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Saturday, 1 April 2017

Beer, Bombs and a dog called BoyBoy

It’s a strange combination; 

Beer, Bombs and a dog called BoyBoy.

Many people are aware of the Blitz that I posted about earlier but not many people realise that while the German air force was doing its best to wipe out London, any bombs they had to spare they were dropping on Coventry.  Why Coventry?
Coventry - November 14th 1940

Coventry is thought of as a Cathedral city, but in war time it was an important manufacturing city.  Its factories played an important part in supplying military arms for the war effort.  Many of its workforce lived near the factories they worked at.  So, when “Operation Moonlight Sonata” headed out from Germany and attacked Coventry with 400 bombers on the night of November 14th 1940, not only did they demolish the factories but most of the nearby homes as well.

At that time, we as a family had no direct connection with Coventry.  That was to come later.

Meanwhile, bombs may fall, houses may collapse but the Englishman must have his beer and Dad was doing his bit in that regard.   He had been discharged from the army because of hearing loss, and was working as a drayman for Watney’s Brewery.  
This shows a "Trumans" cart -  The Watneys' cart would have been very similar.

Lifting barrels of beer and loading them into pub cellars was hard work and deserving of the “thank you pint” that the publicans provided.  So when dad got home of an evening he smelt like a brewery both inside and out.
One particular evening, that smell must have attracted and had some significance to a rather handsome looking purebred Airedale Terrier dog.
No matter what Dad did, the dog followed him home from work.  A trip involved not only walking but also travelling on a London tram. 

Dad, a confirmed dog lover, would not leave this creature sitting outside our house so it was invited in for watering and warmth.  It was then that he took a look at the tag hanging from the dog’s collar.    I don’t remember the tag, but apparently it showed evidence of being registered in Coventry.  Could it have travelled from Coventry?   

Was it in London visiting with its owner from Coventry and got lost?  Anything was possible.  There’s nothing strange about a dog travelling from Coventry to London, a distant of about 100 miles.  I’ve just read about a travelling cat:

(Just a little aside:  Don't you think it's strange that the name of the cat and the dog differs only by one letter??)
If you’re thinking that having the dog tag would lead to its owner, then think again. 
·         This was war time.
·         No one had phones.
·         No email, no internet, no T.V.
·         Places with records probably obliterated.
·         Owner maybe obliterated.
·         Animals were not a high priority.
If this animal was to live then it needed to be cared for.  We cared for him.  He cared for us!
Now that he was part of the family he needed a name.  I can’t ever remember any formal discussion in that regard.  There had been no name on the tag.  His name more or less evolved. You know how when you are talking to a nameless male dog you say: “Here boy, good boy.”  And there are times when you’re desperate for the dog’s attention and so repeat the name.  Hence he became: “BoyBoy”.
BoyBoy fit into our family like Bread and Cheese or perhaps I should say Adam and Eve (that’s cockney for “Believe”).
In a previous post I’ve diagrammed the downstairs rental flat that we lived in.  There was an almost identical flat above, where we had once lived.  No one lived above us for all the time that I recall living at that address.  When you think about it that’s very strange!  Surely places to live must have been in short supply.  Houses were being demolished nightly, yet here was a perfectly livable empty flat. 
I have absolutely no evidence at all of the following statement, but I do remember my Mother vividly, and so must agree that it was probably true.  The story goes that if the landlord sent anyone to view the flat then Mum would guide them around whilst telling them what a great and marvellous place it was to live in.  She would always add that, of course, as a family we’d got used to the rats that prowled nightly and they hardly bothered us at all.  They weren’t that big, just regular sized.  Needless to say that was the last we’d hear from prospective tenants.  But those non-existent rats were a ready part of Mum’s arsenal.
All the same, we couldn’t let this wonderful space go to waste.  It was never taken over with furniture or any signs that we used it.  The front room was more like an empty gymnasium.  BoyBoy loved it! And so did the boys!  BoyBoy would race around the room in a circle like a horse at a circus with either LB of LLB on his back.  LS was getting too big for the dog to carry so she became more or less the Ringmaster. 
Owning a dog for us at that time, was nothing like owning a dog today.  We never took him for walks.  He was let out and sometimes he’d be gone for hours or days.  We didn’t have dog food.  There was no canned or package food for dogs.  He ate whatever we fed him and I can’t imagine that there were many leftovers.  But he earned his keep.  I always felt secure when he was around.  Mum loved him because he provided a special service for her.  Rent on our flat was due weekly and was paid cash to the “Rent Collector” who came to the door.  He took the money and acknowledged doing so by signing our rent book.   Unfortunately, Mum didn’t always have the few “bob” necessary to complete the transaction when the rent collector came a calling.  That’s where BoyBoy helped her out.  She would tell him to: “Get him!”  Upon which order BoyBoy would spring from the kitchen along the hall to the front door, throw his huge frame against the door and let out an ungodly bark the like of which would have scared Superman.  The rent collector would inevitably decide to come back another day.
Yes, he certainly earned his keep in so many ways.
We all loved BoyBoy.  But we don’t live forever and neither do dogs.  My first experience with grief was in a later year when Dad and I took this loved member of our family to the Battersea Dogs Home.  
Showing the belching Battersea Power Station behind.
BoyBoy had “Distemper” and was due to be euthanized.  It was a sad, sad day for me and all my siblings. 
One of us for sure never forgot BoyBoy.  Just ask LB about all the future Airedale Terriers he has shared his life with.

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