SECOND INNINGS - TEDDINGTON
1963 - 1972
My return to ARL was a bit like a batsman going into bat for his second innings after he made a duck in the first innings. I imagined a long playing period would be needed to re-establish myself with local management. Being pre- Christmas season there should be a certain amount of good will about.
These were my thoughts as I entered the Chief Draughtsman's office. He had not been informed of my return to duty at ARL, by the surprised look with which he and his secretary, Olive Buogiou, greeted me. I broke the ice, by saying, "The Prodigal Son has returned, that is, if you have a place for me." He stood up and shook my hands and said, "Indeed we have, for the workplace units are in storage, awaiting your return. The work study team has said it was your design and that you would be the best person to install them. Your section leader's post has been shared, knowing that your absence was a temporary affair. On completion of this refitting of the office, you will take over your old job."
I replied, "This is ideal, for it will give me time to get readjusted to the establishment's current work, thank you." These draughtsmen units were well received by all the staff and I never remember having an adverse comment made, not after Mr Rose had tried it out.
This phase of batting at the wicket was not unlike my return to Ever Ready after my five years in the war. On being restored by my former post, I felt that after serving three years on this Work Study Management Team, I had been granted my reprieve.
This may also have been due to the fact that I had become a changed man, according to comments I overheard. On the study, a great deal of discretion was necessary when dealing with large numbers of people and different situations. The need to be assertive in this role did not apply, as it did in the army as a sergeant. It is possible that I carried on this attitude on leaving the army, and this is why Colin Selway was having a go at me.
Before the work study stint, I had some colleagues from work for a social evening with their wives. Comments were made the following day about not treating Gladys as a proper husband should. So all these factors made me realise that I had some rethinking to do, to correct my faults. This, I believed, was taking place during the last three years, especially as regards the home situation with Harry, still very unsettled at his new job.
I needed to find out what was troubling him. He arrived home from work on Wednesday evening, complaining of a septic throat and wanting to go on sick leave. This he did, staying in bed for a week over the 1963 Christmas holiday period. We never knew what he was thinking about this job, until a number of years later, when he wrote the following:
"I went to work at a factory in Kings Cross, at a department of Smiths Clocks and Watches. It was pretty much a ghetto, the buildings and the people pretty scruffy, as well. The manager of the office was a homosexual and the factory staff were very much against him. It was the only office job I was any good at. The customer would ring up, and I had an arrangement with the foreman to tell me, without being pestered or bullied, how the clock was progressing. The journey began to tell on me and by Christmas, I went down with a septic throat, I could not eat any Christmas food and spent that Christmas in bed. I thought that I would try to earn some more money and get a career, so I went to the executive register in The Strand in London, and saw a vacancy at Shell."
Harry did get this job with Power Petroleum, although when he set out for London, we were not told he had finished with Smiths Clocks.
Andrew, just before Christmas, took part in a Christmas service at Westminster Abbey, with members of St Johns church choir. Mr Batty, their choirmaster, had been rehearsing the choir in choral pieces to join other choirs, who had been invited in this mass choir service. Gladys was pleased to attend, as was I, seeing Andrew taking part and knowing that he was close to where our Queen was crowned.
During the Christmas service at St John's I was approached by Ted Edwards, to see if I would assist in their youth club, which Andrew attended with other members of the choir. He told me they want some one to run a beetle drive. With Andrew attending, I found it difficult to say no, and of course, I got involved with the church activities.
Now it was one of these beetle drives where Andrew told me off for acting so stupid, when we arrived home. He said, "Dad, you look stupid running up and down, seeing how many parts they are putting on the beetle's body after you have thrown the dice." When he said this, I wondered if this was the beginning of losing his smile. This was a feature of Andrew that his mother and I so cherished. Harry's unhappiness was like a cloud over the house and I knew that as Andrew grew up and became more thoughtful, he would be affected.
More bells were ringing, for Harry had in March finished at the Petroleum firm, being told that he should not take up work of the calibre that he had been trying to. Again, we could not find out what his job was. It was only later that we learned from his writing that he had a teleprinter to operate.
This was Andrew's 11-plus year, so we tried to avoid any distressful scenes with Harry's problems, which we could not fathom out. All Andrew's school reports were average, with 'good' for attitude and maths. He did not read much, like Harry, and I was not too concerned if he did not pass his 11-plus, as long as he was happy at his school.
Reg and Barbara stayed with us during Easter week. I was pleased when Reg entered the extended living room and said, "I see you have got your little pieces of Bath in position", pointing to the fire-place. "I cannot see any cracks above the opening in the wall you have made, do we assume the house will not fall down while we are here?"
I replied, with a smirky grin, "If it does, it will be your fault for starting me off on these do-it-yourself jobs." Our wives seemed to hit it off with Gladys finding Barbara a ready shopper, to keep her company on her tour of Kingston's shops, not forgetting Bentalls.
While this was going on, I took Reg to ARL before they had closed down for Easter weekend. He had a surprise, when taking him through Bushey Park to Upper Lodge, where he saw the large facilities such as the fifty-feet whirling arm and my water entry structure and tanks.
In their short stay, we took them to Hampton Court, Kew Gardens and to Heathrow Airport. It was the latter, where they were astonished at the immense activity of passengers and planes arriving and departing. This was in complete contrast to their home town of Bath. It was good to learn that Harry, who had been with us and was now out of work, was both helpful and good company to our guests during the whole of their visit to Teddington. Reg made certain that I knew this for he thought that this might surprise me, which it did!
Andrew, through his choir friends, joined the Kingston Crusaders Movement, a sort of Scout and Guides movement combined. This was run with a Christian bias by inter-denominational leaders. They had outings and camps, which broadened Andrew's outlook.
I became a sidesman at St John's Church and before I knew what was happening, I had been called to serve on the Parish Parochial Council, PPC. This widened my knowledge with regard to the inner workings of the Church. The vicar, Tim Bowell, approaching retirement age, was a sincere, straight laced theologian, always able to quote chapter and verse from most parts of the Bible.
In the PPC was a retired RAF group captain, who always appeared to have opposite views to the vicar. Other members came from a mixture of backgrounds, but I must admit I had no idea of the in-fighting in the Church until then. Again, before I knew what was happening, I had been required to organise a barbecue on a stretch of land by the river owned by a Church member.
This turned out to be more of a fete, with a group providing music, of a kind. The noise of this pop group upset a local resident, who 'phoned the owner of the land. This was brought to my notice and I immediately asked the group to turn their amplifier down. It seems there is some difficulty for pop groups to play softly, for I could not notice any difference when they said it had been reduced. The following day in the tabloid press, in big headlines was 'Church rowdy barbecue upsets TV producer.' Why do pop groups have to blast their music so much?
Here is the letter I received from the vicar:
"My dear Alan, will you please accept my warmest thanks for all your magnificent work with the barbecue. The great success of the evening was so much due to your wonderful management. etc. Yours sincerely, AC Bowell."
Having returned to my base at Teddington, there were several activity strands to be reconnected. It was good to attend the NPL Bridge Club again, to meet some of my former Bridge addicts and make phoney bids, to upset their calculations.
One such addict was Bob Wilson, an ARL cricketer and an NPL hockey player. When talking to Bob, I mentioned that I was not enjoying umpiring at football. This was mainly because a referee is more or less isolated from those taking part. I am a team player and like to enjoy the comradeship after the match over a glass of beer. There was still a more basic reason, why I did not look forward to taking part in this capacity, I am colour blind and found myself having to remember faces on each side - not an ideal state when their faces get dirty.
Immediately after I had mentioned this, Bob suggested I turned out for the NPL Lower XI hockey team, of which he was a member. He told me that I could borrow one of his hockey sticks to take home and practice hitting the ball, for I had never held a hockey stick, apart from playing for the Scouts against the Guides. Soon, I was playing regularly on the left wing, where no-one else wished to play. This was because the left-winger should be skilled at using a reverse stick and very few could.
Whilst on my three years tour, I developed aches and pains and assumed my age of approaching 50 was having an effect. To my surprise, these effects seemed to disappear after a few weeks of playing, so I explained to Gladys that sport was acting like a medicine to me. She replied, "That's funny, shopping does the same for me, when I am looking at clothes and jewellery."
A life-long friendship was gained by playing hockey, with Bob being in the same team, both for ARL cricket and for NPL Bridge and hockey. He worked in the chemical laboratory in the scientific grade. Both he and his wife came from Yorkshire, which most people could tell from their broad accent.
It was after a hockey match that Gladys came with Andrew to fish me out of the bar. Bob and Anna were with me at the time, in a small group having a drink with our opponents. Anna, who could see that Gladys was stressed, explained that I was having this one drink and would be leaving. She then persuaded Gladys and Andrew to join us in a drink. From that incident, our wives also developed a life-time friendship.
When the cricket season started, Andrew became the team's scorer, with Gladys meeting us in the pavilion after the match and meeting Bob and Anna. It was during my first cricket game of the season, when stretching my arm out to take a catch in the slips, that I released the nerve in my shoulder blade, caused when lifting the girder into the dividing wall. Once again, I had proof that sport was a way of keeping fit and, in this case, did more good than the doctor's.
I had achieved the highest batting average for the 3rd XI team, something I was proud of, taking into account the fact that I had been away from the team for three years and that I was in my 49th year. ARL were again winners of the Stanton NPL Trophy for cricket.
Harry had found work locally, in a Dolcis shoe shop at Clarence Street, Kingston. His workplace being close to home and not having to travel, we had hoped that this would have removed some of the stress he had experienced with his other jobs in the city. He started there in April and survived until August. Here is an extract from his writing, for, again, at that time we were not aware of his deep thoughts:
"I got the feeling that everybody was hostile towards me. I would see the doctor frequently and complained of my heart racing. In the end, they sent me to West Middlesex Hospital, where they told me to go to Springfield Mental Hospital, but I refused. The traffic around Kingston was terrible and probably still is. The shoes were cheap and nasty, and a lot of people would come in and rave about their heels coming off. This boy I was working with, a cheeky devil, put dying on my back as I was walking out of the shop. The manager quickly removed it. He loved to persecute me and got a lot of fun out of it."
Andrew, not having passed the 11-plus, attended the Orleans County Secondary School, where he seemed to settle in, having no complaints of any kind about the school. To my surprise, Andrew had become a rugby player, taking his place in the school's Under 12 team. I think this was an indication that he had a mind of his own and was not doing anything because his Dad did it. It would be interesting to note whether he would take up cricket.
We had another letter of thanks from the vicar. Here it is:
"Dear Mr & Mrs Rayment and Andrew, Thank you very much for all your effort for the Christmas Coffee Morning. It was an enjoyable morning and the amount raised was excellent - and surprising! Best wishes for Christmas,
Yours sincerely, AC Bowell.
PS - Mr Rayment - would you be kind enough to read the fourth lesson at the carol service on Sunday? You will be a real sidesman."
This was very special, for Gladys seemed to find satisfaction in taking part and meeting interesting people. Gladys attended the candle-lit carol service, in which I did read the fourth lesson.
At the start of the new year, I set myself the task of redecorating the through lounge, to make good the damaged caused by working on the dividing wall. This I wanted to complete before Easter, so that I could set about painting the outside of the house, which I had delayed because I was scared of going up ladders. Whilst painting the ceiling, I closely inspected both walls and ceiling adjacent to the opening in the dividing wall, for any signs of cracks appearing. It was a great comfort that none had been found and that we could continue to sleep without fear of dropping through the floor, which Gladys had said might happen, from time to time.
During this work, I kept a look out for someone with a tall ladder to borrow when painting the front of the house, with its high central apex. Eventually I obtained the loan of one from a church member, living close by, which I laid alongside the front garden dividing wall. I am now repeating the girder exercise, in that no matter how long I delay using it, it will still be there to taunt me each time I enter the front door.
On Good Friday, after attending church with Andrew, we returned home to find Gladys crying with a cloth wrapped around her wrist covered in blood. I could not properly hear what she was saying, only that Harry had been involved. Without further delay, I 'phoned Dr Bennison and asked if he could give Gladys attention. Fortunately, he was able to see her, so I rushed her round in the car to see him.
I had, by now, found out that Harry had come down the stairs demanding his breakfast at nearly dinner time. She had given him a cup of tea and shooed him off. In the melée that followed, at the bottom of the stairs, her wrist was cut by a broken cup. When Dr Bennison was told this, he said he was not surprised. He revealed that Harry was frequently asking for a sick note to stay away from work. He had advised him to see a psychiatrist from Springfield Hospital, Tooting.
After he had dressed the wound, he told us he would get in touch with the hospital for a psychiatrist to visit Harry right away. I told Andrew when we got home, that Harry needed help of some kind, and that we were to get the dinner, while his mother recovered from the stress. Harry had stayed in his bedroom all this time and when I went in to have a talk with him, there was no apparent remorse for what had happened to his mother. When told that a doctor would be calling to see him, he made no comment.
Being Good Friday, I had not expected a doctor to arrive as soon as they did, for after he had introduced himself, he referred to his associate trainee doctor. We were informed that Harry was suffering from schizophrenia and needed immediate hospital attention. They suggested that he returned with them. I went back with them to let him know that it had been agreed that it was necessary for him to go into hospital.
They said that it would be advisable for them to take a stroll, while his mother, who had now recovered from her ordeal, got his clothes together. I went with them, to show them the Teddington Lock. I heard them saying how relieved they were that Harry was prepared to go into hospital voluntarily, without any form of enforcement. I was given an assurance that he would be able to return after a few weeks of treatment and that he would be prescribed tranquillisers when discharged.
The doctor was heavily built, wearing thick soled boots, whilst his trainee was thin and pale looking, wearing light shoes. Maybe after a while in this profession, one becomes toughened up to meet all kinds of disorder. The most important matter here was that Harry did have an illness and we knew that this must have been with him at school. Today, this would have been identified at a special school for pupils with a behavioural problem.
It took a little while to adjust to Harry's absence, but there was a feeling of relief that the cause of his inability to fit into society had been found. Prior to going to hospital, Harry obtained work at a Co-op furniture shop in Tolworth from September 1964 to January 1965 and took a job as a furniture salesman again, at Jays, Staines from February to March 1965.
As Whit was approaching, I was coming to the end of my planned indoor decorating tasks and getting mentally geared to tackle the outdoor painting challenge. On my first free Saturday morning, as I was staring at the ladder and then looking up at the apex, a grey-haired lady came hurrying across from the council estate on the other side of the road. She asked, "Could you use your ladder to get through my window, as I have locked myself out?" I was a coward to tell her that I was afraid of heights, and so replied, "Alright, I will have a go, which floor is it on?"
"Oh, I am on the third floor." I thought that I should be sick when she said this and turning to Andrew, who had just joined me, "Will you take this ladder across the road to this lady's flat?" As I held one end and led the way, with Andrew holding the other end, I noticed that we were getting slower as we approached my destination.
Being Saturday, children and residents were about, gathering around the base of the ladder, to watch this spectacular break-in. I received help from one tall youth in putting the ladder up against the wall. To my dismay, the ladder failed to reach the windowsill of the open window. This was a moment I dwelt on for some time, as to whether I could reach the horizontal frame with my hands to pull myself up and over the frame with the top half of my body motionless through the open window into the flat. Andrew was nudging me not to do it, but, for me there could be no turning back - what would everyone say? Step by step, looking upwards, I made my ascent, noticing that it had gone quiet down below.
This quietness was worrying me, for it suggested that this was a dangerous operation. Momentarily, I froze and looked down and saw the faces gazing with curiosity as to what was going to happen next. Looking upwards again, I plucked up the courage to climb a few more rungs of the ladder, when I realised that it was now that I must make a grab to hold the horizontal frame. As I made this grab, I stood on the last rung, and with great relief, I was able to hold it with one hand and then finally with both. This enabled me to feel safe and to lift my body onto the horizontal frame. Having completed this manoeuvre, my legs were now in free air, with my body balanced on this frame.
With the top half of my body inside the flat, it would be straightforward for me to slide onto the floor of the flat - so I thought. When trying this, I found that my body had got wedged on the frame, and no matter how I tried to release myself I could not get dislodged.
I could hear murmerings down below about fetching the fire brigade. I now tried to raise one leg over the window's horizontal frame, which I eventually succeeded in doing. With most of my anatomy inside the flat still resting on the frame, it was just a matter of letting go and praying for a safe landing. Once again my Guardian Angel had been watching over me, ensuring that I survived another day.
The next moment there was a knock on the door, and on opening it, this flat's resident said, "I found your break-in quite thrilling."
I replied, "This is the first time I have climbed this ladder."
"Oh, I thought you were a painter."
Andrew stood with her and said, "Dad, I was terrified you were not going to make it. It is a good job that Mum did not watch you." Next time I shall be honest with myself, and admit I am a coward, and refuse to attempt a rescue involving heights.
Whilst we were taking the ladder back, I thought that this fear of heights would not occur if I used this ladder to do the painting, since I had reached the top rung at the flat. This was not to be, for I sweated and froze many times before I finished painting the apex. Without doubt, I was never meant to be a fireman nor a wireman in the telecom industry. Just as well, for I should never have been accepted by the Institute of Chartered Engineers.
This august body, did in fact give me membership during this year, a sort of 50th year birthday present. My work became more involved with the section providing designs for models, load beams, and supporting equipment for the rotating beam at Upper Lodge with an occasional jolly to the AHBRE, Glen Fruin, Scotland.
I had achieved the top batsman, in the batting average for the second year running, since my return to the NPL 3rd XI cricket team. Bob Wilson, my hockey colleague was placed third in the averages and so he should, one might say, being twenty years my junior.
For making a good job of the church barbecue, I was landed with the chairman's job for the Christmas fair, to take place on Saturday, 27th November, 1965. The details of this event are shown in the parish circular, together with the schedule of events in the appendage. I was thanked again by letter by both the vicar and the PCC, for organising this event which raised £330.
A letter was received in May from a Miss N Rubeck, Social Worker, Advisory Casework Service for the National Association for Mental Health. The gist of this letter was concern from Harry's health and the stress that this illness brings upon the parents. This was the first time that anyone had expressed concern for Gladys or myself.
Eventually, Harry was discharged, after about six weeks, and was prescribed tranquillisers. A social worker visited us from Middlesex County Council, to discuss support for Harry and family. One item that was brought up was that Andrew could be affected by Harry's behaviour and consideration should be given to him being sent to a boarding school. He explained that the County provided financial support, where needed, if Andrew were sent to one of the boarding schools on their list.
Following this visit, his mother and I had a quiet talk to Andrew on this matter. We were pleased and also sad that he expressed a keenness to attend boarding school. On the lists of schools we could choose from were: Blue Coat; Merchant Taylors; Haberdashery; The Royal Merchant Navy. Accordingly, we sent a letter of application to the Local Education Authority inviting them to sponsor Andrew's boarding school education.
This was granted, and after a tour visiting a number of these schools, we chose the Royal Merchant Navy School, RMNS at Bearwood College in Berkshire. We were impressed with the splendid building in spacious grounds with playing fields and boating pond. The whole estate, which was surrounded by trees, many of which were rhododendrons in flower at the time we were there, once belonged to the owner of The Times, John Walters.
We finally obtained an interview with Mr Cunningham, the headmaster. After showing us around the College, we were invited into his study. My first words were not very tactful, especially as he sat at his desk, on a high backed chair, with a David Niven appearance, looking very pompous. My opening words were, "We have chosen your College from a list of approved schools". With this comment, he nearly fell off his throne, and when he recovered, he asked me to rephrase my remarks. I said I was sorry, I had chosen the wrong word, and that I should have said 'a list of schools for which the County provides financial support.' It was fortunate that I was sufficiently aware that the word 'approved' relates to a kind of remand centre for errant youths, to correct my error.
This faux pas did not upset the applecart, for Andrew was invited to join the College at the commencement of the full term in September. There were several times after Andrew had seen his future place of learning and living, that he asked if he could start sooner. Each time this happened, we were saddened that there should have been a need for this request.
During this time of waiting, Harry had several jobs, with Brooke Bond Tea, Colnbrook, Harrison Timber Merchant, Kingston, The AA Motor Association, Teddington. All these he got himself and all were jobs he could not cope with because of stress or that people were getting at him. The Minister of Labour, Kingston, informed Harry that a place had been reserved for him at the Rehabilitation Unit at Walden, Croydon, starting on the 9th March, 1966.
This is what he wrote about this training:
"I did a course there and did silk screen printing, but it only lasted a short while and I was fired. I think I was too slow, actually, and they left me with nothing. At the Training Centre they called me 'Wilberforce' and said, 'Go get 'em Wilberforce' when I chased after a woman;- they were a pretty rough lot, these and I was glad when I left."
My family was invited to stay with Joan, Gladys' youngest sister, and Mike at Beesil, Holland. When Mike qualified as a teacher, he later joined the Forces Education School overseas at RAF Bruggen base, Germany, close to Mönchen- Gladbach. Apart from Harry, the rest of the family had to obtain passports to make our first trip in peace time to the Continent.
We took a chance that all of us would be able to get away on Thursday 26th May, Whit week period and that my VW Beetle would not let us down. Being a German make I should have no difficulty in getting spares, should I require them.
Our journey, after arriving at Ostend from Dover, went through Belgium via Brussels, and into Holland, en route to Beesil, where we stayed at a large rented detached house with Joan's family. This was the first time we had met them since their wedding in 1956 and they had since added to the family Wendy, aged 7 and Bob, aged 5.
Joan, with her dimpled chin, taking after Jackie Kennedy, gave Gladys a hearty hug and a warm welcome to us all, as did Mike. He was very chubby compared to the last time we saw him and, as we found out, enjoyed himself. He was on an RAF service station, where they were able to share in the social life of the mess and in addition, being a Mason, he took an active part with the local residents in the activities of the Lodge.
The highlights of our stay were motoring to places of interest. Our visit to Cologne, where we saw its impressive Cathedral, damaged during the war, gave us a reminder of our own suffering, as did the visit to the war graves at Arnhem.
Our trip to Amsterdam, whilst of pleasure to witness the Dutch scenes, waterways and windmills, was very much a nightmare for driving. It appears that cyclists are equally as important as the motorist, having their own cycle tracks, both in and out of cities. Not only does the motorist have to drive on the right hand side of the road on the Continent, he must give way to traffic entering from side roads on his right, and this includes cyclists.
I think the flatness of the country gave the impression that there was something missing compared to our own country. For me, I shall remember most taking the wrong turning and doing a U-turn, going round an island the wrong way, just before a German motorcycle speed cop, wearing a white helmet appeared. He had allowed me time to recover my correct position on the road. We saw numerous speed cops all looking like midgets on their bikes with white helmets almost as big as themselves.
There was only one occasion when I had to reprimand my boys at the back of the car, for fighting over something, as boys will. I was pleased that Gladys saw her sister, and had time to chat about family matters.
We returned to England the same way as we departed, on the 3rd June, in time for Harry to start his new job on the following Monday, at Willments (Twickenham) Ltd, Ford Main Dealer. This was his twelfth job in three years, which proved that he had good presentation, but I was surprised that firms did not ask for references before taking him on.
When Harry reached driving age, he had lessons and passed his driving test first time. I gave him permission to use my VW Beetle car shortly after passing, to go to Hammersmith with a friend, about a job. On this trip, he had an accident with a motor scooter rider in Chiswick. He suffered from minor shock and was forbidden to use the car, except for emergency purposes.
He finally bought a Fort Consul convertible banger with financial help from a friend, Paul Dixon, who was in the car at the time of the accident. This banger had more rust on it than paint. It was never left outside the house, but in a side street, where our back entrance from the house opened onto this road. He was therefore now able to seek work outside the Teddington area.
He stayed at John Willments until the start of the new year, 1967, when he was admitted into Springfield Hospital again. This is an extract of writing about his experience at this firm:
started at John Willment in 1966 as a goods inward man and had a fork lift truck to
contend with. It was hectic and my
weight went down from 11 stones to 10 stones.
It was a Ford agent and all kinds of panels, nuts and bolts, and
engines came in. When the engines
arrived, the fork lift truck had to be used and it gushed pump fluid oil all over the
place, the wheels would start slipping and it was awful.
The driver said he would miss out this garage if I could not be
quicker and so I threatened to ring up his factory and that shut him up. The Manager put me on delivery of
parts with the van, I did it successfully.
Then he asked me to go to the bank for him, and I did that well
also. There was a lot of fighting
in the garage, they did not like long hair types and coloured people and queers. While I was there, I persuaded Dad to buy a
Triumph Herald convertible. It
was beautiful, sky blue, with a white hood and
it was immaculate and I really got a thrill driving it about."
"I started at John Willment in 1966 as a goods inward man and had a fork lift truck to contend with. It was hectic and my weight went down from 11 stones to 10 stones. It was a Ford agent and all kinds of panels, nuts and bolts, and engines came in. When the engines arrived, the fork lift truck had to be used and it gushed pump fluid oil all over the place, the wheels would start slipping and it was awful. The driver said he would miss out this garage if I could not be quicker and so I threatened to ring up his factory and that shut him up. The Manager put me on delivery of parts with the van, I did it successfully. Then he asked me to go to the bank for him, and I did that well also. There was a lot of fighting in the garage, they did not like long hair types and coloured people and queers. While I was there, I persuaded Dad to buy a Triumph Herald convertible. It was beautiful, sky blue, with a white hood and it was immaculate and I really got a thrill driving it about."
The money I gave him was from savings for him to start him off in a career of some kind. All I wanted to do now was to try and make his life happy!
Andrew, who was confirmed at St John's Church on 1st May, had a very satisfactory autumn report at Bearwood College, where he had joined his new boarding school in September. He was considered a most useful member of the rugby Under 14's XI. A good tackler. Here is a copy of his first letter home from boarding school:
"Dear Mum and Dad, I'm just writing to tell you how I'm getting on at my new school. The work is not too hard and I am doing French again. I've got used to their habits and nearly know my way around the school. I am in the under 14 rugby team, I played on Saturday and helped them lose. The Master has put us into hard training because the team has lost every game this season.
I hope all is well at home. Andrew. PS, the meals are good!"
It was the school's custom to discourage parents visiting their child during the first month of joining the school to enable the child to settle in their new environment. We were looking forward to our visit to Bearwood's prize giving day on Saturday 15th October. Fitting out Andrew's new clothing, dark grey trousers and fawn jacket as well as his sports gear, proved quite expensive, as did having to contribute a quarter of my disposable income for this boarding school education.
Gladys was, at this time, very low without Andrew, and with Harry and his difficult behavioural problem. She was very home oriented, apart from her afternoon's Kingston shopping excursions. Joking, I said, "Why not get a part- time job at Bentalls, where you could get paid while helping at the shop and seeing the best bargains at the stores as soon as they appear."
She replied, "Yes, I would like to do that, and I know they are wanting part- timers. I will visit them tomorrow, but you will not have any of my wages if I do get work there."
I smiled, "It is all right, for you will be able to buy the week's groceries from there with the money that you earn." Gladys got a job as a part-timer, helping in any department that might be short of staff. It proved to be the greatest uplift that she could have. Each day, she had a fresh story to tell, either about the customer or about the staff. Her favourite department was the chemist shop, where she would name staff who were having an illicit affair and who had called in to collect preventatives, before going away at the weekend.
I was able to pick her up each night, which was essential at the weekends, having purchased the week's supply of groceries at the discount price allowed to the staff. Due to her mobile role, of filling in the various departments, she became very knowledgeable on Bentall's goods and she herself became well-known by the staff.
Bentalls took an active part in the life of Kingston. They kind of hosted the Kingston annual carnival and it was traditional for Mr Bentall to stand on the store's balcony and wave to the procession of tableaux passing by below. With Gladys a member of Bentall's staff, I was able to join their bridge section of the Bentall's sports and social club. This brought me in direct contact with Bentall's top brass, including Mr and Mrs Bentall. In playing bridge with their controllers, I heard what was new taking place with stores, as I did when their famous Tudor Restaurant was to be replaced by a fast moving cafeteria service.
My hockey friend's wife, Anna, lost her baby and suffered depression. Gladys managed to persuade Anna to join her at Bentalls and in doing so, she made a recovery. I learned from Anna that Gladys regarded this store as hers, and would wander all over the store from time to time.
She made quite sure that she wore a new outfit and board brimmed hat for our attendance at Bearwood School's speech day. It was a very emotional moment meeting Andrew, whom we had not seen for nearly two months, and to see him with his smile, looking well. There was a mass of colour, with all mothers doing their own thing, dressing up to make an impression on their sons and the school staff. After prizes had been presented in the morning, to those who attended the previous year, we wondered onto the lawn, where staff and pupils with their parents intermingled.
To my surprise, Andrew asked us if we would like to be introduced to his Housemaster, Mr Russell. When I was at school, I was scared stiff of my teachers and would not have dreamed of asking my parents to speak to them. This invitation impressed me, for I noted that Andrew had an air of confidence about him already, as a result of his schooling here.
Each boy belonged to a house, Andrew belonged to 'Frobisher'. All houses put on a play or musical piece at these assemblies to compete for the house prize. Andrew's house sang extracts from the Sound of Music, coming 2nd in the competition.
One felt happy that Andrew was going to do well and that the school would bring out the best in him. Out of Harry's disability, my other son was rewarded with a first class education; it is an unfair world and is beyond understanding, especially when people are born with a disability, be it blindness, deafness or even both in some cases.
In the sporting world, the year 1966 will not be forgotten by English soccer fans, for it was the year we won the football World Cup. I too, did well at cricket in my 51st year, by scoring 71 runs in one innings and achieving the highest batting average for the third XI team. I was regarded as a promising hockey player still, with lots of potential!
I received a very appreciative letter from my vicar, Rev A C Bowell, for a fund-raising event, for which I was a presenter at a concert, where some local artiste took part. As I have never appeared on the stage, facing an audience with the object of building up their interest, I felt I had the opposite effect. However, the leading artiste, Mrs Wade, a soprano singer, did thank me afterwards for my kind introductory remarks, which eased my mind a little.
Earlier in the year, I had landed the Chairman's job of the Friends of St John Committee. The object of this committee was to raise funds for the church by inducing parishioners to take out covenants in favour of their church, this enabled any income tax paid on the sum covenanted to be reclaimed and added to the sum donated. In this activity, going round houses along Lower Teddington Road, I could have been mistaken for an insurance agent. I was able to report to the PCC in December, that this committee's endeavours had increased St John's annual income by a further £500 annually.
In the PCC, there were a number of interesting characters. The vicar's warden, Group Captain Brouson, was always in opposition to the vicar, and should have been the people's warden, but that would have meant a loss of rank. The treasurer, Mr Herdman, was the equivalent of our Foreign Minister, Douglas Hurd, both for appearance and mannerism. Mr May, the future secretary, a very smartly dressed executive type, travelled to the City daily and was in charge of engineering services at the Savoy Hotel, so I was told. A local property owner, Jack Offer, a tall thin gentleman, disappeared each year when the Henley Regatta was being held and took part in an official capacity. I suppose Ted Edwards was the one with whom I was most comfortable, being an ex-serviceman and down to working man's level.
I had invitations to the Sunday mornings get-together for drinks after the Church service at Mr May's riverside dwelling, which I attended once, but I felt I did not have the right accent for this social circle. I could not see Gladys trying to act the lady, she was not a pretentious person.
It seemed to me that half the PCC time was taken up discussing financial matters, of which the Church Hall was a continual drain on their finances. Also looming ahead, was the question of rebuilding the church in the vicarage grounds, due to a new road scheme, which would virtually leave the church on an island.
Again, looming ahead, was the fact that my name had been put forward as Deputy Vicar's Church Warden. This was a post that did not have automatic succession, nor was it recognised in the church's hierarchy. In other words, it was to be the vicar's warden's dogsbody. I did not seek further involvement in the activities of the church and I acted out this role, primarily due to my home situation.
After Harry's brief spell at Springfield Hospital, he had three jobs, before returning again three months later. He did a week at Elm Garden Nurseries, Claygate, several weeks at the Ministry of Social Security, Hounslow, as a clerk, and at West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, again as a general clerk. None of these jobs he was able to cope with and he finally returned to Springfield Hospital at Tooting.
As parents, we seemed to get very little help to know how to care for Harry. They prescribed tranquillisers for Harry to take when he felt he was having a turn, such as seeing things that were not there. He had a further three weeks in Springfield and left as before, with no guidance about rehabilitation before starting work.
During the next three months he had four jobs. At each of these places of work, he obtained employment on his own. Here are the comments he wrote about one of these jobs:
"At Bells Garage in Kingston, I was very good at the job, and was capable of working on the pumps and working out the change. It was £'s shillings and pence in those days. I tried to chat up a wench that worked in the office, and made a fool of myself. The manager started to take the mickey and called me a 'spastic', and generally being horrible."
After this job, he found work at the Royal Trust House Hotel, Slough, and also did another job at Peaslake Trust Hotel. This was the beginning of his leaving home from time to time. It was no surprise when he took it in his head to tell us he was going to Scotland to see a penfriend in his Triumph Herald one weekend.
Harry left on Monday, 14th August and it was not until we had a call from Edgware Hospital, that we knew where he was. It transpires, he did reach Scotland, without seeing his penfriend, and on returning, due to taking tranquillisers, fell asleep in a lay-by at night on the outskirts of Edgware. The police woke him up and after being questioned and the car inspected, the police took him to hospital, where he stayed the night. Next morning, after the effects of the drugs had worn off, the police returned him to the car with some kind of warning and instructions to change one of his tyres. When he returned home, on Friday 18th August, he described his adventure to us.
We took him to the doctors and arrangements were made for him to enter Longrove Hospital, Epsom. He was there for several months. An outcome of this affair, was that Harry was advised not to drive until he was off sedatives. With him not stable enough to keep a job, it was inevitable that he could not afford the expense of a car and would have to sell it.
He used his 'pride and joy' to escape from his local surroundings and lose himself in another world. He gave his mother lifts in the car to go to work and knew that she, too, was escaping from her cares for a few hours. The Triumph Herald was advertised and sold through the Exchange and Mart. Although Gladys missed these lifts when they took place, it was a relief to know he would not now be a danger to himself or the public, as a result of driving the Triumph.
My Austrian colleague, Steven, was a guest of honour at a retirement dinner, prior to his departure from ARL. This was held at the Griffin Hotel, Kingston and took place during the recognised one-hour dinner period. There were eighteen draughtsmen present, who attended and paid tribute to Steven for the standard of his spoken English and knowledge of the English language. I had organised this event and was pleased that the hotel staff did produce a first class meal in the allotted one hour period.
This event appeared in the ARL news, with reference to the network planning adopted by the hotel staff to serve this meal in the one hour flat. Steven and his wife retired to Hove, leaving their mark of being prouder to be English than perhaps some of us born here. He was always stressing, that we had been free of oppression for centuries and had no idea what is was like to have freedom taken away. We visited them many times at Hove, where they had found some good neighbours. Steven gave me several momentoes, including a Zeiss camera.
One reason that it was important that we should not abuse our dinner hour, was that the Defence Minister, Denis Healy, together with Chief Scientist (RN), Mr B Lythall, were visiting ARL at around this period. Members of the scientific staff were very impressed with the Defence Minister's visit. He gave many searching questions to the Director and 'G' group leader, whilst visiting the whirling 50 foot rotating arm facility at Upper Lodge.
Another important visitor, Vice Chairman of the Defence Board, Ottawa, Dr, L L Heureaux was given a tour of the establishment, perhaps he was pleased with the results of the study that was carried out on the Briar Dior, Canadian Hydrofoil Vessel by ARL.
For some reason, the cricket results for NPL did not come to hand, I can only assume some of us did badly. However, in the Bowls - Stanton NPL Trophy results did get printed and came to hand with ARL the winners. Two rinks took part, that is, four persons bowled in per rink, for which I was the lead for one of the teams. This was another sport where I was gradually being drawn in to represent ARL.
The children's party committee at ARL held two dances in the Glazebrook Hall, NPL, to raise funds. These were well-attended by something like 400 people. Gladys and I met our friends there, including Bob and Anna, Tony and Joan, and the others. Drinks were consumed, of a limited nature, with the wives being present and of course cars were being used, not bikes!
It was a splendid sight to see the children at their Christmas party in Glazebrook Hall being entertained and fed in this spacious hall, which was formerly a wind tunnel for testing large structures.
Andrew, who was home for Christmas, had a lot to tell us about Bearwood. He had lost some of his shyness and when he described the daily routine, he conveyed a feeling that he enjoyed the boarding school life. Here was his daily schedule:
7.30 out of bed, 8.00 breakfast, 8.30 chapel, 9.00 to 12.15 periods 1st to 5th, 1.00 lunch, 2.00 tutor time, 2.25 6th to 7th periods, with no periods on Wednesday afternoons. Games onwards after 3.45 each week day. On Saturdays, when not taking part in school matches, he told us they were encouraged to join the various clubs and activities. He had joined the chess club, mathematical workshop, and tennis for beginners. I smiled when he was telling me, for he had already drawn my attention to the remark in his report that he was an outstanding rugby forward and now he is taking up tennis.
There has been no mention of soccer or cricket, even though he became our scorer at NPL the year before he left for boarding school. He certainly does not intend to do things because his Dad did them. You could say that was true of me, for I never took up my father's calling, music. His reports from school indicated that he was not an academic on the classical subjects, but did have a strong leaning on the mathematical side. It was very noticeable, when he spoke of his learning, it was always with reference to his maths. The comments in his autumn report for 1967 did not hide his low ability with C's and D's in most subjects. I think this was to push him well in time before his GCE examinations.
He told us the boys during their free time, were encouraged to do community work in the village of Sindlesham, provided that the college were made aware of the address where this was being done. I was most impressed with the school's balance of discipline and freedom the boys were given by the headmaster, Mr Cunningham.
Each boy was given a new brochure on Bearwood College, giving the history of the RMNS and Bearwood Mansion House and Estate. Here is an extract:-
"A public meeting at the City of London Tavern did honour to Lord Nelson; that the National Lifeboat Service was started. It was here that the Merchant's Seamen's Orphans' Asylum was instituted with Lieutenant General Neville RA in the chair."
Strange it should have been an army man when there were four Admirals as Vice-Presidents. This took place in 1827, with its objects to look after the children of deceased seamen in the Merchant Navy.
They had to be seven years of age and were looked after until they were fourteen. The Institute sought to rescue them from vice and profligacy; to inculcate in them tenents of the Church of England, and ultimately to place them in suitable positions. The lease of their premises at Bow Street ran out. A new school was built. The foundation stone was laid by the Prince Consort, this being his last public engagement before he died.
In 1862, Earl Russell opened this new school building at Snaresbrook, catering for 120 boys and girls. By 1890, the school, in addition to its main subjects, had adopted mechanical drawing, French and shorthand for boys, and for girls, drawing and typewriting.
An officer type uniform, with a cut back jacket was worn by the boys, and for the girls, an ankle-length slim woollen navy skirt, tight long-sleeved jacket, with a pastel bow at the neck and a straw hat with a ribbon.
In 1902, King Edward VII granted the school the attribute of 'Royal' and the opportunity was taken for the school to be known as the Royal Merchant Navy School. Soon after this renaming, due to a combination of increased numbers and the school building requiring a major reconstruction, new premises were needed.
Eventually in 1919, Sir Thomas Devitt, Bart and Sir Alfred Yarrow bought the estate at Bearwood, some 500 acres in Berkshire, and offered it to the Institution. Bearwood had been the seat of the Walter family, which owned The Times newspaper.
During the early period, there was much marching on the playing fields, to the dining hall and back, up to bed and down again to breakfast. In 1955 to 1959, there was a falling-off of numbers and the girls were siphoned off to the junior school at Bexhill from Bearwood.
With Mr Cunningham's appointment in 1963, the school took on a new image, with the help of new grants. This enabled the school to up-date facilities and provided five married quarters and eleven masters' flats, adjoining their houses in the main premises. These improvements attracted staff of the required standard, both for the classroom and the playing fields. The school had noticed a higher level of attainment than hitherto, up to sixth form standard.
During Christmas leave, Andrew made contact with his former Crusader friends. His mother was now experiencing the 'going away' with Andrew, as she did with me for so many years. I suppose one has to come to terms with this happening, if, in the end, it is for the best!
We received a letter from Dr Collie, an Assistant Psychiatrist at West Middlesex Hospital after Harry had been discharged from Longrove Hospital, Epsom. Here it is:
"Dear Mr Rayment,
Thank you for your letter about Harry, whom I saw on 18.1.68. In spite of his brief admission to Longrove
Hospital, he seemed to be better and was more cheerful than the last time I visited him. I have encouraged him to stick at his job,
in spite of being bored with it, until he has the confidence to do something more
satisfying. I would also like him to
make more social contacts, but I know this is one of his difficulties. I will see him again in six weeks'
time. Yours sincerely, pp I F Collie,
"Dear Mr Rayment, Thank you for your letter about Harry, whom I saw on 18.1.68. In spite of his brief admission to Longrove Hospital, he seemed to be better and was more cheerful than the last time I visited him. I have encouraged him to stick at his job, in spite of being bored with it, until he has the confidence to do something more satisfying. I would also like him to make more social contacts, but I know this is one of his difficulties. I will see him again in six weeks' time. Yours sincerely, pp I F Collie, Assistant Psychiatrist."
Harry obtained a job almost immediately after his discharge at Best and Partridge, Hampton. This he finished on 2nd February, 1968. Here is his account of this job:
"At Best and Partridge, Hampton, the work was hard
and the wages were low. The old
fogies there would not talk to me and the drugs I was on affected my vision."
"At Best and Partridge, Hampton, the work was hard and the wages were low. The old fogies there would not talk to me and the drugs I was on affected my vision."
Within a matter of days he had obtained a post at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Here, he held onto his job for a period of around four months, so there had been some improvement in his stability.
I attended a short course in my own time at Kingston Technical College. This was on network planning, a management tool used on major projects. This technique was first used on the Polaris submarine, built in America. The basis of this system is that a length of a line represents time. Should two items, A and B, be required for a sub-assembly, C, and item A takes twice the time to make, compared to B, this would appear on a chart with one line twice the length of the other. To remove the slack on B, the resources would have to be drafted to reduce A's time by half. The alternative to this, if there was no urgency to start sub-assembly C, then effort used on B would be available elsewhere.
This presentation is a method of providing pre-production information when dates are added to the start and finish of the line for those engaged on the project. It is a visual network picture, similar to a railway network of routes.
I was informed that I was to attend Salford University, with the Deputy Group Leader and two senior draughtsmen, Doug Snelling and Tom Abercrombie. This was a four-day course on the use of computers in engineering design. For me, this was a nostalgic experience, being located adjacent to Manchester, where I started my working life in the basement of one of its warehouses.
It came as a surprise that Salford University should be staging this course with Manchester University next door, renowned for its excellence in management and computer studies. Although computer aided design, CAD, was in its infancy generally at this time, there were big strides being made in the car industry, where shapes were programmed and the same basic data used for drawings and computer controlled workshop machines.
In research establishments generally dealing with single prototypes, it is not economical to employ extensive computer programmed equipment, compared to the car industry producing large numbers from one set of programmes. However, there was some scope at ARL, in the production of propeller blades and propulsion tail units for torpedoes.
On his return, Mr Scovell, the deputy group leader, set up a small section in the drawing office, to specialise in this field and in computer controlled equipment, where purchased.
I submitted a report on the information gained on this course to the drawing office manager, Fred Baker.
The G Group leader, Mr F S Burt, retired and a standard retirement presentation in room 201 took place at 4.30 pm. Present were my usual colleagues, Tony, Gordon, Stan and Bob. For Tony, it was his usual unsafe journey on his bike, having taken his share of liquid refreshments. On these occasions, I left my transport at home.
My flat colleague at Wimbledon, Alex Mitchell, straight from Oxbridge when I first joined ARL, became the new G Group leader. They say that like attracts like, and I believe this to be true in the academic world, a sort of 'boys' network'.
I was fairly close to Derek Hilbourne, for whom I had worked on the Canadian hydrofoil project. We arrived to discuss a new assignment and first referred to the shouting match he had just had with his new leader. A comment was made about 'not going to the right school'.
Our next door neighbours, the Stambridges, had a holiday cottage at Exbourne, Devon, which we could rent should we so require. It had not been possible to arrange our holidays, due to the uncertainty of where and what condition Harry would be in. With him having the sack at the Agriculture Office, for being too slow, he was out of work with nothing in the pipeline. We decided to make a booking for the summer holidays, when Andrew would be at home.
When we arrived at this quiet village with thatched cottages and got out of the Beetle at our lonely cottage, Harry's first words were, "Oh this is ideal, it is deafeningly quiet." Our routine each day was for Gladys to visit Oakhampton to do her shopping and explore the town. On our return, we would make up a picnic lunch to take with us to the beach, about 15 miles away near Bude.
At night I would challenge the lads at chess, when not going for short walks. Harry occasionally drove the car to the village shop. I think the change of scenery and routine did us all good, particularly as we were all together, for a change. The weather had also been kind, with no rain during our stay.
Shortly after Andrew's return to school, we received an interesting letter. Here is an extract from it-
"Dear Mum and Dad, The school have adopted a cafeteria service in the dining room. This disorganised method is a good system, because we get a lot of food. All the boys with big stomachs push up in front of the queue. We land near the end of the line. By the time we have finished, seconds and thirds have been served. Lots of love, Andrew."
I thought this was a good letter
on two counts. He is getting plenty of
food with the new system, despite being at the back of the queue. The other reason was the sense of humour he
showed in his writing.
I thought this was a good letter on two counts. He is getting plenty of food with the new system, despite being at the back of the queue. The other reason was the sense of humour he showed in his writing.
About this time, we received a letter from Harry, who told us he was leaving for Clacton-on-Sea when he left home a few days ago:
"Dear Mum and Dad, Having a lovely terrible time down here, the place is what you expected it to be, but it is interesting - running out of money. Love, Harry."
Again, this was a good message on two counts. We felt that he would soon appear home after he had used his stress escape mechanism by going off. The other reason was that he showed a trace of humour in his contradictory remarks. He had never got himself into trouble where I had had to rescue him, nevertheless, we were concerned whether he would have enough money to get home.
On his arrival, his mother said, "Now you have had your fling, tomorrow you can take yourself off to Bentalls. They require help in the Despatch Department." This he did, and stayed there for the rest of the year.
I was now in my fourth year of hockey and had established myself as the right back in NPL's fifth XI team, with Bob Wilson as left back. I had a good sense of positioning myself, as I had in football.
At the cricket AGM, I had been inveigled into constructing covers for the cricket pitch to protect it during matches where there is heavy rain stopping the match. This came about when a member of ARL said he knew where there was redundant material in the bulk stores, which could be used.
As stated before, I have difficulty in saying, 'no' and landed myself a moonlight job in transferring this material from ARL over the wall into another government department, NPL. Those covers, with wheels, were about ten feet long and six feet wide and fitted with drainpipes to the gutters, taking the water away from the wicket pitch. I was pleased to finish this job before the 1969 season started. It was getting time for me to take it easy, but I find life's too short for that.
I have regularly attended the Parish Church Council, PCC, meeting of St John's. The vicar and the treasurer have taken the majority of the council's time in discussing: (a) the proposals for rebuilding a new church and hall in the vicarage grounds; (b) the increasing debt of the church and the measures to be taken to remedy the situation. The treasurer, in his brief, did mention the increased income from £500 to £1,000 per year, during the last three years, from the covenants donated, arising out of the efforts of the Friends of St John's. This was one of the groups I had been landed with since joining this church. Whenever I pass a church, I give a thought for the vicar and the treasurer, who are usually faced with increasing repair costs and who have a diminishing congregation to contribute towards these repair bills.
The new church proposals, which the architect had submitted, did not cater for the numbers that the present church could hold. The vicar thought that this could hold up progress, since the Bishop had to give his approval. The land adjoining would have to be bought if the church buildings were made to cater for this number, between 300 and 400.
The vicar pointed out that there were many obstacles that would have to be overcome, such as meeting the local planning regulations, particularly as regards car parking space requirements. This scheme, of using the vicarage land, where there is no adjacent car parking space in the Vicarage Road, cast a continuing doubt as to the feasibility of the proposals. What had put some urgency into this matter, was that an anonymous parishioner had offered to pay for the new proposals of building a new church and hall. Although this donor was not named, I would have put money on Jack Offer, the Henley boat man and local property owner.
The vicar, as chairman, called on the treasurer to make enquiries regarding the ownership of the land adjacent to the vicarage, and whether it could be purchased, and at what price. This uncertainty about the church's future was having a slowing down in the interest of on-going activities such as my Friends of St John's summer and Christmas fetes.
My boss, Fred Baker, informed me that I was to attend a two day Admiralty interviewing course. From time to time, senior members of the drawing office were called upon to become interviewing board members, when recruiting technical staff for Admiralty drawing offices.
This, I attended with others, from various establishments, including one from underwater weapons at Portland. The course director informed us that all those chosen for interview had the required technical qualifications. Our role on the board was to identify the candidates with the most potential, and who could cope under pressure. In general, questions should be based on the answers given to previous questions, unless there was a need to explore some relevant subject not touched upon. We carried out mock boards, one in which I was to be the nasty, a sort of Sergeant Barlow from the 'Z-cars' TV programme. Our candidates were volunteers from a local establishment, who acted as our guinea pigs. All these sessions were recorded and played back for comments.
When my candidate was asked why he should be selected in preference to all the others, he replied, "I have outstanding HNC markings."
I then asked him, "How do you know that the other candidates have not got better markings than yourself?"
He smiled, and said, "If they have, then you must be spoilt for choice." This brought smiles from the rest of the board. This was the start of the interviews, others took over later.
The course director played back the tape and made comments about each board member. Regarding myself, he mentioned that I looked a 'Barlow' type, and sounded like him on the tape. He thought this guinea pig kept his cool, when replying to my question.
Andrew joined a school party to travel to Switzerland with their house master during the half term. According to the postcard we received, most were suffering from ankle sprains from tumbles, whilst learning to ski. Before he left to go on this exciting holiday, he had been informed that his name was going forward for a training on the Malcolm Miller Schooner, subject to his wishes and parents' approval. He may have been sliding about on the slopes in Switzerland, but here at his school, he had certainly landed on his feet!
We had a double set-back at the beginning of the new year, 1969. Harry had again failed to keep his job at Bentalls and our investments, little as they were, but still very precious to me, were entrusted with a financial company that had gone into receivership.
Both Gladys and I were thrifty in the sense that if there was something we wanted, but could not afford, we did without. Only the mortgage of the house left us with an outstanding debt. Any surplus money that I had went straight into Davies Investment Company at Wimbledon, who advertised in the Daily Telegraph, quoting higher interest rates than the building societies. I had invested around £5,000 at the time I read in the paper that the receivers had been brought into this company.
Gladys was, naturally, very upset, and said that I had no right to trust an unknown investment firm. The following weekend, when having a drink after the hockey match, with Gladys and the Wilsons, Anna said to me, "Gladys has told me that you need your head looking into. Is it right that you have lost several thousands of pounds?"
I replied, "No, that is not completely true, the receivers are hoping to recover most of the money invested." This was my first experience of putting money into investment with a higher interest rate than the norm, without taking into account the risk involved. This would be the last time I lost my hard-earned money in this way, I should keep to Government savings in the future!
I attended a meeting at the Connaught Rooms in London, where the receiver addressed the creditors of this company, in the presence of Mr Davies, promising to recover as much money as possible. After explaining that the banks had not given him enough time to take advantage of his investments, the creditors subjected Mr Davies to a barrage of questions. A few days later, his suicide was reported in the papers. He left a widow and a family. I would have preferred to have surrendered all my capital, if it had meant a saving of his life. My lesson had been learned, not only because of the loss of money, but also because of the wrath that followed from Gladys.
Harry's job at Bentalls, that finished at the end of February 1969, had only been a temporary one. Here is an extract of his experience whilst working at this store, which he wrote later:
"Bentalls is a flourishing departmental store in
Kingston and I worked there over Christmas 1968.
"Bentalls is a flourishing departmental store in Kingston and I worked there over Christmas 1968.
I went into the staff office and tried to get a position there as a salesman, but the Personnel Officer saw my employment record. He wanted to know if I had ever had trouble with my nerves and I said, yes. He commented that I would have to go behind the scenes as a Porter.
When I first started, the under-buyer, by the name of Light Howler, insulted me in front of the other porters, and from then on they made themselves bad workers.
There was a fantastic variety of toys in the toy department. Most of the porters were hippy types, and the wages were so low that they went to the Personnel Officer and complained about it, but nothing came of it.
They had two Father Christmases in the grotto and some fairies behind the scenes. The crowds were fantastic on a Saturday. Mrs Bentalls was an alcoholic and she was often seen around Kingston in her Rolls Royce, the chauffeur was not allowed to stop near an off-licence or a pub, otherwise he would be fired if she got out and had a drink.
My mother worked at the dispensary and got a good name there."
This was followed with a month's unemployment. He then found himself a garden labourer's job at Squires Garden Centre. This lasted one week, because he had driven over two lawns. Here is what he wrote later about this escapade:
"I was a garden labourer and went out with the lorry, with all the lawn mowers and the men. The lorry driver was a dope, and just watched as we unloaded the mowers. We went all over Richmond. This young lad told me that he had been in an iron lung till recently and that he could not read or write. So I asked him if I could teach him to write. In the Daily Telegraph magazine, it had about a war hero, that put out a fire in the wing of his plane. I told the rest of the men that it was his father. The foreman gave me the sack for embarrassing the boy."
Andrew and I attended St John's Church on Easter Sunday morning. After the service, he met the vicar and the choir master, Mr Batty, with several of the ex- choir boys. Andrew was keen to tell them of the sailing cruise he had been sponsored by Bearwood School. When asked if he would not be scared of going up the Malcolm Miller schooner rope ladders, he replied, with a smile, turning round to me, "Yes, but I will make certain that my feet are always on the rungs of the rope ladder, and not have my feet in the air, like my Dad, when going through the window of a third storey flat."
When we arrived home after church, I thought we had another repeat of an Easter domestic upset. "Go upstairs, quickly. Harry has taken another overdose of valium." Gladys was unharmed but very distressed, as she shouted to me. I rushed upstairs where Harry was lying on his bed, semi-conscious, with his eyes rolling. I immediately sent for the ambulance, which took him to the casualty ward of the local hospital.
He was discharged after a few days, and warned that he would be sent to Springfield Hospital, if he continued to be a danger to himself. A social worker visited us to give support in dealing with Harry's depressed state. Mr Ferron promised to find something that Harry could cope with.
On the 12th April, Andrew arrived at Weymouth to start his two weeks sail on the Malcolm Miller. In his kit bag, he took with him was all the clothing specified
for the trip, including two pairs of plimsolls. These were not to be smooth, "it is very DANGEROUS", quoting from his instructions. Here is an extract from the joining instruction booklet, issued by The Sail Training Association Schooners.
1. To provide young men with an outlet for their spirit of adventure and an opportunity to develop a sense of responsibility, self-reliance and, above all, an ability to work as a team, which will help them throughout their lives.
2. To achieve this aim, the Training Association has built the schooners. This has been made possible from subscriptions from the public and generosity of British firms, who have contributed a large amount of equipment.
The Schooners are of 300 tons Thames measurement, 135 ft long, have a beam of 25 ft and a draught of 15 ft, 6 ins. They are rigged as three masted schooners, with a Bermudan mizzen and gaff sails, and top sails on the fore and main; in addition, there are square sails on the foremast, the top of the main mast is 98ft above the deck.
In each permanent crew there is a master, a chief officer, a bosun, an engineer, a chef. In addition, there are three experienced watch officers, three watch leaders and 39 trainee crew on a training cruise.
Everyone will take their turn at steering, sail handling, helping in the galley and keeping the ship clean and tidy. In addition, instructions will be given in chart work and the use of navigational equipment on board."
Their cruise, No. 18, took them from Weymouth to Dieppe on the 16th, where they had a few hours ashore to buy souvenirs. The cruise then took them back to Plymouth, England, taking a zig zag course against the prevailing SW winds, arriving on the 22nd. After staying a few hours, the schooner sailed for St Peter Port, Channel Islands, and thence home, to Portsmouth, by the 26th April.
Andrew, who was now 16 years of age, had appeared to have suddenly shot up in height, after this seagoing experience. He told us, including Harry, that the most exciting period was when the set sail the first day in gale force winds. The waves were so high that the bow of the ship dipped in the raging sea. Sometimes, he was required to go along the bowsprit to adjust the foresail, and he had to hold onto guide ropes, as the waves came over the bows. He said he enjoyed the sail work on the main sails, and taking over the steering.
Below deck, when off duty watch, they were told seafaring tales by the members of the crew, and Andrew heard enough to put him off joining the Royal Navy. One of the crew, on loan from the Royal Navy, gave an account of the seafaring training he received.
The boy cadets were required to rise at 5.30 each morning, take a shower by 6.00 and then climb the top mast and over and down before breakfast. They were not allowed to wear anything on their feet, apart from when they attended Church Parade on Sunday mornings.
After the completion of this training cruise, a report was submitted on each trainee to the sponsor and the parents. Here is Andrew's:
"A quiet boy, but efficient, who carries out his
task with flair and common sense. As the youngest in our team, he nevertheless took his
full share of all the work and has shown that team spirit and keenness are his outstanding
"A quiet boy, but efficient, who carries out his task with flair and common sense. As the youngest in our team, he nevertheless took his full share of all the work and has shown that team spirit and keenness are his outstanding points.
Signed by the Watch Officer and the Master."
I am sure that Andrew had every right to be pleased with the report, his parents were. We were never given a reason why Andrew had been singled out for this sponsored training cruise by his school. Some say it is the star under which you are born that counts. May this be true for the rest of his life, after all, I have had an Angel watching over me!
This has not been a good year for cricket results, for myself or for ARL. We failed to win the Stanton NPL Trophy, and I only came third in the batting averages, age was obviously showing. Still, I could not be so bad for 54 years of age, for I did score half a century not out.
At St John's PCC meeting held on Tuesday, 9th September 1969, the vicar announced that a new priest-in-charge had been appointed by the bishop, to take over on his retirement. This came as a surprise to most Council members. The vicar told those present that he was most impressed with the new incumbent, whom he had met on two occasions. He would make arrangements for the council to meet him before taking over on 12th October. As this was the vicar's last meeting, Mr Courtney, on behalf of the Council, expressed their thanks to the vicar for his wise guidance when steering the parish through all the things that had happened to it, during the past ten years.
On the matter of the proposed new church, the vicar told us that the bishop was still dealing with the proposals. He had made it known that there would be no question of amalgamation of churches. The parishioner who offered to pay for the proposed new church and hall had clarified this as being a free loan.
The sale of the present hall had met a hitch, due to objections on the part of the adjacent Heron House Residents' Association's Restrictive Covenant. The question of the disposal of equipment from the hall had yet to be resolved, should the hitch be overcome. The inventory of the equipment had been prepared by the treasurer, this included the Bechstein piano.
Nothing stays the same, and so by the time we held our next meeting, a new leader would be seated in the chair. Rev. Bowell was missed in many ways by me, although straight laced, he was most sincere, very knowledgeable on the Bible and ecclesiastical matters.
With the hockey season upon us, I took up stations as right back again in the NPL fifth XI team. There was a shortage of players at this lowest level, and therefore my position was not in danger. The home matches provided an opportunity for the Wilsons and the Rayments to socialise after the game. Bob had been transferred to the Ministry of the Environment, London, but continued to keep his membership of the NPL Sports Club. This he did, until they moved to Widley, Surrey.
ARL Children's Party Committee held a Christmas dance in the Glazebrook Hall, where the Johnsons, Newcombes, Fields, Wilsons and Rayments joined together in each others' company and had a jolly time. Tony had to watch his drinking, they had arrived by car. This was the second dance arranged by this Committee in response to popular request. Attendances were in the order of 400, with the proceeds going to the Christmas children's party, now held annually in the hall.
Sadly, since Harry's overdose incident at Easter, his instability had remained, but he had maintained his ability to obtain work. After a spell of unemployment, he obtained a buyer's assistant post with the chemical manufacturers, Parks Davis, Staines Road, Hounslow. Here is an account of his work he wrote later:
"I worked as a buying assistant, and for the life
of me could not do the job. They had all
kinds of pills for animals and people. It
was difficult to get there and I had to change on the tube at that time. I felt very self-conscious about my hair and
put sticky tape over my forehead, and when I took it off, it looked quite horrible.
"I worked as a buying assistant, and for the life of me could not do the job. They had all kinds of pills for animals and people. It was difficult to get there and I had to change on the tube at that time. I felt very self-conscious about my hair and put sticky tape over my forehead, and when I took it off, it looked quite horrible.
It was a lovely factory, and they had a research laboratory. In the end they gave me typing, because I was not capable of doing anything else. I got a job at Richmond Park's depot through the mental health social worker, Mr Ferron."
He stayed at this job for a month and finished on the 20th June. Harry left home on the following Monday, but would not tell us where he was going. Later that day, we received a telephone call, and he told us he was staying at the Grange Hotel, Salisbury. Next day, he returned and told us about a hungry man whom he had helped by dialling 999.
It was not long before he had obtained work at the Times Furniture Stores, Fife Road, Kingston. Here is the version of this job he wrote about years later:
"It was no good. I was bullied by the workers and given all the rotten jobs. The driver was an evil creature with a hunch back, and he kept saying every time an invalid carriage got in the way, "Get out of the way you Spastic", and it got on my brain, so read what happened at Kenning Car Hire firm."
In the foregoing, he referred to
his next job, a car hire firm at Kew's roundabout, Kew.
This was obtained at the beginning of October, and lasted through to
the end of February 1970. Here is
another account of what took place while he was there, which Harry wrote later:
In the foregoing, he referred to his next job, a car hire firm at Kew's roundabout, Kew. This was obtained at the beginning of October, and lasted through to the end of February 1970. Here is another account of what took place while he was there, which Harry wrote later:
"I got a cushy little number at Kenning Car Hire
with Mr Wills. The previous
driver-cum-receptionist was a driver with Pioneer Buses.
We hired out minis, Morrises, 1100's, MGB's, Triumphs, and chauffeur
driven limousines. I went to see a lady at a
luxury block of flats. I saw the advert
for it in the shop window. She
reluctantly came to the room with me and pointed to the geyser. She showed me how to work it by putting 4
old pennies in it, and the fire place was lit as well.
"I got a cushy little number at Kenning Car Hire with Mr Wills. The previous driver-cum-receptionist was a driver with Pioneer Buses. We hired out minis, Morrises, 1100's, MGB's, Triumphs, and chauffeur driven limousines. I went to see a lady at a luxury block of flats. I saw the advert for it in the shop window. She reluctantly came to the room with me and pointed to the geyser. She showed me how to work it by putting 4 old pennies in it, and the fire place was lit as well.
I started reading the Bible one evening, the Old Testament, about Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. I was deeply upset by it, so I thought I would take it out of the statue in the undertaker's window the following day. This I did, and was the beginning of a frightful nightmare, nobody understood, including the doctors.
There was a reasonable amount of vanity at the job, with going down to the main depot and delivering the cars and putting air in the tyres, working out the
price of the rental. The most business we did were with minis, some were automatic and some were manual; they were the cheapest to rent. Sometimes there was only one customer a day, so most of the time there was nothing to do."
"The North Thames Gas Board offices were north of
the river Thames at Kew. They were in
prefabricated buildings and to work there you had to pass an intelligence and educational
tests. I got the job through an
employment agency and it was just after I left Kenning Car Hire firm. It was just about the time when
Britain went over to decimal currency. The
people there were very good at their job and I made a fool of myself by working too
"The North Thames Gas Board offices were north of the river Thames at Kew. They were in prefabricated buildings and to work there you had to pass an intelligence and educational tests. I got the job through an employment agency and it was just after I left Kenning Car Hire firm. It was just about the time when Britain went over to decimal currency. The people there were very good at their job and I made a fool of myself by working too slowly.
I was still getting worse from shouting at the statue.
The NGTB were converting every gas appliance in London to natural gas, it was quite a feat, but I wound up in Horton Hospital.
I had a very bad nervous breakdown that time and was completely insane when I got to Ward 5 at Horton Hospital.
I was under the supervision of a consultant, and I tried his patience a lot. Ward 5 was locked and they had a lot of violent cases there."
End of Harry's gospel on the NGTB, Brentford.
With Harry's condition now becoming more disturbed, it was like living on a time bomb, not knowing what might happen next, or what 'phone call we might receive with distressing news about Harry.
The part-time job at Bentalls that Gladys had, proved to be a blessing in taking her mind off the worry of Harry's mental state. Another blessing we had was when we had occasion to visit Bearwood College for Speech Day and the Christmas carol service, held before closing the college down for the Christmas holidays. This was when Gladys could dress up in her best attire, complete with broad brimmed hat. She had now lost her confederate, Anna, who had moved to Whitley, and so could not off-load some of her cares any more.
When Harry started his breakdown,
he would not get up for work. His Doctor,
Ryle, was sent for, and following a discussion after seeing Harry, he admitted that Harry
was in need of hospital treatment. He
also agreed that we needed counselling and would get the mental health social worker to
needed counselling and would get the mental health social worker to visit us.
The outcome of the foregoing resulted in our taking a holiday abroad with the knowledge that Harry was taken into Horton for several weeks to receive a course of treatment. It was hoped he would only remain in a locked ward for a short period.
Every now and then, there is a time in life to switch off from the daily concerns, stresses, worries or whatever problems one may have. This was our time to switch off, as we boarded our coach to take us to Lucerne, Switzerland. The fact that we did not sleep, travelling overnight, was secondary. We were escaping, with our thoughts on the holiday to come when not watching the changing scenery, or the lights at night.
Being a driver, I had a double satisfaction, as I watched our two coach drivers take turns at the wheel, sharing the responsibility for the lives of those on board their coach.
One of the most enjoyable pastimes at Lucerne was when we ambled around the Swiss chalets and admired their neatness with the overhanging roofs giving shelter to the flower-decked balconies. All the passengers stayed at separate chalets, our chalet was about twenty minutes' walk from the centre of Lucerne.
For Gladys, it was the shop windows that stole her main attention, particularly the confectioners', which excelled in chocolate cakes; not forgetting the watch and jewellery shops.
The flower-decked Chapel Bridge, which crossed the river Reuss, dated back to 1333, formed a central attraction to the town, similar to Rialto Bridge in Venice. The real high spot of our holiday was when we travelled by mountain railway to Engleberg where we reached the summit of Mount Titlis, 10,000 feet by cable car. In the final cable car, after our third change on this ascent, I drew Gladys' attention to the danger notice. It stated: "No-one with a weak heart condition should take this lift." Suspended in space, she replied, "What do you want me to do, just get off, or pull the chain?" At that moment, looking down, it was fascinating to watch the ant like figures on the snow, shooting about.
When we arrived at the summit, we had a close-up view of the skiers, starting off on their descent to the next cable car lift station below. These brave skiers, some of whom we saw in the cable car coming up, were bronze coloured, due, I presume, to the sun's reflection off the snow. To me, they might have come from another planet.
Our coach, that brought us to Lucerne, took us on a number of day tours. On the first trip, billed to go to the highest point by road, a motorist stopped the coach by pulling up in front of us, as we were about to leave Lucerne. Tim, our driver, got out and went to the rear, where this motorist was standing. After a few minutes, Tim returned to tell us that we had to thank this motorist for possibly saving our lives. The wheels of the coach had been replaced by more suitable wheels for gripping the mountain road track. The garage mechanic had failed to tighten one of the rear wheels, which the motorist had seen wobbling. Our Guardian Angel had once again kept her watchful eyes on us. I wondered if she would ever give us up as a lost cause!
This had been fairyland to us, with trips on Lake Lucerne at night, enabling us to see these Swiss lakeside villages, all lit up with reflections on the lake. Our journey home had come too soon, but our batteries had been charged up to cope with the problems that lay ahead.
My cricket team still required my services for the forthcoming season, again, a reflection on the shortage of players in the club. Still, I made a comeback, for I finished second in the batting averages. My highest innings was only three short of a half-century, not bad for a 55 year young!
I was thanked at the cricket AGM for taking on the treasurer's job at short notice. ARL XI had again failed to win the coveted NPL Stanton Trophy for the third year running. Better staff recruitment obviously was needed by the Admiralty.
We had a player in our Saturday team, aged 22, Peter Carson, who took ten wickets against Birwick College. He had sprained his ankle in the morning and, normally being a fast bowler, he had to rely on his spinners. The Captain gave him instructions to sprain his ankle every Saturday morning during the cricket season.
Once again, I took up my station as right back for the fifth XI hockey team, they too, continued to have a shortage of players at this level. On one occasion, I was asked to take over the goalkeeper's position after he was injured. It was very foolish of me to have done this without a face mask. Between those two posts, the keeper is nothing more than a sitting target to let drive at with a missile, travelling at up to 80 miles an hour, or more.
My church had not yet resolved the new church building proposals, using the vicarage grounds. The church's architect had carried out a full inspection of the church's existing roof, and stated that, due to dry rot, the whole roof would have to be rebuilt.
The views of the bishop had indicated that, using the vicarage grounds, be it for a conventional or prefabricated type, the latter should be given most serious consideration.
I felt that our new Priest-In-Charge had been given a hard nut to crack at the start of his ministry in Hampton Wick. I was given to understand that he was a miner's son and received a good education by obtaining scholarships.
Whilst in Haiti, working for the United Nations, he was called on to serve in the Church of England. Before leaving Haiti, he bought many wood carvings, done by the local craftsmen. These he always liked to show his visitors. He was rather tall and had an aura about him, I suppose one would describe him as elegant and sincere. Occasionally, I thought I could smell a whiff of whisky when he spoke. So, did he jump out of the frying pan into the fire, when chased out of Haiti by their Communist dictator, who was persecuting the Church members at the time he left, to take up this incumbency?
Harry was discharged from Horton Hospital and was prescribed weekly sedatives on sick leave by his family doctor. In early December 1970, he obtained a porter's job at Teddington Memorial Hospital. Here he remained for a few months, but from time to time, he would mutter about the statue at Kew.
Gladys was seeking another holiday in Switzerland, and after a visit from the mental health visitor, Ferron, who saw Harry, he felt that Harry would be stable enough to go with us. This time we went to Locarno, by Lake Maggiore. Once there by coach, staying again at a chalet on the outskirts of town, our routine became the same as for Lucerne.
That is, for Gladys, looking at the shops as she wandered through the narrow streets and arcades. The neatness of these chalets, with balconies displaying flower arrangements, caused one to stop at almost every dwelling.
The high spot of this holiday was the ascent by funicular to the statue Madonna del Sasso, overlooking the lake. From here, there was a spectacular view of the whole scenery around Locarno. It was only when returning to our chalet that I realised we had taken Harry to this huge statue, would there be an aberration effect? Fortunately, there was none, and we returned a week later with a thankfulness that Harry had enjoyed this break as well as ourselves.
Sadly, this break, for Harry, failed to keep away this statue that was still on his brain, for he received his cards from Teddington Hospital at the end of May.
Andrew spent his Easter holidays with the Crusaders in Holland, where they joined other Crusaders at a house party, in Wassenden, The Hague.
Gladys had received a message from the Patron of Bearwood College, The Queen, that she hoped to see her at the college's 50th year celebrations on the 29th April. This called for a new costume, and broad brimmed hat to match the occasion. The President, The Duke of Edinburgh, would also be in attendance. This was indeed a day to remember, even though the Queen was unable to attend, due to a cold. It was a day for the headmaster and staff to have their gowns flowing, with Mr Cunningham being the peacock in this appropriate setting of the well-groomed gardens of Bearwood.
The Duke, who took the Queen's place, opened a new teaching block, together with matron's quarters. Prince Philip did a walkabout, speaking to parents, friends and boys, as he strode around the playing fields. He also chatted to members of the college sailing club, before he launched a new dinghy called, 'The Queen'.
Andrew, in his final A-level year, had a warning shot fired across his bow, when reading his house master's comments on his Autumn report, 1970. Here is what was stated:-
"A fair term, although he must be prepared to give more time to his studies and less to his social life. Generally, he has been a good prefect, but he must remember that school rules apply to prefects as much as anyone else. Unfortunately, he suffers from the trials of his generation, less work and more play!"
Andrew did get down to his
studies, achieving A levels, with an A level in Further Maths. Here are the comments on his last report by
Andrew did get down to his studies, achieving A levels, with an A level in Further Maths. Here are the comments on his last report by his housemaster:
"I wish Andrew all the best in the future, and hope that his work has brought about the result hoped for."
This was his tutor, Rev. Foster, the Padre and maths master, who had encouraged him to get these two A Levels in maths and further maths. His house- master's comments now follow.
"Andrew has made the best of his time here and it has been a pleasure to have him in the house. I hope he does as well in the future. A fine young man. I do hope he will keep in touch."
His A level results arrived after the school reports and with these results, he obtained a student's apprenticeship in electrical engineering with the London Underground Transport.
To my surprise, I had been nominated for a two week course at London University College on Human Engineering, starting on the 11th July. My immediate thoughts were that I was a bit long in the tooth for attending universities. Those who attended these courses were engineer grades within the Admiralty. I had the impression that the tutors of the university, also visiting lecturers who initially attended this university, had little to offer their course members. For me, it had been interesting to be in the enclaves of the academics, wrapped up in their ancient rituals.
On my return, I had another surprise waiting for me. I was required to attend a Promotion Board within the Admiralty Weapons Pool, to be held at Bath on the 8th September. Again, I had expected my age to have precluded my selection, as at 56, I was near retirement. However, I was not required to reason why, but this invitation did give me a feeling that I had wiped my slate clean of black marks.
I took this news home to my good lady, who was delighted with the thought that she would be leaving the terraced house we had lived in since 1950. Although in a delightful position, it did have shortcomings, such as the toilet door opening into the kitchen.
I was successful, being appointed to fill a vacancy in the Systems Engineering Group at the Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment, ASWE, Portsdown, Portsmouth.
During August, we explored the whole area around this establishment, which was off the normal public transport services. We ruled out Gosport, because of traffic bottlenecks at Fareham. We ruled out the Waterlooville area, because of the open plan estates and because during the freeze-up in 1964, the water pipes had frozen up, not being deep enough into the ground. We wished to avoid built- up areas like Portsmouth, and from the Havant side there was a traffic congestion at the A3 cross-roads with the Portsdown Hill Road. We decided to have another tour around later.
On the 21st September, I was invited to attend ASWE Project Review, where I would meet my future superiors. These reviews were a monthly occasion where representatives, both from within and external, who had an involvement with the research and development, were able to hear the progress being made, and ask questions, if necessary.
This establishment, I learned later, dealt with guided missiles, radar, electronic warfare, communications and highly secret work. I met my future boss briefly, who told me that I was expected to start at ASWE on the 4th October.
After listening to the review, and not understanding it, I began to worry about what I was letting myself in for. It was just as well that I did not know, for my sleepless nights would have started earlier than when they did. I think my Guardian Angel decided that it was time I had a few challenges, as I was too settled in my job at ARL.
With my to and fro taking place during the cricket season, I had to bail out of my regular team, but made myself available for the Sunday XI. These are the last citations I had in the NPL 1971 Annual Cricket Report.
"The new covers have been in use this season and saved at least two matches, which would otherwise have been lost due to the weather. Thanks are due to Alan Rayment, Dave Ellis and Martin Webb. Brian Hinde and Alan Rayment worked hard to ensure we fielded two full sides. Our thanks to both of them, for looking after the Sunday teams. ARL team made a recovery this year, by winning back the Stanton Trophy."
There were much more important matters to attend to than sport, although I knew that I should miss the cricket scene that had been part of my life, while here. When I called at Snellers, the estate agents, Teddington, they valued the house at £7,500.
On my first morning at my new place of work, I was introduced by the drawing office manager to other members of the drawing office, who were of the same grade as myself. When introduced to a red-haired gentleman, Stan Burns, very immaculately dressed in a dark suit, Mr Arthur Lambert, the manager, said, "Have his house, he will be retiring in six months' time and has already bought a retirement home in the West Country."
Stan, looking at me, replied, "It is up to you, here is my address", and gave me his card.
When I returned home that weekend, I suggested that we have a look at Stan's house. We set off on the Sunday of this weekend and arrived mid-morning, the distance being seventy miles, taking no more than two hours. As soon as we entered this Georgian style housing crescent, there was an immediate feeling that this could be the one.
To our relief, there was a car in the drive of the house at Wigan Crescent. I knocked on the door, and was pleased to see Stan open it. He said, "You are lucky to find us in, we had set out to visit the American Museum at Bath, and I upset some wall flowers over the back seat, so I came back to clean it up. Come in and have a look around." He introduced us to his wife, Joan, likewise, I introduced Gladys.
It was evident to me, that the builder had taken great pride to give the house character with its curved ceilings, something unexpected for a post-war house, built under licence in 1956, so I was told.
Going into a huddle with Gladys about agreeing on the house before discussing prices, there was a mutual wish that we should have this property. We sat in the through lounge to discuss details of the purchase with Stan stating that they required £7,500 and that it was not open to offers. I had no wish to haggle about the price and would gladly have paid much more, if it meant having the house as against losing it. I responded, "Yes, we agree to purchase, subject to receiving a satisfactory building inspection report."
This was obtained, with only one fault requiring to be corrected. It was wiring that Stan had done to install wall lights. A very irate Stan had read the report, and was upset that he should be expected to attend to this wiring irregularity. Rather than lose the purchase of the house, I told him to forget this, as I would pay for the work to be done.
When next I saw him, he mentioned that an end house in the Crescent had been sold for £1,000 more than he was selling his house. What neither he nor myself knew, was that gazumping was about to take off in the housing market that my Guardian Angel had arranged for me.
On my return at the weekend, I gave instructions to Snellors, the estate agents, to take my property off the market until early Spring 1972. When I came to put the house on the market again, the new selling price had jumped to £12,500. Although we did not quite get this figure, the difference between this figure and the purchase of the Wigan Crescent house, gave us a surplus of nearly £5,000. Again, we were not to know that this difference, that our Guardian Angel had achieved, would enable another house to be bought.
This was for a member of the family whose marriage took place almost before the blink of an eyelid once we had arrived at Bedhampton. I wondered whether my namesake, who sold the house in Teddington, had received instructions from our ever watchful Guardian Angel to let us have it, as it now made it possible for us to buy both houses here.
It was as well to remember our good fortunes, to help face up to the trials which were yet to be met.
© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 14, 2001