During 1986, the refit programme had been proceeding to Ella’s scheme in making this her house, with the completion of tiling and fitting a new sink unit to replace the one we had given the bowling club.   The bathroom had also been retiled and papered.   Rooms, the landing and the staircase had been recarpeted, not forgetting the replacement of all the downstairs doors, except the kitchen.     It was at this time, the fashion to install double glazing, with firms mushrooming everywhere, all competing with each other, and knocking on the doorstep.   They almost led you into believing that you could have them free, if they could have their notice-board displayed outside your house.

We did a deal for all windows to be replaced, with Abba of Witney, Oxon., costing around £4,000.   They convinced us that Pilkington’s Kappafloat glass fitted had insulation properties, equivalent to triple glazing, due to a special coating rendered to the glass, during the manufacturing process.    Also, the plastic frames were secured in a synthetic imitation dark wood surround.  There was no need for either painting or wood preserve to be applied for maintenance.   That meant no climbing ladders for me, and so there was a joint reason for choosing Abba.

Ella now had another father and son situation, similar to the brick wall construction.   Tommy Mallet and son, Paul, arrived from Southampton with a van full of material, to install the window frames.   Tommy was a small, roundish chap, having a broad smile, with Paul a smaller version of his Dad.     As was usual from Ella, cups of tea were plied generously to maintain good relations.

They explained that they were on contract with Abba, which they said was owned by two sisters, who arrived daily at their office in a Rolls Royce.    They called their to replenish their materials.   When I looked into their van, I was surprised to see so much mahogany wood.   When I queried Tommy on the use of this wood, I had a pleasant surprise.  Every window would not only have a mahogany window sill inside, but the whole of the window surround would be faced with this wood.   I did not remember discussing this feature, so I kept quiet, but later I read an instruction on an invoice - hardwood window boards on ALL windows.   The effect of this was to make each window look from the inside as if the window was mounted in a picture frame.

The final act of this installation was to have the kitchen door replaced with their double glazed Kappafloat glass, in a brown frame.   We were so pleased with their final installation, that I sent the following letter.

 Dear Miss Taylor,

My wife and I wish to congratulate Abba for the very impressive fitting of Abba Plus double glazing.

The workmanship and finish of the windows appears to be of the highest quality.   The father and son team, ie Tommy and Paul, installed the units in a most skilful and methodical manner.

Your representative said, “Just wait and see.   Your windows will be the best in the road.”

Tommy said, “Don’t worry sir, you will find your windows will be the best in the road.”   And so they were, for in less than 24 hours, three neighbours remarked how well the Georgian windows looked.

Provided that we have the necessary back-up service to the standard already provided, we believe that in selecting Abba we have chosen a winner.

Yours sincerely

Alan Rayment 

Now the window project was completed in early February, 1987 and Harry had become reasonably settled, there was no reason for us not to have a short break before the outdoor bowling season started.   Once bowling was underway, both Ella and myself had commitments.    As Vice-President I was expected to fill in when the President was unable to be present.   One very important event that I had to be present at was the official opening of the pavilion by the Mayor of Havant.

We went to the Derwent Bank Country House, set amongst mixed woodland, on the edge of Portinscale, overlooking the lake to Keswick, with hills rising beyond.   Our stay from Monday 2nd to Friday 6th was planned as a walking and bridge holiday.

This being a Holiday Fellowship guest house, a hostess plans the day’s itinerary.   Walking and bridge, as well as bowls and bridge are perfectly complementary to each other, for after the physical exertion, one can rest sitting down, using grey matter at playing bridge.    My grey matter is usually spent on how to confuse the opponents, forgetting my partner’s (ie Ella’s) problem interpreting my bid.

Derwent Water is pleasantly situated in the Lake District to visit places that we knew, such as Keswick, Rydal and Grasmere areas, with Wordsworth’s House and grave within easy reach by car.   We were able to choose whatever we wished to take part in.   So as far as bridge was concerned, this was an evening activity. 

Our accommodation provided for 76 guests and, as standard practice, each person is expected to sit at a different table at meal times, so that everyone gets to know each other.   Many new friends were made.

The bowls club had been busy preparing for the opening of the pavilion by the Mayor of Havant.   All the benches made by the Barncroft Industrial Training Centre for the Handicapped were in place in the veranda, as were the flower boxes made at St James’ Hospital by their industrial training unit.

Inside the pavilion, a banquet had been prepared, set on new tables in line, along the hut, with new folding chairs.   Ella’s curtains gave a friendly atmosphere to the setting, with white tablecloths for food and flowers, to complete the scene inside.

Havant Mayor Trevor Dyer, and his wife, Peggy, were met by our President, Bill Yeoman, and Vi, his wife, who were led to the entrance to the pavilion.    As Vice-President, I met the mayor’s entourage, not forgetting the mayor’s driver.    Trevor, showing off his chain of office, standing at the entrance, was given the key by Bill, to officially declare the opening of our new pavilion.

In the mayor’s remarks, he was quoted in the Evening News as saying, “I have to give credit to everyone of this club for the marvellous hard work that has been put into it.   With your up and go spirit, you have created a first class facility for the whole club to use, from a semi-derelict portable building.  It is super!”

Bill and I, with the mayor and his wife, sat outside for a friendly chat, before the mayor’s team took part in a bowls challenge match with Trevor and Peggy sending their bowls first on their rink, for photographs to be taken.

The weather was fine, and I was sure that all were pleased with this day’s opening of our new pavilion.

Another bowls facility event that the local bowlers could look to in 1987 was the opening of the Havant Borough £500,000 indoor bowling centre, forecast to open in September by the bowls master, David Bryant.   It was the brainchild of veteran councillor and bowls enthusiast, Timothy Williams - come true!   It had been designed for six rinks, and membership was planned for 650 mixed players.   This additional feature to Havant Leisure Centre would further enhance the town’s attraction for the sport minded population, and would be especially attractive for the retired citizens.  I had many acquaintances who, since retirement, had taken up sports of one kind or another at this centre; you were lucky if you could find them in their house!

The Bognor Regis and District Sports Council did invite Havant to take part in their Arun games.   As a member of our Havant Sports Council, I was selected to take a squad of Bedhampton bowlers to take part in the bowls section of the Arun Tournament.  These were always interesting occasions to meet new players to know, and to notice how the games were organised.    Those who took part received a certificate, signed by the Chairman of the games to hang up on the wall.   Ella had other ideas about what to do with this piece of paper, for she too, had taken part in the ladies’ section.

Andrew, apart from playing rugby for his school, had little to do with sport.  It was similar to my case of not taking up music, although my father was a self-taught choir master and organist.   His interest was involvement with the youth activities associated with his church.   I was pleased that he should have other things to occupy his mind, away from his work.   

I had no need to concern myself on that score, for he was a father for the fifth time. News came through from him on the phone, that Linda had given birth to Christopher Luke, who weighed 7lbs 10oz and both were doing well.   So now I was a Granddad for the fifth time, and catching up to Ella, who had eight grandchildren.   I hoped they could feed them all and have room in their house in Shrewsbury.    Ella heard the news from me, and wanted to know if they knew what had caused the birth!    If so, was it a mixed hockey team that they were aiming for?

We were woken up in the early hours of Friday morning, 16th October, with the rushing sound of wind, but more like trains passing overhead.   Ella screamed in fear, she thought the window had been blown in.    I went to the back bedroom to look at the tall poplar trees at the rear of the back garden.   In the dim light, and with the skyline to provide an outline of the trees, they looked as if they were almost horizontal from half-way up.

The previous owner, Mr Burns, had to have the garage rebuilt due to a tall tree crashing onto the roof during a storm.   My main concern was, could it be the house this time?   There was no letting up, for this was no ordinary storm, with the windows vibrating.

How come there was no warning on the radio or television?   In fact, the weatherman, Michael Fish told millions of viewers on the evening news the previous night that a viewer had phoned to alert him that a hurricane was on its way,  “Well, if you are watching, don’t worry, because it isn’t.”    I suppose they cannot always get the forecast right, but surely this must be the one they most wished to forget!   In this case it was a hurricane, we were later informed, with winds reaching 120 mph.

At day break, the winds had reduced, and at a glance outside, one could see neighbours’ fences blown down, roof tiles off their roofs, aerials hanging from their fastenings to the chimney stacks.   We were fortunate, the only damage we suffered were the garage doors broken.    This confirmed that Mitchell, the builder, built these homes to the highest standard.

The path of the storm was charted from the Bay of Biscay, hit the Channel Islands, gathered up force off S.W. Cornwall and up to Kent, London and East Anglia.   Woodlands at Rogate, Steven Woods, West Sussex, Public Park Goodwood House, Wildwood, Petworth Park, Highdown Worthing.   The National Trust estimated 800 acres of woodlands in the south east had been cruelly mutilated.

The Association of British Insurance estimated that claims at the rate of 50,000 a day were being received, and that the total estimated cost to them would total £500 million.

It was an unusual sight to see small boats washed up by the side of the Eastern Road when going into Southsea, a scene repeated many times along the south coast.    Months later, on our drives into the local country, trees were visible, blown over, exposing their roots, wherever there were woodlands.    A vast trade developed by timber yards with saw mills, in the recovery of tree trunks from the woodlands graveyards of trees.

It hardly need be stated with what my second most thoughts were concerned.   After the house, of course, the pavilion veranda, that faced the direction of the hurricane!     Not a single screw or timber had been disturbed, neither had the fibreglass sheeting on the roof been torn away.    There was no sign of damage from the storm, so that we could claim our workmanship was hurricane-proof!

We had Bowbrick to repair the damage to the garage, who ensured that we had an up-and-over door installed, together with a brick fascia.   We had to thank the Great Storm for this renovation, all paid for by our insurers.

Our trips to Harry had become less frequent, since he had taken up residency in Outram Road.   His main concern had been that Bill’s friends, or ‘drop-outs’ as Harry preferred to call them, had been coming into the house.    He now refused to open the door to them when Bill was out.   Otherwise, he had settled in, but was not yet sorting his own clothing out, for which he had money given to him by the DHSS.

We called on him on Tuesday 14th July, at 11 am, and met Sylvia, who Harry had told us was his new housekeeper.    She opened the front door to us and told us to go into the lounge, and said that Harry was about.  “Would you like a cup of tea?”   Everywhere was clean and tidy, and seemed to match her appearance.   Dressed smartly, with blondish hair, brushed back and having a shapely figure, but above all, a cheerful face, aged around 50.

When Harry appeared, he told us he had received a card from Fay, the former housekeeper, sent from York.   This indicated that he was on good terms with Fay.   I got the impression that he would also be on good terms with Sylvia.    He looked smarter today than normal, dressed in a clean T-shirt and denims.    Whilst with Harry, we met Terry Moore, who had called to check up with Sylvia that she was able to cope with her new family at Outram Road.

Terry had been a nurse at Devine Villa, and was now a key nurse to former patients of St James’ placed in the community.   Harry, one of his patients, he thought had made progress since placed out in Outram Road.  Sylvia joined us, and mentioned Harry had the opportunity to go on a trip to Bognor, with two others, but had turned the offer down.    During this get-together, Sylvia informed us that the owners of Outram Road, the Portsmouth Housing Association, had scheduled this property for redecorating in the near future.

We left and thanked them for all they were doing to raise Harry’s quality of life.   Surely Harry had never had better accommodation, nor staff to care for him?

This seemed an ideal moment for us to plan another return to Gran Canaria, having to avoid prime dates in the bowls world.   In September the Havant Indoor Bowls was going to take off, and as we were founder members, we must not miss the opening ceremony, where David Bryant, the bowls master, would show us how it should be done.

Our annual dinner would be at the Curzon Rooms, Waterlooville, where the presentation of the trophies would take place on 29th October.    All members were expected to attend, with committee members prominent on the top table.

However, the most important date, when the big man himself would take over as high priest of Bedhampton Bowls Club would be at the AGM, on 19th November.

By the time this last event was over, with Ella taking down the minutes, we were looking forward to returning to the sunshine at Grand Canaria, planned for the following Monday.   At the AGM, which went off reasonably smoothly, I had only one occasion to be pulled up for not following items on the agenda.    It was a bit of an ordeal sitting on the platform, with many in the audience of around 100 having more experience of the game than myself.

The Friday afternoons All Change Drive, run by Ernie King, remained on the fixture card for 1988, and the Indoor Bowls Club had also adopted this drive around the Christmas period.

There are times when you need to switch off from the ups and downs of everyday life and escape into another world.   This was so for both of us, probably for different reasons.     I had no wish to conceal it, it was like being on a tightrope, never sure whether this next step would be my last, or more appropriately, a phone call from Harry, stating he had damaged his face again.    In Ella’s case, her rupture with Laura lay heavy on her heart, with only a few who knew the reason for her sad appearance.

The plane could not fly fast enough for us to reach the Las Palmas Airport, while both of us remembered the golden sand dunes at Maspalomas, and the delightful Hotel Las Margaritas.  

Again, at this 4-star hotel, we had a balcony overlooking the swimming pool, with en-suite bathroom, containing shower bath.   Here, we could relax and not concern ourselves with wondering what news might distress us on the phone.   However, there was some fine weather news we were hoping to hear for the clouds were overcast and it was relatively cool.   In fact, the swimming pool was empty.  This good news about fine, sunny weather did not come on the following day.   So what had happened to this sunny island that boasts of a 70+ temperature throughout the year?

An amendment to our daily routine of swimming and walking along Playa del Ingles beach was necessary.   At the hotel reception desk, details of daily coach trips up the local 6,000 foot mountain were displayed.   We were able to make a booking via the hotel in time for that day’s ascent.

The coach that picked us up looked as though it was past its worn date.  The driver, who wore a typical local straw hat, did not say much but fortunately he had a lady courier.    We sat on seats directly behind the courier, who seemed to have little verbal contact with the driver.  

Ella, who sat next to the window, pointed to the deep ravine, alongside her, as we made the ascent up the mountain.   The higher we went the deeper the slope by the side of the narrow winding mountain road.  What made things more nerve-racking was that there were no crash barriers to prevent a vehicle from skidding off.   Another disturbing factor, was that the driver accelerated round bends, not knowing what could be coming in the opposite direction.    During a straight stretch, he pulled up and pointed out to sea, and muttered something to the courier.

During the whole of this trip, other holiday makers, like ourselves, were almost too frightened to speak.   Eventually, the coach stopped at a small village, where the courier informed us that conditions were too bad to proceed higher, in view that we had reached cloud level.    We were advised to get ourselves a hot drink in the café, before we returned.

I was curious to know what the driver had pointed out to the courier, when he stopped en route.  She told me that there had been a drought in the island and the local inhabitants had been praying for months for rain.   Whenever the island that was pointed out could be seen, it was a sign of rain to come soon.    We were not pleased to hear this news, but just hoped that they had got it wrong.

During the whole of our stay, it rained continuously, and waterfalls appeared that had not been seen for ten years or more.   Looking down at the swimming pool, it was the same picture every day, of chairs turned over to allow the water to drain off.   We were not able to have one sea dip, or stroll along this beautiful beach, because of this foul weather.    We, of course, had the meals and comfort of the hotel, with an occasional entertainment, but that was not what we had come for alone.

We returned with memories the reverse to those we had from our first visit, and we should have to ascertain the long-range weather forecast before we ventured to Gran Canaria again.

In spite of the lack of sun while away, we felt refreshed, hopefully to cope with whatever may be waiting for us around the corner.   Prior to going away we had met the special project officer of the Portsmouth Housing Association at Outram Road, with Sylvia.   They were deciding on the new furniture and carpets, to replace exising items throughout the house.   This officer knew Harry at Radnor House, and was full of praise for the progress he had made at this address.    A short time later, on 8th October, Harry phoned to tell us that the new furniture had arrived and added that this was because they were a special residence.   Of course, we agreed with this remark.

What we had not anticipated around the corner, were the turns that Harry had during our absence.   Late November, he had damaged the record player and TV set at his residence.    This was followed, a few days later, with a more severe turn, resulting in his face requiring stitches.  We did not receive much details of these unfortunate events.    Sylvia, who opened the door on our first visit, after returning from Gran Canaria, merely said that Harry was in the lounge.   When we asked where he did the damage to his face, he merely said that a cat had scratched him.

Two original residents, Fred and Joe, were due to leave his place in the new year.  I think he was aware that he, too, could lose his place if he had more turns, and so wished to avoid the subject.   He expressed a wish to spend Christmas at home, and of course, this was agreed, provided he made his own way.   That meant he would have to get a taxi Christmas Eve to Wigan Crescent, whilst I returned him by car, doing a drive along Southsea front on the way.

Harry spent most of his time in his small front bedroom, which I likened to his kennel, whereas he regarded this as his safe haven.   Apart from looking at the TV, his favourite pastime was cracking walnuts.   We made sure that he was well supplied.

There was again a period of pain for Ella.   She did not receive a Christmas card from her youngest daughter.

This was the first Christmas that we were able to play in special matches at the Indoor Bowls Club, where on two occasions, my All Change Drive movement cards were used as a social event.

This bowls centre had turned out a great success for Havant Borough, with 750 members and 200 on the waiting list.    Bernard James, the Club Secretary, was a recent convert to this game and had praised all his members for the work they had done.   “We run the whole thing without any manning costs; they are all volunteers, who work 12 hours a day.” 

The Vice-President, Bill Yeoman, now wanted to keep the centre open in the summer, for those members who wanted to play indoors, and to attract tourists.   This centre was also being booked as an alternative venue by local clubs, should rain prevent outdoor play, where matches had been arranged with visitors coming to play.

With the creation of this bowls centre as an added sports facility to the existing Havant Leisure Centre, thousands of local citizens’ lives had been revitalised, especially the older population.   Practically every indoor sport was catered for, including tea dances, where many of the 60+ fun club took part.   The latter club, which met several mornings during the week had use of every facility in the centre, apart from bowls.   In addition, outings were arranged for its members, and rambles together with holidays abroad.  

Ella and I were fully occupied, attending indoor bowls sessions several times a week and playing friendly matches at the weekends.   In addition, I maintained the early bird swimming sessions twice a week.

When the Bedhampton Bowls Club was formed, I was impressed with the wider circle of friends that had resulted from being members.   This circle had now been increased tenfold by being members of Havant Indoor Bowls Club, for it had attracted members from all the outdoor bowls clubs in the area.

As this had been repeated throughout the country, it would be true to state that a social revolution, enriching the lives of millions of elderly citizens had taken place during recent years, affecting all classes of society.    Whilst swimming, it would be quite possible to bump into a retired former Head of the company you had worked for.

Approval by the management committee was granted to use the bowls paviliion during the winter months, for the purpose of playing bridge.   A section for social members was formed to permit non-bowls players to take part in the social life of the club.   This decision enabled the club to capitalise on the usage of our cosy pavilion.

I need hardly state that the leader of the newly formed bridge section was the big man, alias the President, Alan Rayment.   When choosing Monday afternoons for the bridge section, I failed to take account of other commitments that day.   This included taking stroke club members to Staunton Community Centre for their get-together from 10 am to 12 noon.   Also that Ella and I were in a mixed indoor league at the same time.  This meant that I had to get them at their stroke club by 9.40 and after bowls, collect my stroke people as quickly as I could.   In view that the bridge section started at 1.45 pm, we had a snack at the local pub, the Golden Lion, Bedhampton.   By the time bridge was finished and we had arrived home, the day had simply flown by.

The section started with complete beginners and others with limited knowledge of bridge.   I have always tried to make the game sound simple, for the general view is that one has to be an academic of some kind.   This, of course, was nonsense, for if it were true, I should not be playing it.  In general, I divided the game into three sections.    Scoring was a matter of referring to what could be called a ‘price list’, such as used at a shop.   Winning tricks was the same as playing whist, where the average person takes part.   What is probably more frightening to the new player, is the bidding system, of which Acol is the one most used.   In general, most beginners could be involved with learning just the bidding system, which I likened to a language, which can be used to convey the value of the cards in terms of high card points and to declare how many tricks the declarer can make.

Ella had some very good introductory notes when attending evening bridge classes.   These notes set out the procedure for the start of a game of bridge, when 4 people come together for the first time, be it on a ship or in any country in the world.   One of our new social members reproduced these notes for the benefit of each beginner, and later, a quiz sheet for them to take part in, as well as the experienced players.    After a few months, when the quiz was completed, it was very difficult to identify who was in the original category, ie, beginner, improver or the experienced player.

Each Monday afternoon it was therapeutic to be sat looking out onto the bowling green, through the large pavilion windows.   Occasionally, we could watch our groundsman, Jim, giving the green all his attention, so that we could justly claim we had the best green in the area.     Nothing gave me greater joy than to know that members had got a feel for this, my favourite game, and to learn that they had joined a bridge club.

Occasionally, my mind would recall the war days, when I was stationed on Don Site, Brambles Farm, Middlesborough, in 1941.   It was on this radar station, where in the site canteen I introduced bridge, with two other gunners.   We required a fourth, who we had to instruct in order that we had a foursome.   Over a period of a few weeks, most gunners had taken part and all had dropped the army games, such as brag and were playing bridge.   Perhaps, because they were trained as OFC, Operator Fire Control, they were claimed to have a higher level of intelligence than the average soldier to be chosen for this grade.

It was pleasing to have my friend, Ernie King, join the bridge section.   So he had also taken on board yet another activity which he could add onto musical interests, hair dressing for his men friends, horticultural involve-ments with Mary.   Here I was enticed to enter their men’s cake section of their annual show in Havant, which, to everyone’s surprise, I won the fruit cake award!

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© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 15, 2001