Browsing in Blackwell’s

September 1st, 2011

Blackwells must be the world’s best bookshop, surely? I know that lots of people have favourite bookshops but I feel pretty lucky that Blackwells mother ship in Oxford is my local. I go there to soothe my soul. It’s a Russian doll of a shop – eccentric at first sight because the shop front has two front doors and windows divided by a pub. The bigger of the entrances leads on to a rather old fashioned bookshop, quite large but no superstore. Should you descend the modest staircase signposted to the Norrington Room you will emerge into a vast underground room, with a well which leads to another level below and then, another below that. It is situated under the quad of Trinity College which is its neighbour.

Blackwell’s is an ordered world in which no-one is hassled because they have sat reading a book for too long. Indeed, there are armchairs in odd corners encouraging it. And this being Oxford, there’s an awful lot of work by local authors. Our old bookshop in Blackheath Village used to make a fuss of a book by a local author with special labels cut in the shape of a star but Blackwell’s would have to have a complete galaxy if did the same. One Christmas I had the experience of buying two copies of book for presents and then, coming across the author of those books, sitting quietly in detective fiction.

I love browsing the bookshelves, taking a book off the shelf and sitting in a corner dipping in to get the feel of the book. Today on the table as I went in, was Good Food for Everyone by Colin Tudge – a science writer, philosopher, advocate of good food and friend. I was reminded that I owe him and his wife dinner soon. The next book that I picked up was Treasure Islands, the Truth About Tax Havens. The label said “frightening and true”. It looks completely engaging and from a brief look, confirms my feelings about Jersey, which are that it is a dull island overwhelmed by moneyed people with no taste. And then, Anthony Seldon’s book on Gordon Brown – a heavy hardback. If I had difficulty picking it up, I had more difficultly putting it down.

Blackwell’s is for me a great temptation. I can easily walk out having bought a dozen books. But this is a problem. Our house is full of books; ours, our own, some inherited, some from relatives, some of our children’s. I am constantly trying to thin them out and am a regular at the Oxfam bookshop. I have a tottering pile of books by my bed, all of them waiting to be read.

I’m actually a fan of digital books although I don’t, as yet, have a Kindle. Being able to store all those books online would be terrific. And I’d be able to find a book there with ease. Often, I know I have a book SOMEWHERE but when I try to find it on one of the bookshelves it can’t be found. On occasion I’ve bought a second hand copy of a book that I know for certain is somewhere in the house.

But if everyone used Kindles and books in their current form were superseded, whatever would happen to bookshops? No electronic version will ever be as tempting as a book on a shelf. The wandering around and picking up books introduces me to a whole range of subjects and authors that I wouldn’t necessarily find otherwise. Walking through travel writing on my way to politics means I am distracted by the covers and the labels into reading a book on walking in India, on living in Spain or on the medieval villages of the Lot Valley. Going to the cash point means seeing beguiling titles in the science section or beautiful covers on botanical works.

I don’t have an answer. I love that bookshop but I don’t want to live in one. I like to keep my books but don’t have either the shelf space or the dusting time. An electronic reader helps out a lot with that but I want to keep the bookshop. Perhaps in an ideal world, I’d buy a book and get an electronic version at the same time. I could read the proper book, send it to Oxfam afterwards and then keep the electronic version. Would that work? Whatever, I’ll still spend happy times in Blackwell’s whenever I can and be excited to bring a bag of books home to add to my tottering, ‘to read’ pile.

English spoken here

August 14th, 2011

I’ve just come back from a few days in France where it rained a bit and the food was good and the company even better and where I hardly spoke French at all. I used to speak reasonable French but it’s been a while since I’ve needed to use it and heavens, I sometimes have difficulty to remembering words in my own language these days let alone someone else’s. I also used to be able to make a reasonable stab at Dutch but haven’t spoken a word of that in either Holland or anywhere else for years.

It troubles me not to be able to have a go, linguistically but I realized some while ago that not only is English language teaching very good in both in France and Holland, but as people travel more they really can’t be bothered to be delighted at an English person trying to speak their language. Generally people aren’t offended that we aren’t fluent and just want to get the transaction sorted and possibly show-off their language skills.

When I worked in Paris people were much more reluctant to speak English – even quite aggressively so. Cab drivers and waiters on occasion even refused to understand my French – and that was after I’d been there for a while and I knew that if I could order a cardiac pacemaker on the telephone without trouble, “deux cafes s’il vous plait” wasn’t going to be too much of a hurdle. But no. The dreaded blank look and invariable “comment?” always drawled out as “comaaaan? An anaesthetist I worked with never spoke to me in English despite being fluent in the language even when the word I couldn’t understand was “airway” or “defibrillate” or the words I was struggling to find were “going navy blue”.

Of the patients that I remember from that time, one stands out. Madame Jourdan was a fairly elderly lady whose son was a film star famous in the 50s. She exhibited wonderful patience when I got half way through a sentence and then couldn’t finish and had to start again. She would smile and help with a word (all in a Marseille accent) I presumed this was because she spoke no English. One day, passing by the closed curtain I heard her speaking fluent English to an Australian colleague who always believed the French had devised their language specifically to annoy her. I whipped back the curtain.

Me (accusingly): Madame Jourdan, you speak English.”
Her: (smiling) “I learnt it when I was with my son in Hollywood”.
Me: “But, but…that means you’ve been speaking English longer than I have”
Her: “Ah yes, but it is so nice to hear you speak French”.

Well it wasn’t nice, but what was nice was that she realized that if I knew her fluency it would embarrass me and she also knew I really wanted to learn French. I’ve never forgotten her generosity because after all, if you are unwell, you probably have the right not to have to wait for your nurse to remember how to ask if you want to have a sleeping pill.

It’s a given that Brits aren’t good at languages. Not true. It’s just that if you are French or German or Croatian or Russian or Chinese it’s pretty clear what your foreign language must be. And probably that you need to come to Oxford in the summer to learn it if our packed streets are anything to go by. I have a friend who speaks with great fluency English, Finnish, French, Italian, Japanese and Bahasa (Indonesian) It’s just that even with this impressive range, he’s going to need to use English if talking to Mandarin speaker and the Mandarin speaker is going to use English when speaking to a German. And I do think we’re quite tolerant of people mangling the language – foreigners as well as natives.

There’s the problem. We can’t alight on one language and get access to so many other people in the way that non English speakers can by learning ours. Not just Brits and American, Australians, Canadians and Indians whose mother tongue it is, but to everyone really. So, I’m happy to conclude that it’s all the fault of the foreigners for speaking our language too well and not allowing us to have a go.

School report – could do better.

December 20th, 2010

A school friend of mine told me that one reason among many that the university I work for is a serious establishment is that has no truck with media studies. It seems to me that whenever people want to decry an academic discipline it’s always media and communications that they pick on as evidence of trivial worthlessness –second only to Beckham studies. Although I do have a sneaking feeling that there are probably quite a lot of courses that aren’t going to be much help to the students I do defend media and communications studies. And despite a lot of PR and PR speak being extremely annoying it is as well that people recognise it for what it is and are familiar with, and you probably won’t forgive me for this, modes of contemporary discourse.

My old school is in the press this week and for the worst possible reasons. One of its former pupils has been convicted of a motiveless, vicious, homophobic murder on a crowded street in London.

When I was there it was a perfectly serviceable grammar school. I can’t say there was much encouragement to think beyond the usual girls’ options of teaching, secretarial, nursing which was a shame. But that was a reflection of less liberated times for women and the world is a very different place. Now the school reflects current times and it now looks like a place that encourages achievement in arts and sciences and supports initiative.

Many of the headlines are along the lines of “ex-public school girl” and the fees of £12000 per year are widely quoted. Presumably to demonstrate a kind of irony, The Guardian, and possibly other, quotes the school website, “we know our girls and they know us – their school is very proud of them.” I’m guessing that one of the first things the journalists did was turn to the web site and found there, not a thing that recognised that anything relating to the school had happened.

Following the verdict, the head teacher gave a statement. She said : ‘We are a diverse community that promotes tolerance and individuality. We expect the highest standards of behaviour from our girls at all times.’ I expect that’s true but what she didn’t say was ‘we were shocked when we heard of this terrible event. Our thoughts are with the bereaved family and friends’
As the Observer pointed out today, the girl was obviously deeply disturbed and had been expelled for undisclosed offences. The writer, Tim Adams thinks that the emphasis on her private education betrays an obsession with class. I’m not certain I agree and I sympathise with the school finding itself in this situation.

Where I part company with the school’s actions, or inactions, is that given that the verdict was expected they should surely have prepared a response beyond delivering a bland and, in my view, meaningless statement of the worst sort of PR speak. I expect someone had advised the head to keep it simple. Often a story can be dampened in this way but surely when a man has died and the reputation of the institution you head is in serious peril one has to do better. Proper media fire-fighting because I, for one don’t want the people to associate my old school with a murder. I want them to associate it with the physics rap or the drama or music. In fact, I think that actually my old school might find the services of someone who has done a media course useful.

And the irony for my old school chum is that the university that I work for takes media and communications very seriously. The excellent public affairs department pushes out the good news with efficient regularity and just as important, defends its reputation with prompt and appropriate rebuttal and fire-fighting. It might not teach media studies but it knows when to practice the arts.

By consent

December 12th, 2010

Round-up: Police and people need to have trust in one another or policing with consent is lost, and with it, security in our society. This is the short read of this rather rambling post. I know what I want to say but can’t quite work out how to say it (at least, not in under 800 words). I think I am saying that if the police alienate their natural supporters (and there are swathes of people from outside that group who are already alienated with or without just reason) it means that parts of the force doesn’t care what people think about it and that is undermining for society and for democracy. This is not, happily, an essay

One of the reasons I took to studying politics was that I couldn’t work why those with brute force don’t control our society. In general, if threatened with physical violence by someone bigger or better armed, it seems only sensible to do as told. If that message needed reinforcing, looking down at the twin tunnels of a sawn -off shotgun pressed against my ribs, during a bank raid in Blackheath many years ago, convinced me not to debate the point when ordered to move to a particular spot along with the other quaking patrons of the Nat West.

In due course I went to the Department of Continuing Education at Oxford University that teaches part-time, external courses with the same rigour as every other academic endeavour is undertaken at Oxford. And rigorous academic tutors taught us about social contracts and rationality, about formal logic and ideologies. About democracy and philosophy, about Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau and about the tyranny of the masses and lots more beside. And they set exams which we dressed for in our black and white. On my way to a scant 2:1 I found myself so nervous that during French politics I had to leave the exam room to throw up. The experience of heaving into a lavatory under the watchful eye of an examiner in full academic dress is one that I hope never to repeat and I am as certain as it is possible to be, that she feels the same.

This week, the street protests against the lifting of the cap on university fees, turned very nasty. And whilst there were certainly trouble makers infiltrating the genuine and peaceful demonstrators, there have been many stories of heavy handed treatment by the police. Young people “kettled” – that is, rounded up and refused exit for any reason (illness, youth, dehydration or toilet needs). There have been reports of police with faces covered with scarves or with helmets and with their numbers hidden.

Photo: Charlotte Gilhooly, G20 protest London, UK

I was brought up with possibly an exaggerated respect for the police and when I was a student nurse would often appreciate a lift home in a squad car after a late shift. That was punctured for me one night when, as the senior nurse on duty on our ward, I had to call the police to interview a young woman who had been admitted having taken a large number of aspirin after being raped by a man who offered her a lift and who afterwards dumped her miles from home. From the moment that the (female) officer barked down the phone that we mustn’t allow her to wash and that they’d get to her when they could, I was wary. When two male officers arrived and asked for “the girl who’s saying she’s been raped” I was on edge. I asked them to treat my highly fragile patient with care as she was emotionally extremely fragile (and physically too – aspirin interferes with the heart). Six foot of male policeman looked at 5 foot 5 of little Miss Goody Goody, dressed in the white cap, collar and apron and full skirted dress of a nurse of the times and asked, with clear contempt “So who’s going to make me? You?” Gathering whatever hauteur was available to a 24 year old I remember replying “yes, if necessary”. Later he told me that my patient had, indeed, been raped but they had persuaded her not to report it because the court case, should it come about, would be so terrible that the better option would be to forget about it.

When I told my parents and family about it, they could not – or would not believe what I had said. They suggested that I was mistaken, that I hadn’t understood what the police officer had said.

That was an age ago. It was Life on Mars. Since then I have met police officers who are highly intelligent, sensitive, sensible and brave and a real example to others. They do really a really difficult job so that we don’t have to. But nonetheless, I have never looked at the police with the same unquestioning respect since.

So, once our forces start behaving in a way that alienates the law-respecting and usually law-abiding middle ranks of society it seems as if there are parts of the force who don’t feel any need to keep them on-side. If the decent students exercising a democratic right are lumped in with the trouble makers in the eyes of police and politicians, there will be problems. I thought way back then that if I, an epitome of middle-class respectability, could be treated like that, on my own ward, then how would the black community I lived and worked with in Brixton and Camberwell be treated? Once trust has been lost, it is immensely difficult to recover. My middle-class parents may not have believed me but the parents of students who went to demonstrate in an orderly, almost festive fashion on the streets and who came home scared, cold and possibly hurt will make up their own minds.

Unaccompanied drinking – tales from old Brixton

November 12th, 2010

We had a deal, my father and me. And the deal was that we wouldn’t drink in each others’ pubs unless invited. As it happened I doubt if he would have drunk in any of my pubs, even if had asked him to either of my locals, the Pied Bull in Streatham or the pub known as the Pig and Whistle on Belmont Road, Clapham. But it did mean that I didn’t go the Duke of Edinburgh in Ferndale Road in Brixton, even when I lived about half a mile away.

He first took me to the Duke sometime in the fag end of the fifties. It was, and is, a handsome redbrick 1930s pub set by the railway line which runs high above the garden. Then I walked under the bar to get to the back (out of hours of course) to see the animals that the landlord my ‘uncle’ Vic Bailey kept there. In one corner was a dovecote full of fantail pigeons which were his joy. I was fascinated by them.

One morning Vic was out in Brixton market when he came across a goat. It was tethered to a stall manned by a black guy. In the late 50s the new immigrant community was settling into SW2 and setting down their roots in Somerleighton and Atlantic Road, the area which 40 years on would come to be known as the front line. Vic was astonished to see the goat and the stall holder, encouraged by his interests pointed out what a good stew the animal would make. Vic did not hesitate. He bought the creature and led it back to the pub. It was a rather malevolent animal with a lank grey coat and although I cannot be certain, I think it had dark glittery eyes. Vic called it Nanny and he fenced off a part of the garden for it.

A couple of weeks later he came across a little white goat, also in the market and it joined Nanny at the Duke. With customary imagination, Vic called it Billy. Once when I was about a small child about 3 feet tall, I leant against the wire of the goat run and suddenly was hit by something firm and dense which knocked me over. The evil Nanny had butted me – a small child for heaven’s sake, probably dressed in knee socks and a little kilt with my hair held back by a slide. Frankly Vic should have let them curry the beast I thought then and now.

The pub had several bars. My father and his cronies would hang about in the private bar between the public bar and a large room which I think was called the saloon. Vic would join them. Many of the cronies were fellow golfers, members of the Vaudeville Golfing Society which was for stage and theatre folk and of which my father was the Honorary Medical Officer. Max Seymour who’d been the manager at the Crazy Horse in Paris and then ran a night club in Balham and Leslie Saroney, once hugely famous as one of the Two Leslies were his particular chums. And from time to time there’d be live music in the saloon. My father played the clarinet and saxophone and I went once or twice to sit in the room clouded with cigarette smoke and alive with music and talk. The wonderful, legendry George Melly sometimes played there too – he mentions it as a “transpontine” destination in his book “Owning Up”.

In the early 70s, when I was a student nurse and living in Brixton my father would take me out and ask where I wanted to go. And I would always say to the Duke which pleased him. His friends would tell me jokes and Vic would wax slightly sentimental and keep serving me dry martini vermouth which I drank at the time thinking it was rather cool. And we would spend the whole afternoon like this.

In 1974 I was made senior staff nurse on a ward at Kings College Hospital – frontline hospital where my father trained. My ward was next to Todd Ward where I had been born but which had become a specialist unit in the interim. And where I last saw Vic who was suffering from the disease that killed him a week afterwards. He was weak and jaundiced but he made a sterling effort to show that he was glad to see me. I was glad to see him.

And now my friend Daphna is going to be doing a standup there under her stage name of Miss D. If I can get there, I will but I’m acutely aware that if I do, it will be the first time I will have been there without my father. I’m sorry I won’t be able to introduce them.

Return from the far side

November 8th, 2010

On the wall of one of the offices where I work there is a map of social networks and on that there is a far-off shoreline which is labelled “the land of defunct social networks”. I’m only surprised there isn’t a tiny off-shore island marked with the name of my own oeuvre. However, I’ve decided that the little blog will set sail again across the cyberseas and hope to make landfall – perhaps on a tropical coast where things take just a little while to happen.
It’s a bit depressing to come back considering that the bankers and financiers are all carrying on just as they were before global financial breakdown, that proper PR seems even further away than before the Lib Dems went into coalition and that large numbers of people who want little more than to do their job, look after their families and get on with life, will find themselves unemployed and in competition with huge numbers of debt ridden university graduates for what jobs there are.
Hey Ho.

20 years on

February 11th, 2010

Nelson Mandela's message

I hope you can read the words from the base of the statue outside Nelson Mandela’s last prison standing where he walked into the world 20 years ago – if not, a double click might do it.

The Old Man was here

February 11th, 2010

Nelson Mandela statue

I said there’d more about South Africa. So here is a little story to mark the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release.

One afternoon in August as the South African winter began to think about spring, G and I were driving along a road, on our way back from a winery near Franschhoek when we realized that we were very near to the Drakenstein prison. The Drakenstein used to be called Victor Verster and we realized it was the last prison where Nelson Mandela was held before he walked along that long avenue, surrounded by exultant, grinning people, into the glare of the press and into the responsibility that lay in his hands.

So, we had to go see.

We knew we were in the right place because outside there is a statue and, of course, we had to take our photos there. But my husband wanted to see more and despite my grave reservations went to talk to the guards at the main gate. After about ten minutes he came back, got into the car and instead of driving back onto the main road, turned up the long road into the prison. He’d been told to ask at the main office.

We passed by fields and playing fields and then stopped outside the low single storey admin building. G hopped out with a cheery “if I’m not back in eight years come and get me” and disappeared inside. Minutes ticked by as the cliché has it. Quite a few minutes actually until I was beginning to wonder if I was in for a longer stay than planned. Then out came G and a warder and a young man who got into a car and waved to us. And off we went, following them along the road past wired compounds with exercise yards and accommodation blocks and then bouncing along an unmade country road until we drew up beside a couple of bungalows. We parked under a tree and there was a pink building. That’s it our warder told us. Mandela’s house. And the house next door is where his body guards lived.

It looked unlived in. The curtains were half drawn and there were weeds growing in the yard. We walked round with our black warden and the white young man who, it turns out was an electrician come to do repairs. We peered into the windows into empty rooms and saw the kitchen where Mandela must have made tea or prepared a meal. To the back of the house the young man opened a gate in the back wall revealing a vast, tangled landscape rolling out to mountains. “Look at this” he said. Isn’t it wonderful?” Then he just stood and looked for a minute before closing and relocking the door.

We went into the back garden where there was a small, half-empty, swimming pool beside the shaded terrace. We all stood by the pool and I was deeply moved. “There”, said the warden, indicating the shaded garden, “that’s where the Old Man used to sit. That was the Old Man’s room”

The four of us fell into talking. Our warden was from Kwa Zulu Natal but had been promoted to the Cape. Which did he prefer? Kwa Zulu – it’s so green and his white colleague agreed that the summers in the Cape are fierce and unforgiving with temperatures heading north of 35 even 40 degrees at time. And they talked a bit about community relations – the tensions between coloured and black – and I realized from a comment from the warder that the young man was, in fact, coloured. They understood and were talking in a context that I could have had no idea of. But of course, race is part of every discourse in South Africa. They talked about the education projects in the prison and how they hope to provide their predominantly young offenders with a skill and some sort of a future in agriculture. About the eggs that the prison supplies to traders throughout the area.

I have a lot to learn about but I do know this. That standing with a couple of South Africans who recognized the different places each came from, who both loved the land they live in and work alongside one another; who both spoke of the cautious moves toward each other, in a garden where the Old Man, Mandela sat and worked on the future in his hands, was one of the most memorable events of my life

Nelson Mandela's house at Victor Verster Prison

Thought for the day

December 30th, 2009

In her column on possible New Year resolutions for political leaders, Jackie Ashley made two for David Cameron, our possible next Prime Minister, the first of which reads

“.. start being nicer to “the little people” – the makeup artists, photographers, drivers, bag-carriers and all the other slightly fuzzy attendants in the background. You aren’t nice to them. It’s being noticed.”

I found this troubling. I’ve always held a particular distaste for those who treat people who work for them or who they regard as “little people” badly. What a horrible expression “little people” is. Contemptuous and arrogant, sneering and partronising. And, if Jackie Ashley is right in her observation, what a wretched indictment of Cameron it would be, who has, apparently, been making an effort to show that he is not some moneyed toff with no respect for anyone but other, moneyed toffs, preferably from Eton and Oxford. Not the Bullingdon Club member with the contemptuous pout but a man who has proper values, who has grown and who now regrets that part of his life.

Although I have never found David Cameron convincing and think that his EU policies are deeply worrying, when first I heard of him it was through the good reports of various friends who are also his constituents. They had met and talked to him in the shop or out with his son in the village (this before he became party leader) and had found him approachable and pleasant. And the experience of being father to Ivan must have changed him – unsettled the sense of invincibility that a background such as his inevitably bestows and made him a rounder more understanding person. One who I had presumed, had been exposed to ordinary life and ordinary folk – patients, nurses, parents, doctors, people who arrange transport and who do the ordinary work for average salaries and who represent the majority of us who live and work in Britain but who can so easily be categorised by that horrible phrase.

One of the most courteous and charming people I have ever met was John Grigg, who had been Lord Altrincham before he became the second person after Tony Benn to give up a title. He had been a Conservative (as I was once) but was Chairman of Lewisham SDP when I was Area Secretary. Old fashioned as it sounds I’m going with the cliché ; John was a real gentleman. His courtesy and respect extended to everyone he met. Once, after he and I had gone canvassing in the Tory edge of the constituency where we had met some pretty charmless voters, he said with apparent pleasure how delighted he always was by the good common sense of the British voters. I was never quite as broadly generous toward the electorate. John and his wife would entertain party members in his home in Deptford with great hospitality. He never made people feel uneducated or a “little” person because he had a true respect for everyone he met and, as a result, was hugely respected and liked in return. I regard it as a privilege to have worked with him.

In “An Englishman in New York”, John Hurt’s Quentin Crisp tells a friend that he has always called him Mr Steel rather than Philip “because it wouldn’t be respectful” to call him by his first name. After all says Crisp, “ Manners Maketh Man as someone once said “. That would be William of Wykeham who founded Winchester College as well as New College and New College School in Oxford whose motto it is.

David Cameron was at Eton where the motto is translated as “may Eton flourish” as was John Grigg but he knew about Manners Making Man. Perhaps David Cameron might want to reflect that as several people including Montaigne and Madame Cornuel are reputed to have said, “no man is a hero to his valet” – and that a failure of manners to people who can’t retaliate really isn’t big or clever or as my mother would have said – very attractive.

On the trail of the lonesome Pyke

December 6th, 2009

Here’s a bit more about a story I wrote last year in March 2008 concerning my great-aunt’s autograph book. One of the entries was contributed by Alfred L Pyke of the 17th Fusiliers when he was her patient in 1917. Thanks to the power of the Internet I found out some more about Alfred Pyke.

I discovered that a man called Roy Albutt wrote about the work of the stained glass designer Alfred L Pyke (1890 – 1976). I wrote to Mr Albutt who lives near Birmingham and he kindly sent me his paper about stained glass in the region. It turned out that Alfred Pyke worked in a studio between Redditch and Birmingham in a place called Tardebigge. He emigrated to Canada and died there in the mid-seventies about the same time as my great-aunt who had nursed him in the war.


Caption: Memorial window, St George the Martyr, Redditch (c) Tudor Barlow

Roy Albutt drew my attention to a memorial window that had been designed and installed by Alfred Pyke which featured a QARANC nurse. It was in the church of St George the Martyr in Redditch, which is very near Birmingham where I often go to visit my son. So one Sunday last year we took a detour and found the church at the end of a rather run-down housing estate. It was a rambling Victorian building with a rather pleasant arts and craft vicarage next to it. The door was locked but on the notice board was a telephone number for the vicar. G called the vicar who told him that the church would be open on Wednesdays and Sunday mornings. When she’d heard the story she kindly agreed to open the church and took us in. And there was the window made by the artist whose drawing is so familiar and whose talent showed in the delicate lines.

The vicar was charming and told us she had recently used the window when she taught the Sunday School about the war. She took us around and we got the impression of a hard working and dedicated congregation but much diminished from the years when the church was built.

The window was lovely but sadly there was a hole in middle of the nurses’ forehead, made by a pellet from an air gun. I found that very poignant. I added a scan from Roy Albutt’s paper to the Oxford University WW1 archive and then, being curious, looked for any other mention on the Internet. And there was a lovely picture on Flikr. It’s taken by Tudor Barlow who’s made a specialty of photographing churches. He describes himself as a “retired person enjoying his camera and his life” Sounds good to me. He also told me that the church is likely to close in 2010. I’m really pleased he got in first. And I’m even more pleased to have been able to follow the author of the lovely little picture in the autograph book which I’ve known for most of my life