August 2003

C’MON, WHAT’S YOUR REAL NAME?

shapeimage_1-6A couple of months ago there was reference on these pages to loss of detail memory, especially forgetting recent facts and events; no problem with recall in detail of things that happened sixty or seventy years ago or thereabouts – they’re there in colour – but naming the person you have just been introduced to: that sort of thing. Could it be that we are expected to remember too many of them in this modern ‘globalised’ world?

Before railways opened up the world, everyone was born, grew up and lived the rest of their lives within a village community, so names achieved a logic all of their own. Now, living away from one’s roots and being exposed to a larger community, then adding the names of actors and celebrities on TV, radio and newspapers, there are too many to remember so you don’t bother, and that spills over into not trying hard enough to recall those of your neighbours or fellow Probeans.

The real problem is that there is no logic to a name. There used to be, not just centuries ago when a man was known for the work or trade he did – my own name ‘Scales’ is derived from the Old Norse word Skoli’, meaning a shepherd’s hut, so in the village I was known as Ian (Jan?) Skoli and was the bloke who put the sheep away at night and chased offthe wolves.

No, within our own lifetimes we have been renamed by our contemporaries. I refer, of course, to our nicknames at school.

Wild horses will not drag mine into present company; anyway it was inherited from my father who was a housemaster at the same school, but it was at least logical in that it placed my family relationship. It didn’t relate to physical oddity in my case, like Toothy Gilmore or Hairy Halpin or Tich Andrews (all dead, so I’m safe from retribution). But ‘Tinner’ Parker (are you reading this somewhere in Illinois, Tinner?): where is the logic in that? Yet it was, I assure you an exact description of the boy and probably far more a true identity than his given name, which I never knew or at least certainly cannot recall.

There are terrible things done at the baptismal font and they are never logical, unless the handing on of a family name counts. I recently did some family history of the Squires Byron of Coulsdon and found that seven succeeding generations called their first-born son Edmund. It must have been bad enough within the family, unless nicknames distinguished one from another, but historians go mad.

Speakers

shapeimage_2-6Traidcraft was the Revd. George Young’s subject when he spoke to us at our August meeting. George had served his Church for over forty years and like many, looked round for something useful to do in his retirement. His lifetime’s work caused him to ask himself if we in the rich West really deserved our Creator’s justice; did it conform to his view of creation and did human nature and character really come from God, who is just? We have taken advantage of the poor in this world, who have the odds stacked against them. Yes, they produce the raw materials we need, but they can only sell them to us at the price we are prepared to offer. Yes, the World Trade Organisation’s intention is laudable – free flow of trade between all – but we have a huge advantage over the third world who are starting from the bottom and the desire for profit overcomes scruples.

Traidcraft (the spelling is a play on the word ‘aid’) was started by Richard Evans while he was training to be a Priest in the Church of England, when he discovered that the excellent artists’ brushes he used were sold for a pittance. There had to be a better way of compensating the producers for their work, which they undertook at any price just to keep their families alive.

Traidcraft joins the producer, buyer and end user in one bargain suitable to all; a partnership, in short. The price is negotiated, not demanded. Mothers can buy necessities for their children, or a village can afford the ‘luxury’ of a school. The producers must receive 50% of costs upfront; no commercial credit is involved so they can get the project offthe ground despite their starting from the bottom. They must abide by agreed rules, so if, for example they require wood for the product, it must come from a forest where they replace every tree cut down. The food they sell us must be of a suitable standard, preferably better than other commercially available products. If Traidcraft is to be successful, their products must beat the opposition and they ensure it does with strict product quality control.

George gave us an eye- and mind-opening talk, backed up by a veritable shopful of Traidcraft products, round which members clustered to buy. It made us think.

Speakers

Today:

Kate Holdsworthy, a local Vet., tells us of her life looking after the health of our pets.

September 4th:

Norma Sweeting has a cunning plan to seek out our innermost characteristics, using Graphology to find the personality hidden in our handwriting, as if we didn’t already know but keep quiet about it. However, if you want the satisfaction of learning you were right all along, bring a plain sheet of A5 paper (same size as this page) and a pen with you and offer your handwriting for examination.

October 2nd:

Pauline Payne of the Coulsdon New Millennium Projects tells us what they have in mind and calls on our support.

Club News

George MacDougall died suddenly last weekend in East Surrey hospital after a short illness, aged 73. A bright, active member of our Club, he will be sorely missed. Our sympathies go to Phyllis and his daughters.

Charles Hancock is recovering in Shirley Oaks hospital with a new hip and is even starting to walk again within a week of the operation! Well, he’s only 91.

Tom Chapple is recovering from a heart attack. A month ago he was playing bowls in Yarmouth, had pains which he ignored, then days later saw his own doc who rushed him to Mayday. He is recovering – without benefit of surgery – and should be with us again shortly.

A while back, our Webmaster Jim Mulvey offered to teach us how to manage the beast, encouraging us to meet him at either of the Coulsdon Libraries which are fully equipped. ‘Spider’ (web-master – geddit?) Jim has kept the offer open, so talk to him and arrange a lesson. You don’t even have to have home facilities (though it helps for practising), it can be very instructive for hobbies, getting in touch with halfforgotten foLk from the past, or catching up with missed BBC radio programmes. It’s the biggest reference library in the world, with well over a billion entries.

Stan Rogers really has got the bit between his teeth, organising Outings. Most recently the visit to the Industrial Museum in Amberley was outstanding, far too much to take in on one visit. Sixteen of us went on a day perfect for walking – not too hot, but dry – by train or car to the old chalk quarry wherein are laid out halls covering the various historical trades and industries that made us a great nation, but where are the apprentices to carry them on? Some members played with a manual telephone exchange, others visited the printing hall, while the concrete technology hall featured a canoe made from concrete that had to be used when a flood seemed likely to wet everything. Craftsmen were in attendance everywhere and a notable craftswoman in the pottery, attracting an unfair amoumt of attention.

Coming later this month will be a welcome return to Denbies’ in Dorking on August 21st., to see how they make most excellent wines in our uncertain climate and to sample the products. Next month we can try our sea legs on the Waverley on September 28th. Stan will be reminding us how to book the trip on this, the only remaining paddle boat still plying the Thames. You’ll be able to tell your grandchildren, or better still take them along for the ride and they will be able to tell their grandchildren.

Golf: If its not too hot, the next match will be on August 21st. at Reigate Heath. Bill Brinkley tells me that the local Probus golf organiser is Ian Berwick, on phone 020 8654 0467. Ian, a Purley Probean, begs names of those interested in this and future matches, so be sure to call him for details of times, etc. Sounds like a good idea: from what I gather they will matches played by Probeans from all local clubs, so no more bronze medals for Coulsdon.

Goodbye, dear servant

When I spent some years in West Africa, along with other expatriates we had African servants, such as a cook, a steward and a gardener. The higher Civil Servants also ran to a ‘small boy’ (usually a decade or two older than his master) who did the seriously menial tasks around the house. Some senants were good workers, reliable, honest and hardworking, justifying the half-salary promised when one went on leave to the UE: on the understanding that it would be paid if they took up service on one’s next tour of duty. Others, many others, were a pain in the neck and it was with relief that you signed them off, always with “A paper please, Master”.

The “paper” was a job reference to be shown to the next potential hirer and pushed the bounds of truthfulness to an unexplored degree, to avoid being sued for defamation of character in a somewhat biased courtroom, where the magistrate was probably a tribal brother of the servant, as would have been his lawyer and you were the only white face in a crowded, steaming room. You were automatically assumed to be rich beyond the dreams of avarice and therefore ripe for the plucking.

How to avoid such shame? Lie, dammit, lie and use your imagination in writing the reference, in words that could be translated by another expat. “He has done me well for several months. ” “His standard of work was done entirely to his own satisfaction.” “He was beyond improvement.”

All that was fifty years ago, but I am delighted to be given a list of modern equivalents from supervisor reports on employees.

These were not written to be seen by the poor devil himself, so they are more
direct and open to understanding by the next reader:
“When she opens her mouth, it seems it is only to change feet.”
“He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them. ”
“This young lady has delusions of adequacy.”
“This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot. ”
“Got a full 6-pack, but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together.”
“It’s hard to believe that he beat out 1,000,000 other sperm.”
“When his IQ reaches 50, he should sell.” “Do not allow this employee to breed.”
“If he were any more stupid, he would have to be watered twice a week.”
“A prime candidate for deselection.” “He’s been working with glue too much.”
“One neurone short of a synapse. ” “He would argue with a signpost. ”
“A photographic memory but with the lens cover glued on. ”
“Gates are down, the lights are flashing but the train isn’t coming.”
“Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.”
“If you gave him a penny for his thoughts, you’d get change.”
“A gross ignoramus, i.e. 144 times worse than an ordinary ignoramus.”

Produced and edited monthly by Ian Scales (01737 553704)
for The Coulsdon Probus Club.
Edition No 80.

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