BACK TO ROUTINE
My weekly routine kept my mind off my loneliness, apart from the end of the day, and when I returned from a weeks company, such as I had with Ted and Carole.
My Monday started the week off by taking members of the stroke club to Staunton Park Community School by 9.30. David, around his mid-40s, who had the left side paralysed, who lived on his own and who lost both his parents during the last few years, seemed to cope. It was he who gave me a sharp reminder that there were other people worse off than myself, who were able to cope. Perhaps I should do what David had done, and as my late passenger, Ernie of the Stroke Club, who had been similarly placed as David - get a Yorkshire terrier!
After I had picked up David, I then collected Terry, an ex-serviceman who married an Italian lady during the war period, where he took part in the Italian campaign. His stroke had affected his left side, plus he had difficulty in swallowing as well as hernia trouble. He was always keen to show his appreciation for his weekly lift. My third patient, Ursula, was a Polish lady who had difficulty in walking and in her speech. She showed great fight to overcome her difficulties and attended the early bird swimming sessions at the local baths. She and her Polish husband came to England immediately after the war. Ursula was rounded up during the invasion of Poland and worked on German buses, and Joseph, her husband, was forced to work on the Atlantic defences for the Germans.
My aim was to get my passengers to the Stroke Club by 9.30 to allow me to take part in playing indoor bowls between 10.00 and 12.00. It was a bit of a rush to pick up my clients, supposedly at 12.00 and then take them home and have a meal, to be available to start the afternoon bridge session at The Elms.
This commenced at 2.00 and finished by 4.00 pm. This small body of bridge players were mainly the remnants of the Bowls Club Bridge Section at Bedhampton, that were refused permission to play when we had a brick pavilion built. We were all OAPs, with Jean Clark having been an ATS Sergeant Major. The secretary, Sheila Hills had been the secretary to the Commodore of Portsmouth Dockyard. Sheila told me that all her male ancestors had held high rank in the navy, but she refused to join the Wrens, because she wanted to remain a civilian and not be made to do what she was told! There were others who had seen war service besides myself, such as Graham Tucker, who had fought on the beaches of Normandy.
I found it interesting to hear that some of those taking part had been to the leisure centre at Havant to take part in the Fun Club and had completed 40 to 50 lengths in the swimming pool in the morning. A few of these people would claim their day was not complete unless they were dancing in the evening. How fortunate for the elderly that facilities were available to enable them to keep agile and mentally occupied, which our ancestors did not have until relatively recent years.
Our bridge in the afternoon was called Chicago, which enabled a winner to be identified and a booby player. They would be presented with an appropriate prize, such as a Mars bar.
Once I had taken Ernie Blake home, an 88-year old player, I would sign off the days activities around 4.30 pm. Because I had so little time to read, I had cancelled the daily paper from being delivered and purchased only a Saturday issue of the Daily Telegraph, which gave me enough news to read to keep me going for most of the week. This would be my reading material for Monday night.
My Tuesday visit to the Age Concern with Ella at Fraser Road, for a midday meal and company ceased after Ellas passing due to a clash of commitments. Ella had a particular 90-year old lady friend, Elsie, who belied her age, looking younger than ourselves, neatly dressed and usually wearing a flowery hat. She had lived in Bedhampton most of her life and saw the beginning of the Fraser Road branch of the Age Concern.
It was Bert Gregory, a local builder and a friend of Bill Yeoman, who collected a prefab hut from an ex-RAF airfield and rebuilt it, suitable for meetings with a fitted kitchen for midday meals. It was also Bert who gave us valuable advice when constructing the veranda attached to the bowling club pavilion which withstood the great storm of 1987.
Elsie had lived in the Bedhampton area most of her life and often spoke of the Stallard family, who had been associated with Homewell, Havant, where parchment making had been carried on for a thousand years. I think Elsie found Ella interesting to talk to, for it was a great surprise when, on one of our Tuesday dinner get-togethers, she gave us out of her handbag, a sample of parchment which she claimed had been used for the Magna Carta that King John signed in 1215 at Runnymede.
This ancient piece of parchment now takes its place on the mantelpiece, claiming it to be a sample of material used in the build up of this countrys democratic process, used as a model for the rest of the world.
With Harry becoming relatively stable, thanks to the excellent back-up support given by Sylvia and the staff of both the hospital and Portsmouth Housing Trust, my visits to Harry on Tuesdays became of a permanent nature. I was usually greeted by, Dad, can I get you a mug of coffee? This was then followed by letting me know whether Sylvia was in, so that I did not fail to give her a kiss and hug if she was.
This angel of a housekeeper, who could be called a mother to all her ex-St. James patients, always had a smile, whenever I saw her. We often had a chat and usually she was extolling Harry, who she treated as the senior resident and delegated to switch the oven on, or take messages when she went out shopping. Not only did she tell her charge that she had been voted the most charming grandmother beauty queen several times at Butlins Holiday Camps, but also about her experiences on exploring the treasures of Egypt, such as Tutankhamun and the pyramids of Giza. Her aim was to visit China and other parts of the world that she had not yet visited. All this travelling and wealth of knowledge she had gained helped to broaden her outlook, winning respect whoever she came into contact with.
This visit to Harry on Tuesday was then followed by calling at St Marys Hospital, where I would arrive a few minutes before noon to have a midday meal in the hospital restaurant, before the staff arrived in force and winning an OAP customer from Age Concern in the process.
By the time I had eaten my meal, I was able to call on my charming mentor, Pat, the hospital Public Relations Officer during her midday break, to have my written work handed in to be vetted.
Stuart Olesker, who originally signed me on as a student at The Grove, had been seconded to other University learning centres during 1996, and it was Pat, the former journalist, who kept my interest in writing alive. She never failed to detect my footsteps, as I held my brief under my arm, walking to her office along Exton administrative corridor. I would generally introduce myself as The man from the Admiralty, having had some very wry looks from staff in adjacent offices en route along this corridor.
On one of these routines, the publication of the hospital Annual Report, for which Pats office was responsible, had to be amended at the request of the Chairman, just before my arrival. Pat was not too happy, which I could understand, having had experiences of a similar kind when preparing the Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment Annual Report. In the presentation of the management photographs, the Chairmans profile did not appear above the others, giving me an opportunity to chide her for failing to use this management layout with the Chairmans head and shoulders above his hierarchy, if she wanted rapid promotion.
Pat made certain that I had noticed the postcards from the places I had visited on my short breaks, making a colourful picture frame for the office notice-board, suspended on the wall behind her desk. I told her that she may need more wall space before I finished on these trips, my next one being a few weeks hence.
I finished this day on a high, playing competitive bridge with my partner, the captain of Emsworth Bridge Club, Alan Wagg, using Precision Bidding by Goren and Wei. It could be claimed I was egotistical about the trophies we had won most years, playing against an assortment of academics, including a professor from Portsmouth University. The past year was to be no exception, having won the 1995 Teams of Four contest. Alan Wagg, an electrical engineer with two teenagers, was having increasing concerns about his job with Sussex County Council. It was about to be privatised, putting his career under the hammer, like so many more, as a result of adopting the Thatcherite privatisation policy of all civil and public services in Government.
There was increasing evidence from Alans play that his work situation was affecting his judgement, as was the treatment for my cancerous prostrate gland affecting mine. Maybe because we were having a bad start to 1996, we both made excuses for this deterioration in our play. I have found that bridge brings out both the best and the worst in individuals, and the adage that some husbands and wives should not play together, rings true. It was claimed that in America, a bridge player had shot his partner whilst playing bridge!!
My partner, Alan, was the reverse of this quick on the draw character, for no matter how scathing our remarks about each others bidding might be, neither of us took offence and just laughed. He had a daughter at Plymouth University, taking creative writing and had read a sample of my work, but further samples were not requested by Alan! At one time, after playing bridge in a competition at night, I would keep awake, replaying the hands, but that was not the case now because I was relaxed, playing with Alan.
The following Wednesday morning, I swam my 20 lengths at Havant baths in the early bird session and, during the winter period, played in league indoor bowls sessions between 10 am and 12 noon. I took the lead position and became renowned for moving the mat into different positions when I had possession. This threw most bowlers, who kept the mat in the same position as they had done through out their playing careers. They were able to bowl automatically onto the jack, be it a short one or a long one, almost with their eyes closed. With the mat being moved by the opposition, as in my case, it is necessary for them to readjust their delivery to allow for change of position.
Lots of friendships were made using the leisure centre, where thousands of citizens attended weekly, from a wide area, including Southsea, Petersfield, Gosport, Chichester, with the fun club for the over-55s and the bowls club having well over 1,000 members each.
I have always praised Havant Borough Council for providing so many facilities, the only exception being that it did not provide a concert hall, where Havant Symphony Orchestra could give concerts, instead of playing at the Ferneham Hall, Fareham.
For around £2, I was able to have a mid-day meal at the bowls centre, following the Wednesday morning league game. Thus, I avoided cooking - on Monday I had egg and chips at the Golden Lion pub, on Tuesday I had a meal at St Marys Hospital. Thus my culinary skills were needed only on Thursday and the rest of the week.
A close relationship developed between myself and Ted, who had taken to bridge like a child with a new toy. In Teds case, the toy was a computer with a bridge program. Wednesday night became a sort of bridge teach-in night at Wigan Crescent. Word got around that I was giving bridge lessons on this Wednesday night, resulting in enquiries from other would-be bridge players. I was delighted to be using my Wednesday night spare time to be teaching bridge to beginners. I always provided my bridge trainees with a cup of tea and a slice of fresh cream cake from Mr Butch in Leigh Park. Maybe they only came to eat the refreshments that I provided! I was delighted when they told me that they had played bridge at someones house or at their tennis club, or at Havant Fun Club. This told me that they now had the confidence to play on their own, without prompting.
Carole and Ted had become accepted by members at the Doyle House, where the Bedhampton Senior Bridge Club met. Not so, in the case of one of my Wednesday night bridge trainees, who had already been barred by the Tuesday bridge players at the local Conservative Club, on the grounds that his play was not up to club standard. My trainee had taken part in the
D-day landings on the Normandy beaches. In this case, their objection to his presence was demonstrated by their absence.
To me, this action was very unworthy to an ex-serviceman, who had been in battle to save freedom for his fellow citizens. When he asked why they had left the bridge club, we told him that they considered that our play was not of an average standard.
This was the seventh year that we had enjoyed using Doyle House common room, and during this time we had developed a very good relationship with its tenants. When Brenda Battersly, the lady in charge of the sheltered accommodation obtained permission for the club to use this room, little did I or the tenants appreciate that close to £1,000 would have been donated to their social fund by the beginning of 1996. Neither would they have believed that Jack Muggeridge, our bowls veteran of 90-plus and a tenant, would have been seen entertaining this new warden in his room, and also using the common room.
He was noted for his independence, giving instructions to Brenda and other wardens not to visit him, and avoiding all the other tenants. Due to an illness affecting his water-works, he needed support from those around him, particularly when he had a spell in hospital. Several times, he boasted that his new warden, Jane, was coming to see him and have a cup of tea, always relating this with a cheeky grin on his face. He wished he had lived in Bedhampton years ago, when his wife was alive.
Due to his daily routine, walking to Bidbury Mead, through the Belmont Estate and returning via Old Bedhampton, Jack could be seen chatting up the lollipop ladies in Park Lane. I bumped into him once, returning earlier than usual, and when I asked the reason for this he replied, I am playing indoor bowls this afternoon and need to have a shave, I want to look smart, you know. He had in the past given me his secret cooking routine, that he liked to grill pork cutlets and save the fat, which he put on toast. So what is all this about, when we are told not to eat fatty food? I think a lot can be gained from adopting Jacks recipe for a long life.
Besides attending Doyle House on Thursday, I had Tanya, the cleaning lady supplied by the Domiciliary Support Service to give an hours domestic help from 10am to 11am. When she first called, I thought she was a school girl, for she did not have an ounce of fat on her, nor flesh to me, and I could only describe her as a bunch of sticks. Whatever she lacked in build, she made up for in producing a broad smile across her face. She was married and had one son and two daughters, all of whom needed feeding as well as keeping their house going.
She soon demonstrated that being a bantam weight was no great loss, as she lifted a heavy hoover up and down stairs as if it was no more than the weight of a hand brush. This was particularly enlightening, because she had been shown two hoovers, one kept upstairs and one for downstairs carpets. I made a great store of keeping the house up to scratch, lest I let it get into a pig sty. It was always important that I did not leave the house unattended, in case anything went missing.
By Tanya cleaning both toilets and alternating the upstairs and downstairs polishing and dusting, I could keep the house under reasonable control. I treated Tanya as though she was a member of the household, and made certain she took something away with her each time she came. Her personable smile and cheerful outlook was well worth her pay of £3.50 per hour.
I had always been proud of my decorating ability, but those days were over for I had no intention of climbing up step ladders to paint the ceilings any more. My garden had suddenly become very irksome to maintain, but I had not yet abandoned weeding and the weekly grass cutting.
After Tanya had left, I got on with my first home-cooked meal of the week, consisting of a grilled pork chop with the remaining part of the meal being cooked in the microwave oven. This included apple sauce, sprouts in a sealed polythene bag, jacket potatoes, pre-baked cherry pie and ready-made custard. I put a portion of frozen peas on the plate being warmed up for the meal on top of the grill. Overall time for preparing the meal being under an hour, thus enabling me to get away to collect my stroke patients for the Emsworth club by 1.15 pm.
By the time I arrived home from the evening bridge session, I did not have much of the day left to dwell on my loneliness. These stroke clubs were always short of car owners who were prepared to take their patients to and fro from the residences, some of whom would never get out from one week to the next to socialise, or take part in activities.
Friday was a day of all sorts, depending whether it was my turn on the rota to play indoor bowls in the morning session. If not, I would be joining the early bird swimming session, followed by shopping, not forgetting the fresh cream sponge for when Ted and Carole arrived at the weekend to play bridge - it is a weakness that he had, for he talked about Mr Butchs fresh cream sponges when in Tenerife at his villa!
Occasionally, I had Viv, the nurses tutor and her bridge partner, Hildegare, to play bridge at the weekend. Shortly, I would be joining their bridge weekend party at Boscombe. I would have to watch my bidding, for I was told an ex-captain of Southseas well-known bridge club would be present! So, watch it, Alan, with your psychic bidding off nothing in case he doubles you for penalties.
On Friday nights I had a permanent arrangement to partner George Mellows at the Langstone Conservative Club in the card room. He was a naval officer in the last war, but sadly during the year or so he had suffered from Parkinsons Disease, making it difficult for him to hold cards. Nevertheless, his brain remained as sharp as ever. Beryl, his wife, drove him to and from Farlington. She too, played bridge and was always ready to remind me of the bridge party day trip to Cherbourg, where Gladys came along to go shopping at the other end. Those £5 day trips, introduced by the ferry companies, which later became known as the booze trips, attracted all the publicans and their customers in the south of England.
When making this trip, as we had done several times before, it was necessary to be early before the ferry set sail, to secure a table in the lounge. After a while at sea and after the bar had been opened long enough for the beer to start talking, a handful of drinkers gathered round our card table. They seemed to be more attracted to Gladys fur hat than the cards. They suddenly burst forth in song, Oh where did you get that hat? She joined in with them and from there on this merry group had attached itself to the bridge players, doing the Congo snake dance.
Not a lot of bridge was played on the homeward journey, due to much merry-making by the passengers, who all seemed to be holding either a glass or a bottle. Things got out of hand, with the crew not being able to control some of the passengers! It was no surprise to have the police present when we docked.
Len White took charge of the Friday evening bridge, being my first partner when I came to this area. It was Len who brought his wife, Ruth to Havant Cottage Hospital at the time of Gladys passing. He brought Harry from St. James hospital to his mothers crematorium service, in his Jaguar car, and sat with Harry in the back pew. Len immediately after the service, returned him to hospital, having overcome his paranoia to see his mother pass on.
I had much to thank Len for, including teaching me Precision System, giving me the book on this system by Goren and Wei.
Len was at Court Lane, Cosham, when the resident bridge club visited Kingston Prison on a Friday night to play the prisoners. One of these prisoners, having served his sentence, settled down locally. It was he that partnered Len at the Conservative Club.
I had further close affinity with both the club and its members, as it was in the panel room that I had my retirement party on leaving ASWE. Now the club had a new steward, who used to be at Hoggs Lodge on the A3 near Petersfield, where I took Gladys many times for a pub meal. I always got a special greeting from Peter. He had brought several of his staff with him, giving a friendly atmosphere to the club.
It was usual for George to have pipeful of old rope, at least that was what it smelled like to me, before he entered the bridge arena. He openly claimed that this was what he came for, and I could well understand if he was not allowed to smoke at home. While he puffed away, I had a pint of beer to enjoy in a relaxed state of mind. By the time I arrived home, another day had almost passed on, with very little time to dwell on my loneliness.
On Sunday mornings I generally attended communion at St Thomas Church, Bedhampton, where the vicar, Ian, who took Ellas crematorium service was present. It was in this church that I felt in the presence of those whom I had loved and had given their lives to me. It was a time to reflect on the wonders of creation and how it came about. As a designer, I marvel how the human body can remain upright and stable on two relatively small feet, with all the mass of the body above it. Even more magical is the design to allow the centre of gravity to remain stable when running or walking, unless of course the individual trips up. I also like to hear the church music and join in the hymn singing.
I knew several of the congregation, with whom I chatted before making my way home through Old Bedhampton, passing The Elms, where I would be playing bridge the next day.
One lady I spoke to was Dorothy Robinson, for whom I have the highest respect. It was with Dorothy that Gladys undertook box collection for Christian Aid in a Leigh Park district where the regular church members feared to tread.
Both Dorothy and Jean Sutton, her next door neighbour, who lived in Wigan Crescent, sat many hours keeping vigil by Gladys bedside, before being moved to Havant Cottage Hospital. Such action remains indelible on ones mind.
Another kind person I chatted to was Anne Armstrong, who visited me from the church to comfort me when Ella passed on. I tried to get her to play bridge, but she would not be drawn. She did, however, put me in touch with her hospital colleague, Viv, a nurse tutor for the Portsmouth University, and who would be making up a bridge party at home, later in the evening. It was Viv who explained that Annes husband had put her off bridge for life by his oppressive manner. Such can be the game of bridge - better that husband and wife do not partner each other.
My dinner awaited me when I reheated the spaghetti bolognaise à la Alans recipe, cooked yesterday. This was best minced beef, mixed with a tin of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice, with garlic. For flavour, I added grated Oxo cubes made from herbs and spices. I made enough for both Saturday and Sunday. Joy had sampled this dish many times, and was still living. For tea, I had a bowl of encapsulated fruit à la Rayment recipe. That is blackcurrant jelly, with various fresh fruit, such as grapes, oranges, apples, all cut up after peeling, apart from the grapes, and allowed to set in the jelly - not forgetting bananas. I tried not to eat any cakes, for I would be sharing the fresh cream cake from Mr Butch tonight with my bridge friends, including Ted, who I believed came only to eat the cake.
There were not many slots in the week not committed, and where this happened, I used to catch up with household chores and gardening, from Spring onwards. Any writing I did had to be in the time I had somehow stolen from my standing commitments, for if I failed to produce my weekly script to give to my Fairy Princess, Pat, I would receive a severe reprimand.
Some while ago, I had attempted to start up a bridge section on a Wednesday night at the Havant Indoor Bowls Club in the bar section, where there was suitable furniture, but it did not take off. Now another bowler, Eric Wilkinson, had been given permission to start bridge drives on a Saturday night, when the catering staff would serve a set meal. These drives could only take place when no Saturday bowls matches were scheduled. I was approached by Eric to tell all my bridge friends to make it a success, and also to bring along table cloths and playing cards. He was lucky, for I had most of this equipment at home, following the closure of the bridge section when Bedhampton had their brick bowls pavilion built in 1995. The first of these Saturday bridge evenings took place at the end of January 1996, so Alan had now got himself committed six days a week, when they took place. At least I should not be shopping for fresh cream sponges on a Saturday morning for Ted!
There was increasing concern for Bill Yeomans health. He had not attended indoor bowls for several months. When I called to see him, he was more often in bed than dressed.
He was diabetic, having to take masses of pills, as well as having water-works problems, in spite of having an operation to cure this problem. This kept both of them awake, according to Vi. He was in complete contrast to when I had seen him, about a month ago. At the time, he had asked if I would be his best man at his diamond wedding anniversary celebration on 24th May, to be held at the Brooklands Hotel, Emsworth.
It was then that he spoke about this event, at which he had planned to have a sing-along item and he suddenly broke forth into song, to demonstrate that he would make a good solo item. I had a list of items to discuss with Amanda, the catering manager at the Brooklands, on such matters as lists of guests, cloakroom, table layout, cherry table, menu, toasts, responses, sing-along items on the piano, contributions à la This Is Your Life!
It seemed that the twilight of our generation was taking its toll, for my trio was now reduced to two with the passing of my friend Ernie King, and now Bill was a very sick man. With me having a cancerous prostrate gland, I felt that we were at a phase of life when we were being called one at a time. I knew that both Ernie and Bill had given a life of service to others, and that Peter would give each a welcome in turn.
Harry, thank goodness, was continuing to act more rationally, and was producing some splendid paintings at 9 Outram Road. He still attended The Grove, where he was allocated a small room on his own to paint. One of his paintings had been framed and now adorns a wall in the dining room of his residence. It is a scene of a brown horse, grazing in the New Forest. It was greatly admired by Sylvia, during and after he completed it on the kitchen table. It was fitting that she got permission from the Portsmouth Housing Trust to have it displayed in the dining room. Harry had done a remarkable job of the horse. His main subjects were landscape scenes, taken from holiday brochures, so that painting an animal, in this case was all the more commendable.
There had been a change in his attitude to Andrew and his family. Whenever I had word from Andrew that they would like to come and stay for a few days, there had been a request from Harry not to bring them to see him. Not so this time, and he was anxious to show them his latest painting efforts.
I was thrilled with this development, for I would not have to tell a white lie that Harry had gone out on an organised party, should Andrew and family intend to call on him when they arrived here. This behaviour pattern of not wanting to see people, even his own kith and kin, as well as not going out, was all part of his life-long paranoia illness, which he still suffers from.
My daughter-in-law, Linda, had a difficult time this winter, motoring daily to do her teaching post at Willenhall, a distance of around 70 miles there and back. She could not find a nearer post to Shrewsbury, where she could teach her subject - Home Economics. There were other difficulties Linda had found in the teaching profession. Since schools there had their own money, headmasters were dispensing with experienced teachers in exchange for the less experienced at a cheaper rate, who were on the bottom of their salary scale. Her main objective was to obtain a good reference at the end of the summer term, and hopefully obtain a teaching post local to home. It was several months at her school before she spoke to her headmaster. When sent for by him, she imagined he would be asking how she was getting on. It came as a shock to realise all he wanted was to tell he r that her post would be up for grabs at the end of term, in accordance with her contract. No questions were asked about how she was managing her pupils and no indication was given of whether she may be successful if she applied. There must be something lacking in the selection of staff to hold the position of Head, if it is thought unnecessary to discuss their staffs teaching and their pupils progress. Since Linda had no wish to remain at this school, her brief encounter was of little matter, but the thoughts of getting a satisfactory reference from him was daunting!
Andrews career seemed to have found him suited to project management. He, like a majority of workers at that time, had the uncertainty of whether they would have a job tomorrow, with the Government enforcement of privatisation, to do their work cheaper. A Margaret Thatcher policy on getting work done as cheaply as possible, with little regard to the quality or loyalty of staff.
In Andrews area of work at Telford, the revenues largest billion pound contract for self-assessment had been placed with an American concern, EDS, who had taken over the majority of staff in this field of work. Andrew, who had never seemed to lack a Guardian Angel, was one of the few who was retained by his department, working in the project management sector of the self assessment task.
Andrew had promised to bring most of his family over to stay a few days during the school half-term in February. He added that Peter, now 17 years of age, working on his A-levels, had to remain at home to keep his part-time job with the Little Chef. Whenever I chatted with Peter on the phone, the subject always reverted to football, which he had always been keen on, and he would like to become a professional, playing in the top league. Jonathan, who was approaching 16 years of age would also be staying behind, to keep the paper rounds going for both himself and Elisabeth. These paper rounds are bought like insurance books are paid for by agents. The paper boy or girl collects the money direct from their clients and does not pay it to the newsagent.
The children were aware of the need to contribute towards their keep at an early age. It was an education to sit at their table and notice the amount of food consumed by them, and I could understand that food was bought in bulk. Linda claimed that every day was washing day, and tried to do the ironing before she went to work. To me, this upkeep of the family was a test of management from a financial aspect, which from time to time I had an SOS. One of their greatest financial strains was the need to maintain two cars, because of Lindas daily travel to her work at Willenhall. It was a credit to them both that the children have never lacked the necessities of life, nor indeed, parental love.
I had set a routine for their stay in Bedhampton, which seemed to work each time they came. I ensured that they had one hot meal on arrival, consisting of steak and kidney pie bought from the local butcher, Barncroft Butchers. With the pie I served powdered potato mash, peas and gravy using Bisto granules. This was followed by Bramley apple pie, obtained from the same butcher, with a choice of ice cream or Ambrosia ready to serve custard. In the past, I have never had enough ice cream. No matter what time my young family arrived, it took only minutes to warm up this pre-cooked meal, making use of the gas stove and microwave oven.
Should both dinner and tea be required, I had my à la Alan encapsulated fruit and Mr Butch fresh cream sponge cake, to put on the table. The latter was always a favourite, be it my family, relatives, or my bridge players.
I had in the past accommodated for a few days, Andrew, Linda and six grandchildren, and Barbara and her Andrew, all in one session. This had caused wonderment among my neighbours. The recipe for the sleeping arrangements to be practical required the use of sleeping bags, which Andrew brought with him in a trailer behind the car. It was left to them how they made use of two bedrooms, conservatory, the lounge and furniture. It appeared the boys turned their conservatory into a den, whilst the girls slept nose to tail in the back bedroom. With Joy here at her digs, and Peter and Jonathan left behind, there were relatively few to accommodate on half term.
Thomas was determined to master his diving. At the age of five he had no fear of the water and was like a tadpole, swimming around in the deep water.
Christopher, aged ten, was football captain of his age group, and made sure that he visited Pompey at Fratton Park with his Dad. Strange that Andrew had no interest in football, like his Dad and played rugby instead. I admired him for encouraging all the grandchildren in their natural callings, and did not hesitate to take Peter and Jonathan to away representative youth county football matches when they had been selected.
I learned that Elisabeth had taken up hockey, another of Granddads sports, be it at the age of 48 before he did so. She was also a keen basket-ball player at school, and at twelve years of age showed a lot of potential in the sporting arena. I learned that Joy was busy at playing and taking part in most sports in the athletic section of Portsmouth University, including hockey.
Although sporting gear can be quite expensive, the were well equipped. Lets hope that mother can keep teaching, to bring in the money to maintain the huge cost of maintaining them to the standard they are used to - which no average mans wage could do.
I had a lot of pleasure playing draughts and chess at night with Elisabeth and Thomas wanting to show us how it should be played. We switched to chess after Elisabeth found draughts too simple. I had the impression that Elisabeth was the more thoughtful of her brothers and sisters. I have heard it mentioned that she would like to become a doctor.
At the church they attended weekly, Linda had friends who came from the medical profession, and I believe this influenced Joy to become trained in midwifery.
Much of Andrew and familys time in this short stay was spent with Joy. After their first meals I prepared for them, they catered for themselves and cleared up before departing, leaving me with items of clothing left behind, but other than that there were no bed clothes to wash.
It took a little while to get used to the quietness of the house and no-one to challenge me at draughts. The last act before this assembly departed in their car with trailer full of sleeping bags, was to have photographs taken on the front doorstep. My neighbours, who happened to be in the front garden, joined me in waving them goodbye.
My bowling club held their pre-season meeting in Bedhampton Social Hall, but I did not attend, having no Ella to go along with. It was the same when Gladys passed on. I hated the question that was generally asked, How are you getting on, now that you are on your own? I did, however, attend the pre-season mens meeting, to hear the club mens officials announce the team arrangements for the Portsmouth and District League. For several years I had been skip of the rink in the Combination League and had seen our club rise in the table.
I came away a much saddened member, after hearing that certain players were not delivering their bowls correctly and causing damage to the green. Although my name was not mentioned directly, an incident on an away fixture where I was involved, left no doubt who they were referring to. When it was stated that it could mean not being selected, I felt very hurt!
My treatment of a three-monthly transplant for my cancerous prostrate gland was giving me severe side effects, including arthritis in my joints, which prevented me from bending low before delivering the bowl. This did occasionally cause damage, but not enough to blame me for the very poor state of our green. It seemed to me that the work put into the club by founder members counted for nothing.
© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: February 04, 2001