Digital Bulletin No 72

May 2024

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May 2024

Stylised drawing of an otter's headFrom the editor’s desk

I’m preparing this Bulletin sitting at my desk. I can look up to see the sun shining on the shrubs outside the window, making me think summer may be on the way at last.

Why not write an article about your summer holidays? So far Pat and I have two booked and have plans for another visit to an Irish friend. I’ll try to remember to write something myself, although the most memorable thing that happened on our last trip to Ireland was the sudden downpour in the middle of a church fete we attended.

Grey-haired man wearing a President's chain of officeWords from the President

Despite being in Spain, thanks to Jenny arranging a Zoom link for me, I was able to attend all four meetings during the month, beginning with the business meeting at the Rugby Club, when we were able to begin discussions for the next Rotary year, something that was continued the following week during the visit to the Millennium Centre at Great Baddow, where the focus was on ideas for the informal meetings on the second Thursdays of each month. There were some good suggestions and hopefully these will all come to fruition.

I found it a bit of a challenge to pick the right time to join on Zoom. Having joined the meeting at the Millennium Centre when everyone was still eating their main course, I left it too late the following week at the Rugby Club, so missed the first bit of the talk by Sarah Baron from St John’s Ambulance. Sarah gave a very interesting talk on the work of the charity and all the important services it provides.

The following week my timing was better, so I arrived before the start of the talk, and was able to have a chat with Gayner Smith from Rickard Luckin, who was attending the meeting to collect a Friends of Rotary certificate following their very generous support of the Club. I first met Gayner in 1985, when she came to work at what was then Bird Luckin and Sheldrake, where I was a manager at the time, and we have stayed in touch ever since, often meeting up at training courses following my return to Edmund Carr. I hope we can encourage her and Rickard Luckin’s ongoing involvement with our activities.

The talk was by our own Graham Furnival and concerned a case Graham was involved with during his working life with Essex Police. The facts of the case were interesting, and Graham presented these in a way that encouraged us to think about how they might be interpreted in a court of law, and explained how certain things were vital to the decision that was made. Graham also gave us details of how a police investigation of that type would have evolved, bearing in mind that the events took place before the internet age. The 25th was the day before we departed to catch the ferry back to the UK, so we were busy packing up, but I am very glad I was able to take a break from that for half an hour or so and hear what was a fascinating talk.

This was yet another of what I would call interactive talks by our own members which encourage audience participation. Others which spring to mind from recent memory are Keith Dabbs “Desert Island Discs” and Angela and Geoff’s voyage through 1963. This got me thinking about whether there is a way we could use these in some way to promote the friendship and fellowship aspect of the Club, perhaps by delivering the talks to local groups that contain potential members?

My grateful thanks to all those who filled in as President during my absence for these meetings.

Words from a Past President

A s grey-haired man wearing glasses and a blue shirt with a linen suitKeith Dabbs was one of those who filled in as President while Francis was away. Here is his report on Graham’s talk.

April 25

Club member Graham Furnival gave a talk from his experiences with Essex Police entitled “Murder It A’int”. Graham explained that when on call in December 1993 he received a call regarding a burglar who had been killed while committing a burglary. He covered the subsequent investigation by the Police and the issues that they had to address, including whether the burglar had acted alone or had an accomplice. A postmortem established the facts. However the Coroner’s Court verdict was that it was a lawful killing.

Graham had also had to face the Press, explain the details of the case and answer their questions as there was considerable media interest and they, the Press, were looking for a story.

Rotary Young Musician National Final 2024

Anne Moriaty

The national final of the Rotary Young Musician competition took place on Sunday 21 April in The Stoller Hall at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester.

Steve and I joined Sue and Steve Wallbank to support 13 year-old Rose Buggle from Brentwood, sponsored by our Club and RC Brentwood.

We were treated to 12 amazing performances with one singer and one instrumentalist from each of the six clusters in Rotary Great Britain and Ireland.

Song choices ranged from Mozart and Schubert to Gilbert & Sullivan and Menken wit.h a touch of Billie Eilish thrown in. The winner was 17 year-old Elizabeth Knowles sponsored by RC Maidstone Dawn Patrol who sang O Del Mio Dolce Ardor by Gluck, Tale of the Oyster by Cole Porter, and Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera by Lloyd-Webber. Elizabeth is determined to pursue a career in music and she is definitely one to look out for in the future.

The runner-up was Bella Berville sponsored by RC Melton Mowbray. She performed Defying Gravity from Wicked by Stephen Schwartz, I Don’t Wanna Be You by Billie Eilish and I See Red by Robbie Nevill. Bella was the only performer to use backing tracks, which some adjudicators frown upon but not in this case.

A grey-haired man standing between a teenage girl and a teenage boyRose reprised the songs with which she won the District and Cluster heats and sang Voi Che Sapete by Mozart, Du Bist Die Ruh by Schubert and I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady. She was accompanied by Tim Carey.

The instrumental pieces were just as varied. The winner, baritone horn player Charlie Boax sponsored by RC Kilmarnock, played Turbulence, Tide and Torque (Movement 3) and The Holy Well both by Peter Graham. We were seated behind her family and her mother was playing every note with her. There was great delight when her name was called as the winner.

Runner-up was Marcus Wentzell who was sponsored by the RC Saffron Walden which is not in our District even though it is in Essex. We supported him nonetheless! He was also accompanied by Tim Carey and played Syrinx by Debussy arranged for alto saxophone, and Sonata for alto saxophone by Phil Woods.

The standard was extremely high and no-one envied the adjudicators the task of picking the winners. We are looking forward to next year’s competition and hoping that the venue is a bit more local!

Thoughts for the Day

April 18, Keith Otter
The man knows much
who knows how little he knows.
Mel Starr

April 25, John Knott
There’s a god-shaped hole in every human heart. If it doesn't get filled with something noble and elevated, modern society will quickly pump it full of garbage.
Jonathan Haidt

May 2, Colin Murphy
Do the best you can until you know better.
Then, when you know better, do better.
Maya Angelou

From the vicarage

The visiting preacher was more vehement than the congregation had come to expect.

“If I had all the gold in the world,” he told them, “I would throw it in the river! If I had all the whisky in the word, I would throw it in the river! If I had all the jewellery in the world, I would throw it in the river!”

With these words ringing in people’s ears, he sat down.

The vicar consulted his notes and stood up. “Let us now sing our next hymn Down by the Riverside.”

Looking down at a river bank with a path

Reflections from the Orange Groves
Part 2

Francis Whitbread

A computer image of a whole orange and half a cut orangeReturning to the orange groves, they are a veritable cycling paradise. There is a maze of lanes, each prefixed cami, which I think is an abbreviation for camino, which means path or track, as in Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrims’ trail. I imagine this comprised the original road network, but there is now a much more modern one, developed I would think since Spain joined the EU, so there is very little traffic among the orange groves, other than an occasional worker’s van, or a small truck carrying full boxes of picked oranges. I can cycle for miles without meeting a motorised vehicle and am more likely to meet someone walking or a fellow cyclist, both of whom I try to greet with a “Hola” in the same way I would say “Hello” on the equally peaceful lanes I cycle back in Suffolk.

There is an occasional house and a few enclosures containing a simple shelter and other facilities for use in the warmer weather, but generally there is little permanent human residence in the orange groves. However, there are clearly numerous dogs in the enclosures, based on the barking I frequently hear when I pass a high gate. The attitude of some of the Spanish to their dogs is one of their less appealing characteristics, as the ones I can actually see are invariably tied up and left to deal with the sun without any provision of shade. On one of my favourite routes, there is a large enclosure near the cami where there are about a dozen dogs, but there are at least a couple of shelters to provide some respite from the sun.

A bike ride in the orange groves is also a voyage of discovery, as there are no maps you can purchase to guide the way. When I think back to past cycling days in the UK, some of the best have been when I have set out without a clear route in mind, rather gone where my fancy takes me. It is very similar among the orange groves, as every new cami is a surprise waiting to happen, will it take me on my way, decline from a tarmac surface to a stony track that I can only follow if I happen to be on the bike I purchased last year, which has offroad tyres, or be a complete dead end? Even those routes which are the equivalent of a no through road are rewarding, because of the lovely scenery.

Yesterday, I rode two new camis which I was hopeful would allow me to continue on a circular route; I ended up retracing my steps but was grateful to have ridden them because of the excellent vistas I enjoyed. Both carried me up into the foothills of the mountains, and from the elevated position I gained, I could look over the orange groves to the mountains on the other horizons. First, I could see a rocky outcrop I had passed earlier in the day, which I think of as “Big Bluff” as it reminds me of one of those bluffs that you used to see in the old western films. It is not as high as some of the surrounding peaks, but has a commanding presence all its own, and is a favourite with climbers. Its real name is Penya Roja, and when I passed by, I could see a solitary rock climber on almost the highest section, slowly ascending what looked like an almost sheer rock face. I do hope a companion was with him, hidden from my view, as it looked a difficult proposition to do solo. There was an equally good view to a rugged outcrop topped by two sharp little peaks that remind me a bit of incisor teeth. I have photo’d both of these many times before but not previously from the raised position.

My orange grove playground is virtually ringed by mountains, bold peaks, rugged outcrops, and long undulating ridges that look like gently moving waves on a sea, as the sun and shadow give them a hazy, almost mystical quality. It is very reminiscent of the landscapes, in places such as Monument Valley, that the likes of John Ford used in the old Hollywood westerns. I have seen the mountain landscape of Andalusia, a couple of hundred miles south of here, where the spaghetti westerns were filmed in the 1960s, and I can see why it was chosen, as it has a dry, arid mood that is perfect for a western as we expect to see it. It is impressive, but my orange groves, with their circle of mountains, satisfy me much more, as the emerald green of the orange trees, plus the conifers on the lower slopes of the mountains, gives something the much duller green of the numerous olive trees cannot give Andalusia.

Landscape photography in Spain poses a few challenges, not least because of the profusion of electricity pylons and wires. Again, the orange groves assist, because they frequently provide a welcome cover for an unsightly building or pole. The shapely dome of Monduver, over 2,700 feet above sea level, has a radio and television mast on its summit, but there is nothing to be done about that. In the opposite direction, the other mountain range is Mountain Safor, which gives it name (La Safor) to the entire area. The highest point is over 3,000 feet above sea level and a particular feature is La Finestra, a gap in the rock which looks like a window, hence the name.

Line drawing of an old-fashioned cyclist cycling up a steep hillBack in 2015, on my first visit to the area, I cycled up the very steep road from which the summit can be accessed. Cycled is perhaps the wrong term, because although the road zigzags to reduce the gradients, it was still a very long climb. Down in the valley, in the hamlet of La Repimala, a couple of houses are visible, high up; I passed them and still climbed further. All the way, the view back was down the valley of the River Serpis to Villalonga, and far beyond, to the blue waters of the Mediterranean beyond Gandia, about a dozen miles distant.

Eventually the climbing ceased, and I was on a delightful ribbon of road, winding into the distance. There were no orange groves here, only conifers, with tracks leading invitingly from the road. There was not a soul around, a place of perfect peace and quiet, the silence broken occasionally by ringing bells, denoting the presence somewhere in the trees of a herd of goats, later I passed the shepherd and his dog. I descended into L’Orxa, with an ancient castle on a hill and returned by an equally pretty route, along the track bed of a disused railway that follows the valley of the Serpis, much of which is enclosed by a limestone gorge. The surface was rough, so again I did plenty of walking, but it was worth it to admire the stunning scenery. I am well acquainted with limestone scenery courtesy of my numerous visits to the Yorkshire Dales.

I recall that passing through one or two of the tunnels was a bit scary, as you literally couldn’t see the light at the end, but I persevered and was glad I did. Eventually I was back on tarmac again and had another steep climb to rejoin the road I had ascended on earlier in the day. Below me I could see orange trees again, many of them standing on the ancient terraces built possibly by the Romans.

I am not sure my legs would manage that climb now, but it would be nice to see that valley again, so I could at least tackle the route through the tunnels now I have a bike with proper offroad tyres. Probably though, I will be content to continue my meanderings through the orange groves, to find more hidden delights. Last week I took a route to a small village called Castelonet de la Conquessa. You won’t find it in any guidebook, but it has a delightful situation, on a hillside, with super views across a wide valley of orange groves to the distant mountains. There is always something a bit special about finding a place of beauty that has passed the guidebook writers by, and this is certainly one.

A couple of nights ago we were at the pensionistas club down in the village, to see a Spanish Elvis impersonator. He actually had a very good voice, but played his backing tracks so loud it couldn’t be appreciated, and eventually the audience, almost entirely British, lost interest, and the buzz of conversation became interspersed with the music, not a good cocktail. The following morning, we attended an even noisier event, so it was good in the afternoon to be back in the orange groves, where the only sound was a delightful hum from the pollinating bees. Like a humming choir, they were in perfect harmony.

For anyone who uses Google photos, click here for a link (which I hope works!) to some of my photos. [It does work. I checked it. Webmaster]


Keith Otter

A fox sniffing at a grass lawn

A family of foxes have adopted several back gardens along our row of houses as their territory. They could have been encouraged by the fact that one of the houses has been empty for nearly a year, initially while attempts were made to find a buyer and then as the buyers waited for planning permission for the extensive work they want done before they move in.

I took the above photograph of a fox in our garden earlier in the year, before the pair had started their family. I don’t know whether it was trying to find something to eat in our lawn or simply following interesting smells. It seemed to spend most of its time in the garden lying in the sunniest spot it could find. It was fairly nervous, darting away as soon as one of us opened a door or window.

A couple of weeks ago one of our neighbours told us a vixen and four cubs had taken up residence in the empty garden, which is right next to ours. Builders moved in last week. The next report was that the family had moved to the garden the other side, where they had a den under the garden shed.

Early one morning last week I was woken up when our security light went on. I discovered it has been triggered by two of the cubs chasing each other round our lawn!

All the foxes look sleek and well-fed. Apparently they have learned how to get the bags out of the food waste boxes put out for collection by the council.

Random jottings

The ability to speak several languages is an asset. The ability to keep your mouth shut in any language is priceless.

When I’ve got a headache I take two aspirin and keep away from children, just as it says on the packet.

“Your call is important to us. One of our operatives will answer as soon as possible. In the meantime, please enjoy this 40-minute flute sonata.”

Tip for a successful marriage: Don’t ask your wife when dinner will be ready when she’s mowing the lawn.

Even duct tape can’t fix stupid - but it sure does muffle the sound.

I hate it when I can’t work the iPad and my technical support guy is unavailable. He’s six-years old and it’s past his bedtime.

Happiness is not having to set the alarm clock.

A clock

Forthcoming meetings

May 16: Heather Rogers: Ukrainian concert
Vote of Thanks: TBA

May 23: Kids Inspire
Vote of Thanks: TBA

May 30: President’s Evening
Speaker: Dale Mockford: Mayday, Mayday, Mayday
Vote of Thanks: President

June 6: Business meeting

June 13: Abbess Roding farm walk
Organiser: President Francis

June 20: Club Assembly

June 27: Debbie de Boltz: Farleigh Hospice
Vote of Thanks: President

July 4: Handover meeting

PDF Archive

Bulletin 52X: September 2022 Supplement
Bulletin 53: October 2022
Bulletin 54: November 2022
Bulletin 55: December 2022
Bulletin 56: January 2023
Bulletin 57: February 2023
Bulletin 58: March 2023
Bulletin 59: April 2023
Bulletin 60: May 2023
Bulletin 61: June 2023
Bulletin 62: July 2023
Bulletin 63: August 2023
Bulletin 64: September 2023
Bulletin 65: October 2023
Bulletin 66: November 2023
Bulletin 67: December 2023
Bulletin 68: January 2024
Bulletin 69: February 2024
Bulletin 70: March 2024
Bulletin 71: April 2024

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