THE SECOND MARRIAGE
1983 - 1984
There was both sadness and joy, as this October month arrived. On the 2nd, it was the anniversary of the passing of Gladys, who had devoted her married life to me and her family. That she should have suffered in her caring and in her illness was beyond understanding. Maybe I was not worthy of her and the Almighty had thought fit to send for her. I hoped that my three years of loneliness would have atoned for my failings as husband to her. These were some of my thoughts as I placed flowers where her ashes had been strewn at Portchester Crematorium.
My wedding eve, spent at Ken and Mabels dwelling enabled them to enlighten me on Ellas prowess at Crown Green Bowls, having won a number of trophies during a relatively short time at Burrays Bowling Club. This did not surprise me, for her father was a master builder and she had inherited some of his attributes, where a good eye was needed. This was apparent from the details in her paintings that she had shown me.
Andrew had agreed to be my best man and called at Kens to take me to the registrar, as he and his family arrived from Shrewsbury. This, of course, was a low-key wedding as regards attire, and no church bells called us to the non-existent altar. My normal best grey suit had been cleaned and pressed, and adorned with a carnation. I sported a spotted dickey tie and a white shirt.
Ella had her three daughters to assist her, prior to the tying of knots with her brother, Jack, to bring her in his car and give her away. She wore a close-knitted pale blue woollen costume.
It was our eleven grand-children, however, that stole the show. It was obvious that the registrar did not, as a general practice, have to seat eleven young children, whose ages ranged from 2 years to their early teens. It seemed that each one was not going to miss any words or actions of this marriage of their grandparents. Perhaps we looked like a fairy prince and princess to them! There was not a single word or noise from them during the whole ceremony.
Once the formalities of signing the register after the wedding were over, the photographer was ready to take the photos. We were lucky with the weather, allowing some excellent shots to be taken of groups, and the most important one, the Bride and Bridegroom. While we were joined by Ellas daughters, my mind went back to their childhood days, when I had seen them trailing behind their mother each with ribbon bows on their pigtails!
The Burway Bowling Club did us proud in arranging food and drinks, thanks to Ellas friends of the club. The whole proceedings went off without a hitch and without a tear or a whimper from the children, whom we have to thank for making the wedding a joyful occasion.
For Ella, this moment of departing to Havant and separating from her friends and acquaintances, and her daughter, Laura and family at Ludlow, was also a very emotional time for her. Thankfully, I had arranged the Mediterranean cruise for us, when we would be, hopefully, enjoying life aboard the Eugenio Costa by the weekend.
Ella also had to sort out the furniture and fittings which she wished to bring with her, once the honeymoon was over. There were other matters to be dealt with, such as selling her dwelling in Ludlow.
As soon as Ella took up residence in Wigan Crescent, she immediately became acquainted with the numerous bowlers living in the Belmont Estate, whom we met at the bowling green. They all congratulated her on becoming their minutes secretary. Sadly, these pleasantries did not reduce her annoyance that I had submitted her name as being ideal for this post.
Our flight to Genoa to board our cruise ship soon took us away from the domestic scene. During the journey, I felt that I was escaping from the real world, knowing that on our return, Ella would be totally involved with my sons escapades. One could ask, what kind of man would cause a lady to sell her house to marry a man who burdens her with his disturbed son and lands her a minute secretarys post in a club she has not even joined?
The flight took a route over the Alps and then reduced height as we approached Genoa, a bowl-shaped port, flattening to waves at the harbour, where our 30,000 ton Eugenio could be seen like a big, white, floating hotel, waiting for our arrival.
We were some time before we had found our cabin and acquainted ourselves with the ships layout and programme. Unlike the Canberra, the passengers were mainly foreigners, as was the crew, this ship belonging to an Italian Cruise Company. On the Canberra, there appeared to be a bond between the crew and many of the passengers, who had travelled frequently on her.
Ella had difficulty in obtaining a cup of tea aboard, and it became a major item of concern to her. It seemed that only the English had preserved the tea drinking habit, and indeed knew how to brew this beverage. Maybe this is because we have control over the world tea market and brew it with boiling hot water.
Among the many items of interest for passengers were talks on places the ship had organised for parties to visit from the scheduled ports of call during the cruise. One such talk on Israel dwelled not only on its religious historical background, but on its present day political and social problems also.
We were astonished to learn that the Kibbutz, a collective settlement for collective farming, could range in size from a few hundred Jewish inhabitants to as many as 1,600. A British couple along side were asked many questions and revealed that they had sold their green-grocery business to join their son and his family in one of these Kibbutz. We became very friendly, particularly when they asked if we could play bridge, for that became our main pastime on board.
During one of our playing sessions, I had to leave the table while the cards were being dealt. Unknown to me, the husband of this couple doctored the cards, so that I had all the aces and kings. He told Ella that I would make a two-club bid, the strongest bid for an opener to make. He would then announce a mis-deal, they were to watch my face. To their surprise, after I had nearly fallen off my chair at this hand of a lifetime, I gave a one club reply. He was dumbfounded at my bid, for I never did conform to the bidding system. Before he could declare that the hand was a mis-deal, Ella could not contain herself further and nearly choked herself with laughter. This was mainly due to the bid not being the one expected by our Jewish trickster. He had not allowed for some systems, which use a strong one-club, regardless of the number of high points.
The ships call at Alexandria was of a short duration and we had only a few hours ashore to explore the markets, which seemed to reach the harbour entrance. Even before we anchored, local natives in their small boats came out to meet Eugenio, plying their goods!
When ashore, Ella had a habit of wandering off on her own, being mesmerised by some stall-holder, who was trying to sell her some bracelet or other jewellery. We had been told not to accept the first price quoted, but to haggle for half the price, and this, she claimed, was the purpose of her wanderings!
I, of course, had no interest in going around the stalls. I was more interested in the traffic, which seemed to disregard which side of the road they should be driving on. It was not the sort of place where I would wish to get lost, and I was very happy to return to our boat, knowing that Ella had achieved some success in her price-reducing sessions.
Our next port of call, Ashdod, 26 miles south of Tel Aviv, was in doubt, due to the continuing conflict between the Lebanese and the Israelites, involving the Palestinians also. A series of bombing incidents were frequently occurring in both countries. In September 1982, hundreds of Palestinians had been massacred in a refugee camp in West Beirut. Later, there was a massive explosion at an Israeli military HQ, causing 89 deaths.
It was not surprising that when we finally put ashore to join the excursion to Jerusalem, we found Israel on a military footing, with both men and women dressed in army uniforms. The countryside looked barren, with very little greenery to be seen. We passed many kibbutzs, which comprised of communes in hutments. The whole scene depicted a country at war.
Our courier, who explained the way of life in the kibbutzs, told us that the children lived separately from their parents, under the supervision of specially trained staff. All the buildings were collectively owned; all worked together to provide all their needs.
The coach stopped and allowed us to look over the place called Gethsemane, with Jerusalem in the background, where the Dome of the Rock, a splendid mosque, was clearly visible.
Those who knew their bible, could tell you that it was in this spot that Jesus brought his disciples, after the last supper, during the celebration of the Jewish Passover. Then saith he Tarry ye here and watch with me. As quoted from St Matthew: He went on a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying O Father, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. He cometh unto his disciples and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
We were allowed some time to wander around this garden of Gethsemane, where His disciples fled from Jesus, and where Judas betrayed Him, as He was led away to Calaphas, High Priests Palace. From there He was handed over to Pontius Pilate, the Governor. Those writings of the Bible, describing this scene taking place, 2,000 years ago, were brought alive with this visit.
We looked in the distance at the walled Davids City, Jerusalem, where our coach would take us to the scene of the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Our guide told us not to wander off, once we had dismounted at Jerusalem, for PLO terrorists were a constant threat to Israel.
Along with the mixed nationalities from our coach, we made our way to the site of the crucifixion, on which the Church of the Holy Sepulchre had been rebuilt many times. On our way, to the right of the Church, we witnessed many rabbis in prayer and chanting along the Wailing Wall, some of whom were in a constant state of nodding. No one watching had a clue what all this performance at the wall was about. We learned later that this had been the temple site where Jesus had taught.
Many pilgrims, led by nuns and priests, queued to enter the Holy Sepulchre, which was shared by six Christian communities. Once inside the church, we joined the milling throng, making it more like a bazaar than an holy place. The Russian bearded priests from the Orthodox Church were much in evidence, spraying incense either before or after a service.
The Holy Sepulchre, the tomb in which Jesus was laid, had a queue of people waiting to enter this shrine, where a priest could be seen holding his hand out for alms. Both Ella and myself felt that the set-up was artificial, for it was claimed that this was the original tomb used for Jesus coffin. About this period, someone had also claimed that they had found the cave that the rich man, Arimathea had converted into a sepulchre, where Jesus body was laid.
Ella, after leaving the church, wanted to explore the narrow alleys, where a notice indicated the Stations of the Cross via Dolorosa to Golgotha. Our guide had warned us not to leave her party, and I was pleased to be able to deter her from what I believed was to be another bargaining session with the stallholders.
The Eugenio party returned without major incident, with all accounted for, as we joined our ship. Whilst this visit to Jerusalem was tainted with commercialism, it nevertheless brought real, the many places mentioned in the bible, but more, we witnessed the birth place of our Christian religion.
With our Jewish friends, on landing, joining a Kibbutz community, we lost our bridge partners for the rest of the cruise. We were both anxious to get home for different reasons. Ella was concerned that she might not be able to bring all her knickknacks with her, while I was wondering what state of mind we should find Harry in.
Neither of these thoughts occupied our minds when we first arrived home on Friday 21st October. The captain of the IVth XI hockey team asked on the phone if I would play in goal for them, on Saturday, against Hamble Old Boys Club? Well, it was nice to feel wanted, and I was still a playing member of the club, making it difficult to say no, even though Ella was standing by at the time.
What Ella did not know was that these opponents were infamous for playing the game hard, and not fussy about observing the rules of the game, such as not raising the hockey stick above shoulder height. Of course, I had my way and took her along to watch the game. At some stage I thought it was a football match, for I was charged and did a backward somersault. I did not resist the fall, but continued the movement, landing in the back of the goal net. Ella rushed to help me, for she thought I had been injured. This was not so, for I had learned to ride any force inflicted during an impact, as was the case in this instant.
However, there comes a time, as in cricket, when one has to hang the boots up, and what better time than now, before my wife has a heart attack. At least I could say I did not give up hockey, it was my wife who took me off the hockey field!
Probably, this decision to end my hockey playing was timely, at reaching the age of 68. This can be a dangerous game and it is sad to remind ourselves that Gladys brother had been killed when hit by a cricket ball, the size of which is similar to that of a hockey ball, and twice as hard!
I spoke on the phone the next day to the duty nurse at Light Villa, on the latest state re Harry. It was not good news. He had had to be fetched from the art class at Albert Road, due to a turn on the day following our wedding. Since then, he had continued with these turns. However, they were prepared to allow him home for a few hours today.
We fetched him and went on a drive to Midhurst, once we found him reasonably stable. When we arrived, a polo match was in progress and provided something new for Ella to see. In the north, Lacrosse was played by the posher schools and clubs, and Ella often used to refer to this game. I had never played it, nor wished to, with a ball flying through the air at shoulder height!
We had tea and cakes in Midhurst, before returning him back to hospital. He gave us no clues as to why he had these turns. He phoned the following Tuesday morning and told me he was in a trance, and had damaged his face and hands during the night! Naturally, I was upset that he should be allowed to do this to himself, but more so that he should wish to do it. I gave him strict instructions not to come home at weekends until he was free from turns. To my horror, he turned up the next Saturday morning, upsetting Ella with his facial injuries. After dinner, I returned him to Light Villa.
Andrew phoned, and said that Harry wanted them to see him on Sunday. He called at the house with Linda and the family, after they had taken Harry to Old Portsmouth. Whilst climbing the steps to the top of the sea wall, Harry had frozen and fallen, hitting his head on the steps. Linda was very upset, and when they returned him to his ward and saw Bob Millingham, whose only comments were, Harry was putting it on, he did this with the psychologist on Tuesday. When told he could smoke, he put his hand out. He stopped rocking in his chair, when told by the psychologist that he had to make his own.
There were matters for Ella to attend to at Ludlow, re the selling of her terraced house and arrangements for the furniture removal firm to load and bring her chattels to Bedhampton. This, I thought was best for her to handle on her own, as regards what she wished to bring here.
I had Harry home on my own on the weekend of 12th November, and got him working in the garden, disposing of rubbish that the gypsies had left behind, after pruning some trees. He seemed better, and mentioned that he had seen the psychologist, and that she would be contacting us.
We were visited by Andrew and family, Harry ate and drank tea all the time, but remained rational.
The letter from Gillian M Gough, Clinical Psychologist, stated that she had seen Harry on two occasions, and would like to discuss with us his present behaviour. A date for the 17th November was suggested, which I had delayed until Ella could be present, on the 23rd. The sale of her terraced house was proceeding, and her furniture removal had been arranged for the 21st.
I regarded this appointment as very important to help Ella to handle Harry. I told Gillian that as a general rule, when Harry came home at weekends, he would go upstairs to his bedroom and remain there for most of his stay. To me, I likened it to a dog, going in his kennel, where he felt secure. I questioned her about the drugs he was on, and whether he was having side-effects causing these turns?
I was surprised that she knew very little about these, and regarded this as Dr Rentons provenance. I informed her that Harry had mentioned that he had been taken off Stelazine and put onto Procycliding. She was pleased when I told her that Harry should not be allowed home, if he still had turns and that after Christmas it was intended that he would join the Industrial Rehabilitation Unit. There was little that came out of this meeting to help us understand his state of mind.
The next morning, a phone call was received from Harry, telling us that during a turn, he had done facial damage again, and that we were not to meet him on Wednesday. I told him that we would call in on Friday.
When we did call in on Friday, 2nd December, nurses Roland and Paul were trying to control Harry in the staff room. Roland claimed it was because he knew we were coming in to see him that he had gone into one of his turns! Harry was sitting with his hands together, looking upwards, with eyes fixed. He came round, and thanked me for the cigarettes I had bought him, and said that he understood he was not to come home the next weekend.
He phoned the next day on two occasions, insisting he was coming home. We told him that the door would be locked and he replied that he had been all worked up when we had last called to see him. Ella spoke to him and said that he should work on the rug tapestry that she had given him and that we would call in on Sunday at 2 pm.
It was not easy for Ella to adjust to living in her husbands first wifes house. Photographs of Gladys, the bedroom suite and the house decor were all destined for the chop. Furniture from Ludlow, was still stored in the garage, awaiting the adoption of her new colour scheme, involving new carpets. As I claimed to be colour-blind, I had little say as regards the new colour scheme.
This refit programme was, in a way, a therapeutic exercise, providing Ella with a diversion from Harrys ongoing drama. Certainly, our 1983 Christmas was involved with sorting out the bedrooms, followed by concentrating on the through lounge.
Ellas father, a master builder, had made several pieces of inlaid wood furniture, such as a round drawing room table. This, of course, would have pride of place in the lounge, by the front window. Ella looked after both her parents before their passing, so it was fitting that she should receive her fathers workshop tools, which she brought with her. These had been put to good effect, when living in her terraced house in Ludlow.
We clashed occasionally when wall-papering, when I had failed to align the new strip pattern with the previous one. The biggest asset in Ella's consignment from Ludlow were floral wall pictures, which never ceased to be admired, whenever a new person arrived at the house.
I took Ella to Portsmouth Guildhall during the pre-Christmas period, to attend the Salvation Army Carol Service. Their band was well-renowned at Southsea and provided excellent music, supported by childrens choirs, backed by the sound of tambourines.
All our diversionary activities, to attract Harrys attention away from us, proved only temporary. Harry had been home on the weekends of the 10th and the 17th December with no problem. However, we later received a phone call from the hospital, informing us that Harry was in the Cranleigh ward, having had 28 stitches in his head, as a result of a turn, after returning from his last weekend leave. Sister Hill told us that there was no use in returning him to Light Villa, they had run out of ideas!
Over the Christmas period, we visited him on the 24th, 26th and 27th, when we noticed that the few other patients in Cranleigh Ward were well supplied with presents and food. He phoned after our visits and told us that he had been fitted out from the stock room with new trousers, shirts and shoes. Again, it had been noted that whilst in this ward he had not had a turn! Ella had shown him how to stitch the pattern canvas and he was having a go at this. He appeared happy to stay in this ward and did not insist on coming home. Could it be that he had a phobia about Light Villa, amounting to a hate campaign, and he was prepared to injure himself to get out of it?
My bridge club at the Southsea Community Centre held their usual Christmas Bridge Party on the 17th December, which I attended with Ella. She had not forgotten the bridge holiday I had taken her to at Scarborough, playing duplicate bridge. I managed to convince her that it was to be a social party, where food and drinks were the main items of interest. In the past, it had always been an evening where the ladies, many of whom were landladies, turned out in their best dresses and jewellery.
We were not to be disappointed, for the refreshments were excellent and the bridge was played in a friendly spirit. This success was very important, for I had tried to get her to come along to both my bridge clubs at Court Lane and Emsworth.
I had occasionally had a bridge evening at home with bridge friends, and had noted that she was gaining experience. She had attended a bridge class and brought masses of notes home. Frankly, these notes were having an adverse effect, in that they were expected to remember what card to lead from a variety of hands dealt, instead of giving the class a few basic principles on leads. It was not surprising to learn that there were many that had dropped out of the beginners class.
Early in the new year, with Harry in Cranleigh Ward, we were able to go on a bridge holiday at Bourton-on-Water. There was still the Christmas atmosphere in the large guest house, which was a former manor house, and was now owned by the Holiday Fellowship Organisation, known as HF Holidays Ltd.
HF guest houses, scattered in various parts of walking country, provided a host, who ensured that some form of entertainment was arranged for most evenings, and that everyone mixed. It was expected, at meal times, that guests changed table places.
It was interesting to hear from other members, who may be on a walking holiday, how they had enjoyed their day. On one occasion, I was told that the rambling party had ditched their leader and he had to return to base without a single walker!
We played Chicago, a non-competitive type of bridge, which brought us into contact with players of varying standards. Again, Ella seemed to be gaining more confidence and I was pleased that there were no major inquests after the games, and that we also benefited from meeting interesting players.
Whilst at the HF Guest House, away from the pressures at home, we were able to discuss our future. Apart from Harry, who was dominating the scene, Ella had thoughts on how to reduce work in the front and back gardens at Wigan Crescent. I was only too happy to go along with her thoughts. This would ultimately mean less work for myself, but more importantly, we could call it her garden. Being artistic, I had no doubts that she would come up with attractive ideas. It should be borne in mind that the house was undergoing what the navy would call a refit, to implement her ideas.
By the time we returned home, Ella had a garden Modus Operandi written down for me. There was no need for me to worry about what I should do on a Saturday afternoon, now that I had finished playing hockey. I was not one for watching other players taking part in sport.
Here are a few items of work on that list, involved with these back and front gardens:
a) Replace front lawn with crazy paving;
b) Extend rear patio to include a fish pond, reducing the length of the lawn by 15 feet;
c) Make a patio on the far end of the lawn, reducing the length of the lawn by a further 10 feet;
d) Replace the dividing hedges with wooden fences;
e) Plant evergreen trees at the rear of the rockery at the end of the garden. Also, replace the rose bushes with whatever green shrubs were in the end-left triangle bed. This also applied to the lawn-centre bed. This was to give colour during the winter months.
Weekly, I had spent half a day trimming each dividing hedge. Why had I not considered wooden fences before? I suppose that I had been too busy playing sport or bridge to think of this!
The most important aspect of the garden and home improvements was to compensate here for the stress that she had suffered and would continue to suffer as a result of marrying me.
Whenever we had visitors, I always made certain that it was Ellas house decor and her gardening scheme.
Along with the happenings on the domestic scene at Wigan Crescent, was the birth and development of a bowls club in Bedhampton. On Monday 8th January 1984, a General Meeting for the Bedhampton Bowls Club was held. The Secretary, Maurice Underhay, of the steering committee appointed at the Inaugural Meeting on the 3rd October 1983, said that a set of Club Rules had been drawn up. The floor adopted them, and approval had been given for printing and distribution.
The President (Tom Aplin) spoke generally on membership. The committee had increased membership from 110 to 120, in view of the large number of applicants. The Inaugural Meeting had not been advertised in any shape or form; it was felt only reasonable to give local people the first opportunity of applying for membership.
Councillor Yeoman addressed the meeting, emphasising that he was a Bedhampton Councillor, and his efforts over the last ten years were aimed at getting a bowling green for local residents. He mentioned that a portacabin would be available for the use of the club at the start of the season.
A pre-season meeting, was planned for 19th March and it was my intention to be present, to have an input, to ensure provision was made for roll-ups.
It was almost a daily routine for Ella and myself to wander over to this green, a matter of a few minutes walk from our house. We watched the groundsman, Jim Hammond, giving the green all his caring attention in ensuring that the bowlers had nothing to complain about, such as dibits and bare patches. He told us that its bowling green had a very good drainage foundation.
Bedhampton still retained its village life, within its ancient 12th Century church and Bidbury Mead playing fields, where the village football and cricket were played. This bowling green would provide an activity for the more elderly members of this residents, enabling ladies to take part, as well as the men.
This was indeed a bonus, and a way of getting to know the local people for Ella, in particular. Our next door neighbour, Bill Dracket, had been appointed captain for the coming season, a sportsman in every sense of the word. He had played football in the London League in his youth, and was a member of a bowling club, playing in the Portsmouth and District League. He and I had a lot in common, but it would be the first time we should share the same sports club activities. Ella, too, had become acquainted with local people through her minutes secretary duties.
Our return from the bridge activity was given a welcome by Andrew, followed by disappointing news about Harry. He was still in Cranleigh Ward and had not shown any improvement. I shared Andrews view when I visited him on the 12th and 14th. He complained of eyeballs and was too depressed to be taken out.
Helen, the ward nurse, believed that he did not want to go back to Light Villa and that this was the cause of his depression. She would speak to the ward doctor. To my surprise, he asked about Ella, his step-mother, who had not been too well the last few days. This gave the impression that Harry was concerned about her and removed some of the fear that all his activities were aimed at taking my attention off Ella and focusing them on him.
All the time that Harry required medical staff to attend to him, I considered that my Guardian Angel had deserted the homestead and that God was testing us all!
During mid-January, Harry was returned to Light Villa, but after only a few days, he had to be returned to Cranleigh Ward, as he had a turn and was a danger to himself. This was only a temporary measure, for he was soon back in Light Villa.
On Friday, 29th January, Harry phoned to tell us that he was coming home. This surprised me, that he should be given leave, in his unstable state. I did not want Ella to be worried, lest he should develop a turn or be in a fixed-look state.
He arrived home, causing Ella to be distressed by the scars on his face, particularly around his eyebrows. He was given a cup of tea and agreed that he should not have come home yet. I took him back the same Friday evening, on my way to play bridge with the lifers in Kingston Prison.
Dr Langstone had seen him during the week, and they were convinced that his turns were due to his own deliberate actions. Harry told them it was due to the effects of drugs they had prescribed for him. He started to attend Occupation Training in the Rehabilitation Unit. Generally, he was much calmer.
The following Friday, Harry had six stitches in his head, and was returned to Cranleigh Ward. It was told that it would be better if I did not visit him while in this ward.
He returned to Light Villa on Tuesday at midday. He arrived home at 4.00 pm, very disturbed, talking rubbish about eyeballs and the height of misery. Idle minds - Devils workshop! I took him back to hospital and handed him over to Bob Millingham, who did not know he had been out.
On Wednesday, I met Harry in the local pub, The Good Companion, with another patient, Bill, a Scotsman, around 40, divorced with two children. He had come to Southsea to find work without success, and finally taken an overdose of pills. He had been placed in Solent Ward.
During most of February, Harrys unstable state was of a milder form, and he was attending the rehabilitation unit. He was permitted to come home most weekends. However, at the end of the month, on a weekend leave, we had a distressing time with Harry.
He came home and asked Ella for the use of her car. He then talked about eyes, with a petrified look, and said Joan could not cook. He claimed that Dr Renton had agreed to plastic surgery for him. Ella was very distressed, not knowing what would be said by him. I decided to take him to Andrews at Clanfield, hoping that the change would get him back to normal, away from Ella, too.
When at his brothers home, Harry went into a trance attitude, fingers and thumb together, pointing in front of him, with his jaw dropped. About 6 pm we returned home and Harry went straight into his bedroom and laid on his bed, with his eyes fixed. I decided to take him back to hospital, but had difficulty in getting him downstairs.
Ella came with us. When he came out of his trance state, he asked for money to repay someone he had borrowed from in the ward. I managed to locate the staff nurse, Andy, in the TV room. I gave him details of Harrys behaviour, but he said little in response. He opened the staff room door, and placed Harry in a chair. We left, Andy gave us a wave goodbye and no more was said.
The early part of March, Harry had received two letters from the hospital to repay the cost of repair damage that he had done to a chair valued at £1.50, a window valued at £34.00 and an examination couch valued at £118.00. I assumed money would be deducted from his DHSS spending allowance, for I was not aware that he had any money from any other source while he was in hospital.
He had remained free from injuring himself for several weeks, and it looked as if he had changed his thinking, as regards attracting attention to himself. The pattern of behaviour reverted to harming himself during April, for he damaged his head on a radiator. Despite this incident, we took Harry with us in the car to Teddington, to see our old house at Broom Road and to visit Hampton Court, where the daffodils were out in all their glory of yellow.
I wished that we had not seen the house that I had painted, with beads of sweat, as I stood on the tall ladder. There was little evidence of any new paint, and Ella pointed out that they had dirty curtains. At least it had not collapsed as a result of knocking down the lounge dividing wall.
Our visit to Hampton Court brought back memories of taking the boys to the model boat club pool at the Hampton Wick entrance to the gardens. Harry had a dizzy turn amongst the daffodil gardens at the entrance to Bushey Park, but somehow he managed to overcome this. Harry noticed the gates leading to Bushey Park, and spoke of his boyhood days, when he sailed his model yachts in Diana Pond, close by the gates of the park.
We visited the maze, planted in the reign of Queen Anne, where I had brought Andrew in his pushchair most Sunday mornings as a young child. We had fun playing hide and seek in between the avenues of hedges. We also visited the greenhouse. Ella had difficulty in believing that the roots of the great vine, planted in 1768, were nourished by the river Thames, at a distance of 100 yards or more. Time precluded us from visiting Hampton Court apartments, first owned by Cardinal Wolsey, who gave it to King Henry XIII to save his neck.
However, we made time to have chicken and chips in their restaurant, where Harry earned Ellas displeasure when he devoured the chicken using both hands. I tried to defuse the situation by stating that this was the French way of eating. Other than this incident, Harry was quite rational and we hoped it brought back memories of some happy childhood days.
On returning back to St James to his present world, I pondered on where and what should have caused his life to be in such a turmoil.
Ella took part in the first game on the bowling green at Bedhampton Bowling Green at Bidbury Mead. Many new friends were made by joining our local bowling club that Councillor Bill Yeoman had spent ten years campaigning for. Ella, the Crown Green bowler from Ludlow, soon adapted to flat green, this being the standard form of green used by bowling clubs in most parts of the country and wherever it is played throughout the rest of the world.
It could be stated that the club was still in its embryonic stage, with only a small portacabin to act as a pavilion. There was no space to accommodate all the players after the equipment, table and toilet had been housed. The secretary, Maurice Underhay, had worked hard to produce some useful fixtures and these were displayed on the noticeboard for members to enter. We signed on and were selected to play in the first away fixture at Petworth.
It was no surprise to find that many of their players were from farming stock, and that their green was in a rural setting. What a good way to see new places and meet new people, by taking part in away matches where we had not visited before. Petworth Club was well established and although their club house was surprisingly small, it did boast of a bar, this being a priority in most clubs. In view that it had been traditional for only men to play this gentle game, it was not unreasonable to expect drink to be a part of the bowling scene!
Amongst their players was Bill Elford, a senior scientific officer. He had been primarily responsible for the specification for the Water Entry facility, which I considered to be my most challenging project. I was very apprehensive at the time, for the 20 feet building to house this facility had commenced being built before I had finalised the design. There was only around a foot clearance below the roof, as shown on the drawing, so that any change in the equipment design requirements could have caused some embarrassment. Particularly, if this feature had been overlooked, and a change in the design had caused the equipment to stick out of the roof. Fortunately, all went well and when I left the establishment, Bill and I were still friendly.
To make contact with a former colleague is always an opportunity to reminisce on happy times, and for those who had been at Teddington, it always ended in agreement - There was no place like ARL. I introduced him to Ella at tea-time, and he assured he would visit us on the return match at Bedhampton.
Bill reminded us to keep a look-out for the entrance to Petworth House on our way back through the winding main road in Petworth. This was the home of the Duke of Somerset, and is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. The gateway at the entrance is taller than most of the ancient dwellings from the Tudor period and the 17th Century, which comprised the majority of dwellings in Petworth.
The game was played in a friendly atmosphere, the winning or losing was secondary to taking part. We returned on the A285 road, where we passed through the South Downs before coming to the major roads at Chichester. This was an excellent venue and whetted our appetites for the match at Liphook, on the A3 road to London, close to where Bob and Ana lived at Whitley. However, before this match was due, we had booked a trip with the Langstone Conservative Club, to visit the House of Commons.
A member of our bowls club, Fred Osborne, who worked in the dockyard, thought he could arrange for a club flag to be made. The club had no capital to spend on such luxuries as a flag-pole and flag. With a flag in the offing, I volunteered to construct and install a flag-pole of simple design: not of the tabernacle type, enabling the pole to be tilted. This was a task new to me, and I had a dread that when the pole was erected, it would not be vertical, for the construction did not provide for adjustment. This sort of error could not be hidden and could cause me to be a target for remarks such as: Alan installs flag-poles sloping arms!
The basic problem was to ensure that the socket in the ground, to receive the pole was truly vertical before setting it in concrete. I discussed this problem with several of my colleagues and Bert Gregory, a friend of Bill Yeoman. Bert was a well-known local builder, and had donated a hut to the Age Concern, which he had collected from an airfield and rebuilt in Frazer Road, Bedhampton.
After a discussion with Bert, I had to obtain a six foot length tube to fit tightly in the socket. Once I had obtained this six foot test piece, it was then possible to check that when the socket was in the enlarged hole for concrete to be poured, that it was in a vertical state. To hold, and adjust as necessary, spars would be used around the test piece protruding from the socket.
I obtained the 20 foot pole from a scaffolding firm, which required capping and holes drilled for shackle fittings to be attached to operate the rope, for raising and lowering the flag. When the time came to insert the pole for the first time, there was a need for all hands on deck. Indeed, one member thought he was still in the navy, for he stood saluting during the whole erection ceremony, which I had developed to ensure there was no mishap, for the steel post was quite heavy.
There were many comments about it being not quite vertical, some thought it was 2 degrees out, but others made this much more, with which I disagreed. In general, it was thought to be vertical, and most were pleased, as Bedhampton Bowls Club could now fly its own flag on club matches.
On leaving the club, I met Eric Googe, our club captain, who lived opposite the green. I asked if he had checked his house foundations lately, as we had noticed that the flag-pole showed his house was slanting. His face dropped, and then I added, of course, it could be that the flag-pole is at an angle. Somehow, he could not see the funny side to this comment.
Whilst I had been involved with this project, I had struck up a friendship with a fellow bowler, Ernie King, an ex-Marine Bandmaster. He was very interested with the All Change Drive movement cards that I had developed using Tom Watts idea from the Star and Crescent Bowling Club, where I had played for three years.
These movement cards were adopted by the club each Friday afternoon, and Ernie became associated with organising this event. The drive enabled everyone who turned up and signed in the day book by 2pm, that they would have a game. A spin off to this drive was that all those taking part had an opportunity to play with other members of the club.
I had been informed that my ambulance car service would come to an end on reaching the age of 70 next year. I could see this green that had appeared almost at the bottom of our garden becoming an increasing asset to both Ella and myself. Particularly as my hockey days were now over. However, there was a whole list of home improvements, including the garden that Ella had listed for me to tackle without the need for additional activities - not forgetting my bridge commitments!
From early Spring, I had commenced laying crazy paving, replacing the grassed area of the front garden. This had now been completed, leaving side flower beds along the front and dividing walls. Also, a centre bed provided space for a couple of small evergreen shrubs. Item 1 on my garden list, made out by Ella, had been ticked off.
However, there was no dwell time between garden work items. Whilst driving in country lanes close to Wickham, at a place called Newtown, we spotted a fish farm, which by coincidence happened to provide the information and material for the construction of a fish pond. The situation was very much like what I had had at work - come on, Alan, get on with it! This was my second item on the work schedule.
During this period of getting on with it, Harry had a spell of normality and was taking part in his rehabilitation programme at the hospital. My source for crazy paving was the Portsmouth Works Depot, Eastney Road, where I loaded my sickly green Allegro with selected broken paving slabs, both in the boot and in the passenger compartment. The car had difficulty in carrying this load, with its suspension down to the lowest possible level.
I thought I was a grave digger, as I removed the soil to sink the fibre-glass fish pond, measuring 8 foot by 3 foot, rounded at both ends, and narrowing in the middle. Not having previous experience in this task, I had difficulty in providing a level base for the moulding to sit on. It was a trial exercise of sinking the moulding and filling it with water until the level of water reached the same height around its flange. Small bricks were laid on the flanges to act as a curb to prevent dirt from falling into the flange.
The people at the fish farm emphasised the need to avoid mortar spilling into the pond, for mortar would poison the fish. A special non-toxic sealant was sold to close gaps between the top of the flange and the brick curb.
I had completed the first phase by late summer but there was much to be done to incorporate a waterfall and fountain. I had also to extend the crazy paving beyond the pond to decrease the length of the lawn.
Whilst Harry has held centre stage with his lunatic actions, Andrew and Linda have been quietly rearing their brood of four - Joy, Peter, Jonathan and Elizabeth, their ages ranging between one and nine.
Andrew had been successful at his promotion board for a trawled post in the Information Technology Department of the Inland Revenue, Telford. This would make him a Higher Executive grade. Andrew and Linda were quite determined to live in Shrewsbury, having read literature on the capital of Shropshire and described as the Town of Flowers. On their recent visit they confirmed that around almost every corner, flowers may be seen either bedded, boxed below windows, or in hanging baskets.
The literature gave extracts of Charles Dickens writing when he stayed at one of the several coaching inns in the town. He wrote I am lodged in the strangest little rooms, the ceilings of which I can touch with my hands. From the windows, I can look all down hill and slantwise at the crookedest black and white houses, all of many shapes, except straight shapes.
Andrew not only obtained promotion to a Higher Executive grade, but also received enhanced pay for working in the specialised technical field of computers. This followed the pattern of his life. He had always been able to land good fortune, as he did by obtaining a place at Bearwood College when a boy. Could a father have two sons with more contrasting fortunes than mine? It is said that it is the stars that we are born under that counts. Maybe it was the doodle-bomb that struck terror in Harrys life on the night he was conceived! If it be so, he and his parents were still suffering from Hitlers war crimes.
Andrew was placed in the Project Management Group and found the work both challenging and interesting. Telford, a new modern town, became a centre for many sophisticated high-tech firms. The Inland Revenue was one of these establishments having their Information Technology complex located in this town. It was the computer bank containing the whole of the Inland Revenues clients data.
Andrew had to commute at weekends for several months, during the transitional stage of selling his house at Clanfield and taking up residence at Kingston Drive, Shrewsbury - a four-bedroomed detached house.
At the start of July, Harry went into his turns again, and complained that the wallpaper had eyes all over it. He was continually asking for money. On Friday, 21st July, he was due home for the weekend, but he had damaged his eyebrow again and was not permitted home.
After a spell of confinement in hospital, he was allowed to come home on Saturday 11th August, while Ellas daughter and family were staying with us. We all went to Bognor, swimming, and Harry was no problem. I told him that he could come home the following Friday afternoon and return in the evening, while Ella and I went to the prison to play bridge.
That afternoon, we took part in the Fridays All-Change Bowls drive, leaving the back door open for when Harry should arrive. On our return home, we discovered Harry lying face down on the floor, breathing heavily. The kitchen was a wreck, the round table was upside down, with a broken leg. All the tea making and sink items were strewn on the floor, likewise cleaning items from the sink cupboard. Ella was distressed and disappeared, crying. I later phoned St James and spoke to Bob Millingham, and asked him if I should send for an ambulance. He asked me to check his breathing and if all right, to bring him back myself. This I did, and found that he responded to my instructions. With assistance, I got him to the car with his head bowed, and his hands in a prayer position. On the way to hospital, he asked for money.
After I had left him with Bob, I received a phone call from Harry. He was sorry for what he had done, but he could not help it; the eyeballs on the wallpaper had caused him to act like this.
Whilst putting the kitchen to rights, I had difficulty in comforting Ella, knowing that I had brought this havoc on her. My only way left, for me to make life bearable for her, was to get the house to her liking and to make the garden her garden. I must also take her on a magic carpet somewhere.
I wrote to Mind, Harley Street, to seek advice regarding the claim that Harry had made - that the tranquillisers had caused him to have these turns.
My membership of the Langstone Conservative Club provided an opportunity to play bridge on Friday evenings in addition to playing on Tuesday evenings at Emsworth Bridge Club. Occasionally, trips were organised for members, which I would take Ella along to.
On the 29th May, we went to the Houses of Parliament, with Norma Hellier as our organiser. Ella had not seen a great deal of London, as I had, and it was an opportunity when in the coach, to point out places of interest. The city was choc-a-bloc with traffic and visitors. I was just thankful I was not the coach driver.
Norma gave us a briefing on the arrangements made, at the commencement of the tour of Parliament. This, however, did not quite go off as planned. The MP who was due to meet us had been occupied with affairs of State and could not make it. We were appointed a guide, who gave us a briefing on the history of Parliament, the symbol of democracy throughout the world. It is, for Britain, the supreme legislature, consisting of Lords meeting in the House of Lords and elected commoners meeting in the House of Commons. The Statute of Parliament was created in 1275, during the reign of Edward I.
The party split into two for touring this magnificent building, which had been restored after the blitz on London, during World War Two. Our guide was new to this role and repeated whatever he could hear from other guides - and there were many with their own groups, milling around the corridors and chambers.
It was interesting to learn that the red stripes along the carpet, separating the Government and Opposition benches, could not be over-stepped when addressing the house. The distance between the two red stripes was reputed to be equivalent to two drawn swords! When viewing both chambers from their entrances, one need only just stand and absolve the features that most had seen in pictures, on State Opening occasions and on television.
When leaving Parliament, I told Ella that Andrew had sung in Westminster Abbey, which we could see directly opposite. This had been at Christmas time, when he had been in St Johns Choir, Hampton Wick as a boy, and local church choirs were invited to take part in St Matthews Passion.
Norma, our leader, had specified the time and pick-up point to board the coach for the return journey. All, except one, arrived on time. The traffic police had allotted limited time for this operation, due to the large number of coaches involved with picking up their passengers outside Parliament Square. After exceeding our allotted waiting time, our coach driver had to move off without the missing passenger. It need hardly be told that Norma was a little more than cross, as indeed all the passengers were. So, where was the missing person? - all the passengers were trying to speculate.
On the return to the club, it was learned that this individual, who had gone missing, had returned by train because he was bored stiff! No-one could possibly have believed this, because we had seen some outstanding works of art and historical features, such as the speakers chair. It could be said that he had been put on the black-list for any other trips to be organised by Norma.
During the summer, on a hot, sunny day, I took Ella to the coast, where we could picnic and have a swim. It would then be an opportunity for me to acclaim, We have got it all here, by living in Bedhampton. I would then refer to being close by the sea, not like Ludlow.
Ella would then counter by referring to the beauty of Shropshire and living in a quaint picturesque town like Ludlow. This discourse would be followed by my reference to: the fresh sea air with no pollution; good communications to London by road and rail, and the rest of the country; good position for sea and airports; good hospitals and social services; the area was rich with musical and dramatical societies, many of whom performed at the Kings Theatre. Those that lived in the Bedhampton area now had a bowling club to participate in and make new friends.
For me, I had now developed a close friendship with Ernie King. It was through him that I learned that Havant had a Symphony Orchestra, of which he was a founder member. He was leader of the second strings and was their librarian, assisted by Mary, his wife, bringing in quite a useful income from the loan of their scores.
I attended one of their Saturday evening concerts, held at Oaklands School, Crookhorn, and remember them playing Dvoraks New World, with the strains of the negro music coming through.
I have never ceased to marvel at the virtues of living in Havant, with its relatively small population. Its hockey club each Saturday turned out around six teams a week and was rated as one of the top hockey clubs in the country, as did Havant Rugby Club.
The local community were also provided with a large Leisure Centre, including an indoor swimming pool. This centre was a great attraction for the retired people, having a fun club, where those who were members could take part in almost every facility at the centre. Those who attended, came from a wide area, such as Southsea, Petersfield and Chichester.
I found this centre very useful before I remarried, taking part in their tea-dancing afternoons as well as their physical exercises. However, as both Ella and myself played bowls, this was now our chief sporting activity. During the summer months, we played in most of the friendly fixtures, where Ella continued to make friendships, as did I.
Whatever spare time I had, I helped to cultivate the side gardens around the bowling green, with a few other bowlers.
The club had not yet joined the Portsmouth and District Bowls League where all bowling clubs in the area aspired to achieve fame by becoming top of their respective division. Our friendly roll-ups would later be dominated by cup-hunters, who only wished to participate in competitive bowls. However, the Friday afternoons All Change Drive appeared to be popular and could become a permanent feature of the club for the less serious bowlers.
For most of the friendly and club fixtures, whites were scheduled to be worn. This was very important for protocol deemed that correct dress should be worn on these occasions, such as ladies wearing hats, lest the game be brought into disrepute! The men would have a little laugh as the ladies struggled to keep their hats on in a strong wind - all for protocol!
Ella had become well established as minutes secretary of the Bowls Club, giving her a monthly task in writing up a summary of their meetings. There was no chance that she would have another person nominated for this role at the AGM, held at the end of the playing season. Needless to state, I received an update of the business of the club after each monthly meeting. Of course, this was in confidence and I felt that Ella had a sense of pride in performing this specialised minutes secretary work.
At that AGM, I got landed the vice-captain role, which would involve attending monthly meetings and perhaps would benefit Ella in not having to relate in-house matters after each meeting. If Gladys had been alive, I would have received the comment - No show without Punch! Along with this appointment, I was asked to represent the club on the Havant Sports Council. This would be a repeat of my membership of the Sports Council in Portsmouth, when representing the Portsmouth and Southsea Hockey Club. I was given to understand that only Leigh Park Bowling Club were representing Bowls, so that I should now be sharing this sport with them.
I learned that many advantages could be obtained by speaking out at the Sports Council meetings in obtaining finance and equipment for the sport being represented. I also found an added interest in meeting Councillors and Departmental Heads from the council, who had an interest and responsibility to promote sports facilities within their Borough.
At the AGM, our vice-president, Bill Yeoman, told the meeting that he had secured the use of a disused portacabin, which the club could develop into a pavilion some time in the future. This had been vandalised on Wecock Farm Estate, and was made available by the council at a peppercorn rent.
Councillor Bill also mentioned that the Borough had started a feasibility study regarding an indoor bowls complex added onto the Leisure Centre at Havant. This was to be put into the planning process as soon as the study could justify the cost, with a build date two years hence. This brought much satisfaction from those at the AGM. It was another illustration of the usefulness of a Councillor bowls member, who could add weight to schemes of that kind.
The secretary had also good news regarding fixtures for 1985. Among, the many well-known clubs in the area, he had secured a fixture at Southampton Old Green. It was to be billed as the newest bowls club in the county playing the oldest bowls club in the world, dating back to 1187. This was indeed a surprise fixture, which the County Bowls Association had engineered, and for which we were proud to be invited to play, against this famous club.
With two ex-bank managers in the committee, Tom Aplin, the President and Geoffrey Jay, the Treasurer, it appeared that the club was in good hands and had a bright and challenging future.
© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 15, 2001