Tales from the Vale

A letter from Her Maj

To get a birthday card from the Queen (my father in Law is 100, an absolute miracle – as you’ll read below) you’ve got to download a form from the Anniversaries Office at Buckingham Palace and send it back by post.

Kae posted the completed form on a Tuesday. By mid afternoon Wednesday she got an email from the Palace (not personally from Her Maj, I note, which suggests a woeful slackening off from official duties from the monarch) saying the old guy will get a card from Queenie. 

‘That’s the first I’ve ever delivered,’ said the postie on The Day, gazing with reverence at the stately blue envelope bearing the Queen’s coat of arms (with rather stern warnings on the back should anyone dare to impede the envelope reaching its lawful recipient ‘on the day it must arrive’).

We’d arranged for the mayor to come round. That was funny. Her office said ‘the Mayor’s car will arrive at exactly 1.30pm…’.  And at exactly 1.30pm a worker’s van drew up next to FiL’s drive. I went out and asked the driver if the Mayor was in the vehicle. ‘Not the last time I looked,’ he said, warily watching me.

And then a chauffeur-driven Ford Focus (north Bournemouth clearly facing a challenging budget) drew up and out stepped Her Worship in full regalia.

I’d sent her a resumé of FiL’s life, she’d obviously read it and this delightful woman talked to him with great humour for half an hour. Bearing in mind she had a tough council session shortly afterwards this was exceedingly generous of her.

‘That was kind of you,’ I said as I escorted her to her ‘limousine’. ‘God, I loved it. What an amazing man,’ she replied, ‘it’s the best part of my job.’

The irony of the FiL reaching a century is that when he was 23 he was an engineer (acting sergeant, all the responsibility without the pay) with the 8th Army, fighting in Italy. His job was to crawl into German held territory to assess which bridges could take the weight of a 33 ton Sherman tank. It was a bloody affair as ‘Jerry’ festooned such locations with booby traps, mines, shelling and snipers.

He and his troop expected to be killed or wounded every hour of every day. They all had written farewell letters to be sent to their mums and dads when (not if) they were killed. He lost a lot of good mates.

At one stage he was up against a particularly vicious German troop, with a reputation for shooting injured or captured allied soldiers, but off he went, did his job and when he returned to report, his colonel said, ‘I didn’t expect to see you again, Sergeant.’

I’m guessing this officer did not enjoy a sparkling post-war career as a motivational speaker. 

But, the FiL is still around 77 years later.  When we left he said, ‘we’ll do it again next year.’

When you get stung!

We’ve been waiting for what seems a year for summer and as I write this it has arrived. Hoo-bleeding-sun-ray.

Slight prob, though: bees and wasps.

I’ve always been fine about bees. Very useful, attractive personalities.

But I’m allergic to them. I found this out when gardening two years ago and was stung three times.  Began to feel a bit odd but ignored it for about 10-15 minutes. Then I phoned 111.

Shutterstock

Two ambulances and a medic car screeched to a halt outside our cottage. The lovely lady on 111 had told me to crawl to the front door ‘do NOT stand up’ and unlock it and kept me talking while my throat swelled so I could no longer breathe and I went into a coma.

Next thing, I had been filled with fast-acting substances and was hooked to a oxygen tank and blue-lighted to Dorch hospital.

I came to as we were approaching Dorch and the paramedics told me I was ‘probably a minute away from death, maybe less.’

I owe my life to these fantastic people. By the time I was wheeled from the ambulance to ICU they were making me laugh so much with their tales that I was again finding it hard to breathe.

The docs told me that if I get stung again, don’t hang about, use the EpiPen (CORRECT) and dial 999.

Apparently, one gets more allergic to bees and wasps as you get older, so if you are stung and feel odd, get on to emergency services immediately without thinking you’re wasting their time, as I did. I delayed phoning and nearly paid the price. I was diplomatically bollocked by the Doc for not phoning earlier.

Hard to fight back when you’re weezing on a stretcher in ICU.

Talking of wasps…

In the village shop where I used to live there was a hand written card in the window saying, ‘Wasps Nest Destroyed. £20. Senior Citizens £15!

Perhaps a mistake?

And on the subject of misreading, there’s a vegan Thai restaurant in Dorch called B8 Café off Trinity Street.

You pronounce the name bait (B Eight) which is London street slang for something attractive and unusual.

And ‘bait’ is a good name as the food looks absolutely fantastic – see their Facebook Page.

Their website says it is still open for take-aways but the restaurant is remaining closed’ then they add, ‘we apologise for the incontinence.’

My wife says they’ve done it on purpose so they get talked about. Seems to have worked.

More good food

My local, The Antelope in Hazelbury Bryan, has introduced a mouth-watering inexpensive tapas menu. We popped in on a Saturday not intending to eat as we had a meal planned for the evening. Rhiannon showed us the menu. And we ate. Despite getting second degree burns from the stuffed jalapeno peppers it was terrific.

Antelope Hazelbury Bryan – July’s Meet your Local in the B;ackmore Vale

My wife ordered fries with hers. Rhiannon’s hub came out to see if we enjoyed it. ‘The fries were amazing,’ Kae said. ‘They’re triple-cooked,’ Gregg said proudly.

I just couldn’t resist it. ‘If you’d done them properly first time round, you’d only have to cook them once,’ I said. I just can’t not say these things.

Gregg fixed me with ‘the look.’ He had a mask on, but I’m sure he was smiling. Sort of sure.

What is a ‘Gentleman?’

‘What’s the definition of a gentleman,’ I was asked by Pete, who runs The Old Chapel stores in Buckland Newton.

Without waiting for an answer, he gleefully supplied the answer, ‘it’s a man who can play the bagpipes, but doesn’t.’ Then Pete chuckled at his own wit.

I did know that but thought ‘let Pete have his fun.’ It’s a kindness, really.

Dolly’s best quote

I teach guitar and had a new lovely new little student, a girl aged 10 who wanted to play the Taylor Swift song, Shake it Off. It struck me that these are the same opening chords as Jolene, by the great Dolly Parton.

The little girl’s mum and gran were in my Studio too, so I told them Dolly’s best quote. ‘It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.’

I was so gratified by their laughter.

She did mind really!

A few years ago I started a chess club which met every Tuesday evening in Mappowder village hall.

If you don’t know this building, think of the Taj Mahal, Got the beauty of that place firmly pictured in your mind? Good.

Now, think of the dilapidated shed round the back where they keep the buckets and mops. Mapps village hall is a bit like that shed.

But, it’s a very friendly club (it’s referred to as ‘The Charming Chess Club’ check-out the FaceBook page), and that’s what I aimed for, not one of those serious chess clubs which uses clocks and where chatter is frowned upon and people dread ‘the league table’.

Shutterstock

I insist on only two rules. Allow your opponent as much time as she/he likes to think of a move; and once you’ve touched a piece for a move, you’re committed – you can’t go back (a good rule as it helps concentration). 

We welcome everyone, beginners, those who haven’t played since school, any age, gender and we have a good turnout (ruined by Covid, obv) including a lovely woman, Lisa, and her partner, Rick, who come down from Gillingham (Lisa insists on calling the knights ‘horseys,’ which tickles me, Rick gives me a weary and pained look).  Lisa chatters away through the game and she can be relied upon to make one crucial mistake every game she plays, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This is generally followed by unlady-like oaths and a lot of amusement from the other players and we all have a cup of tea and a biscuit (which I used to make, and became quite good at – I’d flavour them with vanilla and orange).

Lisa lost every match (usually two or three each chess night) for a year but continued as cheerfully enthusiastic and we all loved her for it.

Then she played a game which was very exciting. She hadn’t made a mistake and was two moves away from checkmate. By this time all the players were gathered round this game holding their breath and praying for her.

And she won – the entire assembled cheered, clapped and hugged her.

And Lisa burst into tears.  

Meat is murder

One evening at chess, showing little interest in the game, a player and I were talking about Hitler (no, me neither).

And of the murderous dictator, Ash said, ‘I went right off him when I heard he was vegetarian.’

I laughed so much that I buggered up my next move and lost the game (he’d have beaten me anyway). Lisa, who was with us, chattering away, was delighted.

The famous German sense of irony

I spent a week in the rather beautiful German city of Hanover, early in my journalist career. I was provided with a very nice interpreter (which was hilarious as everyone I interviewed spoke betterer English than me).

One evening, over dinner, we were discussing popular German names and, out of the blue, Gabrielle came out with, ‘The name Adolf is not very popular.’

Almost spraying her with riesling, I gazed at her in astonishment trying to find any sign of irony but she was just stating a fact.

‘I wonder why that is,’ I said (with heavy theatricallity), and she just shook her head as if it was an unfathomable mystery.  

What a little tanker!

Many years ago when I had a birthday coming up, Kae asked what I’d like to do and I said, ‘Look inside a tank with an expert’ (mid-life crisis).

She phoned Bovington Tank Museum, explained what she wanted and the receptionist got through to a middle-manager who listened and put Kae through to the boss.

The message had got confused.

‘Mrs Palmer,’ said the boss, ‘I understand you’d like us to arrange a birthday treat.’

‘Yes please,’ Kae said.

‘How old is the little lad?’

’Forty three,’ Kae replied.

She had to pull the phone away from her ear as laughter exploded out of the earpiece.

And the message still had not come through when we turned up at the agreed time. An ex-tanker in overalls was at the desk to greet us, ‘Mr and Mrs Palmer,’ he said, looking around and spreading his hands downwards as if to say, ‘and where is the little scamp?’

Kae and I looked around too, wondering what he meant until it dawned.

‘It’s me,’ I said, at which he manfully hid his amusement.

But at the end of the tour, he still gave me an Airfix tank kit he’d carefully wrapped as a gift. So kind. We bought him lunch at the museum’s canteen, he told me about his army career, and we had a wonderful time.

When we left I thanked him for the tank kit and said (without looking him in the eye), ‘I’ll give it to my nephew.’

Took me ages to assemble that tank.

An awkward conversation?

The last issue of your digital BV magazine carried a fascinating story of the RAF’s top scoring fighter pilot from the Falklands war.

The pilot, David Morgan, met up with one of the Argentine pilots, Hector Sanchez, and they became close friends. Hector and his wife stayed with David and family, and David introduced them to scrumpy. It was a great success .

This happened a lot after WWII when RAF and German fighters met to reminisce. I wonder how the first few conversations went and I’d guess a bit like this – a mixture of English desire to avoid any unpleasantness versus German directness:

RAF pilot: …err, you know the err.. war, you know, the war started by Hitl….err that bloke with the ‘tache, the war that you err flew your very nice plane in.

German pilot: It was a very nice plane, ya.

RAF: Well, you remember that day when you were err…

German: Shot down?

RAF: err…yes.

German: By you.

RAF: Errm, was it me? (Pretends to search memory). It was wasn’t it? I’d err forgotten.

German: I remember it very clearly. The afternoon of June 8th, 1940. Yes. I do remember that afternoon.

RAF: Good lord, what a memory you have, ha ha ha! I’d forget my own head if it wasn’t on my shoulders.

German: And after you shot me down, you shot down my colleague, Hans.

RAF: Did I? Oh, yes, I do remember something like that errm, well, sorry about all that. Nothing personal. Fancy a pint?

German: Donner und blitzen, I thought you’d never ask.

Planes at Compton Abbas airfield

David now flies his little plane from Compton Abbas airfield, which has an excellent and well-priced restaurant with great views (and so it should, it’s the highest private airfield in England).

Last time I visited I did suggest to the lovely server that maybe on the restaurant menu they should have more fitting food for an airfield, such as Barbequed Wings.

If she did find that funny she hid it well.

I tried again, ‘Bomb Bay Duck?’

Still didn’t quite get the laugh it deserved.  Or any laugh.

I played my trump card, ‘Steak & Aileron Pie?’

Shaking her head, she gave me a pitying look.

Kae said to her, ‘you’ve heard it all before, haven’t you?’

The server gave a weary nod.

By: Andy Palmer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *