October 2019

Business Meeting 5th September 2019

25 members were present including our own Jim Mulvey, today’s Speaker. Our latest member, David Read, was absent and will be inducted in October. Chairman Roger Gourd reminded members that a proposal will be put to the next meeting on future membership followed by a discussion and vote.

Almoner, Andrew Kellard, reported the absences of Lionel Downton (fell while in Coulsdon: had to go to hospital), Roger Davis (now in Nursing Home at Purley), Tony Simpson (using a mobility walker), Brian Thomas (diabetes requiring hospitalisation), Neil Gregson (last minute dizziness). Reg Baker having had a fall and then a back strain will be with us in October after four months absence.

As acting Luncheon Secretary, Andrew Kellard reported only one late absence due to illness. Please notify Andrew by 10.30 am the prior Tuesday if you are not able to attend. Also, if you, your partner or another member is unwell please contact almoner, Andrew Kellard on 01737 554055.

Vacancies: Luncheon Secretary to replace Andrew Kellard. The charity collection raised £45.84 and the raffle £25.


Outings and Events

Ladies Lunch: 17th October at the Chateau Napoleon. Entertainment – a mandolin player. There’s still room for a few more guests. Please complete the form and send to Ian Payne.
Quiz: 22nd November, Cameron Hall for individuals, pairs or teams. Quizmaster Dennis Evans, fish & chips etc. Please complete entry & choice of menu form. We have two external Probus teams but very few entries from our own members. Please send entry form with menu choice to Ian Payne.


Speakers

Today – Vic Quale: Fun on Four Wheels
November 7th – Andrew Warde: The London Roman Wall
December 5th – Revd. Malcolm Newman: “Christmas Theme”
January 9th – Bob Sinfield: Comedy writing for David Jason et al


Jim Mulvey: Fake History

On the 5th September our guest speaker was one of our own, Jim Mulvey. I think there is a little extra credit due to an “in house” speaker as they are more subject to peer review that one who can happily say farewell and move on to the next venue.

This month’s talk on Fake History fits well with the general mood of doubt and suspicion that many of us feel on being confronted with yet another breaking news story relating to some more or less vital area of our lives.

Jim drew on a large number of historical events known to most of us from the standard versions we picked up for the purposes of getting an “O” level or two. Indeed, it would seem that many T.V. presenters got their inspiration from the same basic ideas and perhaps their researchers were happy to do the scripts for them without worrying too much about how their occupational forebears had their sources managed by the powers that be. It seems that the fake elements in historical records were very much managed by those whose safety or reputation was at stake.

In writing this summery I must limit myself to a sample of the evidence Jim put forward and also ask his pardon for any inaccuracies which I may introduce due to my limited ability to take on the full import of the material with its supporting detail. So the items I give here were those which my slow moving pen (and brain) registered with the greatest facility at the time.

From the art world there is the case of Van Gough’s ear so widely reported to have be partly or fully severed by himself in a fit of despair or other mental disturbance. Interestingly a piece of academic research in 2017 suggests that it was actually lost as the result of a fight with a known opponent. Had this been made public both of them might well have faced criminal proceedings with I suppose quite serious charges and heavy penalties. So a cover story was used. Incidentally the self-portrait shows a bandaged ear but is the wrong one due to it being done using a mirror. I suspect that this would have been realised at the time but is not often remarked on in general commentaries.

Whilst this is an example of history having accepted a contemporary distortion there are other examples of it being distorted simply for commercial reasons. William Wallace was portrayed by an actor whose height in no way matched the historical reality. In this instance the real measurement was easily established but no suitable actor was available!

In the case of Galileo we no doubt remember from school that his belief that the earth was simply a planet circling the sun led him into conflict with the Church of the day and might have cost him his life. He did stand up for his observations and was punished under ecclesiastic law when he refused to recant. I certainly remember learning that he was the first man to advance this theory and in a sense risked becoming a martyr for early science. However others had advanced the same view and were not tried at all. It would seem that his trial was part of a wider political conflict in which he had friends on the “wrong” side.

Some news is merely unbalanced as we may still observe today. During the American war of independence, of all the American citizens who took part 40% fought with the British forces. The final defeat of the British produced a substantial number of refugees who fled to Canada where the British had to defend the border although this may not have been just a gesture of appreciation for those who had been loyal. Perhaps we may learn more of the motives for this defence in later meetings.

Yet other forms of distortion can occur as a very direct abuse of power. Following the English Civil War there was a marked reluctance on the part of the Monarchy to allow debate of its history and no doubt its causes. So intense was the prohibition that not only were no written statements allowed, even discussion was an offence. This embargo lasted for 15 years. No doubt the spoken aspect was more difficult to enforce but there would always be the risk of informers, some of whom might be less than impartial or disinterested.

Thank you Jim for taking the time and trouble to prepare and deliver this talk which was very well received.


Bar Room Reminiscences – RAF National Service

Singapore is reached fairly easily by air these days and commonly in one hop from the U.K.

But in the 1950’s things were a little different particularly if one was a very lowly form of Royal Air Force life. So different that the journey alone used up 7 days flying with daily stops i.e. almost one percent of our required commitment to Her Majesty and the defence of our realm. It did include a bonus stop in Karachi, somewhat marred by an attack of the trots.

However we all got there and had seen enough of service life even at our tender age to know that accommodation was likely to be stark (I think it is part of Queen’s Regs). As it turned out it was an address which has become somewhat infamous in latter years with much wider reporting of the Second World War and any number of documentaries. But we were only sprogs and not yet as worldly as we soon would be.

Our new address: – Ground Floor, Building 151 Changi, Singapore

Later, I found out that, this was a Japanese run prison of special interest to tourists due to Murals painted on ground floor wall by British prisoners of war. Each Sunday morning, we had to look out for lady church visitors admiring the paintings as we stumbled to the showers.

In true military style our welcome to the camp consisted of things we must NOT do and places we must NOT go to followed by a painstakingly clear account of the perils and punishments attending non- compliance. Out of bounds included all brothels especially a place called Boogie Street. The specific punishment for this offence included at least a couple of weeks in the guard house.

The Singapore climate was such that a night on the town was not an immediate attraction. Many weeks of acclimatisation were needed before this changed. Also, the “Dear John letters” had just started to arrive for our group. Three of us in adjacent beds, duly received ours within a few days.

We were all under 20 and feeling a bit home sick by then and forgot the “welcome” warning. We three decided to frequent a bar in town and after a few pints called a taxi to help us find some local talent. Without realising we were on our way to Boogie Street. On arrival at a hotel at the above- named location we were welcomed by several friendly local girls. Who had who was soon sorted out and we were taken to our various rooms. We had each paid for the whole night sessions so there was no rush.

For me, after the first very friendly and unforgettable session, we both laid back on the bed for a quick fag, just as the door opened and in came the RAF military police. We were all put on a charge and were marched up to the CO’s office the next morning who gave each of us 2 weeks imprisonment in the guard house. The real gripe we had was that we were made to leave the hotel immediately, without any refunds from the girls.

Even worse for one guy, who was a late starter, he was apparently found starker’s under the bed before he had finished.

Life in the guard house was a miserable experience. We were treated like (expletive deleted). Two weeks seemed forever. Coming out after two weeks with no time off for good behaviour was like heaven, especially after a few beers. We were not the only guys locked away. Looking back, there were two gay guys, who had been found sleeping together, who were doing six months before being discharged. Life has certainly changed since the 50/60s.

It was good few months before I tried this again. This time I was pre- warned by the girls and managed to hide behind a bedroom door, and then get out of a window onto a shed, which collapsed onto the street below. This helped make for a quick getaway.

Months later my Dad got a posting to Singapore and subsequently mother and sister joined him. Dad was an army Major so my lifestyle changed considerably from there on.

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