Letters to The Whistler

Dear Editor

In reply to David Foot’s article ‘It all started in a Coffee House’ in the last edition, I did not start drinking coffee until I was about 10 years old, apart from Camp Coffee out of a bottle, as my dad, who came from up North, drank strong tea. He even brewed up in the desert during World War 2 for the RAF lads. We liked our coffee half milk and half water, boiled in a milk pan, and added to a teaspoon of instant  coffee in each cup.

When my own family went on holiday to Portugal the frothy Portuguese coffee was very similar. I learnt about the arrival of coffee houses and the swapping of ideas for inventions, and the making of dangerous plots in lower  sixth, and then our Economics and Public Affairs Group went to London and visited St Paul’s, the Stock Exchange and Mansion House, after we had seen an earlier Lord Mayor’s Coach and a mock-up of a coffee house in the Museum of London. We knew about Lloyds of London and the Lutine Bell.

In 1998, I went on a tour of Virginia with the Surrey Federation of Women’s Institute members, three years before the World Trade Centre was blown apart. Arriving in Philadelphia we were dropped off at the History Centre and told to meet up again later outside the Liberty Bell whilst the coach driver dropped luggage off at our hotel. Absorbed in history, I had wandered on and on along avenues named after trees. Fortunately, I remembered to meet at the Liberty Bell, asked directions  and was kindly escorted to it just in time to see the last few members of our group about to go inside.

Next day it rained hard but a friend and I found the Friends Meeting House, across the road from our hotel, with a wonderful exhibition of Quilts, memorabilia, and stories of networks of support for helping  slaves. Only last month, when I visited the Brighton Friends Centre for a talk about keeping the old Hippodrome Theatre open and seeing the plans, I was delighted to see a case of papers and prints from the Centre in Philadelphia. As a speaker at the Surrey Federation of WI council meeting in Dorking Halls, Mary Archer told WI members about her life and the responsibility of being a ‘Name’ at Lloyds.

In the 1950s I remember my mum paying out small weekly sums of money for several insurance policies that went on and on. Companies used to arrange annual outings to places such as Hampton Court and Windsor Castle and the River Thames. After trying to copy my older boy cousins who pretended to jump in, I fell in. I felt miserable  all day long as my mum, once she had seen me safe on dry land, gave me a good telling off while I stood shivering. I still paid Mum £1 a month while I was working and then after I had married and had our first son, the Liverpool Vic insurance lady said he was too pretty to be a boy, when she gave me the final cheque, as I  wanted to buy a new pine chest of drawers  rather than take out further insurance.

After taking out extra insurance for ‘winter sports’ one French Exchange trip, it would have been better to have insured for lack of snow as we had to go so high up the mountain that I had a nose bleed.

I do not drink much coffee now, but do enjoy a Latte.

Sandie Cooper Mayers


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