1984 -1985

With the approach of Christmas 1984, Ella had coped with both the demands and stresses of 12 months of marriage, and the first season involved with Bedhampton Bowls Club Committee Minutes Secretary’s duties.   On Andrew’s scene, all was going well with his career, as with his move into his new home in Kingston Drive, Shrewsbury.

There was an indication, too, that Harry was acting more normally and having less turns, since he had been placed on a rehabilitation course.    This was an area where we could not expect a sudden change to his long pattern of bizarre behaviour.   This was brought home to us when we met him outside the art classroom at St James’, where he had been attending under the instructor, Richard Fuller.    The classroom was in the cricket pavilion, facing the cricket ground.

As we sat chatting, outside the studio, he remarked, as a patient passed us, “That’s Jeremy.  He’s an idiot.”  David had been swearing and cursing all night in his bed.   Barker, who had been to Dulwich College, crawled on the ground in Pink Villa during the night.    The night nurse had been taunting him.   It was the same effects of the tranquillisers, that he had been suffering from.    His scars appeared to be healing, and he had a spell of not coming home at weekends.

During December, Ella and I spoke to Andy, nursing officer in Pink Villa, who told us that Harry did not head the list of difficult patients in the ward.     He considered that Harry should be moved to Devine Villa as a final stage before being moved out into the community.    It was in Devine Villa that patients were taught to be self-supportive.

Harry asked to come home for Christmas week, and we noted that he had a Christmas card to send to Richard Fuller, his art teacher.

He came home from Monday 24th to Friday 28th and co-operated and dressed correctly at meal times, which pleased Ella, apart from Christmas Day, when he did not finish his dinner.    He had eaten a box of chocolates before his dinner, as well as nuts, which he always enjoyed cracking at this time of the year.

On returning him to Pink Villa we spoke to staff nurse, Phil Chilcot.  He claimed that drugs were not the cause of his turns.   In his view, it was deep anxiety and he could be talked out of his ‘eyeball’ visions.   He had heard that Harry had been accepted for Devine Villa, where staff and patients were scheduled to be moved to Elm Grove, Southsea, in the Spring.  That was good news indeed, to start 1985!

I felt that during this quiet period, a change from Harry’s normal, unstable state, Ella and I should escape on some kind of magic carpet while the opportunity availed itself.   This we did, on a Global Overland coach, touring Romantic Andalucia, including parts of Portugal.

Our coach was met by the courier at Santander, after we had arrived in Spain by ferry boat.   Our guide was a young Spaniard, who was studying at a university in England.   He had taken this work on to practice his English, before returning to his studies.   After mentioning that he was the son of a Spanish nobleman, he was branded for the rest of the trip as ‘The Duke’.

We received an account of the Moors’ occupation of Spain as an introduction, to explain their influence on the culture and buildings we would visit in Andalucia.   The Moorish Arabs from North West Africa invaded Spain in 711 and spread beyond the Pyrenées into France.   They were driven back, but Spain remained under the Moors’ domination until  the 11th Century.   Places we should visit would have examples of brilliant Moorish architecture.    It was not until around 1500 that the Moors were conquered by the Spaniards at Granada and were virtually exterminated by the Inquisition in early 1600.   Unless one had studied Spanish history, this citation by our Duke was very helpful on this tour.

Our first major stop for a walk was Salamanca, west of Madrid and six miles from the spot where Wellington routed Napoleon’s army in 1815.    Our guide led us to the most beautiful square in Spain, Plaza Major.  The size of the square could contain several football pitches.   The entrance to the square was through arches, over which were built dwellings, with balconies around the square.   In between, the separate arches, were colonnades along the edges of the square, giving a cloister effect to the corridor behind the pillars.   One could imagine the local population seeking shelter from any invading forces in this huge compound.

The following day our courier, the Duke, pointed out the highest town in Portugal, the fortress town, Cindad Rodrigo, guarding the Spanish and Portuguese frontier.   As we journeyed through the valley of the Sierra de Estral, we had a wonderful view of mountains and woodlands.   Before we reached Lisbon, the Duke told his coach party we would stop at Fatima, to see the Sanctuary.    This had been made famous by the virgin’s apparition to three shepherd children, Francisca, Jacinth and Lucia on 13th May, 1917.  Since that vision, devout Catholics paid annual visits to the sanctuary, to ask forgiveness.

The coach party had a profound shock, as they witnessed a long queue of pilgrims, dressed in black, crawling on their hands an knees towards the sanctuary.   Most were wearing some kind of knee-cap protection.   I did not see any men amongst them.   Ella did not see the funny side to my suggestion that she might like to join them.  Whilst this was in progress, the pilgrims were chanting some words, which we could not decipher apart from the last word, ‘Fatima’.    Strange that it should be just the ladies who require forgiveness?

It was a relatively short journey to reach Lisbon after our departure from that sight of wailing pilgrims; a scene that reminded us of the Jews at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, on the site where Herod’s Temple once stood.

We had a chance to have an early night’s sleep to charge up our batteries at the Hotel Roma.   Our special guide took us round Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, and spoke about the days of discoveries made famous by Henry the Navigator, son of John 1st, during the 14th Century.   His sailors discovered Madeira and the Azores.  We saw the tall monument, Discovery, in memory of him close by the River Tagus.   A huge Christ statue over looked the 1.5 mile long Salazar suspension bridge from the other side of the estuary.  

Other places we visited were the Jeronimo’s Monastery, a large complex resembling a Palace and St George’s Castle.    We were left to wander around the ancient building and tiled, decorated streets.

The evening was spent with other coach party passengers walking through the gardens at the water front, where the Belem Tower dominated the scene with a colossal monument, containing Henry’s statue and seamen carved on the side of this massive edifice.

The next day, the Global coach, our magic carpet, with the Duke at its helm, glided its way to Seville, through Andalucia, with its neat, white cottages.    In Sierra de Aracena, as we approached our destination, we passed many plantations of olives, figs and almonds.

Before reaching Seville, our guide highlighted the main attractions we should visit, in particular Alcazar, the Palace of Seville, famed for the beauty of its halls and gardens.   This was once the residence of the Moorish Kings.   In the evening a visit had been arranged for the coach party to visit a classical dancing school, where a display of Flamenco dancing and music would be given to us.    This we did, on our first night of arrival.   This display, for which the Spanish are famed, certainly gave us a taste of Spanish culture.    To most of us, the wailing voice of the guitarist and the painful look of the dancers, as they clicked their heels made us glad that this was purely a Spanish routine, adopted from the gypsies.

The following day was spent admiring the splendour of the great Giralda Tower, with its intricate Moorish decorations.    Our visit to the Alcazar was most impressive, where the Moors had stamped their style of decor throughout the Palace.   Equally impressive, was the Plaza de España, with its semi-circular colonnade-faced building, overlooking the tiled square, surrounded by a moat.

We were warned of bag-snatchers in Seville.   One lady passenger could have lost her handbag, had she not been warned.   Whilst she stood on the pavement outside our hotel, a motor-cyclist passing made a grab for her handbag.    Unfortunately for him, she had her hand on the bag, which was suspended from her shoulder.   Although she was pulled to the ground, he had to let go, for fear of falling of his motor-bike.  

Our next port of call on our magic carpet was Cordoba, which the Duke regarded as the most Moorish city in Spain.   The Mosques we were told, were the greatest pieces of architecture outside the Arab world.    We were left to wander around this old world country town, dominated by an ancient Alcazar.    It was interesting to look at the white-washed houses, with their patios opening onto the streets and squares.

After several hours stay here, our magic carpet gave us a scenic view of the country-side, as it moved us towards Granada, nestled in the foothills of Sierra Nevada.   Our guide, the Duke, reminded us that this was the last stronghold of the Moors, before they got thrown out of Spain in the 15th Century, under the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isobel.    Whilst in this furthest south Spanish town, Granada,  such as the ancient palace of the Moorish Kings, built in the 13th and 14th Centuries: he then added that we were to see another demonstration of Classical Spanish Dancing.    This had a mixed reception in the coach, as a few attempted to reproduce the previous guitarist’s vocal sounds.

The visit to Alhambra, the ancient Palace, was breathtaking, as we viewed the many Moorish arches, patios with fountains, graceful halls and dwelling rooms grouped around the courts.    Sadly, time did not permit us to explore fully the beauty of this town after we had wandered around the Cathedral, containing majestic carvings, paintings and huge pillars.    It was built during the Renaissance period of the 14th-16th Century and resembled the Italian architecture.

Our final destination was reached after passing through the heart of Andalucia, and La Mancha, where we noticed the abundance of windmills and castles, before we arrived at the capital of Spain, Madrid.   Here, again, we had a briefing from our Duke on places of interest, such as the famous art gallery, The Prado, where the Spanish painter, Velasquez had many of his portraits at the court of Philip IV, and many historical subjects on display.

Our visit to this art gallery was a must for Ella with her special interest in art; with my colour blindness , I was not a very good person to be listening to the finer points that Ella made on the paintings she stopped to admire.

We were both feeling the effects of this journey through classical Spain and were glad when the Duke steered us back to Santander to catch our ferry back to our homeland.   On the way to the port, we had the mausoleum containing General Franco’s tomb pointed out to us, by the Duke.

This tour had revealed to both of us the grandeur that once belonged to Spain, before and at the time when Philip II despatched his Armada of 120 ships against England, manned by 8,000 sailors and 19,000 soldiers, with 2,000 cannons.

We were all grateful to our guide, the Duke for giving us his version of his country’s history and using his wealth of knowledge on the Moorish influence on their culture.   That voyage of discovering the splendour of Spain on our magic carpet brought memories of previous tours, such as the Capitals of Europe, and I can think of no better way of learning about history and geography of places than to visit them.   Was it not the practice of wealthy families to send their sons as part of finishing their education to do the rounds on the continent?

Early in the new year, 1985, we learned that Harry had made progress in his rehabilitation activities and had been transferred from Pink Villa, which he hated, into Devine Villa where the residents were due to move en bloc into Radnor House, Southsea.    This was confirmed by Harry when he stayed at home on the weekend of Friday, 25th January.  

He went with us to Southsea on an expedition to purchase mahogany doors to replace the plain doors fitted throughout the house.    We found a shop in Albert Road which not only supplied mahogany doors with small windows fitted in them for the downstairs rooms, but would also instal them.

This was part of the refit programme that was designed to make Ella feel that, like the garden, the house decor planning was her’s.     Whilst on this assignment, Harry was quite rational and bought a record from WH Smith.    When he came home the following weekend he told us that the record was very popular in the ward and that the ward sister said she had the same record at home.

On the following Wednesday, we spoke to staff nurse Terry Moore, who said they hoped that Harry would settle down sufficiently for them to reduce his intake of drugs.   On the 4th February, Harry saw Dr Bale, and when he asked the doctor if he could have plastic surgery for his face, the doctor just smiled.   It was a relief to know he was acting rationally enough to improve his appearance, and not destroy what little he possessed in this direction, after the self-inflicted facial damage.

Ella noticed on his last visit home that his socks smelled.    She gave him a case of a complete change of underclothes, and instructed him to make full use of the washing machine that had been provided by the hospital.   

During February, we had the carpet fitters in, again as part of making this Ella’s house.   Not until this had been done could the mahogany doors be fitted.   Harry arrived home the weekend they were in the house, and without further ado, he returned to the hospital.    It was good to know that he preferred the Devine Villa to our house with men in it.    This also confirmed that he was quite happy there, for he had told us that the staff played card games with him at night.

By early Spring, I had installed a fountain in the fish pond and completed a waterfall which used recycled water from a pump in the pond, with a two-way outlet.

We took advice from the fish farm at New Town, on the time to stock our fish pond.   This was mid-May, when we carefully immersed each fish in a plastic bag container, filled with water at the fish farm.    Each bag had to be dropped into the fish pond and given time for the water in the bag to equalise in temperature with that of the pond before releasing the fish into the pond.    This was to avoid the fish receiving a sudden shock from a change in temperature which could occur if taken out of the container and immediately released into the pond.   This we did not want to happen, in view that we had bought a variety of fish including goldfish, shubunkins, fantails and Japanese koi.

We also put a couple of water lily plants in the pond, as this enhanced the fish environment.   The waterfall was not only attractive to watch, but also helped to aerate the fish pond water.    The daily feeding and watching the fish proved a favourite pastime for both of us.

Progress had been made to remove the hedges dividing the gardens on each side of the house.   According to our house plans, these were shared by the owners on both sides of the hedge.  My Commander Naval Officer next door, Bill Dungate, favoured a brick wall and had received a quote from a master builder, G Bowbrick, using decorative bricks.    The price was reasonable, and I was only too glad to share the cost with him to get the project underway.    This was another sweetener for Ella, who plied the builder and his son, Peter, with cups of tea.     The father overdid the task of removing the hedge and its roots and had to rest in the house.    We learned that he had been a foreman on the Leigh Park housing estate, which at the time of construction - to take the overflow from Portsmouth - was the biggest council estate in Europe.

Once the wall foundations had been laid and set, father and son started building the wall.   I was fascinated with the bricklayer’s skill in being able to put the correct amount of mortar on the brick before placing the brick in position.   Equally impressive to me was the consistent viscosity of the mortar mix, for when I had attempted brick-laying, I could never master these activities.     I suppose the saying “Horses for Courses” was true in this case.

When this wall had been completed, I not only had half a day’s work in hedge cutting removed during the summer months, but now had a very good builder contact in George Bowbrick and Son.

Before removing the hedge between my neighbour on the other side, Bill Dracket, he was agreeable to a fence being constructed on a do-it-yourself basis.    In this case, it meant that it was left for me to go ahead with it on my own.   This Bill, like my other neighbour, was very compatible, but not practically inclined.   He had been an executive officer in the Admiralty.  We were both sports-minded and had much in common, when talking about sports clubs, both in this area and in London, where he was born, and worked in the Civil Service before moving here.  My newly acquired bowls friend, Ernie King, offered to assist me in erecting this joint fence, which I hoped to have delivered from Pinks Wood Yard at Wickham.

Our first major task was to make sure that next door’s dog, Woody, did not escape once we had removed the hedge.   This needed the co-operation and the know-how to handle Woody, from our neighbours Bill and Jean. 

I chose a combination of wooden slats and trellis, secured to the upper section of a 5 foot high wooden structure.   Pinks gave us advice on wood preservation, which they supplied.    I suppose that as neither of us had built a fence before, it was constructed by trial and error.    Surely there can be no better way of cementing a new friendship than by having a joint project to master!

I learned, too, that to have a talent which becomes your career, as this did for Ernie when he became a musician in the Marine Band, has much to be envied.   In his case it was a life of pomp and circumstance once the war was over, for these Marine musicians played at all the important national occasions and concerts.   While on board large warships, their presence was always part of the Officer’s Mess scene when entertaining foreign guests whilst flying the flag abroad.

Ernie was born and bred in Portsmouth and had relatives living in the area.  He married Mary, a Scottish lady, who he regarded as his manager, for they were very active in committees of various kinds.   The Havant Symphony Orchestra came top of their priority of commitment, now followed by their latest interest in the bowls club at Bedhampton.   Ernie had already established himself as the organiser of the Friday afternoon all change drive, with Mary making tea and serving the bowlers during the drive interval.    Ella struck up a good relationship with Mary, another spin off for being a member of our local bowls club for which the residents have to thank its Godfather, Bill Yeoman.

The Havant Council had completed a feasibility study as regards the cost and timescale to build a six-rink indoor bowl complex attached to the successful Havant Leisure Centre.    The nearest bowls indoor centre was at Alexandra Park, Portsmouth, which had a long waiting list of bowlers to join.

A meeting was held by the council, where Councillors Tim Williams and Bill Yeoman played a leading role.   At this meeting were representatives of the local outdoor bowling clubs and members of the Havant Sports Council.   Among those from Bedhampton were Ella and myself.   Normally, where the council sponsor a meeting, a member from the council took minutes, to record the proceedings.   On this occasion, there was no such person present.

Before Tim welcomed those present, he had some discussion with his colleague, Bill, followed by glances at Ella.   Yes, as I guessed, Tim announced the need from the floor for a person to take minutes.  Would Ella come to their rescue?   She had little choice in the matter, for the members of Bedhampton gave overwhelming support to this matter.  My only remark to her was, “Nice to be wanted.”

The meeting was given a time-scale of two years for the build and that the Council would lease the complex to a newly-formed representative Indoor Bowls Club, as takes place with all the bowling greens in the Borough.   Apart from the Alexandra Park Indoor Club, there were no other such clubs in the area for at least ten miles.   The outcome of this meeting was that this project would receive full support from bowlers in this catchment area, to justify the go-ahead for its build.

I knew that after this meeting, Ella would have a few words to say to me for again landing her in this role of minutes secretary.    Deep down, I was glad that she had been recognised as a useful member of her present bowls club.   The more our club members were involved in this new venture, the greater the influence in shaping it to the requirement of our members.   Being a member of the Havant Sports Council, I too, would be in a position to make a contribution when this project was brought up at their monthly meeting.

We had surprise visitors when Barbara and her children, Sarah aged 10 and Andrew aged 7, arrived on Friday afternoon the 8th March, to stay the weekend.   Ella did not speak a great deal about her family affairs, apart from that whilst Andrew was almost a child in arms, Barbara’s marriage had fallen apart.   My presence at their wedding in Dunster, when I gave her away in place of her father, who had left the homestead, did not seem to have acted as a bonding agent in any way.

Barbara was very sports-minded, taking part in squash with her friend of the same name, and competing at wind-surfing with Nick, her boyfriend of almost 10 years her junior.   She had qualified at catering, but also had a great interest in health welfare.   It was this quality, that when she had heard that Harry had been taken back to hospital, that she insisted on seeing him at the earliest opportunity.    

He had arrived home earlier in the morning, to stay for the weekend.   To our disappointment, he had a recurrence of his turns and visions of eyeballs on the wallpaper.   We had no alternative but to take him back to Devine Villa, where we spoke to staff nurse Carol.

We were told that last week he had injured his eye and they believed that the cancellation of the move out to Radnor House at Southsea was a contributory factor.   We were also assured that Harry’s record in Devine Villa showed a vast improvement compared to his previous record.

By the time Barbara reached the hospital, he had played his relaxation tapes and had calmed down, so that he was able to talk with some sense to her.    They passed pleasantries, and he thanked us for calling to see him, hoping Barbara would bring the children the next time she called.

Barbara was impressed with the garden, and in front of her mother, I highlighted that it was her layout that I was working to.  Of course, when Ella was not there, I claimed that I was developing my original garden scheme!

I was very sure that George Bowbrick, the master brick-builder could do very much more to enhance the house.   I kept in touch with him on matters of maintenance, clearing the gutters and painting.   I had the drive widened to permit Ella’s mini to be parked alongside my Allegro in the front garden on the hard standing, and had one gate post removed.

In the back garden, I had three seven-foot pillars supporting trellis-work to screen the garage from the patio glass sliding doors, fitted after I had constructed the patio, which Bill Dracket referred to as a ‘rocket launching pad’.    The front garden wrought iron gates that had become redundant, were fitted between the tall pillars and interlaced with the wooden trellis.   On the pillars were mounted ceramic owls with heads pointing towards the patio doors.  These were commissioned to be made by friend of Andrew’s, before he left for Shrewsbury.   When installed, Yvonne, Bill Dungate’s wife, dared not move once she had spotted them, for fear of frightening them away.   This ceramic craftsman worked at Denmead Potteries, and later had his own kiln.   There was much to be completed as regards the garden modus operandi devised by Ella, for it was her garden!

On Wednesday, 3rd April 1985, at the Bedhampton Social Hall, the local bowls club held their pre-season meeting to launch the on-coming bowls season.   These pre-season meetings, held by each club as standard procedure, provided an opportunity for all members to meet together, and in particular for new members to stand and be recognised.

This meeting not only enabled the treasurer to collect the annual subscriptions, which amounted to £7.50 for the year, but also for the secretary to circulate the fixture card, containing around 100 fixtures, 40 of which were league games played at night.   It is only when the secretary produces a list of matches for the on-coming season that a member has any appreciation of the work involved at home when undertaking honorary posts of this kind.   Personally, I had no idea there were so many clubs in the Portsmouth and District Bowling Association, which we had joined and had been placed in their League Division III.

It was not until we had joined the Portsmouth and District League, that I became aware how vast was the bowls fraternity and how dedicated were the elder population, who turned out to play on a cold April night, straight from work.  In this Bowls Association, there were over 30 clubs, which were affiliated to the Hampshire County Bowling Association, containing more than 130 affiliated clubs like ourselves.

The Hampshire County Bowling Association, similar to other counties throughout the country, was affiliated to the English Bowling Association.  There were similar associations for Scotland, Wales and Ireland and indeed throughout most of our former colonies, being very strong in Australia and South Africa.   There were also other countries outside the Commonwealth that had adopted this English sport, like cricket.

Many of the local bowlers had watched the world bowling competitions at Worthing, when held at the English Bowling Association HQ.   I was not too impressed when selected to play in the league match against a club at Southsea Front in early Spring, without any protection from the shore winds from the south west, worse still, when raining, for dedicated bowlers do not stop for rain, as I found to my regret.

To become a part of the bowling fraternity was like joining a huge family, for no matter where you travel, provided you have your bowls gear, you will mostly find new company and friendship.   Many bowlers take part in travelling abroad on a bowling holiday, visiting countries like Hong Kong, America, New Zealand, Australia and many more, such as Africa.

My role, as vice-captain, was of a secondary nature, deputising for the captain, Eric Googe, who was on the selection committee and attending the monthly management meetings, where of course, Ella would be seated alongside the secretary, making notes.

Ella’s eldest daughter, Janet, had invited us to join them when camping in Brittany, France, during the school holiday period in the summer.    Janet had kept in touch with us by phone on a regular basis since our marriage, and would always wish to speak to me and ask about Harry.   It was a bit of a joke, when they, that is Bob, her husband and her, suggested we camped with them.   This included their two daughters, Jane aged 9 and Louise aged 6, and their baby, Andrew, aged 10 months.  

I had motored abroad with Gladys and Harry when visiting Joan and Mike, who was attached to the British Army in Germany as a school master at that time.    Although my age was 70, it did not occur to me that I could have a driving problem in reaching their camp site in Brittany.   There was certainly no problem in reaching the car ferry from Portsmouth, arriving at Cherbourg.

On setting out on this venture, Ella had the route set out on the map, which would take us past Avranches, which was made famous by the Americans during the war.  At each crossroad junction I had a problem to identify the traffic control lights.    At the same time, I would also be trying to identify the next town’s direction that I was routed to pass through.   This situation was not helped when Ella tried to show me the position she thought we were at on the map which she was holding.   It seemed I was fighting a losing battle at each cross-road and it was by the sun that kept me on the direction to Benodet, Brittany.     The basic problem was that the traffic lights were so high up on the post, that I could only see them at a distance and they had disappeared out of view above the car when I had reached the crossing.    I could not locate the traffic lights across the other side of the crossing, as would be possible in England.

I was relieved to make Avranches, where by this time, the driver and navigator relationship was severely strained.   We made a break here to relax and visit the many references to the Allied Forces, who made the first break out after the Normandy Landing, to race to be the first to recapture Paris.  This break-out, mainly by General Patton’s American troops has made Avranches synonymous with General Patton’s name.   Whilst here, Ella’s thoughts were of her brother, Ronald, who was fighting a relentless battle with Montgomery’s forces in the Falaise Gap, around Caen, at the time of the breakout.    He won his MC medal for bravery during the Normandy campaign.

In restarting our journey, I carefully noted the route to our next stop at Dinan, famed for its hosiery and mediaeval buildings.   I managed to read the road signs better, but still could not locate the traffic indicators at the cross-roads and was becoming a real danger to all road users in my close proximity.  This stress was made worse when the motorist at my rear hooted at me to go, before I had sorted out the indicator.   If I had been Ella, I would have got out of the car, known as the sickly-green Allegro.

We did reach Benodet in one piece, with me a complete nervous wreck and Ella nearly as bad.   The most dangerous mistake I made was when I entered a dual carriageway on the wrong side and had on-coming cars, which nearly caused a head-on collision.   We had to thank the French traffic police for rescuing us from this nightmare.   Fortunately, they could speak English and I was able to tell them of my problem of locating the traffic indicators at cross-roads.    I felt rather stupid that I had failed to notice them when shown that they were at the driver’s height on the same post as those mounted at a higher level, which I could read at a distance.

The first to greet us on the camp site at Benodet was Jane, who shouted out, “Hello Nan, you cannot go sun bathing or swimming unless you’re topless!”   On getting out of the car, we were then met by Janet and the rest of the family.    I was only too pleased that I had got there safely and was quite prepared to go naked, if that was the custom.

The tent had two compartments, one for sleeping and the other used as the living room.  Sad to say, the rain came down solidly for three days, during which time we hardly ever left the tent.

Little Louise, aged 6, was a bright child who was always likened to her Nan, Ella.  She, together with Jane, made up a bridge school, not having played this sophisticated card game before.     Both Janet and Bob were happy to watch these two future bridge fiends learn the game and pass three days of rain away in their tent.   We were surprised that they could pick the game up so quickly.    I think this confirmed that Louise was bright, like her Nan, and would go to university when older.

After the three days, we ventured onto the beach at Benodet, but it was more like a desert storm, even though it was not raining.   We soon returned to our tent, with only Andrew wanting to stay and play in the sand with his Dad.

Ella spoke of her early married life, when the only way they could afford to take their children away was by camping.  For her, camping days were over, and our stay here was intended only as a look-see effort.   A lot of improvisation had gone into accommodating us in this family tent, and so we said our goodbyes before Janet and family were due to return.

I felt much more confident driving back, having had it explained about the traffic lights.   The return trip was a much more relaxed affair, but nevertheless, I was relieved to be back in Bedhampton and should be very sure that this would be our last camping experience.

Our match with Southampton Old Bowling Green was an all-men’s match, as their club was not mixed.   However, we were permitted to take lady guests with us, which enabled me to bring Ella along.   We soon discovered that they had had lady members in the past, but they had got thrown out because they wanted to rule the club, which started over some differences about who should look after the side gardens.  Maybe they had a keen lady gardener, like Ella, and if so they should have been wise enough to let her get on with it and let the men concentrate on the game of bowls.

The green, situated in the oldest part of the ancient town, was termed Saltmarsh, in mediaeval times.   The pavilion had many items and pictures on display, which made one feel that you were stepping into the past.  

Here is one item, published in their handbook, giving the club’s history:


 In the year 1670, there were 20 rules, stating what may or may not be allowed.

Here is rule 18 - if any running bowl is stopped, or touched by a spectator, not being a better, whether it be to the benefit or hindrance of the caster, the same bowl shall take its chance and lie. 

This handbook was made available to each member at a small charge.  It became of great value once signatures had been obtained in this book from the surviving knights present.

The book contained photographs of these knights in their top hats and striped trouser, who had become masters of green, after an annual three week competition.   The Knighting Ceremony, by the Mayor of Southampton, was the chief event of the season, and it was the goal of most of their bowlers.   We were assured that sometime in the future, our club would be invited to this august occasion.  Ella achieved several signatures from Sirs, all giving their ‘Best Wishes to Ella’.  She became attracted to a most likeable knight, “Sir” Bert Baker.

The Bedhampton Club struck up a good relationship with this world-famous bowls club, which we felt very proud to have achieved; clubs world-wide sought fixtures with it when touring this country.   Our fixture secretary said that he had secured this fixture for next year, and they would endeavour to make it a mixed game, as against an all-male match.   Perhaps Ella’s charm had worked on the knights!  The result of the match was secondary to players mixing at the bar and made certain that we also had a good spirit within our newly-formed club, so that they would consider this to be a good fixture to keep permanently.

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© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 15, 2001