extracts from the march 2015 newsletter
DON’T HANG ON TO YOUR HANDBAG – a cautionary tale
Four years ago, my husband and I had a holiday in Spain. We had 3 nights in Seville, an attractive and interesting city with a fine cathedral and Moorish style royal palace.
On the third evening we were returning to the hotel having had dinner near the centre of Seville. It was dusk but there were plenty of people around and walking along a narrow street not far from the hotel, I was suddenly aware of a motor scooter much too close to me. There was a vice like grip on my arm (I think the strap of my bag cut into me,) and the next thing I knew I was lying in the middle of the road several yards further on minus my handbag. I was holding tight to my bag and had been dragged along; the scooter had to stop to shake me off. What a pity it did not fall over, but the two young lads went off with my nice leather bag and about 50 euros, luckily no passport.
Some very kind Spanish people and my shocked husband came to help me. I had bad grazes on my back and later horrific bruises on my arm; I was also very shaken up. The Spaniards phoned the police who were useless. They then kindly offered to take me to hospital but luckily I did not feel that was necessary.
I slept rather poorly and next day we set off for Cordoba. I gradually felt better and was able to enjoy the next few days in Granada albeit looking with great suspicion at every passer-by.
Probably best not to hang on too tight to your handbag, although in my case I think that was an automatic reaction. I am relieved I was not badly hurt but it was a very nasty experience. Jenny Cupit
The Colour Purple
The poem "When I am old I shall wear purple" suggests, among other things, running your stick along the railings.
In the vogue of some Forum members, I now use a walking stick but have not yet engaged mine with railings for fear of overbalancing and loss of dignity.
Recently, I have become increasingly aware of other less nimble pedestrians, not necessarily elderly. People pushing others in wheelchairs and those who manoeuvre theirs independently have long received my silent admiration. According to recent news items, folk pushing buggies resent the designation of spaces on public transport being given predominantly to wheelchairs. The jury is still out.
Some years ago, I participated in a Ladies Driving Challenge, raising funds for the Marie Curie Cancer Charity. Vehicles driven included a bus, a fire engine, a massive ‘earth mover’, a supermarket delivery ‘pantechnicon’ etc. I left the ‘granny wagons’ until last. I thought they’d be easy. They weren’t. Now I give them a wide berth.
Should there be a Pavement Code? Individuals who are agility challenged negotiate their way through hordes of active pedestrians. As well as people pushing buggies, they also compete with pavement users texting on mobile phones, The latter are totally unaware of others. Sometimes stationary groups block the way of those wishing to proceed, as they are absorbed in chatter.
Decades ago, during driving lessons, my instructor advised me that when overtaking a cyclist, I should imagine that it was a car, leaving plenty of room. Should this be applied when passing pedestrians who are less mobile? Or should the onus of responsibility be that of the infirm individuals?
This poem was given to us by a graduate in Greek Archaeology during a recent holiday sailing around the Peloponnese. Ithaca was inspired by the Homeric return journey of Odysseus to his home island, Ithaka, as depicted in the Odyssey.
Ithaka by Constantine P Cavafy
As you set out for Ithaka, hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops, angry Poseidon -Don’t be afraid of them: you’ll never find things like that one on your way.
As long as you keep your thoughts raised high, as long as a rare excitement stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops, wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter them unless you bring them along inside your soul, unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when, with what pleasure, what joy, you enter harbours you’re seeing for the first time; may you stop at Phoenician trading stations to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony sensual perfume of every kind –as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities to learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years, so you’re old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
Not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
Following Alan Parkinson’s talk on North Tawton here are some memories of school days
Memories of my primary school
My family had lived for generations in Burwell, a village on the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens. It was a long village having at one end a waterway by which trade had taken place up to the early twentieth century, before roads were improved, giving access to Cambridge in one direction and Ely in the other. The higher end of the village was adjacent to the chalk uplands of the Newmarket area. The lower end was poorer with small farms and workers who scratched a living from the black soil. There were two Anglican churches, St Mary’s and St Andrew’s, one at each end of the village, with associated primary schools.
I attended St Andrew’s School which was 200 yards from my house at the lower end of the village. There were two classes: infants and juniors. The infants class took place in the Church, an unattractive Victorian building. (By contrast St Mary’s is referred to by Pevsner as the most perfect example in the county of a Perpendicular church.) There was a tall curtain which separated the Church from the schoolroom. The Church part had an altar, some benches and an organ (pumped by hand); services took place occasionally, the congregation being numbered on the fingers of one hand. In the school part there were about 20 children aged from 4 to 8 years taught by just one teacher, Miss Claydon, a kindly soul who would come down each morning from the other end of the village on her sit-up-and-beg bicycle. When she had her back turned to the class she would know who was talking or misbehaving: “I have eyes in the back of my head” she would say and I was convinced that each side of her hair bun there were concealed eyes. These were war years and there were several British and American air bases nearby. At the sound of a plane overhead Miss Claydon would shout “Under your tables” and we would crouch down until she gave the all-clear. A benefit of having troops nearby was that one winter a Canadian group donated powdered chocolate to local schools which we mixed with our daily milk heated up on the temperamental Tortoise stove, the only mode of heating. In the vast cavern of a half-church, I can recall looking up at the texts on the roof beams which I regarded as an incentive to learn to read. One which I remember clearly was “Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”.
I have no memories of how we passed our time in class: how did Miss Claydon cope with such a range of children of mixed ages and mixed abilities, augmented by even scruffier evacuees? I recall that when Miss Claydon was unwell we had a supply teacher called Mrs Hubbard. She went to the cupboard and found some slates; on these we did our sums and spellings, writing with chalk. In the class there was a boy called Brian who had a weak bladder. On one occasion he failed to put up his hand in time. The result was a pool of liquid on his hollowed-out wooden chair. Miss Claydon instructed me as an older boy to carefully carry the chair outside, without spilling the contents in the Church part of the building, and empty it outside. This incident sticks in my mind but I have no memories of the teaching and learning that might have gone on.
I progressed to the juniors class. This took place in a separate building erected as a school in 1871. It was a large brick-built room attached to an older room built of clunch, the local chalk stone, in which we had our dinners. The food arrived in ‘containers’ from the kitchens at the Secondary Modern School in the middle of the village; a rota of older boys helped carry in these containers. The Head Teacher was Miss Wheeler, a tall lady usually accompanied by her cat. She lived in the adjacent teacher’s house. She had recently taken up the job on the retirement of the previous incumbent. We sat in rows at iron-framed desks, with ink-wells, in four columns with the oldest pupils on the left as seen from the teacher’s desk. The doctrines of the Church of England did not trouble us greatly, most of us coming from non-conformist backgrounds, apart from learning the creed and catechism which the Vicar checked on during his annual visitation. Again, how Miss Wheeler coped with the age range and the ability range I do not recall. Despite her efforts some children never learned to read. We listened to some radio broadcasts – history, nature study and music – and Miss Wheeler had us up to her desk for individual tuition.
She encouraged me and set me homework (unusual at the time in primary schools) and I was successful in passing the ‘scholarship examination’ as we called it (the eleven plus). However, before being offered a place at Soham Grammar School, five miles away by road, I had to be interviewed by the Headmaster and Chief Education Officer. Miss Wheeler prepared me for this by asking me questions at her desk: “What do you want to do when you leave school?” she said. At the time I was enthusiastically interested in the natural world, especially in butterflies and moths. “I want to be a naturalist” I replied. Miss Wheeler’s jaw dropped. “No, no, you mustn’t say that” she said, and she suggested an alternative career which I cannot now recall. It was many years later that I realised Miss Wheeler was confusing ‘naturalist’ with ‘naturist’. I was the first boy to pass the eleven plus under Miss Wheeler’s headship. (The larger and grander St Mary’s School sent five boys to the grammar school that year.)
Looking back, I can’t say that my primary education was much fun, but no one had expectations that it should be, and generally life for all was fairly grim in the war years and just after. Certainly such a 4 – 11 school with two classes would not pass an OFSTED inspection today. My sympathies are with the two dedicated teachers who were presented with such an imp David Hobbs
Memoirs of a Dirty Girl May 1945
It is the end of the war. Street celebrations are over. My London school is about to leave Llanelly and go home to Camberwell. But we evacuees must be CLEAN to leave our billets and go home.
Oh dear. I had had head lice which I had kindly passed on to my foster mother and foster sister. Not foster father as he was bald. We had all endured the lethal stinky greasy treatment with Sassafras oil, after which one awoke in the morning to a pillow which was a graveyard of dead pediculosis capitis. BUT I still had a headful of dead nits, determinedly cemented to the roots of my hair. SO off to the Isolation Hospital where a team of patient nurses picked out the nits with their finger nails. And what did I learn?—How to make a bed using hospital corners!
So then this clean girl went home (where the infestation recurred) but who cares—the Germans were beaten!
My grandchildren used to wait until Keith got the tea then dash into bed with me and demand a story about the olden days. I have written an account of life growing up in the forties, so that they can have some idea what it was like. Here is an extract about my journey to school.
‘’When I was 7 I was allowed to walk home from school at lunchtime on my own but my Mum took me in the morning. One hot day after the road had being resurfaced I set off after lunch but didn't get to school until home time! The road menders used big granite chippings laid on tar, then the steamroller flattened them into the tar, but there were gaps between the chippings. On the day in question it was very hot and on my way back to school I noticed little tar bubbles erupting between the stones. I popped a few, and a few more, eventually arriving at the school gate two hours later, as the rest were coming out. Tarred and sticky I went home to a hostile reception: the dress which was pink, pretty and I liked it, was thrown away. Quite a lot of the tar ended up on me and my Mum got it off by rubbing my legs and arms with butter paper. I spent the evening in my bedroom watching my friends playing outside!’’
THE FIRST STAGE IN THE FORMATION OF EXETER FORUM
Published in the Exeter Express & Echo, Wednesday April 8th 1970
WESTERN WAYS by DEXON
Idea to combat boredom of old age in Exeter
An Exeter man wants to start a new organisation in the city to revitalise retirement for ex-professional and business men and women. He is Mr. Joseph Metcalf, of 7, Pennsylvania Close, Exeter, and he tells me he would like to start an Exeter Forum for retired folk along the lines of the ones already successfully operating in Plymouth, Torbay, and Tavistock.
Mr. Metcalf said the aim was to help former professional or business people to combat the boredom which tended to come into a once busy life after retirement.
He continued: "The Forum would help retired professional and business men and women from Exeter and district to extend their interests and circle of friends.
"They would meet people of similar background and ideas, mainly in the afternoons to engage in the liberal arts, sciences and other worthwhile pursuits.
"The Plymouth Forum was formed in 1968 with 80 foundation members. Today it has well over 200 and the experiment has been repeated with great success in Tavistock and Torbay.
“The Plymouth Forum is divided into groups. Many of these run afternoon lecture courses on such subjects as current affairs, astronomy, literature, local and world history, music, and antiques, with well-qualified lecturers supplied through local education and other authorities.
"There are also 'activity' groups for walking, music with a group choir and orchestra, craft work, floral arrangement and so on.
"Members pay an annual subscription of a guinea.
"It should be emphasised that the Forum's activities complement rather than compete with those of existing organisations."
Mr. Metcalf asks anyone interested in the idea to write to him enclosing a stamped, addressed envelope before May 1.
Prayer for Tourists going on Forum Holiday
Heavenly Father look down on us, your humble tourist servants who are doomed to travel on this earth, taking photos, mailing postcards, buying souvenirs and walking around in drip dry underwear.
We beseech You Oh Lord, to see that our coach is not hijacked, our luggage is not lost and our overweight baggage goes unnoticed. Protect us from surly and unscrupulous taxi drivers, avaricious porters and unlicensed English speaking guides.
Give us this day divine guidance in our selection of hotels that we may find our reservations honoured, our rooms made up and the hot water running from the correct tap if at all. We pray that the telephone works, and the operator speaks our tongue and there is no telegram waiting from our children which would force us to cancel the rest of our trip.
Lead us Dear Lord to good inexpensive restaurants where the food is superb, the waiters friendly, and the wine included in the price of the meal. Give us the wisdom to tip correctly in currencies we don’t understand. Forgive us for under tipping out of ignorance and overtopping out of fear. Make the natives love us for what we are and not for what they can screw out of us.
Grant us the strength to visit museums, cathedrals, palaces and castles listed as ‘musts’ in guidebooks and if by chance we skip a historic monument to take a nap after lunch, have mercy on us for our flesh is weak.
For husbands only. Dear God, keep our wives from shopping sprees and protect them from bargains which they neither need nor can afford. Lead them not into temptation for they know not what they do.
For wives only. Almighty father, keep our husbands from looking at foreign women and comparing them to us. Save them from making fools of themselves in cafes and nightclubs. Above all please do not forgive them their trespasses for they know exactly what they do.
Together. When our voyage is over and we return to our loved ones, grant us the favour of finding a willing audience for our movies and a sympathetic ear for our stories, so that our lives as tourists shall not have been in vain. Amen
THE QUIET DEATHS by Amy Hudson – a thriller
This is not a “who done it” but a psychological thriller. It is well written and gripping. The plot is unusual and there are some well drawn and engaging characters that one cares about. This is not a cosy read but exciting and will keep you on the edge of your seat.