I BECAME JUST ANOTHER BOWLS PAST PRESIDENT

1989 

At the bowls club AGM, the new President, Les Pigram, presented me with a Past President’s badge, so I could join the corps of Past Presidents.    This body of former Presidents enabled these well-known figures in the local bowls world to meet and take part in matches, and do the rounds of clubs in the Hampshire County.   This association could be compared to Probus or the House of Lords, on a higher plane, but all providing an opportunity for like-minded people to meet, and take part in their game of bowls.   As Past President of the Bedhampton Bowls Club, I was entitled to attend their management meetings, without voting powers.  

It was pleasing to note that my friend, Ernie King, had been made Vice-President.   Bill Yeoman had also been made Vice-President of Havant Indoor Bowls Club.   Tim Williams, the founder President of the indoor club and fellow councillor to Bill made a foursome when attending the Cosham Probus.

Tim, who I learned at one of our Probus meetings was a former naval officer, had been involved with Admiralty Research Laboratory trials in Scotland.   We had many stories to tell each other over our drinks.   Bill, who had been a representative for a large drapery firm, knew representatives of SJ Watts at Manchester.  My father had been a long-serving traveller for this firm.

I was very surprised that, at the AGM, the balance sheet showed more than 2,000 in credit, which must have been a tribute to Tony Paine for showing great skill as treasurer, in handling the money side of our club.

Ella also showed good timing in not wishing to carry on as minutes secretary, in view of my retirement from the Presidency post.   No-one, in my mind, should be expected to carry on in committee for more than three years.   It seemed fitting that Mildred Walley, the winner of the spider event, should take over from Ella.    She and her husband, Arnold, who was a committee member, were of the same age group as ourselves and full of enthusiasm when playing bowls.   His management skills, acquired when with the Post Office attending international meetings on telecommunication matters, should prove useful to the bowls committee.

The relinquishing of the Bedhampton committee posts by Ella and I did nothing to reduce our winter itinerary of activities.   On Mondays, I collected stroke club members, not forgetting Ernie Thompson, always at the gate, giving me a greeting of ‘bleeding’ this and ‘bleeding’ that!  I ensured that they reached their meeting place at Staunton Park Community Centre by 9.30 am for 10 am start.

I then collected Ella and took her to the indoor bowls centre, where we took part, between 10 am and 12 noon, in the league competitions.    In our team we had Tim Williams with Florence and George Gait.   Ella enjoyed the company of both Tim and the Gaits, who were members of Bedhampton club.  Tim had a great respect for Ella, and on Ladies’ Day at the Probus, it was an opportunity for the foursome, ie, Bill, Tim, Ernie and myself, and our wives to socialise.

Once the stroke members had been collected and taken home, Ella and myself had a pub meal at the Golden Lion, Bedhampton.   This meal was then followed with the bridge session, starting at 1.45pm in the Bedhampton Bowls Club pavilion.    We were into the second year, and many who had started at the beginning of my teaching sessions were playing social bridge at home.   It always gave me great satisfaction to have a newcomer to bridge and find they had taken off, for I have had much enjoyment from this card game.

A number of interesting social members had joined the bridge section.   One member, Tony Johnson, the former Managing Director of Allders, Portsmouth, was a larger than life character, whilst his wife, Jeanne, was a quiet and gentle person, and also a bridge member.   They lived by the coast on Hayling Island, where his ocean-type yacht was anchored at the bottom of his garden.   He had built a sauna, which I was asked to sample, and was almost roasted. 

Here is his introduction card:-

 

World Travelled

Bon Vivant

Soldier of Fortune

 

International Lover

Casual Hero

All Round Good Guy

Philosopher

 

A G JOHNSON, ESQ

A Legend in his Own Time

 

Wars Fought

Revolutions Started

Alligators Castrated

Governments Run

Uprisings Quelled

Tigers Tamed

Bars Emptied

Virgins Converted

Computers Verified

Orgies Organised

 

 We visited his charming residence several times, meeting both his father and Jeanne’s mother.   He had built a large fish pond and a water fall, close to the rear of the house, where one was able to sit and watch the cascade enter the pond.   Ella was made very welcome, and had a lot in common with the female company.    I, too, had knowledge of Bentalls, Kingston, where he had worked and had a relative married to the owners.

He was surprised when I told him I had played bridge with the Bentalls and the controllers at their Sports and Social Club, at the time Gladys worked part-time at Bentalls in the 1960’s.   

Another interesting member was George Bowerman, who lived in a biggish house with a large garden at Prinsted.   He had spent many years in the Middle East on oil exploration before he had retired.

Jim, his brother, played bridge at Emsworth, where he told me that George had recently lost his wife and did not want to live.   Would we help them to give him a purpose in life, and also invite a lady friend of his, Dorothy Davison, as well as George to join our bridge section.    They had ideas, that they might get together, for Dorothy lived on her own.

Again, Ella and I had invitations to his residence and did make a foursome at bridge, with Dorothy partnering George.   Sadly, we learned at a later date that George died of a broken heart.  

During the year, the bridge section made a useful financial contribution which was helping Tony Paine, the treasurer, build up his 2,000+ balance in hand.

Our Monday afternoon bridge sessions were based on a whist movement, with the winning pair moving to the next table and the losing pair staying at the same table and changing partners.   We used a copy of Saga’s Chicago score sheet, playing four hands each session.    This enabled me to establish the winner and lowest scorer, awarding appropriate prizes, such as a Mars bar!   Generally, we managed to lock up and arrive home before 4.30 pm, when we were able to call the rest of the day our own.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I attended the early bird swimming sessions.   This would be followed on Tuesdays, with Ella and myself visiting Harry at Outram Road, where he had now settled down and felt secure, thanks to Sylvia’s caring personality.

In the evening, I attended the Emsworth Bridge Club, where duplicate competitive bridge was played.   I was fortunate to have an established player as my partner, being no other than the club’s captain, Alan Wagg.   We could tell each other what we thought about each other’s bid and play, without taking offence.   It was unusual if we failed to win one of the yearly competitions.

I was a member of Ernie King’s squads, playing League bowls on Wednesday and Friday mornings, from 10 am to 12 noon.   Ella took part in the Ladies’ indoor sessions at bowls each Thursday afternoon.   This was followed, in the evenings, playing as members of a newly-formed Bedhampton Senior Bridge Club, consisting mainly of players taking part in the bowls bridge section on a Monday afternoon.   Ella had now lost all fear of the game.

This weekly routine finally finished on Friday night, at the Langstone Conservative Club, where I played rubber bridge, whilst enjoying a pint of cool bass beer.   I claimed I only went there for the medicine!

With this daily schedule, the winter months just flew by, as did Christmas, with Harry just spending Christmas day with us.   Sadly, there was no change in the pattern of Christmas cards received from Laura’s family, which caused Ella to be depressed, even more so.    The effect of receiving cards from the grandchildren and not from her own daughter once again, was like a knife being put into a wound and turned.

Early April 1989, we got away to Newquay, Cornwall, for a week to do our own thing - no bowls, no bridge!   It was quite a novelty not to have a daily schedule to adhere to.

Each morning started with a swim in the heated Esplanade Hotel swimming pool, followed by a stroll on the mile long stretch of sand in front of the hotel.

Newquay, with its lengthy beaches and rugged cliffs, with its myriad of tea shops, where we ate our midday lunch, claimed to be the jewel of the Cornish Riviera.   It was very noticeable that many drop-outs on the dole had gravitated to this picturesque resort, finding this a warmer spot than most parts of the country.

We had a full day’s excursion, spent travelling north along the Atlantic coast to Padstow and Tintagel, where the legend claimed that King Arthur had strong associations with its castle, which overlooked the coast.   At Padstow, built on a hillside, a splendid view was obtained of the Camel estuary and the harbour.    With good food and entertainment each night, the cloud over Ella’s head had been lifted.   We returned home feeling our batteries had been charged up.

Sadly the bowls club secretary, who had been discharged on health grounds from work, suddenly died due to heart failure.   His funeral service was held at St Thomas, the Bedhampton 12th Century parish church.   We attended his funeral, as did many others of the bowls club.   Ella was emotionally upset during the service, and vowed that she would never go to one again, apart from the funeral of a member of her family.

Fred Morris, a sort of rough diamond, put his last remaining years to giving a service to fellow bowlers by undertaking the secretary post.  Prior to taking office, it was claimed he just sat at home with no special interests to occupy his time during his period on permanent sick leave.

Ella, as minutes secretary, became attached to him, through her post, and was amazed he succeeded in doing his work, for he had his papers scattered over the floor and chairs.  Cyril Lloyd took over this role and added some professionalism to his work, drawing on his many years as a bowler, before joining Bedhampton.   Both his son and daughter-in-law, Carol, were well-known bowlers in the area.

During a visit to Harry, we were surprised when he showed us a model battery-driven boat, that he was putting together from a kit he had bought.    He intended to give it to Andrew’s children, when he had got it working.   Bill, one of the residents who he had known at The Retreat, had promised to go with him to the Canoe Lake when ready for trials.   This was again a surprise, for Harry had previously complained about Bill’s drop-outs that he brought to their residence.   Harry, in the past, had shown his capabilities in this direction when he built a twin-seater canoe at Teddington.   Who could know what the future may have in store yet for Harry?

Ursula Bucklynski had joined Ernie Thompson as a regular member of the Havant Stroke Club, for me to pick up each Monday morning.   As the name suggests, she originated from Poland and was a young lady at the time of the German invasion of her country in 1939.   She lived close to the German border and, after being rounded up was sent to work on the German buses.   Her husband, Joseph, who she married at a later date, had also been rounded up.    He was working on the Atlantic defences for the Germans at the time of the D-day landings.

Their bungalow and garden in Trosnant Road was a tribute to the work that Joseph had put into his property.   One of his hobbies was repairing grandfather clocks.   They had a son, who was a pianist and conductor, living in South Africa.   Ursula was always dressed in smart clothes and attended both the Red Cross Wednesday afternoon sessions and the Emsworth Stroke Club.   She gave me the impression that she was a fighter, by attending the Havant Swimming Baths, and not letting her stroke disability, which affected her left side, get on top of her.

There was an unusual side to her, for she had a habit of making comments of a suggestive nature, which she had picked up mainly on the German radio.    Whilst driving, this could be distracting.  However, there were other comments she had picked up, referring to the terrible things we had inflicted on the Germans, particularly our bombing raids on the German cities.

I found it hard to keep my cool, but realised such comments could start a bitter row, which would do my driving no good at all.   Not all my other occupants took these remarks without a retort of some kind.   Now why should a refugee in this country, who seemed to be doing very nicely as far as standard of living was concerned, want to run her host country down?

The answer to this question was not known until several years later, when it was revealed that her mother had married a German!

Ernie Thompson, who never failed to be waiting at the garden gate, would refer to his former dutch with great affection.   Apart from a reference now and then to his granddaughter, and a son who would meet us after returning from the stroke club, I had the impression that this was the sum total of his relatives.

Sadly, my ‘bleeding’ friend, Ernie, fell ill and had to go to Queen Alexandra Hospital, where I visited him.   His illness proved fatal a few days after my visit.   Brenda Edwards, the leader of Havant Stroke Club and myself, attended the church funeral service, at which many relatives were present, to our surprise.

From the eulogy given by the priest, Ernie was the father of ten sons - so this explained the large gathering of relatives!   The priest had a note from the granddaughter, which he read out, where she had praised her loving granddad. 

My trips to the stroke clubs were never quite the same without Ernie’s fantasising that he was still a Sergeant Major on parade in the army.

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Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 15, 2001