Another glorious day with the temperature in the mid-20s, almost double the norm for this time of year again breaking all previous records. I was delighted to see that the warmest place in England yesterday, was Mildenhall, where my golf club is situated. Being a Tuesday I couldn’t wait to get there. Ollie arrived, as usual, at 10.15 together with another driver, Joe, who he was obviously being broken in. They got me to the club around 11.00 and then Ollie went off leaving Joe in charge, to wait and bring me home. The pattern of my visit followed that of last summer. I was years grateful to have survived the winter unscathed and the back in the old routine.
I drove around the course, in my electric wheelchair, for one and a half hours or so, chatting to this group and that as I tick tacked across the course before returning to the clubhouse and sitting outside in the sunshine with a glass of chilled white wine and my regular small cigar. John Gray took on the role of nanny today, relieving me of my outer garments and feeding me once we got into the dining room. There is just sufficient time after lunch to return to our outside table and indulged myself in the best part of another cigar. Joe turned up, as instructed, to take me home at 2.15. I must say I had enjoyed myself immensely but by the time I got home I was seriously fatigued and I think six hours is about my limit. I just wonder how I will manage at Lord’s and just hope that I am strong enough to last out the day.
The backlash from the Budget continues with the row over keeping the pensioners tax free threshold unchanged, this forthcoming financial year. Despite these widespread protests I cannot see that the government can, or will, change its policy. Whilst I personally think it was badly handled I would be disappointed if they fail to stick to their guns. It is all part of everyone having to tighten their belts for the next year or two to get us out of the black hole of debt inherited from the previous Labour government.
The government have announced a radical change in the planning laws. From now on there will be a presumption in favour of consent for an application to build, presumably houses, subject to a number of checks and balances to be decided by the local council members. Presumably, the idea is to try to get the economy moving again and also to start making inroads into the half a million or so backlog of homes that the government claim are needed over the next decade. Whilst one applauds the idea of ridding ourselves of some of the red tape obstacles in the way of planning, and leaving the decision to local people whose lives will be affected by a change, there is an underlying fear that the criteria to be applied for any consent, will vary substantially from place to place and in some areas we will start to see the loss of elements of our Green Belt, the maintenance of which has been fiercely fought over ever since its introduction in the 50’s.
For my overseas readers I should perhaps explain that the concept of greenbelt land is to keep, in reserve, areas of open space mostly around large urban conurbations. The purpose being to protect this land from urban sprawl and maintain the designated areas for forestry and agriculture, as well as to provide habitat to wildlife.
When and Kimberly and Miles came down on Saturday for lunch, Kimberly very kindly brought me a pineapple – appropriately, an ancient symbol of hospitality in past times, often displayed in carved stone on the top of the wall either side of the gates to mansions and manors. It reminded me personally of the very first fresh pineapple I ever tasted. This was in the British Club in Singapore, on route to Australia in 1955. Remember, in the UK, we had rationing maintained for seven years after the war and whether such things as pineapples were freely available or not, I could not say, however, if they were they would have been undoubtedly relatively expensive. Having found myself sitting by the swimming pool in this club, no doubt resting between flights – it took about three days to get to Australia in those days – I saw one of the waiters taking a whole fresh pineapple to some people sitting nearby. I could not resist asking him, as he passed by on his way back to the kitchen, what was the cost of such a luxury. I was delighted to hear that it was about 10 shillings (50 p. In modern coinage). Although this would still be an expensive luxury to me at the time I took a devil may care attitude and ordered one. It arrived beautifully sliced and devoid of all those nasty spiky bits. You can get a machine that does that for you today but I expect in 1955, it was done by hand. Having never tasted fresh pineapple before I was absolutely delighted with my purchase and no pineapple ever since has quite come up to the same gastronomic heights as did this very first one.
The nearest I could get to a story about pineapples was one about artichokes. Click here to read it.