December 2015

The Coulsdon Probus ClubSpeakers

Today: Chrismas with the Reverend Malcolm Newman
January 7th: John Chisholm: Pub Signs
February 4th: (our own) Gerrard Thompson: Pewter
March 3rd: Chairman’s Charity: Blesma, The Limbless Veterans

Club News

At the November meeting, there were 36 members present plus our guest speaker. The Chairman’s Charity collection raised £38.84 and the raffle £34. Our Chairman had to leave early and our Vice Chairman Adrian Lasrado adeptly took the business meeting. There is still one vacancy on the committee.

Due to lower membership and fixed costs having to be spread over fewer members, decisions need to be taken on the monthly meeting costs and the way ahead for our club. See editorial for further comment. Last month members opted for our usual fare instead of a Christmas lunch at £22.

Some of our members were absent in November to attend the funeral of Norman Cockcroft’s wife Janice. Hugh Roberts was unwell and Ken Bennett is very ill indeed.
Please advise news of members to almoner,, tel: 01737 202243. Attendance: please notify Andrew Kellard, tel: 01737 554055.

Outings and Events

Spring 2016: Jim Mulvey has been working hard and is offering us three outings. Contact Jim on 01737 555974 or email
Mrs Henderson Presents matinée at the Noel Coward Theatre with optional lunch: Wednesday 16th March 2016.
Sussex Coastal Trip with refreshments and lunch: Tuesday 19th April.
Downton Abbey Country Tour including River Cruise: Tuesday 17th May.

Neil Saddler – Gongoozling for beginners

The Coulsdon Probus ClubThis was a return visit for Neil, a retired police officer, who wanted to live in a narrowboat. But his wife thought that selling the house was over the top and suggested renting for a week which they did in April 2008 in the freezing cold and Neil loved it. So they compromised and bought a one twelfth share – that amounted to 58″ of a 58′ narrowboat. A gongoozler stands at the canal lock gates giving (unsolicited) advice – but never helps.

The adventure began and Neil swapped his policeman’s hat for a leather one. The narrowboat built in 2007 was nothing like the old working boats but it was decorated in the traditional ‘roses and castles’. Neil recommended Orwell’s ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ for a description of the canals of ’37 and the juggernauts of their day. We saw a photo of Neil’s wife smiling (to contrast with a later photo having fallen overboard) and we saw the interior – bed area folding up to make a sitting area, TV and all mod-cons.

Off we went with Neil to explore the 2000 miles of English canals many of which are in the Midlands and around Manchester – the canal map looks much like a motorway map. The first canal in Bridgewater was to carry coal to market. It was horse-drawn, the horse being able to pull 30 tons weight on a barge. We saw the aqueduct ‘stream in the sky’ over the river Dee built by Thomas Telford in 1795 – a World Heritage site with a superb and scary view. The flight of 29 locks at Devizes rises 240′ over 2 miles – the Victorians worked the locks 24 hours using gas lights. The Anderton Boat Lift built in 1875 is perched on the banks of the Weaver Navigation like some giant three-storey-high iron spider. It’s like a giant lift – two boats go up while two go down, but the 2005 Falkirk Wheel (like a Ferris wheel) does the job faster and better. The first experience of a canal tunnel was frightening – just room to pass – keep to the right. The Standedge Tunnel is 3.25 miles long. It opened in 1811 and took 18 years to build. Originally the horses went on top and the men ‘legged’ it through the tunnel – very dangerous.

Of course sometimes things go wrong – a swan wants your sandwiches – old rope etc. wrapped round the propeller – shopping trolleys, beer barrels, empty safe dumped in the canal – slippery cobbles (splash!). When a throttle cable snapped they called the canal service – one man covers Wales, Yorkshire and Lancashire. But what fun in waterproof hat working the windlass, mooring at pubs or in the gentrified Gas Street Basin in Birmingham. Why not volunteer to be a lock-keeper (Brian Blessed does). And if you’re in your narrowboat, why hurry? At 4 mph you can’t go anywhere fast.

Editorial – Ian Payne

We are all pensioners and we’re ageing and some of us are feeling the pinch in this age of austerity. Witness the vote against a full Christmas dinner and the difficulty of getting enough members for outings. They are all terrific value, but may seem expensive to some.

Our falling membership (see graph on accompanying  questionnaire) is also adding to our financial problems due to fixed overheads. For some time, our club has been subsidising our monthly meeting costs from reserves. This is not a feasible way forward because eventually those reserves will run out. Your Committee have reluctantly concluded that monthly costs should rise from £15 to £18. This is a steep rise which some members will find difficult.

And finally what do we do about membership? Lower numbers affects costs but also activities, because low take-up makes it more difficult to arrange outings. We are seeking views of members and at today’s meeting a questionnaire will be distributed suggesting various ways ahead. Please take the time to complete the survey.

What to do when the bombs are dropping: be out of the area; if you hear a rat-a-tat or a rumble, don’t assume it’s fireworks or thunder; take cover, preferably behind concrete; you are safer in a group; if all else fails, stand and fight, you can always take one with you (with apologies to Churchill); keep calm and carry on.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Coulsdon Probus Quiz – 19th November

A big thank you to Dennis who masterminded the quiz with his usual aplomb. Out of 144 were: Andrew & Jenny, Ian & Pauline, 104; Peter, June & Steve, Shirley Whitworth and Pat Garcia, 94; Brian & Lorna, 88; Gerry, Ingrid, Tony Simpson, Vincent & Hakima, 82; Roger & Christine, 76 (only a twosome this time, losing their top spot held for many years). Thanks to ALL who supported the Quiz and particularly to June, Shirley and Pat who kindly acted as tea Ladies.

And now it’s your turn to try out a few of the questions.

1. What does the prefix ‘ABER’ in British place names mean?

2a In a deck of cards which King doesn’t have a moustache?
2b What sports competitors are not allowed to wear beards?

3. For centuries an ‘INDENTURE’ has been used as an apprenticeship agreement. How did this name come about?

4. There are many ‘MEWS’ houses in London, particularly in Knightsbridge. What was originally kept in a Mews?

5. What London Underground line crosses under the river Thames four times?

6. High on the front portal of the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, are three statues, representing three major historical law makers. Who are they?

7. How many passenger capsules are there on the London Eye?

8. What hymn composed by Henry Lyte was sung at the weddings of KingGeorge VI and Queen Elizabeth II, and played by the orchestra as the ‘Titanic’ sank?

9. Which breed of dog has webbed feet?

10. Queen Elizabeth I applied white lead and vinegar to her face which is why in many of her portraits her face is very white. Why did she do this?

11. In heraldry the terms Sinister and Dexter are used. What do they mean?




1. Mouth of a river (Estuary). As in Aberdeen, Aberystwyth, Abertawe (Swansea) at the mouth of their respective rivers, the Dee / Ystwyth / Tawe.

2a King of Hearts.
2b Jockeys.

3. Indentures were originally copied twice on the left and right of one page.
This was then divided down the middle by an irregular toothed cut – hence ‘dent’ – one half being given to the apprentice, and one to the employer. To authenticate this agreement the two parts must match with the tooth cuttings exactly. The Magna Carta was divided in this way on parchment, one half for King John and the other for the Barons.

4. Hawks, especially when moulting.

5. Jubilee Line, the silver one.

6. Jesus on the top, Solomon on the left, and Alfred the Great on the right.

7. 32 (numbered from 1 to 33, there is no No 13). This is the number of boroughs in Greater London.

8. “Abide with me”. Also played at every cup final since 23rd April 1927 (Cardiff 1 v Arsenal 0).

9. Newfoundland. Also at £10,000 per puppy the Phu Quoc Ridge Back (pronounced Foo Kwok), a very rare Vietnamese breed.

10. To hide smallpox marks she contracted in 1562.

11. Sinister means left, and Dexter right. On a coat of arms shield this is from the point of view of the shield bearer. Therefore any illustration of a coat of arms in a book has the Sinister side to the right and the Dexter side to the left.

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