CHRISTMAS IN HAVANT
My short breaks had been concluded, and it was quite a task to re-establish my routine, with my indoor bowls organisers, Arthur Todd and Florence Gait; Alan Wagg for bridge and the two local stroke clubs, Havant and Emsworth. At the two local bridge clubs, playing at Doyle House and The Elms, we played Chicago and cut in for partners, avoiding partnership arrangements in advance, thank goodness. My friends, Ted and Carole, were now established members of these latter two bridge clubs. During winter periods, Ted had explained, he and Carole would fly off to the Canary Islands, where they owned a villa in Tenerife.
More than once, I cracked a joke that if I played my cards right, I might be invited to stay with them at this villa. I had found them to be great company, and being fitness fanatics, they could be mistaken for nearly half their age, say, late 30s instead of Teds retirement age. They had taken their bridge lessons quite seriously, with Ted having purchased a computer programme to practice on.
I had great satisfaction in teaching card players to play bridge and see them progress into local bridge club level, of which there could be between 20 to 30, who had done just that. To be invited to join Ted and Carole in Tenerife on 8th January in the new year was indeed a bonus, for I would have their company to share, as well as play bridge. All this happened before going to Folkestone, making certain that I had a flight booked for the agreed date.
None of this could have taken place a few years ago, without ensuring that Harry was stable, with someone to take care of him. Since he had been at Outram Road, Southsea, with Sylvia and five other patients, he had come to adopt his residence there as his home, thanks to Sylvia treating them as members of her family.
During the pre-Christmas period, she took them out for a meal at a restaurant on the corner of Elm Grove, close by. It had been known for Sylvia to call in at Christmas, when not all the patients have their family or relatives to ensure that they are provided for and to give them a bit of cheer.
This is a period when living on your own can be distressful, as I had found out, particularly as all my weekly activities came to a close during the Christmas week. However, Harrys presence on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day broke the spell of loneliness.
Harry arrived by taxi, bringing his bare necessities, including his drugs and talking tapes, to release his tension, which he claimed built up each afternoon. He chain smoked, and I had to confine his smoking to the conservatory attached to the back of the house and to his bedroom, which he adhered to, except when he forgot to close the door, during and after his smoking sessions. I often asked when this happened, was he smoking old rope?
He had changed so much that I wished that his mother, Gladys, could enjoy his relaxed state. No-one would have suspected that he had been in and out of mental hospitals most of his life. It was only when he refused to go out of the house that one became aware of his paranoid condition. He was quite content to lay on the floor, as close to the fire as possible and crack nuts, which I made certain were well-stocked in the house when he arrived for those few days.
His small bedroom at the front of the house was his retreat, to play his relaxation tapes. He had been very thoughtful that Christmas, in keeping his audio equipment turned down, so that I could not hear it in my own bedroom. It was this thoughtfulness, not to upset my feelings, that witnessed the major change in his behavioural pattern.
During the period of my Autumn short breaks, my hospital mesdames, Pat and Leigh, continued to monitor It Happened To Me scripts. They referred to me as their roving reporter at large, and woe-betide me if I failed to send a postcard from the places I had visited. On my last call in their office before the Tenerife trip, these postcards were slowly but surely encircling the office notice-board. Pat had been a journalist, and I had a feeling that she had promoted herself to Editor, and that I was on her staff as a freelance reporter-cum-serial story writer.
In one of my contributions, I had referred to the Glazebrook Hall at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, during the 1960s period, when I had worked at the Admiralty Research Laboratory. It had been used for wind tunnel testing and had been named after one of their former scientists. It was a prestigious building and after the wind tunnel tests changed, it was modified and used as the main dining and social functions hall. At meal times, staff at any level were free to sit at any table for meals, and my Head of ARL, Bill Burrows, had made it his policy to sit with a different member of his Laboratory staff each day. This was something new in the civil service, for it was very rank conscious, particularly amongst the executive grades. Annual social functions by the NPL Sports Club were held in this hall, which Gladys and myself had attended with our sporting friends, such as Bob and Ana Wilson.
During the early privatisation of government services, NPL were taken over by a consortium, SERCO, with Nigel, Pats husband, having a direct involvement with NPL, being a member of the SERCO organisation. It was with pride that on my last visit to my editor, Pat told me that she had attended a ball held at the NPL Glazebrook Hall, with Nigel. I would have liked to have been there, to bring back memories of happier times, or just as a fly on the wall to watch Pat dancing and doing the occasional pirouette.
My dinner time visits to the mesdames office witnessed the continuous phone calls made to the office, which I was told took place during the whole of the day. When being trained by consultants on work study, we were told to note the number of phone calls being made while carrying out assign-ments in offices. I told them that they should keep a record of the time spent on the phone, which could be useful to management when assessing time spent on office activities.
Leigh told me she had been nominated for a high-level residential management course, taking up most of her time during 1995. This meant that Pat would be in charge of their office, whilst she was away. From what I had observed, Pat could keep calm, no matter what the pressure may be on her, a very important factor when dealing with the public, or the press, always demanding great tact.
When mesdames were told of my imminent trip to Tenerife, I received my usual cautionary advice, what to do and what not to do, like a parent when their child left home for the first time to attend a school camp.
My advice from Ted before leaving to join him at his Tenerife villa, was that I must not dress like a tourist, ie in shorts, for prices in shops would suddenly increase; I must dress like a local.
© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 20, 2001