I told you yesterday that it was the 10th anniversary of Les Lavandes being a little piece on Anjou returned to English control. There have been other anniversaries this month which I have overlooked either because I forgot all about them or because I don't recall the exact date. For example, it was somewhere at the beginning of January 1953 - ie 60 years ago - that my brother and I were sent away to school. Before anyone gets any funny ideas about my family being rich enough to afford boarding school - or about my brother and I being sufficiently badly behaved to need approved school - let me hasten to disabuse you of either notion. My brother and I were sickly children suffering badly from asthma and it was decided our health would benefit from living in the clean air of the Isle of Wight rather than the polluted air of the Medway towns. The school in question was a charitable establishment for delicate children run by nuns.
Another anniversary was picked up by my daily rag although I saw nothing on television. This was the 150th anniversary of the world's first underground passenger railway. The Metropolitan Line ran from Praed Street to Farringdon Road in London. I can't imagine it was a particularly pleasant means of travel given that the engines were steam-powered, but it has led to underground railways, sometimes called the Metro after the first one, being built in cities all over the world. I know I'm going off at something of a tangent, but I find it staggering that the map of London's underground railway lines issued in the 1930s is still basically the one used today - with the addition of the new and extended lines. It is also the inspiration for many other maps of underground railways. And what a classic of simplicity it is.
That is the original map above, while this (below) is the current version.
This month also sees my cousin David reaching his big seven-oh. David and I don't see very much of each other these days, partly due to him living in Rome, but there was a time when we saw each other a lot. We get on very well - we generally have done all our lives - but there were a couple of occasions when fights broke out between us. I have vague memories of David and I rolling around the playground at our junior school with most of the other boys standing around watching us trying to beat each other to pulp. What caused the fight and how it ended are now not simply shrouded in the mists of time (to coin a phrase) but completely lost to all human cognizance.
The second occasion on which we fought was officially blessed in that it was a boxing match. We must have been about 13 and in the same form at school when our gym master decided to introduce boxing to the curriculum. After ages of undertaking exercises while dancing on our toes, we were eventually allowed to place four benches to form a square and to select boxing gloves that more or less fitted. Then we paired off with another pupil of similar height. David and I managed to pair off. and we were, I believe, the first pair to enter the ring. As we did so, David whispered to me, "Throw a punch as hard as you can". This puzzled me, as neither he nor I were keen on this so-called sport, but I did as he asked. Whereupon David leapt out of the ring, rushed out of the school hall (which doubled at the gym) and along the corridor - with me hard on his heels. We did a circuit of the school before re-entering the hall and then the ring. David immediately fell to the ground as if my punch had connected while I stood over him with both hands raised in triumph.
We never saw the boxing gloves again.