31 December 2002

RAF Compton Bassett 2

OldEric says :-) The nearest town to Compton Bassett camp was the small town of Calne barely 2 miles distant and easy walking. I like many others used to go here often during leisure hours for a change of scenery. The camp used to dominate our lives both in work and leisure. I used to find on camp you could never have any privacy, certainly not with a hut full of thirty individuals. There was the NAAFI to visit for a cup of tea or a meal or the Salvation Army for a standing cup of tea. Neither of these activities I found never fully fulfilled my leisure needs, even if I went with a mate and certainly you felt like a spare part if you visited on your own, usually sitting lonely at a NAAFI table. There was the Amateur Radio club but this was usually busy and I wasn't really into group activities in a big way.

On Saturdays I found the right activity to fulfil my needs, a combination of fresh scenery, a dose of privacy, relaxation and then a chat with some mates. I would catch the bus into nearby Chippenham, a larger town than Calne and arrive there by 10 am. The next three hours or so would be spent browsing the shops and shopping until 2pm. Then I would go to the movies, there were a number of movie theatres to chose from and at least one would be showing a top class movie. Movies were big in those days and popular, a double feature show would last up to three hours with the news and maybe a short cartoon, then a minor movie and then the main attraction. I always bought a large block of Toblerone chocolate, you know the one, it was a long triangular block of Swiss milk chocolate with tiny bits of nut and solidified pieces of honey. I would consume the first half quickly and the second half slowly and the bar would last most of the show.

The movie show would finish around 5pm and I would then stroll down to the NAAFI Club, a large establishment with a restaurant on the second floor. I would have a couple of beers, usually Wm. Younger's Double Century Ale and then I would go and have a meal. This invariably would be a mixed grill with two eggs and extra onions. By this time a mate or two may have shown up and we would then go into the bar and yarn. If no mates had showed up I would catch the bus back to Calne and go to a popular pub.... I forgot its name and usually found my mate Paddy and sometimes one of the Sergeant instructors I was friendly with. The pubs closed at 10pm in those days and we would catch the bus back to the camp road junction and there would have a cup of coffee at a large cafe and a bite to eat just up our side road to camp.

It was then a short stroll up the road to the camp gates and back to our billets and I felt rejuvenated with my day out and the thought that tomorrow was Sunday.

The billet was very quiet most weekends. Many of the trainees would go home for the weekend; most of the trainees in our billet came from the southern half of the country so weekend leave was regularly taken. I went home sometimes but the cost and time of the long haul up to Milnthorpe in what is now Cumbria limited my trips home. Maybe it was for the better that I didn't go home too often as I used to notice some of my hut mates used to look quite morose and unsettled on Monday mornings, especially Leadbeater who went home often.

The big exodus on Friday nights was quite something to behold. Special buses were chartered and would be lined up going to towns and cities all over the country each one dropping of airmen on their route. When I went home, the trip I seem to remember took about six hours. The same trip today from nearby Swindon to Kendal is about four hours, if I remember correctly when talking to my eldest son Ian who in 2002 lives in Cricklade near Swindon. There were no motorways in those days and not many town and city bypasses. There were dual carriageways in the busy areas but these I remember were speed limited by the deliberate inclusion of round-abouts.

I liked the quietness of the camp during the weekends and the absence of constantly moving bodies through the billet and the ablution blocks. After a few weekends I began to recognise the regular weekenders. One I met was Paddy from another hut and we became firm friends during our stay at Compton Bassett. Paddy was a ruddy-faced Irishman and with his outgoing nature seemed to know everyone. We often went down into Calne especially Friday nights, a popular night with both airmen and the locals. Paddy liked the odd beer as I did and we would wander from pub to pub. One particular pub was well known for its Scrumpy, that is cider better known as rough cider. It was usually consumed mixed with Guinness in equal proportions. The rough cider was very strong and drinking too much of it had the unusual effect of when you went outside into the fresh air, you felt you were walking on air. Or at least that is how I felt.

All in all I enjoyed my time at Compton Bassett with many pleasant memories and I came to like this part of the country very much. I enjoyed the electronics course I was on, I enjoyed my leisure time and I made some good mates.

Next episode I will tell you what I didn't like.


OldEric says :-) Well we did go to Kuaotuna this morning as we planned and we did have a large special ice cream and we ate it on the store raised veranda sitting on a long form with a solid wooden back. This is a great place for people watching and other activity of the gas station refuelling cars and boats. We must have sat for forty minutes or more watching all the activity of the influx of summer holiday people.

Kuaotunu is a very small place with a store, garage and a little wooden memorial hall with a few houses up the road. It also has a motor camp still further up the road in this quiet backwater by the Pacific Ocean north of Whitianga. But in summer the whole place hums from the inflow of people on vacation plus passing tourist traffic.

We had company on our long wooden form.... Jimmy the cat. Jimmy's favourite site is the long form and Jimmy was stretched out his full length and did not bat an eyelid as two strangers came to sit either side of him. In fact he stretched out further with the pleasure of a stroke and a tickle of his ears. Now Jimmy belongs to the storeowners’ family and he has a claim to fame. Jimmy loves to go with the storeowners’ children when they go swimming in the nearby creek estuary and Jimmy loves to swim too. Who ever heard of a swimming cat?
New Years Eve at Whitianga

OldEric says :-) Today as I finish my breakfast on G &Ps patio it is going to be a wall to wall blue day. Everything is still and a big anticyclone sits stationary over NZ. Gill went to join Paul and the girls yesterday camping further up the peninsula along with Lisa and two more boys. Lisa's four wheeled drive bulged. Just Pat me and Tahlia left. Tahlia has got a holiday job in a large new shoppiing complex and has been working every day and sometimes half the night stocking the place. One day she was working until 2am. Last night we went to bed at 10pm and still no Tahlia. Its 8.10am I must go and wake her, she starts at 9am. Tahlia just told me she got home at midnight. I asked if she was tired and she told me not really!

Geoff and Anna with Bob visit late today in the camper and will stay overnight before going on to Hotwater beach if the tide is right and then back to Waiuku. Geoff is working through the holidays.

There is a newly house built on the empty section next to G & P, the owner is away and the house is loaned to friends. They have a full on boy of four. I wonder what will happen when a full on Bob arrives?

Our holiday here is going well and the weather is good but it has been a little windy until now. A Cyclone sits up in the Pacific near New Caledonia, I hope it doesn't move this way.

As I write this on the laptop, I find the laptop good for travelling and writing on the fly and I can pick up my Emails.Got your photos ok Ian if you read this. The Xmas party one was a beauty. Hope you have a nice New Year and give our love to Vicky.

Pat went shopping to the supermarket this morning for supplies for tonights BBQ. The supermarket is open soon after 6am up here. Hope everyone is hungary we seem to have loads of leftovers. We are going up to Kuatunu this morning for a drive and one of the famous super ice creams at the local store and a sit on the beach and watch the world of summer holidays go bye here in sunny NZ.

Happy New Year everyone!

30 December 2002

RAF Compton Bassett 1 Overview

OldEric says :-) I was sent to Compton Bassett near Calne in Wiltshire for my trade training as a Ground Wireless Fitter - Communications. The course was for an intensive thirty-six weeks. Like my arrival at Bridgnorth I again have no recollection of my arrival at Compton Bassett until I was in my assigned billet.

Soon after my new arrival paperwork had been completed I had a pleasant surprise. I was called to report to the Administration Office where I was informed that orders had come through to promote me to the dizzy heights of SAC...Senior Aircraftsman, three ranks up from the lowly rank of AC2.... Aircraftsman 2nd Class. Better still the promotion was backdated to my first day of entry.... I didn't remember this until I was reading my RAF papers recently. My pay was backdated too, also extra trade allowances were back-dated to day one. My SAC's pay plus trade allowances almost doubled the pay of my course mates still with the rank of AC2.

The reason for my promotion was due to my Merchant Navy Radio Officer's qualifications courses following closely the Royal Navy Handbook in Radio Telegraphy and Telephony in the basic theory stages and the qualifications were recognized in the armed services. In our hut of thirty men I was elevated to in-charge of the hut and I had the first bed by the door. Here as at Bridgnorth huts, kit and ourselves were inspected but only once per week now, not daily as at Bridgnorth and now it was my head on the block if the hut was not up to scratch. . We still had to make our beds daily as per the regulations and although not inspected daily the huts were subject to random inspections. The weekly inspections were reasonable, we still had to lay out our kit for inspection and place it on our beds to the set pattern and the floors had to be buffed to a high shine, no dust on ledges and windows to shine and we had to be smart and tidy in our selves at all times.

Some of the weekly inspection chores were by rote basis such as buffing the passageway floor between the two rows of beds, cleaning the stoves and other multi user areas. We had one bad apple in the barrel that used physiological warfare against authority and his share of the chores. He was clever at disruption; he had a clever mind and was the bane of every ones life. We suffered him for thirty-six weeks rather than warfare especially inspection days.

The rest of our course mates were mature and with an attitude of get on with it. All were two year National Servicemen in their early to mid twenties and were ex university graduates, electrical/engineering apprentices or cadets with a few in the office professions thrown in. They were all a good bunch except our rotten apple.

Our course work followed the same pattern as any educational establishment, we moved from lecture room to lecture room, to practical workshop to laboratory all in different buildings, but with one exception. We marched in columns of three between buildings. At the finish of a class session the students would mill around outside, form into columns of three and I as of senior rank marched them from the side and rear to the next venue. Now there was trouble, I would shout "Attention!... By the right, quick march." Everyone would move off on the right foot and I would often move off on my left if I weren’t careful. That is if you remember my problems on the parade ground at Bridgnorth.

Turning corners was a bigger problem. Now and then I would forget my left from my right and at a junction give the order to turn left and immediately countermand the order with go right, used to often end up with a disaster and hilarity. I got better after thirty-six weeks or was it everyone got used to me?

On this high-pressure thirty-six week course all were bright only one or two floundered, many spent hours studying and only one didn't pick up his books at all after hours. His name was Leadbeater and he came from Lancashire, his only real interest was his girlfriend and every free weekend he would catch the specially laid on bus transport back to Lancashire. He was besotted with her. He was an ex university graduate and bright and we all expected him to pass but to our surprise at the end of the course he came out top by a wide margin. I think he must have had a photographic memory; he certainly hadn't had any electronics training before.

I, with my electronic training found the course relatively easy except for one or two specialized areas and I didn't do too much study after hours. At the end of the course I came in at the lower top half. I envied Leadbeaters brain.

29 December 2002

Whitanga thoughts

OldEric says :-) 29th Dec 2002. Sunday. Whitianga. Went for an early morning walk 6.30am. First visit since we visited last Easter. A lot of changes since our last visit, big and small. Extentions here, extentions there. The 'Old Whitianga' seems to be disappearing slowly under a sea of concrete. As I strolled along and passing Sleeman's Park I thought it all seemed to have started after the Marina was built.

A shame I thought, Whitianga is loosing its character. Who said "what price progress"? Even the Wharf has had a railing put round the sitting ledge area and isolating our sitting spot. Ah, well.

24 December 2002

A Smelly Xmas Experience

OldEric says :-( On Sunday while cleaning up the rear of house section I noticed the sink drain was full and about to overflow, in fact traces of overflow were present. I left a message on the plumber's answering machine. He came the following morning, Monday and after three hours digging and breaking open the pipe in three places found two problems. One of the pipes had settled and partly collapsed and futher down the line at a junction tree roots had got in the pipe.

He got everything flowing again of which we were so glad two days prior to Xmas and he will be back Jan.15th or so to continue.

The concrete of the old dismantled aviaries has got to be taken up and about 25 or feet of new pipe has to be laid also two inspection manholes fitted and a new junction where the bathroom and toilet pipe joins in.

You never know where the next problem will come from. I spent this morning cleaning up the smelly overflow from the plumber's breaks in the pipes and putting plastic over the holes in the pipes to stop debris entering and reduce the smell.

A good shower and I felt much better.
RAF Bridgnorth The Billet 1

OldEric says :-) Our billet or hut contained 30 men, 15 beds down either side, two coal burning stoves and a tall bedside locker for each man. Most of my room mates like me were twenty plus with a small sprinkling of eighteen year olds.

All males during this era of the 1950s and early 1960s were subject to National Service at the age of eighteen years . Those doing trade training or full time study such as University could be deferred their National Service until their studies were completed. It would appear looking back now that the younger eighteen year old recruits were kept together and the older recruits together as far as practicable with some overlap.

We were required to keep our billet spotless, the floor a mirror shine, ourselves better than tidy and our hair cut short back and sides. In fact one of the first acts after our arrival was a group visit to the barber. Each evening seemed to be spent keeping our uniforms spotless and knife edge creases in our trousers. The biggest job was our boots, these were the focal point of any inspection. A spot or a smear was not just frowned upon, it was a crime of huge dimensions. Spit and polish was the order of the day. The toe caps of the boots were the most important. When the boots were new the toe caps of the boots were patterned with little bumps and indentations and the ideal was for these to be ironed out to a smooth mirror-like finish. Many ways and witches brews were used to achieve this ideal. The most common way was a heavy layer of boot polish on the toe caps and smoothed out with the back of a hot spoon. The hot spoon helped to smooth out the bumps on the toe caps and fill the indentations with polish. Many hours was spent over days trying to get the ultimate shine.

The drill Corporal inspected our billet each morning. Blankets and sheets had to be removed and the top cover placed over the mattress and tucked in, the blankets and sheets folded to set dimensions and placed below the pillow in a neat pile. When inspected not a wrinkle had to be seen on the top cover, the pillows or the folded blankets, everything had to be perfectly square with the tucked in corners of the top cover neat and even. The punishment for failure was do it again, for repeat offenders it may be a tipped up bed and fatigue duty after hours. The offending bed had to be redone and inspected before breakfast.

Our day started at 6am. We would be washed, dressed, beds made and ready for inspection by 7am. Then breakfast after room inspection and on parade at 8am and then dress inspection. A missed shave on a icy January morning or dull brass buttons then names would be taken and a wait all day to learn our punishment.

Each week we had a major kit, hut and personal inspection by the wing officer together with his minions. Each piece of kit had to be placed on our made up bed in a predefined place and order and perfectly in line. Lockers to be tidy and subject to critical inspection. We too were subject to inspection. Any major criticism of kit, bed or self would be followed by "take that mans name". Fatigues....jankers would follow. The hut had to shine, the floor a mirror, no trace of dust anywhere, even the top edges of doors were checked. Criticism of the hut, the whole hut suffered. Too much criticism of hut and men and the drill Corporal was in trouble. Then we suffered the Corporal's wrath. You gritted your teeth, got on with it and did what had to be done. You couldn't win. Fortunately our hut learnt fast, we had no bad eggs among us, we all pitched in.

For eight weeks we followed this regime and I think we slowly turned into a tidy, cohesive body of men. The initial few weeks…. was it two or four?, we were not allowed any weekend leave or I think for that matter leave the camp.

For recreation there must have been a NAAFI at the Bridgnorth camp but for the life of me my mind remains a blank. What I do remember is the Salvation Army watering hole for a comforting cup of hot milky tea and a bite to eat. Many airmen were drawn to the Sallies and I think most ex-airmen remain with a soft spot for the Sallies. I always, even now when the Sallies have their national appeal give willingly and more than I would usually give to other appeals remembering those Sallies of long ago who gave willingly of their time to those young men when feeling down or dispirited and often far from home. A simple cup of tea and a smile went a long way especially for the younger recruits.

A funny story included in the next episode.

22 December 2002

RAF Bridgnorth Basic Training

OldEric says :-). After a week or so in Cardington I was transferred to Bridgnorth for basic training or better known by the name of square bashing. We were transferred by train, but I have no recollection of leaving Cardington or arriving at Bridgnorth. My first recollection was the billet I was assigned to. Neither can I remember at this stage any names of my roommates although I can picture them in my mind.

What did we do during our basic training? Well we learnt to march in step, up the parade ground, down the parade ground. We learnt to wheel left, wheel right as a body, we learnt to slow march as in a funeral march. Then came parading with a rifle, slope arms, present arms, it went on and on, day by day it seemed until we were turned into a smart body of men. I wasn't very good at drill and I would be growled sometimes, not as bad as some fortunately. The ogre in charge of us on the parade ground was the drill Corporal. I was left handed and left footed and at the order "by the right quick march" I would want to hit my stride on the wrong foot. I also had another small problem I've had to pause for an instant to distinguish my left from my right and at the order "left turn" or "right wheel" I would sometimes turn the wrong way. I slowly improved.

We were also taken to the firing range were we learnt to use the Rifle, Bren gun and I think the Sten gun we also learnt to strip these weapons down, clean and service them. I was used to guns and had been using guns since I was 13 years old. I was a good shot too.

During our training we had to learn to be conversant with the use of gas masks. This was a frightening experience first time. A special windowless purpose built building was used for this exercise. We donned on a gasmask and we were herded into the building, a canister of gas was lit and at a given signal we had to take off our gasmasks. As the gas wafted around us we started to cough and splutter and our eyes ran. At another signal we had to put our gasmasks on and after a minute or two we then exited the building by a door at the far end.

In between these activities we fitted in lectures, PT and a run or two and in the evenings our time was taken up by "Bull", a story in its self.

A change to all this was a three day two nights living rough in the woods and learning bush (woods) skills. No tents just our capes. Three capes joined together by their press studs made a good roof and two capes as ground sheets was sufficient to house five men. With bracken on the ground for a little comfort and we slept in our uniforms with our boots on for warmth. It was winter, February 1956. Meals were cooked on an open fire in a pan as big as two buckets and was stew consisting of tins and tins of bully beef, potatoes, onions and carrots. We at last got to eat using our shiny unused mess tins and did we hoe into that stew.

I enjoyed our bush craft probably because I had done most of it before in the Scouts and our camping expeditions during my Ullswater years. One day during undergrowth clearing I sneaked away and spent two hours exploring the woods and I enjoyed it as I had enjoyed my early years exploring the fells. When I returned I hadn't been missed.

I think it was that night three or four of us sneaked away down the road in a show of independence, enquired at the first house of the nearest village and had a couple of pints at the local pub and then returned unseen. Our bush craft served us well.

19 December 2002


OldEric says :-) Well its Thursday again. Last Thursday we went down to Te Kuiti where Pat had a meeting to do with Church policy. I went too but I was not allowed in the meeting so I sat in the car and read a Geoffrey Archer book for two hours. On the way back we called in at Otorohanga to have a look at our old houses we lived in in the 1960s. One house was on an edge of town development high up with lovely views and we were very suprised to find that the development had gone backwards. Many of the houses appeared now to be rentals and badly maintained. Even the small Motel had been turned into apartments.
Our second house near the Domain had fared better and was well maintained. The open Domain was now part covered with trees and the neighbourhood looked different. Otorohanga is still a nice place. The mainstreet shopkeepers still leave their hanging flower baskets hanging outside overnight.

18 December 2002

OldEric says :-) I bought a laptop on Sunday, a Toshiba Satellite 1000. It was an end of line item and marked down. Will take it with me when we go on our next trip.

14 December 2002

RAF Cardington # 2. A humorous story
OldEric says :-) During the kitting out exercise we each selected and tried on jackets, trousers and boots until we got our right size. The other items, we selected from containers as we moved along in a line and stuffed them into our issued kit bags. Somehow I missed the containers at the end containing the cutlery. After the last of stragglers in the line completed their picking of the items we were told to sit down on some forms roughly arranged in a semi circle and a container was brought around and we were told to put our irons.... knife, folk and spoon into the container for stamping of our service number. I thought it doesn't matter about my missing irons they will find the boxes a set of irons short and throw a set in.

The store men went away with the boxes of irons and we waited for them to be stamped. Eventually the boxes of irons returned and the number of each set of irons was called out. We each went up and collected our set of irons corresponding to our issued service number. After the distribution of the irons the corporal shouted "everyone got their irons" and a little voice from over the way said "no". "You haven’t got any irons? And the voice said "no". The corporal said something to the other store man and he went out the back and out came a tubby man with sergeants' strips. He looked black and he was bristling. " who didn't hand in their irons" he yelled? No body moved. I sat tight. He yelled and yelled again. Issuing all kinds of threats finishing with "no one leaves the building".
A hundred men sat tight, all knowing it would be a brave man to stand up and admit guilt, and I wasn't brave. Not with this raging bull of a man. I suppose a long five minutes passed and the sergeant said something to the corporal who went out the back and in two minutes returned with a stamped set of irons. The owner of the stamped set came forward, collected his irons and the sergeant suddenly was gone.

Our first taste of the apparently uncontrolled bellowing and braying we were to experience over the coming weeks, all part of the breaking down disciplining process.

I think we were all riveted to the loud bristling man, as a bird is to the beady eye of a snake. I also think we all wondered why the hell didn’t the corporal just go out and pick up a set of irons, stamp them and bring them back? Why the pantomime? But a sloppy mistake was made by the unknown me and we were all given a lesson we would not to forget in a hurry. At least that is my theory, what is yours? It happened in 1955 and now in 2002 seems humorous.

13 December 2002

RAF Cardington # 1
OldEric says :-) I was finally ordered to report to RAF Cardington near Bedford on the 16th November 1955. I was almost 22 years old. I arrived at my destination and I was herded along with many other recruits into the camp. RAF Cardington was one of the main RAF recruitment centres and it was here I became an AC2.... Aircraftsman 2nd Class, the lowest form of life in the RAF we were told.

The first day after arriving we were taken to a large store where we were "kitted out". We were provided with everything we would require during our service. Uniform, best blue and peaked cap, working blue and beret, webbing belt, heavy warm great coat, woollen gloves a water-proof cape and a big pair of heavy black boots. Shirts, underwear, socks and other incidentals, three of each, I believe. Knife, fork, and spoon with our service number stamped on the handles..... these to be guarded with your life, if you lost them you didn't eat, and a mess tin. Incidentals covered everything from shoe brushes to a darning kit. All these to be fitted into a supplied kitbag and backpack.

In part 2 I will tell you a funny story about the cutlery.

After kitting out we were given a searching medical examination and I think most of us passed. We also were interviewed about our chosen fields in the RAF and our suitability scrutinised. I must have been the only one from our hut to chose a wireless career and I was sent on my own to an office for my interview. I reported to the designated office and I was told to wait outside and I would be called. Waiting also was a tall lanky fellow and I asked him if he was hoping to be selected for the same as I. He said no, he was waiting while they figured out what he could do. He said his civilian occupation was in Time and Motion study and they didn't seem to know just what that entailed. I had never heard of time and motion study either and he explained to me what his job entailed. I think that is why it stuck in my mind all these years. Later in the early 60s I had first hand encounter with time and motion study, in 1955 this was a relatively new concept and as far as I can gather it was first used in 1950.

I was eventually called for my interview. Yes they said my Radio Officers qualifications were more than adequate to be selected for a 36 week Ground Wireless Fitters course but for one small problem. Did I have my General Certificate of Education....GCE with me? It must be sighted, the rules required it, and of course I didn't.Would I be willing to sit 3 mandatory GCE papers of 3 hours each starting tomorrow? I said yes, they were English, Maths and Physics. The maths and physics papers I found easy, they were way below the standard required for my electronic qualifications. The English paper had a choice of three subjects and the one I chose was a descriptive essay and I wrote it on Sydney Harbour in Australia which I had visited three times. The marking of the papers was very quick and on the 3rd day I was given the results. The small problem was solved.

During this time I had almost been away from my room mates for three days and they told me I was lucky I had missed a lot of fatigues. I did manage to catch fatigues on two other days, one day was helping to peel a big mound of potatoes and the other, I still have it in my minds eye was the cookhouse. I got the worst of all jobs in the tin room washing the big greasy rectangular cooking and serving tins. I donned on a rubberised apron and gloves and dunked the tins in a large sink of hotter than hot water in a large sink with about half an inch of fat and scum floating on the top. The idea was to remove as much fat and grease as possible and then rinse the tins in another sink of slightly cleaner hot water. Then when passably clean put on a rack to dry. We by this time had been at Cardington almost a week.

After a week we were shipped out to a basic training camp and I was sent to RAF Bridgnorth to the west of Wolverhampton. I didn’t see any of my room mates again during my service and unfortunately cannot remember or picture any of them.

10 December 2002

RAF. Thoughts of National Service addition

OldEric says :-) Before I applied to do my RAF National Service I was visiting our family doctor, Dr Byrne, in Milnthorpe a caustic Irishman but a very good doctor. I got along with him fine and he enquired what I intended to do now that I had left the Merchant Navy. So I told him my story.

In his direct manner he asked if I really wanted to do my National Service and before I could answer he followed up with "I could get you out if you want". I hesitated then I thanked him and told him no, I wanted the RAF practical experience to further my career.

What I didn't ask was how was he able to get me an exemption from my National Service. I've been intrigued how ever since.

9 December 2002

Food for thought

OldEric says ;-( H'mm Air New Zealand had another mishap with one of their planes reported today, the 4th one lately. Dropped the bits out of one of the engines. A passenger on Australian TV9 news said he saw a series of bits flying past his window. A TV picture showed a large expanse of engine cowling missing.

The plane turned back to Australia on one engine and the passengers were told to get into crash landing mode......just in case. Scary. Yes, the plane did landed safely.

Pat said what happens if our 747-400 drops an engine half way across the Pacific? And I said well they have 3 others to fly with and Air NZ says a 747-400 can fly on one engine. They can, can't they??

8 December 2002

RAF. Thoughts of National Service

OldEric says:- When I resigned from the Merchant Navy in June 1956 I was employed by Siemens Bros. as a Radio Officer and 22 years old. It was a conscious decision, the reason will be told in an earlier episode of my life. I knew I would have to do my two years National Service. To be exempt I would have to serve in the Merchant Navy until I was a minimum of 26 years old. On completion of National Service I would be 24 years old.

I had quite a bit of accumulated paid leave, six weeks I think so I thought I would enjoy the break. After awhile I became bored, my friends worked during the week and I didn't have much to occupy me. The weekdays dragged waiting for the weekend activities. I spoke of this to one or two friends who were at University and they suggested I try a temporary job at the bottling plant of Youngers Breweries in Beezon Rd in Kendal where they worked during the summer breaks until I was called for National Service. Youngers needed summer staff so I easily got employment with them.

I enjoyed this temporary job working alongside friends and I kept putting off informing the authorities that I was eligible for my National Service. September came along and I thought I must do something, if I didn't they would catch up with me sooner or later. I sent in the required form and I duly had a letter back informing me they would let me know in due course. September became October and my friends went back to their studies at University and I continued on at the Brewery. I learnt to stack crates of bottles and the trick of throwing the crates well above my head and how to stop full barrels of beer rolled down a steep ramp and into the cellars. If you missed it was a broken leg. The labelling machines were the prize jobs and I only got on to them occasionally. My friends gone the job became mind numbing, how could these men work at this job year in year out, some of the old ones from when they left school? Some told me they wished they had had an education to do something else. They too found the job mind numbing. I felt glad I had my qualifications and multiple choices of career paths in front of me.

October came and I thought the authorities had forgotten me until a letter arrived near the end of the month informing me to report to RAF Cardington on 16th November. I gave in my notice at the Brewery and had a few days off to clear up my affairs before catching the train. I was on the move again and curious to see what was ahead of me.

4 December 2002

Cyprus # 8. Goodbye

OldEric says :-) One day I suddenly realized the magic day was not too far away and I would soon be saying goodbye to Cyprus. I had my Ham transmitter and this would have to be sent sea freight. Phoning the shipping agents down in Famagusta put me in the picture. I dug out the wooden collapsed packing case and fitted the transmitter in and nailed up the case. How I got the packing case to the docks I cannot remember now but if I had had a hassle I'm sure I would have remembered. Anyway later after I returned the UK the packing case arrived and the transmitter when tested worked perfectly.

Early November came and the magic day arrived. I must have said goodbye to all the friends I had made over the fourteen months I had spent in Cyprus and I was transported to Nicosia. I never saw my relief for my post, no doubt the workshop Sergeant had to leave his workshop chair and carry out the daily maintenance duties until my replacement arrived.

On arriving in Nicosia we were herded together from all over the island. There were quite a number of us of all ranks. There was no others from my unit. We were each called and given our discharge papers or transfer papers and a small box. To my surprise the box contained the General Service Medal ( GSM ) with the Cyprus clasp. Many years later and married I used to tell our two boys when they were small made up tales of the medal and how we saw the whites of the enemies eyes whilst fended off the enemy. I don't think they believed me, or maybe just a little.

I'm very hazy of my return to the UK except that we were given a travel warrant for the journey home. Before discharge a feeling of elation was felt. In a period 72 hours this cog had been removed from a well oiled machine, a new cog slipped in and the old cog discarded. My joy of arriving home soon evaporated and I remember a feeling of dejection. Or was it rejection? I missed my friends, my room-mates. I missed my job and Famagusta. I missed Cyprus. For quite a while I felt like a loose end waving in the breeze.

After a while I put this feeling behind me. I am, I think, a forward looking person and forward to me is the name of the game. But that is another story.

Even now I still remember Cyprus with much pleasure. I wish I could visit once more just for look, just as I wish for other things. Would it be the same? A fear in the back of my mind says not. There was a program on British TV quite a few years ago and shown in NZ which I used to watch. It was based on a British expatriate, a bar and the local police inspector. The name escapes me. That brought back happy memories. But it will be just another wish, other things take precedence in our life as I will soon retire now I'm afraid.

What did I do?

I was a Ground Wireless Fitter and my discharge papers says quote :-

Trade in civil life :- Radio Officer.

Description of Duties :- Undertakes major repairs, modifications and reconditioning; diagnoses and rectifies faults; installs and rewires complete installations; checks the daily performance of equipment and adjusts to maintain efficient operation; calibrates D/F stations; and phases aerial systems.

Remarks :- A most reliable and competent airman who has been a marked asset to this unit.

To achieve this I had to do a full time course at Compton Bassett in Wiltshire, England lasting 33 weeks excluding leave. I will write of my training and tales in later episodes. I was in Cyprus from October 1956 to November 1997 and stationed at Ayios Nikolaos.
Cyprus # 7. Post Holiday
OldEric says :-) Well, back in Cyprus and the holiday was over. A holiday I enjoyed. The workshop Sergeant said he was pleased to see me back. It was he who had to do my duties in CCS. I took over my little Empire again and my freedom to roam and the Sergeant returned to his comfortable chair in the workshop.

During my wanderings I would sometimes pass two young sergeants, usually together. I have them in my minds eye even today. Someone told me they were only nineteen, and Sergeants! They were from the Cipher section. Neither looked their age and they always seemed to be very aware of themselves. Probably most people stared at this out of place duo. Looking back now it must have been most embarrassing for them. The younger looking one of the two was fair skinned, rosy cheeks and didn't shave much and looked nearer sixteen. The other, of sallow complexion was not quite as obvious but because of his age still looked out of place.

Our mess hall was very new and modern. The food as a whole was palatable, only two items stick in my mind. One item when in season, was water melon and the other was tinned bacon swimming in grease and liquid. The bacon used to fall to pieces, even the fat part and rind. I used to carefully cut the fat and rind away, I've never liked the fat content in meat.

On Saturdays I would, when down in Famagusta call at a particular cafe.... I no longer remember the name.... and order steak, egg, salad and chips. The salad was always crisp and fresh and the steak was always large and tender. The cafe proprietor would open his cold store door, pull out a huge hunk of beef, get his ever sharp knife and cut the steak off. He would look in askance, a silent ok?, and I would nod. He was a perfectionist, he took delight in the presentation of the meal and basked in your satisfaction.
Stomach full, I would then usually go and have a beer in the nearby beer garden and wait for Windy to turn up, or if he was on duty or somewhere more interesting or important, some other friendly faces would come along. We would go to the outdoor movie theatre if the film caught our fancy, or on to one or two or more bars and whisky sours. Sometimes both.

A permanent curfew was in force, I think it was 10.30pm. Occasionally we would overstay the curfew time and the RAF Military Police major would stick his head round the bar door and point the way out with his thumb. Now and then if we were only two or three he would offer us a lift back to camp. He was a big, broad blond man in his late thirties or early forties and when he spoke he would have a small smile on his face. Some thought the smile friendly and others thought of more sinister implications. He almost always travelled alone. He was unmarried and lived in the camp, some pundits opined he was on the lookout for young fresh faced airmen with dark thoughts on his mind. I think it was probably an urban myth, more like he didn't want the hassle of paper work on a Sunday morning if we were picked up by the Army MPs. Who knows?

Life went on comfortably smooth, Summer ran into an Autumn of warm days and chilly nights. One day I began to realize December was starting to appear on the horizon.

More to come.

3 December 2002

OldEric says:- Going to be hot again today. Temp. running 25-26C. Humid

2 December 2002

Cyprus # 6. A Holiday

OldEric says :-) I'm not sure how this holiday came about, even after long thought my memory is still a little hazy. But the following is as I remember. A notice was promulgated that forces personnel could apply for leave to be taken in Lebanon under forces direction and interested personnel could apply. The cost would be nominal only and we would be flown by RAF transport. I applied. How the selection process occurred, I don't remember .... names in a hat probably. Anyway I was selected.

Our party of about ten Army and RAF personnel flew from Nicosia to Beirut airport. We were the guinea pig party and a young army officer was sent along to prepare a report on the success or failure of the holiday exercise. On arriving at Beirut we were whisked up to the cool of the mountains to an area called Bois de Boulogne and to stay at a hotel there, I do not remember the name of the hotel and to make it more difficult to find out by a memory jog, the accommodation was in an annex to the hotel.

Down in Beirut the temperature was hot but up here the air was cool. There was no terrorism as such in Lebanon in 1957 although Palestinian refugees did exist. Up here in the hills ancient history was all around and even at my young age the sense of the stillness of time impressed me greatly. Just below the annex was a valley with its steep sides terraced, a remnant of biblical times. A pathway led down to the bottom and ruins of an old monastery existed. The sides of the opposite wall of the valley were terraced also, as was most of the country up here in the hills.

One morning there was a bus provided to take us to the ruins of Baalbek, a trip I missed. My stomach was a little delicate for the long journey, the result of a trip down to Beirut and a little celebrating the previous evening. In those days Baalbek was a name only to me, I did not realise what I was to miss. Later in the day I went for a stroll down a pathway from the annex and met a young Lebanese and we talked for some time. He was studying at the American University of Beirut and his subject was Electronics so we had something in common. I occasionally think of this short chance encounter and sometimes I wonder how his life unfolded over time.

I think we made two or three trips down to Beirut. The first trip down we enquired of some young men, a suitable place to eat, they were American University of Beirut students also and they directed us to a suitable place where many students ate. We ordered kebabs and they smelt delicious, the only trouble was trying to eat them. The meat was like chewing rubber and I found the only way to consume the pieces was to try and tear the pieces into smaller pieces and swallow.

On our second trip down to Beirut by taxi, the driver took a wrong turn in the city and we landed in the middle of a Palestinian area and our taxi driver came to a dead stop in the middle of the road realizing his mistake. The taxi was surrounded by people waving fists and banging on the sides of the vehicle and trying to get into the taxi. The taxi driver froze. I remember grabbing him the neck and shoulder and shouting "get into reverse and drive", the exact words. The other three had locked the doors and the taxi shot backwards and when we were clear we looked each other with a look of relief. The taxi driver was the most relieved of all, I think.

In our hotel annex were prosperous, mainly Syrian families who came down to into Lebanon to escape the summer heat. Here we were introduced to the Middle Eastern habit of the appreciation of a good meal, a series of good loud burps. We were also introduced to the Hookah water pipe at first hand. After dinner the Middle Eastern families wives and children retired and the water pipe was brought in and light it was then passed around from one to another. We sat at separate tables from the Syrians but close, and our education of the world was extended a little further.

I think we all enjoyed our holiday, we even had been to the Casino and watched the tables. Too expensive for us poor servicemen. We returned to Cyprus and we all went our separate ways.

Were there further holidays for servicemen in Lebanon? I don’t know.

1 December 2002

Going to be a hot day again. Temperature forecast 23-24C. Summer has arrived at long last. The Gazebo is up and the outdoor furniture is in place and we spend most of out time outdoors except when am pounding the keyboard.
Will a laptop show up ok in outside light?? The prices put me off and the screen size. I like my 19 inch monitor acreage.

30 November 2002

First anniversary of Sir Peter Blake's murder in the mouth of the Amazon.
Feed "Sir Peter Blake" into Google for more.
Cyprus # 5. My Work

OldEric says :-) Do you really want to know? Probably not. But, for the sake of posterity I'm going to tell you anyway. I worked in the Circuit Control Section known as CCS. Our unit of which CCS was part, handled all the RAF traffic to and from the Middle / Near East and the UK. There was a large Teleprinter Hall, a smaller Wireless Telegraphy section, a Cipher section and us CCS.
Every signal and every wire which came into the Unit and exited the Unit came through CCS. It was the hub of the Unit and everything was controlled from CCS. The CCS was manned 24 hours a day, every day by a shift team of technician grade personnel and they controlled the complex from a large oval console.
I was the maintenance technician for CCS and I was one of the few personnel who worked days only. My little empire was a test desk at the CCS rear and I worked alone. If any of the many bays of equipment through which all signals passed broke down it was my duty to repair them. The only things which needed repair with any regularity were pairs of large relays which were plug in. Each morning when I arrived there would be a number of relays changed during the night by the shift technicians to repair/maintain. On Monday mornings there would be a lot. All the spare relays were kept on shelves ready for use. The large bays of equipment only occasionally broke down and spare plug in sections were always on hand and very occasionally one of these would be waiting for me in the morning. Really I had little else to do except keep a general eye on things and, with a team make periodic maintenance inspections of out lying unmanned, low power aerial farm equipment at remote locations. The main transmitting aerial farm was 5 miles away on the road to Nicosia on high ground. They had their own maintenance personnel.
Otherwise life and work was a little boring, a good book was handy and a stroll along to the maintenance workshops for a cup of tea and a chat to the sergeant cooped up in his office with nothing to do but to be there. He liked a chat and break to his monotony. At least I could wander around, he couldn't. Sometimes I used to stroll the half mile down to the signal receiving section at the far side of the camp away from electrical interference and I would "chew the rag" with the techs about AR88s and about the best ways of repairing and realigning these complex receivers. And other things. To while away the hours the guys had built a pond and a rock garden and stocked the pond with goldfish. The fish were mandatory, the law stated all static water had to be populated with fish to cut down mosquitoes ( I think they may be of the malarial type, I'm not sure).
All in all our situation was pretty laid back but as I said previously--- boring,--- if you were in your early/mid twenties. Weekends were good but week days well----. Some of the guys marked their days to demob off on a calendar and came the day they would leave. Occasionally a disappeared face would resurface. The reason was civilian life was not the same and friends and mates were not all around. It was lonely out there one returnee told me. If you signed up within six weeks after your demob date you retained your rank, job and if possible a return to your old location.
When my turn came to leave and I returned to civilian life, for awhile I must confess I missed the life and comradeship of the RAF and for a year or two afterwards wondered if I should have made the choice to sign up again.
Next storey, a trip to relieve the boredom.

21 November 2002

OldEric says ;-) Tommorrow we take a short break. We will be gone Friday to Sunday.

19 November 2002

Cyprus # 4. A mixed Bag

OldEric says :-)The night of our arrival in Nicosia was continually disturbed by the rumble of planes taking off and landing. Next morning we learnt on the grapevine the Suez war had started. We knew something was imminent, as we crossed the Mediterranean the sea was filled with naval vessels from skyline to skyline all heading in one direction---East. As I looked out of the aircraft window I remember thinking what an awesome sight, all that fire power. So we were not at all surprised with the morning news.
As I mentioned in an earlier piece, we were under canvas for our first few weeks. Not long after our arrival whilst still under canvas a contingent of French paratroopers were billeted in tents close to us and used the same ablution block of us. We were warned to keep clear of them, a smart remark could trigger an incident. Only a fool would have done so. Just looking at these men they were fighting fit. They were all lean and all appeared to be around six feet tall with hair shaved extremely short. All seemed extremely aloof, not even glancing when washing in the adjacent sink in the ablution block.
Strange, in later years when I saw pictures of De Gaulle, tall and aloof he reminded me of those earlier paratroopers. They were not as tall as De Gaulle of course. One morning we awoke, the French paratroopers and their tents were gone, no sign that they had even existed.
Eventually the construction of our permanent accommodation was finished and we move in. The building was not as you would have expect as forces accommodation. It was a large double story building, each floor with about ten rooms and each room big enough to hold six personnel. The door of each room opened out on to a wide tiled patio with a railing on the front and a set of steps at each end of the building for access to the upper level. To us it was a fine looking building and today the style of some motel units here in New Zealand remind me of our accommodation at Ayios Nikolaos. The rooms were first class too, the floors were tiled and the plastered walls were painted a light pleasant colour. The back wall, opposite the door had two large windows and the view from our room on the top floor was extensive. All in all, a very pleasant situation. Our block was one of two blocks, the other block had already been constructed previously to ours and was occupied.
Oddly I do not remember any of my room mates names and I can only picture one of the five in my mind. The others I cannot picture at all. I do remember we used to get on well. And, I do remember while sleeping late one Saturday morning being shaken awake with a call of “Fire drill” and leaping out of bed to a flash of a camera. I used to sleep naked. “A leg pull” I shouted, but it was no leg pull a few days later I was presented with a photo of me in all my glory. I kept that photo for quite a while. All I asked was “which shop developed it?” no way was I going in that shop to be recognized.

18 November 2002

Is my Blog HOT or NOT?
004       Ullswater Audrey
When we first moved to Sharrow Bay we lived in the cottage for about two years. Audrey D. lived with her widowed grandmother Mrs R. in the lodge which we were later to occupy. Audrey would be about 5 years older than I and she was a quiet girl who spoke little but, Audrey I found was a secret bully.
As we walked home from school our small band of children dwindled until only Audrey, I and the Edmondson children were left. Occasionally the Edmondson children were missing for whatever reason and Audrey and I would be alone and then I had trouble. I was 6 going on 7 and she was 12. I was sick of the situation, don’t ask me why I didn’t inform my parents, but I didn’t.
I made up my mind when I reached my 7th birthday I would fix her, I’d tell her Grandmother. So I waited. I waited to the day when I knew Audrey on leaving school was going to play with a friend. When I arrived back at Sharrow Bay, I went up the back steps and called on Audrey’s Grandmother and told her the story. She stood on the door step and listened in silence, she said not a word. I plainly remember now, pausing after my story about Audrey I waited and then turned away then she said, “I’ll see Audrey”. That’s all she said.
I never had any more trouble with Audrey, she never mentioned her Grandmother and neither did I. A year or so later Audrey and her Grandmother left the lodge.
During my school years I think it was the only time I really had a problem with bullies. I learnt to look potential bullies in the eye and do something positive about the situation. Bullies in the main, back off quickly when confronted.
A Tangi for Lou

OldEric says :-) I went to Lou Brookes' Tangi (funeral) this morning. Lou was a year younger than I. Lou had cancer and, in his last stages asked to be moved back from Auckland to Huntly where he was born.
Lou was a Maori and in his younger days was a salesman for the firm I worked for at that time. Everyone liked Lou and liked his fast patter. In later years Lou worked the markets up in Auckland and everyone knew him, once met, forgotten never!
Lou's Tangi was held at Te Ohaki Marae and the Tangi follows a similar format to the more familiar Church funeral service. The Tangi differs subtly in feel to a Church funeral. A sorry sadness pervades, that the person has left his relatives and friends behind and softly in the background keening will be heard from one or more of the older ladies. The Marae service is relatively short but the graveside service is much longer than a Church service. The hymns are sung as in Church, but no organ music is needed here. The Maori have fine tuneful voices.
At the graveside, speakers will talk to the person in a conversational tone as his body rests in the grave. Some may sing a verse or two of a favourite remembered song. The immediate family standing around the grave will cuddle each other, adults and children and often will sadly weep. It is very moving. Truly felt emotions are not at all suppressed. An orator or orators will call out the persons' life and ask why he has left them.
I was glad to be able to say goodbye to Lou. I was glad I could drop a proffered flower on his coffin. I was glad I met his remembered family now grown up with children of their own. And, I was glad they came up and remembered me. Lou was a little more than an acquaintance Lou was a friend from long ago.

17 November 2002

A Missive from the Partriarch

OldEric says :-) Well you will all by now be congregated at Pete and Jen's residence,I think. Got Anna's Email this morning. Glad Anna, that young Bob was so good on the plane. Did the stewardess spike his drink Pat wonders! (grin)
Rain and wind this weekend but a large high is sitting on our doorstep over the Tasman Sea waiting to come in. I have been very busy from some lightning storms 10 days ago and work is still rolling in.At this time I feel like I should retire from all this hustle and bustle.
What other news?? Oh, we have now booked our plane tickets for the UK next April and Gillian it seem will be sitting in the next seat to us which pleases Pat. Oh, and me, too. We have had Biggles down to Dave the Vet, it seems he has diabetes. We can inject him like humans or let nature take its course. We’re inclined to natures way at the moment and feel a little shocked just now. For Xmas we have booked in at The Quality Hotel in Hamilton for our Xmas dinner. Pat says she would like a year off from cooking and dish washing and it will be pleasant to sit down and just eat for a change. Two of our friends from Hamilton usually go each year but we haven’t told them we will be going. A surprise for them. We are taking Phyll with us too, at least we have booked her in. Next weekend we will be going across to Tauranga leaving Friday and returning Sunday, we will come back via Athenree. Ian will fill you in about Athenree.
Now remember show John this site and if he likes it I will Email the tales I tell to him.
I will now leave you in the capable hands of the vice patriarch (VP John) and don't let Ian imbibe too much.(another grin)

With a (grin grin) OldEric, the Patriarch

13 November 2002

OldEric says :-) I haven’t had time these past 3 days to write much. Work has been busy from numerous lightning storms in the past week and by the time I finish my day the brain is feeling jaded. After dinner I have been falling asleep in my chair and then I'm chased to bed because I always waken in the morning at 5am tired or not. I'm then up by 6am.
We booked our UK flights today for April and managed to arrange a seat with us for our daughter Gillian who is accompanying us but flying with her air points. When I think of it the collecting enough air points for a trip from NZ to UK is quite an achievement and then have more air points from her free air points trip to fly to Australia at least when she returns.
I'm going to make myself a mug of Ovaltine and go to bed.

10 November 2002

Fishing--another Way

OldEric says :-) I would be 12 or 13 when I got this brilliant idea for fishing, to catch the elusive trout in the larger becks and small rivers. I had read about the salmon poachers who used to make carbide bombs, throw them in the rivers and when they exploded the shock waves of the explosion stunned the fish, they came to the surface and all that had to be done was to lift the fish out of the water. Simple.
I found out all that I needed to do was get a screw top bottle, get a piece of carbide and put it in the bottle, light it, put some damp rag or cotton wool in the bottle and put the screw top on. The smouldering carbide mixing with water vapour causes a gas to develop and as the gas increases, the pressure in the bottle increases to the point where the bottle explodes and the dirty deed is done.
I had the bottle, I had the cotton wool, the trouble was the carbide. None of the ironmongers of the time who stocked carbide would sell it to me. They were more than conversant with the trick. In the old days before batteries carbide was easy to procure. The principle was used for lighting and the gas emissions were controlled by ventilation. Carbide burning gave off a very intense white light. Many people bought carbide before the advent of batteries. In my days as a boy only those who had nefarious activities in mind generally wanted carbide.
It was the same with fire works. During WW2 fireworks were prohibited and I decided to build my own, I had got some formulae and I tried all the chemists in Penrith with my list of ingredients. But they were on the ball too, some would smile and say no, others would just say "get out".

9 November 2002

Captain Embley, a Sequel

OldEric says :-) A sad sequel to Captain Embley. During WW2 he had been torpedoed 3 times, I think, but fortunately he came through the war unscathed. After WW2 he had difficulty getting a new command due to the reduction of shipping and he had to take the rank of 1st Officer, one step down. Six months after the cease of hostilities his ship was in the Aegean Sea which is between Italy and what was then Yugoslavia. During his watch on the bridge he was standing out on the wing of the bridge. The ship collided with a stray floating mine which exploded on impact below, close to where Peter's Dad was standing. Captain Embley was killed.
We would both be 12 or was it 13 at the time, I remember feeling very sad for my friend Peter, imagining what it would be like if my Dad died. Looking back now I think I liked this, to my eyes, strange boisterous man, even though my meetings with him was at the best fleeting.
Ullswater: Peter's Father

 I only met Peter's father once or maybe twice during his leaves between ships. He was a WW2 ships captain and most of his time was spent at sea but he did make an impression upon me. I'd never met anyone quite like him before. He was a large bluff man who always spoke in a shout and a roar, he would sing, I think they were sea shanties at the top of his voice and he was completely tuneless. If he did something, he did it now and off he would go in a roar. I think he fascinated me, I'd never seen anyone quite like him.
One day Peter rushed down to our house breathless, "have you heard about my Dad"? Apparently Captain Embley decided to go for a walk up the fell and took Peter, they left about 6.30pm. They went up on to Barton fell and Peter showed him were we played and what we did, they made their way along the bottom of Swarth Fell to Swarth Beck. Peter told him about the old abandoned lead mine shaft part way up Swarth fell on the beck's left-hand side. Captain Embley decided to climb up and have a look, which he did but didn't go inside, the entrance was very low and you had to crawl in, and, it was dirty. It was a good view from up there of the lake and the surrounding farms and Peter said his father decided to climb higher and get a better view of where they lived.

Captain Embley climbed up telling Peter to stay where he was, going up alongside the beck was very, very steep with rocks and tussocks of grass, almost vertical in places, the beck coming down in mini waterfalls. He was halfway up Swarth Fell I suppose and the veiw was terriffic. When he decided to come down, he couldn't, it was too steep. Easy going up but it is always harder coming down. He tried and tried to work his way down, Peter said But he could not make it.
He told Peter to go home, he was going to climb up alongside the beck until he reached the top of Swarth Fell and come back along the top of ajoining Barton Fell and then down to their home at Crook-a-dyke. The time was 8.30pm Peter said and he ran home, told his mother what his father said. they sat up a good part of the night wondering how Captain Embley was getting on with his struggle in the dark. I think they were all relieved when they heard a bang and a crash and a roar as Captain Embley came bellowing through the door.

8 November 2002

Ullswater: Dreams

Like everyone else I dream. I seldom have bad dreams and I seldom remember my dreams, unless prompted or, dream just before waking. Those I do remember are in the main considerably mixed up. I repeatedly dream of Ullswater, not the lake but the two and a half mile road I used to walk and then later bike to and from school. the various places along the road, the hedgerows, the trees, the long strait past Jimmy Allen's where the Commandos used to practise and Dickie Lowis's farm, his dog that used to wait for me each day from school to chase me on my bike trying to bite the pedals.
I dream of Elder beck and its fish and the big Holly tree at the cross roads, the small very steep hill by Seat farm and the nesting Crows in the very high trees, the trees how I was always trying to work out how to climb and get an egg for my collection and never did.
I also dream of Barton fell and the scree near the Jackdaw cliffs and nearby Hobbley's cave. ( A name I couldn’t remember until I asked my brother John).
Yes, I dream of many things but always when I dream of Ullswater I have a feeling of contentment. Ullswater to me was magic. I loved my Ullswater of those far gone days.

Stolen ammunition
One day when we had finished our lunch at the church hall. as we came out to return to school we saw a small army truck standing outside the nearby Post Office. 2 or 3 older boy's ahead of us were peered into of the the open back of the truck. Inside was ammunition, Very flares, thunder flashes and more. One boy jumped in and grabbed some of the thunderflashes and passed them out to his mates. After a while a shout came from the Post office door and 2 soldiers appeared. The boys grabbed their booty and fled. Later in the afternoon an army officer called at the school and explained what had happened. Miss Patterson brought the officer into the classroom and he made a short speech to the class. In essence he said that if the ammunition was returned nothing more would be said about the matter. In his explanation, he continued there was a war on and everyone was too busy to call in the police and have the culprits charged. I believe the stolen items were quickly returned and no further action was taken.

7 November 2002

Cyprus # 3 Ham Radio

OldEric says :-} Shortly after arriving at Ayios Nikolaos, with a large electronics contingent I made enquires to see if there was a Ham club. Yes I was told, but it was in recess, no one was interested but there was one at the nearby army camp. I tracked down the key-holder, explained what I wanted and I got the key and gave the club a look over and was told if I was interested the key could be signed over to me.
The club was housed in a stripped out mobile signals trailer and contained a radio receiver but not a transmitter, a decrepit transmitting aerial was outside. The receiver was a top of the line AR88, I turned on the power and switched on the receiver and it roared into life. I applied for a license to operate quoting my UK license and I was told my application would be accepted but there would be a delay in the permit coming through. So, no transmitter, I decided to purchase one from the UK from a small firm Labgear later to be come much larger. They said shipping would be no problem and the transmitter would be shipped to the port Famagusta in Cyprus.
My license to operate and my call sign ZC4JX duly arrived and I operated from a forces friends home for a while, who was married and lived down in Famagusta who was not qualified but had a transmitter and receiver.
I was duly notified of the shipment date of the transmitter and its estimated arrival date. I checked the shipping each day, the ship arrived and after unloading and passing through customs, I was phoned by the shipping agents that I could collect my consignment. I took a taxi down town collected the packing case from the docks and no way would it fit in the taxi. Not deterred I borrowed a pinch bar, levered off the wooden packing case boards and extracted the transmitter while the taxi meter ticked over. I collapsed the sides of the wooden packing case and stuffed those in the taxi too. I would be wanting the packing case at some future time. Heading back to the camp at Ayios Nikolaos, I was hot to get down to the club and fire the transmitter up. Which I did. The collapsed packing case was safely stored in the back of the club rooms.
Only one other person showed interest in the club but he didn’t come too often. Maybe the many operator personnel had had enough of operating during their shift and didn’t find operating during leisure hours attractive.
There was little recreation during the week in the camp and I found Ham radio a very pleasant relaxation. Many in the camp spent most of the time either in the NAAFI or in the many card schools during the week, in fact among the many shift workers the card schools used to operate 24 hours a day—none stop. Then they had no money to go down town during the weekends.

6 November 2002


OldEric says :- Another dark and/or controversial subject. The newspapers are often full of bullying reports in schools both here in NZ and overseas. Bullying has always existed both in mental and physical forms. I'm not talking gang related stand over tactics but general bullying, one trying to dominate another bullying.
From experience of 4 schools I attended in the 1940s bullying was generally tolerated by authorities in England as long as it didn't get out of hand. It was tolerated because it was a part of growing up, it was considered as a part of the formation of ones character--it helped to form ones character, to stand on ones feet. Some may say hindered the formation of ones character. I'm inclined to the former. Bullying was tolerated by authorities to help one to learn how to deal with the problems of life both in childhood and most certainly in adulthood. Bullies grow up and in the main bullies do not change their ways, they may change their methods but they still bully if allowed to do so.
I will over the next few days relate 3 stories of bullying and the results during my school years.

4 November 2002

Ullswater: Fishing and my Mother.

When we lived at Sharrow Bay in the summer evenings we would sometimes go for a walk with our mother down into the wood and round the lake edge. One of our stopping places was a stone built landing stage for boats now unused. This was the time of WW2 , dig for Victory and exploit any food source lying dormant. One exploited food source by the government was the fish in the lakes of the UK and Ullswater was one of them. Fish traps were placed in the lake and after a day or two a boat with empty fish boxes would visit, haul in the traps, extract the fish, bait and reset the traps. Full boxes were heavy and cumbersome in small boats so the full fish boxes were off loaded at fixed points to be picked up later by a larger boat.

One of the off loading points was our landing stage. Often on our walks 2-3 fish boxes were waiting on the landing stage for pickup along with a sack or two of eels. My mother would open the fish boxes until she found the last box filled and then she would look for live fish, then she would instruct us to take the stronger fish, hold them in the water until they regained their strength and let them go. It was never more than 3 or 4 fish.

Later in life I occasionally would wonder why she did this, she was a farmers daughter and well used to taking and preparing fowl and animals for food. What I do remember is my mother was compassionate. Our male dog Gyp used to wander and often come home worse for wear from fights with the larger local farm dogs, usually torn and bleeding. He always went looking for my mother who after scolding him would drop immediately what she was doing, head for the first aid cupboard and patch Gyp up---still scolding him. She was compassionate with animals.
It never occurred to us to take any of the fish from the boxes. Times differed then in British country life, this was a time when doors could be left open, people as a rule did not usually steal just as it was here in NZ in later bygone years.

2 November 2002

A Thought

OldEric says :-) I've been thinking of putting an abbreviated form of my school life on to read, my trials and tribulations in the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s, so long ago now. Even so abbreviated it will be a little long for one Blog so I would break it up. Up to date the excerpts I have written are of the more pleasant side of life but all lives have their ups and downs and mine was no exception. My trials came mainly in the later years.
So I will try.
Our Saturday Morning

OldEric says :-) We had numerous thunder storms and lightning passing over last night which brought a lot of rain. I disconnected the computer and land lines. I've seen too often the results of power surges. I will be busy on Monday morning I think and work from the storm will trickle in for the next 2 weeks or so. Sun and showers this morning with heavy humidity from the tropicl Pacific. The winds are to change to the SW and bring in a cold front this weekend.
As I look out of the office window it is sunny and the lawn is a carpet of Daisies and looks lovely and the birds are feeding. We have had our seasonal resident Tui calling and feeding on nectar from the bottlebrush shrubs flowers. He is an ungainely bird, irredesent blue black with his white throat feathers showing. His bell like calls are a pleasure to listen to.
Pat is at the church gala this morning helping to raise money for church. I should have been in Hamiton this morning at a philatelic exibition but a dealer I wanted to see is apparently on a trip to South America so I gave the exibition a miss. He will be on a buying expedition and he and his wife are also avid bird watchers (twitchers), business and pleasure, so he will have some exiting tales to tell on his return. He travels world wide and his stories are always interesting. I wish sometimes I could do the same.

31 October 2002

Hello Ian, still reading? Send me an email.
Remember to read Cyprus #1 first
Cyprus #2. The Latrines

OldEric says :-) H'mm, now there's a subject, but the background first. When we first arrived at Ayios Nikolaos camp our permanent accommodation was still in the process of being built so we were housed in tents, you know the type, heavy canvas, centre pole and square. Four to a tent with a wire-wove bed frame and a 5ft cupboard each.
Now that didn't bother us too much, we were in our early twenties and life was still an adventure, we were supplied with a paraffin heater for the cold nights which was open at the top and with a tin plate we could cook up a tin of baked beans, fry bacon or cook an egg if we got hungry and we did get hungry.
Now what bothered us each morning and night was the toilet block. This was a large wooden building 40 feet by 20 feet. Down each long side of the building were basins for washing with showers placed each end of the building. In the centre of the building were the toilets, these were two long rows of back to back cubicles just like public toilet cubicles down the centre of the building.
Now the problem, the toilets emptied a long drop, into a huge trench almost the 40 foot length of the building and the trench was about 6 feet wide and estimated at least 10-12 feet deep. Like most of Cyprus the ground was almost solid rock and the trench had to have been blasted out of the rock. Everything went into the trench including wash basin and shower water. To maintain hygiene a two inch film of oil based disinfectant floated on the top of the trench contents and everything passed through this layer of disinfectant barrier.
Even so the powerful smell of the disinfectant and stench of the trench contents leaking through and mixing together was overpowering to say the least. No one wasted time in the toilet block.
After we moved into our permanent accommodation some way off the toilet block, trench was getting full and had to be pumped out into huge tankers to be disposed of. The whole camp stunk for days. Many years later talking to an ex RAF man whom I happened to meet and had been stationed in Ayios Nikolaos, he told me the trench had been filled in a year or two after I left. Over time the toilet trench storey was often told over a beer and the trench became infamous.
Cyprus #1

OldEric says :-} When I was in the RAF, I was stationed in Cyprus in 1956 for part of my time. I was stationed near Famagusta which populated predominantly by people of Turkish extraction and Greeks were in the minority although the total population of Cyprus, Greeks were in the majority for the whole of the island. This was the time of active EOKA the Greek terrorist organization. EOKA were not too much of a problem in the Turkish majority areas so we were not restricted in our travels however we always traveled armed and the normal weapon carried was usually a .303 rifle. After a short while I realized the rifle was a clumsy weapon for the use it was needed for and I noticed the weapon of choice for the longer serving personnel was often a Sten Gun, a short ugly all metal submachine gun painted black which could fire single shot or automatic. A certificate of competence was required for this weapon it was dangerous in untrained hands, and it could only be used right handed and I was left handed.
I practiced on the firing range until I was competent and using the weapon right handed was second nature. With this weapon, going out to remote radio beacons and the like I felt a lot safer as some of them were in Greek areas with little or no population just the places for ambushes.
One incident made me smile, two of us and a driver were required to go up to Nicosia Airport to pick up two new incoming personnel for our section and as usual we were armed and carrying spare magazines. One of the two new comers had a look on his face somewhere between aghast and horror on his face when he saw us and eying the Sten gun. I knew what was going through his mind and I remember saying something like “don’t worry it isn’t as bad as it looks, its just in case”. Even now I don’t think he believed me, he never said a word all the way back to our unit at Ayios Nikolaos.
That was only one side of Cyprus, I liked Cyprus very much, that is the Cyprus of that era, I believe it is now thick with tourist hotels and hoards of people. The climate was very equitable, sunny most of the time with little humidity but it could get cold get in winter with dry NE winds from the snowy Steppes of Russia and the snows of central Turkey. The beaches of Cyprus were good and the beaches of Famagusta were excellent. Here I got a bad dose of sunburn on one of my shoulders just a narrow piece on the top of the shoulder from my neck to the outer part of the shoulder. I had a pink mark there for many years afterwards. The nicest beachside areas I enjoyed were the northern beaches, around the east of Kyrenia if you have a map. Here were sandy inlets and slab rock foreshores and very pretty. I spent a pleasant long weekend out here with the combined forces Ham club which were running 24 hours per day in a competition so we had plenty of beach time to look around.

28 October 2002

Ullswater: Lake Fishing.

As a boy we often fished in Ullswater. We usually caught trout or perch. There were 2 species of trout, brown trout or salmon trout (also called sea trout). The fish most easily caught were perch, brown trout and salmon trout were harder. Salmon trout were strong fighting fish.
Sometimes we fished for the pot. With Dad we would go to the Corlett's at Sharrow Cottages, Mr Corlett had access to a net at the place he worked. We would go down to the lake row out and set the net, leave and come back 2-3 hours later. There were always fish in the net. We threw the perch back and kept the trout. The salmon trout had pink flesh and very good eating, so were the brown trout---no muddy taste from bottom feeding, the lake had a clean pebble bottom.
When we fished ourselves we normally caught perch. These had a sweet delicate flavour but were hard to prepare, they had spines on their backs and could cause a nasty wound. We used to clip them off before skinning them. One time we caught 34 perch and ran out of bait so we used the red coloured fins from the caught ones and continued fishing. The place we were fishing from was a cliff face which dropped straight into the deep water. When the water was still and the suns rays at the right angle we could look down into the deep, the water was crystal clear and we could see the big fellows deep down. We would use a hand line weighted and drop the bait down but even when we put the bait under their nose they ignored it. The old fellows had been around for a long time and knew the ropes. We occasionally used a pup tent and stayed over night and made an open fire to cook with. No fire regulations here in those days, no tourists, not even fishing licenses! The place we fished by the cliffs was on the track from Howtown to Glenridding and the cliffs were at the Howtown end. We used to see no one all weekend. We were warned by our parents not to go near the deep water but we did'nt listen, we boys were bullet proof.
As the 1940s progressed WW2 came to an end and slowly one or two fishermen turned up, as the years progressed we would see bus loads of fishermen sometimes from industrial Lancashire and Yorkshire. It did'nt worry us, they did'nt know the good fishing spots, but we did. What did worry us later was these same bus loads of fishermen used to come with more than one rod and one day we watched one man with 4 rods. Then came talk of fishing licenses and regulations. Our fishing paradise was being invaded. What price greed?
A short follow up later.

27 October 2002

Long Weekend

OldEric says :-) No we didn't go away this long weekend, stayed at home for a change. Went to Tony's for dinner on Friday night. He made a very nice Curry with Basmati rice and Naan bread. Yummy.
Yesterday we decided to go to Hamilton city and pick up some plants for the garden.Disaster struck, the station wagon was low on gas and I hadbacked it down our steep drive to unload some stuff and the pump must have drained back into the tank. There was only enough to reach the top of the drive in the carbo and that was it. Couldn't drive the Nissen out to go for gas, the station wagon was in the way. Jim across the road was out and came back mid morning and ran me down for 10 litres of gas. That was fine and the station wagon started, we were away, but, got down the road and the wagon stalled at the traffic lights and the after starting again when I took my foot of the gas pedal the damned thing kept stalling. The only way I could get through the traffic lights without stalling was to put the automatic in the low,low gear for towing and we headed for home. Probably some muck in the carbo from the bottom of the tank. But now we could get the Nissen out we headed for Hamilton. Got that of my chest! I feel better.
Today rain has been promised from a low coming across the Tasman and tomorrow as well, just started this Sunday afternoon. Sunny all morning and tee shirt weather. Planted the Impatians and the Gazzinias and a bag of compost to help things along. Oh, and had a full English breakfast this morning, the works. The only trouble Pat puts me on a starvation diet for the rest of the day.Oh, well.
Well thats it from OldEric, got some emails to send.
Got a lot more tales to tell, but some a bit too long for the Blog. Will try to shorten them or put them in 2 parts, we'll see.

24 October 2002

The Sergeant

OldEric says (:-) If you read Windy earlier this is a loose continuation of that tale. The sergeant concerned, I cannot remember his name was in a different section to me. He was somewhat older than most of us, probably around 35-40. One of his roles was sergeant of discipline and for that role alone he was disliked. At best without his disciplinary role he wasn’t particularly popular. The Sergeant was married and lived with his wife down in nearby Famagusta in private accommodation. In Famagusta it was reasonably safe from terrorism as this area was predominantly populated by people of Turkish extraction who disliked the Greeks. Not that the area was free of Greeks but they were in the minority in the area. Each evening coming off duty he drove to his home from the camp at Ayios Nikolaos and when he reached Famagusta shopping area would invariably call at a particular corner shop and pick up the daily groceries---milk, etc. The Sergeant was in the shop 2 minutes and then on his way home again. When he returned to his car on this particular day a gut-wrenching sight met his eyes, his gun belt holster was empty. Against strict regulations, for comfort he used to take off his gun belt and place it on the passenger seat and there it remained until he arrived home. Reporting the theft, the only outcome that could be was a Court Marshal and judged inevitably guilty.
His Court Marshal sentence was 3 months in the military prison and reduced in rank to Corporal on completion. In military prisons, unlike civilian prisons a prisoner forfeits all rights, has no privileges, he is at the whim of his jailors. On release, I remember his face, like Windy's face it was drawn and haggard. Over the following weeks and months I would occasionally look at him and think, he was the shell of the man I remember.
Towards the end of my service in Cyprus I learnt that the weapon that the Sergeant had lost was responsible for the deaths of 2 British servicemen in other locations on Cyprus. The price the Sergeant paid in the military prison was little compared to the price he paid with the knowledge of those 2 deaths. Did it haunt him? I don’t know, it most probably did.

23 October 2002

Bits and Pieces

OldEric says :-) Business is slow at the preasent time as it always is at this time of year. Pat was out to lunch with her friend Phyl Cartmill today. It is Phyl's birthday today and they went to the RSA Resturant in Ngaruawahia. Hmm'm, a difficult name even for Kiwi's if you are not of this area. I've been setting setting up my Outline for my Memoirs in MS Word. I did'nt know the feature existed until I read the Word 2000 manual I recently aquired. Often wondered what the little button down in the bottom left hand corner was for and too busy to investigate futher. Outline certainly makes life easier. But as all good techs say "when all else fails consult the manual". One thing for certain, I've found if you nut out a complex problem without say, in this case, the manual I find I never forget the proceedure but, if I have to follow a set of instructions, well I find I learn only how to follow the instructions. Then as in RAM in a computer the brain shuts down and the knowlege gained is gone as a puff of smoke, its gone.
I'm going now to prepare a sequel to Windy, if you read Windy. Its called The Sergeant.

21 October 2002

A Poem

OldEric says (:-]. Should you read this poem read it slowly, and savour it. The poem tells a poignant story.
On 2 May, 1915, in the second week of fighting during the Second Battle of Ypres Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was killed by a German artillery shell. He was a friend of the Canadian doctor Major John McCrae and it is believed that McCrae began the draft for his famous poem 'In Flanders Fields' that evening among the carnage.
Each year on Rememberance Day this poem is repeated, and the dead and dying of all wars are remembered with tears. This is the time when men and wives and lovers and sons and daughters, weep for lost fathers and grandfathers, lost in the carnage that was Flanders fields and in all battle fields since, both remembered and forgotten.
I was a boy of 6 when WW2 started and 12 when the war ended. I remember the poem since that time, each time I hear 'In Flanders Fields' the words never fail to bring a lump to my throat. Each time I read the poem I always read the last verse again, the last verse says it all, when you think about it. Evil in the world still abounds and will continue to exist into the future, we should be strong and face Evil.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

20 October 2002

Ullswater: My Green Bike.

Before I was 11 I was sent to a better school in Penrith, Barton School had a very poor record. The bus from Pooley Bridge to Penrith left early and arrived back late, so to shorten my day a bike was bought for me to get to and from the bus.
My parents took me into Penrith to the bike shop which sold new and second-hand bikes. My parents were not at all rich so a second-hand bike was the order of the day. The owner of the shop who also repaired bikes recommended an old non-descript re-painted green bike with half dropped handle bars similar to dropped handle bars used on racing bikes, with chipped chrome and said it was sturdy, not too heavy and had been well looked after. Dad looked the bike over, pronounced it suitable and said yes we would take it. Dad also bought a dynamo set which worked by friction on the back tyre so I could see on my way home from the bus in the winter darkness which fell before 5 o' clock.
I loved that old green bike, without it I was restricted to a maximum of about 3 miles and now a whole new world was opened up to me. The bike took me back and forwards to the bus, it took me all over the countryside, it even took me to Penrith. That old green bike took me fishing, to spots I’d never been before and places I'd never camped before. It was my pride and joy.
That was until Peter Embley got a bike, the bike was a shiny new red one with full drop handle bars and the makers name stencilled on the down cross-bar. It had a frictionless wheel hub dynamo, not driven on the tyre like mine causing friction. And best of all it was 3 speed, mine wasn't. I was secretly envious and wished it was mine. But the shiny one was always breaking down and the chain would come off and the brakes always needed adjusting. My old green bike just kept sailing along, no trouble at all and my envy was mollified somewhat. No, my envy didn’t cause Peter and me to fight, we were good friends, I helped him with his bike problems and so did my Dad. Peter's father was always away at sea.

OldEric says (:-) Just as I was about to come and write another piece for my Blog I happened to surf on to the site of Steven's family where Steven has his own pages. I read a very sad story of a restricted boy now 21 and a happy story of a loving family. Steven has Angelmans Syndrome restricting his mobility and his learning capacity. I spent an hour or more on his site reading his pages so if I don't finish my piece today that is the reason. AS is very difficult to diagnose and is sometimes mistaken for a form of autism.
I also read of a loving and caring family who have helped ease Steven's burden and apply technology to introduce the outside world to Steven’s world. I signed his guest book and told him a little of my world. Should Steven come up here--- he would see my site--- I would like to say again, Hi, Steven, I'll drop you another line sometime, if you like.

19 October 2002

Milnthorpe: Fishing the Canal.

Old Eric says :-) In my early teens when we lived at Kidside, Milnthorpe I would sometimes go down to the canal at Crooklands fishing. I didn't go too often as I would have to be in the right mood. When I did the day would be sunny and still and summery, quiet with the sound of the bees moving from flower to flower.
I would get some sandwiches, tie the rod on my bike and ride down to the canal a mile or so away. Always to the same spot, just before the canal bridge where it went over the canal onto the Crooklands road. I would park my bike and go along the right-hand side by the bridge and, a short way down there is a wide pool in the canal were a culvert from the river runs in. This was my fishing spot. There were roach, rudd and other corse fish in the canal and though I never seemed to get the big ones, I did get good size ones. On one of these lazy fishing days I was just browsing and I felt a bite on the line and the float was down. It felt like a good sized fish and as I played it for a while I slowly pulled it up. It was a good sized roach and as I half lifted the roach up out of the water in the centre of the pool, the water suddenly exploded. All I remember seeing in the space of a moment was a large head, a larger open mouth and some sharp teeth and the roach disappearing. After the shock wore off all I saw on the hook was the roaches head and nothing else. What I had witnessed was a pike in action.
The lazy day disappeared, I was now all keyed up , a larger hook--the largest I had went on the line, I fished in earnest for roach, caught them and run them as live bait and tempted that pike, I knew he was down there lying on the bottom in the deepest part. Evening came I was still there and no movement from that pike, I reluctantly went home.

Pike (fish)

A freshwater fish of the genus Esox found in temperate regions of Eurasia and America. It has an elongated body, up to about 1.4 m long, a broad flat snout, and a large mouth with strong teeth. It feeds voraciously on fish and other animals. The common pike (E. lucius) is olive-grey above with silvery under parts and pale spots. Family: Esocidae; order: Salmoniformes

18 October 2002

A short Blog

OldEric Says (:-) Hurray!, its raining again. Two quick moving fronts are coming up the Tasman Sea, the weather forecast is spot on with their timing of late afternoon. So rain this evening and tonight, the wind is strong too. Two hours ago we were sitting in bright sunshine having lunch under the sun brolly and just a few woolly clouds in the sky and now overcast. The land will enjoy another watering. Bye!
003   Ullswater: Walk to School

 Barton School was the primary school I attended when we came to Ullswater from Ainstable in 1939. It was a 2 teacher school and was two and a half miles from our home. I used to have to walk this distance every day, I was 5 years old. There were some older children at the beginning but these children eventually left school. There was just me and Audrey an older girl who also lived at Sharrow Bay but she left to live elsewhere after a while. Also about this time some people named Bell came to live in the area and they had a taxi, they were from Newcastle and then there were more children to walk with. About this time too, a ruling came out that all children two and a half miles from school could apply for transport and the Bells, well over the distance applied and provided the taxi for school transport. My parents also applied and being on the two and a half mile boundary, the distance had to be measured to satisfy the authorities. The distance was 200 yards under the required distance and I was refused by the authorities. It was, after protests re-measured and again refused. I had to walk. The taxi with the distant children used to pass me each day but I had to walk. The authorities were inflexible. I remember, I used to think, "why can't Mr Bell squeeze me in?".

16 October 2002

This is a test to see if the team works
Today's Report

OldEric says (:-} Rain this morning and more forecast for this evening. Our average rainfall is down for our Spring here in NZ. We have had a few fast moving fronts pass over this past month or so and dump their rain but it isn't enough. If we don't get our Spring quota of rain, we will end up with a dried out NZ during the long hot Summer months. The soil is drying out fast. The days have been beautiful though, sky is wall to wall blue and the air crystal clear, you feel as though you can touch the distant hills in the clear air. The night temperatures drop down low during this type of weather and the bed blanket is needed, then the mornings come and the temperature rises fast up to 20degs C.
I won't be going round the Lake this late afternoon today. Saw a pair of Australian Black Swan yesterday with 4 youngsters, the adults looked magnificent in their glistening all black plumage and bright orange beaks. They were only 20 metres from me, well used to human activity.
A few Asian immigrants were fishing in the lake which is teeming with fish, Carp, both Goldfish and Koi, prized in England and a pest here, also Perch, Rudd and a few other species, not forgetting Eels of course. Well time to close the workshop door, four jobs, 2 TVs and 2 Monitors today. Fixed 3 of them and I'll leave one of the computer monitors for morning to fix. Spring jobs are always slow but it is nice to just relax and write these little pieces.