Those Meals That Turn Me Sour (13 June 1975)
I note with a certain amount of interest that the Eight Bells Field at Bletchley is in the news again, thanks to a fair that pitched there recently. Incidentally, I insist on spelling it “Bells,” not “Belles,” for reasons I hope to explain at some other time.
The authorities have been talking about what to do with that splendid site, so near the railway station, for the past 30 years to my knowledge – but for most of the time they have been getting nowhere.
I remember it first as just one large close, with allotments on part of it. Since then, the allotments have disappeared and a TA Centre and Employment Office have appeared; but the greater part still awaits the bulldozer.
From time to time various schemes have been mooted, a community centre and a college of further education among them, and at the moment Milton Keynes Development Corporation designate it for office development. They will have to be very superior offices indeed and produce a very superior rates income to justify 30 years of talking much and doing little . . .
Mention of allotments brings me to the Fullers Slade people who are exploring the possibility of living off the land, among other suggested co-operative money-saving schemes.
This may be amusing, but it is not so crazy as it might seem. Provided their joint land is big enough, they could keep themselves in potatoes and some other vegetables all the year round, given proper manuring, tools and willing muscles.
Unfortunately, the day is probably gone when they might have kept pigs and poultry as well, though it could come again the way things are heading just now.
As Sir Frank Markham, writing of the local agricultural scene of not so very long ago in his History of Milton Keynes and District says:
“Sunday dinner was often the only day when meat was part of the mid-day meal, but nearly every cottage had a hen-run and pig-sty. Egg and bacon for breakfast was so definitely English that it was unremarkable. Historians rarely mention it.”
Indeed, during the U-boat blockade of the first world war, it was said that, if necessary, we could feed ourselves almost entirely from our own soil by a system of farming that allowed for the large-scale production of pigs and potatoes, just as the Irish had lived for generations.
I would not mind it all that much. I do not suffer from the kind of palate or stomach that needs a large variety of food. All through my boyhood I enjoyed the same weekly routine of meals all the year round with only a little seasonal variation. Sunday dinner (mid-day) always began with a plateful of Yorkshire pudding and gravy. This was followed by a plateful of roast meat, boiled potatoes and greens. “Those who eat most pudding get most meat,” announced all Yorkshire fathers, knowing full well that if their children stuffed themselves with pudding, they wouldn’t have room for much meat afterwards.
But my favourite day was Thursday. This was always baking day and I could always count on having meat-and-potato pie for dinner. I have no taste for what are called “foreign” foods. You can also throw away the wine list as far as I am concerned. But you must not rob me of my egg-and-bacon breakfast, which I have six days out of seven. No toast-and-marmalade, thank you. As that for that lately-come and misnamed item, “grapefruit,” which is nothing like a grape – that would be guaranteed to turn me sour for the rest of the day. Favourite “afters”: plain apple pie.
And now for a belated but nevertheless sincere welcome to His Worship the new Mayor of the Borough of Milton Keynes. I well remember when Cllr Cecil Bowden – he of the Denis Healey eyebrows – first took his seat on the old Bletchley Urban Council. Those eyebrows have since gone white in the public service, but the eyes beneath them are as bright as ever and I reckon that in him the borough will have a thoroughly good successor to Cllr Ernie Fryer.
A pity, though, that the mayor-making is not more spectacular. There ought to be some kind of celebration in which the populace could take part. Not a Lord Mayor’s Show, of course, but something to give us a bit of a lift without spending too much money. Come to think of it, Mayor Bowden could play his own part in it very well.
I have seen his lively cavortings on the stage in amateur theatricals, and in the old council he was always quick on his feet in support of bodies like Bletchco Players and the new-styled Milton Keynes Operatic Society. They will be very pleased at his elevation (and also that of Mrs Bowden). I am sure that all he has done for Bletchley he will be just as eager to do for the borough at large. His call for unity is no mere gesture.
In this connection I notice a complaint from Olney about money spent on the Leisure Centre at Bletchley. “We cannot afford the bus fare and we cannot afford the petrol to go over there. We are paying for something that is no good to us,” one Olney resident is reported as saying.
Well, well! Is there not on Olney’s very doorstep an amenity for which Bletchley people are now paying and which many of them would visit far more often than they ever visit the Leisure Centre, if they could only afford the travel cost? Emberton Park exists today partly from the rates paid to the former Newport Pagnell Rural Council by people living as far from it as Little Brickhill, and the Bletchley Leisure Centre exists today thanks mainly to the ratepayers of the former Bletchley Urban Council. I was present at the meetings of the respective councils which approved both those ventures. And I am glad they did – for the sake of the Borough of Milton Keynes as a whole.