RETURN TO ROUTINE
Returning to my loneliness at home, I had two birthday dates in my diary, close to one another, to remind me of both Gladys and Ella. It would have been Ellas birthday on 27th April, while away at Boscombe, and Gladys on the 5th May.
Both left deep scars in their passing, and in their suffering in different ways, before their allotted span of three-score years and twenty. Why should I be spared beyond this period? All of this is, of course, beyond our comprehension, but if we have faith in the Bible, and I believe we should, there is yet another life to come. When I attended church, I marvelled at how the records on Christs life had been kept as well as those in the Old Testament, relating the lives of biblical characters, such as Moses. I had to count my blessings, for all that God had given me in terms of health, two wives, and a fairy princess or two!
One of the first phone calls I would receive, whenever I returned home from being away, no matter how short or long, was from Harry. It was a reminder that I was regarded as his life-line. His first few remarks concerned my well-being, and he would tell me that he had received a card, if I had been away and sent one.
These early comments were usually followed by, When are you coming to see me? or Is it alright for me to come home this weekend? with no other close relatives, and having no relationship locally due to his paranoid state, I was fully conscious of my importance to him. For him, he had the Good Lord to thank, both for my presence and for Sylvias. On this score, he had from time to time asked whether I had made a will. This is the sort of question I tried to dodge, and merely say that he had not been forgotten, but added that he must maintain his sheltered accom-modation in Outram Road. In my will, I had nominated Andrew, Harrys brother, to be the executor of my will and to look after Harrys interests.
When I attended the doctor, for a fresh prescription for my prostrate gland, he reminded me that I was due for a knee operation, using key-hole surgery on the 10th May.
There should be no chance that I forget this date. I was one of the first to be on our gun-site at Plivot, France in 1940 on the morning of this day, when hoards of German bombers could be seen in the distance, above the horizon. This was the time when Jerry broke through the Ardennes gap on the French-German border. Being an ack-ack battery, we only had a handful of rifles to defend ourselves, and could not have put up much of a resistance. It was fortunate for us that the enemy made straight for the coast, and not for Paris, giving us time to withdraw with the Advanced Air Force Command.
My pre-operation check-up at the Queen Alexandra fracture clinic, on 2nd May, confirmed that my heart was still in good shape and would be able to go through the operation without ill effects. Strange, that I should look forward to this short stay of 24 hours in hospital, for after my last operation I had quite enjoyed the friendly hospital treatment given to me by the doctors, nurses and supporting staff.
A bowling friend, Charles Bullock, and his wife, took me in their car to the hospital. Both had a great respect for Ella and were always prepared to give me assistance whenever they could. A friend in need is a friend indeed, for I had no close relatives to call on, locally.
I reported to a ward, where 9.30 am saw the start of the modern 24-hour surgery process. The sister on duty greeted me and introduced herself, using her Christian name, as did the remainder of the ward staff. I was given a private room, but fortunately the door was open most of the time and I could observe what was going on in the ward from my bed.
The ward sister revisited me, to explain that I would be operated on during the latter part of the morning, after I had been seen by the anaesthetist and doctor. I was also told that I would be given a meal after I had come round, following the operation, and would be sent home around tea-time. This news took me by surprise, for when I had a similar operation on my left knee, I stayed overnight and had physiotherapy, before being discharged.
There seemed to be no end to how it is possible to streamline surgical operations to reduce the patients stay in hospitals, in order to make maximum use of ward beds. There is no doubt that key-hole surgery, using a very thin tube as a probe to both scan and wash out the inside of the knee joint, needing only a few stitches to heal the entry point, has transformed this type of operation. I assumed glass fibre optics had been employed to achieve this.
Both my visitors from the operation team seemed satisfied with their visit. I asked the anaesthetist, when she had taken my heart and pulse reading, if they were satisfactory. She just smiled and nodded her head, and then gave me a jab in the wrist for asking!
The surgeon from Mr Edwards team introduced himself and did a quick check, looking at my right knee and arm band, with my records. By the time I had been pushed down the corridor, into the operating room, I was out for the count of ten. I never did get to know whether I had someone who had to be told in the theatre annex, No not that one, this one. as I had heard when having the hernia operation.
The next thing I knew, I was back in my private room, feeling somewhat thirst and hungry. I had a quick visit from the same surgeon, and was told that he had to trim the ligament. There was no bottle with the knee debris, as was given to me after my left knee operation. The trimming of my knee ligament explained why I had pain below and above my knee joint. Sad that I did not receive a bottle of left knee debris to go with the right knee one, on the mantelpiece in the lounge.
After I had recovered from the operation, the ward nurse explained that the food I had ordered would be brought to me. I would be given instructions regarding the time to remove the dressing, following the meal. Once dressed, I would exercise my leg by walking up and down the ward, using a walking stick, if necessary. To go upstairs, I was instructed to put my good leg out first to heaven, and my bad leg out first going downstairs to hell. When told I would be discharged sometime later, if all went well, I was taken by surprise. So this key-hole surgery had been completed almost within a hospital stay of 12 hours, whereas previously I had been required to stay overnight to have physiotherapy treatment in the morning, before being discharged.
Along with me, in the ward, were several patients, all doing the same thing, walking up and down the ward, almost normally. We must have been on some sort of conveyor belt in the operating theatre.
I had been warned not to expect to return to normal walking for several weeks. I went on the bowling green after a week following the previous knee operation and had to come off, with pain. I was now the wiser for this experience, and complied with those who knew best.
In any case, having also been warned about my delivery causing damage to the green, I did not feel a calling to return to serious bowls, such as league play. To my dismay I found I could not get a roll-up in the morning or afternoon, as there was no duty steward to organise the roll-ups. All who played had to organise their own game.
When the Bedhampton Bowls Club was first formed, and for several years, stewards were appointed for certain days, to draw cards to decide who played on each rink. This meant that a person on their own would not have a problem in getting a game, and prevented cliques from forming. My only interest in the club now was to assist Reg New in running the All Change Drive, which Ernie King and myself organised on Friday afternoons, where bowlers just turned up and signed in the book and received a movement card, after paying the fee to play in the competition.
Reg had brought fresh ideas in running this drive, after Ernie passed on, with Ernies wife, Mary, making the tea and serving at the interval. A cup was donated by Mary, which was called the Ernie King Cup and was played for at the end of the season, with those taking part who had played most on Fridays during the playing season.
Many of those who took part were intrigued how the movements were worked out on the movement cards issued to them at the start of the drive. It always brought a smile when I narrated that this was done on the banks of the Adriatic Sea, when on holiday in Yugoslavia, before the war. The tricky part of the system was to enable any numbers, between 12 and 48, to be catered for. Anyone who signed in by a fixed time on Friday afternoons, apart from the last odd one, was assured of a game in the drive. This had proved to be an invaluable way of new members getting to know established bowlers in the club. Here I was, able to give Reg New assistance at the end of the drive, by collecting movement cards while Reg recorded the individual scores and announced the winners, including the lowest scorer, to award the booby prize.
During the summer, I was at a low ebb, having put so much into the bowling club. It was as if the work that was put into the wooden pavilion, and the likes of the founder members counted for nothing, although it had been the centre of the members activities, such as entertaining visitors and playing bridge, for ten years. The brick building which took its place lacked the warmth of our original pavilion, although it had more facilities. Our original pavilion was removed without decommisioning, or ceremony of any kind.
It was my weekly visit to St Marys Hospital to see Pat, my fairy princess, with my weekly script that lifted my spirits for a while. Last year, her office colleague, Leigh, and myself, took Pat to the Still and West for a meal to celebrate Pats birthday. With Leigh seconded on a twelve month residential management course at Ashbridge College, I took Pat to the Old House at Home pub at the east end of Locksway Road, overlooking the Eastney Lake section of Langstone Harbour. This setting was ideal for Pat to get away from her office phone that never ceased ringing in her Public Relations office.
We were not the only ones who found this pub to be a handy retreat at midday, to get away from their work environment. Sitting close to us outside, on a picnic bench, were a group of smartly dressed office type young men, one of whom kept glancing towards us. He could have been Pats husband, Nigel, who I had yet to meet.
As we walked past this group, on returning Pat to her office, the young man who had been staring at us hailed me, How are you, Alan? Remember me? One of your hockey colts, Paul Turnbull.
Of course I do, but I have difficulty remembering names, and you have grown during the time I last saw you, ten years ago, whereas all Ive done is lost hair and got a few wrinkles. I replied. While I was speaking, it was noticeable that his eyes were glancing in the direction of my guest! We both gave a smile, as Pat and I continued walking past Paul and his friends, having no wish to delay Pats return to the office. Pauls last words were, We hope to see you at the hockey club disco. Yes, I hope so, too, I responded.
I explained to Pat on our way back, that I had received a letter from Paul Turnbull, who was secretary of the Portsmouth and Southsea Hockey Club. It stated that the Colt of the Year Award had been renamed Alan Rayment Colt of the Year Award, this was in recognition of my commitment to the club over many years, and particularly my efforts with the colts in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At that period, I was also captain of the 5th XI team, as well as being the Clubs representative on the Portsmouth City Sports Council. If Gladys had been alive, she would have commented that her name should have been added to the title of the cup. She would have claimed that most of Friday was spent taking phone calls from players who were unable to play on the following day.
After the letter, which is on page 51, was an invitation to present this cup to the chosen colt at the clubs disco, to be held at the Marconi Sports Club. The club had already made me a life member for my services. This latest action had more than compensated for the lack of recognition by Bedhampton Bowling Club of the work put into the original pavilion and surroundings, particularly the veranda, by the former members before its replacement with a brick structure.
Since my ignominious departure, when Ella had dragged me from the back of the hockey goal post nets at the age of 68, my former hockey club had kept me posted with minutes of their committee meetings, being a life member of the club. The club went into a decline and was very nearly taken over by the City of Portsmouth Club. A very strong influence there was Pete Atkinson, a former member of the Southsea club, their trainer, who took a great interest in the club when I was their manager.
Portsmouth and Southsea Hockey Club
Formed in 1905
Mr A Rayment
Dear Alan, 2 December 1995
Thank you for your letter.
I have passed on your news to the Club Executive. We are all saddened to hear of your recent bereavement and the problems you are experiencing with your health. I personally consider it a major bonus to any sports and/or social club to retain close links with all members and it is a strength of Portsmouth and Southsea Hockey Club to have members such as yourself who still show a strong interest in the fortunes of the Club.
Our first XI are currently in a healthy position in Hampshire Division One and none of our top three XI s have been beaten in their respective leagues this season. Most of our home games are still played on the all-weather surface at Alexandra Park and you are always welcome to come along to watch and perhaps participate in the post match socialising.
Recently the Club has formed a mini-colts squad (made up of players between five and twelve years of age) who are becoming quite successful and, with a little luck and encouragement, should ensure a good future for the Club.
It is with much pleasure that I can confirm that at our last Executive Meeting a proposal was passed to rename our Colt of the Year Award the Alan Rayment Colt of the Year Award in recognition of your commitment to the Club over many years, and particularly your efforts with the Colts in the late 1970s and early 1980s
Thank you for your cheque, which will be put to good use.
I will ensure that you are kept informed of Club issues.
and Southsea Hockey Club
Whenever I had the chance to speak to members of my former hockey club, I would advise them to keep their own identity, as I was sure Alan Hicks, their most senior member, a sort of godfather would wish it. The most number of teams that the club could muster each week, that I recall, were around seven.
From the agenda sent to me for 1996, I noted that the club had had a resurgence and had justified keeping its own identity, and rightly so, for this club had a long history, going back to 1905.
The club had become a mixed club, taking part in the summer as well as the winter, using the indoor and floodlit facilities at Alexandra Park. On the agenda there were 26 posts to be filled, including committee, managers, captains, representatives and other duties covering a multi-plicity of subjects, such as press representative.
With this formidable management structure, it conveyed to me that this club, like a ship, had a good captain at the helm, steering it long into the next millennium.
I doubted that I had attended a disco at any time, so by presenting the Alan Rayment Colt of the Year Award, I would be venturing into the preserve of modern youth, where jungle noises may be heard and jungle dances performed. Joy was keen to be my escort, which was very useful, for I did not drive in the dark - only locally to play bridge. She was seeking a hockey club and hoped to meet the ladies captain while with me.
The hockey club used Marconis Sports Club as their HQ, combining the membership fees of both clubs, when joining for hockey. This was a new venture for me, but Joy had no difficulty in taking me there, off the Eastern Road and along Anchorage Road into the Airport Industrial Estate.
I felt an odd one out and a bit old in the tooth to be going to this event, and I certainly did not want to inhibit Joys fun in any way. Our attendance was queried at the door, due to my not having a membership card. I asked for Paul Turnbull, who gave us a big welcome when he arrived.
The scene that opened up was very much like a Christmas Fair as we entered the main hall. The last time I had a surprise like this had been on my retirement, when I was taken to the Civil Service Club, where all my colleagues from Portsdown Hill and Slough were gathered in the skittle alley.
Here at the Marconi Club were the stalwarts of the hockey club, including Alan Hick, Les Tullet and many of my former colts. Equally important, family groups were present, where their youngsters played in the colts under-14 and under-12 teams.
Paul had mentioned that the club had a well-supported colts section, running two teams, with parents taking a great interest in the clubs activities. This was a great achievement by the club, which reflected the wise strategy of those handling its affairs.
Paul escorted us to a table, and invited us to help ourselves to the running buffet, where food was spread out on long tables, extending almost the length of the hall. Paul then left us to do our own thing. For Joy, this meant giving the men hockey players a once-over, while eating refreshments. There was no use looking at Gary Collins, a former colt, always with a big smile on his face. He had already chosen a member of the ladies section as his better half. I, of course, was envious of the men, having so many of these young ladies that I saw, in their club. It was never like this in my day!
Paul sent a member of the ladies section over to Joy, to invite her along to one of their training sessions. Joy had committed herself to taking part in Portsmouth University sporting activities, however it was a nice gesture.
During the period of the build-up time for prize giving session, the disco lights never ceased flashing on the stage, in all different colours. They had a mesmerising effect, but when smoke was made to gush forth, the whole scene resembled some kind of inferno. So this was the modern scene I had thankfully missed out on. In no way could the age gap be bridged for me, but I was happy to be part of the scene for the evening.
Unfortunately, I could not speak from first hand knowledge of the youngster, to whom I had to present the Alan Rayment Colt of the Year Award. I relied on the information given to me from Paul. However, I could congratulate the hockey club for having a strong colts section, supported by the parents of the colts, as was evident tonight. In my remarks, I mentioned that many of the colts of my era had taken over the management of the present day club, with the likes of Tony Saddler, Gary Collins, Pete Martin, and other colts all taking a leading part. I left Pauls name to the end, for from my observations and from the paper-work I had received, I was sure that my former colt was at the helm, steering the club into a successful future. Who knows, turning to the Colt of the Year, It may be you in ten years time, who will be at the helm of your hockey club. He took the cup with a big smile, as he received a loud applause from those present.
Next time I was called upon to repeat this presentation, I decided I would make sure I had a debriefing on the successful Colt of the Year. Joy thought I had made myself heard, and was pleased with what I had said.
We did not stay to join the jiving, or what I refer to as war dancing in keeping with the deep rock noise, smoke and flashing coloured lights. I managed to say a few words to Alan Hicks and Les Tullet, who was in a wheelchair before we departed.
Tonights experience impressed me immensely, for my hockey club had remembered its former players and had involved the colts family unit in its activities. I was sure that all this would be reflected in its future performance, by playing in top class leagues and would beat Havants first XI team.
Joy had joined several other nurses and university students sharing accommodation in Jessie Road, Fratton. The bulk of the terraced property in this area was similarly let to students, with their cars occupying most of the available parking space. Despite this parking problem, she was very settled at this address, which was within walking or cycling distance from her training centre at St Marys Hospital. Often, she told me that she was preparing the evening meal for her other residents. I was pleased that occasionally she would bring one or two along when visiting me.
It was after the hockey club disco that she brought Richard to see me. He was the only male student at her residence who was an art student. He took part in the university sports life, having been made captain of the hockey section. This explained why Joy did not want to follow Granddad Rayment by joining Southsea Hockey Club!
Joys connections with Portsmouth University were manifold and showed immense maturity for her age of 20. She had, with other students, formed a Society of Students of Midwifery, of which she was the President. They hoped that other similar societies would be formed at universities across the country, with an annual get-together.
She had a strong Christian faith, and believed that it was because she had prayed hard that she had been selected at the last moment to obtain her trainee midwifery studentship. Her faith became manifest as leader of a student Christian group meeting in each others quarters.
When talking about my Joy and her endeavours, I would usually finish by adding, What can you expect, when she has her Granddads genes. Those who knew Gladys would have preferred to quote Grandmas genes, for did she not call Granddad a coward for diving under the bed, when we heard a doodle-bug cut out during an air raid in London.
Strange that Granddad, like Joy, had also cultivated links with the University of Portsmouth in the twilight of his life, but then he had always been a late starter, with no educational certificates of any kind until the age of 30, and no hockey until the age of 48, apart from the annual Scouts versus Guides match at Urmston, Manchester.
My connections with the University were in a personal sense, in that I had three pupils learning bridge in my teach-in sessions, who were tutors at the University namely, Viv Mathews, Enid Billington, Ann Ashworth, and a fourth, who had to bail out due to home circumstances - Cath Thrower. I gave each one a test paper to complete at home after a short period. Somehow, I got the feeling that they resented me giving them homework, for that was their normal perogative. However, it gave me great satisfaction to turn the tables around on the academics, after the many years I had suffered doing test papers. I never did get them to hand in the answers, I wonder why?
At Emsworth Bridge Club there was an annual contest between Professor Wynn, with Mrs B Mellows against myself and A Wagg for the duplicate cup award. We had won this several times, but alas we were beaten by them during 1995, although it had been a neck and neck situation for most of that year. Wynn, being a mathematician, could never understand my bidding, since the bids that were made supposedly based on high points, never agreed with the total of 40 in the pack. He had a great sense of humour, and when spotting my phoney bid, he would give a wry grin.
My most cherished connections with Portsmouth University were when I was enrolled at The Grove, to take a course on Creative Writing, by Stuart Olesker in 1995. I was told that I had become a student, and that I was entitled to use the full facilities, such as their library. Perhaps, I too, like Joy, should start a society if I found there was no existing one for the over-80s, and call it the University Octogenarian Society.
Both my late wives had left clear instructions on what they required to be done should they pass on. Gladys remembered each of her sisters, and whilst in bed not knowing she had cancer, wrote out a list of items and the money she wished to leave to them.
In Ellas case, apart from the will, she had left a note on scrap paper, amongst her private documents, requesting that her ashes be spread where her mothers laid in Ludlow Church graveyard. This request was under-taken by her daughter, Laura. On the same piece of paper under the heading No Fuss, No Flowers was 6 Standard Roses (Silver Jubilee) for Bowls Club. That part of her request had yet to be carried out.
I had taken a personal interest in the gardens surrounding the bowling green, from the inception of Bedhampton Bowls Club. My cuttings of Dimorphothecas which I had brought back from Porlock, Somerset and propagated, enabled me to transplant them on three sides of the green. When in flower for most of the summer season, these cultivated daisies were a mass of mustard yellow. I also planted cuttings of Lavatera from my garden, along the hedge which divided the green from the Havant main road, to help reduce the traffic noise. The caring of the borders had been taken over by members of the General Purpose Committee. My general condition had deteriorated, preventing me to continue helping to maintain the surroundings.
I made approaches to the members of the main committee about Ellas gift to the club of six standard roses, and that Jim Hammond, the former green-keeper, would look after them.
The response I had from the member who was concerned with the upkeep of the gardens was disappointing, and finally mentioned that he would have to refer this offer to the Management Committee. I waited several months for a reply, but the Ellas offer of standard roses did not appear to be worthy of acknowledgement.
I still had a duty to fulfil Ellas dying wish, so I made contact with Mabel Brown, her best friend at Ludlow, both had been members of Burway Crown Green Bowling Club in Ludlow. I asked her if she could approach her bowling club with this offer of six standard roses from Ella, knowing full well that her heart was always in Ludlow, and that her ashes were strewn in the Parish Church graveyard.
I had an immediate response, having made contact with the clubs secretary, Mabel, who was able to tell me that the club would be delighted to receive them. She also added that Ken, her husband, also a keen bowler at the club, would organise their planting. I did my best to obtain those Silver Jubilee roses from local nurseries, without success.
This merited a trip to Andrews at Shrewsbury, where I was sure that I could obtain them from Percy Throwers nursery. Although I was unsuccessful in obtaining them from this garden centre, I did obtain two of each variety from Emstray Garden Centre, they were Evelyn Fison, Amber Queen and Living Fire.
After their delivery to Mabels house, she phoned me and told me that they had been planted within hours of receiving them. This confirmed Ellas views regarding the friendliness and helpfulness of the people she knew in Ludlow. I would be making a visit to see those roses, as well as Mabel and Ken, on my annual pilgrimage to visit Ellas burial ground in Ludlow.
It gave me great satisfaction to know that Ellas wishes had been fulfilled and that I was able to put away that piece of paper in Ellas private file. It also left me saddened that my own bowls club should have ignored Ellas donation, having been their minutes secretary, and I having been their President.
My physical condition was gradually deteriorating, not being able to play bowls due to my knee operation and the locking of my joints. This made it difficult for me to put my socks and shoes on and to prepare food for cooking, as I could not grip a knife. I had my hands crippled with arthritis and pain, making it unbearable to shake hands. I could not forget one person who had a strong grip, and made me jump in the air and yell at him to let go.
There were times when backing the car out of the garage, I failed to steer it without scraping either the wall of the house or the dividing fence. It was as if I was disorientated, and I began to question whether I was safe to drive at all.
I was now spending more time at the Havant Health Centre, where I was receiving physiotherapy, following my knee operation. I had a young Australian physiotherapist, Miss Keys, on an exchange arrangement. I thought she was cute when she said I could call her by her Christian name, Angula. She demonstrated the leg movement that I was to practice each day at certain times, whenever practical. To be certain I remembered the three different movements, she sketched these out for me, and the number of hold counts.
I was most impressed with her approach to her discipline with her client and for the Health Authority, in providing this facility locally instead of my having to attend the main hospitals.
I became more listless, having increasing difficulty in climbing up the stairs and getting off a low chair. I was giving serious thought to going into sheltered accommodation, as I had been on the Council waiting list for this type of residence. Something inside me kept saying, Keep your own independence as long as you can.
Around me, I had Jack Muggridge, aged 92, still playing bowls and another bowler, Don Ford, in his mid-80s, who literally took it in his stride to walk from Bedhampton around the coast to Old Portsmouth. Yet another bowler of a similar age still played badminton and golf, did sequence dancing and looked after himself, having been widowed.
When I asked the doctor to review my treatment, I was told to tell the consultant when I next had an appointment. He finally added that I was to do as much walking as possible. This, I knew, was the secret of both Jacks and Dons continued long healthy lives. As the doctor explained, walking keeps the leg muscles supple, whilst being outside in the fresh air is a source of oxygen to the lungs and bloodstream.
My confused state from time to time made me doubt my own sanity. Whilst asleep in bed, I had two phone calls, one at 5.30 and another at 5.50, according to the time of the large dial clock on the bedroom wall opposite. The first caller was a bridge player, asking if there was bridge that night. I remembered that it was Monday, when we always played, but why was he phoning so early? I replied in a sleepy tone, Yes, of course. Whats the matter, cant you sleep? It went quiet, so I put the phone down. The second caller asked the same question and got the same reply. This time I did not turn over to go to sleep again, I got up and drew the curtains open. It was broad daylight with cars passing to and fro. Yes, I had read the time correctly, but failed to realise that I had gone to bed for my regular afternoon nap, and this was evening, not morning. I was still confused for the rest of the night, which earned remarks from my table bridge players such as, Yet another Alan psychic bid.
It was obvious that the deep sleep I had in the afternoon was a reflection of my tired and listless state. I knew that part of this was due to the fact that each night I got up at least a dozen times because of my water-works. This was a matter which the doctors promised to attend to when they had sorted out my cancerous prostrate gland state.
© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: February 04, 2001