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.