When I was a boy!… we had no electricity. All evening the whole family would sit around the kitchen table, dimly lit with an oil lamp, while we would discuss the changing seasons, the weather and repeats of Dad’s stories about the war.

Sometimes I would play the piano accordian for entertainment while our valve radio was warming up and being tuned to Dick Barton, special agent! Nobody would talk during the programme in case we missed some of the action!

Dad’s stories were mainly set in the 1930’s – 1940s so they never started with the classic “When I was A Boy”. We think he didn’t like talking about his childhood for some reason! Nevertheless, he loved telling his yarns to us and, overall, we enjoyed them – especially in that cosy, dimly lit thatched cottage built over 100 years before.

Imagine the whole family of five kids… my youngest brother Malcolm, who was born profoundly deaf, couldn’t appreciate Dad’s stories but my two older brothers were more interested because they were destined to work on the land. My sister Janice and I sometimes ‘tolerated’ the old stories but preferred to escape and play a game of ‘rings’ using some rubber seals from Mum’s bottling jars.

“Owd Dick Evans would never forgive me if he knew I’d told you about his accident with his runaway Shire horses”, said Dad. “After a long day ploughing, Dick was taking his two horses back to the yard when a thunder storm blew up and a bolt of lightning struck his cart. The two shires went off in different directions leaving poor old Dick sprawled out across the yard and calling for his Mam!”  Dad laughed, wheezed and thoroughly enjoyed the thought again of his friend Dick, safe but totally bewildered!  “Oh, you should have seen his face”… “But Dad”, we’d interrupt in unison, “how did you see his face if you weren’t there?” Totally composed, my Dad would continue…”When he told me what happened”, said Dad, “his face was a picture. It felt like I WAS there!”

The tales were quaint and repetitive, partly due to the fact that our Dad had spent the wartime working on the local farm to preserve vital food supplies for the nation; he told of  his role supervising captured German and Italian prisoners of war – soldiers, according to Dad, with marked differences in their work ethics. “One lot were hard working but the others were always looking for a way out.”

Some of the captured soldiers were very skilled and made me some toys out of pieces of scrap metal and wood, I can still remember the detail of my silver bus! This impressed my Dad because his level of technology was set (and remained) at binder-twine. He could fix any gate or piece of farm machinery with a length of that yellow hairy string!

62 years on, my own family consists of two boys aged 12 and 3 plus a grown-up daughter of 47. They would all say that THEIR Dad, like their old Grandad is also a story teller. With strong genetic and environmental moulding, I’m bound to be strongly influenced by my happy childhood and my wonderful parents.

Every night, before my 12 year old goes to bed I have to give him a real-time but fictional running commentary about the main character of ‘Dick Barton, Secret Agent’ with the aim of making him smile before he goes to sleep. My story-telling role has extended to role-play with my 3 year old. He expects me to BE the part of ‘Grufalo’ as well as entertain him with the story line. As for my daughter, a teacher in London, I hope she is generous when (or if) she has a need to tell her friends about her Dad’s silly stories.

Story Telling and Teaching are not too far apart: teaching/training/ mentoring and coaching – they all formed a major part in my three (or is it four) careers do date. Anyway, little can be more important than to find interesting and effective ways of transferring knowledge and experience from one generation to another. I wonder how my children will convey ‘When I was a boy’ to their offspring their early memories of home life? Perhaps they’ll recall these days of fossil-fuel generated electricity for the home before we replace it with GTLR (Geo-Thermal Luminance Radiation) beads embedded in our gardens, property and clothing!