This page is devoted to some of my experiences in this World Starting with events involving 9-11.
Other less traumatic stories are linked at the foot of the page.
Well! What a month! It started with the tragic atrocities in America, which prevented my Mother and stepfather from arriving from Arizona in time for my birthday on the 16th. It was to be a joint (no, not that sort of joint!) affair with good friend of mine who had organised a marquee and country and western group in the garden of his Marlborough house. Unfortunately, by a quirk of fate, he too was in Arizona on business for his firm! So the party was cancelled and 80 guests notified. Sad, but it pales into insignificance in proportion to the unbelievable loss of life and suffering on 9-11. I've had 69 pictures of memorial sites all over the world stuck on my lounge door and the American flag in my window ever since. If I ever catch Bin Laden, you will see the first ever case of one handed strangulation! Mum eventually turned up 10 days later, on a Boeing 777. It is the largest passenger jet flying, with a wing span of 200' and a length of the same, but only two engines! It can carry as many as 450 passengers! When a nervous Mum pointed out the alarming engine shortage and asked me whether it was safe to fly in, I remarked that if they both failed simultaneously (or even at the same time!), there were enough passengers to stick their arms out of the windows and flap like ****!
I drove to Heathrow on the Sunday morning to pick them up, taking pictures with my digital camera on the way. It is a familiar sight to all who see me on the road to witness the periscopic action of my camera appearing from the sunroof snapping furiously at anything that doesn't move! I'm not an anorak, more of a duffle coat! The more serious purpose of this "it's more interesting watching paint dry" exercise is to make views available to long term disabled people who could otherwise not have access to them. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it! What the aforesaid observers of my mildly (?) eccentric activities do not realise is that the hand that points the camera from the sunroof is the only one I have left that works! Luckily I have a prehensile knee that steers the car for me! Hardened criminals have been known to leap in petrified fear from the car at the sight of me doing this! Personally I would have thought it safer to remain within, especially at 80 mph! To each their own.
As I neared Heathrow, I spotted a 777 approaching at about 200' on my right! Unbelievable luck! Anoraks anonymous would go green with envy! I was about to take a picture of my Mum actually arriving! I dared not take my eyes from the road as I was doing 70 in the middle lane of a very busy motorway! I readied the camera, stared stoically ahead to avoid collisions, and with my superhuman peripheral vision mentally fixed the spot at which I had to point the camera. This was it! History in the making! I pressed the button and quickly glanced to take a peek at what was a very impressive aircraft. It had gone! Unbeknownst to me, a row of trees had appeared at the critical moment completely blocking the view of the 'plane! My heart sunk. That was a never to be repeated moment. A once in a lifetime opportunity for glory gone forever. I glumly put the camera back on my lap (one never knew, it might abort the landing and do another circuit) and resigned myself to return to the daily humdrum.
I missed the terminal three car park entrance (I always do!) and did a complete circuit of Heathrow to get back to it! I just didn't care anymore. Me, the ace cameraman of Highworth robbed by a bush or two. It just wasn't fair. However, the excitement of seeing my Mother for the first time in 3 1/2 years soon overrode that and I reached embarkation in no time. The luggage was already in the hall (why do I always feel like singing "another suitcase in another hall" when I see that announcement?) and Mum and Chet, her husband duly appeared looking digustingly healthy and sprightly for 73 and 80 years old and 36 hours with no sleep! After the ceremonial hugs and pictures (even these momentous shots felt lukewarm after the one that got away!), we made our way to the car, the location of which I had cleverly photographed as I lost it last time I was here! The trip back was uneventful, especially as Mum n Chet needed to sleep. The only bright spot was when Chet opened his eyes as I was sticking the camera out of the sunroof to snap a passing Ferrari GTO (rare as hen's teeth!) The look on his face was one of resignation at such potentially lethal behaviour. Or did he shut his eyes so that he couldn't see his impending doom?
As it was still light and only about four o'clock, we decided to go on a mini tour of some of the 247 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th century villages that lie within 15 miles of me! I started with Inglesham church, a 900 year old natural beauty with much medieval carved woodwork and wall decoration. Mum and Chet were open mouthed at such unspoilt history mainly due to the efforts of William Morris, the Victorian artist and designer who tastefully restored it to its former simplicity. He rescued it from a fate worse than death at the hands of the Victorian over-the-top decorators! He lived, incidentally only 5 miles away in Kelmscott.
We then meandered over the river thames at Lechlade, passing the toll house on the river bridge and finally ended up in Faringdon, a very attractive 14th century market town. On the way I had taken a slight detour to look at Great Coxwell village, a very pretty place full of picturesque thatched cottages and its great barn, a 900 year old tythe barn of gigantic proportions and in excellent preserved condition. In the spring a little pond in its grounds is heaving with frogs and spawn and I often come to sit here to get away from the hurly burly of quiet village life!
We made straight for the Crown hotel in Faringdon, built in 1664, one of my favourite watering places, as we were hungry by now. Mum and I had a standard English roast and Chet had the salmon Mornay. I took the usual pics and we ended up home at about 1000pm. Mum had brought my legacy over with her as this will be the last time she is coming over here, the travelling at their ages not getting easier. I saw pictures I didn't even know existed of my first shot in Mum's arms soon after birth, many of my sisters and I in the late forties, some of me when I was 15 or so, and a very comprehensive collection of my school reports! A strange lad, was I!
Always first in Maths, English, French and German,and always last in Geography History, Biology and Chemistry! No half measures with me! Mind you, it was Cheltenham Grammar, so no disgrace there! I did shed a tear or two when I scanned them in thinking of the upheaval our family and Susan and I in particular was to suffer.
Nothing stirred the next day till about 11am except the tapping of the keys on my PC! Mum n Chet were worn out, but we eventually set off on one of my famous exploratory journeys of local villages and Churches. We visited Fairford which has the finest collection of Medieval stained glass in the country due to its being buried in the war to protect it from bombs. It is stunningly beautiful, and though I am not religious, I could feel a greater power at work.
We then went to Bibury, probably the most picturesque of the Cotswold villages, with a lovely stream running through the main road complete with predatory huge trout which hover in the current to gulp unsuspecting lava being washed downstream. I then took them to the Bibury Court Hotel, built in the 1660's and set in its own parkland. We had a very civilised tea and snack in the oak panelled lounge fullof antiques and chatted to a visiting Australian couple. He was an architect, and Chet and he had that in common, so that passed a pleasant 1/2 an hour or so.
That evening we had an Indian take out, one of Mum's favourite meals as she was born in Madras. The next day I decided to take them to Ashdown House, a 16th century hunting lodge four storeys high, built for the Snow Queen, Elizabeth of Bohemia. It is the most romantic and unusual of all English country houses, and is set in forested grounds in the middle of uninhabited Berkshire downs. When I pointed out to the tour guide the humour behind her statement that the Snow Queen reigned, it broke the solemnity of the party! (OK, who groaned then?)! It was sadly pouring with rain by then, though that did not deter me from venturing out onto the precarious decking on the cupola 100 feet above the ground and taking some stunning shots. One of the party even walked out with me and protected me with her brolly!
When the time came to go, it was raining so hard, and my car was 1/2 a mile away, so the guide kindly offered to give Mum, Chet and me a lift to it. We were most grateful until it broke down even further away from my car than when we started off due to a small sightseeing detour! Having phoned the garage for help, Peter, the guide offered to get my car and drive it to us. As Mum had his two dogs on her lap, and we had otherplaces to go, I gratefully accepted. Until, that was I discovered my keys were missing! What else could go wrong? Peter had to go and cash up in the office, and set off with the intention of doing that and looking for my keys!
Poor Mum n Chet! Some holiday! Then the garage man appeared and the car, of course started instantly. As I got out to stretch my legs, the missing keys fell on to the ground! They had been under my bum all the time! Good job I wasn't that Princess of the pea fame! By this time it was getting cold, wet, dark and miserable, so we decided to make our way home. I cooked a bolognaise with egg tagliatelle, and we soon warmed up!
The next day we had a full English breakfast at the 17th century tearooms in
Highworth and visited several other equally interesting villages. On Friday
we went to Worcester to visit two relatives of Mums and stopped at Birdlip a
famous local beauty spot overlooking the Severn plain across to Malvern
where I had my antique shop. We then stopped off to visit Chris, a guy I
teach to use the computer. He has cerebral palsy, is a chair user, cannot
talk and barely use his arms, but has a wonderfully rebellious nature and a
winning smile! I sorted his computer out for him, then we set off for
Worcester, stopping on the way to eat fish n chips we had bought in Gloucester.
We arrived at Christine and Terrys to find she had prepared a magnificent meal for us, and after a great evening, set off back around 10.30. It took me 55 minutes to do the 65 miles home! On Saturday we went to Brian and June's place in Fleet, set in wonderful forested Hampshire. I had not seen Brian for 40 years, so it was a very emotional experience for me. June and Brian were the perfect hosts, and June's cooking tempted me to ask if I could move in, but I refrained! In the afternoon we visited Noreyne, Mum's sister who is in a care home a few miles away. Noreyne was in good spirits and had us all in stitches mimicking her Father speaking one of the Indian dialects where she and Mum were brought up. On the way home we spotted a huge (all of 100' high) red balloon that had landed virtually in someone's back garden, so I parked and out came the infamous camera! It almost made up for the missed landing at heathrow, though not quite!
I left Mum n Chet at Brians and returned home, about 60 miles away as I wanted to be there for a VERY important phone call! I drove back the next day because Julie, my sister Susan's daughter was arriving from London where she runs a costume design busines for the theatres there. I had not seen her since she was 10, about 22 years, so another very emotional moment! I have always felt close to Julie though I barely know her in reality. She was staying in New York in August/September, visiting Broadway theatres, and living in an hotel a block away from the twin towers. The day before the towers were struck she was in the restaurant at the top, and left from Newark the same day, arriving back in England about 930am of the day the tragedy occurred. Ouch! June provided one of her now famous meals, and the evening ended far too quickly for my liking. I drove Julie to the station, and after fond farewells and a promise to return on the day before Mum n Chet's departure, I drove home full of mixed emotions. It was almost like discovering I had a family after all in this country, and that was a great feeling. To add to all this, Mum phoned tonight from friends in Ipswich and I spoke to Rodney, one of dad's friends from the 50's. I remembered many of the old names from 50 years ago though I was only 5 years old! Phew! I am now physically and emotionally drained, so I will stop there!
Here are links to many of the places I have visited and photographed.
In case you didn't know I have an arm and leg paralysed and often take pictures on the move! This entaiils steering the Range Rover with my knee whilst I do so! Hence the occasional wobbly picture!
To e-mail us click the link below
The elephants and the mouseThe day I locked myself out
The Grand Canyon
Jerome and Sedona
The lost village
Accident at home
Avebury burial mound
Sequel to Avebury
The cuckoo clock
Pictures taken on my last trip to England
Lambourne and the White horse of Uffington
Alvescot, Black Bourton and Brize Norton.
Shilton, Lechlade and barges
Aldbourne, Baydon and Ashdown house.
Purton, Blunsdon and a railway
Coxwell, the great barn and St Andrews
Dauntsey swapmeet-my first attempt at writing!
Highworth, the Jesmond and Stanton Fitzwarren.
Sevenhampton, Ian fleming and South Marston.
Whelford, Kempsford and Eysey revisited
Malmesbury, Lydiard Tregoz, Ashdown, Ashbury.
Faringdon Folly and Coleshill
Cirencester, South Cerney, rainbows and a wedding.
Lacock, the Abbey and the white horse
Ginger's visit to England
Ginger's visit to England 2
Ginger's visit to England 3
Ginger's visit to England 4
Ginger's visit to England 5
Pictures of my village, Highworth.