May 2003


shapeimage_1-3One of these months, this page is going to be blank, simply because I suffer from writer’s block and can think of nothing original with which to fill it. It nearly happened this time, but last Tuesday morning – as I do each week – I was spending a couple of hours on duty at St. John’s Church in Coulsdon. There wasn’t a queue of visitors waiting to hear about the history of the building, I had filled the oil candles and checked the heating timer clock, so I pulled down a copy of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer which, I am glad to say we use for 8 a.m. and Evensong services.

Idly flipping through it, I came across a COMMINATION, being a service of curses handed down to us through Deuteronomy, so they have a good provenance. There is much to interest this modern generation, and right away I was amused to note an interjected opinion – presumably by Archbishop Cranmer – calling on the Church to restore discipline “(which is much to be wished)”. What changes in this life? Did the elderly always feel the way we do about the nation’s youth?

High on the list of curses that follow the priest’s invocation, preceded only by one about worshipping carved or molten images and another against cursing one’s parents, is “Cursed is he that removeth his neighbour’s land-mark”. Will someone please tell Croydon Council that they might put themselves in danger of mortal sin? They get pretty close, sometimes.

Planning permission for new houses is what I have in mind. Over a century ago Squire Byron tried to enclose Farthing Downs and was only stopped by an expensive court case, as a result of which the Corporation of London bought the land with the promise never to enclose it or build on it, a promise kept to this day.

In the 1930s, before the Green Belt law was enacted, it was Coulsdon & Purley UDC’s intention to allow building on land between Chaldon Way and Meadway, with resulting reduction of people’s back gardens, as well as affecting their amenities. The coming of war stopped development, but for the past fifty years the part-developed land (electricity, sewers, etc. already laid on) has been under threat.

Not any more: The Corporation of London has now bought the land as an adjunct to Farthing Downs and we are safe from at least some of the 50,000 housing developments in the South East insisted on by Government.


shapeimage_2-3I don’t know how good a photographer you are: David Bailey, or like me? I blame the camera of course and indeed it is quite impossible with mine to get that snap of a grandchild doing something funny or historical, because the half-second that elapses between pressing the button and opening the lens – due to much computing of focus, light and the need or not for flash – means the child has moved out of frame, turned his back or assumed a passive and totally uninteresting face.

Not like our speaker in April. Gregor Brinkley, we were told, would be talking about birdlife, his hobby. Well, he did do little talking, but it was his photographs that enticed. While there were indeed birds to be seen, many of his photographs were of wild animals of all sorts in southern Africa. Not West Africa, where I spent ten years and saw one dyker, many snakes and thousands of weaver birds and that was all. Just mosquitoes and ants made up our wild life. Too many humans and the bush was too thick, I suppose, but why were there no sharks in the sea either?

Gregor showed us exceptional shots of lions and other big cats close up, looking interestedly at the camera – almost too interestedly with a view to a possible meal, one thought. Giraffes looked more friendly, being, as it were on the same end of the food chain as ourselves. And wonderful photographs of plovers, heron, hoopoes, weaverbirds, blue cranes, sand grouse, gannets and many more. Do penguins count as birds? We saw them too, on the beach being downright friendly.

Gregor spoke, but only to explain what we might be missing from the picture on the screen. He did not waste his time or insult our intelligence with unnecessary facts and figures. He made 45 minutes slip by, gently teaching us and keeping our interest, so that we wanted more when he had finished. Always a good sign.



More about Africa and the Africans, when Mike Carrigan remembers his time in Swaziland and other Points South

June 5th:

Lt. Col. Colin Fairclough spent more than 40 years as an officer in the Salvation Army, half of it with the Army’s family tracing service, during which time more than 70,000 people were successfully found and reunited with their families. Here’s how.

July 3rd:

Traidcraft and why it is necessary. Revd. George Young will tell us how and why we should help the Third World.

From a Daily Telegraph Obituary:
Gregor MacGregor of the MacGregors who died recently, had been a cavalry officer and was reviewing the troops. Riding down the line, his horse noisily and hugely broke wind. “Sorry about that”, he said. “That’s all right, sir,” said a voice from the ranks, “We all thought it was the horse.”

Club News

We welcome Bob Gill and David Clarke as guests today. Both aim to join, provided the food is good and the chat entertaining.

Under the leadership of Stan Rogers, some thirty Probeans visited Newhaven Fort on a beautiful Spring day last month. A video was shown, telling the history of the fort and how it was built into the cliff, using local materials and stones from the beach. Tableaux showed the uniforms of the troops in Victorian times as well as their rifles; others, more hands-on, allowed members to relive the horrors of a WWI trench and frightening air raid moments from their youth, when they lay in an Anderson shelter at home.

The ladies had their moment in the afternoon when a visit was made to the huge Paradise Garden Centre in Newhaven, so we can look to improved plots across our part of the land. As one member was heard to say to another: “If you go to Paradise, take your credit card”.

A super day out, lovely weather and a comfortable, if late arriving, coach. Apparently the ordered coach had a puncture before pick-up. Bad luck, since it was to have been the last trip driven by Colin Rich prior to his retirement. We wish him all the best, for the best part of his life.

There are more outings being planned for the summer and no doubt Stan will have distributed information round the dining tables at this meeting.

John Morgan had a double bypass heart operation at St. George’s, Tooting, -followed by three weeks convalescence in Rustington before returning home a month ago. He is now under the 1LC of the District Nurse who visits daily to change the dressings on his leg, whence they took veins for the heart. He’s getting better, even taking short walks, so it won’t be long before we see him here again.

Ray EIarris has been asked if someone could volunteer to drive fellow retirees to and from the Old Coulsdon Centre for the Retired at Old Coulsdon. Ken Urquhart does a lot of this, but he needs an assistant every now and then. Have a word with Ken, if you can help, for details of what is involved. Phone 01737-5S1812.

Our Internet address is on the back of this Newsletter. Jim Mulvey is our Webmaster and is keen to drag us into the 21st. Century, to which end he has arranged that we are one of a group of worldwide Probus Clubs sharing the chat. Jim wants to encourage the rest of us to use the Net. We’re not too old, he says, to learn the art. Our local libraries have a service free to residents and he will gladly take us along for instruction. He will have words to say on this. Sounds fascinating. When this 9-year-old computer dies the death, I shall certainly replace it with one that is fully capable of Networking. You can get Jim on 01737-555974, or eMail:

Coulsdon evolves as I write, with dozens of trees being cut down to make way for the long-awaited (20 years) relief road round the shopping centre. Have you seen the hotel they want to put up in place of the Red Lion? Looks like an Odeon cinema. No space for a functions room, 44 car parking places to serve 91 bedrooms. Look in the local library, where they have copies of the plans, and complain.

And we’re still alive??

As children, we would have ridden in cars without seatbelts or air bags. Our cots were covered with lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cupboards, and when we rode our bikes we had no helmets and the brakes probably didn’t work, like the ones on the home-made go-carts built from scraps on which we ran down the hill and across the main road at the bottom. Horrors!

We ate bread and butter and sometimes drank cordial, but were never overweight. We drank water from the garden hose or from a stream far from home on one of our frequent days out, when we roamed the countryside at will, with no way of calling home on a mobile. We ate wild berries and green apples, got wet and cold and awfully dirty, but we didn’t catch pneumonia or suffer from e-coli germs. So long as we were back before dark, there was no parental trouble. Report them!

Our pecks of dirt taken then protected us for the rest of our lives. Call a doctor!

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s home and knocked on the door, or just walked in uninvited. We did this without telling parents where we were, all alone on our own initiative. No guardian accompanied us down the road, but we lived.

We cut ourselves, broke bones and teeth. These were accidents that happened, not the basis of a law suit against the landowner or the Council. It was our own fault. We had fights and punched each other black and blue, but we learned to get over it and were best mates the next day. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls, ate worms and, although we were warned, nobody’s eye was put out with a stick and the worms didn’t live in our tummies for ever. Call a solicitor!

We suffered when not being chosen for the football team and no trauma resulted. We learned to live with the disappointment and determined to try harder next time. Our actions were our own, consequences were expected and there was nobody to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law – imagine that! Summon a counselor!

We enjoyed school and the discipline that went on there. Yes, there were times when the teacher got hold of the wrong end of the stick and a stick was used across our bottoms, but no grudges were borne. We didn’t send our fathers round to beat up the teacher; more likely we got another telling off when the report came home. We didn’t have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-boxes, video games or tapes, dozens of TV channels, personal computers or Internet chat rooms. We made our own fun with our own friends. Haven’t they heard of Human Rights?

Our generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. More riches have been generated in the last fifty years through greater innovation and an explosion of new ideas than ever before.

We had freedom, failure, success and personal responsibility for all of them.

Produced and edited monthly by Ian Scales (01737 553704)
for The Coulsdon Probus Club.
Edition No 77.

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