Sunday, 25th July, 2021

[Day 496]

Today was a different Sunday, as it turned out. I went and collected our newspapers and then, in place of the Andrew Marr show, I indulged myself in watching a bit of Olympics action. This was the concluding stages of the Women’s Road Bicycle Race and it turned out to be very exciting as a young, unknown Austrian rider broke away from the pack (45 kilometres out?) and eventually secured her gold medal as she built up an assailable lead. We had a lunch date in Oxford with two of our oldest friends so we set off in plenty of time, got parked in a reasonably secure location and then found our way to the restaurant. We had allowed ourselves plenty of ‘getting lost and parking time’ but still arrived at the restaurant a good half an hour early so we had a leisurely cup of coffee whilst we waited for our friends who turned up absolutely on time. Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about so we had a good enjoyable chat. The restaurant was a Thai restaurant which our friends had used before and we enjoyed our food but there wasn’t very much of it. So we decided after lunch to have a coffee and a pastry in a different venue – that part of Oxford is stuffed full of interesting little cafes so it was no problem to find somewhere and carry on chatting. As has become customary between us, we exchanged some little gifts of home made produce – our friends gave us some of their own home-made honey which is always absolutely excellent and in turn we exchanged some of our damson gin which I suggested they do not drink as such but try as a flavouring in ice-cream or yogurt. I am told by some of the recipients of our damson gin that using it as a flavouring gives excellent results but that is something that we ourselves must try. And so it became time for us to part and we made good progress getting back to Bromsgrove in what seemed a very space of time (probably just over an hour)

When we got home, we had received a message from our gardener who we have about once every three weeks to see if he could come along to help to fix our ‘honeysuckle’ arch. Basically, this is a timber construction where the support posts have rotted at ground level. I am going to act as our gardener’s ‘gofer’ or at least a second pair of hands. The plan is to lay the honeysuckle flat on the ground, chop away the rotten parts of the support posts and then relocate them into the ground making the while structure lower than before. Then we will try to relocate the honeysuckle over the re-sited posts and the job will be done. All of this sounds so easy to do in theory but I wonder how it will work out in practice, I have some specialist post-setting concrete (purchased earlier) so I hope this has not degraded over time as I have stored it under the eaves of the house which is quite, but not absolutely dry. This job has got to get completed by the end of the morning as tomorrow afternoon I need to drive to the Worcester Royal Infirmary to have a COVID test before the investigations on me start on Friday.

In the early evening, the whole family (myself, Meg and our son and daughter-in-law) spent some time in the quiet of the evening talking about some of our knowledge of, and reminiscences, of the songs of the 1960’s. But a little bit of background is in order. Meg and I met at Manchester University in the mid 1960’s. The Faculty of Technology of the University (later to become its own University – UMIST) had its own Student Union facilities which was the whole of one floor (‘J’ floor) of a large Victorian building. There they had a folk singing evening every Sunday singing songs by ‘The Seekers‘, ‘Peter Paul and Mary‘ and singers of a similar ilk. Meg and I used to really enjoy these evenings and occasionally we were treated to songs sung by Anna Ford, the president of the Owens Student Union who later went on to have a distinguished career as an ITN newscaster. To supplement this picture, I then worked a cocktail barman in the only nightclub in Manchester called ‘Tiffany’s‘ They had a resident band with an unbelievably 1950’s name (‘Ross Mitchell and Les Nocturnes‘) However, they had two incredibly good female vocalists – Eve Graham (brunette) and Lynn Paul (blonde) who later became part of the ‘New Seekers‘ This group recorded the world famous ‘I’d like to teach the World to Sing’ and eventually represented the UK in 1972 in the Eurovision Song Context coming in at second! So that is the connection (in fact the only connection) that Meg and I have with the world of folk/popular singing – but that is why we know and remember some of these songs. I must confess to a particular liking for ‘Foggy Dew’ which is a traditional English song song first recorded in1959 but best known for the version by Roger Whitaker.