung me at least eight feet across the room to land beneath the sideboard. According to family legend I started crying almost at once as I was extricated from under the furniture. I might even have cried a bit more after my Dad had screamed “Now that’s naughty!” at me.

But the important thing is that I’m still here…and so are the clippers, now put away safely in the loft inside a keepsake box, away from the prying little fingers of my grand-daughter Paige. The budgie however, sadly, is no more.

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