Day 13: Eton to Runnymede

The penultimate day, spent with delightful ZANE supporters. We discussed a range of subjects, including Brexit and the current political turmoil.

We ended up in Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed. When they get their faces out of screens, I wonder if the young are taught the importance of this vital key to history that set the foundation, not only for our legal system but that of the US? Do they know that people have died to win freedom of speech, the right to freedom under the law, and the right to vote? Do they care?

Hocus Pocus

When I was chairman of the Milton Keynes Health Authority – many moons ago – the incidence of drug abuse there was higher than anywhere else in the UK. The town (now a city, of course) wasn’t then regarded as an attractive place to live, as it has now certainly become. 

In the final months of my term, we were required to recruit someone to head up the drug abuse department. As chairman, I was part of the selection committee. 

After “due process” – whatever that means – we were obliged to select someone from, as I recall, a very thin list. In the interviews, we were given a list of questions we were permitted to ask about any candidate’s private life. Undaunted, I asked one dreary looking candidate with pale blue eyes and a small ginger moustache what he did in his spare time? It seemed a harmless enough question to me. I suspected pigeon fancying or perhaps square dancing?

Then an extraordinary thing – the air was sucked from the room and the temperature dropped.  “I’m a witch,” he replied. 

Silence. He had to be joking? 

“Broomsticks and all the trimmings?” I innocently enquired. (Reader, what would you have said?)

The chief executive clicked his teeth disapprovingly. 

The man said nothing. It transpired he was being totally sincere, and I had offended him deeply. Apparently, there is a flourishing coven somewhere near Milton Keynes and the whole thing is a deadly serious business! 

I forget most things, but this event and the man’s face and name are tattooed on my memory. It transpired he was a leader of the coven, no less. 

I couldn’t think of a darn thing to say, so I bowed out of the meeting and let them get on with it. Soon afterwards, I left the authority to become director of another one, but not before I was told by my chief executive that being a practising witch doesn’t preclude you from holding a public post in the UK. Sure enough, the witch subsequently took up his new day job in the drug abuse department. I can’t help wondering if he had declared his Christianity instead, would he have been appointed? I doubt it.

Anyway, if you are driving along in Milton Keynes one dark night and a man suddenly flashes by on a broomstick… please remember I left before this curious appointment was confirmed!

Ho ho! From the perspective of years, I can make silly jokes about it now – it makes a good story. But it wasn’t funny at the time, and, if truth be told, it still bothers me.

Boys Will Be Boys…

Half a lifetime ago, Jane and I were almost content with the birth of our two daughters, Clare and Camilla. But we both wanted to try and complement the family with a boy. How to go about it?

One evening, an aged maiden aunt silenced a supper party with the advice that if we wanted a son, steps would have to be taken – by me! I was curious enough to ask what on earth she thought I should do about it.

“I was told by Great Aunt Hetty that you should eat a vast quantity of kidneys and liver. Then each night, drink a glass of port with a raw egg switched in it!”

“Ho ho,” we laughed. What a farce. What did Great Aunt Hetty know about anything? I forgot the episode.

Sometime later, I wondered why we were eating so much liver and kidneys – always followed by a glass of port and orders to drink up. In fact, Jane would stand over me until I had drained the glass. Afterwards, I wanted to be sick!

Ten months later, our baby son was christened “Thomas”.

I promise this is true!

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published.