January 2013


__Another year starts, the 86th time for me, though I don’t remember the earliest one or two.  As always it comes immediately after a splendid Christmas, even though it was wet.  What made it so good for me, as always these days I had the pleasure of gathering available family at my usually-empty home;  I have been living in this house for 45 years now, since when we moved there to accommodate a growing family now either dead (my dear wife Valerie) or with their own homes.  Annoyingly my younger daughter, her husband and my two grandsons live in Cornwall and have their own celebrations with friends and family, but my son David and his wife Anne come up from Hastings and elder daughter Denise makes sure the food is bought.  Bless her, she also takes over the cooking, with just a bit of help from me and her partner Lawrence does the washing up before I can stop him.  The only problem with having these two kitchen staffers is that it takes me days to find everything and put them in their right places.

Many of us share family life on and off during the year and, with somewhat failing health these days, it reminds me of the sheer pleasure of having one’s own family around to help and to share our love.

So I live alone in a four-bedroomed house and have no intention of ever moving.  One reason is that the thought of trying to clear out 45 years of built-up ‘stuff’ is enough to warrant the thought that ‘someone else’ can do it after I’ve gone, but there are other reasons for not wanting to move, too.

I refer to my neighbours I am just lucky to a ridiculous extent in these.  They are not just neighbours who happen to live right by me, they are true friends too, offering help to the old bloke, keeping an eye on my health, taking me to and from hospital if needed, offering to do shopping, the lot.

So, good fellow Probeans and your families, have a great 2013 like me and share my luck with your family, friends and neighbours.

Club News

Phil Munson selects great speakers for our lunches and has done so for years, for which we thank him, but there is one that is an outstanding repetition, that of inviting the Rev. Malcolm Newman, Pastor of the Old Coulsdon Congregational Church, to start our Christmas celebrations.

Malcolm is too young to be a Probean (he was at school with your Editor’s children and yes, they too are still too young), but it is obvious that he enjoys the lunch and our company as much as we enjoy his annual visit.

This year he was right up to our expectations, his splendid sense of humour covering the subject of exactly what and why Christmas is such a notable occasion of the year; not just because it marks Christ’s birthday but because it also marks the farewell of the old year and the first glimmerings of the start of the new.

What are our expectations of the festivities?  Where and when did they begin?  What on earth does Santa Claus have to do with Christ?  Why is His birthday celebrated in the depths of winter?  Would the shepherds really have been out with their sheep in what even in Israel is the coldest time?  Will it live up to our expectations and hopes that we shall be covered in snow on The Day?

Children’s letters to Santa Claus are written and sent in their millions, often addressed to Lapland and duly delivered there, or to Edinburgh where he has an office, after the parents have had a check on the wish list they include.  Will the snow come in time?  Well there have only been twelve in the 20th century with only two actually starting on the 25th., in 1936 and 1972.

There are so many expectations we all have, not just the children.  Did we send a card to so-and-so (usually asked when they send us a card arriving on Christmas Eve)?  Will we have a turkey for lunch and who started that idea?  The French, apparently, who called the ‘Jesuits’.  Have we bought a Tree and who started that?  It seems to be  German import started be the Georgian kings nearly three hundred years ago.  Decorating it with lights? That began with candles and house-fires, made safer in 1882 by Edison’s development of electric service.  Was the celebration of Christmas banned by Cromwell?  Malcolm said so, but better ask Jim Mulvey, who says it was Charles I who did that.  Should we have mince pies?  No, it is illegal according to an ancient law that still stands.  We were told that there are 364 presents listed in the Twelve Days of Christmas song.

So much more we learned and laughed about with Malcolm as always.


Today: John Chisholm tells us about Piers and Promenades.

February 7th:Titanic:  David Brown’s back is better since June  so he will be giving us his story now.

March 7th:  Annual General Meeting

Club News

We have been in touch with Dudley Coates’ wife Joan, who reports that Dudley is still very much under the weather, having managed – just – to be home from the hospital for Christmas.

Tony Simpson is recovering from a slight stroke he had just before Christmas and expects to be able to make today’s luncheon.

Jim Mulvey (01737 555974) tells us that he has arranged a Theatre Outing for February 6th. to see Spamalot.  He has arranged for a coach to take us everywhere, starting with lunch at Porter’s English Restaurant, then coach to the theatre, then coach back home.  He will be advising us today about times and cost.  This likely to be filled up quickly, so it will be a case of first come, first served.  Make your minds up quickly.

He has also arranged a much bigger date, a weekend break relaxing on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal on the river boat Edward Elgar, starting April 19th to 21st, travel by coach from the Tudor Rose at 12.30pm.  The cost for this three-day outing is £236 per person.  Pricey? No, not really when you will have guided tours, excellent food, cocktails with the Captain, live entertainment, good twin-bed cabins with en suite facilities for everyone.  It’s really too late to tell you all this, following Jim’s detailed programme sent earlier, but this note is just to remind you and if you have misplaced the original and although the closing date was a couple of months ago we are sure Jim will be able to let you have another.  As a post-Easter outing in one of the best weather months of the year, this will be worth it.

I suppose it’s just me, or maybe it’s a generally held fact that, Club we may well be and all living within a pretty small community, somehow there is little to report and fill this page each month.  We no doubt all had a good Christmas with many of us either entertaining family or being entertained by them or friends, yet not much gets reported to your Editor.  Okay, he is to blame as much as anyone, not reporting on the Christmas meetings and parties of the Bourne Society and the Coulsdon & Purley Debating Society he attended and thoroughly enjoyed and yes, I suppose they are somewhat personal, but somehow there must be tales to tell that will encourage our fellow Probeans to share the fun.

We wish you all a happy, healthy 2013.  I’m hoping for one myself…

Experts sometimes get it wrong

By Norman Pollard

In the course of my travels to tropical islands to audit UK grants, I was invariably told when querying specific items of expenditure, that a project had been proposed by an expert and as you can imagine, over the years I became rather sceptical of such grant aided projects.

One such project which springs to mind arose on a visit I made to a sub-tropical island in the 1860s, where it appeared that a team of visiting experts had proposed the development of a model dairy farm on the basis that, apart from the resulting employment potential, it would provide innumerable health and dental benefits.  The local administration agreed, the relevant grant was approved and in no time a model dairy farm was built, complete with milking parlour, coolers and bottling sections, offices, etc.

In the meantime a small herd of dairy cattle was purchased and prepared for shipment when the dairy farm was ready to receive it.  Eventually the herd was shipped, it settled in and soon the milk began to flow.

But the first hiccup arose: economically priced at the equivalent of 4p a pint, there was minimal demand.  The local inhabitants had for decades been brought up on Nestles tinned milk – the gooey variety which children would eat by the spoonful if given the chance – and they had little taste for this watery substitute now being offered.  Inevitably, despite the children being offered free milk at school, stocks built up and in the absence of local butter or cheese industries, ultimately the milk was sold off cheaply to the few pig farmers or otherwise conveniently disposed of.

Then the crunch came: the onset of the dry season when hitherto succulent grass became scarcer by the day.  Ultimately it became apparent that the only way it would be possible to keep the herd going until the wet season arrived, was to provide it with expensive imported feedstuff, which was not economically viable.

A decision had therefore to be made as to how best resolve the problem, with the result that the only solution was to accept that the project was not viable and over a period of time the animals were dispatched to the local abattoir to enhance the local meat supply.

Fortunately for me the project had been wound up before I arrived on the scene.  However, I visited the farm out of curiosity, only to find it in a state of decay with the equipment rusting away in the sub-tropical climate.

So much for the ‘experts’ vision!


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