Category Archives: Valley Friends

Valley Friends April Report

From Joan Steel

This month our speaker was Nano Mulligan who explained how to become a Dementia Friend and join the UK’s biggest ever initiative to change the way people think, act, and talk about dementia.  Nano is a volunteer trainer and gives talks lasting 45 to 60 minutes, followed by an interactive session and questionnaire in which we all took  part.

The initiative for this project was started in 2013 and has now two million supporters, including the former Prime Minister and several Cabinet Ministers. The target is to gain four million supporters by 2020.  Everything is entirely voluntary and together people are creating dementia-friendly communities where everyone in their daily lives can have an understanding of somebody who is supporting a person with dementia, and can be aware how the dementia person may need assistance, eg counting change in a shop or crossing the road etc.

All the symptoms of dementia seem to be negative, eg lack of ability, loss of memory, disorientation frustration etc.  The programme tries to reduce the stigma of living with dementia, increasing the awareness of the community can improve living there.

There are two types of dementia which is important to know when supporting a person; vascular dementia is the most familiar.  It is progressive and the downward curve is gradual.  In the second type the progression is different, and it can plateau, then there can be instant loss of ability to do something eg to walk, there is short term memory loss and motor skills go, behaviour becomes irrational, communicating becomes a problem, but feelings and emotions are expressed better than words.  Vision can be affected such that a dark coloured floor may look like a pool of water, or lines look like snakes.

Nano ended her talk by reminding us of five key messages:
1) Dementia is not a natural part of ageing
2) It is caused by diseases of the brain
3) It is not just about losing your memory – it can affect thinking communicating and doing everyday tasks
4) It is possible to live well with dementia
5) There is more to a person than the dementia, and they are living with dementia not suffering from dementia.

Nano was warmly thanked for making us aware of this very caring and helpful initiative in which we can all take part.

Our next meeting is on May 5th at 8pm It is a Valuation Evening.  Please bring an item that you would like to have valued by Barrie Twyman of Amersham Auction Rooms.

Our Evening Ramble will be on Wed May 17th.


Valley Friends March Report

From Joan Steel

Cheese is Milk’s Leap Toward Immortality

Jill welcomed us to the meeting and thanked everyone for their good wishes and support during her recent health problems. We thank Heather Mayer for bravely taking over as leader at this time.

Following the announcements, Jill introduced our speaker, Mr John Pearson who said that more people than ever are making cheese, even more than France. Marks and Spencer have a team of food technologists who make visits to suppliers looking at manufacturing of cheeses. M&S have 4 % of the market share of cheese Tesco have 28% similar to Lidl and Aldi. Their main competitors are Asda and Waitrose. John told many amusing stories of incidents that occurred in marketing and advertising, including the new packaging of a brand of cat food that supplied a straw with each packet!

There are many different types of cheeses, all made of concentrated milk. The milk is soured so that the whey can be separated from the curds and the processes that follow create the various textures and flavours. In Italy, 10 % of the whey is fed to the pigs during the production of parma ham. In this country consumption of cheese is quite low compared to Greece that is highest in Europe.

Following the very interesting and humorous talk, John provided samples of cheeses for us to taste and compare. Norma proposed the Vote of Thanks for a most enjoyable evening.

Our next meeting is on April 7th, when Nano Mulligan’s talk is entitled “Dementia Friends”.  All welcome.

Valley Friends February Report

From Joan Steel

At our February meeting we enjoyed a talk from Tony Eaton entitled “Failed to Return – Amy Johnson and Leslie Howard.”

Amy Johnson was born in Hull in 1903, and in 1930, became a world famous female pilot for being the first to fly solo from Britain to Australia, as well as completing the journey in the record time of six days. Amy proved that women pilots are as equally competent as men. During the 1920’s Amy had flown her Gypsy Moth plane across all the countries of the British Empire, quite undeterred. Among the items Amy took on board was an atlas, a primus stove, and some pickled herrings. When flying to Karachi, Amy beat the record time by 48 hours. In1931 Amy and her co-pilot became the first to fly from London to Moscow in one day. The flight took 21 hours and was a distance of 1,760 miles. In 1932 Amy married Jim Mollison who she had known for only 8 hours. They flew east to west across the Atlantic and crash-landed in a field. They both needed a stay in hospital. In 1927 Amy was given an American tickertape reception as an international celebrity. Amy joined the ATA at the beginning of the war and was based at Hatfield. On her final flight she took off from Blackpool in very bad weather that became increasingly worse, but she pressed on trying to find Hatfield but went too far south and strayed over the mouth of the Thames where she bailed out. A parachute was seen to appear beneath the clouds, and landed in the freezing water. Safety was just minutes away but she drowned. Questions were asked and rumours abounded even as to whether she had been shot down, but no explanation has been found.

Leslie was one of the biggest box office draws and movie idols of the 1930s. He was seen as the archetypal English man with perfect English speech and behaviour, but he was not actually British. Lesley Howard Steiner was born on 3rd April 1893 at Forest Hill in London. He became an actor, producer, director and writer of many articles and stories for the New York Times. He won many awards as a Hollywood actor, playing roles in many films among his most famous were “Gone with the Wind” and “The Scarlet Pimpernel” with Merle Oberon. Leslie was a backer and mentor of Dirk Bogard, and worked with Norma Shearer, Vivienne Lee and Ingrid Bergman. He was Britain’s most romantic star. Leslie returned from a glittering Hollywood career at the start of the war. His activities then included propaganda films which infuriated the Nazi leadership. It was rumoured he was involved with British or Allied Intelligence. Leslie’s final film was “Story of a Spitfire” with David Niven.  In May 1943, Leslie boarded BOAC flight 707 to Portugal from Bristol. Strangely, a priest was told not to take that flight. All was normal at first, then it was reported that it was being followed. Suddenly it was attacked and the fuel tanks exploded over the Bay of Biscay. It was an unarmed civilian flight that caused worldwide condemnation. German agents said it had been shot down in error. There was speculation that VIP passengers were being targeted and that Winston Churchill was on board, also that Leslie was a propagandist. He died on June 1st 1943, aged 50 years. An embargo on releasing the file lasts until 2028.

Tony was thanked for his most interesting stories.

On March 3rd John Pearson’s talk is “Cheese is Milk’s Leap Toward Immortality”. Includes tasting. All welcome.

Valley Friends January Report

From Joan Steel

Heather welcomed us with Good Wishes for the New Year followed by a poem and the announcements. We always have a Games Evening in January instead of inviting a speaker who may be delayed in bad weather.  A Beetle Drive arranged by Heather caused much fun, and changing of places gave us a chance chat to everyone.  The winner received a box of chocolates and the meeting ended with refreshments.

On February 3rd we have an Open Meeting.  The subject of the talk by Tony Eaton is “Failed To Return, Amy Johnson and Leslie Howard”.  Everyone Welcome.

Valley Friends December Report

From Joan Steel

At our Christmas Meeting we were treated to “Entertainment by the Aca-Holics Barbershop Quartet”.

Our meeting was opened by Heather who read a Christmas poem, then introduced the very talented semi- professional entertainers who are all members of the Ladies’ Association of British Barbershop Singers. Three of the ladies live in Marlow and one lives in Surrey. They had chosen six songs for us, a mixture of old and new, some for us to join in the chorus. They were of course four part songs, with soprano, contralto, baritone and base voices all beautifully blended. We were asked to name the titles of the songs and later to identify who was singing which of the four parts. Among the songs were “Moon River”, “Dream”, “Wonderful You, “Mama Mia”, and the programme ended with “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”. The Quartet were warmly thanked for a most enjoyable evening.

Valley Friends November: Forty Years Catching Smugglers

From Joan Steel

On Friday 5th November, Malcolm Nelson gave a very interesting and humorous talk about his career as one of Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise Officers.  He described it as 40 years of excitement, comedy, tragedy, and unusual happenings, while meeting and working with amazing people.  On retirement, Malcolm said he felt a great sense of achievement.  He is now enjoying lecturing to holidaymakers on cruise liners.

Malcolm outlined what makes a good Customs Officer.  It is mainly experience gained on the job, but initially training programmes have to be attended.  Malcolm joined the trainees at the Waterguard Training Centre in Southend.  He learned that Customs Officers have to have inquiring minds, they have to cope with a range of communication techniques, and that catching smugglers is a quite scientific operation.  The trainees are warned never to trust anyone in a suit, but also never to under estimate them.  After training, Malcolm was issued with his Commission.  He worked in a team led by an Alpha 1 Officer who had a balance sheet and sat at a desk.  Drug smugglers often work in teams, and amazingly 80% of all drugs entering Britain come via Heathrow, the reason being that the turnaround time there can be  as low as 30 minutes, and “time is money”.  Detection information teams look at passenger lists and track those who are travelling from countries where drugs are more commonplace, eg Bolivia, Islamabad, Mombasa, the Caribbean etc.  The officers ask some passengers where they bought their tickets, and find out what are the present trends in drugs.  They look at luggage and get tarmac officers to feel for double skins on cases where things can be hidden.   The smell of drugs can be disguised, but 30-35%o of sniffer dogs on the team will find them; the dog can also sniff money and swallowed drugs.

Women who travel alone can be suspect, as often their only reason to travel is to smuggle. This type of passenger will always lie when detected.  The experienced smuggler will always act calmly and sometimes is too calm which raises suspicion.  Some drugs are carried under wigs, and amazingly some wigs are sewn to the scalp which are very difficult to detect.  Finding out is what experience tells you, then look at trends and profiles.  Some businessmen may be carrying many clothes in their luggage but look shabby, which arouses suspicion and ‘expats’ look like out of date holidaymakers – they just don’t know what they should look like, so again something is not quite right.  Malcolm told us many other Interesting stories and ways that smugglers disguise what they are carrying, like the lady carrying a very heavy case which was full of stitched up bananas.  Malcolm has written a book about his experiences, copies of which were on sale for £10.  Malcolm was thanked and applauded for a very interesting evening.

On December 2nd we have an evening of entertainment by the Aca-Holics Barbershop Quartet.

With Best Wishes to you all for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Valley Friends: AGM & 50th Anniversary Report

From Joan Steel

Our AGM and 50th Anniversary was on 7th October.  Jill welcomed everyone to the meeting, and following the general notices gave the Leaders Report, in which she recalled highlights of our busy and interesting year, sharing enjoyable evening meetings and occasions including Carnival Day.  We made masks and entered the parade as masked Venetian ladies with a gondola cleverly made by Doreen and helpers. Doreen gave the treasurers report, saying that the annual membership fee would remain at £30, and visitors at £3 per evening.  We are to still support the South Bucks Hospice and the HW Multiple Sclerosis Society as well as the charities of some speakers.  Members of the committee gave their reports and Jill thanked them for their loyalty and hard work.  Jill asked everyone to encourage friends and neighbours to join us and outlined our varied future programme. On our behalf, Heather presented Jill with a book of poems and a beautiful bouquet as special tokens of our gratitude to Jill for her 26 years of outstanding leadership, loyalty and friendship during fifty years.  This year was tinged with sadness at the recent death of our oldest member Marjory Jenkins who was aged 95; also of Mervyn Wallen the husband of Margaret, one of our founding members.  Margaret is now at Avondale care home in Aylesbury.

All the committee members were willing to serve and were voted in for another year.  A really beautiful bouquet was given to Joan in recognition of her being founder member.  A Tribute to Jill was read on behalf of us all to salute our fantastic leader, who is again willing to continue her good work for another year.

Having completed the AGM, we commenced our 50th year golden celebrations with a delicious dinner served handsomely on tables decorated in gold to match the other decor in the hall.  Jill had prepared an interesting Quiz for us that tested our memories of the correct dates of  VF talks or occasions in the past.  We all had a gift of gold-wrapped chocolates, and throughout the evening a quartet of brass instrument players, all ladies, played suitable music which brought back pleasant memories.  Finally we sang Happy Birthday and cut the pretty cake.  It was a really happy and memorable occasion, and we give  thanks all round to everyone who made it possible.

Membership subscriptions are due at the next meeting on November 4th.  The speaker will be Malcolm Nelson talking on “40 Years of Catching Smugglers”.  All welcome.

Valley Friends September Notes

From Joan Steel

Congratulations to the Valley Friends who are celebrating their Golden Anniversary with a Dinner and Musical Entertainment at the Village Hall on Friday 7th October.  Fifty years ago, young families were moving into new estates built locally and the young mothers needed somewhere to socialise. Inspired by young members of the Hughenden Mothers Union and along with families already living here, two groups were formed, one called Park Estate Young Wives and later one, known as Valley Young Wives. Our name has changed twice but our membership has been constant ever since and we still have two founder members. (More details to follow our celebration evening).

“David Austin Roses” was the subject of a talk with photographs by Edwin Rye at our meeting in July, just when all varieties of roses would be flourishing in David’s magnificent Rose garden which houses over 700 different varieties.  As a teenager David Austin was interested in scented roses.  Graham Thomas at 97 years old worked on a plant nursery in Surrey, and he gave David a book on Crossing Roses. In 1944 he produced his first rose named “Constance Spry”.  He is now over 90 years old and still does most of the work on the breeding programme himself.  David spends over one million pounds per year breeding roses, three to six are processed and take 8 to 10 years to mature.  He exhibited three new roses at the Chelsea Flower this year.  He donates all the profit he makes on his roses to shanty town children in South Africa.  It buys things they need and is not given as money.  Edwin gave out booklets with information on the David Austin rose garden and plant centre.  He was warmly thanked for his very knowledgeable and interesting talk.

During the summer the Valley Friends joined in the Carnival Day procession disguised in Venetian type masks which we had fun making at Doreen’s using cardboard moulds decorated with bits and sparkly pieces.  After the procession in normal clothes and dainty aprons, we served very popular cakes and tea in the small hall and made a most acceptable profit to donate to the carnival fund.  Our August Pot luck supper was delicious and were able to relax and spend time chatting about recent events and holidays etc.

At our September meeting we had a talk with screen presentation by Sally Botwright on the “Old London Docks and New Docklands”.  Sally showed us a view looking across the Thames to the present site of the docks, and likened it to a small Manhattan.  Very different would have been the view of the Roman docks which dated back to AD 50, parts of which can still be seen at low tide. King Henry VIII built naval ships at Chatham docks and surprisingly it took 300 trees to make one ship.

In the reign of Elizabeth I, the only crossing over the Thames was at London.  In 1933 one hundred thousand people were employed at the docks. They handled thirty-five million tons of cargo a year.  It was heavy dirty work, and dockers had no full time employment, maybe they would get only a half day.  The docks were bombed in the war causing the routine labour practices to decline and trouble followed when containers came into use.  By 1970 all but Tilbury dock were closed. The area was regenerated and became Canary Wharf employing more than a hundred thousand people.  Sally described it as a magnificent development of high rise buildings, offices, housing, gardens, art, a floating chapel, shops, cafes, and health centre.  It is clean, there are  security personnel with sniffer  dogs.  The Docklands Light Railway with tube station opened in 2000.  The last building has just been completed and the whole docklands area covers 97 acres.  Sally was thanked by Sylvia for her most interesting and informative presentation.

Valley Friends June Report – Viva Mexico!

From Joan Steel

Our speaker, Val Brown was an English teacher in Mexico who spent a fourteen year ‘trip’ moving from school to school in various areas of the country and therefore experienced the real Mexico. She said it is much bigger than we think with a 2,000 mile border with America in the north and with Belize and Guatemala in the south. The population of over 122 million is a cross between descendants of native Indians and Spanish invaders. These were the first people to use the name ‘Americans’. Mexico City, a Spanish Colony, was designed on the French style grid system and was established as the capital city in 1550. The cathedral, built in 1575 on unstable ground is constantly being repaired and volcanoes on the edge of the city steam continuously but rarely erupt. The economy is stable and food is easy to grow.

There is evidence that Incas, Mayas, Aztecs and nomadic tribes settled in the area 10,000 years ago. The ruins of an Aztec city with pyramids now attracts tourists and researchers. Today’s inhabitants have picnics and take punts on the canals near the city. Mariachi bands with strings and brass are hired to play on these, (some good, some not!), the players wearing traditional costume.

Acapulco with its beautiful, almost circular bay, is frequented by tourists, but is extremely polluted due to the very narrow outlet for the tide. Turtles lay eggs in the sands there. Many visitors come on 3rd October for the world-famous swallow divers’ festival. The divers pray at shrines to former competitors before climbing to the top of the rocks and diving into the rocky waters far below. Val said it was a lunatic way of earning a living!

Aztecs believe that life and death are the same and families visit the dead to give gifts of things liked in life. Picnics are held on graves and the ancestor is told all the family news. Children recite, read or dance for them. It is not at all gloomy; processions move through the towns with candles which are placed on the graves and all churches have bands for the processions. Schoolchildren have to make a ‘befriender’ which is like a set of shelves exhibiting fruit, bread and many items to please and honour the dead. Skeletons are dressed as hierarchy.

Val took a holiday to see dolphins, turtles and whales which were amazing. The train journey to the coast was spectacular and seen from the air showed the track with hundreds of hairpin bends over mountains with views 7,000 feet down into canyons. A tribe of Indians lives at the bottom of Copper Canyon, (about the size of Wales), living a traditional life and keeping goats. There are many rivers and waterfalls, some with boiling hot water. To reach the top of the canyon takes about four hours on rocky paths. There are also rich silver mines in the area and of course, some very wealthy people.

Val, her husband and many tourists loved Mexico and Val wrote a book about her travels. Norma thanked her for a really entertaining talk.

On July 1st Edwin Rye will talk about David Austin’s Roses. We have a Pot Luck Supper in the Small Hall on August 5th and our next meeting after this is on 2nd September.

Valley Friends May: The Work of an Auctioneer

From Joan Steel

Barry Twyman is an auctioneer who mostly works at Amersham Auction Rooms. He spoke enthusiastically about his work which he does for six days a week and finds it busy and most enjoyable. The techniques of selling are learned by observing what happens in the auction room, known as contact learning, although every auctioneer has his/her own style. Momentum is the key to all, as it is important to keep going and normally people are taken up into the speed of selling. It is usual to sell 150 to 160 lots per hour. Time is money.

As the market changes, it is important to have experience of fashion trends eg large heavy brown furniture is not suitable for today’s smaller homes. The auction rooms handle 4000 to7000 items per week. There may be 70-80 possible buyers in the show room but on the internet there are thousands watching and the auctioneers are literally selling to the world. The sale room has therefore to be dressed elegantly to help in attracting bidders. Items are being airmailed out during the sales. All items have to be valued and catalogued and some need to be identified as genuine by professionals.

Many other jobs need to be done before an auction starts eg by 11:30 am on Sunday morning 400 lots need to be put out for sale. Barry said that of his six days work weekly only 2 to 3 hours are actually selling time. Valuations are free and there is a team of four qualified valuers available. They also do valuations on location, visiting houses between 9am and 7pm on Wednesdays. Barry’s talk was free and all donations go to charity eg Ian Rennie Hospice.

To end the evening Barry organised a game, Heather bravely volunteered to act as auctioneer. Following questions Barry was thanked for his very lively and interesting talk.

P.S. The Workaid Collection has been postponed.

Our next meeting is on June 10th subject being “Viva Mexico” by Val Brown.