Leicester, Part 2: Turbigo days

I spent three years of my life in Leicester, between 1962 and 1966. In Part 1 I wrote briefly about my earliest impressions of this city, its university, and my tenuous connection to its football team.

Talking recently to another graduate of Leicester University I was reminded of an odd aspect of student life there in the sixties, just one mild absurdity, the use of haute cuisine names for mundane dishes served up in the refectory (academic-speak for canteen.) One ludicrous example¬† has stayed with me – the term “Turbigo”, used as an adjectival noun in menus, for instance “Chicken Turbigo”.

For me there was something intrinsically laughable about the word itself, and I was amused by the pretentiousness of dressing up canteen food with posh names. Over time I noticed that Turbigo could be applied to just about any main course; the common factor was that the dish always included mushroom stalks. No heads, just the stalks. Continue reading

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Thank you General de Gaulle (for my bubble car)

1965 was not a good year for me. As a student reading French I was required, not unreasonably, to spend a year teaching in France. This ought to have been a pleasure, but by and large it turned out not to be. However there was one unexpected consolation prize, thanks to General de Gaulle, then president of the republic.

For some unknown reason, that year he decided to pay an extra month’s wages to all those like me who had been engaged in the mostly futile task of teaching English to French schoolchildren. This inexplicable but welcome gesture enabled me to buy my first car – an Isetta bubble car.

From two wheeled hell to three wheeled heaven! Continue reading

The good old red public telephone box

Martin_phonebox_crop_150I have recently been spending time creating and running a website-cum-blog for the village in Lincolnshire where we live, Kirkby on Bain. So far it’s been a lot of fun, and it gets more hits than any other site I have worked on, somewhat to my amazement. One of the most read posts is an account by my neighbour Martin Briscombe, who recently retired after managing a chicken feed mill (no jokes please) for many years.

martin_phonebox _paint_240Martin is a man of action, and on retirement he promptly took over responsibility for doing something about the red public telephone box which was adopted by the village but has been gently decaying in recent times. You can read his account of this venture here.

Before publishing the story, in the normal process of fact checking, I found myself entering a whole new universe of phone boxes. I have since become hypersensitive to every decommissioned phone box I see in villages around these parts, most of which seem to be simply abandoned, presumably as a result of the meteoric rise of mobile phones. It’s a done deal alright, those good old red phone boxes are now definitely things of the past, along with steam trains, fax machines and consideration for others. Continue reading