Tales from the Front - or the Back to be more accurate!

Jun 23 | 2020

A Flying Visit - During World War II, East Grinstead was the home of the fabled Guinea Pig Club founded as a consequence of the pioneering plastic surgery work by Sir Archie McIndoe for badly burned airman.

Tony Allen: And finally...As a result, on the 75th Anniversary of VE day, a Spitfire flew a path through the UK by way of celebration. Having a special place in its history, East Grinstead was rewarded with three spine-tingling circuits. The streets below were packed with waving crowds of onlookers - all sensibly social distancing I might add. The evocative sound of this iconic piece of history was enthralling, and a welcome diversion

I include this because we have developed a way of ‘beating ourselves up’ over the assumed deterioration in our way of life. But it simply is not true! I’m sure that the strengths and the attitudes of the people around me were no different to how they would have been 75 years ago in coping with life’s stresses.

Cooking Up a Storm

I’ve told you before about my failed attempts at the art of cookery and its metaphorical relationship to plasticine. Having more time on my hands at the moment, I thought I’d have another go.

I love cookery programmes; they never do me any good. It looks so easy the way the professionals do it, but I must confess that, seconds after any demonstration, I will have forgotten everything that I’ve been told. You know how, when somebody is giving you directions to somewhere, the moment that they get beyond three instructions you always forget the first instruction – which at that moment is the most important one?

Anyway! (I’ll come back to that word in a minute.) I thought I’d have a go at a recipe I’d found for Swedish meatballs. Spaghetti was involved and that always looks easy enough to cook.

Probably as a result of previous episodes, Mrs Allen always becomes most anxious at this point in the proceedings and circles me like a hungry kestrel, ready to swoop at any moment. I suggest that maybe I’m better left to my own devices. Then I find that I need to include evaporated milk, which I must confess I thought had become extinct at about the same time as Sir Archie McIndoe was working his magic. The next complication is how to use the tin opener.

Then I become somewhat concerned; I can’t find a saucepan which is long enough for the spaghetti:

“How do I cook the spaghetti - I can’t find a saucepan long enough?”

“You told me to leave you to your own devices and by the way, why is my kitchen looking like The Battle of the Somme?”

“Oh, so now it’s your kitchen?”

“Look to answer your original question, you wind the spaghetti into a saucepan of boiling water.”

“Supposing it breaks? Also how do you know when it’s cooked? I read somewhere that if you throw some against the wall and if it sticks, then it’s ready.”

At this point I am forcefully ejected from the kitchen … which, of course, is my plan as I’d suddenly renewed my former adverse attitude towards cookery. I had thought of suggesting that I open a tin of spaghetti but this would be like opening a whole new can of worms.


I didn’t ever think that I’d be writing about Swedish meatballs, but it reminded me of a Swedish couple whom we met on holiday before the bad times started.

We got to talking about the peculiarities of the English language and the use of the word ‘anyway’, which had been used a number times by another couple to whom they had been speaking. We had to explain that if you are speaking to someone from the UK, either face-to-face or especially on the telephone, and they use that particular word, then what they are really saying is: “That’s it! Conversation over! Time to go!” It’s surely one of the most important lessons to learn in the English language. We could otherwise be facing a long succession of ‘anyways’.

Chalkie’s back

We have a blackbird with a slight albino tinge that visits our garden and who as a result - and with a prodigious degree of inventiveness - we call Chalkie.

Although he seems to have been around for most of the thirty-odd years during which we have been living in this house, we realise that, in reality, it is not the same creature as blackbirds live for only 3-4 years and that we have simply been the spectators to a long succession of descendants who between them have survived predation, bad weather and a multitude of disasters throughout their lives. But still they get on with the difficult business of survival.

Would you not agree that there is perhaps an example here for us all?

Anyway - I hear you saying!