Head Office and I went to a wedding in London recently. Our niece was getting married and her parents and family had come over from New Zealand. Deannie’s sister Sally and her husband, Frank, stayed with us the week before the wedding and great excitement prevailed. Many of you will know that 75 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force was based here during the second World War and that The Wellington Pub and Restaurant in Feltwell is something of a shrine to that squadron. Well, (Group Captain) Frank Sharp, Deannie’s brother in law, was the squadron commander of 75 Squadron long after their return to New Zealand and he had a great time exploring at the Wellington, imparting information about the men who featured in many of the photographs.
The wedding was to take place at BAFTA in Piccadilly and the reception was to be held in The Crypt, under St Ethelreda’s in Ely Place. The Crypt dates back to the 6th Century and Henry Vlll once held a five day bash there. We had to leave early the next day so I booked an hotel about 100 yards away from the Crypt in Clerkenwell. Now, last time I was in that area of London was in the early 1960’s. I was studying medicine at The London Hospital in Whitechapel and I would cycle around Clerkenwell and Shoreditch which were little more than semi-repaired bomb sites. All the buildings were black with soot and there were many warehouses associated with the leather and brewing industries. As the hotel was about 400 yards into the Congestion Zone, I had to pre-pay £11.50 to enter the zone and I did that a couple of weeks beforehand.
When we arrived, it soon became apparent that much had changed in the 50 years since I was cycling in the area (there was a rather good record library which carried all the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft classical records). I would borrow the Bach organ music records, record them to tape and then take the records back. I would play the tapes on my Garrard SP25 deck into a speaker mounted in the top of a 4ft high chimney, standing on bricks to let the sound out at the bottom. The acoustics were astounding! The speaker may still be viewed in our yard, with a flower pot on top. Back to the changes – the whole area is now full of bijou hotels, street cafes and bars, all sorts of ethnic, oriental and Eastern European shops in the back streets and heaving with people enjoying the scene. Our lovely boutique hotel was built in a converted warehouse. I took the car to a nearby car park and got lost on the way back to the hotel. I asked a passing stranger if “that is the Clerkenwell Road over there”. He stopped, told me in fractured English that he did not know, pulled out his mobile ‘phone, punched a button, looked at a map of where we were standing, scrolled it up and down and reassured me that it was the Clerkenwell Road over there! This was amazing to me, being a Luddite who turns on my mobile ‘ phone when I want to make a call but I expect many of you will be familiar with such matters.
My other problem with change is that I have not kept up with the devaluation of the currency. I often convert a price back to pounds, shillings and pence and have a fit! The hordes of people drinking in the bars and restaurants seemed to have infinite disposable income, both for eating and drinking, and would think nothing of shelling out £25 for a cab home.
Howmsomever, the wedding and the reception were brilliant and we then spent 5 days in France where it never stopped raining. I looked at my mail when we got home; someone had sent me a photograph of our car with a demand for £65 for entering the London congestion zone. Confidently, I pulled out my booking receipt, only to discover that the date I had entered to visit London was not the day I needed to visit London, but the day I was paying the charge! GRR.
I’ll tell you another time about how the black cab swindled me. One word of warning – If you are walking about London, do not hold your mobile ‘phone in your hand. It is quite likely that a cyclist will whip it out of your hand and speed off. Many of the hotel staff had suffered from this. I was OK because mine is virtually glued into my pocket for fear of excess charges and data roaming charges, etc.
An elderly couple had been married for 60 years. They were extremely happy and had no secrets from one another. She kept a small locked chest in her wardrobe and told her husband never to ask her about it and never to try to open it. When his wife became very ill, she agreed that her husband should open the chest. They opened it together and he was amazed to find two crocheted dolls and nearly £100,000 in cash. Apparently, she explained, her grandmother had told her that the secret of a happy marriage was never to argue. Grandma had told her that, if she became angry with her husband, she should crochet a doll and keep quiet. The old man nearly burst with pride and happiness. In 60 years of marriage, his wife had only been angry with him twice! He then asked her where all the money had come from. “Oh” she replied “That’s the money I made by selling all the other dolls”
A 40 year old man’s wife left him. In compensation, he bought himself a BMW sports car. He was trying it out on the open road and was doing 120mph when he became aware of blues and twos behind him. He pulled over and the officer said “It’s been a long day, I am about to go home to my family and I don’t feel like more paperwork. If you can give me an excuse I have not heard before, I shall let you go”. “Well” said the man “Last week my wife ran off with a traffic cop and I was afraid you were chasing me, trying to give her back” “Have a nice day, Sir” said the officer as he walked away.
A cruise ship magician was tired of having his act spoiled by the ship’s parrot who would fly about the room giving away all the secrets “It’s up his sleeve” etc. One evening, during the act, the ship hit an iceberg and sank within seconds. The magician and the parrot ended up clinging to the same piece of driftwood. The parrot stared at him for hours, then said “OK, I give up. What did you do with the ship?” Best wishes to you all Ian Nisbet