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Feather's Miscellany: Those Pills

...Jim and Ethel were loyal chapel-goers. They never missed a Sunday at the tiny chapel at Ruddledene down the hill from their farm. The congregation was small compared with the old days when there was less money around and less free time. The old-timers would have been shocked to see people playing sport, washing their cars or driving off for the day to the seaside on the Sabbath. The old order had gone and a new one had taken its place - but not quite...

But Jim and Ethel are about to be unexpectedly caught up in the sexual revolution. John Waddington-Feather tells a satisfying tale.

Jim Chesterfield was born in the twilight of Victorianism, about three decades after the old Queen died. But she'd left her mark firmly on her realm, even though it had changed dramatically since her death. The old social order was changing, faster than some would have wished, especially the ones in power, the upper-crustians. The Old Boy Network and the power of the Old School Tie still strangled some parts of society even into the 1960s.

A far cry this, though, from Jim Chesterfield, whose generation saw the upper-crust crumble and a new order take its place. Farming a small-holding on the Pennine Hills above Keighworth, Jim wasn't touched as much by change as the folk living in the town. Of course, like everything else there was more bureaucracy, more forms to fill in, more inspectors poking around to make sure he conformed to some distant laws coming from an even more distant Whitehall, but basically he was left untouched by change.

Jim had only been to London once and that was to Wembley to see Keighworth play in a Rugby League cup final. The event of his life then. He never went on holiday. Work, he said, was his holiday and you couldn't blame him. He was content with his life, loved his farm and had a loving wife, Ethel, and family.

Ethel went along with him, though she would dearly have loved to travel. She dreamed of far-away places, going on cruises and she did in time - but that was some way into the future.

Jim and Ethel were loyal chapel-goers. They never missed a Sunday at the tiny chapel at Ruddledene down the hill from their farm. The congregation was small compared with the old days when there was less money around and less free time. The old-timers would have been shocked to see people playing sport, washing their cars or driving off for the day to the seaside on the Sabbath. The old order had gone and a new one had taken its place - but not quite.

Sex might have come out into the open with younger generations, but it was sill under wraps with the older one. The strange thing was that the farming community saw sex daily, watching their livestock breed and living through the yearly cycle of nature when all about them was given over to procreation; but "sex" was a word still taboo inside the house, no matter what went on outside it.

If "sex" was spoken at all it was about coal or flour or potatoes. "Secks" was the local dialect word for "sacks" and the medium for sly jokes before the lid was taken off sex in the 1960s. After that "secks" lost it force - so did sex.

Jim and Ethel were shocked when television came in and bedroom scenes were thrust upon them. There was nothing they could do about it. They'd be innocently watching a soap when suddenly, before their eyes, a couple would be naked in bed having a bit of rumpty-tumpty. "Disgusting!" they would say - but left the telly on.

The time came when they were caught up in the sexual revolution,up-dated in a laughable way by their own grandson, Ted. Ted was a product of the liberalised 1960s. He grew up more open-minded than his grandparents; perhaps too open-minded at times, but he was a loving grandson and thought the world of Jim and Ethel.

By this time they were in their seventies and retired. Jim's son had taken over the farm and they'd retired to a little bungalow in Ruddledene, near enough for Jim to poddle around the farm but far enough away for him not to interfere. Retirement freed Ethel from the daily chores of farm-life and she began to travel, sometimes dragging Jim with her.

Ted and his wife had emigrated to Canada. He'd done well at school and gone to university (the first in the family to do so) and picked up a good job in computers. He'd tried at first to explain to Jim and Ethel what he did, but soon gave up. It was beyond them, and by the time he was their age and retired it was beyond him, too.

Anyhow, they flew to Vancouver and stayed with him and his wife a couple of weeks. One day Jim didn't feel too well. He had a bad headache and opened Ted's medicine cabinet in the bathroom, looking for some aspirin. He found what looked like a bottleful and took a tablet before he went to bed.

It shifted his headache all right and much else! It made him feel younger, much younger, so he took one each day. Before he left he asked his grandson where he got his aspirins from.

When Ted realised what his granddad had been taking he was shocked.

"Granddad," he said, "I shouldn't take those at your age. They might harm you."

"Oh, but they don't. Just the opposite," said Jim. "They clear my head, make me feel years younger. What are they?"

Ted looked embarrassed. "Potency pills," he said. He couldn't bring himself to say 'Viagra', not that Jim would have understood anyhow. Being a little hard of hearing, he'd have thought Viagra was a brand name for the pills, named after the great falls back east.

"How much are they?" asked Jim innocently.

"Ten dollars."

"D'you mind if I take that bottle back with me to England?"

Ted gulped. "Go ahead, granddad. Be my guest, but be careful, no more than one a week to get rid of your headaches."

The next day they flew back to England and just before they left, Jim gave his grandson a hundred and ten dollars for the pills.

"I can't take that! They cost only ten dollars, granddad!" Ted exclaimed.

Jim wouldn't be put off and thrust the dollars in Ted's top pocket. "A hundred and ten dollars - ten from me and a hundred from your grandma. It's the best holiday she's had in years!"

John Waddington-Feather

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