Writing about having dinner with Her Majesty (PC 289) – well, me and 121 others so a small intimate gathering it wasn’t! – prompted another story to rise to the surface of my memory. You may appreciate that in male civilian circles there’s a graduation in the range of attire from budgie smugglers to very formal wear, the highest in the latter being ‘White Tie & Tails’. It is the same in the military, although the frequency of wearing the most formal is rarer these days. When I first joined we had a formal dinner with dinner jackets once a fortnight and once every two months an even more formal one requiring Mess Kit. In the latter the shirts ranged from soft to semi-starched to fully-starched with stiff wing collar.
Edward B was a Guard’s Officer chum and he called me one evening many years ago to say he was in charge of the Tower of London guard for the week. The Officer in Charge of the Guard was permitted to ask a friend to join him for supper and Edward asked whether I was free on such-and-such a night. Sadly I was going to be away and had to decline, but he got in touch some weeks later to say HM the Queen had dropped in for supper. If it’s not really possible to sneak into McDonalds for a quick burger then I guess the security of the Tower of London would allow you to be more relaxed. She had apparently turned up at very short notice and Edward only had a semi-stiff shirt to go with his de rigueur Mess uniform. The queen was obviously very relaxed but asked Edward why he wasn’t wearing the proper shirt. “Oh! Your Majesty. I only wear that on very formal occasions.”
In the United Kingdom Scout Leaders have issued a Style Guide to help its young members navigate the hyper sensitive times in which we live. I have long realised that talking of someone’s ‘Christian name’ makes some assumptions … but it will take a long time for the security question we are often asked, “What is your mother’s maiden name?”, to change to “What is your mother’s previous name?”, as the guide requires; this designation begs the question: “Previous to what?” The guide also bans terms such as ‘falling on deaf ears’, ‘dinner ladies’ and curiously the reference ‘Down Under’ when talking about Australia and New Zealand. This last one baffles me …… and probably the Australian artist Ken Done who has made a business using it. What the f**k is wrong with referring to both Australia and New Zealand as ‘down under’? From a Northern European perspective they are almost hidden by the curvature of the earth – although relative to the Equator, the southern tip of New Zealand is actually equivalent to Nantes in France.
Ben Fogle (1973 – ) made his name in the UK in a social experiment called ‘Castaway’, a year-long effort by 36 men, women and children to build a community on Taransay, a remote Scottish island in the Outer Hebrides. Broadcast by the BBC in 2000 it covered the ups and downs of the individuals, although I suspect the producers introduced material to ensure there was enough ‘drama’!
Described as ‘pioneering’ it was an early form of the new genre of Reality TV; it was followed by Eden and Love Island but remembered only for Ben Fogle and little else! Which is why I remember it as, in his latest venture, Fogle returns to individuals who had gone very ‘off-piste’ to live ‘in the wild’ some years ago.
Tisserdmine is located central right on the Google Map shot
Karen lives in a little oasis village called Tisserdmine in The Sahara Desert in south east Morocco; for a single middle-aged woman an extreme choice. Having heard her talking of surviving a sand storm that lasted two months, Ben questioned her continuing “battle against nature.” But she said: “You have to work with nature, not against it; it’s a challenge you have to dig deep to meet and you can’t throw in the towel. If you ‘battle’ it, it will win.” Many times when I have been caught out by a gale sailing, I have screamed at the sky, dark thunderous clouds and pouring rain, asking ‘it’ to lessen, to give me a break! Of course the simple answer is to ensure your yacht has sails to match the conditions and you know it will get through it. Maybe that’s a metaphor for life; just go with the flow??
Plastic grass gets extremely hot in the sun!
A day or so after I had watched this programme Matt Rudd mentioned plastic grass in his weekly The Sunday Times column. ‘Across the country it (plastic grass) is now the go-to choice for hard working families who simply don’t have the time or inclination to ‘battle’ nature. (Again it shouldn’t be a battle!). He added, almost as a non-sequitur: “My neighbour said I am irresponsible for having flowers in my garden as her child might get stung by a bee.”’ Wow! I know we live in sensitive times but ……? Really?
From a post on Facebook by Sharon Rodgers who takes the credit with the following: “My husband and I went through the McDonald’s driveway window and, as the total bill was £4.25 (Not sure what you can buy for £4.25 at McDonalds but …..), I handed the cashier a £5 and 25 pence. “You’ve given me too much money” says the sales girl. “Yes I know but this way you can give me a pound coin back.” She sighed …… and went to talk to her supervisor, who came over to the window and asked me to repeat my request. I did so; he handed me back the 25p and said: “We’re sorry but we don’t do that kind of thing,” (What did they mean by this, I wonder? Money laundering comes to mind?) The cashier then handed me back 75 pence.” (Note 1)
The American Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967) was in the news recently as researchers had uncovered details about her early life. She was apparently best known for ‘her wit, wisecracks and eye for C20th urban foibles.’ I love this; on hearing that the famously uncharismatic US President Calvin Coolidge had died she reportedly asked: “How can they tell?”
Richard 29th July 2022
Note 1 For those unfamiliar with UK decimal coinage, at a minimum this would have been three coins – a 50 pence piece plus a twenty and a five.