Wednesday, 29th May, 2024

[Day 1535]

Today being a Wednesday is always a day to which we look forward as it is the day when our domestic help calls around and it is always good to have a chat. We had no real plans to go out today because it was the day when our hairdresser was scheduled to call around. Yesterday morning, we had ensured that Meg’s hair was washed and this was to make life easier for our hairdresser when she called. She arrived late morning and did Meg’s hair in a slightly different style which we think will make it easier to keep tidy in the future and after Meg has been processed, then it is my turn as well. We have had the same hairdresser for at least fifteen years by now and we started talking to her about some of her oldest clients. One old lady whose hair she still attended to was aged about 104 and I asked our hairdresser whether she chatted to her to her about things long past. There was one occasion where they were talking about wartime reminiscences and our hairdresser slowly realised that her client was talking about the WW1 rather than WW2. I wonder whether people of such a very great age such as this, provided they are still ‘compos mentis’ should be regarded by society at large as a huge cultural resource because they will have first hand knowledge of all kinds of things which memories will pass away with them upon their demise. I wondered aloud whether there were any local or oral history projects attached to universities or other historical societies who might be interested in these very aged people as a massive data resource. On a similar but related theme, I seem to remember that there were a couple called, I believe Iona and Peter Opie who went around the country children’s rhymes (e.g. skipping rhymes) To refresh my memory, I popped some search terms and discovered the following very informative publisher’s blurb from a book which is still available on Amazon:’In the 1960s, Iona and Peter Opie observed that although many books had been written about how children should play, none had been written about how they actually played. To fill the gap they carried out an exhaustive survey, through the decade, of the games that children in fact play when aged roughly between six and twelve years of age, and when outdoors — and usually when out of sight. The result was their classic work Childrens Games in Street and Playground. It records games played in streets, parks, playgrounds and wastelands by more than 10,000 children from the Shetland Isles to the Channel Islands, although the majority of the information comes from children living in big cities such as London, Liverpool, Bristol and Glasgow.’ This sounded to me so interesting that I almost wondered whether the book was worth purchasing but unfortunately, I would not have the time available to read it. But the whole point is that the Opies sensed, quite rightly, that such traditional games and past-times were in great danger of being swept away. Electronic games were only to appear a decade later so the Opies correctly judged that they had better collect what data they could before these traditional games, chants and songs disappeared for ever. There is one game that I remember playing which was really, really simple. It required you to have two sticks, one sharpened to a point or ‘nose’ and the game was called ‘piggy’. All one had to do was to hit the ‘piggy’ stick on its nose so that it flew up into the air, hit it as far as one could with the other stick and then hop on one leg to the point where the piggy landed. The other game which I think all boys and girls loved playing was hopscotch. This was quite an easy game for me to play because at the age of ten the family moved to a small village in Yorkshire called Beckwithshaw and we were granted the tenancy of the one-bedroomed school mistress’s flat adjacent to the school. Hence there was always a school playground in which we could play at the weekends and hence we could chalk out the hopscotch figure on the school playground. Later on, these squares got painted permanently into the playgrounds of some schools but in our day, we had to draw the figures themselves. The rules were essentially very simple – ‘Toss the marker into the first square. The marker has to land and stay in the square. If you miss the square, you lose your turn. If you get it in the square, you move on to the next step. Hop on all the squares that dont have the marker in them. For single squares (1,2,3,6,9), use one foot.’ Not having grandchildren, I do not know if this game still exists or is played but essentially the game has been around a very long and in a great variety of cultures.

Our domestic help very kindly provided Meg and I with a portion of ‘Boeuf à la Bourguignonne’ which has always remained one of our favourites and one that we used to cook for honoured guests when we had the time and it was a special occasion. This was absolutely delicious and after we had lunched I took the opportunity to dash out and get the front lawns cut. I think it was about ten days ago since the days were last cut and I did not want the grass to run away with me so I was delighted to get this done but I would have ideally liked Meg to have had a nap whilst I was busy doing this but, sadly, this was not to be. This means that I generally have to cut the lawns in 10 minute stretches and then have to pop into see Meg to check she is not becoming agitated which is often the case if I am not physically present in the room. In the background I am passively listening to the witnesses giving evidence to the Post Office scandal enquiry and whilst I am appalled by the absence of memory or recall of witness to events of 10 years or longer ago, I have to wonder how i would fare if I had to cope with detailed questioning from a QC about events in my professional life that occurred a decade or so ago. The Post Office itself seems to be in the habit of suddenly finding caches of documents that might be relevant to the enquiry but very often at the very last moment and when the enquiry team have not had time to trawl through them for relevant information.