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.

HAGA Programme 2017

From Joanna Hughes

Jan – Fri 27th 8.00pm
Talk: The Basics of Garden Design by Caroline Tait

Feb – Fri 24th 8.00pm
Talk: A Walk on the Wild Side by Brian Clews

Mar – Fri 31st 8.00pm
Talk: Wildlife Gardening by Chris Ward

Apr – Fri 28th 8.00pm
Talk: My Experiences of the National Garden Scheme by Brian Fisher

May – Sat 6th
Visit: Ramster Garden and Tearoom

May – Fri 26th 8.00pm
Talk: Trees of The National Memorial Arboretum by Roger Hailwood

Jun – 23rd to 26th
Short Break in Suffolk and Essex

Jul – Wed 12th
Visit: Pettifers and Canons Ashby

Jul – Fri 28th 8.00pm
Talk: City of London Gardens by Sally Botwright

Sep – Sat 9th
Visit: Hatfield House

Sep – Fri 29th 8.00pm
Talk: Hearing Dogs for the Deaf

Oct – Fri 27th 8.00pm
Talk: Animal Architecture by John Tyler

Nov – Fri 24th 8.00pm
AGM followed by refreshments

Nov – TBA 2.00pm
Hughenden Valley Christmas Bazaar

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.