58 Kingsbridge Estuary



uch has happened since my last report and all of it full of interest. Following on from Sir Jonathan Tod, our speaker for

June’s meeting, Val Bugden-Cawsey had a hard act to follow. Val has, however, her own ideas on speaking to the many audiences, large and small, whom she has regaled with tales of her 36 years as a Professional Caterer.

This ‘larger than life’ lady was born a farmer’s daughter in the Weald of Kent, with a mother whose home cooking apparently left much to be desired! This may have influenced Val’s decision to break into the 1960’s male-dominated world of Professional Catering.

Describing her parents’ (Eric and Brenda) mode of

transport, a Triumph motorbike and sidecar and method of shoulder-tapping with which Brenda communicated her instructions to Eric, led into Val’s non-stop, unscripted and at times hilarious account of how she achieved her aim – and how armed with her then, much-respected, City and Guilds certificate, she eventually found herself happily working for the BBC’s Outside Broadcast catering department.

However, fate stepped in when the call went out for a temporary Cook/Housekeeper to cover a 4 week gap, while a permanent incumbent was sought for the newly married Princess Anne and her soldier husband, Lieutenant Mark Philips who were now domiciled in adapted army quarters at Sandhurst. Val filled the gap, which quickly became a permanent 3 year position.

Her description of her first introduction

to her new employer and her attempts at curtseying, which resulted in her legs getting tangled and her spread-eagled on the floor, caused gales of laugher and “Valrey” was ordered never to try it again. Relations between Val and her employers were relaxed and warm. Val was present at many special occasions such as Henley, Horse of the Year Show and a Sandhurst Ball. Following the attempt to kidnap the Princess, ‘the media’, who having discovered for whom she worked and desperate for a ‘story’, followed Val’s far from unobtrusive, allocated staff car which was a 3 wheeled Robin Reliant in a delicate shade

of lime green and a top speed of about 25 mph! Enterprisingly, Val shot into the garage of a private house to hide - much to the surprise of the owner.

So many hilarious Royal anecdotes but eventually

Val moved on to become involved with the Channel Tunnel Project, overseeing the catering of around 1,000 meals a week for the workers engaged in it’s building. So our time with Val came to an end. It had felt more like a stand up comedy routine than a serious talk and she was most warmly acclaimed at its conclusion.

Our final speaker before the August break, could not have been more different when, in July, Richard Haigh, a retired head teacher and amateur historian with a passion for all things Italian and in particular, Sicily, came to enlighten us on the history of the Cosa Nostra. This phrase translates simply as ‘Our Affair’. Strains of the music from the film ‘The Godfather’ set the atmosphere as we learned of the many intrigues accompanying this notorious secret society.

Formed in 1861 in Sicily as a protest at being ruled

So many hilarious Royal anecdotes, but eventually Val

moved on to become involved with the Channel Tunnel Project

from the much hated Italian mainland city of Naples (the 3rd largest in Europe at that time) - it centred on the Conca d’Ora, the lucrative lemon-growing area surrounding Palermo, to the west of the island. The large feudal estates were gradually taken over by stealth. Ordinary folk survived only if they paid dues as protection. As a lemon tree takes 8-10 years to establish and become

commercially viable, the ‘loss’ of even one tree was financially damaging to the peasantry. Gradually the wealth accrued to

those at the top of society.

The Mafia was born at the time of Italian Unification and came to be embedded into the fabric of Italian political life as it emerged from the trauma of the Second World War. Richard showed slides of many influential Italians whose faces and expertly pronounced names were familiar. We learned of the rise of Mafia influenced crime in the United States. Approximately a quarter of the male population of Sicily had emigrated there in1909 and the copious Pizza houses became a cover for money laundering

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