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"STANDING ON THE DOG"
by Malc Seaman

When I was five years old I was small. The 'let-down' (a wooden cupboard with a drop-down shelf in my mum's kitchen) was high. It was way too high for us kids to reach up and to be able to butter ourselves a slice of bread.
“Here Silver. Come on, boy.”
Silver, our German shepherd dog wouldn't hesitate. He would get up from his comfortable spot by the back door and walk over to where two small, hungry boys were waiting and he would curl himself in a spot just at the foot of that let-down and wait for us to step up on him. Silver wouldn't make a murmur. Our weight was obviously not a problem and he would wait until we finished and then wander back to his comfy place by the back door. He was such a passive dog with us kids – but just watch out intruders!

One of my earliest memories was this big guard dog that loved us kids like we were his own. Never once did Silver complain, not that we meant him any harm. As a small child I thought it quite natural – and so did Silver!

We were a large family - three boys and three girls and lived in a council owned house in Harold Hill in Essex. Directly opposite our house was a park. That park was a place of adventure: building 'grass houses' in the summer, jumping in to piles of leaves in the autumn. One adventure led to near disaster for me and near heart attack for my dad.

My elder brother and sisters had been building a tree house. I was not allowed near it – too little. But I so wanted to look at the house in the tree. So one day I crept over the park and made for the tree house. I found it easy enough to climb the tree and, oops! just as easy to fall. I tumbled through the branches of the tree but never made it all the way to the ground. I hit one branch on the way down – with my chin! The branch dug its way into my chin and I hung there, screaming for all I was worth. Fortunately for me, by now it was noticed that I was missing from home, my dad heard my scream and came running. He managed to release my dangling little body from the branch and rushed me home. There was plenty of blood, so my dad wrapped my head in a clean toweling nappy (diaper) and carried me in his arms at breakneck speed to the local hospital where they stitched my chin.

Nobody lectured dad for not keeping an eye on me. Nobody declared that trees were to be banned because of the danger to children. Boys climbed trees. It was a perfectly normal daily pastime for boys (and some girls I knew.)
If today's Health & Safety people, the army of self-styled 'do-gooders' and the 'politically correct brigade' were to see the things we got up to as kids, they would throw a fit! But then we just did what kids did!

I survived (we always did) and lived in that house until just before I started at the senior school aged eleven. Years later when I met my wife she remembered passing by that house with her mum telling her of the little boys who lived at that house with a great big dog (as they hurriedly passed by on the other side of the road.)

During the school holidays my brother and I were usually out and about. We spent countless hours in fields, by lakes and ponds and up trees - but we always knew when it was time to head for home. My dad would whistle – and he could whistle loud. Before the area in which we lived became so built up, the wide open spaces meant the sound of his whistle carried for miles. He would whistle and we would come-a-running!

Probably, because of the hard life my dad had when he was a boy, but he was very hard with us boys. If we were late home, 'cheeked' our mum or committed any other 'crime' a wide leather belt across the backside was not at all uncommon.

At meal times we were expected to eat every scrap of food that was placed in front of us – love it or hate it. When it came to cabbage – with me it was the latter. I hated it (and still do). I was told it would do me good, it was full of iron and good for me. Yeah, right. It made me puke - literally.
But my dad made me eat it nonetheless. And there was no way I would be able to leave that table until I had. Sometimes, if my sister was there, she would eat it and I would pretend that I had. Bless her, she hated it almost as much as me but I guess it was better than either watching me throw up or worse still, watching me get the belt across my backside.

He often seemed an austere sort of man but on occasions my dad would 'let down his guard' and actually seemed to enjoy having children. On reflection, I think he was not comfortable with small children. As I reached Senior School age he seemed to take far more of an interest in how I was doing at school. In particular, he was very supportive with any sporting activity I was involved in. I did quite well at athletics, particularly the high hurdles, and he would come along and cheer me on at all my races.

We moved when I was ten years old to near the Senior school that I was to attend - Quarles Secondary Modern School for boys. It sounds grander than it actually was. But I had a great time there.

When I was about 12, I joined the Army Cadet Force. My dad had been RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major) for a number of years and I suspect he managed to bend the rules a little for my brother and I as we enlisted before the normal starting age of 14. I loved the ACF. It gave me the chance to get involved in map reading, manoeuvres and all kind of 'boys stuff' including shooting (in controlled conditions, dear Health & Safety people) all sorts of rifles including the LMG (Bren Gun), Stirling (Sten Gun), SLR (Self Loading Rifle) and of course the old army issue 303. Mostly we would spend time at the rifle ranges at Purfleet and Vange although there was a 25 yard indoor range at our Romford base where we shot .202 rifles at old tea cups.

My mum served for many years as the faithful canteen lady serving gallons of tea and trays and trays of bread pudding every Wednesday and Friday.

When my dad eventually left the ACF (I think he had a falling-out with the senior officers at HQ) he sold his uniform to the man who was to replace him as RSM. I took the uniform, as arranged, to the man's house. As I walked up the path to the house I was completely unaware that in the very house next door to his, lived the girl who was later to become my wife! We had just not met at that time.

So my brother and I left the ACF at the same time as my dad and that was an end to a very happy period of my life. My brother went on (as our elder brother had before him) to join the British Army but that life never appealed to me and I had plans to go into Engineering when I left school.

Apart from my younger sister (who was eight years younger) I found myself pretty much an 'only child' for a number of years and had to amuse myself. My older brothers and sisters were not around much (a couple had left home by then.) and I was left at home. I taught myself a bit on the guitar, I made glove puppets and string puppets (my elder sister had taught me how to sew when she was at home - she also taught me how to bake cakes) and I taught myself to paint and draw. I filled several books with pencil sketches and illustrations mainly using Indian Inks.

Overall, I remember a happy enough childhood although we were never blessed with any great wealth. I can recall my parents just about scraping enough money together to send me on a Mediterranean cruise with the school where once again, I walked past (and probably sat next to) the lovely girl who was later to become my wife. We discovered on our very first date some four years later, that she was on the very same school cruise.

We had finally met whilst working for the same company and we soon realised that we were going to become an 'item'. We were engaged when we were both 18 and had an engagement party at my parents' house. Two years after our first date we were married.

In our thirties Sue and I both became Christians. So apart from the first few years our children were brought up in a Christian home.

When our own children were old enough to appreciate them I dug out of the cupboard all those old paintings and drawings I had made when I was a kid. Well of course they were most impressed (the lovely thing about your children when they are small is how much easily they are impressed) but I was the one in for a shock. How strange (or was it?) to discover that in amongst those old pictures I had created - was a full colour picture of Jesus on the Cross!
I remember painting it – just at the time not knowing not why.

Thirty two years later our children are all grown up and we now have one grandson. Where does the time go?

Perhaps, it's when we think about how quickly our lives do pass by that we should consider what happens after we die. God has made it quite clear that our life on this earth is just a small part of His eternal plan for our lives. As the Bible says our life is just 'a vapour.' And if it is going to pass us by so quickly we ought to urgently give heed to where we will spend the rest of this eternity.

Because Sue and I (and our kids) have committed our lives to Jesus we have found a great comfort and assurance in the knowledge that we have a home in heaven prepared for us.

You can have the same assurance.
And you can we know it's true - because Jesus said so!

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