Most villages have hidden talent, not always easy to find, and Thames Ditton is no exception.
I discovered Lisa Tolley - the subject of our Cover Story - not far from the Vera Fletcher Hall and as we sat in her delightful sun room she showed me some of her work. Quite a lot of it is Thames Ditton based, and her Notelets depicting rows of our houses will be familiar to many of us who have seen and bought them from the Stitchery in the village. Some of her lovely Christmas cards will be on sale there too.
Lisa has held a pencil in her hand almost since she could walk. She studied textile design at Manchester Polytechnic and went on to purchase textiles for The Conran Shop. After her son Beren was born four years ago, she reverted to painting as a career, producing postcards and notelets, and taking commissions for pictures of individual family houses, showing some of their occupants.
Lisa's husband, Richard, is a Marketing Director at Dairy Crest in Claygate and, together with Beren, they await a new arrival - due even before this goes to print. So we will wish the family well and look forward to seeing and enjoying more and more of Lisa's work in the New Year.
I have been a Councillor since 2002 and it seemed worthwhile to put down a few thoughts so readers of Thames Ditton Today can understand a little better what their Councillors actually do. When I was "volunteered" I was probably like most of the local electorate; I knew a bit about the Residents' Association and much of the valuable work it undertakes on behalf of all residents but I did not fully appreciate the split in responsibilities between Elmbridge Council and Surrey County Council and the resulting "battles" which are necessary to get even fairly mundane tasks undertaken.
However, since "taking up office" I have been amazed at the range of Elmbridge's responsibilities, along with the sheer dedication of the Council staff and huge number of volunteers who work to deliver the myriad of services across the Borough. So there was a steep learning curve to learn the ropes and start to make a modest contribution.
I was quite familiar with planning and took on responsibilities from the outset, becoming the TD Councillor on the planning committees and immersing myself in the intricacies of planning policy, the Elmbridge Local Plan, the Residential Design Guide and much else. Although not exactly a baptism of fire, attention to detail and to sorting the wheat from the chaff are all necessary skills in the planning armoury and have to be rapidly "honed". Above all, planning is a people activity with most of one's time spent attempting to get applicants, their neighbours, Council Officers and fellow committee members to see eye to eye and thrash out any differences.
The nature of planning is that it should be non political in the main but one does become aware that the Tories tend to be more supportive of big developers and the Lib Dems are more willing to sacrifice chunks of the Green Belt than the Residents' Group ever would.
Holding Councillors to Account
All members of the Council are also involved in the Overview and Scrutiny Committees which review and hold to account the activities and performance of the various Departments and their Cabinet portfolio holders. Unfortunately, they have become increasingly politicised as the Tories and Lib Dems who chair committees have flexed their muscles and some of their value has been lost amidst political point scoring. However, they are worthwhile and I have served on all three - Environmental, Corporate Affairs and Community Services.
The New Leisure Centre, CCTV, Electronic Government.....
Among the most valuable aspects of O&S are the Working Groups which evaluate and report back on key initiatives and policy setting. I have served on several, the first covering the Replacement Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool which formulated the requirement, oversaw the contract letting and is now reviewing its construction. Similarly, I have been on groups covering the CCTV scheme, performance management, and the voluntary sector. Over the last year I have chaired three Working Groups on Diversity and Equality, the replacement Public Address system and the Implementing Electronic-Government project.
Residents' Councillors and Party Politics
Finally, there are the full Council meetings which are good for general political banter and knockabout but are used far too much by some of the party political councillors as a mouthpiece for individual prejudices and self interest, with recorded votes also being a bit of pantomime. Maybe it was ever thus....
Away from the public gaze, Residents' Group Councillors meet regularly to thrash out policy and review current and upcoming issues. Attempts to get these meetings to start and finish on time have proved fruitless and with the vocal disagreements which are an absolute feature, one often wonders why we need an opposition... - we could defeat ourselves every time! However, this debate is healthy, and we do invariably arrive at a workable consensus.
A side of life which is more visible are the regular open meetings of the TD&WGRA and the management meetings which support them. And just to keep myself amused I am also a Governor at Thames Ditton Infants School and Chairman of the Management Committee of the Vera Fletcher Hall. So where do I find the time to do the important family, home / garden and travel things?.....
Does everybody still do Christmas in the traditional way we did once? Stockings on the end of the bed - bulging in the morning. Nobody too young for one and certainly no one ever too old. Church in the morning with children and, when they were young, Christmas lunch. Now that they are . grown up - well OK - last year it was smoked salmon and champagne before presents, a slumbersome afternoon walk and Dinner at 8. Very nice too!
But, looking back I can remember many variations on the theme. The year I lost my wristwatch and found it roasted under the turkey. The year I forgot to take the giblets out. The first year of the war - my husband newly called-up, and staying in a hotel by myself. There was the year when I remember seeing two Father Christmases fighting in Oxford Street and the one when we expected twelve for lunch and twenty turned up. And there was the year when I was supplied with the traditional Christmas Stocking and had to open it alone. There was also the year when someone's paper hat caught fire and the one when the children did a Nativity play and the Angels and the shepherds had a fight and Mary came in Wellington Boots.
So many to look back on - happy and poignant - nostalgic and hilarious.
So this year - if your True Love doesn't bring you a partridge in a pear tree (which wouldn't actually be top of my personal list) and your preference might run to not twelve but even one Lord-a-dancing or one maid-a-milking. I only hope that he/she will bring you the present you really did want. And for the rest of us may the New Year at least bring better news, better times, hopefully goodwill and maybe - just maybe - even Peace.
Nearly 100 pupils from Thames Ditton and Weston Green currently attend Kingston Grammar School, which, for the past 40 years, has had its sports facilities at Ditton Field. In the 1970s the school wanted to totally resite to Thames Ditton but this proved impossible. The school has had a royal connection since Elizabeth I visited to grant a charter in 1561. Queen Elizabeth 1I visited Kingston Grammar in 1961, 400 years after her namesake, and this year revisited to name and open a new wing. Here, Thames Ditton schoolgirl, Jessica Ive, captures the moment:
Photo courtesy of the Kingston Informer
On Friday the 4th of November 2005 Queen Elizabeth II made history by visiting my school, Kingston Grammar. She came to open the new building, which she agreed to have named as the Queen Elizabeth II Building. In 1561 Queen Elizabeth I had visited and the school was originally named Queen Elizabeth's School for her.
The new building includes a new drama complex with a high tech theatre and dressing rooms. It also incorporates new music facilities; two music rooms with practice rooms and offices along with a room full of computers and keyboards. There are Geography, RS, English and Maths classrooms with their own departmental offices. A state of the art sixth form centre has been added which has a cafe called Hawkes and study room. On the London Road side there is also an art gallery designed to be visible by passers by. The whole building is three floors and all of the classrooms look onto one central courtyard with a link bridge to the original building.
On the morning of 4th November the Queen arrived at the front of the building at 11 0' clock. Some of the first years (year 7) were there to greet the Queen at the door, before she went in through the front doors of the new Queen Elizabeth Building. She was then led to meet some 6th former and shown some of their artwork. After this the Queen was led through to the courtyard where the entire school was gathered. Many guests were in the courtyard including the Mayor and his wife.
Her Majesty was then taken into Hawkes where she was greeted by the entire 6th form. After she came out of here there was a round of applause for the Queen and then she entered the special IT and Music room. Here she met several students composing music using the new facilities.
After this the Queen went into to the music classrooms where she listened to the School Cantorum sing. Next there was a visit into a geography room showing the 3rd year's work on earthquakes.
Queen Elizabeth was shown a short extract from the musical Smike co-written by former teacher at the School Simon May (composer of the "Eastenders" theme tune amongst many others). Over fifty cast members ranging over the entire school performed it. The musical number performed includes almost the entire cast with a band and dancing. Maggie Hannan who is the drama teacher at school directed this. I was a member of the singing chorus. The play is about a class of modern day pupils who go back in time with their English teacher to the world of Nicholas Nickleby. We were amused by the fact that the cast members were wearing the exact shade of purple as the Queen.
After the musical number the cast members lined up and several people were spoken to by the Queen. We had been told that if she spoke to us we were to address her initially as 'Your Majesty' and subsequently as 'Ma'am' to rhyme with 'spam'. The Queen then emerged from the theatre where she was greeted by another round of applause from the School. Before leaving the Queen unveiled a plaque commemorating her visit and then the school captain called for three cheers. It was a very exciting day for me and all of the School.
Jessica Ive Kingston Grammar School
The extraordinary life of a freed black slave who went on to become a respected gentleman before settling in Thames Ditton has come to the fore as part of a celebration of black culture.
One of Elmbridge's most famous historical citizens, he is virtually unheard of in the borough. According to research at Kingston Museum, Cesar Picton was a native of Senegal who was brought from Africa when he was six years old. As was customary, the young boy was given to Sir John Phillips of Kingston by a friend. Probably born a Muslim, Cesar was baptised into the Christian faith on December 6, 1761, and christened Cesar. His original Senegalese name is unknown.
It was fashionable to have richly dressed black retainers and Cesar was dressed in the servant's attire of the time, including a velvet turban, which cost IOs6d (52 1I2p). Normally, black boys became a servant to the male member of the family, but the Phillips family became so attached to him that he became Lady Phillips' protege.
History suggests that he mixed on virtually equal terms with the family, which had a long tradition of supporting education and Christian missionary work. Patronising racist attitudes were prevalent. In 1788, in a letter to a friend, Horace Walpole noted: "I was in Kingston with the sisters of Lord Milford; they have a favourite black, who has been with them for many years and is remarkably sensible".
Sir John and Lady Phillips had one son and three daughters and also owned Picton House in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. When he died in 1764, his son inherited the title of Lord Milford. Two years later, Lady Phillips made her will leaving £100 to Cesar, a very substantial sum. Their son sold Norbiton Place and their daughters went to live in Hampton Court.
Cesar, now on his own, spent his legacy on renting a coach house and stables in High Street (then "West by Thames"), Kingston, known today as Picton House. Giving himself the surname Picton, (after Picton Castle), he set up as a coal merchant. By 1795, at 40, he was a much-respected businessman, having made enough money to buy Picton House in Kingston and other property, including a wharf and a malt house.
In 1801, one of the Phillips sisters died and left Cesar a further £100, although he was by now wealthy on his own efforts. Six years later, Cesar let the Kingston properties and went to live in Tolworth, moving again in 1816 to Thames Ditton, where he bought a property for the sum of £4,000. This house was also known as Picton House.
Picton lived there for 20 years and his will tells us more about his lifestyle. He had a horse and chaise, two watches with gold chains and seals, gold rings and shirt pins. There was a tortoiseshell tea chest and silver spoons and tongs. He had paintings of his friends and his dogs and. intriguingly, a portrait of himself. He left this to a friend, Thomas Bushell, but its present whereabouts is unknown.
When Cesar was living in Thames Ditton, the remaining Phillips daughters died and left him £150 plus £30 year for life. Cesar died in 1836, aged 81. He was buried in All Saints' Church, Kingston. In his will, he asked to be "plain but decently buried within the Parish Church, Kingston" and that the mourning rings, costing no more than £5 each, be distributed to 16 named friends.
Nevertheless, it was to be a remarkable occasion, as Cesar was then a man of immense bulk and had to be brought to the church on a four-wheel trolley and lowered into the vault down an inclined plane of planks on rollers. His last resting place is marked by a floor plaque in the south aisle inscribed "CP 1836". His Thames Ditton home stands today in the High Street.
Since prehistoric times the Bath area has attracted inquisitive visitors, drawn by the healing properties of the hot spring water. Some visitors such as the Romans who built their sacred baths, stayed for centuries, and the later Tudor Abbey and the fine Georgian architecture bear witness to the inspirations of their creators. The city was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987 and has preserved its treasures for all to enjoy.
With much to appreciate it may be helpful to mention the main attractions and on the way make reference to the other areas which are perhaps, not so well known. A start is made at the Roman Baths which were built around 65 A.D. and included a temple dedicated to Minerva and the Celtic goddess, Sulis. There is now a museum at the Baths telling the story of their discovery and excavation in 1880. In Georgian times a lady visitor, after a soak in the baths, would dress and attend the Pump Room for the recommended glass of mineral water and the essential gossip. Perhaps a grand public breakfast would follow and a call at one of the more fashionable coffee houses.
Nearby at the bottom of the High Street, is the Abbey. There has been a building on this site since 676 and included a Norman Priory built in 1090 which due to neglect, was in ruins before 1500. The present Abbey was not completed until 1617. The story of a visionary dream that inspired the rebuilding of the Abbey is depicted on the West Front. There are Heritage Vaults showing the growth of Christianity in Bath from Roman times to the present day. The Abbey interior is flooded with light and the stained glass the east end depicts scenes from the life of Christ. High above the choir is the spectacular fan vaulting. The Abbey Church Yard, however, always seems to have attracted revellers and was described by Defoe 300 years ago, a place of raffling, gaming and levity!
Adjacent to the Baths is the Pump Room which has been the centre of Bath's social life since 1706 and still opens its doors to many people each day, though the fashion of 'drinking the waters' has subsided. This started in 1661 with the installation of a drinking fountain and by 1706 there was a need for a social centre and the first Pump Room was opened, which was rebuilt towards the end of the 18th century.
The Guildhall and Pulteney Bridge
Proceeding along the High Street we come to the Guildhall. The first building of its kind was erected in the 13th century but the building seen now was built in 1777 and was extended in the 1890s. There is a fine chandeliered first-floor banqueting room with a minstrels gallery. The Guildhall was created for civil functions which were not permitted at the privately owned Upper Assembly Rooms. There is a market hall on the site where a stone table is situated and from which the expression 'paying on the nail' originates; traders would bargain here and settle their business transactions promptly. Also in the Guildhall Quarter of the City are the Parade Gardens and the Orange Grove, so called after a visit by Prince William of Orange in 1734. In addition, the Victoria Art Gallery is worth a visit. This was opened in 1900 to mark Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee.
Proceeding towards Broad Street, one passes the road leading to Pulteney Bridge which was designed by Robert Adam and completed in 1774. The bridge is lined with shops and supported on three elegan1 arches. Nearby is Pulteney Weir which was built to prevent the floods which had devastated the lower part of the City. On Great Pulteney Street which is the widest in Bath, the buildings stand 100ft apart. This area was frequently visited by Jane Austen (1775-1817) from her home in Sydney Place.
Queen Square and Towards the Circus
In the opposite direction to Pulteney Bridge is a road leading to the Theatre Royal, which along with the Garrick's Head pub, was originally the home of Beau Nash, celebrated Master of Ceremonies. Queen Square is not far from here, which was designed by the architect John Wood in the Palladian style with an imposing facade on the north side concealing seven town houses.
The main shopping centre is adjacent and nearby is the Bath Postal Museum from which the letter bearing the world's first postage stamp was sent on 2nd May 1840. Continuing to the north of the City one comes to the Circus and Royal Crescent which was part of John Wood's development plan. However, not long after work had begun in 1754, Wood died, leaving his son to complete his vision. Wood the Younger took 15 years to finish the Circus and then moved on to design the Royal Crescent which was the first of its kind. The Royal Crescent was completed in 1774 and contains a semielliptical terrace of 30 grand houses ornamented with many Ionic columns. It is separated from the park below by a haha and a wall built to prevent sheep and cows from straying onto the Crescent. Nearby is the Upper Assembly Rooms, so called to distinguish them from the old assembly rooms in the lower part of town. Opened in 1771 they were designed for 'assemblies' of up to a thousand guests. Situated in the basement of the Assembly Rooms is the Museum of Costume, from the 16th century to the present.
Many well-known people have resided in Bath from time to time, including Elizabeth Linley and the playwright Richard Sheridan, Horatio Nelson and Lady Hamilton who lived in Pierrepoint Place. Lady Hamilton as a girl had served in the Linley House. Also residing were Ralph Allen (1693-1764) in his magnificent town house, and Sally Lunn who came from France bringing with her the recipe for the famous buns. There are also numerous parks and open spaces as well as other museums in the City.
Bath Preservation Trust
Few people who see the film "Mrs. Henderson Presents" starring Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins and Will Young, out on the big screen in November, will realise that Dame Judi Dench came to Thames Ditton to learn to punt. She arrived at Dittons Skiff & Punting Club but soon decided that rowing would be safer than punting so was coached by Richard Carless who accompanied her down the river and round Thames Ditton Island. Richard is the director of Marine Film Services, a local company that provides various services to film and TV crews when they are filming on the Thames, or indeed on water anywhere in the world.
A month later, Richard asked if I would like to act as Judi's "rowing double" when the river scenes were shot. Never having been in a film before, I was very excited at the prospect, so readily agreed. My husband, George, was told that there would probably be something for him to do as well, so we left home early on the day of the shooting and arrived on site at 06.00.
The location for the boating was at Medmenham, near Henley, a very picturesque stretch of the Thames. Soon after we arrived, George was whisked away to the make-up unit, given a 1939 haircut, neat moustache and dressed in a brown suit, woolly waistcoat and trilby hat. I was sent to sit and wait in a spacious caravan where I met an experienced film extra who told me slightly apprehensively, that she was going to go in a rowing boat (she had never been in one before). I reassured her and told her not to worry and she would be perfectly safe as my husband would be in the boat with her.
In the film, Judi plays Laura Henderson, who on leaving her husband's funeral, decides to take a boat out on the river to relax after the ordeal. The filming of Judi setting out in her dingy, letting out a sob of grief, and George and his partner rowing past took all morning and much of the afternoon. Meanwhile, I was watching and waiting and wondering when I would have something to do. Eventually, I was told to get into Judi's dingy and row up and down the river so that camera angles could be determined and for Bob Hoskins (the other star in the production) to have something to sight on when he was walking on the bank shouting at Mrs. Henderson.
The following day, I was required to row again so that the camera crew could co-ordinate the movements of the dingy with three other boats in the second river scene. We spent all morning rowing up and down the same stretch of river until the director was satisfied and then Judi took over my position and the cameras started whirring. I was sent back to the make-up unit and given a hairstyle like Mrs. Henderson's and dressed in a fur coat similar to hers. When I arrived back on the river bank I felt like a film star, but I never even sat in front of the camera. Judi, in spite of having been on site since 06.45 and working all day, insisted that she could manage the final shots in the dingy and did not need a double! Thus ended my film career before it even began.
However it was a most interesting two days, inspite of the hours of waiting around. The working atmosphere was relaxed and courteous with none of the tantrums or lost tempers traditionally associated with movie making.
As a finale to the experience we were invited to the 'cast & crew' morning screening of the completed film at the Odeon, Leicester Square - though unfortunately this was not the grand evening premiere. Based on real life events, the film is about the tempestuous relationship between Mrs. Henderson who buys the Windmill Theatre out of boredom and Vivien Van Damm her manager. It is a lively colourful comedy with singing, dancing and decorous nudity (the girls were not allowed to move when on stage in those far off refined days!).
As for the river scenes; two days work on location involving 110 people, ended up as about two minutes on the screen. So if you go to the film, look out for the skiff which passes behind Mrs. Henderson's dingy just after she cries out and if you do not blink, you will see George making his film debut.
Patricia CammackPhoto: Marine Film Services
Having again won the England National Championships this summer, Colets squash team has put Thames Ditton firmly on the map of British squash. Ever since the arrival in 1994 of professional Dave Peck, Colets have collected 7 England championships as well as being runners-up five times. With the England title goes the right to represent England at the European Club Championships, which Colets won in 1998, were runners-up twice and twice drew 2-2, only to lose on points comeback.
Peck, a 39 year old former Bedfordshire champion, is the most successful squash team manager in Britain, but he says the secret is "in our strength in depth and our team spirit. Although our number one, Alex Gough, the Welsh champion, is now only into his second season, the rest of the team has been with us for years so they all know each other pretty well."
"Colets has its own 'barmy army' of members, who all pay their own way to the European Championships - and I can tell you that their vocal support when a match gets tight is invaluable. The players really get spurred on and we've had some incredibly exciting battles. Sometimes it gets so intense I can't bear to watch. I go and get a cup of coffee, but then I have to go back to the court to see what's happening."
While local companies have given support and individual members contribute to the fighting fund it is the club itself which must take much of the credit because it has always supported the team and given the major financial support.
So popular and well supported is squash at Colets that the Club is investing in the upgrade of three of its six courts to glass backs this month. This will easily double the number of spectators who can watch matches with balcony and new seated viewing at ground level.
Photo: Colets Health Club
All Saints, Weston - Saturday 28 January 2006
A newly discovered painting of Mozart in Munich 1790 by Johann Georg Edlinger (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on the evening of 27th January 1756 into a musical family living in Salzburg, Austria. From comic operas and dazzling concertos to a little light, night music and the solemnity of a requiem, Mozart's prodigious legacy has given us some of the finest works in the classical repertoire.
A child prodigy, who was playing and composing before most other children could write, Mozart produced an enormous output in his short life of 35 years, and yet he dies penniless. His first piece he wrote was a Minuet and Trio (K 1). His last work was the Requiem, mostly written in the final days of his life.
Over the centuries, much has been written about this extraordinary artist whose work today is loved and valued perhaps more than any other composer. To take one single view of this work, E.T.A. Hoffmann wrote in 1814 of the Requiem that 'the music remains devotional throughout; pure devotion resonates through these awe-inspiring chords which speak of another world, and which in their singular dignity and power are themselves another world'. About Mozart, Haydn wrote 'I tell you before God, as an honest man, he is the greatest composer known to me in person and by name'.
The programme for our concert, a celebration of the life of Mozart, begins with his very first composition and includes one of his sacred litanies (KI09) for the Blessed Virgin Mary, a beautiful work that is virtually a 'mini' requiem, often using the same D minor key. It is written for 4 soloists, choir and orchestra. The first half also has the short well-known 'Ave verum corpus' motet written in his last year. We shall also hear a concerto, one of his Horn concertos No.2 in E flat -, played by Kevin Adams. After the interval when wine will be served, the Primavera Chorus and Orchestra and soloists return to give a performance of the 'Requiem'.
The concert is being given in support of two charities, firstly the 'Home of Compassion' in Thames Ditton, marking its own centenary this year.
The other charity is the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney, a specialist hospital and home that has just celebrated its own 150th anniversary since being founded by the Rev Dr Andrew Reed, Victorian philanthropist and preacher. He is also the great great great grandfather of the conductor of this concert, Douglas Reed, currently music director at All Saints Weston.
The concert on the 28th January begins at 8pm. Tickets are £20 and include a donation to each charity, as well as interval refreshments. They are available from the church on 0208 3981849, or from 0208 398 0625. Waitrose are the principal sponsor.
Apart from your turkey and goose of course .,.
Watching the different birds in your garden and learning a little about them can bring enormous pleasure and interest, and if you once get hooked there can be no end to this hobby, Walks along the river or through the local woodlands assume a dimension beyond mere exercise, and the thrill of seeing your first kingfisher flash close across the water will not be quickly forgotten.
Most of us in this area are fortunate to have gardens and open space around and the easiest way to begin looking at birds is to bring them to you, In the winter, particularly, birds will appreciate kitchen scraps such as pieces of cheese, fat, apples and dried fruit. These can be placed on the ground, in an open space so birds can spot the hunting moggie from next door, or on a plain bird table with drainage holes at the corner, Simple steps like this will encourage robins, starlings, blackbirds, chaffinches and sparrows, As your fascination grows you might add a wire mesh hanger of peanuts, which will bring in the agile little blue-tits and their larger cousins, the great tits, with their black heads and tummy stripe. A word of warning here from the RSPB, who say birds' feet can become entangled in the nylon bags that some nuts are sold in.
Further species will be lured into your garden by offering a plastic tube feeder filled with a special seed mix, and very soon you will be visited by greenfinches, and perhaps a greater-spotted woodpecker, or a nuthatch, or even goldfinches and maybe siskins, seeking the warmer climes of the south. Your most exotic visitor, in this area, will probably be one, or several, of the noisy, bright green, rosy-necked parakeets, which have so successfully colonised this area. If all this sounds expensive, seed feeders can be made from inverted plastic drinks bottles. Finally do not forget the water. A shallow container with a rim where the birds can perch will suffice, but please keep it ice free if we get the promised hard winter.
These are some of the more common birds that are found in our gardens, but let's assume you go for a walk along the river to work off some of that turkey and Christmas pudding. Without any effort you should spot elegant mute swans and the now familiar Canada geese. Also easy to see are coot with a white shield on the forehead and mallard ducks. The males will have regained their iridescent green heads after moulting at the end of the summer. They will be accompanied by their females clad in plain brown - a handy disguise when sitting on a nest of eggs. Another common waterside bird, easy to see, is the heron, which stands patiently peering into the water waiting for a passing fish or unwary frog. Keep an eye out for the elegant great-crested grebe, now fairly common on the Thames, but once threatened with extinction because its dense fur like feathers were used to line ladies' muffs. Also on the water you should see the little black tufted ducks, with their white flanks, bright yellow eyes and a tuft on the male's head.
If you are tempted to explore the many birds of Thames Ditton a pocket size hand book of the Birds of Great Britain will be of great assistance and help lead you ever deeper into this absorbing hobby.
Nelson: "Order the signal, Hardy."
Hardy: "Aye aye, sir."
Nelson: "Hold on, that's not what I dictated to the signal officer. What's the meaning of this?"
Hardy: "Sorry sir?"
Nelson (reading aloud): "England expects every person to do his duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual. orientation, religious persuasion or disability". "What gobbledygook is this?"
Hardy: "Admiralty policy, I'm afraid, sir. We're an equal opportunities employer now. We had the devil's own job getting 'England' past the censors, lest it be considered racist"
Nelson: "Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco."
Hardy: "Sorry sir. All naval vessels have been designated smoke-free working environments."
Nelson: "In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the main brace to steel the men before battle."
Hardy: "The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. It's part of the Government's policy on binge drinking."
Nelson: "Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we'd better get on with it full speed ahead."
Hardy: "I think you'll find that there's a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water."
Nelson: "Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow's nest please."
Hardy: "That won't be possible, sir."
Hardy: "Health and safety have closed the crow's nest, sir. No harness. And they said that rope ladder doesn't meet regulations. They won't let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected."
Nelson: "Then get me the ship's carpenter without delay, Hardy."
Hardy: "He's busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the fo'c'sle, Admiral"
Nelson: "Wheelchair access? I've never heard anything so absurd."
Hardy: "Health and safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled."
Nelson: "Differently abled? I've only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn't rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card."
Hardy: "Actually, sir, you did The Royal Navy is under-represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency."
Nelson: "Whatever next? Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons."
Hardy: "A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and safety won't let the crew up the rigging without hard hats. And they don't want anyone breathing in too much salt - haven't you seen the adverts?"
Nelson: "I've never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy."
Hardy: "The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral."
Nelson:"What? This is mutiny."
Hardy: "It's not that, sir. It's just that they're afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There's a couple of legal-aid lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks."
Nelson: "Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?"
Hardy: "Actually, sir, we're not."
Nelson: 'We're not?"
Hardy: "No, sir. The Frenchies and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn't even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation."
Nelson: "But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil."
Hardy: "I wouldn't let the ship's diversity coordinator hear you saying that sir. You'll be up on disciplinary."
Nelson: "You must consider every man an enemy, who speaks ill of your King."
Hardy: "Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it's the rules. It could save your life."
Nelson: "Don't tell me - health and safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?"
Hardy: As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu! And there's a ban on corporal punishment."
Nelson: "What about sodomy?"
Hardy: "I believe that is now legal, sir."
Nelson: "ln that case. . . kiss me, Hardy".
A resident notes:
If you search the web for the above text, you will see that this year it has been posted online by a huge variety of organisations among which the following caught one's attention:Civil Service Pensioners Association
St. Michael & All Angels, Aston Clinton
British National Party (no surprise there)
UK Independence Party Bournemouth West (ditto)
Ashdown Sailing Club
www.cowes.co.uk (The official Cowes Harbour Commission web site)
Wrington Village Journal
The Westmorland Gazette
Submariners Association Barrow-in-Furness Branch
www.ballet.co.uk (Ballet Co ??!! - heartening, this!)
Lord Steinberg's maiden speech in the Lords www.publications.parliament.uk (more on Steinberg)
Peterborough Rotary Club
several bikers' clubs ....
Make of that what you will. I was just curious.