PC 295 ‘The Holiday Swap’

I must have read this little piece in some travel magazine in a dentist’s waiting room, so it was way before COVID and the associated suggestion that anything you touched might carry the virus!! It’s always amazing just how many copies of magazines are published weekly and monthly; in the UK it’s about 2800 magazines each year. The more upmarket the dentist’s Practice, the more up-to-date the reading material.

If you don’t buy magazines, then arriving slightly earlier than the appointed time will give you a chance to catch up; fortunately the days of year-old magazines seems to have disappeared! Some of you may remember I saw a photograph in one-such magazine of a chap doing yoga and sweating profusely; this led to me asking a friend what type of yoga made you sweat and off we went to the Bikram Yoga Studio in Balham one Wednesday evening. That class was on 11th March 2009; never looked back and now it’s a vital part of my life.

I digress; I think it best to simply reproduce the story entitled ‘The Holiday Swap’ verbatim:

“Annie and I had thought for some time about doing a house swap abroad for a couple of week’s holiday. We had read how people had become frequent ‘swappers’ and had loved the random nature of the places available to them. Not for them the standard Time Share in Torremolinos in Spain (Note 1) or the second home on the Falmouth Estuary in Cornwall. We had invested in neither but, knowing that we were swapping with someone who was going to live in our home, it felt like we could trust the arrangements. What could go wrong, I thought? (Note 2)  We would each treat the others’ house as our own. One advertisement stood out from hundreds of others on www.holidayswapsfunguaranteed.com , a beach house in the Bahamas.

“We’re open to swapping with a professional non-smoking couple for two weeks in May. No children. Go to www.seashorevilla.co.bs for photos etc.” Nice and simple; their website showed a beach house in Red Bay on the north of the largest island, one we could easily live in and Trip Advisor confirmed others had loved it.

Once we had established what would be included and what not, for instance car insurance, and would they look after our cats, eventually we decided this was ‘good to go’, as they say.

Tropical Storm Rupert has the potential to turn into a hurricane and may head towards the coast of Florida and further east”; the radio murmured in the background as I put the final items into the suitcase and I rue the day that that particular news item didn’t register, didn’t have me reaching for a map. Instead we simply locked the house front door and headed to the airport.

We flew into Nassau in the Bahamas a few hours late and found our little aeroplane that would take us out to the island. A friendly customs official informed us that, although Tropical Storm Rupert had not developed into a hurricane as forecast, the west coast had suffered a very small tidal surge 12 hours before; a certain amount of damage had occurred. We gulped as we recalled that our villa was on that side, but the sun was shining and we hoped our ‘seashore villa’ would be intact. On landing, a taxi took us on our way and we looked expectantly around every bend on the road, glancing down at a photograph of the villa and trying to identify it.

Oh! No!”

We both shrieked, for there it was ….. in a very sorry state …… a corner of the tiled roof had been torn off, the sea-side of the house was missing six feet, two of the supports for the decking had been washed away leaving it at a crazy angle and a palm tree lent drunkenly across the carport. Fortunately the taxi driver was able to suggest a couple of local hotels and, after a few telephone calls, we found a more suitable location for our two weeks in the tropical sun.

 “Oh well” we thought; at least David and Ted will have a great time in Clapham.

(Over in London )

Look! Here it is, No 11 Elms Road” exclaimed David to his husband Ted, as they peered out of the cab at the wide Victorian mid-terraced house. It sort-of looked like the photos Annie and Mike had sent us – but we glanced up and down the street and realised they all looked the same.

The keys are under the flower pot. We lifted the edge of the pot, found some house keys, and opened the front door. It was much as we expected although in our mind’s eye the decoration was a little different. And where were the cats, we thought? We had been there an hour when we were startled to hear a key being put in the front door lock ……

We had got confused between ‘Elms Road’ and ‘Elms Row”. Thirty minutes later, as we were unpacking in the right house, David’s mobile rang.

David. It’s Mike in The Bahamas. I am afraid I have some very bad news …..”

It was attributed to Mike Palette. Sort of puts you off doing something like this, doesn’t it?

Richard 12th August 2022


PS In this Tuesday’s Times a news story about The Bahamas and a shark attack!!

Note 1 My mother and step-father almost got sucked into investing in a Time Share apartment in the Algarve, such was their popularity in the 1980s; fortunately they decided against it. And then, a year after I moved to London in 1987 I spent an evening off Leicester Square in London, listening to a very polished ‘Time Share’ sale’s pitch. I had actually gone for the amusement and to take away the ‘Silver Tea Set’ – available with no commitment! It wouldn’t have lasted 2 days of use!

Note 2 Somehow reading this I know something bad’s going to happen!


PC 294 First week of School Holidays

In 2019 I managed to get my daughter and family to come out to Estoril for a week, staying in a small AirBnB within walking distance of where we were staying. You may recall from PC 158 that one of the issues with three small boys is the endless changes of clothing required – and the AirBnB had no washing machine. 

Theo and me 2019
Theo and me 2022

This year she managed to secure a little apartment with a washing machine, in the centre of Cascais, for herself and her boys, Jasper (10), Reuben (9) and Theo (5). Celina and I had gone ahead and passed through London Gatwick without any problems although simple observations included watching people drinking vodka at 0900 as if this was necessary to initiate the holiday mood, overdosing on breakfast and wandering through the Duty Free wondering whether it was indeed as it said on the tin! We have all got used to the security rigmarole involved in travelling these days, although we no longer have to remove our shoes, distanced in time from 2001 when Richard Reid attempted to detonate a bomb in his trainer on a transatlantic flight. So why are some people surprised by what they have to do? A little like watching people at a supermarket checkout and when the cashier says: “That’ll be £43” seem surprised that they have to pay and start searching for their credit card, cash or smart phone.

Some swimming pool accessories far outweigh their cost by their popularity and the endless fun they offer. Three blow-up plastic rings are a real hit: getting them inflated is hard work without a little pump and actually deflating them requires a similar effort, keeping that little valve open to let air out whilst sitting on the ring. Standing in the pool, holding the inflated ring aloft allowed a steady stream of children, around and around, diving through it like performing Dolphins!

Mummy! He said ….”

After supper in the AirBnB one evening, out came a pack of cards. I am not sure what the name of the game was, but it was fun, sitting on a little balcony with the sun setting over the rooftops.

One day we hired a boat to get out onto the sea. Being a sailor I’m always envious of those who have a yacht abroad; just climb aboard, set some sails, let go the mooring and …… bliss; Oh! That it would be that easy! Diniz’s boat was a little like a twin-hulled barge with a superstructure and a moveable table on the open deck. I wasn’t sure why this couldn’t have been clamped into place when at sea, as invariably those on board push against it when a wave stretches their ability to stay upright …. and the table moves! Instinctively I wanted to coil the warps left in a mess at the stern! Old, particularly good habits never leave one.

Motored out of the Cascais marina …..

…… past the largest yachts you see anywhere (no jealousy here!). The skipper Diniz is a Dragon sailor …..

……. and tells me he has ten stored in one of his warehouses. He’s 50, on his second marriage with a four year old daughter; out comes the iPhone – in the old days it would have been a crumpled photo stuck next to the money in his leather wallet – and he proudly shows his gorgeous daughter. Half an hour later we’re anchored in a little cove and paddle boards and one inflated plastic ring ensured a couple of hours of endless fun ….. in the cold but clear blue water.

It’s always important to get decent protection from a Summer’s sun, particularly at sea as there is added reflection from its surface. Reuben has my skin, ‘English Pale’, and turns to pink and a slightly darker shade over weeks, whereas Jasper and Theo inherited their maternal grandmother’s olive skin and just go brown …….. and then browner.

“Mummy! He said ….”

Theo has a nickname – Kitkat! Apparently one choice for his first name was Kit, but then Theo won. I had imagined the nickname had come about from the advertisement- you might say to your child who was being particularly obnoxious: “Oh! Give me a break?” And for me the immediate response would be: “Have a Kitkat!” so powerful are these adverting slogans. So Theo has become Kitkat! Our parents choose our ‘first’ name and sometimes it’s not popular for its recipient. Whether Theo stays KitKat will depend on lots of variables; my daughter changed her ‘given’ name many years ago.  

There’s a sea water pool in Estoril and, as the incoming tide gradually increased its depth last Wednesday, the boys played in the cold water. An empty Pringle’s tube was endlessly used, unsuccessfully, to catch little fish  ……

……. and the sea wall provided a perfect launching pad for jumping in.

Jasper leaping in

On their last evening we went to Capricciosa Cascais, a beach-side pizzeria in the centre of town. It was not a good experience! We stood around for five minutes waiting for someone to show us to our table and, despite offering Sangria on the menu, couldn’t do a glass of Prosecco. But the main issue was cold pizzas! The base was delightfully thin but this needed to go on a warm plate as it lost its heat quickly! This and a lack of generosity with the cheese and tomato sauce suggested over-the-top portion control! But we all enjoyed some good puds!

And then the week’s over and they are hugging us and saying ‘Best Holiday Ever!’ and all that sort of thing and then into Mario’s taxi for the 45 minute drive to Humberto Delgado Airport in Lisbon. One suitcase didn’t make it but, with over six flights between Lisbon and London Heathrow each day, it was promised in a couple of days. At the time of writing it was still adrift – somewhere!

Back in the UK, time for them to take a breath before heading off to France and a few more: “Mummy! He said ….”

Richard 5th August 2022


PC 293 And Another Thing …..

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.

PC 292 “Sir …..”

When my great grandfather George Nation was out in Dawson City at the very turn of the C20th, managing mining syndicate investments, he wrote as often as he could to his wife Eva back in London. Those letters still exist and they provide a wonderful glimpse of a different time, commenting on local and international news and asking of course after his three children.

He started each with his cursive ‘My Darling Eva’ and finished somewhat formally with ‘Your Loving Husband GM Nation’. Letter writing using pen & paper has gone out of fashion, replaced first by email and then by the highly abbreviated text; most are deleted at some stage, so unlike George’s letters there is rarely any trace.

If you are old enough you might connect ‘letter’ with the British/American Alistair Cooke’s ‘Letter from America’, a fifteen minute weekly broadcast on the BBC. Cooke would speak of some topical US issue, tying together different observations and anecdotes, all beautifully orated in his deep rich voice. The letters were broadcast from 1946 until his death in 2004.

William Donaldson, on the other hand, was a satirist and author, who wrote to those in positions of power and influence, for example The Queen, The Prime Minister or The National Council for (so called) Civil Liberties, under the pseudonym Henry Root and with his tongue firmly in his cheek.

You will know by now I vacuum up news stories; some aspects of a story may lodge in my memory, most simply add to the general data bank from which I can make comment or observation …… a little like gently drifting a watercolour-laden brush across an existing image. Some aspect may prompt me to put pen to paper, or more normally these days finger-tips to keys on my laptop and send a comment to the paper I have read since schooldays (Note 1) – The Times. My efforts rarely make it passed the sub-sub-editor’s desk but I was pleased to have something published early this month

8th July 2022

Sir! In The Times 8th July ‘Affluent patients face longer NHS wait’, Kieran Patel, university hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire Trust’s medical director says that ‘if you have patients who smoke, have hypertension or are overweight, you can use those factors to weigh their position on a waiting list, potentially pushing these patients forward on the list’. For those of us who make an effort to keep the weight down by exercise and sensible eating and who have long recognised the benefits, let alone the cost saving, of not smoking, this smacks of rewarding those taking little responsibility for their own health.”

This is not a black and white subject for sure but, with the British Nation the fattest in Europe, surely educating and supporting people to take even a little responsibility for their own health will save them and the NHS money in the long term?

And a week or so ago I had to respond to this:

“Sir The Sunday Times article about Lincoln Cathedral was wonderfully informative and a great example of modern restoration techniques. However Liam Kelly didn’t learn much geography at school. If the cathedral had been “upwind” of the various factories and power stations that caused the thick layers of dirt, it would have been blessed by clean air. I think ‘downwind’ is the term Liam is looking for!”

It did not get published!!

Last Christmas I spent with Celina’s brother and family here in Estoril, Portugal. I was prompted to write the following to the Times’ Feedback column:

Dear Feedback: Watching the sun rise in the south east over the Targus Estuary in Portugal I was catching up with my online Times. There must be something magical about the Glastonbury Tor in Britain as the picture caption suggests you can have a 360 degree view of the sunrise if you climb to the top.
Ah! The magic of Christmas!”

In September last year our city staged its annual Marathon, possibly the most popular after The London Marathon. But, horror of horrors, it was too short!! Another letter ….

 “Sir…..Living in the great city of Brighton & Hove, I read with a mixture of amusement and sadness that last Sunday’s marathon course was ‘568m’ too long. It’s amusing as it is unbelievable how anyone could get it so wrong. It’s also sad that, as the distance is universally known as 26.2 miles, so the extra missing distance should have been 621 yards.”

And I couldn’t this go; in July 2021, 7 square centimetres is not 7 centimetres squared!!

“Sir! Oh! Dear! Leonardo’s Head of a Bear was described in the Sunday Times as being 7 sq cm. Helpfully a ruler showed it was 7 centimetres both long and tall, making it 49 square centimetres! Back to the classroom!”

‘Head of a Bear’, c1480 (1945). From The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. [Reynal & Hitchcock, New York, 1945]

In June 2021I wrote some scribbles about two issues facing the general public here in Britain; a scandal within The Post Office and a scandal within the Construction Industry. (PC 235 Generosity in Government) The Times covered both in a ‘Leader Article’ the following month, which deserved comment:

“Sir!  Your leader comment in The Sunday Times was spot on. Two issues concern the right-thinking middle-of-the-road Brit. The scandal of the Post Office’s actions over the last two decades with regards their own postmasters deserves some strong action; the Government’s response is wish-washy and pathetic – this needs to be gripped and those responsible named and shamed.
Other individuals who through no fault of their own are facing financial hardship are those living in buildings with unsafe cladding. We rely on the government to regulate the building industry. When the laws are deemed inadequate it’s the government who should pick up the complete bill.”

One in a hundred might get published but it’s fun to try. More to follow (maybe!)

Richard 22nd July 2022

www.postcardscribbles .co.uk

Note 1 When I was at school I took advantage of the much-reduced Student Subscription for The Times; their way of buying your loyalty to their stance on news stories.

PC 291 More Oinks (2)

If you do a little research about the pig you find an interesting collection of connections. You can call someone ‘pig headed’ if they’re being obstinate or simply ‘being a pig’ when they’re greedy and dirty – grubby! I remember the days when at the rear of canteens and restaurants there were bins for discarded food waste, for example vegetable peel, which were collected by Pig Farmers – Pigs Swill. ‘Pigs in the trough’ can refer to people who have benefitted from something but selfishly spoil it for others; the connection with the pig is that they can eat their fill then cause the trough to spill its contents so that other pigs can’t eat!! Nice huh?

If you have basic knowledge of manufacturing you will remember the term ‘pig iron’. Hot iron is poured into moulds laid out in a sand bed and fed by a common runner. The group of moulds resembled a litter of suckling pigs; the ingot became the piglet and the runner the sow.

In complete contrast to the hard, hot metal of pig iron is the pig tail. From the C17th; in the UK the term referred to braided or plaited hair, which had some vague resemblance to the twisted tail of a pig. In China it’s called a queue or cue. Traditionally Chinese men and women grew their hair long and then styled it in elaborate ways. The Queue was introduced by the Qing Dynasty to show their dominance in Manchuria; the front of the head is shaved, the hair on the top grown long.

For some reason we view pigs as the most endearing of animals and they feature in many children’s stories and cartoons, as well as the adult Miss Piggy from The Muppets. A pig was the subject of a Beatrix Potter story published in 1913, Pigling Bland. Despite being a children’s tale the conversations often reflect the current society’s mores: “You are a worthy person but your family is not well brought up.”I am a great fan of Sheppard’s Winnie-The-Pooh stories, with his friends Piglet (note 1), Tiger and Eeyore. But in the C21st it’s Peppa Pig, a British preschool animated TV series by Astley Baker Davies, that makes the headlines.

The show follows Peppa, an anthropomorphic female piglet, and her family, as well as her peers portrayed as other animals. It was first broadcast on 31 May 2004. The seventh season began broadcasting on 5 March 2021. ‘Peppa’ has been sold to 118 territories generating global sales of £1.1 billion. Last week Quentin Tarantino, whose son Leo enjoys the animated series enormously, claimed it’s the greatest British export of this decade.

And after our Prime Minister’s resignation last week, it’s rumoured she will be made a Dame.

Other miscellaneous facts about pigs: the leather made from pig’s skin ranks fourth after cow, sheep and goat; their bristles are used for shaving and paint brushes; their highly developed sense of smell makes them ideal for hunting truffles; they don’t sweat so roll in mud to cool down; “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” a proverb from the C16th meaning if it’s ugly, no matter how you dress it up, it’s still ugly (!); “Don’t buy a pig in a poke” means don’t buy something you haven’t inspected first (the poke is a bag).

Leviticus 11.27, from the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, says that God forbade Moses and his followers to eat swine ‘because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud.’ It’s possible this came about because the climate in the Middle East was not good for raising pigs; they need grass and shade so there weren’t many around! I don’t think this guidance is followed by most Christians today but in Judaism and Islam pork is a taboo food. It seems acceptable to eat animals that eat plants ie Herbivores, but not animals that eat literally anything ie carnivores or omnivores as pigs are. Fish are OK as long as they have fins and scales, so no shellfish. From a common sense view, should we eat anything that eats waste? Does the flesh of the pig contain toxins which are harmful, even in a minute way, to us human?

The story of how my nephew Hugh and his wife Hannah came to have a pet pig is worth telling. Scripting their ‘Wedding List’ in 2015 they put down ‘pet pig’ as a bit of a joke, not imaging anyone would buy them one! Hannah’s boss offered them a pig but if they hadn’t bought it within three months it would turn into a Kenwood’s toaster! Their sense of humour extended to calling it Babar, probably guaranteeing it developed an identity complex, thinking he was something woolly or an elephant! Babar lived in a Wendy House within a pen in their London garden – although obviously the rules were relaxed sometimes.

To visit their local pub, firstly Hugh & Hannah had to get a licence from the council so he could be walked on the pavement on a lead. Then the local publican had to agreed that Babar was a dog so he could come into the pub; this must have further increased the severity of his identify crisis. His life was cut short by severe arthritis in his knees and he left this world in 2017.

Edward Lear (1812-1888) managed to incorporate a pig into his poem ‘The Owl and The Pussy Cat’ (1871). You may remember that …… ‘The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat. They took some honey and plenty of money wrapped up in a five-pound note.’ Well ….. ‘They sailed away for a year and a day to the land where the Bong tree grows and there in a wood a piggy-wig stood with a ring at the end of his nose’. The pig sold the ring for a shilling and the owl and the pussy cat got married!!

George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) was a ‘Set Book’ when I was at school. It tells the story of a group of farm animals led by a pig called Napoleon who rebel against their human farmer, hoping to create a society where the animals can be equal, free and happy. The historical context is the Russian revolution of 1917 – the allegorical story representing the Russian politicians, voters and workers. Napoleon is said to represent Joseph Stalin and Snowball, another boar, Trotsky. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The time has come” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things; of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages – and kings – and why the sea is boiling hot – and whether pigs have wings.” Lewis Carroll The Walrus & The Carpenter.

‘……. and whether pigs have wings’!! Indeed! ‘Pigs might fly’ is an adynaton, a figure of speech so hyperbolic that it describes an impossibility.

Charles Whitehead (1835) must have read Carroll; ‘Pigs might fly, but they are very unlikely birds’.

Richard 15th July 2022


PS We flew to Lisbon yesterday. Outside the Supermercado Tradicional this morning in Estoril I found this. Seemed so apt!

Note 1 “We’ll be friends forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet. “Even longer.” answered Pooh.

PC 290 This And That

I hadn’t intended to go to the Hope Café this week as I was working on a painting for an ex client of mine, but I got drawn into its warm friendly space and I thought a quick coffee would help me organise my thoughts for this week’s post.

As I was leafing through my beige ‘PC Ideas’ folder, I noticed a piece about how in these post-Covid times we remain wary of close contact with another human. As I started reading, Susie came across with my coffee and a lovely observation. One wall of The Hope Café has some antiqued mirrors which create the illusion of a much larger space and it’s well done. Susie had noticed two good female friends settle down for a coffee and a natter; Susie guessed this was their first time in the ‘Hope’. One of them spied a couple of old dowdy-looking women and remarked to her chum: “Don’t look now but those two probably look like we will in 20 years.” “Oh! My God!” says the other, “there’s a mirror; it’s us!”

Susie tells me Josh and Luke are away on holiday but like everyone else travelling overseas their trip were beset with delays and cancelled flights. The manager Duncan has been helping out and he says trying to find staff is so difficult. Not unusual here today; for instance the UK had been relying on nomadic Europeans for seasonal farm work and now, post-Brexit, soft fruit might well not get harvested. A ridiculous situation; a little like farmers unable to take pigs to an abattoir for lack of abattoir staff.

Pre Covid we had got used to offering more than a formal handshake and hugs and back-patting had become quite normal. Now we unconsciously worry we might catch something and hold off. Let’s hope we get back to hugging soon – something very friendly and loveable about feeling the warmth of someone’s body! (Note 1)

Without Sami to chat to I cast my eyes around and spy a group of young 20 year old somethings. Here in Brighton & Hove I am not surprised by the individual styles of fashion; the latest seems to be coloured hair and I am not talking blonde or Chestnut rinse but strong pink or green or blue or purple. And nail extensions so long that the owner has to develop a slightly different way of tapping their mobile keys; needs must I guess. Coloured hair and nail extensions I can abide but I cringe when I see someone with ‘Fish Lips’!!

SO unnatural!

Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times of 26th June wrote about Leslie Sinclair, a 66 year old man who over the course of his lifetime had donated some 125 litres of blood. (Note 2) On his last visit he was asked whether he was pregnant, as women who are ‘with child’ are not allowed to donate blood – you might think for obvious reasons! He refused to answer what he and most of us would consider an asinine question; clearly not our NHS. In response to his ‘going public’ with what he saw as a ridiculous issue, an anonymous NHS administrator refused to apologise saying we must use language that’s ‘inclusive’. Er! Not for us males who can’t get pregnant.

Around the Platinum Jubilee The Times published a list of notable books we should have read over the past 70 years. I had read about 10% so you can draw your own conclusions to either my literary likes (?) or those who drew up the list. One book caught my eye, JG Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur, set in a fictional town during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Given that my great great great grandfather Stephen Nation had been in India in the lead up to the Mutiny, although he’d died of Cholera in 1848, and that his eldest son Henry had been involved, I have read extensively around the subject, admittedly from European writers so with a biased viewpoint.

 Farrell’s novel drew on the real experiences of people under siege at Lucknow and ‘The Collector’ at Muttra. Amazing that the Victorian participants had ‘deep & meaningful’ discussions about this and that, as the bullets clanged and the cannons crashed outside. There was one particular ‘daily grind’ that one of the characters observed: a couple of villagers would spend their days turning a wheel to bring water up from a well. (Note 3)

If you continue to do what you have always done you will always get the outcome you’ve always got. To achieve something different you have to change. A painful ‘tennis elbow’ (note 4) last year meant an adjustment in a certain yoga posture so there was less pressure on the elbow. A year on I was still doing it, until challenged by a teacher to change.

The other morning I awoke rather groggy from a restless night’s sleep. Like most people there are certain habitual actions you perform at this time of the day, almost without thinking, so ingrained do they become. I walked into the shower room, washed my face, dried it, put my contact lenses in, picked up my underarm deodorant stick ….. and proceeded to rub it over my right ear.
Made me smile!

The 50th Anniversary of the Glastonbury Festival closed last month with Sir Paul McCartney, joined by Bruce Springsteen, singing Hey Jude; the audience joined in with ‘na na na nananana, nannana’! I was reminded of Gail and Cyprus in 1968 (see PC 110 That Reminds me (2))

More Oinks next week!

Richard 8th July 2022


Note 1 You offered your right hand to show it hadn’t got a weapon in it and invited the person to shake it to prove you didn’t have a knife up your sleeve. (That might have been up the other sleeve!)

Note 2 When I first started donating blood one was given a bottle of Guinness stout afterwards as it contains iron!

Note 3 This was 1857. One would hope by now that every village has pumped water (The Charity WaterAid www.wateraid.org works in Africa and elsewhere today towards this goal)

Note 4 I do not play tennis!

PC 289 I had Dinner with Her Majesty!

Unless you are really really against any form of monarchy, I hope you will agree that the feel-good event last month was the celebration of HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The four day party was held all over the United Kingdom, a wonderful celebration for a nonagenarian who has been the sovereign for 70 years. Her real birthday is the 21st April and she was born in 1926 (Note 1), but since 1748 the state has celebrated an Official birthday at the end of May or beginning of June when, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, there is a higher probability of fine weather. The main event is always the Trooping of The Colour on Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall.

Elizabeth had become queen on 21st February 1952, aged 25, on the death of her father; her coronation was 15 months later on 2nd June 1953. This was probably the first time I became aware of our monarch. My grandparents lived in Bath (See PCs 164 and 165) and had a monochrome analogue television, which in 1953 was extremely rare. The Coronation broadcast was in black and white with the actual television image 376 lines high; another 29 lines gave the circuitry time to prepare for the next frame! (Note 2) The screen was small but Granny had purchased a large magnifying square of plastic which fitted over the screen. I suppose it worked to some extent but the refraction of the light through the magnifying panel created its own colour – which was completely unrelated to the activities on the black & white screen – we might have had blue horses or red faces!

This year’s Trooping the Colour was taken by the heir to the throne, with HM The Queen in Windsor no doubt watching the ceremony on digital television. Some 1500 soldiers and 250 horses took part, with the colour of The Irish Guards being trooped. Kings Troop, Royal Horse Artillery (Note 3) also paraded before firing their 82 gun salute from Hyde Park. As Kings Troop paraded the massed bands played the Royal Artillery Slow March, one with which I was extremely familiar, having marched at Sandhurst to the same tune. The crunch of boots on gravel, the dust raised by marching formations, the sweat inside one’s uniform, the music in your ear as well as the inner voice reminding what the next manoeuvre was, well practised so almost automatic, is an ever present delightful memory.

And the title of this postcard? Well, the Royal Regiment of Artillery was formed in 1716 and its 250th birthday was in 1976. The Queen is the Regiment’s Captain General and she and Prince Philip were invited to have dinner at the Royal Artillery Mess at Woolwich in south east London.

The date finally agreed was 4th November even though this coincided with the climax of the 1st British Corps Commander’s Exercise in Germany, which meant that most senior Gunner Officers in Germany, including my own CO, couldn’t attend. I was a lowly Captain and volunteered to go, to join the twenty three Generals, 18 Brigadiers, 36 Colonels, 24 Majors and 21 Captains and Lieutenants – so I had dinner with the Queen, well, me and 121 others!

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh being welcomed by the Master Gunner St James’ Park, Field Marshall Sir Geoffrey Baker

Before dinner half the attendees met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in the East Ante Room, the other half after dinner – I was in this half. No Royal Artillery dinner would have been complete without the Post Horn Gallop being played by trumpeters and, after the long mahogany tables had been cleared of the candelabra, the central tablecloth being rolled up from either end and then pulled lengthways off the table, without any deviation.

It’s very unlikely the United Kingdom will see another Platinum Jubilee celebration so this particular weekend was even more special. Apart from Trooping the Colour there were parades down The Mall, a concert in front of Buckingham Palace and thousands of street parties up and down the country.

(photo courtesy The Times)

Older people were interviewed about where they were on the Queen’s coronation and the subject of ‘Coronation Chicken’ came up. The recipe for this was created in 1953, essentially adding curry powder to mayonnaise to make a chicken salad. One 78 year old said his mother didn’t like ‘that foreign muck’ – and later someone on the BBC had to apologise as a viewer had complained. It may not be something to say today, but then our attitude to ‘Johnny Foreigner’ was very different. 

All this military nostalgia reminded me of something I first heard in 1968, when in charge of the regimental rear party in Cyprus. Towards midnight the BBC World Service would broadcast the Shipping Forecast and then play an amalgam of tunes, the National Anthem, Taps and ‘For Those in Peril on The Sea’; it might even have included Abide with Me!! Far from home, this sort of thing tugs at the heart strings!!

During my military service I spent two years in the Ministry of Defence in the ‘procurement department’. We got an allocation of tickets for the Bucking Palace Garden Parties and I went both summers. I went out of interest, with some excitement, and loved the occasion. The tea? Not wonderful!! But who cared?   

Robert Crampton, a Times columnist, is an avowed Republican and in his weekly musings published over the Jubilee said he had never stood when The National Anthem is played. Think he’s confused! While its words reflect good wishes to the sovereign, surely first and foremost it’s the anthem of our Nation and deserves our respect and acknowledgement? (aka The Star-Spangled Banner or La Marseillaise.) 

          ….. and so into a new month!

Richard 1st July 2022


PS Sami (from the Hope Café) emailed simply to say he had arrived in Gujarat safely and would be in touch next month.

Note 1 Under the Zodiac star signs that makes her a Taurus, Celina’s sign. In our yoga studio two others share the same date! Us Scorpios complement Taurians.

Note 2 The next upgrade consisted of 625 lines

Note 3 Fifty per cent of King’s Troop is female.

PC 288 Oink Oink (1)

Before I start these scribbles about pigs, I need to write one of those spoiler-alerts that are so popular these days. I appreciate that Jews and Muslims are not fans of the pig; more about that later! So, if you are offended reading about this animal, don’t read any further – your choice! And don’t, as seems common these days when individuals get offended at the slightest thing, read on and then write some outrageous diatribe on my Twitter account. (Note 1)

I added a postscript to PC 104 from August 2017, the topic of which was customer satisfaction: “I know some of you feel that we have a bit of a fetish for pigs. ‘Tis true! For me it started in 1986, buying two of the famous Oslo artist Mona Storkaas’ ceramic animals in that city; one a seagull (Note 1) and one a …… pig!

Then I got a piggy money box …….. and the collection has grown! So we felt at home buying a duvet cover from Pigletinbed – but when I first read this, I sort-of read ‘Pigs Tin Bed’, not Piglet in Bed, which in the What3words locator would put you west of Cromer in Norfolk, UK at a Bed & Breakfast called …. The Pigs!! Actually not true; there is a B&B there called The Pigs but its three word address is dine.commenced.pheasants; maybe roast pheasant is on the menu?

It surely is one of the abiding memories of those who are parents, reciting the ‘nursery rhythm’ about five piglets. Holding on to your baby’s toes; “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed at home. This little piggy had roast beef. This little piggy had none. And this little piggy (the little toe) went ‘wee, wee, wee’ …. all the way home.”  And you ignore the common knowledge that this rhythm, like all of them, has sinister overtones. In the tale of the pigs, one went off to the market to be sold, one was feed on animal bones, one was starved and one ran away in terror to escape his fate? And what about ‘Ring A Ring of Roses’, sung by nursery-age children holding hands in a circle and at the end, they all collapse on the floor giggling? The rose actually relates to the skin eruptions caused by the Plague of London in 1665, the posies were used to cover the smell of death and ‘All falling down”? Everyone died; nice huh?

I digress. For some reason pigs have a special place in our social history, presumably since they first became domesticated. The pig – sus scrofa domesticus – often called swine, hog or domesticated pig is an omnivorous, even-toed, hoofed mammal. Their size varies enormously, from 0.9m to 1.8m in length and weighing from 50kg to 350kg! Apart from its meat, the pig’s bones, hide and bristles are used in products. Each foot has four hoofed toes, with the central two bearing most of the weight. Globally there are about 1.5 billion pigs and virtually all of them are slaughtered aged between 6 to 10 months.

In the Christian bible (St Mark’s Chapter 5) the miracle of the Gadarene Swine recounts how Jesus, confronted by a madman called Legion (“For we (us madmen) are many”),  ordered the unclean spirit to leave him and enter ‘a large herd of swine, numbering some 2000, which then ran wildly down the hillside into the sea and were drowned.’ An early story of exorcism, but the translators obviously didn’t know that a group of pigs is called a passel, a team or a sounder, not a herd!

I enjoy eating pork and bacon, although my consumption of both has reduced considerably. There is nothing nicer, in my opinion, than a large pork chop whose skin has crisped nicely into ‘crackling’. In the first decade of this century I used to have one every Wednesday for supper; the habit became known as ‘pork chop night’ and that reminded me of the little advertising slogan “Friday night’s Amami night”.  The makers of Amami hair shampoo encouraged women to use it every Friday night, particularly in the interwar years 1918-1939!

So …. Pork! Belly Pork slow roasted in the bottom of the oven, Pork chops with crispy crackling, Roasted Pork Loin with apple sauce and sage, sausages made with pork meat and other flavours, Gammon (my mother made a wonderful boiled one, complete with orange breadcrumbs on the fatty side!), ham in various forms and bacon, either non-smoked or smoked. On those rarities when you’re staying away and order the ‘Full English Breakfast’ in the hotel dining room, it’s ‘yes’ to the ‘Black Pudding’, made from the blood of a pig’s liver. I think I can do without pig’s trotters and ‘brawn’ made from the animal’s head.

Whether you enjoy eating pork or using a pig-skin wallet for instance, the pig has been characterised countless times; some that come to mind are Pinky & Perky, Peppa Pig, Piggling Bland, Piglet and Miss Piggy.

Maybe the most famous are Pinky & Perky, a couple of anthropomorphic puppet pigs created by Czechoslovakian immigrants to the UK Jan & Vkasta Dalibor in 1957. The pig is deemed to bring good luck in Czechoslovakia. Originally called Pinky & Porky, difficulties registering the name porky as a character resulted in ‘Perky’. Their television series ran for 14 years until 1972 but was resurrected in 2008 in an all-new CGI animated TV series; a DVD entitled Licence to Swill (!!) was released in 2009. Eleven LPs, fifteen EPs and numerous singles were released! 

Piggy Banks originated in the C15th when people would use pots to store what money they had. Many household items were made from an affordable clay called ‘pygg’ so the pot became known as the pygg bank. The potters with a sense of humour would fashion the ‘pygg’ bank into the shape of a pig and the trend caught on. Here’s mine!

More next month

Richard 24th June 2022


Note 1 Difficult as I don’t have a Twitter account!

Note 2 Funny that I bought the seagull back in 1986, as here in the City of Brighton & Hove the seagulls wheel and screech, swoop and cor. They are of course the emblem of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club and of our ‘Yoga in The Lanes’ studio.

My painting for our hot yoga studio, featuring their seagull logo

PC 287 Update from The Hope

On Tuesday morning I dropped into The Hope Café around 8 o’clock; I had an hour and a half before I needed to catch the bus to go to yoga in central Brighton. Josh waved as I entered, as I hadn’t been for a few days and it looked as though he had some news. As he prepared my double espresso he handed me an envelope and said it was from Sami, who had been in the day before.

I sat down and used my finger to open the envelope. A handwritten page was inside. Probably best to quote verbatim what he had written:

Hi Richard I was hoping to catch you before I left (‘Left?’ I thought, ‘where’s he off to?’) but I didn’t see you so thought I would tell you my plans. The Post Office Inquiry will not be completed until the end of the year and until it ends there wouldn’t be any firm offers of compensation (You will remember Sami was charged with stealing, sacked and made bankrupt. (PC 271)). Rather than just sit around I thought I would go to India. I had been reading some of your older postcards about finding your family roots, (Note 1) and realised I knew little of my own.

Ok! I know I was born in Southall in 1956 and that my parents had left India on partition in 1947. I also know that my English mother had worked for the colonial service in Gujarat but I know nothing of my father’s family’s surname Gupta.
(Bit like Smith!) I have been to the India Reading room in the British Library but feel the only way to find more is to go there. I am flying out today, Monday, and have a three month visa.

No doubt I’ll send you an email occasionally – my address is 

I’ll miss The Hope but before you know it I’ll be back. By the way I have bought Grisham’s latest book
(Sparring Partners); I bought a new Kindle as it’s lighter for travelling.

Best wishes and stay in touch


Having read this on Tuesday it was weird and coincidental (!) to see a news item on BBC South yesterday evening about another Sami, Sami Sabet, who had run the local Portslade and Shoreham Post Offices. This Sami had found himself in a similar position; in 2009 he had been convicted of a $50k fraud, given a year’s prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 180 hours community service. Yesterday he talked of his life destroyed and we now know it was a known fault in the Post Office Horizon computer system! Shame on the management of that organisation.

I sent my Sami a quick email to say I hope his research bears fruit, told him to keep reading my weekly scribbles and wished him luck.

In last week’s post I mentioned the obituary of a Mark Sykes; “an art dealer, gun smuggler, gambler, jailbird, bookie, womaniser, racing driver and all round upper-class rake.” Having read my scribbles my brother wrote: “Perhaps there’s a challenge here; describe one’s own character in eight aspects!” The writers of obituaries are very objective, and rising to this challenge one is bound to be subjective! However if you feel able to, happy to publish and give the best description a bottle of champagne!

The Hope is not busy. Susie is also behind the counter, so Josh comes over for a chat. I like him and his partner Luke and we swap thoughts and inconsequential news:

Am I the only person who notices this phenomenon?” he asks.

“What are you talking about?”

“I am walking up a pavement and there’s a tree or a rubbish bin or a car half-parked on the pavement or a discarded supermarket trolley that constricts the width of the pavement?”

“OK! So?”

“There’s someone coming towards me and I guarantee nine times out of ten we meet just as the space narrows and one of us has to let the other go first. So weird!”

“Do you know? You’re right Josh, I have noticed that too.” I was about to recount my own similar observations but got side-tracked when I noticed Edith was not here. “Have you seen Edith recently?” I asked.

“No; let’s hope she’s OK.”

I asked him whether he had read my PC 284 Knowing your Nyms and Mnemonics from May? He hadn’t so I gave him a very sketchy overview and said that a xenonym is a name for a people or a language or a city which is not used by the natives themselves and, as an example, used Cologne as the international name for Köln. My little news item was that earlier this month Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan declared that his country would for here-on-in be called Tűrkiye – so there will no longer be an association with the bird traditionally eaten at Christmas or indeed its meaning as something that fails badly or a stupid or silly person. We weren’t sure if this was a xenonym  and I don’t think I have never made any connection to the bird!

My other bit of inconsequential news was that here in Britain a new recruitment company, Indeed, is making a name for itself and building its brand with its advertisement strapline ‘I need Indeed! Indeed you do.’ I wasn’t sure whether the double entendre was intended in an advertisement on the radio a few days ago: “ ….. for instance an expanding Dental Practice has roles that urgently need filling.” We had a laugh and then he had to get back to the counter.

I looked down at my watch. “Gosh” I thought “ I need to get going or I’ll late for yoga. Waving a hurried ‘bye’ to Josh and Susie I hurried out of the black-framed door and off to the bus stop.

Richard 17th June 2022


Note 1 My own roots started in Durston Somerset in 1706, can be traced through India, New Zealand and the USA and thence to the United Kingdom.

PC 286 I’ve read that ……

A Mark Sykes (1937 – 2022), “an art dealer, gun smuggler, gambler, jailbird, bookie, womaniser, racing driver and all-round upper-class rake” has died; his obituary was carried in The Times on Tuesday 31st May. The Old-English word rake in this case means ‘a dissolute or immoral person, especially a man who indulges in vices or lacks sexual restraint’; reading of his life I felt he lived up to the moniker! Generally obituaries cover the lives of the great, the good and the interesting; certainly Mark Sykes’ life was interesting.

Sledmere House

But his name reminded me of his family and its own colourful past, so well described by his cousin Christopher Simon Sykes in his book The Big House – essentially a biography about Sledmere, a house in East Yorkshire. If you have never heard of it and are interested in how certain families are woven into our national heritage, this is a wonderfully engaging book. 

After reading it many years ago I just had to go and visit the house and see for myself the setting of so many stories. Today I remember ‘Old Tat’ Sykes the fourth baronet famous for his riding exploits, who was said to be one of the great sights of Yorkshire. (Note 1) who died in 1861 at the age of ninety-one; his son who started the day wearing eight coats, which were gradually discarded to keep his body temperature constant (Note 2): the 6th Baronet, Colonel Sir Tatton Mark Sykes, whose diplomatic career peaked in 1916 with the secret deal between France and Britain, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which defined how the old Ottoman Empire would be split up, so drawing the boundaries of the current countries in the Middle East (note 3); and the fact that when Christopher Simon Sykes’ brother inherited the title in 1978, he told Christopher he would need permission to visit the house where he had grown up!! 

I have read that we are importing a nasty habit from America – distortion. Acknowledging that ethnic minorities have been woefully misrepresented in some of our films and dramas, now I sense we have gone completely overboard, with everyone anxious to show ‘they understand’ and wanting to right the wrong. The author Lionel Shriver (her best-selling book ‘We Must Talk About Kevin’) writes that ‘in a 2021 study by the Creative Diversity Network, ethnic minorities are over-represented in British programming in comparison with their share of the population by almost a factor of two. Black people are over-represented by 2.5 times. Casting of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in television productions suggests they make up 14% of the population whereas the true figure is 3%.’   

Shriver also revealed the results of a YouGov survey about how we British understand our diversity, on the back of an American survey which believed that 41% of the USA’s population were black, whereas the true proportion is about 12%. Here respondents thought the figure was 20% as opposed to 3%; other statistics Asian 17% (true 7%) Muslims 15% (true 4%) transgender 5% (true 0.4%) vegan or vegetarian 20% (true 4%). And finally a 2018 Lloyds Banking Group study found that representation of minorities in UK advertising has double in three years to 25%, twice the actually proportion!! Distortion plays to the fears of some in the population and leads to polarisation. (Note 4)  

I have also read that a chap who was Academy Sergeant Major at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for ten years, Ray Huggins, has died. During his tenure some 5470 future officers trained at The Academy. Reading his obituary reminded me of the wonderful repartee these senior NCOs displayed. Huggins was RSM of Old College, one of three colleges, in 1966, during my second year. It wasn’t RSM Murphy Irish Guards (Victory College) but our platoon sergeant Staff Sergeant Cameron of the Scots Guards who berated John Treasure as follows:

“Mr Treasure, Sir, you ‘orrible excuse for a ‘uman. You know what Sir?” he screamed, jabbing his Pacestick (note 5) perilously close to John’s face, so much so one imagined he could have smelt last night’s garlic on Cameron’s breath, “there’s a c**t at one end of this Pacestick and you need to think very carefully before you tell me at which end, Sir!”

Staff Sergeant Cameron Scots Guards at the rear of the platoon

As an Officer Cadet the future King of Jordan’s status was no shield. Overheard during some inspection of his tunic, boots, rifle or hair, one of the RSMs: “Sir, there are two kings ‘ere sir, you sir and me sir. But ‘ere on my parade ground there is only king sir, me sir!”

One of his predecessors was a veteran of the Battle for Arnhem, Operation Market Garden, during WW2, an ASM JC Lord. His very first words to the assembled Officer Cadets were “Gentlemen. My name is JC Lord. JC does not stand for Jesus Christ. He is Lord up there (pointing skywards with his Pacestick) and I am Lord down here (pointing to the parade ground). I will address you as ‘Sir’ but I won’t mean it. You will address me as ‘Sir’ but make sure you do mean it’.

The skull of one of my great friends at Sandhurst, Martin Ward-Harrison, was quite prominent at the back, so much so that his forage cap sat right on the edge. Any hair beneath it was deemed too long and Martin forever had to have extremely short hair. Sadly Martin was killed in Oman ten years later, probably having grown his hair at last!

Richard 10th June 2022


Note 1 The other two mentioned were the City of York and the county itself!

Note 2 A catastrophic fire in 1911 left the building a shell. It is said that Sir Tatton Sykes was too busy eating one of the milk puddings, to which he was addicted, to pay much attention, but villagers and estate workers loyally rescued pictures, statues and furniture, china and carpets, and even doors and banisters.

Note 3 Mark died of Spanish influenza three years later aged 39 and was buried in a lead-lined coffin. Globally 50 million people died in this pandemic. In 2008 his body was exhumed so that samples of his remains could be frozen in liquid nitrogen and passed to researchers looking at how the virus passes from animals to humans.

Note 4 Apparently Britons believe some 20% of the population earn more than £100,000 a year whereas the real figure is some 3%.

Note 5 The wooden pace stick was like a large pair of dividers, capable of measuring the standard marching pace of 30 inches.