You are reading Page 36 of Bob's Blog/diary/dream/story/journey/novelistic memoir.
He is 84 years old and counting!
Thursday 1st June 2023.
I notice that somebody is reading this diary/story/journey/dream in Chicago, could be Hannah and Mike on their honeymoon. Amazing this Analytics thing you will never know who's checking on who, anyway enjoy your delayed honeymoon H and M.
Never been to Chicago but I've been to Detroit a number of times and would like to pause for a moment to remember Chic who sadly passed away last year. You may have come across Chic and his family in my USA story; love to all the Sweetnams. One of my trips to Detroit was special, or at least the flight back was. My old school friend Tony was a BA Captain on 747's, he very kindly offered me a seat on the flight deck all the way back to Heathrow, an indescribable experience, thanks to Tony.
I'm reluctant to refer you to all my stories listed on the ABOUT page because no doubt you've read them all by now! To me, my trip to New Zealand in search of another drawing office, perhaps, was the most ambitious and also perhaps the most ill advised as anything could have happened but it didn't. There's not much chance of becoming rich and famous in a drawing office but who wants to be rich and famous? I've often thought that it was inevitable that I would become rich and famous looking back at all my ground breaking ideas and artworks but like Leonardo, I might have to wait a century or two.
In the mean time the ball cock in the tank in the loft seized up so I had to call on all my experience with delivering cold water to the loft tank via a long hose through the bedroom window from the garden tap, as a temporary fix that is. I think I'll make a YouTube video of the operation - might become rich and famous!
Friday 2nd June 2023.
If you've got nothing better to do I suggest you get on to FlightRadar24 and marvel at the amount of aircraft in the sky. I spent a morning watching take offs and landings at Gatwick Airport. As you know there's only one runway at Gatwick so air traffic control somehow manage to thread take offs and landings together, amazingly it seems with zero margin for error. This means that the incoming aircraft all need to be flying at exactly the same speed with exactly the right amount of gap between them. And Captain Whiteknuckles on the aircraft lining up for take off needs to be on the ball with his throttle. Not only that the air traffic controller issues all commands by voice on the radio. Now, in this day and age of digital armageddon wouldn't you think that human voice commands for all this knitting could be eliminated? Not only to relieve the pressure on all concerned but just in case Captain Whiteknuckles doesn’t have a good understanding of English. Just a thought. Might be rich and famous one day Hartley then I would buy all your paintings.
Back in the early eighties there was some crackpot selling ‘Pieces of Old England’ at Gatwick Airport, he called them ‘APO’s’. A great idea that could settle our national debt, but it never took off. He even made the local headlines. You can read all about it on Page 1 of this journey.
Saturday 3rd June 2023.
Todays task is to sand down the fascia board with my Handy Sander ready for painting as the quotes are an arm and a leg Hartley, let me know if you want yours doing. I could do it in oils, acrylics or watercolours! I'll then check on that brilliant website called www.walktowork.co.uk and find a job as everything now costs an arm and a leg, including my time. I can remember when I travelled to Southall every day in my soft top Morris Minor for £1 an hour that was back in 1966. A year to remember and not because we won the world cup. I think I'll apply for a job as a Chelsea footballer as their training ground is up the road. Check it out on www.walktowork.co.uk. Either that or I could be a violin teacher at The Yehudi Menuhin School as they are also on www.walktowork.co.uk, I used to play the violin and the trumpet. www.walktowork.co.uk is a great idea that might make whoever designed it rich and famous one day. I've always fancied being a waiter, not sure why but plenty of vacancies at the Cobham M25 service station, (also on www.walktowork.co.uk) but walking to work there might be a bit hazardous. One of my last jobs was to teach DIY to lady prisoners in the local jail but I'm not sure why I mentioned that. I remember taking you to the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in my Morris Minor, you very kindly bought the tickets, I'd like to say thanks for a lovely evening.
You'll have to work out what's fact or fiction in the above but no prizes, sorry.
Sunday 4th June 2023.
Removing the gutters and an initial scrape with the Handy Sander did happen yesterday despite concerns from others that an 84-year-old shouldn't be up a ladder. I explained that my limit is 3 rungs which was enough to do the job. Between you and me there were moments of hesitation when undoing the screws which had probably been there for 50 years. Whether or not I buy a pot of paint has yet to be decided. The weather certainly looks painter friendly for the foreseeable future. I think they call it 'plein air' in the artists world but I'm not planning to get my easel out Hartley, if you have any advice or hints, much appreciated. 'Nearer my plane to thee' is a phrase that mother-in-law used to use when she saw me up a ladder.
While I was up the ladder a Dreamliner did float effortlessly overhead on the way to Rhodes at around 4,000ft which did cause a bit of a wobble but it was worth it. Always been fascinated by the wonder of aerodynamics ever since I was 10. I used to make all sorts of balsa wood creations and fly them from the ridge at Oxshott Woods. Little did I know then what the future held but I didn't care. Now it would appear that we have to worry about the mountains of solar panels we will have to deal with when they reach the end of their life. Same as plastic, nuclear waste and us. Instead of painting the fascia and soffit I might clad it in recycled plastic, another mind-blowing creation beckons.
Over the past 30 years or so you will obviously be aware (if you have been paying attention that is) that 'hiking with the lads' has been a regular occurrence. We started out with many weekend visits to the New Forest. There were six of us, now there are two. But, sadly, we don't hike. If this blog/journey ends abruptly it will be Pine Needle Tea poisoning, if it doesn't it will be Pine Needle Tea effect.
Had a 'hit' from Kentucky yesterday, I wonder who that was H and M?
Monday 5th June 2023.
Whatever any of us 'authors' write, we should be comforted by the fact that any story will only stay in the readers mind for a millisecond. So with that in mind I'll attempt to tell you who Hartley is. She and Charles are characters in a Booker Prize winning story called 'The Sea, The Sea' written by Iris Murdoch. Hartley and Charles were 'an item' 38 years ago during their youth. They drifted apart. Charles never married and become a successful actor and stage director. Hartley got married to Ben. Charles retired to a cottage by the sea and unbeknown to him Hartley and Ben were living a mile away. Will they get together?
Do we all have a Hartley or a Charles lurking in our past? I think we do.
Unfortunately I couldn't find my paint scrapers so it had to be the Handy Sander. I could have used my flamethrower but I would have probably burnt the house down. I'm not sure where the energy is coming from but in short bursts I can keep up with a gazelle!
I had an email from Gloria from Wales, she and I used to be 'an item' when we were 17 in 1956, she wanted to buy a Handy Sander. We met in the back of a bus on the way from Treharris to the beach on Barry Island. The couple next to us were holding hands so we did the same. We found a secluded sand dune and held hands again. I heard a titter coming from one of the little rascals hiding around the edge of the sand dune. I jumped up and they all scattered like starlings round your fatballs that were meant for your tits, I'll probably have that redacted as I know my children and grandchildren are reading this. Anyway, I wrote to Hartley, sorry Gloria, telling her she could make a Handy Sander herself, all she has to do is to go to Page 1 for instructions. At the bottom of Page 1 is a photograph from the period.
I met another Hartley only 60 years ago, she lives 5 miles away. She is a highly accomplished artist and I've got some of her paintings hanging on my bedroom wall. It's highly unlikely that I'm her Charles but you can always dream. The thought of mid eighty year olds having any sort of relationship is a touch unsavoury don't you think? But it happens, if you are lucky. I wrote a story about my other Hartley, she also had a Charles or two. It's HERE.
I'm now well into sanding, scraping and painting. Also clearing out the loft which is a mine of memorabilia and forgotten memories.
#Next July we collide with Mars!
Tuesday 6th June 2023.
I'm not sure where that came from but it was from a song called 'Did you Ever' from the film 'High Society' which came out in 1956, I took Hartley to see it. She and I met at a party, at least our eyes did. She invited me to meet her for a coffee at the Old Bailey, we were both working in the area. Unfortunately I couldn't make it but by chance we met again in a shop which sold electric blankets, it was called Amazon. She asked me to help her choose an electric blanket but being young and innocent I failed to pick up on the significance of the request. I now see her regularly but she doesn't see me. That can't be true, can it?
It's been a long time since I bought a pot of paint. Being presented with Satin, Matt, Gloss, oil based, water based, interior, exterior, primer, undercoat etc etc and that's only in white. What happens if you need Prussion Blue, Sap Green, Crimson, Ochre, Van Dyke Brown, Titanium White etc etc heaven only knows. Anyway, I was introduced to Andy the artist at the local paint shop and he took me through the can of worms, sorry paint. I emerged with a 2.5 litres of exterior, white, satin, oil based for £17.95 which saved me £450 plus VAT which was the cheapest quote. With any luck Hartley might walk by and ask me to paint her fascia and soffit. I'll let you know how I get on.
I also painted, sorry planted my runner beans around the string wigwam yesterday, I had nurtured them from seed in plastic pots. In 7 days the roots were emerging from every orifice searching for nourishment. Why don't we eat roots? They grow much quicker. I think I'll write to someone.
I occasionally apologise for language and thoughts which come from a council house upbringing and 55 plus drawing offices. Completely unsuited for well mannered young ladies from Perivale!
For 50 years we’ve been plagued (blessed?) with Jackdaws nesting in the chimney pot. We now have squadrons of Jackdaws raiding the bird seed and fatballs. Now I’m comfortable on the ladder I’ll be up there with my two part resin orifice filler before you can say Jack Robinson. I think it's true love and passion that's been missing from my efforts with the paint brush, I think I'll join your art class after all Hartley.
Wednesday 7th June 2023.
I must have gone up and down the ladder a hundred times yesterday but I finished the job. I only broke one gutter clip which is easily replaced from somebody else's gutter, however, I would never do that so I'll borrow one from my garage gutters. I did brush the cobwebs off my Dawes Chopper and nip to the local plumbers shop but they were closed. I used to have a Hercules Kestrel racing bike back in the early 50’s, I had saved up my pennies from my paper round. My buddies and I used to cycle all over the place, Bognor, Brighton, Littlehampton, Eastbourne and Reigate, always there and back in a day. Why did I cycle to Reigate and back? To see Hartley of course.
I used to get two shillings a week for my paper round and half a crown if I did Sundays. Today I can earn £200 a week by continually switching banks. I bet you didn't know that Hartley, you would be able to afford a painter to paint your fascia and soffit. What do you say? I could bring my radio tuned to Angel Radio and we could have a last waltz during tea break. If you want to see a picture of my Dawes Chopper you will find it on Page 23, Saturday 16th May. I used it to do a survey of all the local village sign plaques but that's another story.
I will admit to extreme paralysis in every muscle as a result of going up and down the ladder a hundred times.
Do you remember what it was like in September 1952? I’ll paint you a picture. I'd get up and take the dog up Poly Apes. She was Judy, a brown and white Welsh Collie (we did have colours in 1952 despite all the black and white pictures). I'd then jump on my bike and collect the papers from George Ackermans shack just the other side of Cook's Crossing. My paper round was usually Blundel Lane, Waverley Road and Kenilworth Avenue. I'd then grab some corn flakes and cycle up to the station to catch the 8.15 to Surbiton. Then a trolley bus to Kingston Junior Technical School. I'd just started. Sometimes smog would descend and reduce visibility to zero which would mean no trains or busses, yippee! Nobody knew what central heating was so we had a gas or electric fire or maybe a paraffin heater. It used to snow a lot in the winter, you can see a picture on Page 30. Boeing Stratocruisers and Lockheed Constellations used to drone overhead heading for far away places.
For entertainment it was Dick Barton Special Agent, Tony Hancock or Take it from Here on the radio. Maybe a game of whist if a neighbour came in to make up the four. The Old Time Dance Club in the village hall on a Monday night was well attended but the average age was 75. By the end of the fifties a misspent youth had started round the Snooker Table at Oxshott Mens Club. Yippee?
Thursday 8th June 2023.
Yesterday my blood pressure was 109/60 with a pulse of 36 bpm. Either I am a marathon runner or judging by all of the above seriously compromised in the ability to reason. I did have a reason to visit Epsom A & E yesterday but I didn't add to their burden.
I expect you are wondering how it is that a compromised 84 year old manages to find time to write all this blarney Hartley. Well, his remaining brain cell is only active before 6am so a challenging deadline.
On the way back from Epsom Art Club yesterday, threading the Duster through the maze of fumes and traffic I had a sudden urge 'To See the Sea' so, when I got back I continued reading 'The Sea, The Sea' to see how you were getting on. I was reminded of my first dinghy which I had bought from Spike at Air Products. It did have a hole in its bottom but I soon fixed that. I can't remember much about it but it did have a blue sail and a beautifully polished laminated rudder. I had joined Pagham Sailing Club which is a place I must revisit one day because the club house is a converted railway carriage, very atmospheric.
Anyway, launching a dinghy on the steep shingle beach at Pagham is also a bit of a challenge but that's what life's all about don't you think? A continuous challenge. The wind and waves that day were also a bit of a challenge so constant tacking was needed, 'ready about', ' Lea Ho'. Remember? Straightening up on the last tack my beautifully polished laminated rudder snapped off and was hanging limply like a wet lettuce. Being highly reactive I immediately sent out an SOS on the radio except I didn't have a radio so a friendly yachtsman nearby towed me back to the beach, very embarrassing.
I trailed the dinghy back home together with the snapped of beautifully polished laminated rudder and decided to make it into a handle for my cheese slicer so now, every time I slice off a piece of cheese, which is often, I am reminded of Pagham Sailing Club, the sea, the sea and my beautifully polished laminated rudder.
By the way, if you are worried about my pulse being only 36 bpm it's because it misses a beat every 4th beat, always has.
Friday 9th June 2023.
Don't forget that the little things are history in the making.
Yesterday, I was priveleged to see a baby snake in the grass, about the size of a large worm. He/She was curled up soaking up the sunshine beside a large garden pond, minding its own business. On becoming aware of a threat, it lifted it's exquisitely designed and colourful head and snaked into the pond. A rare site indeed. I took it as an omen for exquisitely designed and colourful things to come Hartley, not least your paintings. Having mended the sun umbrella with a little self tapping screw on the other side of the pond I threaded the Duster back through exquisitely designed, dappled and colourful lanes from Peaslake back to the fish and chip shop where this time I managed to get 10% off for pressing the right buttons.
I also pressed the right buttons in order to book a few days beside 'the sea, the sea' next door to Pagham Yacht Club so, if Mac and Judy from Ottawa are reading this they might recall a trip to a caravan in Pagham in 1956? However, reading anything in Ottawa at the moment would seem to be a bit of a problem as visibility is seriously compromised because of smoke from wild fires. And, not only Ottawa, a large chunk of Canada and the USA seem to be affected which is a bit of a worry for H and M and anybody else sight seeing.
Definitely not a little thing.
Saturday 10th June 2023.
‘Words tumbling out higgeldy, piggeldy’ is a great description of this diary/story/journey, it was used by Michael Portillo when describing James Joyce a celebrated writer from Dublin. My great grandmother came from Dublin so perhaps I’ve inherited a touch of the higgeldy piggeldy.
I had every intention of visiting The Oxshott Mens Club last night, sorry, The Oxshott Club for the open mike music night but inertia got in the way. I am sure it could rival anything Memphis, Tennessee has to offer, what do think H and M? You probably don’t know this but when Elvis first came on the scene with ‘All Shook Up’’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in the late fifties I was playing my guitar in the public bar in the Vic at Oxshott. My repertoire included Elvis, The Beatles and Lonnie Donegan but Cyril the landlord wasn’t too impressed and asked to me leave. Plenty of other pubs actually invited us (I was part of a foursome by that time) to perform but that’s another story hidden somewhere in this journey.
If you can find Angel Radio Hartley it’s dreamy. The presenters sound a bit wrinkly but they (and we) used to be cool and smooth as a baby’s! Congratulations by the way on another Silver Medal at the Art Club, another dreamy scene at the Farmyard. I managed to produce a couple of birthday cards today, very satisfying, I’ll add them to my Art Gallery next week as it’s Dan’s birthday on Monday. He, Helen and Lottie have just returned from Rhodes. Looks dreamy, I think I’ll renew our passports Hartley, what do you say? Nobody would know!
For a feel good factor, make a decision. I decided to knock down the chimney today as the Jackdaws nesting in there are getting to be a pain, They've been there at least 50 years so I plan to wait till the nesting season is over and then goodbye Jackdaws. Somebody said 'well that's OK but what about the Jilldaws'?
My proposal for generating energy from the tidal stream hasn't gone away, it's been returned to the Design Office to address 'issues'.
This is one of the few sites not plagued with 'cookies' and 'ad's', so be thankful.
Sunday 11th June 2023.
One of my pleasures and fascinations, which few can understand, is flying a kite. About 25 years ago we happened to find ourselves in Chinatown, San Francisco. The place is full of kites. I bought a colourful boat shaped kite with three sails. Surprisingly it has survived a tough life tucked away in the shed. Recently I put it together and, although a touch faded is in 'ready for take off' condition. I have another kite, more conventional, less colourful, also faded and repaired but also looks keen to fly. I also bought a long colourful streamer and a tough 1000ft nylon line (longer than anybody else's!) wrapped round a blue bobbin. The spring clip at the end of the line is still springy. So, next week Hartley if you happen to be on Pagham Beach and spot a colourful kite mixing it with the swallows, seagulls and Spitfires you will find me on the end of the line.
There may well be a Spitfire looping and rolling overhead as Goodwood Airfield is only up the road where you can get a ride in a two seat Spitfire. It will cost you anything from £3,000 to £12,000 but you deserve it. Pete, who I met at Oxshott Mens Club, sorry The Oxshott Club, last night has experienced the experience and will happily show you his teeshirt and video.
The link is HERE if you are interested. At the moment you will be blown away with the image of the Spitfire they use for advertising. In the background is The Needles lighthouse which brings back scary sailing memories.
Poetry in motion. The one on the left!
Monday 12th June 2023.
Whilst visiting the Oxshott Club I took the opportunity to check on The Oxshott Village Sign. Close up it's awe inspiring. It must be the largest, most exquisitely designed, stunning, beautifully balanced and engineered village sign in the country. It is 6ft high and 4 ft wide. The very informative laser etched plaques are extremely easy to read and apart from the odd bird dropping are unblemished and will remain so for centuries to come. Unlike the previous tarnished, uninformative and unreadable brass plaques. The only problem is that a sapling that was in front of the sign has now grown into a tree blocking the view from the Oxshott Library opposite. The Oxshott Library is a box on a stick where you can borrow a book called ‘The Sea, The Sea’ by Iris Murdoch, if you are lucky.
The Oxshott Library used to be in the back room of the village hall on the opposite corner, a lovely old building which was the place of worship before the current church was built in 1910. For me it holds many memories. Sadly it was bulldozed around 1970 for the car park.
Not a lot of people know this but there used to be a bomb shelter opposite the village sign on the corner of Sheath Lane and Holtwood Road. Just thought I’d mention it.
I haven't forgotten it's somebody's birthday today so Happy Birthday Dan. Have a good one and your card has landed HERE.
I realise now why everybody is walking along staring at their phone. It's all to do with tracking your position, navigating, speed, altitude and direction of every step. ‘Uniform Charlie. Descend to 3 feet. Check passing 4. New heading 057 degrees. You are number two for Waitrose approach. Contact 127 decimal 4 for basket pick up. Over’.
Tuesday 13th June 2023.
You will be aware that my first love, fascination and may be even obsession is flying, not least the use of drones which are now flying over head stuffed with AI (Artificial intelligence) and pretending to be your friends, family, bank, service provider and heaven knows who, so beware. Better to ditch your phone, iPad or laptop and write a letter don't you think?
Or better still, get on your horse take the A3 and your letter to Pagham, deliver it to Hartley, fly your kite, try to forget the headlines and wait for a reply. Today some of that will be achieved.
Wednesday 14th June 2023.
75 years ago (I was 9) I was hanging on to Uncle Alf's leather belt on the back of his 500cc Norton motor cycle together with Auntie Gwen jammed in the sidecar We were on the way to Knobby Harkett's caravan in Selsey. We went via Leatherhead, Billingshurst and Bury Hill. 5 years later (I was 14) I travelled the same route on my Hercules Kestrel racing bike with dropped handlebars. I studied every yard of the road and yes, I rode up Bury Hill without gears. Yesterday, with Julia as chauffeur, we travelled the same route to Pagham under a cloudless sky. For me, nostalgia was bubbling over. Arriving at Andy and Rosie's homely beach front bungalow was icing on a knickerbocker glory. A stroll along the pebbly beach to discover that little had changed, including the penny arcade with Elvis inviting you in was bordering on beyond words. I knew it was him because his Cadillac with his personalised ELVIIS number plate was parked round the corner.
Back on the bungalow patio, lounging on the sunbed, Cedric the seagull took aim at Julia and missed by a whisker but did a great job of whitewashing the patio. At 5am a sharply defined, waxing, silvery, rising moon over Bognor heralded another day of panoramic potential for Pagham.
Thursday 15th June 2023.
Surprisingly, bravely and impressively Julia went for an early morning swim which she said was 'highly invigorating', I felt an urge to do the same but the 4ft diameter copper sewage discharge pipe with it’s 90 degree flanged elbow (a technical term only understood by piping draughtsman) yawning at low tide nearby cannot be ignored. The locals, it seems, choose to ignore it but it's gaping, dribbling mouth at low tide is enough to put some off. What happens when it's lurking beneath the waves at high tide doesn't bare thinking about.
Walking to the ‘Crab and Lobster’ and back in hot sun on exposed sun drenched coastal paths, a round trip of 10,435 steps (5 miles), was ambitious for old wrinklies but determination kicked in. The searing sun tried it's best to penetrate the umbrella but failed. The route from St Thomes a Becket Church around Pagham Lagoon was a route not very well trodden but with input from compass, maps, country craft and instinct the ‘Crab and Lobster’ came into view where two pints of Amber Ale in the pretty, shaded garden was the reward. An attempt to find an Uber for the return journey failed, however, with another layer of suncream and renewed alcohol driven determination the return journey was a doddle. Even the friendly Friesans allowed us through their field without making a fuss. A visit to the cool Co-op for a celebratory bottle of wine was yet another well deserved reward.
The cool, calming and welcoming quietness and the magnificent stained glass windows in the church are worth seeking out if you are in the area. As is the fragrant, picture post card rose clad cottages in leafy Sea Lane.
An evening stroll to the Pagham Yacht Club, alone, was allowed. It is well supported and offers pizzas at £6 and ale at £3.10 a pint but you have to be a member, preferably an active member and not a social member. As an ex-member I was acceptable. Fish and chips and a pint in the 'Crab and Lobster' would cost you £25 so the choice is yours.
Sea cabbages sprouting from the pebbly beach are free.
Friday 16th June 2023.
The early morning doggie walkers were once more ambling back and forth across our front garden some were wet and soggy, some limping, some knackered, some unhygienic, some friendly and some ugly (the doggies that is). Another early morning dip beside the sewage pipe for some, but only a toe dip for me. I used to be rough and tough, brave and handsome but not any more Hartley, sorry.
Another stroll, again in the hot sun, this time amongst the sea cabbages and delicate pinks and whites of the flora on the shingly beach towards Bognor. Seeking some shade we stumbled upon 'The Aldwick Estate' which was mind bogglingly different to Pagham, excuse the language. Street after street of highly impressive individually architect designed mansions all with exquisitely manicured gardens looking for all the world like Palm Springs, Beverly Hills or even Icklingham Road. All embraced by tranquil tree lined avenues. Obviously a highly desirable area for those who need to be highly desirable.
The main reason for the visit to Pagham, as you will remember, was to fly the kite. Up until the last late afternoon the wind was zero knots but then a sea breeze sprang up from a ruffled sea surface which prompted a flying display. As any experienced kite flying pilot knows not making a laughing stock of your attempts to get the bloody thing airborne is key to the performance. Half way to the top of the shingles with my ready to fly colourful three sailed boat shaped kite from Chinatown a delightful lady in her bathing costume on the way to the beach for a swim smiled and gasped in wonderment (at the kite I assume!) 'Oh!' She said in eager expectation 'how lovely, am I going to see it while I'm bobbing about in the waves?’ We looked at each other, a moments pause, was it recognition, or something more? I said I was hopeful, she smiled. She continued on down the steep shingly beach, dropped her towel, waded in, turned round and waved. Was it Hartley?
Having seen and done everything there is to be done in Pagham Julia transported us back to Cobham without incident, that is except for expertly coping with an idiotic manoeuvre performed by an expletive deleted Tesco truck driver.
I have a strong desire to revisit Pagham one day but I don't know why.
I would normally tuck away the above story on a separate link but not knowing whether or not this is a diary, novel or journey I'll leave it where it is. And as for pictures, the pictures you have in your mind will have to suffice but if you have no imagination click HERE.
Saturday 17th June 2023.
The trek to The Crab and Lobster reminded me of a trek I did with a few friends 70 years ago. I was 14 and on a summer camp with 1172 Hinchley Wood Squadron ATC at RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire. RAF Oakington was a fighter base for twin jet engine Gloster Meteors, the first jet engined fighter the RAF had. The maintenance tasks included climbing into the long exhaust pipe with your feeler gauge and checking the gap between the end of the turbine blade and the jet pipe. If the guy checking the engine ‘start’ procedure pressed ‘start’ at the same time you were history. Anyway, while I was there I experienced my first flight. It was in an Avro Anson, a twin engine propellor driven transport plane with half a dozen seats facing backwards. A sensible idea I thought. We took off and landed without any drama. A second flight in the back of a Tiger Moth, that’s the two seat bi-plane where you are supplied with a parachute, leather helmet and goggles was also completed without drama except that the guy who preceded me threw up but luckily it was while he was upside down. Where was I? Oh! Yes. Another task to check your resourcefulness and survivability was to take you blindfolded in the back of a closed truck a few miles into into enemy territory. The task was to find your back to base without any contact with the locals or pinching their chickens. The fact that you are reading this proves that my resourcefulness and survivability are in tact. I didn't jump on a bus or call an Uber, honest!
TONITE is open mike night at The OMC, sorry The OC. I promise not to take my guitar! If you can make it I might even buy you a Babycham or was it a rum and black?
Sunday 18th June 2023.
Sad news but life goes on. Last night at The Oxshott Club Bob (most people there are called Bob) was telling me that a number of members had died. One of them was an old school friend John. John was a gentleman, gentle in voice and gentle in nature, he had the more calming Little Heath Lane accent as opposed to the more common Blundel Lane accent. He and I would swop stories endlessly given the chance. RIP John. Also Alan had passed away, he collected Ukuleles but I didn't know much more about him, I understand he had around 300. RIP Alan. Death, it seems is lurking.
It was music night and Bob and Margaret kicked off the evening with a few numbers that were alive but unpolished. Followed by Pam and Bill. You could tell that Pam was determined to make herself heard above the TV and the lads watching the darts in the corner. Then up steps 14 year old Jake who, unaccompanied, brought the house down with his penetrating, falsetto voice. He even brought the seasoned drinkers and moths in from the garden. Jakes father then treated us to a few professional renditions of country music accompanied by Jakes younger sister. A talented family indeed. Mary arrived with her guitar strapped to her back looking serene and demure. She was wearing a black stylish off the shoulder number which was a backdrop to her long blond hair, obviously professional and obviously of advanced years. Her dreamy voice and guitar playing need to be heard, she even writes her own songs. Vivacious Roxy behind the bar took pity on me when fumbling for some cash for another half of Guinness, she took a pound out of her purse, put it in the till, smiled and said 'forget about it'. You wouldn't get that in the Crab and Lobster. Unfortunately I had to leave early as the Duster suffers from Age Related Macular Degeneration and can't see in the dark.
This is a note to whoever buys this house. I had plenty of oil based exterior wood Satin white paint left over from painting the fascia and soffit so I started to use it on the rear, tired looking, weathered, rendered wall. It's not masonry paint but Alexa said it would be OK and wouldn't explode. Best of luck.
Monday 19th June 2023.
I learnt yesterday that there is evidence, from those who have had a near death experience, to suggest that we are not mere flesh and bones after all but in fact there is a spiritual being inside or outside all of us (nothing new there?). However, although I am not qualified enough to comment, I would suggest that in the great scheme of things all life is a near death experience. No question. I was going to say, so enjoy it while you can, but best to think of others as well while you are enjoying it because, with any luck, they might think of you. Talking about thinking can be hard work so best to get on with thinking about doing or better still doing. What do you think Charles? Next July, apart from colliding with Mars, Hartley will be exhibiting her paintings so best to think about getting along there don’t you think?
Note to my children. Thank you for your thoughtful ‘Fathers Day’ cards and presents – very much. Your mother was not too pleased with the theme (of all of them) but I am allowed a Guinness a day for medicinal purposes. It is also Fathers Day in Canada so I decided to call my cousin Brian in Toronto as I hadn’t heard from him for a long time. He’s OK and sends his love to all the family, he’s only 78! He is the one, you remember, who has done a lot of research into the 'Jones' family history. Your father was me, my father was Reg, his father was John Percy (Jack), his Father was John, his father was William, his father was Henry and his father was William. That takes us back to 1756. William (the first) was the one listed as a ‘Scavenger’ in ‘Pislake’, Shere in the 1861 census and died at the age of 77 in the Guildford Workhouse so not a great story there except that their ‘spirits’, if you believe, could well have an influence. No wonder I find myself peering in every skip I pass!
I must admit that I get quite nostalgic while walking around or thinking about Oxshott Woods. We met a lady doggie walker that Emma knew from doggie walking. Emma introduced me saying that I was the designer of The Oxshott Village Sign. Being very modest I said I considered it to be the biggest and best in England and offered her an informative pamphlet. She said she already had one. End of story.
Tuesday 20th June 2023.
While I was waiting 16 hours for the paint to dry I, unknowingly, committed a crime. I decided to write a letter to my cousin Brian in Toronto as he doesn't do emails. I preferred to buy a stamp/label online and stick the label on the envelope. I weighed the letter which was 10 grams, chose the appropriate price for a 10 gram letter, sealed the envelope, printed off the label and then stuck the label on. I checked the under 10 gram tick box, paid for it and then weighed it again. It tipped the scales at 15 grams because of the label. I then posted it. If you never hear from me again you know where I am.
I then re-read a passage in 'The Sea, The Sea' which will solve the anguish for Charles and Hartley. It was Rosina who had the answer, she mentioned the word ‘deluded’, common sense really, but will he listen? Blood pressure and energy on the low side today so only managed to sand down the window cills, check the bank balance, make a cup of tea and planted another couple of beans. I'm not supposed to write about this but later today (I usually post this around 6am) I am due for another eye injection, I must have had about 20 by now. So, I won't write about it. I was going to pop down to Pagham again but I think I'll dwell on the memory of the last visit a bit longer, probably about another 60 years or so! It seems like yesterday.
I've decided to do a bit of research on my great, great grandfather William. He was listed as a 'Scavenger' from 'Pislake' in the 1861 census, except that it was actually Peaslake a delightful Village near Shere. It would appear that there were many births, marriages and deaths of my family in that area. There is a pub there called The Hurtwood Inn where a couple of years ago I sold a snooker table to a father and son from Barking but that's another story. Tomorrow I'm going to the library to 'Find my Past', the last time I went to the library Hartley taught me how to use the copier, unfortunately I've forgotten. You will be pleased to hear that, unlike Charles, I won’t be telling you in detail about what I had for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, and supper. I can’t cook! At least that what I tell people.
Wednesday 21st June 2023.
Access to 'Find my Past' and 'Ancestry' denied at the library because neither Hartley nor Fiona know how to access the sites despite a notice on the notice board saying that those two sites are free to access for Surrey Library members. I can't believe that I am the first one requesting access or that they have not been given the information. Hartley did smile sweetly and said ‘come back tomorrow darling’. Or at least that's what I think she said. Researching family history can be highly addictive, highly rewarding but at the same time highly frustrating and likely to cause you to tear your hair out. No comment! At least I've discovered that William the Scavenger's neighbours were ‘Paupers’ so really proud of William. Unfortunately he died in the Guildford Workhouse surrounded by 'Idiots' in 1877.
I attended the Guildford eye stabbing department yesterday. Phoebe told me that my vision has improved dramatically (I didn't tell her that I've been there so many times I've memorised the chart) but nevertheless another stab would be required but I won't go into any detail.
Nobody knows this yet but today Gavin is going to show me round a palatial retirement flat in Oxshott, he thinks that I will want to buy it but that remains to be seen. And if you think that the reason I am tarting up this house is because I want a change you could be right but there might be others to consider?
Thursday 22nd June 2023.
It wasn’t Gavin who turned up it was the lovely Tom who sold us on the idea of living in a flat with a walk in bath and only one toilet but it had a great veggie patch and neighbours with classic cars. So what’s not to like. Was it the endless traffic jam and fumes outside or the fact that it was miles away from a pint of milk? But it was within hiking (or mobility scootering) distance of Oxshott Woods, The Oxshott Village Sign and The Oxshott (Men’s) Club, definitely a plus!
Friday 23rd June 2023.
Withdrawal symptoms from lack of Pine Needle Tea seems to be kicking in so another visit to Oxshott Woods imminent. I did a lot today but can't remember what it was except to buy a lump of cod from Jimmy the Fish. While I was waiting in the queue a parade of beautiful people walked by dressed to kill, the ladies with hats to die for, apparently they were off to Royal Ascot. I don't think it was Hartley she wouldn't be seen dead in a bunny eared hat and showing vast amounts of thigh. She, bless her, was waiting for me in the Library eager to help me access 'Find My Past', which she did, I offered to find her past but she said perhaps another time.
Since June 1st we have had 12 drops of rain which is bit worrying, especially when you've got gasping runners trying to climb your string wigwam. Come to think of it there's probably a few gasping runners and riders at Royal Ascot. No problem there as they will have buckets of Champagne to chuck over the horses. I just remembered I did get the paintbrush out and continued to tart the place up. There is a reason.
Saturday 24th June 2023.
Another fruitless trip at Epsom Hospital meant suffering what seemed like hours in a hot and swetty traffic jam, another £3 in the car park and a Doctor who didn't know why we were there. I showed him the appointment letter, he said it should have read October and not June. No discernible apology. We tried not to be extremely annoyed but nevertheless we were extremely annoyed. There were two positives, one was that jovial Chas and his wife were next to us in the waiting room. Chas Newens and his wife run the celebrated chandlers on the river at Putney. I used to go there with my boats. We swopped lots of boaty stories including rescuing Chas's soggy Alsatian. The other positive was the stupid car park machine spat out £8 instead of £7 change, I didn’t complain, it told me to ‘Drive carefully and thankyou for visiting Epsom Hospital’, I think they call it Artificial Intelligence, sounds like Deranged Intelligence to me.
Another roasting (no air conditioning Ivan!) in another traffic jam on the way back to a cooling cup of tea completed the challenge. We passed the smoking Crematorium and the Council Refuse Dump on the way back but that's of absolutely no significance. Lewis did show us around another flat as well but I am not at liberty to tell you what I thought about it. The fact that it didn't have a veggie patch, didn’t have a helicopter pad on the veranda and didn’t allow kite flying on the communal lawn may be significant.
You will have probably made up your mind where this story/journey/dream is going so drop me a line and let me know Charles, you seem to be all at Sea at Sea as well. It sounds like your Hartley is no longer impressed with your attempts to rescue her, better grow a few more runners is my advice. I had an email from Ita asking me if I roared in the roaring twenties, apparently, she's doing a history of ‘Roaring in Cobham’ project. I told her that, despite my appearance, I'm not that old but my mother was definitely a roarer, I think that's where I get it from.
Sunday 25th June 2023.
Just to remind you to switch on Angel Radio while you are enjoying this story. Inspired by Hartley I got my bent paintbrush out, screwed it to a long stick and finished touching up the front of the house without using a ladder. Onlookers were aghast at the ingenuity. So, if you want your upstairs windows as well as your soffit painted you know where to come. Using a bent paintbrush on a long stick would mean that I couldn't look in your bedroom window Hartley, unlike my mate Peter the Painter used to do. RIP Pete. 'Somewhere, Beyond the Sea' sung by Bobby Darin is playing as I write, dreamy. Glastonbury is also on as I write but Chuck Berry is nowhere to be seen. RIP Chuck. Pat Boone with his 'Love Letters in the Sand' hasn't been invited either. RIP Pat. It's just occurred to me, I could do a Banksy on your wall with my bent paintbrush screwed to a stick Hartley, what do you think?
Chaos in Waitrose today. I popped in to get a pint, sorry a litre, of milk, (couldn't do that if we moved but don't worry I've decided to become a successful author instead). Staff at the entrance were telling customers that they can only accept cash today. Presumably the card readers were unable to read cards, the young lady at the till apologised also for another hike in prices, you wouldn't get that in Tescos or Sainsburys.
I'd just like to tell Charles what I had for lunch today. It was roast duck, green beans and keenwah or kwinoa as us from Oxshott say, followed by apple tart and ice cream which was to die for. Talking of dying, when you get to eighty four and a half, which I was yesterday, give or take, you get increasingly convinced that you are about to be squashed by a Chelsea Tractor, fall flat on your face, your spark plug is about to short circuit or a gasket is about to leak. Which is the reason for higgeldy piggeldy actions and thoughts. Apologies. Pagham is calling.
Monday 26th June 2023.
Yesterday my weather station registered 32°C, 41% humidity and 1012mb falling. The wind was gusting 12kt but the wind direction indicator was out of action because an overweight pigeon sat on the rudder and snapped it off. The pigeon I hope had a parachute. The last time I wore a parachute is recorded somewhere earlier in this journey, I'm sure you will remember. To cool off I went wild swimming in Wisley Lake which is between Wisley Airfield and Junction 10 on the M25 but before you jump to any conclusions that might be a dream. It was true in 1949 when I was 10. Junction 10, as you probably know, is being upgraded to cope with ever increasing amounts of traffic, also to cater for a new town which is to be built on Wisley Airfield. The resident toads are to be rehoused in Toad Hall which is to be built alongside ‘The Mucky Duck’, or ‘The Black Swan’ to newcomers. Down the lane from ‘The Mucky Duck’ there used to be a house called ‘The Poplars’ where my great grandparents lived, it had a pond in the front garden full of toads, it's still there. They were Alfred and Emma Hill (my great grandparents not the toads), they provided teas in the garden for travellers and kept a few cows and grain in the shed for the chickens. As I write I am sitting on the milking stool and admiring the well used but beautifully made grain scoop fashioned from steam bent poplar with a hammered steel base and copper rivets to hold the thing together. I am sure you wish to know the afore mentioned fascinating facts as they are very much part of this novelistic memoir.
Tuesday 27th June 2023.
The recent hot weather is exactly the right conditions for filling up your potholes with cold lay tarmacadam. Even after storing the stuff in your garage for years it will flow effortlessly into any cavity or pothole, a bit like hot lava really. So, if you have the above mentioned requirement I have a spare couple of bags, but you'll have to be quick as they will go like cold cakes. I have been told my Irish heritage is responsible for the artistry in this medium, in fact it could be an artform yet to be discovered Hartley. Another ground breaking/mending idea? Only one problem, you will need a steam roller to finish it off.
Wednesday 28th June 2023.
Another visit to Waitrose resulted in a trolley load of reduced items, including rejuiced oranges from Egypt, not heard of them before, maybe they are phasing out single use oranges as well as single use plastic. Anyway the drive to my hair stylist in Claygate went without incident except that I'd forgotten I don't have hair so another wasted journey. I do realise that I am very lucky to be able to drive at my age, I'm also very lucky to have Ivan's Duster to look after while he is in LA. Ivan is, in fact, is on a flying visit back to the UK at the moment, I only know that because I spotted him on FlightRadar24 landing at Heathrow, amazing this technology. Anyway, before lockdown I was planning to drive up to Reeth for beans on toast with Hartley. I had to cancel the trip. If my reduced faculties are rejuiced I might try again. Or it might be Pagham instead. Another dream?
An evening stroll around Oxshott Woods to stock up with Pine Needles produced enough material for a book but I'll only give the precis. We met Cliff and Dillon the dog who were accompanied by Sid and his dog Daisy. Daisy's back legs didn't work so Sid had a strap round her belly and played wheelbarrows. I said to Sid ‘you can get wheels to do that job’, he said ‘they'd arrived from Amazon today but I haven’t had time to screw them on yet'. Along comes Hartley, striding purposefully from the Station, slaps a big kiss on Cliff, Cliff says 'please don't you ever leave me' Hartley replies 'you know I would never, ever leave you Cliff' and strides on towards Browns Corner. Following a purposeful stride around the sandpit collecting Pine Needles we popped in for a pint at you know where. Lucky?
Thursday 29th June 2023.
Most of yesterday was spent on the telephone but I can't remember who I was talking to. The only person I can remember talking to on the telephone was Alexa, sorry, Akela in 1947, I was eight, I was wearing my cubs uniform for the 1st Oxshott Cubs Brigade. I was a 'Sixer' which meant you were the leader of men. I was tasked to telephone Akela from the telephone box at the top of the village next to the air raid siren. I prised open the heavy door, picked up the telephone, inserted two pennies into the slot and dialled 3, I think there were only 9 telephones in Oxshott at the time, Oxshott One was Osmans the builders. Akela answered, 'hello Oxshott three, who's speaking?', I pressed button ‘A’ which meant you would be connected for 3 minutes, if you pressed button ‘B’ you were disconnected and got your money back. 'Sixer Robert Jones' I said. 'Congratulations Robert' she said 'you have been awarded your telecommunications badge to sew onto your uniform'. I still have the badge, cap and uniform and it still fits and is still itchy. Little did I know then that 76 years later I would still be able to press button 'A' which will be ignored by a worldwide audience.
Friday 30th June 2023.
It was in 1947 when we moved from 'The Withies', Steels Lane to 27, Blundel Lane. We had been living in 'The Withies' since 1944 when a bomb flattened our house but you probably know about that already. 1947 was also the year of 'The Big Freeze', snow 4 ft deep and floods when it thawed. The milk in the milk bottles froze and expanded like a genie from a bottle, icicles hung from the telephone lines and your washing on the washng line was rigid for weeks. Ice on the conductor rail caused arcing and fires on the trains, busses slid sideways, planes froze to the floor and I was still in short trousers!
You have read Page 36 of Bob's Blog/diary/dream/story/journey/novelistic memoir.
He is 84 years old and counting!