Loos Problem Has Still Not Been Resolved (19 January 1973)
When I first saw the photograph with this column – which for once in a while was after, not before the paper was published – I thought it would do me fine. No-one would recognise me from that.
I did the photographer less than justice. Next day people in the town met me with grins and “I see you’ve got your photo in the paper, then” and so did a regular caller at the house.
So now, more than 50 years since I walked into a newspaper office and timidly announced myself as the new boy, I find myself on the receiving end.
My wife doesn’t like the photo. “Tell him to take a better one,” she says. To which I reply: “Well, he took about six while I was trying to do something else, so this must have been the best. In any case, if I can’t be as good as Robin Day I can at least look as good – and I dare say I’ve been in the union longer. I think I’ll stick with it.”
Another point that may need clearing as far as older friends are concerned is that I am not writing about pre-war days in this district except in passing and by recollection of things told me by elderly residents, most of whom have long since died. I would not presume to do more than that.
However, I have lived here 27 years – just long enough, I dare say, to start calling it home. For 20 years the only Bletchley Council meetings I missed were the annual ones and my absences on those occasions could have been counted on one hand.
It has been long enough to see men join the police force as raw constables and retire as chief inspectors and all that sort of thing; long enough to be in at the birth of many organisations and at the death of some; and long enough evidently to have come to be regarded in the office as a kind of Methuselah cum walking dictionary, encyclopaedia and directory.
So whatever the intentions, what you are actually likely to get is just a general off-the-cuff write-around anything that comes into my head that might interest natives or newcomers or both.
Increasingly the things that do come into my head are present-day events that remind me or even sound like repeats of similar happenings and situations years ago. The same questions are still being asked that I myself was then asking and have never yet been cleared up.
For instance, the matter of adequate public conveniences in the Bletchley shopping centre. The need for them first came to my notice when the Gazette office was in the Central Gardens Approach Road – and we have changed offices three times since then. The office was practically opposite the pre-war men’s and women’s toilets in that road. On Thursdays and Saturdays one could not fail to see all the women, many of them in charge of wailing children, who had to queue there, nor to hear their remarks – how that this was the last time they’d ever come to Bletchley, etc., etc.
So those women were interviewed and what they said was printed. Since then there have been similar interviews on various occasions. Leading articles have been written. Letters to the editor have been published.
The council have built toilets at various outer spots.
But the central problem has still not been solved. Substantially the council are still only talking and planning. A singular failure among a lot of good work.
But to go to a more salubrious matter, if there is still room. Can anyone enlighten me about the solid beer which was made in Fenny and shipped to South Africa for the troops in the Boer War?
I have been curious about this ever since I first heard of it. Just before the railway flyover was built I happened to mention it to an old man who was waiting at the bus stop which used to be there. He confirmed that it was true.
I am not sure he did not say that he had actually been employed at the old brewery at the time. At any rate, he said it looked like slabs of dark brown chocolate. Then the bus came, the old man disappeared in the direction of the villages and I never saw him again.