At the Bedhampton Bowls Club 1985 AGM, both Ella and myself retained our membership on the Committee, with Bill Yeoman taking over as President.    His influence in Havant Council on matters affecting the club was invaluable.   The wrecked Portacabin he had obtained from Wecock Farm Estate was in the Council storage depot, close by, awaiting final planning permission before collecting.  He was looking at me for plans for converting this shell of a hut into the club’s pavilion.  1986 would be an interesting year in the development of the club’s facilities.

I had a surprise when I called on Southern Electricity to have details of cables passing at the rear of the Bowling Green’s present cabin.    Not only were high power cables routed through this stretch of land, but also a huge sewerage main.   Both these supplies fed the population to the north of Havant, including areas such as Waterlooville and Horndean.   This information influenced the siting of the Wecock Farm hut, which caused this to be positioned almost too close to the edge of the green.

It was essential that ample space between the green and any structure be adequate for bowlers to walk and pass each other, without treading on the green.   The groundsman does not like to have bare patches on his green, and neither do the bowlers for that matter!

On the Havant Sports Council I gave notice that Bedhampton wished to be represented at the 1986 Hampshire and Isle of Wight Games at bowls, to be played at Gosport.   This was our first occasion that we selected Bedhampton Bowlers to represent this sport at these games.    It was also a proud moment when both Ella and myself took part and received a badge to commemorate the occasion!

It was fortuitous that Barbara asked us to stay with her family for Christmas, especially as a Christmas card had been received from Laura’s children, Helen and Christopher, but not one from Laura or from Peter, her son-in-law.    Again, Ella went quiet on checking there was no card from them.   This was like as if a knife had been pierced into her and turned.  I would have been better had no cards been sent at all, for this was keeping a wound festering.

Barbara was an outdoor person with plenty of sporting activities to keep her physically fit.  It was no surprise that we had plenty of walks programmed for each morning of our stay.   These walks were all local to Minehead, where Barbara lived.

Sarah, in her last year or two at school and Andrew, aged around 8 years, provided plenty of company for us, while Ella opened her heart sorrows about Laura to her middle daughter, Barbara.   This daughter, in turn, mentioned that she, too, seldom received correspondence from Laura.  This she thought was due to her being divorced and that she had boyfriends from time to time.

There were moments when I felt that not only had my Guardian Angel let both Gladys and Ella down, but allowed them to suffer for no apparent reason.   In my sadness, I prayed that some good would come out of this family rupture of good relations between Laura and her mother and sister, Barbara.

Ella’s troubled mind caused her new bowling friends to ask questions about her health, but she never gave a full explanation, to bring blame onto her former favourite daughter.

Apart from improving the house mod cons and the garden layout and trips out, there was little I could do to shift this Laura cloud over our heads.  Any reserves that I might have as far as coping with family troubles, had been used up, and I knew I could become very bitter and go into a depression.    Thinking back, I recalled that when Gladys passed on, I took up ambulance car driving and met people who were in a much worse state than myself.   When returning home, I would be thankful that I was not ill like them.   On my return to Bedhampton, I was resolved to find another driving job with a voluntary organisation.

Minehead had a much slower pace of life, made evident by the friendliness of people who had time to chat to each other in the High Street.  Shops were busy almost throughout the year, since Butlins Holiday Camp had brought thousands of visitors to the camp located on the sea front at Minehead.   Barbara, who was trained as a cook had worked at several of the local restaurants and knew where to eat out.

My first objective back in Bedhampton was to call at the Volunteer Bureau and give them my name for any suitable driving task.   I was told that they would inform me when a suitable driving job came along.   I did not have to wait long, for by early February, I had been taken on by the Havant Stroke Club, which met at Staunton School each Monday morning  between 10 am to 12 noon.

The lady in charge, Brenda Edwards, was pleased to have my services and would let me know who to pick up during the week.   She advised me to notify my insurance company, to make sure that all the occupants of the car were fully covered.   This was no different from the ambulance work, and I knew that there would be no difficulty to receive cover for my stroke patients.

Ella was quite happy for me to do this voluntary driving and so I would again be helping people less fortunate than myself and this would help me to ignore this Laura cloud that had settled over our heads. 

To give another morale boost to Ella’s state of mind, I had arranged a bridge holiday at Saga’s Palace Hotel, Buxton, from 2nd to 9th January.  Saga had ploughed huge sums of money into what might be called their ‘flagship’ and had extended its facilities to include a sports complex with swimming facilities.

We travelled by train via Manchester to arrive at Buxton where snow was falling heavily.   It was not unknown for Buxton to be snowbound during the winter months, as it is one of the highest towns in the country.   It does claim to have the highest inn, the Cat and Fiddle, on the highest peak in Derbyshire.

The railway station was only a short distance away from where the Palace Hotel was perched on a rise overlooking the town centre.  Looking at it from the station and seeing the ground covered with snow and the hotel lights all aglow, one could be excused for thinking that this was Switzerland.

The hotel, formerly owned by the Duke of Devonshire, for his guests staying at his nearby Chatsworth House, still retained Christmas decorations and the atmosphere they create at this time of year.   Several firms were holding their Christmas parties, joined in together in the main dance hall.   We became more attached to these festivities than we did the bridge in the evenings.

There was no easing-up of the snow and all that could be said was that looking through the windows at night, that this was fairy-land.  There was no reason to explore outside, since we had a good view from the sun lounge facing Buxton.  

News came through that the town was cut-off by rail and road.    This made our stay all the more exciting, since there was no urgent reason for our immediate return home.   This was not the case for many others who had need to return to work.   The manager explained to all his clients that they would not be forced to leave the hotel and that they could stay overnight.  It is in situations like this that the bulldog character of the British people reveals itself, as in the Dunkirk days.

By the following day, transport had got through and we were able to leave by rail, with special memories of Buxton in the winter.

With the usual apprehension, we approached the entrance of Radnor House, a large converted Victorian dwelling, now converted to house ten long-term patients from St James’ Hospital.   From the outside view of this residence, few would identify that it was different from other houses in this district, used as bed-sitters.   After six weeks, the staff were pleased that no incident had occurred to cause concern to the local community.

The door was opened by a young, pale-faced lady, wearing long hair and a long dark dress, carrying a shopping bag.  We identified ourselves as Harry’s parents.   “Yes I know him.  I will tell him you are here.  I am a patient myself!”

We made our way up the stairs to the living room on the first floor, where Harry rushed out to greet us with “How are you Dad and Ella?”   Before I had replied that we were well, I noticed that he had a bruise on his forehead and a scar to the side of his temple.     The living room contained a black board, several arm chairs, and a sofa.   After Harry asked what we would prefer to drink, coffee or tea, he immediately left to make the drinks. 

Our main thought while we were waiting was the fear that he was still having head bashing turns, which could jeopardise his half-way house residency.   His record in Devine Villa had indicated that he had been relatively free from turns before moving into the community.

Harry returned with three mugs of tea, and after handing a mug to each of us, sat down on the sofa.  He then explained that he was not well and that he had been head bashing in his bedroom!    He asked if he looked like the devil and then later asked if he looked like a dog.   I tried to switch his mind off to other things, such as art and his tape recorder.    I told him not to worry and that all would come right in the end.

On leaving, we spoke to one of the three nursing staff on duty, known as Betty.   She was aged about 20, and barely 5 feet tall.  “Harry” she said, “Has been knocking the bedroom wall with his knees and his head.   One of the patients heard him from his bedroom and sent for me.”  With the assistance of a trained nurse on duty, they had managed to calm him down.  The trained nurse was at that time attending a meeting, and she suggested we made contact with her when she was free.

One wonders how such nursing staff in charge of difficult mental patients carry out their tasks.   Is it not time that the public should be made more aware of the caring service provided by mental nursing staff?

We called a week later, and the nursing staff on duty, Ray and Kay, told us that Harry had been informed that a repeat of his turn similar to last time would mean the loss of his room and a return to St James.

Harry, who looked in better shape, was doing relaxation exercises for 15 minutes each day with a nurse.   He referred to a former Rampton patient now resident with them, who laid in bed all day, getting up only for his meals.   When we handed him his cigarettes and two apples, he asked if this was a phallus symbol.    He thanked us for coming to see him.

On leaving, we were convinced that the staff were very caring and did all they could to contain Harry’s turns.   Nevertheless, we were continuously on edge and it was not much different to those living by an active volcano, not knowing when it would next erupt.    It was evident to both the nursing staff and ourselves that his turns had been less frequent and less intense since he had been placed in the community.   This was very important, not only for the patient to know, but for the Health Minister when making policies such as reducing the size of Mental Hospitals.

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Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 15, 2001