YOU’RE AS OLD AS YOU FEEL—AREN’T YOU??
I recently had a birthday, not just any birthday but a significant one. I am now nearer eighty than seventy. I suppose that makes me seriously elderly, doesn’t it? Well certainly it does on paper. But, I don’t feel elderly, in fact I don’t even feel old. I still enjoy walking, alright not as fast as I used to and I don’t run for a bus these days. I still do the heavy”ish” jobs in the garden. I still get a buzz when I drive our little sports car, with the roof lowered, maybe bit faster than I probably ought to. I look forward to planning holidays and lunching out with friends, some whom I’ve known from my teenage years. So when did I start to get or look old?
The first time I realised that age was catching up on me, was in a shop (no supermarkets then). I was in my early twenties, and as I offered the young lady the money for my cigarettes she said “Thank you sir”. At first I thought she was being humorous, but it then dawned on me she was actually serious. This was either bad news or she was very very young. Then as the years went by more and more people were offering me their seats on the buses. Why would they do that? – I’m not old, I told myself. I looked in the mirror. Well I suppose there were a few more wrinkles, but they were really laughter lines and there were a few grey hairs appearing, but they made me look a bit distinguished, didn’t they?
Then the day finally arrived when it really dawned on me that I was looking a lot older than I felt. There were a couple of builders working on a neighbour’s house up the road. It was a baking hot day and they were working on the roof. I thought they must so uncomfortable working in that heat, so when one of them passed by a little later I gave him two ice cold cans of lager. I was working in our garden, when I heard him passing his mate a can. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that little exchange of words between them. “Cor, that’s lovely, where did you get these” his friend replied “from that old bloke down the road”. I was shattered, did I really now look like an “old bloke”.
So maybe the mirror does lie especially when you are looking at yourself. Anyway I still don’t feel old, and that’s what matters to me. Wishing you all a Very Happy Birthday (whenever it is).
A TIME CAPSULE
In South Mimms Village Hall there is a memorial plaque on the wall opposite the doors, to the men who fought in the Great War (i.e. the First World War), and to those who did not return. The plaque is headed “South Mimms Mission Hall”. It is all that remains (in public) of a building erected to provide a place for proper and fitting religious worship in the village – as opposed to St. Giles Church which was far too Catholic for some people’s taste. And maybe still is!
Older people in the village remember the Mission Hall, but most will not know where it was – or is. It stands behind 62-64 Blanche Lane, once the village Shop and Post Office. It had been built on the initiative of the village postmaster, Mr. Hollis, who lived in no. 60, and ran the shop and post office next door. It ceased to be a Mission Hall in 1955, when it was sold by the Baptist Church. (It was run earlier on by the London City Mission). The terms of the sale included restrictive covenants: it should only be used for domestic purposes, and should never again be used as a place of worship. Nevertheless it was used in turn as a workshop, a recording studio and a store for the stock-in-trade of a shopfitter. He sold it, and his cottage, 60 Blanche Lane, to me. We created a home for my Mother, and a flat to let out, with garages below.
I had known that Mr. Hollis, the Postmaster, had persuaded Captain Trotter, of Dyrham Park, to put up the funds for building the Mission Hall. But when was it built? Here’s where the time capsule comes in. A time capsule is a container (box, bottle or whatever) containing something which tells the finder about the date and context of something. When Cleopatra’s Needle was erected on London’s Embankment, a time capsule was buried in the foundations with artefacts from the mid 19th century. Space probes sometimes include information about our planet and our era (assuming any alien could decipher it).
Recently work had to be done on the roof and guttering on the south side of the Mission Hall, from the garden of no. 58: the Mission Hall’s south wall is the north wall of that garden. In the process of removing some tiles a bottle was discovered. Inside was a rolled up piece of paper, with beautiful handwriting.
It reads: “April 13th 1915
This Building was erected during the great European war and the following countries were engaged in it. England, France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia, Montenegro and Japan on one side and Germany, Austria and Turkey on the other. It was stated in the papers yesterday that a big battle was believed to be going on in the North Sea off the coast of Norway as very heavy firing had been heard for some time. [not Jutland, as that was 1916]
The Following workmen were engaged on this Building
Harry Dalton Carpenter Dyrham Park
Tom Peck Bricklayer Barnet
Ernest Peck Do. Do.
George Brown Do. Dyrham Park
Alf Smith Labourer Do.
John J. Chesher Painter &c. Do. Since May 4th 1891
Joseph Russel Plaster Barnet
J.J. Chesher was the son of John Chesher of the Roe Buck Inn Lemsford and grandson of James Chesher of the Red Lion Digswell Hill Welwyn Herts”
I have kept the original capitalisation and punctuation. The writer must be Mr. Chesher, because he gives so much circumstantial information for that name. There are several Cheshers buried in St. Giles graveyard, in 1874, 1876 and 1886, but whether they are related to the person who wrote the note is unclear (as his people came from near Welwyn, it is unlikely).
It’s a fascinating document. The details about what we now call the Great War; the names of Captain Trotter’s staff who he employed on building the Hall; and the decision to leave a record of the building’s construction hidden away in the roof. And that is where it has been returned to, along with another bottle, with a note about what happened to the Mission Hall subsequently.
This was not the first Mission Hall (or rather, room) in South Mimms. At the back of the Shop and Post Office is an extension, which some remember as a butcher’s shop. In about 1990, shortly after I bought the house (the Shop and Post Office had closed in 1975), an elderly, but spry and active man came through the archway into the back yard. It turned out that he had come to Mission Meetings before the Hall was built, and they had been held in this extension. So clearly Mr. Hollis had offered an alternative to St. Giles from the late 1890’s, and with the building of the Mission Hall in 1915 he was able to expand the venture, under the auspices of the London City Mission.
Although it is no longer a place of worship I have two relics, a notice board headed “South Mimms Mission Hall” and a larger board for times of worship, including a Women’s Bright Hour, on Thursday afternoons!
THOUGHTS FROM THE ORGAN LOFT
“Hymn number 43”. The announcement comes and there is rustling as everyone stands and searches for the words. That is the moment! The massive machine breaks into sound and we are off for a good sing with a big accompaniment. This is one of the regular moments of drama in every church service. The music streams on, the pipes resonate and the building is full of sound. For the organist it is one of the many bread and butter parts of the job, hoping the congregation will respond and enjoy taking part in the musical action.
Playing an organ is like being in charge of a large engine with hundreds of pipes (thousands of pipes in a very big organ) ready at command to chart the progress of the music. Sound can be produced that is soft and gentle or triumphant, loud and dramatic. It affects the whole atmosphere of any service. When errors happen – incorrect stops in action – the sound can be devastating. So an amateur organist has to beware of this by careful checking on details and preparation. Being ready at the exact moment is vital, and timing is essential. Striking up the Wedding March or the funeral processional has to be on the mark; the note for the soloist has to be on time; use of the stops is also dramatic and can be quite entertaining, e.g. the trumpet or other special effects.
Music written for organ is another world of its own. From the very early works of the 16th and 17th centuries, the wonders of J.S. Bach and his generation, through to up to date exciting modern music, the organ presents challenges and pleasure: a journey of discovery and enjoyment.
A younger mind can take on the challenge more easily of using both hands and feet simultaneously. On standard church pipe organs, such as those at St. Margaret’s or St. Giles, this is as important as on a majestic cathedral organ. Those of us who entered the world of organ playing in later life are at a disadvantage, and skill has to be worked on with much practice and determination.
Massive organs are another story, with a vast number of stops, both hand and electronic, with extra foot controls. These great constructions are like majestic huge liners of the music world. Magnificent monsters, to listen to them is a special experience. Many larger churches and concert halls have huge organs. In London the new organ in the Royal Festival Hall and the one in the Albert Hall are fine examples. On the continent, in Paris for instance, large magnificent specimens are lovingly played by world class organists.
For us in Ridge and South Mimms we are able to enjoy wonderful organ playing in St Albans Abbey. Many recitals are given during the year, and organ music can be part of everyone’s experience. More younger people taking up organ playing would be a great advantage. Plenty of organs need playing and lessons are available.
So – back to the hymns for next Sunday! Now, what march out shall we have?