The Oldie

The Old Un’s Notes


Some things never change. As the Old Un was leafing through the cartoons for sale at the Chris Beetles Gallery, London, he found this prescient Mark Boxer cartoon about Prince Andrew (far right).

Boxer (1931-88) drew the cartoon in the early 1980s but the headline in the paper – ‘Prince Andrew denies knowing club girl’ – could have been in yesterday’s newspaper. The cartoon is on sale for £650.

Also on show is Boxer’s caricature of The Oldie’s founding father, Richard Ingrams – his craggy visage is unchanged now, more than 30 years after the picture (above left) was drawn. The drawing can be yours for £1,750.

The Old Un was sad to hear of the death of Christophe­r Beeny in January at the age of 78. He played Barnes the footman in Upstairs, Downstairs and Morton Beamish in Last of the Summer Wine.

He was also the last survivor from Britain’s first TV soap, The Grove Family, which aired from 1955- 1957.

As a child actor, Beeny was Lenny, the schoolboy son, always getting into scrapes. His mother (Ruth Dunning) wore a pinny and would say anxiously, ‘Oh Bob, I do hope Lenny’ll be all right,’ while Bob (Edward Evans), a builder, would puff reassuring­ly on his pipe.

The local Inspector Plod often called in just for a chat. Life was always cosy, except for crabby resident Gran, aged 90 (‘Gladys! Where’s my elevenses?’) – definitely a precursor to Ena Sharples.

The Grove Family was written by Michael and Roland Pertwee (brother and father of Jon, future Dr Who).

‘I once met Michael Pertwee,’ The Oldie’s Valerie Grove recalls, ‘who turned out to be an old acquaintan­ce of my thesp mother-in-law [also called Grove]. I asked him about the name. He said they’d just called it after the studios where they filmed it: Lime Grove. After three years, Michael and his dad asked the BBC for a short break – so they axed it.’

Calling all oldie artists. To star in Sunderland Museum’s new Received Wisdom exhibition (1st February-10th May), you have to be old.

The sculpture, paintings and photograph­y on display come from the 8,000-strong Arts Council Collection of contempora­ry British art.

It includes 36 artists. Some have been at it for decades. Others have discovered sketching and sculpting in later years. Among the artists are landscape painter Elisabeth Vellacott, who had her first solo exhibition at 63 and worked into her 90s; and painter Lubaina Himid – a pioneer of the Black Arts movement in the 1980s and the oldest ever Turner Prize winner at the young age of 65.

The exhibition is accompanie­d by Art Taster workshops for, erm, young people.

A new biography of Robin Chichester-clark (1928-2016), the Londonderr­y MP, by Nigel Watson, has some charming pictures of his Ulster childhood (above).

Chichester-clark’s older brother was James Chichester-clark (19232002), Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1971.

And his younger sister, Penelope Hobhouse, the distinguis­hed garden writer and designer, is still happily with us; she’s just turned 90.

What a talented bunch!

The Old Un sends many congratula­tions to The Oldie’s Raymond Briggs on his elegiac new book, Time for Lights Out (Jonathan Cape).

The great author and illustrato­r takes a funny, sombre, bitterswee­t approach to old age, with fond thoughts of his grandchild­ren, parents, childhood and his partner Liz.

The book is illustrate­d with his characteri­stic understand­ing of real life and its everyday contents, including this picture of his old phone and telly, glass of wine and fish and chips. Bliss.

Seventy years after George Orwell’s death on 21st January 1950, The Oldie’s art editor, John Bowling, set off on the road to Mandalay ‘where the flyin’fishes play’ (the road is actually the Irrawaddy river).

Having enlisted in 1922, Eric Blair was the first and last Old Etonian to join the Indian Imperial Police force.

He was posted to the sleepy town of Katha at the northern end of the Burmese railway, after shooting dead a mad elephant belonging to a prominent timber company in Moulmein, some 700 miles away.

Retracing his journey to Katha, John found several buildings that feature in Orwell’s Burmese Days (1934): the tennis court where he played; the club where ‘tepid gin and tonics’ were served; and his house – now a museum dedicated to his time in Burma (pictured).

Incidental­ly, it was in Burma that Orwell first grew his moustache, which he kept for the rest of his life.

St Etheldreda’s in Holborn, London, is a curious church – well hidden on a private street of terraced Georgian town houses in a gated, guarded sliver of London that belongs to the diocese of Ely in Cambridges­hire.

Every 3rd February, the church holds the Blessing of the Throats, an old Catholic rite revived by St Etheldreda’s in the 19th century.

On this day, the priest delivers the dedicated reading to St Blaise, the fourthcent­ury Bishop and Martyr of Cappadocia credited with saving a boy from choking to death on a fish-bone by touching his throat and bringing forth the fish.

As the congregati­on kneel before the altar, the priest holds two long, unlighted candles tied with a ribbon in the shape of the cross and touches the throat of each, saying, ‘By the intercessi­on of St Blaise, Bishop and Martyr,

may God deliver you from disease of the throat and all other harm, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.’

St Blaise is the patron saint of wool workers – wool was an important industry in the Middle Ages. His feast day was kept with great solemnity in the sheep-raising regions of Yorkshire and the Midlands, where bonfires were lit on hills at night and large candles presented at High Mass.

Nowadays it’s on 3rd February that this singular saint is best remembered.

Where would we be without grandmothe­rs? Kristen Hawkes, of the University of Utah, invented the grandmothe­r hypothesis. Her theory is that grandmothe­rs are one of the reasons our species has evolved and our lifespans have grown.

No news to grandmothe­rs the world over, of course!

The theory goes that, at some point, our distant female ancestors began to live beyond their child-bearing years in order to help gather food and feed their group’s offspring, enabling women to have ever more children.

The few ancestral women who were initially able to live to postmenopa­usal ages increased the odds of their grandchild­ren’s surviving.

As a result, these longerlive­d females passed on their genes that favoured longevity. And so, over the course of thousands of generation­s, the species as a whole evolved longer lifespans.

The theory remains just a theory. But anthropolo­gists now have a useful tool to understand evolution – and it’s yet another reason to remind the young ones in your family to thank their grandmothe­rs.

In Dafydd Jones’s picture (above), you can see the bench bars installed in a beachside pavilion at Bexhill-on-sea, East Sussex.

The council erected them before Christmas to stop the homeless from sleeping there. It seems a little rough on rough sleepers. The bars come in the wake of anti-homeless spikes, set up across the country to prevent the homeless from sleeping on the ground.

Now there’s a backlash against the bars. First, locals unscrewed some of them.

Then the council took them away to paint them because they were rusting. Good riddance!

Sucking eyeballs and chewing ears is all part of the Florence Nightingal­e bicentenar­y experience.

St Thomas’ Hospital’s Nightingal­e Museum is celebratin­g the 200th anniversar­y of Florence’s birth – on 12th May 1820. She was named after her birthplace, which was, of course, Florence. Her older sister, Parthenope (the Greek name for Naples), was also called after her birthplace.

The museum, reopened in 2010, contains 800 letters from the Victorian icon, mathematic­ian, war heroine and pioneer of healthcare and modern nursing. It has a stuffed owl which Florence rescued in Athens and kept in her pocket. She also had a pet cricket called Plato and, during her lifetime, 60 cats.

There will be a Memorial Service at St Paul’s Cathedral on 27th October.

Her museum, on Lambeth Palace Road, contains over 300 pieces of Nightingal­ia including her own medicine chest, writing case, lunchbox, an original Turkish fanoos lamp (most of the lamps she is depicted holding are wrong), period uniforms, paintings and a rare photograph.

And there’s plenty of merchandis­e, such as bloodbag charms, multicolou­red syringe highlighte­rs and highly collectabl­e Bristol stool-chart mugs.

Four years ago, Tor Falcon googled ‘rivers of Norfolk’ and found a list of 38 rivers, with irresistib­le names such as Nar, Mun, Wissey, Gadder, Cong and Mermaid.

She followed each river from source to mouth, drawing and writing about them as she walked, and occasional­ly canoed. From the sparkling chalk streams in the north and the west to the low-lying, peaty Broadland rivers in the east, she has used rivers as a way to look at a familiar landscape from a different point of view.

Appalled and inspired, she has seen how we treat our waterways. Using drawing as a way of exploring, she has produced over 200 pictures and published a book, Rivers of Norfolk.

Her show of river pictures is at Abbott & Holder, near the British Museum, from 6th to 17th February.

Ed West, son of Oldie columnist Mary Kenny, has written a new book, Small Men on the Wrong Side of History – The Decline, Fall and Unlikely Return of Conservati­sm (Constable, published 17th March).

He pays tribute to his late father, the distinguis­hed journalist Richard West. The Old Un likes to think of himself as a reactionar­y but he’s nothing on Richard.

‘Dad settled on the 14th century as the ideal time for human developmen­t before everything went downhill,’ writes Ed. ‘Dad spoiled his ballot paper each election because he didn’t approve of democracy and shrugged when Mum joined the Reform Club because, in his view, the Great Reform Act of 1832 was a historic mistake.

‘A non-smoker, he deliberate­ly smoked on National Non-smoking Day and hated “the nanny state” more than anything.’

The Old Un couldn’t agree more. His battle cry is ‘The Only Way Forwards Is Backwards’.

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 ??  ?? The perfect evening by Raymond Briggs
The perfect evening by Raymond Briggs
 ??  ?? On the road to Mandalay: Bowling meets Orwell
On the road to Mandalay: Bowling meets Orwell
 ??  ?? Robin, James and Penelope Chichester-clark, c1930
Robin, James and Penelope Chichester-clark, c1930
 ??  ?? The River Wensum at Hellesdon by Tor Falcon
The River Wensum at Hellesdon by Tor Falcon
 ??  ?? You’re barred! Bexhill-on-sea bench bars
You’re barred! Bexhill-on-sea bench bars

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