1993 - 1994

I knew that when I disclosed to Ella that there was another boyfriend in the offing in Barbara’s life, that this would be yet another matter for her to worry about, as did Barbara, for she would normally have disclosed news about Terry first to her.

While we had been talking, Barbara came into the room after speaking to someone, and said, “Mum, I know that Alan will  have told you about Terry, well  you will have a chance to see him, for he has phoned to tell me that he will be here in an hour’s time.” and then left the room.

Some more discussions followed between us about how to receive this sudden Prince Charming of Barbara’s, who we thought was not in a fit state to get involved with yet another affair.   We decided he would be treated like any other friend of the family, but would not be asked to stay the night.

By the time Terry arrived from Somerset, Barbara had dolled herself up and had taken on her normal cheerful expression.   Barbara opened the door and introduced us to this tall, smartly dressed man in a dark suit, who had arrived in some Lagonda type of car, parked in the road.   We left them talking at the door for a few minutes, and then Barbara told us they were going to Southsea for a meal.

Our impressions of Terry were very favourable, for he had acted with courtesy and respect.   However, it was not easy to come to terms with a sick-minded daughter, who was being nursed and chooses to leave with a total stranger, even though it was for a short period.    There were no further embarrassments, for when they returned early in the evening, he stood on the doorstep laughing and said, “You thought I was going to run off with Barbara, didn’t you?”     So he had read our thoughts, and gone out of his way to put our minds at rest, before returning to Somerset.

Barbara became more open about her Prince, who was a professional engineer, like myself, and worked for a contracting firm employed on sophisticated equipment, such as that at Hinckley Point.   Before a week had passed, Barbara was back to almost her normal self, enjoying the swimming sessions at Havant Leisure Centre with me.   Terry returned to take his Princess, leaving us to dwell on the past events, not knowing what would come in the future, but hoping for all, that happiness would be found.

A few weeks later, we booked a short weekend break at a hotel at Ilfracombe, bringing us near to Dunster, where perhaps we might receive a visit from Barbara and company.    Indeed, this did take place, with this happy couple having cycled along a nature course from Barnstable.   For Ella, this was a change, to have peace of mind over at least one of her daughters.

Ilfracombe brought memories of Andrew and Linda’s wedding, for it was here that they had their wedding reception, minus Harry, who had gone missing.

Ella was restricted to walks along the esplanade and around the harbour, due to the steep roads in the centre of the seaside resort.   Whilst walking to a paper shop in the High Street, my knee suffered great pain.    It was necessary to stop and give my left knee a chance to recover.  It took a great deal of effort to hobble back to the hotel.    The knee did not fully recover and prevented me from taking Ella onto the dance floor, to pretend to dance with her stroke deformity.   This was my first experience of my limbs failing me and destroyed my belief that I was God’s chosen person not to suffer from common physical disabilities, no matter what my age might be.

The locking of the left knee joint, causing pain, continued on our return to Bedhampton.   An X-ray was carried out at Queen Alexandra Hospital, where Mr Richard, surgeon consultant, arranged for keyhole surgery to be carried out, to remove debris from the joint.

I was relieved to learn that it was not necessary to have knee replacement.   I learned that keyhole surgery had reduced hospital stay time from several days, to one single night, employing an arthroscope.   This instrument, used in micro-surgery of the knee joint, scanned and flushed out the inside of the joint, according to the leaflet issued to each patient before this operation.

On the day of my operation I reported to ward 16 at 9.30 am and was given a private ward.    I was seen by the ward sister and made to feel relaxed, being given a cup of tea.   I was soon visited by an anaesthetist, and after she had made several heart and blood pressure readings, smiled and said, “Your heart readings are the equivalent to those of a teenager.”   I replied, “Probably, this is due to playing outdoor sport to almost 70, and that I still take part in playing bowls.”    For this information, I was rewarded with an injection in the back of the hand.

I aimed to take an interest in the routine of the hospital, as I was on the trolley being pushed along the corridors into the operation room annex.    Here my memory went back to the time when I was in a similar room, before my hernia operation, when I heard the remark, “No, not that one, this one.”   My heart sank then, for I assumed I had a learner on the job!

No such comment this time, but one of a different kind.    I noticed several white-coated staff milling around, when one of them leaned over the trolley, as I lay keeping my eyes wide open.   He wore a white outfit and white hat and had black whiskers.    Then I spotted his double close by, and thought they were a couple of Mexicans, possibly also training.   As he put his head over mine, he uttered, “You’re a fit one, probably playing sport all your life.”

I immediately responded, “What are you on about, what am I doing here, if I am fit?”   This dialogue came to a sudden end, as the original anaesthetist reappeared to give me a further injection.

I remembered little after that and only recalled waking up in my private ward and later being asked to choose my evening meal.   I was discharged the following morning, after I had been seen by the physiotherapist and given a couple of crutches.   

Charles Bullock from the bowling club brought me home, while Ella had been cared for by our good neighbours.    I was given a leaving present by the surgeon who had operated on me.    It was a small bottle, containing the debris that had been removed, and takes pride of place in the living room over the china cupboard.   I told my friends that this bottle would be handed down to my future generations as a form of casket, containing the equivalent of my ashes.

It was not long before I reappeared on the bowling scene, against all medical advice and I soon found out that I had to take their advice.    I was fortunate that I did make gradual progress, to enable me to dispose of the crutches after three weeks, and I was back to normal working by the sixth week.   I had much to thank the hospital medical staff for, their expertise and quick handling of my operation.   I had not discovered the role of my Mexican-looking white-coated staff, who must have heard the anaesthetist about the youngish heart she had discovered.    I should keep a look out for these Mexican look-alikes if I had to make a reappearance there again.

Sadly, my friend Ernie was becoming weaker and had withdrawn from our team playing at the Havant Indoor Bowls Centre.   This also applied to the monthly Cosham Probus meetings, held at the Masonic Hall in Cosham.    With Bill Yeoman, our Godfather of the bowls club, we formed a trio, joining a small group who had known Bill at the Havant Borough Council, such as Tim Williams.   It was on Ladies Day that he and Mary were particularly missed at the Probus.

I made occasional visits to him at Brooklands Road, where he lived, but these visits became fewer as the end of 1993 approached.   This was due to his requiring increasing hospital attention.    Generally, our chats concentrated on the bowls scene and All Change Drives, of which we were joint owners.   We agreed that when Emsworth had their own bowling green, we would donate a set of our drive cards to them, for we knew several of the Bedhampton bowlers who came from Emsworth would join them.

On Christmas Eve, Harry came home for his short Christmas stay, which we were pleased to have in his relatively stable state.   He was getting his teeth into the bag of nuts, when the phone went.  It was Mary, asking if we could take them to Emsworth Hospital immediately, as the doctor had called, while Ernie was having breathing difficulties.

It was around 7pm when we arrived at the hospital.  It looked deserted and all doors were locked.   Several times, we tried to make the staff hear us by banging on the front entrance door.   This was the best example of making the premises security proof.   Eventually, a nurse appeared and explained that they had recently had trouble with vandals.  During this time, we kept Ernie in the car, continually having coughing boughts.

The duty nurse told us that a doctor had checked and there was a bed available for Ernie on the first floor.   I watched them go upstairs slowly, with the nurse holding Ernie, to ensure he did not fall down.  Mary would phone me when she was ready to return.    I received this call, picking Mary up about two hours later.   She was more distressed than normal and I could not think of a worse Christmas Eve setting.

Naturally, I was also expecting a phone call in the middle of the night, but this did not come.   Ernie had suddenly collapsed and died, without warning, so I learned later on Christmas Day.    The hospital did not feel justified in getting Mary out, for there was nothing that she could have done, only a miracle could have brought him back to life!

The cremation service following his death was attended by members of various bodies of which he was a member, including; The Havant Symphony Orchestra, Bedhampton Bowls Club, Havant Indoor Bowls Club and Cosham Probus Club.   The Royal Marine Museum adopted medals and photos of his long career in the Royal Marines, reaching Bandmaster level.   Records of his early days in the China theatre of uprising, where he saw service in the early 1930’s were of particular interest to the curator.

Mary presented to the Bowls Club the Ernie King Trophy.    This was to be presented each year to the bowler obtaining the highest score when playing in the Friday afternoon drives.    For many in the club, this trophy would keep alive fond memories of him walking around the green, watching the players and enjoying his organised social bowls event.

For me, this was a great loss of a very dear friend, who seemed to enjoy giving a service to others.

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Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 20, 2001