Covid Special: April No.2 2020

Membership News

Tony Simpson is staying at Emberbrook for the time being (see Membership list for details). Also his house is now up for sale.
Andrew Kellard had a bad fall in the garden which has left him not very mobile. We hope he recovers soon to continue his excellent work as almoner.

Editorial — Vincent Fosdike

As I am sure you were expecting the format of our newsletter will now reflect the absence of our normal front page items, i.e. The Business Meeting report, Outings and Events and of course Speakers.

We will be using this page for general information about the wellbeing of members as and when it is received so please do not hesitate to send us items which you wish to share with the membership or which you feel to be of general interest.

Now is your opportunity to air your views on “life, the universe and everything” (can anyone identify the origin of these words)?

A general area for possible items would be: HOW ARE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY EMPLOYING THEIR SPARE TIME? IS THERE A PET PROJECT YOU’VE BEEN ABLE TO RETURN TO? Send your bits and pieces to me:

I think we have all noticed that our confinement has forced us to find new activities with which to “improve the shinning hour”. Of course, I realise that there will be a natural tendency to write about the virus. My own view is that we are all absolutely overburdened with information and that we are already well up to speed with what we can do on a personal level. Adding to the overload is pointless, if only the media would give us some more general items we would be the better for it. After all they had a lot of fun with Brexit and of course there will be more to come on this when it really comes into effect at the end of the transition year. So please avoid both areas as far as possible.

Self-evidently, all this assumes that I will be receiving lots of copy. Whilst I have been able to encourage an increase in members’ submissions particularly via the anonymous Bar Room Reminiscences, it may be necessary to reduce the size of our Newsletter if there is no News! OR general items of interest. If this happens I envisage possibly just a single sheet publication. You have been warned!

The Cruise by Andrew Banfield

Over Christmas 2019/2020 Jenny and I went on a cruise to celebrate the festive season. This was not the first time we had been away at Christmas as a few years ago we had gone up the Amazon via the Caribbean but that was a bit special. This time we went with Jenny’s sister and brother-in-law.

We were to sail from Southampton on the 22nd December returning on Monday 7th January. We were going to Casablanca, then to the Canaries, followed by a visit to Madeira, finishing at the Capital of Portugal which is Lisbon, and finally returning to the UK.

We know some friends who have cruised with the line (new to us and it came highly recommended). We have cruised before but not with this company.

On the first Sunday we arrived at Southampton and checked in, only to be told that we would not sail that day. There was bad weather in the Bay of Biscay, and therefore we would have to miss out on the trip to Casablanca to keep to the schedule. We were very disappointed. We stayed in port overnight, and sailed the following day. We therefore spent the first night moored in the middle of the port of Southampton.

We explored the ship, all very good. We noticed that the majority of the passengers were, to be frank, our age group, although there were a small number of younger people and one or two children. We particularly noticed a number of electric invalid cars, walking frames and many walking sticks. We did wonder how they might get off the ship in an emergency. The crew, apart from European Officers, were mainly from the Philippines, they were without exception friendly and helpful.

We enjoyed the extensive food, drink, shows and the various talks. We had a drinks package which proved a good idea. Many people find their drink bill a shock at the end of the cruise. We even went regularly to gamble on the Reindeer racing, not real of course, and to the evening quiz. This latter was a very competitive event.

We walked up numerous stairs because every time we went to use the lifts they were crowded with people unable to use the stairs. We became very fit. We enjoyed the full Christmas experience with lovely traditional meals on Christmas and Boxing days, all of course prepared for us. A great break for Jenny. We entered into the spirit of Christmas, and attended the Carol concert, Mid-night mass and Christmas Day service. There was an Anglican priest on the ship.

On New Year’s Eve we were at Madeira for the fireworks which were spectacular and supposed to be better than those in Sydney. It must have been popular as there were 12 other cruise ships in and around the harbour. We then called at Lisbon, our last stop, before returning home

Cruising is like Marmite, you either like it or you don’t. There also is the question of going away at Christmas. Would we go again? I think so but to somewhere else. Somewhere warm all the time.

Bar Room Reminiscences – 8: Mind your mug

When you’re sixteen years old of course you know it all don’t you? At least as a young private I suppose it is important to believe this, it is even expected of you in a way, almost everyone is bigger, older or outranks you. It can be difficult even to keep up the “cocky” exterior where one’s bluff can so easily be called, and a military environment does not care much about the day to day fate of young sprogs, particularly at the hands of their peers or N.C.O.’s

We had been sent to Dorset for a few weeks and been kindly accommodated in bell tents housing, in my case, one Sergeant, a corporal and four privates. We were part of four squad. The sergeant was a good all- rounder as an N.C.O. but did his best to live separately even to the extent of being occasionally absent overnight, presumably by some arrangement under the “old pals act”.

Sadly in both respects our beloved corporal did not follow this pattern and was in all respects the opposite. He had a sour disposition and solid physique which abetted him in his self-appointed role of squad bully.

None of the privates really had a chance against him so it was best to avoid him. No one understood him and perhaps this was what fuelled his incipient aggression. We were not psychologists and probably our occasionally cocky manner (when we foolishly exhibited it), could provide a spark to his temper. Normally this would result in being invited to undertake an excessive amount of tedious work such as potato peeling which was always available and well suited to his purposes.

However, I think we all thought something much more threatening was just under the surface and in due course it was my bad luck to find out what this was. It was about midday and I seemed to be the only one in the camp which would have been fine by me, seated in the tent trying to decide how to organise the drying of some wet kit, when the esteemed corporal entered through the flap and effectively blocked my only escape route!

“Right let’s check some of this gear”, he growled, and started throwing everyone’s things all over the tent, he seemed to have lost control, private items, sports gear, plates were all treated with violence and contempt. It seemed the height of folly to try to intervene and escape was impossible. I suppose it was a bit of a “rabbit in the headlights” situation. So far, he had not turned his attention to me at least until he seized upon a wooden tent peg mallet and initially applied it to the property he had spilled out of the kit bags which we had to use instead of lockers.

As the situation appeared increasingly more threatening some part of my brain reached for a defence strategy. Somehow I felt his greatest weakness was his well-maintained supply of general ignorance and, perhaps more usefully for me, his paranoia!

The mallet was doing great work destroying an enamel plated tin mug, one of a pair not actually belonging to myself; I think my tennis racquets would have been next on the agenda. A desperate idea surfaced! The first tin mug had been bent quite severely and my hearing, no doubt sharpened by stress, had picked up the ticking sound given off as bits of enamel flew from the bent tin which they previously adhered to. He was looking forward to destroying the second mug when I took my chance.

Trying hard to sound casual I voiced a warning to him. “Don’t do any more – don’t you know what you have done?” He focused on me with a resentful glare, mallet tightly gripped. “That mug has become radioactive, listen to the ticking! It happens sometimes when you strike compound metals”. I hoped he had heard of a Geiger counter and that the power of suggestionwould save me. “You need to wash your hands and get all the bits off quickly”.

He threw down the mug and rushed out of the tent. The relief was huge! I doubt that he mentioned the incident to anyone and neither did I.

Home Schooling – Ian Payne

We’re self-isolating, our son and family in Streatham are self-isolating and our other son and family in Abu Dhabi are self-isolating.

Now, we here in Coulsdon are retired, so you’d think we’ve not much to do. Not true. I’ve re-started writing my book and Pauline is digging for victory. But we’re both also working for Friends of Farthing Downs. I’ve just written a contract for renewing the Nature Trail and Pauline has written a Newsletter and we’re both updating the website. Then there’s Croydon Natural History & Scientific Society for which I’ve just finished editing the 64 page bulletin and Pauline has written a catalogue for the Town Hall exhibition, which unfortunately has had to be temporarily taken down during the current troubles. And there’s plenty more to do.

Both Richard and Clair are working from home in Streatham, but fortunately, Thea (14) and Iris (12) are capable of doing their own home- leaning with only minimal supervision.

Not so in Abu Dhabi. Christopher and Nadia are both working from home and Christopher has an important time-limited project. So home-schooling Faris (7), Hala (5) and Cyrus (4) is difficult – in fact Christopher is at his wits end as to how to juggle his responsibilities. So he had a brilliant idea – why don’t we in Coulsdon do some home-schooling. So here we are, video- conferencing with Zoom, Oxford Owl app open and being showered with three children’s curricula and daily ‘what to do’ papers from school. Yesterday, our first day, went well. They’ve just announced that the schools in Abu Dhabi are to close for the rest of the academic year – help!

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