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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 10, No. 7. June 11, 1947

London Letter . . . Sinbad

London Letter . . . Sinbad

Her Ladyship herself (I need not name her whom you all know) has written to tell me how she guessed I was Sinbad because the first thing I mentioned was food. Gratuitous insults aside (could anything sourer than honey fall from her dew-spangled lips) a grain of truth lies concealed. Everybody talks food here. As a conversational gambit it is assured of instant success among all classes and conditions of men. Let men talk butterfat, the weather, the iniquities of our pestiferous government, let their wives chatter of children, servants, the latest film, all will take part when the name of a new sating house is mentioned, when there is idle sighing over steak and eggs, when discussing the merits of recipes for ice cream without cream, omelettes sans eggs, milkless milk pudding. We are now, as perhaps never before, a food-conscious nation.

I still do not want to alter an iota of what I wrote three months ago about our food. The meals at our canteen are tasty and sufficient; the family "utility" board positively screams beneath its load of good things; you should have seer us tightening our belts as I saw last night, on chicken goulash and Rum Baba; alas, there Is little sign of my weight going into a startling decline. The woeful yowls of the Tory Press recently whimpered forth an article by a doctor purporting to prove that we are all starving. The following figures give the lie to this; they are infant mortality, a sensitive index to the health of the population and come from the "Daily Worker":
1938 1945
Oxford 35 35
Newcastle 66 39
England and Wales 53 46

The inference is, whilst middle class Oxford has maintained its pre-war rate, industrial Newcastle has improved enormously, and the mass of the population are healthier, because better fed, than ever before.

Giving up smoking is rather fun—for me, spectator. All my friends have tried hard but none succeeded. One girl says her husband says he has stopped. She tells him the same yarn but buys cigarettes from us at twopence each (the retail price). She is going to Glasgow to see him at Whitsun. I hate to think of her snatching a puff in the kitchen whilst he surreptitiously sucks a Woodbine in the living room. However, I have managed to cut my consumption by half, a figure paralleled by tobacco sales since the Budget. A magnificent effort, but at what a cost, to save a few paltry million pounds, whilst our military "commentators" cost us hundreds of millions.

The "New Statesman" "Keep Left" pamphlet by Dick Crossman, Michael Foot and Ian Mikardo and other Labour MP's is good stuff. The arguments on manpower, economic planning and foreign policy are lucid, simple and unanswerable. I doubt if better political persuasion has been written in Britain this century, not excepting Churchill's capacity for glorious mis-statement. Whether it will achieve its aim is another question. But the Labour Party Conference, is next week, and the party has been through some serious crises since last it met.

Many, people have strange ideas about New Zealand. It is advertised as the home of meat, butter and cheese, and to learn that it has rationing and controls, shortages and high rents comes as a shock to would-be emigrants. Some talk glibly of carving a farm from virgin forest; others say "Oh, I know it has a Labour Government but it is different from the dreadful one here you know" (where have I heard that before?); others again want to know if one can buy Van Heusen shirts. How can one explain? It must seem as remote as Madagascar to them.

I went to Salisbury last week. The Cathedral is glorious, an enormous mass of grey carved stone, plunging upwards from the broad green lawn of the close. In the evening, light rain falling, it took my breath away with the sight of it. Why did I go to this ancient city, centre of the folk ways of Pre-Historic England, with its river and bridges and quiet streets? To see a man of the Research Station of Gas Warfare!