December 2003

LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT

shapeimage_1-10When I was a lad, in serious need of finding the best-looking girls in the district, I joined Purley Young Conservatives. Nor was I let down, but that is another story…

The political difference between parties in those days, at least to my untutored mind, was absolute. I didn’t know I was untutored, since like all of my generation I simply knew everything about national politics and there was an end to it.

We had a Labour government which showed its socialist ways by nationalising everything in sight, all except Tate & Lyle which they wanted to very much, but that, too is a different story. They were, in short, Left wing but not so leftist as the Communists and we all knew where they stood and what they desired: we of Purley and Sanderstead would be put to the sword and our riches (ha!) distributed amongst the deserving poor of Soviet Russia and North Croydon.

Smack in the middle were the Liberals, untainted in those days by European ideals of Social Democracy, their only desire as the minority party being to get a say in government through a voting system so complicated that it would never work in this land of practical politics. Look at Ulster as an awful example.

To the right, and proud of it, were my lot, rudely called Tories by the other parties, with a Member of Parliament representing us by Divine providence. He wasn’t much good so we changed him for a better model, but still Right wing. And everyone knew what they were and voted accordingly.

Now where are we? The Conservatives are so confused about Europe — they having got us into it in ~ the first place — that it is only because Labour are for the EU that they oppose it. They appear to have ~6 found themselves a leader that can lead, so there is hope. They may even call themselves Conservatives again, being the only party wishing to conserve Great Britain as a separate entity. ‘Christian Democrats’ is so politically incorrect now, of course. And much too European.

Labour, on the other hand, appear to have moved so far to the Right that there is little to choose between Parties. They are New Labour now, of course, but include a group of MPs who call themselves ‘Real Labour’. What next? Will they fight under the banner of ‘Provisional Labour’, or ‘New Improved Labour’, or ‘I Can’t Believe it’s Not Labour’? Certainly not Socialist Labour. Plenty of E-numbers, though.

Speakers

postcard_torquayOne of the most useful spin-offs of being a Probean is how it helps to keep the old mind working, the most important way of staying young and enjoying a long retirement. Folks who just sit around and wait for the inevitable are those who can’t be bothered to learn.

Our speaker’s subject in November was a case in point: Had you ever heard of a producer of postcards called A R Quinton? Had you, before hearing John Chisholm on the subject, ever really cared? Well, I for one had never heard of him and now I really care. It introduced a whole new subject, opened up a previously unnoticed bit of my brain and dusted it off, giving it something to admire and remember.

Quinton was a painter who flourished in the early part of the 20th century, who found his forte – and what fortune he achieved – painting typical English scenes and selling them to postcard manufacturers. Prior to him and his like, postcards were limited in what they could portray, with a short written message on one side and the address on the other. Gradually, the small writing areas were adorned with simple sketches, but it wasn’t until the rules were changed that one could have a picture filling one side, while the message shared the other with the address.

Quinton’s paintings were of both countryside and city views. The countryside was shown in its best and truest English form and sold for transmission to foreign parts, possibly to expatriates dreaming of home. The city views were mainly for ‘local’ mail.

But cities change as the traffic becomes less horsey (my dear! the smell!) and more mechanised, so rather than start again with a whole new version of the same place, Quinton would wash out the horses and folk in Edwardian clothes, replacing them with cars and buses and girls in shorter skirts. In some instances there were several versions of the same basic painting. The cars in particular often seemed to be too big – drawn to a different scale – but they were correct in every detail and one wondered if Rover or Vauxhall were paying the artist for advertising.

A fascinating subject, drawn along by a master of the understated, for John Chisholm had little to say except to introduce each slide with the shortest explanation. A pleasant and most instructive interlude.

Speakers

Today:

It’s the Christmas Special again! Different, though, with James the Magician, one of England’s finest comedy sorcerers.

January 15th:

Our very own member Roger Brunton with a talk entitled “With a handcart to the land of the honeybee”

February 5th:

Again our own member, Tony Simpson, in the matter of “Shipbuilding, past and present”

Club News

Repeating, at the request of Reg Baker, that the date of our January luncheon is the 15th. of the month. We couldn’t meet on the first Thursday because it’s a bank holiday (and few would be in a fit state anyway), and the following Thursday has been booked by others, so you’ll just have to wait. I met Harry Stockbridge a couple of days after our last meeting and told him that we had marked his 97th. birthday with a toast and applause, which pleased him no end; he thanks us all and added our congratulations to the fifty-or-so friends and relations who had sent him birthday cards.

A couple of weeks later, Jim Mulvey collected Harry from The Shaw and took him to his regular Saturday haunt, the Heath Room in the Congregational Church in Old Coulsdon, where some two dozen more of his friends had signed a birthday card and wished him many happy returns. He’ll make it, too. A remarkable Probean.

Tom Chapple is still in the land of pain-killers and says he is not well enough to come to our luncheon this time. He has great faith in his specialist, saying that she should be able to put her hand on the seat of the trouble, which is in his back and his hip, not his seat. I reminded him that the January meeting is delayed by two weeks, so he hopes that the next six weeks will allow him to get better.

Don’t to count the number of hips our members have gone through. Alan Rose is to be added to the list of ‘extras’ and is recovering as we meet.

Have you heard of F H B Ellis? Do you know anything of his life and actions in Coulsdon and Purley? I have undertaken to write him up for next year’s Bourne Society annual Local History Records and while the Local Studies section in Croydon Library has some information about him, there is not enough yet, and only one photograph of doubtful reproducibility. Even his names would help: the only place I might find them is on his gravestone and they are impossible to read after sixty years of Coulsdon weather. To remind you, FHB was an early local Councillor when the Coulsdon & Purley UDC was formed in 1915 and became its Chairman some ten years later. He was a well-educated chap, able to translate the Coulsdon Court Rolls for 1647 to 1702 from the original Latin. He joined the Army in 1915 too, at the age of 50! He only got away with that by lying, but still it must have been some lie He did a lot for generating interest in local history and took many photographs during the 1920s and 30s, when this district was being changed from countryside to suburb. Help, please, if you can.

Another way you can help is to let me have a five-hundred word article for the Newsletter. I have used up all the ‘original’ contributions and am loath to use stuff from the Internet, funny and clever though it is. This Newsletter is a Coulsdon Probus product and should reflect our history, our memories, our thoughts on the world, not those of others. I will put the apostrophes in the right place if needed and be glad to publish. Think about it over Christmas, when you’re not too merry, but do have a cheerful and sustaining break from regular life all the same.

The Rain it raineth

shapeimage_2-10I know, Lord, we prayed for rain, but isn’t this just a bit ridiculous? After nearly five months of drought, we expected some balance to be achieved, but having taken the said five months time off, surely it would seem sensible to allow another whole five months to catch up and not do it all in short order? “Never a debt more certainly met, than wet for dry and dry for wet”, I learned at my mother’s knee. Yes, we were living in Ireland and in Enniskillen at that; situated, local lore told us, on Lough Erne for six months of the year and in the lake for the other six months. We could all swim from an early age. One of my earliest recollections is hearing my mother’s gasp of shock when, going downstairs first thing on a winter’s morning in the half-dark, she put her foot into six inches of water where the last step should have been. We moved out of that house to another at the top of a hill when I was five.

A trick we played on new boys at school was to send the poor fool spinning on his bike down an incline towards the edge of the lake through a huge puddle of flood water, which journey he would never complete and be stranded on a slight hummock in the centre, then follow him down and with a velocity known from experience, splashing him until he was soaked, while we successfully made the other side. Rotten little swine.

The school rugby pitches were on a flood plain, just about a foot above flood level and it was said that visiting teams rarely won a match, not being able to handle the mud we played in. All tennis courts were hard surfaced; I do not recall a single grass court in the whole town. Rowing was the most successful sport locally and to this day Portora Royal School regularly wins provincial, national and international races and contributes Blues to university teams.

Here in Coulsdon it is all so different. We would have rivers and not just occasional bournes, except that the water soaks away into the chalk before it can create a bed to flow in. As a matter of prehistoric fact, the valleys in this part of Surrey were cut by rivers of melting ice after ice ages over the aeons, a truth borne out by the discovery of animal bones washed into the pebbles Iying in the bottoms; ask the builders of St. Aidan’s Church, where they had to knock down the original building and dig deeper foundations, after the original started to sink and crack.

Another thing: we have an average of about 25 inches of rain a year here, versus Enniskillen’s 70+ inches per annum. Ours tends to be concentrated in the winter months; theirs doesn’t, much. Mind you, if it went on raining at the ‘catch-up’ rate of the past fortnight, we would have some 150″ in a twelvemonth.

So, Lord, just a little backing off, please?

Produced and edited monthly by Ian Scales (01737 553704)
for The Coulsdon Probus Club.
Edition No 84.

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