August 2011

THE COST OF THINGS

shapeimage_1Yes, we belong to the luckiest generation known to recent history, what with the last serious war being over sixty years ago and economics having a generally-upwards trend all the time; our pensions, while not being the greatest, are at least more certain than those for our children.

It’s just the crazy price of everything that offends and there seems to be no slowing down in sight.

Comparisons are odious, but let us take a few examples from our youth:

My pre-war grown-up bicycle, an excellent basic Hercules plus added carrier thrown in, cost £3.19s.6d.  It saw me through to nearly the end of the war.  Today a replacement bike would cost around £300, or even £700 with added bits.

shapeimage_2Houses: The cost in pounds matches the number of digits in a telephone number, so 3 digits before the war, 4 after it, then five and now six digits.

Tobacco:  Yeah, yeah, I know we shouldn’t and most of us have given up the dreadful weed, but some of us haven’t and I include myself in the latter category.  In 1947, on Budget Day, I quit smoking cigarettes because as an apprentice at the time I couldn’t afford 3/4d for twenty.  That’s 17p. in modern words.  So I took up pipe smoking and what with a pipe being more of a thumb to be stuck in the mouth rather than smoked, it was immediately cheaper.

Now look at the price: anything from £5 to £7 a pack for 20.  My tobacco costs me the equivalent of thirty cigarettes a week, so not too bad a bargain.

Another other naughty thing in my life is chocolate.  When I was a lad a 2oz bar cost 6d.;  it now costs 15/- for 50 grams and what with weather problems in the cocoa countries it will no doubt continue its upward path.

Alcohol:  yes, I know it’s naughty but the odd drink doe no harm, but where a reasonable bottle of wine used to cost around 3/- it is now £5; a slug of whisky was 2/6d, not a couple of quid as now and as for a 2/- pint of ale costing pounds instead of shillings, well, that is beyond imagination.  No wonder sales are dropping.

Thank heavens one pension I receive covers all my naughtiness, but for how long?

With petrol at around £7 a gallon, whatever happened to the fury of only a couple of year ago at the possibility of a £2 gallon?  It cost my father 1/6d.

Sorry to be a bore, but it’s all too much.

Speakers

shapeimage_3Peter Jones came to talk about the National Trust and its work in saving so much of our heritage   Peter spends much of his time as a volunteer looking after NT sites in Norfolk; a considerable change from his working years as a fingerprint expert.One thinks of Norfolk as being ‘very flat’, but it has NT-owned woods, gardens and forms a considerable percentage of the hundreds of miles of coast they own along with ex-lighthouses thereon; of course there are the Royal hunting parks, too.

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Wildlife preservation owes much to the National Trust and checking their whereabouts in the woods and fields take up much effort from the fifty-thousand or so volunteers working for the NT, many of them youngsters using their year off between school and university (these days cheaper than long visits to faraway places), so there is a rapid turnover of names and of course education in preservation craft such as robins (furious fighters for the females); looking out for the same swallows who return from Africa year after year to the same nest; finding red squirrels, butterflies and even ants: all their lives are closely examined and written for the record.

get_image_articlesWe learned the etymology of the town name ‘Chiddingstone’ too, so, Gents, be advised to be careful if taking the wife for a day out there, for it was called thus after the local habit of chiding one’s stroppy wife there!

We learned so much from Peter in an excellent talk; we should have a return visit from him .

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We owe a lot to Phil Munson who chooses our speakers: he finds them month after month and always we spend time being fascinated by what they have to tell us.

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Today:             Glenda Law tells us about Street Furniture, something

which raises hackles with many folk.

September 1st: Barbara Stevens gives light unto us chaps, telling us of

                          Journalismafter the menopause.

October 6th:    Bob Basto on Renewable Energy – a vital advance.

November 3rd:Alan Barwick on the craft of Speedway

                                 Motorcycling

We have just heard the sad news that Joan, the wife of our dear friend Harry Cundell, has past away.

Jim Mulvey was chasing a granddaughter and seriously pulled a ligament in his shoulder which is proving slow to mend.

The combined coach and canal boat visit two weeks ago to the Lee Valley proved to be a splendid day out.  The canal boat began it all with Danish pastries, tea and coffee whilst cruising up the river.  Then Christine, our guide, took us to Waltham Abbey, famous in 1066 when King Harold, returning from defeating Harald Hardrada, prayed there for success after force-marching his army towards Hastings to fight William of Normandy, alas without success.

An excellent pub lunch staved our hunger before heading towards Stratford to see the work being done on the 2012 Olympic Games site, a vast area of specialised buildings, but they were still working on them and we were unable to get in, so we were driven round the site, seeing the Olympic village too before heading home.

Don’t forget Andrew Banfield’s Mystery Tour next Tuesday, August 9th.  What on Earth does he have in mind for our families?  Full report next month; let us hope the weather stays summery.

We are sure that all our members intend to be at our annual Ladies’ Lunch on October 20th at the Coulsdon Manor Hotel, but a goodly number have yet to advise attendance and payment, which must be by the end of August – this Month!  Get your chequebook out and send payment to Jim Mulvey.

We heard last month that our annual subscription will be going up in 2012 to £20 p.a.  Not bad, after 40 years, only to double.  Our lunch charge will also rise, to £15, again good value.

Our stand at the Old Coulsdon Fair last month raised £278 for our charity.

Graham Fox is still looking for two drivers, one for Thursdays and one for Fridays, taking folk to the PACE lunches in Landsdowne Road, Purley.  Graham attended a meeting of PACE recently and we received a honourable mention for this service we give them; nice to be recognised as useful members of society.

Youth employment

By Roger Brunton

A depressing feature of the present economic climate is the high level of youth unemployment, particularly when you recall how easy it was to get work – on a temporary basis at any rate – in our own youth.  My first paid employment was at the age of ten helping with the potato harvest, a tast which I believe was the origin of the regular school autumn half-term break.  It was wet, heavy, depressing work for a youngster and I earned the princely sum of half a crown a day; it only lasted two or three Octobers before the return of farm workers from the war and mechanisation of agriculture made us ‘redundant’.  A few years later the Post Office opened its doors to us to help with the Christmas mail; ‘help’, did I say?  My recollection is that we ran both the sorting office and deliveries with few regular postmen in sight and even did a Christmas Day round, getting the occasional mince pie as a tip.  I also remember riding  a heavy bike on a snowy night to deliver a telegram to a cottage down in a wood.

Once at university, further opportunities opened in the long summer vacation.  I spent a day a one of the three ‘officials’ handing out voting papers at a local election – a spot of nepotism in this case since my girlfriend’s father worked for the local council.  Another local authority job, with the County Council, was sitting by the side of the main road counting and classifying vehicles.  I had a nice little shed and every morning, despite it being the height of summer, the road man would come along and light me a fire.

A somewhat longer-lasting job was working as a railway porter and since almost every passenger train then used to have a luggage van full of parcels which needed to be either hauled in or out in a very short time and included such items as sides of bacon and – at least once, a car engine – this was heavy work. I also hated another feature of the work, having to take newly-filled oil lamps down along the track to the signals; trains are very big when encountered close up and personal.

I did once manage to get employment in my chosen profession as a chemist, working in the laboratory of a large gas works.  Most of this work involved routine testing of the finished product for purity and calorific value, but the company was keen to make a little extra money if it could.  The electronics industry was just beginning to use Germanium diodes in place of thermionic valves, so we tested the dust in the retort flues to see how much Germanium was in it.  I have no idea whether its extraction proved viable or not, for sadly it wasn’t too many years before town gas was obsolete, replaced by the North Sea variety.

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