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As Time Goes By: Remembered Pleasures

Eileen Perrin tells of runningt a writing class as she continues her account of happy reti9rement years.

Les and I were both members of Harrow University of the Third Age and had joined groups studying poetry, psychology and sociology, as well as attending monthly talks.

One of the many interesting outings in 1997 arranged by our poetry group leader was to Chenies Manor, dating from 1180 when it was owned by the Cheyne family.

By 1997 I had been running a Creative Writing group on a Monday afternoon for five years, and had about twelve who met in our front room for two hours, with a short tea break. One of them was originally from Poland and in World War 2 he was conscripted to become a Bevan boy to go down the mines. Another Jewish man was from Berlin and although he was put at first into the Pioneer Corps, he volunteered for the Royal Navy. He was accepted as a wireless operator to work on messages intercepted from German U boats, which were passed on to the decoding team at Bletchley Park who had the Enigma machine.

There were two retired teachers, a nurse, a Merchant Navy officer, an artist, a childrens’ welfare officer, a pharmacist, and his wife who had worked at the prestigious house of John Murray’s, the longest surviving publishing house in the world. Starting in 1768 it was said they had published Byron down to Betjeman, and Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’.

The creative writing group went on meeting for twelve years and from the start each member would come and sit in the self-same seat every time, until at one meeting I asked them to move two places to the left, I said - ‘to get a different perspective’- to try to break their intractable choices. At tea break they quickly reverted to their original places, and so it went on exactly the same at every meeting for the span of the twelve years.

I should not have been surprised as at the monthly meetings of the Suffolk family history group which I had in our home, the chairs were similarly occupied. A strange quirk of human nature, I think.

In April 1997 Les and I flew to Majorca and stayed in Cala d’Or on the southeast coast. The beautiful hotel Ponent Playa was right on the beach and alongside an inlet from the Mediterranean.

During our holiday we were taken to the capital Palma to go round the cathedral and marvelled at the immense number of yachts in the marina, and we went north to Valledemossa where Chopin had once stayed for a while.

Marjorca did not have any ancient sites like those we had seen in Italy when we were taken to Pompeii and to the Arena in Rome, but in the botanical gardens besides a grove of rubber trees and many different types of cacti we found a 1000 year old olive tree.

In May of ‘97 Tony Blair was elected as England’s Prime Minister.

Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris.

On July 10th we were staying in Herefordshire at the Royal Hotel in Ross overlooking the river Wye. For our wedding anniversary Les had a beautiful basket of flowers sent in for our table. We had spent our honeymoon in Ross in July 1945 and we went around reliving old memories, visiting Goodrich castle and Tintern Abbey.

Memorable films of that year included ‘Titanic’ with Leonardo Di Capricio, Spielberg’s ‘Jurassic Park’, and ‘Mrs.Brown’ with Judi Dench.

On an October tour round Sussex and Hampshire we stayed in a hotel on Hayling Island opposite the Solent, and visited the picturesque old harbour of Bosham, and Portsmouth Dockyard where we went over Nelson’s flagship the Victory.

On the route home Les made sure we had a visit to the Military Aviation Museum at Tangmere in Sussex, which began as an airfield in 1916, and was one of the front line’s fighter plane bases in WW2. It was from there that secret S.O.E. operators were flown in black Lysanders out to France.

In November we went to Denia in Spain, on Valencia’s Costa Blanca.

At Christmas we were again with Val and Anne Marie, Tara and Gemma at Dry Drayton in Cambridgeshire. Cathy and her four children – Elizabeth, Rosemary, Josephine and Rowland - came on the 25th and stayed over to Boxing Day.

We returned there in February 1998 to celebrate Val and Anne Marie’s 50th birthdays with a dinner at the Three Horseshoes pub in Madingley.

After Leslie’s operation in May we had a week’s holiday in June in the Isle of Wight, staying in Shanklin, and in July we went to Lavenham in Suffolk, staying in the Swan Inn. In September we went with Saga to Writtle Agricultural College in Essex and went to Maldon on the river Crouch, visited Tiptree where they make high quality preserves of many kinds from fruit grown on the farm, and discovered some lovely old Essex villages.

Early in November Geoff and Lynda Brooker came over from Canada to visit the family and we took them out to lunch at the Cumberland Hotel in Harrow where we had once had Cathy’s wedding breakfast.

To round off our holiday tours for the year we went over to southern Spain to La Manga to stay in the Hotel Delphines. We went to Cartegena where there is a Roman amphitheatre, and to Carravaga where at some time of year they race horses through the streets up to the castle.

This year at Christmas 1998, which we spent with Val’s family in Cambridgeshire, we were joined by Cathy and children, and following her divorce some years previously, accompanied by her new partner Graham.


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