Watch out for the tractor . . .

John Deere 8640 twin-wheeled farm tractor (Belgium 2005)  Source: Wikimedia Commons.  Author: Werktuigendagen

10 Forsythia Grove, Outer Hamlet, CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

January 13 2000

My Dear Ralph

I have a story today which centres on the dangers that can be posed by giant farm tractors motoring towards one fully-loaded with straw bales, and with the driver apparently unable to see out of the cab.  I can say this with some assurance Ralph as, surely, if I am unable to see the driver – then he will also be unable to see me?

What happened was this.  I was motoring down the farm track in the Banger 0.9L Mk III (towards my destination just beyond it) when, all of a sudden and with no warning whatsoever, a large – and fully laden – farm tractor emerged from a side turning  just ahead of me.  It turned in my direction and motored, at a brisk pace, towards me.  I should think that around 6m separated us at this point.

I don’t quite have words to describe the sensation of horror which overcame me as this towering mechanical monster loomed over me.  (My mind came up with an immediate mental picture of its sharp metal “spears” – used for impaling bales of straw upon – also puncturing me.)

The Banger is fitted with one of those gear sticks that require one to elevate a circular disc prior to engaging reverse gear.  And I must admit dear that I was so petrified in my seat that I was unable to find reverse gear in time.   I was very fortunate that morning that my car horn worked, and equally fortunate that the tractor driver was not hard of hearing.  For he stopped – around 3m away from the front of my bonnet.  As he turned away, I made a “fluttering heart” gesture at him and he smiled enigmatically . . .

Neither of us got out of our vehicles and neither of us said a word.  It wasn’t until later – while boning up on a Health and Safety Executive file on the subject of “Driving a Tractor Safely” – that I realized, firstly, how many grisly incidents occur in any one year involving farm tractors and, secondly, that the driver is supposed to look all around him/her before setting off and sound his own horn!  In fact, from what I read, we should have made an entry in the farm accident book and recorded a “near miss!”

I am certainly much more aware now that tractors are prone to toppling over on uneven ground and that one should not motor underneath one while its loading gear is suspended overhead!

I have also practised a more rapid capacity for getting into reverse gear and proceed down the track with a window wound down so that I can listen out for an engine starting up!

We all think our day is going to proceed smoothly, don’t we? But all it takes is a series of apparently minor errors on one, or more, people’s parts for our day to end up in the mortuary.

Yours still in the land of the living . . .

Aunt Evangeline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t reheat the milk !

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

December 28 2000

My Dear Ralph and Harriet

I suppose I should be inclined to ask if you both have had a happy Christmas.  And I think I might have done so, had the young alpaca (featured above) had one herself.

I had to work on the farm on Christmas morning, and showed up bright and early to carry out the usual set of tasks: mucking out; filling water containers; filling hay mangers; putting out beef nuts; mixing baby alpaca (“cria”) feeds, and so on and so forth.

Unluckily, I arrived to find the youngest member of the herd (numbering around 20 adults and five or so crias) collapsed on the floor of the shed.  I said, ‘Oh Mathilde,’ and propped her on her knees against a wall.  I then – in quite some state of distress – zipped in to the big house, to warm up some goat’s milk for her (kept in a carton in the fridge).

I unfortunately encountered the property owner’s new male carer in the kitchen.  He had only been the new “live-in” for just under a week and I had never met him.  After hastily shaking his hand, I asked,

‘Have you been feeding Mathilde?’

‘Yes,’ he said.

‘Have you been reheating the milk?’  I asked.  ‘It’s only that bacteria breed in re-warmed milk.’

‘Oh,’ said the male carer – rather defensively – ‘Hubert (the property owner) reheats the milk.’

‘Please don’t reheat the milk!’ I snapped.

The male carer huffily put on his coat and went outside.  When he came back, he said, ‘She’s just the same as yesterday.  You don’t know what you’re talking about ‘mon,’ he said.

‘I’m a qualified nurse,’ I said.  ‘Are you?’

I then sped up to Hubert’s bedroom and said the same. ‘Please don’t reheat the milk Hubert.  Good man.’  Hubert stared at me in rather lizard-like fashion.

Out in the sheds, it became obvious that Mathilde had streaming diarrhoea; her back end was soaked with it, her eyes half-closed.

I phoned Hubert from out there.  ‘She’s really bad’ I said, relaying further information.

‘Do we need the vet?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ I said.

And the vet thankfully materialized about 30 minutes later.  He said that the prognosis for the young alpaca was poor.  He affirmed that she was underweight, hypothermic, and dehydrated.  He said the diagnosis was enteritis.

I said that a couple of people were reheating the milk and, if he agreed that fresh, clean, milk should be used for every feed, please could he inform the duo inside the house.  I escorted him to the foot of the stairs and called up to Hubert that the vet was here.  He went up and I went back to the sheds.

When the vet came back, he said he was going to give Mathilde the first of four daily injections of antibiotic.

‘Did you get a chance to tell them about the milk?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I did.’

Later on, I had to go into the house for some more milk (mixed with a small quantity of rehydration gel).  The male carer slunk past in the background .

Hubert did come out to see Mathilde.  We sat her on her his lap while he fed her, and I sponged off the diarrhoea with warm water.  We put an extra coat on her (not something I am particularly good at; there are so many ties).  And Hubert asked me to demonstrate how I got the lamb-feeding bottle into Mathilde’s mouth, something he said he was not particularly good at.

When I went back the next day, she was still alive.  And, thankfully, Tom the herdsman  – a very caring man – was also there.  He prepared a smaller pen – using a metal estate gate, and covering it with blankets and set to feeding the prostrated youngster. She  was too weak to even lift her head off the straw.

I wasn’t due to go in for the next couple of days, but I phoned Hubert the evening before I was due to go in.  He told me that Mathilde had died.

The following morning I had to go in to the kitchen because the outside taps had frozen and I needed warm water for mixing the other baby feeds.  The male carer was in there and he couldn’t raise his eyes off the ground to meet my eyes.  But there’s no point continuing with an awful atmosphere, so I talked about the weather and the taps.  He said he was the one to find the body (an unpleasant experience I know) and did say that he realized I had lost a friend.

Tom told me that he had driven a pick axe through the – frozen – soil in order to dig a hole to bury Mathilde in.  He said that he had said a few words of blessing by the grave, and marked it.  He talked about how upset he had been; he works far more days there than I do and so spends much time with the animals.  And he thanked me for my kindness.

Well this was an unnecessary death in my view.  So, whatever you do, don’t reheat the milk (discard any milk not drunk at any one time) and sterilize the bottle, and the teat, after feeding any vulnerable young baby or baby animal.  Wash your hands.

Love from Evangeline Tankful (DBE)

New endeavours . . . .

C'est moi

C’est moi

I have decided to wrestle with a new blog template for my next 100 episodes. And “wrestle” I certainly did, even though I chose exactly the same template (twenty twelve) as I did nearly four years ago. (I tend to try to work out the controls solo and too much eschew the reading of instructions . . .)

So my new blog resides at: http://talesfromperfect.wordpress.com

Thank you Keith Garrett (of “Man of Many Thoughts”) who has found it already.

And a request to WordPress. Please develop a “translation widget” so that the non-English peoples, world-wide, can take more part. As things stand, the readership of all our blogs appears confined mainly to speakers of the English language.

Evangeline

Submissions . . .

Delightful picture of a koi carp at parental demesne

Delightful picture of a koi carp at parental demesne

Phew! I am done writing I think. And it’s time to submit my efforts to an agent. It has taken me quite some months to revise (and revise again) this, my first and on-line, draft. Apart from the obvious typos, there were – on many occasions – glaring faults with plot logic as well as gaping time gaps. I seem, also, to have yakked on far too much about gardening (my real occupation) as well as the historical situation in Kosovo!

It is a mission in itself to prepare a proper submission to an agent. The covering letter takes much thought and care, as does the brief summary and synopsis. The experience of penning the latter has given me the opportunity to ask myself if I really know what the story is all about! I have also had to prepare a writer’s CV and some testimonials. Thank you Josna and Peter for your glowing tributes to my efforts at dark comedy.

So we will see. I am as ready now as I ever will be. And if it still not my time, then I will just carry on!

Thank you for your readership, whoever you are, out in the ether.

Yours

Evangeline Tankful (DBE)

Mole intelligence: episode 100

Image useful for illustrating the lighter side of life

Image useful for illustrating the lighter side of life

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

November 20 2000

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

My Dear Ralph

Thank you for your moving expose on the nature of morality. Keep going!

I myself have departed from Especial Care Services. I did indeed feel this was necessary as I do not think they truly wished to hear any penetrating insights from me. The good news is that I have found a new position, even more out in the sticks than is usual. I have become (miraculously) an alpaca herdswoman . . . And in case you – as a convinced city dweller of the first order – have absolutely no idea what these are, I will enlighten you. Alpacas are smaller versions of the llama and, in case you are not very much the wiser, are clad in very woolly coats and disport large (and slightly exophthalmic) brown eyes.

My role involves the highly technical task of scraping their turds from off the turf; filling their water troughs/hay mangers, and placing handfuls of beef nuts in their feeding bowls (which are hung over the rails of estate fencing). I must say that these tasks do not necessitate one to be in possession of a high quantity – or quality – of intellect. But it seems that the alpacas are none too bright themselves, and only appear to be motivated by the rattling of feed inside a bright orange bucket. Honestly dear, one is practically knocked flat in the rush of animals stampeding towards their bowls.

Alpacas are, for the most part, not very chummy animals, but one exception to this is a female called “Sherbet.” Sherbet is quite inclined to sniff my hair as I extend my head towards her and allows me to stroke her long, fleecy, neck. One morning, she knelt beside me as I swept the stable floor, and the farm manager showed up.

‘However did you manage that?’ he said, gazing suspiciously at said Sherbert. ‘Did you give her sweets?’

I denied this dear, mentioning only the propensity that animals have for realizing that you intend them no harm. The other two animals with whom I have a slight relationship, are either very young or very old. I feed the underweight youngster with goat milk sucked from the teat of a lamb-feeding bottle. I sit it on my lap while it feeds and gaze at its extraordinary eyelashes and great big eyes. Its mother has mastitis and won’t let it suckle from her teats. She pushes it away and stamps her cloven feet. The old alpaca may, or may not be, blind and I notice that the bigger adults shove her away from the feeding stations. So I have started to call her by name – Meena – and feed her in a separate pen. These are the most warming aspects of my role (albeit the smallest and shortest ones).

And yet, like the gardening that I also engage in, it is a lonely place out in the fields with only the sky and trees and ‘God’ to turn to. There seem to be very few human beings around with whom I can share some small congress of the soul. And throughout my life it seems that this has almost always been the case. Even should anyone (at this late stage) show up to offer “love” – and, doubtless, immediate sex – I might eschew the “opportunity” and go on by myself.

I will write my memoirs – “The Truth versus Silence” – as, no matter the level of governmental opposition, I think the world will want to hear from a woman who has been the Chief of MI6. This was, perhaps, the thing I was born to do.

Yours

Aunt Evangeline

Fallot’s tetralogy . . . (episode 99)

iStock_000021621315Small

November 19 2000

1A The Hole
Hope End Street
CARPOOL C87 4AZ

Hello Auntie

I have been engaged in one of those situations (at work) which give one pause for thought. It is now my second year of study at Carpool University Hospital and I have been allocated to a 6-week-long sojourn in the Coronary Care Unit (CCU). It can be pretty scary, as I expect you can imagine, to be surrounded by potentially blue-looking people and their bleeping paraphernalia. But one man, in particular, engaged my attention. He was in his twenties and had, apparently, had a late diagnosis of a heart condition called “Fallot’s Tetralogy.” I had to go home and look this up! It means that there is a hole between the two bottom chambers (ventricles) of his heart and that the wall of the right ventricle has become thickened under the strain of trying to push blood into narrowed pulmonary veins.

But the issue more to hand, at least to me, was that he looked like he might have an intestinal obstruction. I can say this with some degree of confidence Auntie, because he was only able to manage the occasional lick of ice cream, had a hugely distended abdomen and kept vomiting up (green) bile. So as a – still lowly – student nurse, I toddled off to the nurses’ station to informing the staff nurses of Mr X’s predicament.

But, do you know, they barely gave me an uninterested flicker of the eyelids – and a bored sigh – before returning to whatever notes they were penning in patients’ documentation. I have noticed this type of attitude in the so-called “professional” nurse before; they think they are too high and mighty to engage in some actual thinking – and can’t wait to condescend to someone they perceive to be of lower status. In the absence of any interest in the information I was trying to give, I slithered off to the sluice and occupied myself in some minion-style cleaning of metal bed pans.

However, on my cycle ride home (in the pouring rain and clad in my usual black – rubberized – outfit) I had time to think the matter over. And it did seem to me Auntie that, given the opportunity, I ought to try to do something to help this patient. But what? After all, I am a man who does not even have the funds to drive a basic automobile and who, likewise, has to listen to his music from a “Walkman” strapped to his belt!

The following day, I was on a “late” shift and so arrived on the ward at around 1300 hours. During the course of listening to the staff handover, it transpired that Mr Corcoran – the cardiac consultant – was due to come and do “a round” of the patients some time during the afternoon. A “flashlight” went off in my head at that moment Auntie, and I resolved to try to hang about on the fringes of this event.

It was at around 1500 that Mr Corcoran, plus entourage, swept into the CCU. He started to attend to every patient, in their turn, while a junior doctor expatiated on what they thought was going on. Thule was among them! Eventually, some twenty minutes later, they reached the bed of the patient with Fallot’s Tetralogy and it was obvious, from what I could pick up from the sidelines, that nobody had noticed that he might be obstructed.

I felt so enraged by what appeared to be serious neglect on the part of the qualified nurses, that I found myself speaking up. ‘I have noticed,’ I said, ‘that Mr X is virtually unable to eat and he has been vomiting bile for the past three days. The vomiting is projectile in nature.’

There was somewhat of a pause at this point as Mr Corcoran looked at the qualified nurse who, in turn, glared at me. ‘Has he?’ he said. He then went over to examine the taut, drum-like, abdomen of the patient, listening to it (for interior sounds) through his stethoscope.

‘This young man’ is quite right he said. ‘This patient needs to go off to theatre immediately.’

It was gratifying Auntie to see Thule smile at me from among the group of medical students and doctors gathered around the bed. But it was even more gratifying to feel that I had had the nerve to try to do the right thing, at the right time, and that my actions might result in the saving of someone’s life.

Of course, for the rest of the week, the backs of the qualified nurses were ostentatiously turned towards me whenever I was on duty. But not only were they wrong in the first instance, they have further shown their mettle in this additional display of unkindness. They have not learned. And I wonder what further sins of omission they could commit during the course of their qualified – and “professional” – careers?

Bye now Auntie

Ralph

The handling of a microphone . . . (episode 98)

image by 'gameanna' http://freedigitalphotos.net

image by ‘gameanna’
http://freedigitalphotos.net

3A Hyde Park Terrace
LONDON W2 00V

November 13 2000

Hello Mum

I have had a recent success in a national poetry competition. I was awarded first prize for my poem Gran baciatore
which means “Great Kisser.” It contains much power and passion and maybe the judges liked it for its “liquid imaginings . . . ” In any event, winning meant that I had to travel up to Cottonopolis to read it to an audience of poets and other literati.

I wasn’t sure what to wear – bearing in mind the subject matter of my piece – but in the end decided upon an outfit combining both sense and sensuality. I wore a just-above-knee red (as in pillar box) dress; navy blue stockings (not that anyone would have known that); red high heel shoes, and a gold necklace with a sapphire at my throat.

It did occur to me beforehand that I would have to practice using a microphone, for there is nothing worse than a poet who comes on to the stage and reaches out a – visibly terrified – hand towards the stand. So I taped my kitchen mop to a table and rehearsed using it! This was time well-spent I think Mum, for – when I read my poem – you could have heard a pin drop and the audience looked mesmerized. I have been fortunate with my speaking voice; it has mellow and contralto tones and there have been times when I have aspired to become the voice of the UK’s speaking clock!

There was a reception afterwards, in a room notable for its glass ceiling and palms, in giant pots, which reached up towards it. There was also polished parquet flooring and leather sofas into which you could subside, if not sink out of view entirely. The usual array of poetry luvvies were in attendance and you could hear the occasional cry of, ‘Darling! How wonderful to see you!’ – cries which I feel may not have been totally sincere in every case. As I know myself, it is difficult to really feel thrilled for another prize winner if one has not recently one something oneself.

Anyway. At one point I was approached by a rather sad-faced man who said he was a librettist, and wondered whether he might be able to use the words in one of my poems for his latest cantata. (I have to say Mum, that I am not very sure what a cantata actually is, nor whether any of my poems might be suitable for being in one.) But at least Clive seemed scholarly and earnest and not, in any way, a similar style of man to Austen, my ex-husband, and Edgar, my ex-lover. In fact, he seemed the sort of man who might own a Bassett Hound; it was the red at the corner of his eyes and the drooping nature of his eyelids that made me think this.

I have given him my phone number (mobile) and he says that he will be in touch. I hope that he does not mean this literally, for too many men nowadays seem – and I know this is rather a change of subject matter – all too eager for sex in the first 24 hours of knowing one, while peppering their communications with strings of kisses. I have certainly come to feel – since Austen left – that it helps if one has at least met the man for dinner (at some neutral destination) and engaged in a series of actual conversations first.

Best love Mum

Your slightly successful daughter (ex- in law)

Harriet

The hunting horn . . . (episode 97)

mole

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

November 8 2000

I had one of my more perturbing experiences whilst out gardening the other day pet. During the course of bouncing down a lonely farm track – in a particularly secluded part of Corsettshire – at 0740, when light was faintly dawning, I had occasion to bounce past a group of men clad in flat green caps, just outside a farm. I also had occasion to notice a sizeable quantity of 4×4’s, and horse boxes, parked in an adjacent field. The men stared at me and I stared back. They were still staring down the track after I went past, en route to the large stone house, at the bottom of the track. The only way forward out of this spot is, naturally, down a mud-laden lane which meanders (in the wrong direction) through an overhead tunnel of trees.

Of course, just my luck, I was motoring along in my Citroen Dyane ‘Piebald’ clad in one of those woolly Nepalese hats (complete with plaits) – which certainly did not fit into any scene featuring country pursuits. Indeed, I looked like a large advertisement for ‘Hunt Saboteurs Inc.’ There was nothing for it dear. Once I reached my destination, I had to get out and start unloading the large consignment of silver-leaf Cineraria and Bellis perennis (the double daisy) which I had brought with me and were intended for an empty, south-facing, bed of soil.

There was rather a silence coming from the track from which I had just come, so I embarked upon some slight nonchalant whistling and kept my eyes directed well away from the gate and passing track. Eventually, parties of up to five horse riders (at a time) jogged past and they too seemed to be humming, with their eyes similarly averted.

I must say, dear, I breathed a sigh of relief when the last hunter (as in horse) had gone past and I began to embark on planting my double daisies in their stations. I also let the house Labrador out as he is one of those who is particularly prone to barking at even non-existent intruders. I was thinking that it would be such a pest if I had to get my old set of garotting cables out the car in order to defend myself against any huntsman who thought I might be a hunt informer. (I would have had to get up on a chair – given the virtually non-existent phone signal in this spot – in order to let anyone at all know that God knows what activity was being enacted in the locale of Deserted Wooded Valley.)

About half-an-hour elapsed (with no persons viewed anywhere about the house and garden) when I distinctly heard the sound of a hunting horn emanating from a large wooded copse about one mile off in the distance. And this was followed by the sound of yelping dogs . . . Oh dear. I thought. I hope I am going to be able to get out of here (intact). And, indeed, leaving was a slightly more demanding pursuit than usual owing to metal hurdles having been placed across the track and groups of land rovers being dotted over the hillside. However, I have to say that the metal hurdles were politely removed, as I approached, by the farmer and we both waved and said, ‘Cheerio.’ (I had, by this time, removed my woolly hat.)

The next time I saw the house and garden owner, I was feeling that perhaps I should address the situation in some way.

I said, “Do you know in advance when ‘sporting pursuits’ are being carried out in the immediate vicinity of the house?” I fancy the lady looked a mite uncomfortable when I said this, for she hastily assured me that such events only occur once a year and, hopefully, next year, I will be somewhere else!

Yours, recently escaped from the jaws of controversy,

Aunt Evangeline

The graves registration unit . . . (episode 96)

Veteran soldier (war in Burma, 1943)

Veteran soldier (war in Burma, 1943)

1A The Hole
Hope End Street
CARPOOL C87 4AZ

July 24 2000

Hello Auntie

I have just been over – after quite some hiatus – to see Granddad and Grandma, who are resident on a housing estate on the outskirts of Carpool.

The hiatus occurred subsequent to a conversation that I had with Granddad on the subject of immigration. Granddad is dead set against it and wants to ‘send them all back.’ And I, as you know, have a rather all-embracing attitude towards the nation’s newcomers.

So I said to Granddad – some moons ago now – ‘Well Granddad. You are one quarter Belgian aren’t you? When are you going back?’

Granddad, of course, went rather puce about the chops and retorted, ‘I FOUGHT IN THE WAR.’

The story he then related was rather an interesting one. He had apparently served in the Royal Berkshire regiment and, at the age of 18, had been sent to Burma, where he formed part of the Graves Registration Unit. The job of the Graves Registration Unit was apparently to depart up river – the Irrawaddy and tributaries – with the purpose of enquiring about the location of any British dead languishing in the vicinity of hill villages. Once they had ascertained the location of dead bodies, their job was then to mark the position of those bodies – with white crosses – before returning down river to Rangoon. A separate unit then went to collect the bodies for burial in military cemeteries.

Granddad ably described the suffocating heat and humidity in the Burmese jungle and the soldiers’ endeavours to sleep on simple charpoys fitted with mosquito netting. He also rendered up a rather rapt description of the virtually-naked Burmese women bathing under water falls in the Chindwin hills. ‘Ah. Those were probably the days,’ he said.

I didn’t actually know he’d done all that Auntie. Maybe he thought I was too young to cope with the graphic description of the stench from the rotting corpses he also spoke about.

On this visit to Granddad (and Grandma) however, things were a lot more pacific. We studiously avoided all mention of immigration and Granddad treated me to a tour of his garden shed instead. This environment was a virtual Aladdin’s cave of lathes and woodworking tools, and I have enclosed a couple of snapshots of them:

GRANDDAD2016 051

Granddad is somebody – as you can tell – who has a real shed with a collection of tools going back for nearly a century. But although his lathe is still standing proudly, in one corner, I don’t think it works now. Granddad says that they don’t make the narrow drive belts any more and the ends of his, I notice, are connected together by pieces of wire.

WALLYANDDAD2016 052

Anyway. I’d actually rattled over there (on the bus) in the hopes of securing some funds for tailored clothing to wear about the hospital. (It had occurred to me that I might better secure the romantic attentions of Thule, if I was able to promenade up and down the corridors in natty bow ties and fine woolen suits.) Sadly, however, neither Granddad – nor Grandma who, sadly, is camera shy – mentioned funds, and I had to make do with a plate of fish and chips instead!

Your loving nephew

Ralph

P.S. How about you Auntie? I couldn’t touch you for a tenner could I?

Mole intelligence: EPISODE 95

Completely irrelevant image of penguin from zoo

Completely irrelevant image of penguin from zoo

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

July 10 2000

My Dear Harriet

Thank you for your enthralling epistle on the subject of chicken care. I am relieved not to have any chickens – and especially cockerels – in my own life. And please don’t – ever – put yourself down. You are becoming exceptional, and that is life’s largest skill of all.

It is Sunday morning here in Outer Hamlet and I have risen early with the purpose of attending the swimming pool. As my feet – clad in white plimsolls – padded along the pavement, I became conscious of that rather sweet smell redolent of warmth and rain and the slow composting of organic material which has fallen to the ground. A faint mist of rain was falling and the world was as quiet as any human being could wish for.

As I trekked across the recreation ground – and all the beheaded white clovers – I thought of how different swimming pools have become since the war. If you recall, Harriet, I was but nine years old when the war ended and, by then, had only experienced the occasional immersion in freezing cold municipal baths (for they were baths then). It is only since the Great War – when male recruits were deemed to be lacking physical fitness – that the emphasis has shifted from keeping clean to keeping fit. And indeed, before then, swimming baths were thought to be positively dangerous places harbouring the organism thought to cause polio. My own experience, as a child aged eight or so, was that the swimming baths were likely to be closed owing to the impossibility of obtaining an essential part – customarily made by men then fighting in the navy, air force, or army.

This morning, however, I have pushed and pulled my way through heavy doors, decked myself out in a rather appealing-looking turquoise swimming costume, and headed for the water. I have enjoyed my recent experiences of kicking through the water on my back, kicking through the water on my front, and treading water. It has also been most wonderful to exhale air at the ‘deep’ end, exhaling bubbles, and kick back up to the surface from the bottom. But something has been lost, I feel, from the ambience of the modern day swimming pool compared with that of earlier times. Depth for a start. It now would seem virtually impossible to drown in a contemporary pool as the water is so shallow and the pool dimensions so short and narrow. And do you remember the time when it was possible to actually dive into – the really deep – end from a spring board or a gradually ascending height of boards? But most of all I think I miss the blue, or green, ceramic tiles which lined the pool itself and the walls of the great buildings which housed them.

With love as ever

Mum