Monday, 11th October, 2021

[Day 574]

Today was one of those ‘chasing your own tail’ days, if you know what I mean. Meg and I had a limited amount of time in the park (although the weather was absolutely wonderful) and, as well as picking up the newspaper, I needed to pop into Waitrose to pick up one or two supplies. Then we needed a fairly brisk walk home because our chiropodist was due to call at 12.45 – and we made it only being 10 seconds late. Quite unusually, she was a few minutes late as well so no harm done at all. After we had our feet done, we had our lunch (quite easy to prepare as the beef joint was cooked yesterday) and decided to ‘gird our loins’ to get the lawnmowing done. This is not a particularly big job these days (40-45 minutes at the front, cut ‘both ways’ and about 20-25 minutes at the back) but it so much more pleasant to do when the weather is fine. You can tell it is ‘that’ time of the year because we have mushroomy type growths appearing on our back lawn. We used to have a lot of ‘shaggy inkcaps’ and Google informs us that they were ‘edible when young’ but I would never trust any fungus growing in the garden in case I had mis-identified it. Anyway the lawns got cut whilst the sun was still shining (and even Miggles the cat, showed up for his customary treat)

In the lst few days, I have received a couple of emails from my flatmate when I was first a student at the University of Manchester in 1965. There were four of us lads altogether and one of our number hailed from what was then called Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) although he had spent his last few years in a boarding school in Bournmouth. We all get on well with each other and as my Sri Lankan friend and I were about the same size, he let me borrow his jacket for the one night a week when I went out with Meg (we used to frequent a Folk singing club each Sunday evening on the ‘J’ floor of the large Victorian building that was occupied by the Faculty of Technology – later to become a university in its own right as UMIST -University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) There are many tales I could tell of our experiences. At the end of our first year, our landlady had bought another house so three of the original flatmates plus Meg occupied the original house as a series of flats. In our final year, we all moved into a modern maisonette built on top of a row of shops, bu that is another story. The one incident that sticks in my mind is when we four lads were in our first year and were eating our evening meal round the communal table. Just then, the tearaway young son of our landlady burst into our room with a plastic tommy gun that made a loud rattling noise when fired. So he it was fired at all of us and we decided to play the part and play ‘dead’ as we all leant forward over the table. ‘Mummy, mummy‘ the youngster cried out – ‘I have just shot all of the students dead!‘ At this stage, our landlady came rushing through and shouted ‘Willy! Willy! What have you done!‘ At this point, we were all trying so hard to suppress our giggles that it was quite evident that we were not all dead and our landlady left us, indicating she was not a little bit amused by our antics.

Meg and I were married at the start of our third year in university (we didn’t believe in messing about in those days) but our Sri Lankan friend had returned home to see his family and missed our actual wedding. However, his family were extraordinarly generous to us and we were showered with wedding gifts. One of these was a bolt of cloth, shot through with silver thread, to be deployed as a sari (our friend had to teach Meg how to wear this) We also got a square tin of the kind that Jackson’s teas used to be sold whichh are about 5″ wide, 5″ deep and 5″ high filled completely with saffron. We used this very liberally in our cooking for the whole of the next year and when asked for a pound of saffron, the delicatessen owner had to explain that would cost us about £65.00 (about £2,000 in today’s money) Finally a tea-chest arrived (the old fashioned tea chests which were about 30″ wide, deep and high) stuffed full with Broken Orange Pekoe tea. I should explain that our friend’s mother now ran an elite cookery school in Colombo and hence the nature of the gifts, no doubt. But the generosity of our friend’s mother who did not even know us evidently knew no bounds.