My Unfinished Father – A Life Lived to the Full – Part 16

In My Father’s Words Directory

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My Unfinished Father – A Life Lived to the Full

A Life Lived to the Full

03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018

Brian Matier

Part 16 – Pages 150 – 170

NB; this is a long chapter – l am closing in towards the end of the manuscript, and hoping to have the series concluded by the end of this week. I post this mostly for my own archive.

A NEW ERA

We had become aware that our family was breaking up with Rory, now eighteen and about to leave home quite soon to make his own way in the world. Jenny was only thirteen but, would, undoubtedly want to make her own way in the world too.

The job was becoming busier as I had become involved in ASIS (the American Society for Industrial Security) a professional trade body based in the United States which at that time was making great strides in the United Kingdom.  Part of the attraction of ASIS was that it ran two meetings a year in Europe and an annual get together in a different city in the US.  As a keen professional, I attended every gathering that I could.

In addition Mobil Corporation was becoming a little more international and in December 1981 they ran their own meeting in Hamburg in Germany.  Our host was the German security manager, a Karsten von Kleist.  Von Kleist is, or was in 1981, a famous name in Germany.  A number of Hitler’s generals, including one Field Marshal had been from the family, including Karsten’s uncle. They could trace their military roots to before the Battle of Waterloo.

The security personnel from a variety of African countries, and Americans plus a gaggle of Europeans all attended

Karsten was remarkable for his Deutsche Grundlichkeit, German thoroughness.  In the morning he would make an announcement like “Coffee will be served at three minutes past nine,” and it was, at exactly three minutes past nine.

We made great friends with two rascals from South Africa, Graham Barr and ‘Kits’ Kitshof.  Graham was a Zimbabwean who was the security manager for the Durban Refinery and Kits was responsible for overall country security.

These two roles corresponded pretty well to what Peter Lee and I did in UK and all four became great friends. Naturally we had a marvellous time.  What with the interesting lectures and exercise put on by the US colleagues, the four of us spent a couple of hours every evening in the Reeperbahn, viewing the girls.  But there was nothing more I can assure you.

Graham was sadly murdered in his own home in Durban during a robbery which demonstrates how unpleasant and dangerous life could be in South Africa. Kits was still alive and well when I was there in 2000.

In January 1982 we organised a special treat for Jenny.  A loyal devotee of Barry Manilow, we booked tickets at the Brighton Pavilion to attend his concert.  Even when we entered the theatre we did not tell her who we were going to see.  Of course she nearly exploded when Barry came on stage.  His performance was pretty good.

In April I found myself in Christchurch in Hampshire.  I have no idea why I was there but, looking back, it would be another 35 years before I was in Christchurch again.

About this time we bought a couple of pets for Jenny.  One was a rabbit called Sydney and the other was a guinea pig who rejoiced in the name Chalky. Both were white.  She gave these two all her love and attention for about a month before, as in the manner of most kids, forgetting all about them and leaving them to the care of her parents.

We also visited Poole Harbour and Corfe Castle with its slow climb up the sloping entrance way. We also drove across the entrance to Poole Harbour, using the Sandbanks Ferry. There are plenty of very expensive properties there.

In May we took off without the kids and went again to Germany.  Our first night was in Cologne where we were unlucky enough to book a hotel within hearing distance of the cathedral’s bells.  I don’t remember if they sounded all night, but they rang often enough to prevent our having a good night’s rest.

The Cathedral which had survived the War more or less in one piece, was magnificent and we explored it thoroughly.  Part of the charm of Koln was the amount of activity going on around the Dom.  There were fire eaters and dancers and skaters. There was also an open air market, with loads of stalls.

Having explored the city thoroughly, we took the car and drove alongside the Rhine to Rudesheim. Having admired the magnificent river from many angles, we drove to the top of the hill outside Rudesheim to visit the Denkmal, or monument, to the formation of the German Empire in 1871. Rudesheim, although built on the side of a river, had all the appearance of a seaside resort in England, even to the extent of the ice creams which they sold. We also visited the statue of Kaiser Wilhelm II at Deutsches Eck in Koblenz.

At sometime, in the eighties this statue was torn down for reasons I cannot explain, only to be subsequently rebuilt.  When I was on the Rhine in 2017, I visited the good old Kaiser’s statue. We overnighted in Bacharach and later visited Heidleberg which we found utterly charming.  Heidleberg seems to be built around a long pedestrian street or Fussganger Bereich.

We explored alongside the Mosel which was a different kind of River to the Rhine, with low hills sweeping gently back from the river.  At the right time of year these hills are covered in vines.  The right time of year was still a couple of months away when we were there. The Mosel flows into the Rhine at Koblenz, at a spot called Deutsche Eck or German corner. We enjoyed Bernkastel, which seemed to me to be a pleasant and typical town. The Rhine was surrounded by quite steep, vine covered, hills.  On the top of many peaks was a fortress, in differing states of repair.

In June 1982 we had a trip to Ireland, this time taking Jenny along. We stopped with Mum and Dad in their Caravan or mobile home as I was now learning to call it. Again we paid a visit to Dublin.

In July we drove down to Spain or more properly to Catalonia.  We had rented a villa at a place called St Martin which was on the beach.  Rory did not come with us. However Jenny brought her best friend along.  We had a pretty good time and did all the usual things.

On one evening we had dinner in Barcelona where they served white wine from stone pitchers.  Margaret acted as though this was water and got herself totally drunk.  No one of us, primarily me, could make her stop or moderate her drinking with the inevitable result she ended up drunk. Did she have a headache the next morning? It would turn out to be only the first of two occasions when I can honestly say that I saw my wife drunk.

Near to the village where we were staying was a collection of Greek remains called Ampurias De la Selva.  There were lots of Greek and Roman statues with arms and heads missing. A nearby village was called Puerta de la Selva with a fine beach.

Back home things took on their natural progression of life.  I visited Sunderland Terminal and, like a sensible man, stayed overnight in the Royal County Hotel in Durham.  Over the years since visiting Durham I had become very attached to the Cathedral and the River Wear.

The cricket season started and started well, with 85 runs in the first five innings.  Things slowed after that and I ended the season with a total of 155 runs for fourteen times out.  I played 18 games in the season. Over the years i had played a total of 330 games and scored 1783 runs with a highest score of 44.  Not the most successful lifelong achievement, but it had given me a great deal of both pleasure and pain. I decided, at the age of 44, I had done enough and retired from playing cricket. I am sure my wife was pleased.

In October we were back in Paris. I am not sure why we were there but as Jenny was with us, it was probably not business.  We went to Versailles and were staggered at the beauty and range of the place.  The hall of mirrors was pretty amazing. As was indeed the area set aside for the ladies of the court.. We visited the Madelaine church and La Notre Dame and took lots of photos. We had got to know Paris very well. In October we went to Gothenburg, in Sweden, for an ASIS conference.  In addition to the business aspects of the meeting we did a lot of tourist activities. 

These included a visit to the Maritime Museum. We assembled in the City Hall for dinner.  The foreigners among us thought that drinks in Sweden were very much more expensive than they should be.  On remarking thus, we were given what was I suppose the standard Swedish response.  “You think it is expensive here?  Let me tell you that the Norwegians come here to smuggle it back to Norway.”

On Boxing Day 1982 I played my last game of football.  It was a scratch match amongst the St John’s cricketers and within the first five minutes I realised that I probably should have given my boots away some time before.

During 1982 the country had fought and won the Falklands War, due to the courage of our armed forces and the determination of our Prime Minister.  And 1982 disappeared into the mists with the arrival of i983.

In Victoria Street meanwhile there were several visits by political visitors to UK including one by Mr Moy of Kenya.  In the spring of 1983 we took my parents off to Heathrow to catch a flight to Australia and a six week break. At their age I thought that this was a pretty brave move.

We went to car rally at Ewell during which my love of Jaguars was renewed.

A formal dinner was held at the Paris Town Hall where the Mayor and future President of the Republic, Jacques Chirac made a speech of welcome in French.  I replied in French from a prepared script as by this time I had become Vice President for Europe.  It was pretty well received. M Chirac told me I spoke French with an English accent.

The following day we had dinner on board a bateau mouche, even though the boat stayed exactly where it was because of the problem getting underneath the bridges.

On the Sunday morning we were in Luxembourg City.  There was no rain there. We had a day or so wandering in Luxembourg which is pretty photogenic. We went on to drive along the Rhine and into the Mosel which was about the third time I had been there in three years.

Jenny by now had acquired a boyfriend.  We were a bit dubious about him.  Later there would be the problems but at present all was quiet.  I remembered that his Dad had a great liking for John Denver, the American country singer, later to die in an aircraft downing.

Jenny went on holiday to Tenby in Wales and seemed to have enjoyed her freedom.  At least she brought home a few photos. Other travellers to return carrying photographs were Mum and Dad back from Australia.

We celebrated Margaret’s 43rd Birthday in Brighton on a perfect summer’s day. We were both wearing shorts. 

On 24th June we travelled to Bucklers hard, an old fashioned village on the New Forest.  While passing through the Forest we met a few very tame New Forest Ponies. The town itself consists of a couple of rows of houses, of about 17th Century vintage running down to the sea.  In its day it was one of the biggest ship building towns of wooden vessels in England.

In between times we also paid an interesting visit to the Butterfly Museum at Syon Park. We visited Rory’s new place of employment, the Red Lion at Ockley.  Here he met up with the actor, Oliver Reid.  Ollie was a wild man, both on and off the stage. Ollie would come into the Red Lion and inevitably initiate a fight which would effectively destroy the bar area. 

Somebody would then give his wife a call at home and she would arrive, a fierce 5 foot 2 inch tall and diminutive woman of about seven stone five who would simply call upon Ollie to “Stop that and come home.”  Ollie would obey both commands and, meek as a lamb, was led away by Josephine.

The following day Ollie would turn up at the Red Lion, full of apologies and remorse and pay in cash for what he owed. Oliver Reid’s wild life came to an end during the filming of ‘Gladiator’ when he suffered a heart attack.

In June we got tickets, through the company, for the quarter finals at Wimbledon.  It was a very good day and, among others, we saw John McEnroe play.  It was the first and only time I had been to Wimbledon.

Later in July we went by sea to Ireland by Sealink.  We stopped in O’Shea’s hotel in Bray.  I recall some kind of incident happening over a locked hotel room door.  Rather than spend time getting a locksmith out, hotel staff just smashed the lock.  Well that’s one way.

We went to Glendalough, in Wexford, with its famous Round Towers.  It was the first time I had been there since 1965 but nothing looked like it had changed. We went to Powerscourt, an Irish stately home, now sadly neglected and run down.

In 1983 the World Petroleum Congress was staged in London.  The Congress was held every four years.  My interest was minimal until I was loaned by Mobil to act as Security Adviser.

We started at the Royal Albert Hall where the session was opened by the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles.

I had command of a small team of girls who were to act as guides to the various VIPs. One girl, Georgie, was madly, wildly in love with the prince.  Underneath the central area of the RAH are a couple of tunnels which lead to the back of the stage.  At the appointed hour I lead my team to the backstage where we met another team lead by Charles himself to meet up with us. 

From the stage the MC indicated to Charles that he would have to wait a few minutes.  Obediently he nodded, and turned around to talk to the girls.  He spoke to Georgie. 

“Hello.  What’s your name?”

Georgie gurgled and spluttered but not one word that made sense came from her.

Prince Charles persevered.  “What is your job?”

More spluttering followed.  The Prince moved on to the next girl in the line.  Fortunately she retained her powers of speech.  Poor old Georgie came in for a good deal of stick over her inability to speak.  In due course the Prince and all his trailing girls went onto the stage.

After its opening, WPC continued for five days until early September in the Barbican.  My job was to work with the Barbican security team and a pretty pleasant bunch of folks they were.  We also had to liaise very closely with the City of London Police.  All went well.  The entertainment was provided by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen.  After a week everyone packed up and went home.  All had been a lot of fun.

A week or two after the Congress ended I received some disturbing news.  During the Congress a man from the government had assisted me, or I had assisted him in arranging offshore visits for approved personnel.  The announcement on the radio was to the effect that the gent, one Mike Bettany, had been arrested for spying for the Czechs, then a Communist country within the Iron Curtain.

I was deeply shocked but subsequently reassured that it was in no way connected with the work he had carried out in the oil industry.

I had become very involved in photography, and I entered a number of photographic competitions run by Mobil News.

My new world encompassed lots of talk about ASA numbers and I made friends with Tommy Boylan who was a general hand at Mobil House and knew a lot about cameras.  I was using an Olympus OM 10, a very fine camera in the days before digital units.

As we headed south I would stop the car for any subject that seemed photo worthy.  In one small French market town we stopped just to be part of the atmosphere. On a small music market stage sat a young girl, about two years old with her small tricycle beside her. I didn’t know where her parents were but she seemed so alone and lost I took her picture.  It turned out to be special and later won first prize in the Mobil News competition of, I think, £50.

As can probably be gathered, we had become very fond of Catalonia for our holidays and there was a very good company called Catalan Holidays operating the area at the time.

We met a crazy coconut seller on the beach who seemed to take his personal safety very lightly by cracking open the nuts with a very large, very sharp knife while holding the nut in his hand.

We met up with Rory’s’ French pen pal and his girlfriend, Anne and spent a day on the beach with them. We went to Roses to watch the Flamenco dancers, a lot of very haughty ladies twirling around in spectacular dresses.

And so our holiday ended and soon we were on our way home via Andorra.  We were rewarded by some spectacular shots of the Pyrenees en route.

In October I was back in the Netherlands for an ASIS meeting and I note that I spent quite some time exploring the canals which are splendid.

Christmas at St John’s Rise was pretty wild with Jenny, nearing sixteen and acting up a bit with her mates and boyfriend.  She came to us about Christmas and announced that she and Russell wanted to get engaged to be married.  We both thought that she was too young for such a step but decided to go along with it, asking her how we could help.  She later said that she had expected opposition to her idea and was prepared to fight.  There was nothing for her to fight and so the idea faded away and gradually faded away altogether.

Rory was around for Christmas Day as was Jasmine who had her photo taken sticking her nose into various parcels.

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In February 1984 we spent an interesting day at Selsey.  I took a lot of photos of Geraldine and of the beach.

In March 1984 we took another trip to Ireland.  Mum was beginning to suffer from dementia and, sadly, was rather confused.  This was sometimes funny but more often depressing and sad. She would die from a stroke in 1995 aged 71.

The Mournes were beautiful and we went to Seven Arches Bridge in Newcastle for, as far as I can remember, the first time. I counted ten arches, but perhaps they cannot count in County Down. It was, of course, spring time and the lambing was going on.  There are plenty of sheep in the Mournes. Spring was especially beautiful round about London as well giving us hopes of a good summer.

In May I went to Bruges in Belgium.  I cannot remember why but I suppose it was connected to ASIS.  I took a couple of canal trips on the stunning canal system they have in Bruges.  I took lots of photos of the canals and the town.

I then moved on to Knokke Heist which is on the Atlantic.  We held our ASIS meeting in the great Hall built beside the ocean. I can still remember, after all these years, how cold it was that spring in Belgium. But the spring warmed up into a fairly decent summer and we continued with our explorations.

We spent some time at Basing and Old Basing.  These were very old parts of England where much of our history was enacted, going back to Anglo Saxon times. We looked at the ruins of Old Basing House, destroyed in the English Civil War.

In August I went to the first day of the fifth Test against the West Indies.  There was some interesting cricket but 1984 was not a good summer for English cricket.  We lost the series five nothing.  Still, I did get to watch Botham which was something.

We visited Tolpuddle, a medieval town, famous for the Martyrs.  These were working class men who were arrested in the town during riots about work. A pretty little town was Tolpuddle but it was quiet on the day we were there.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of six agricultural labourers who basically broke the law of the land in the eighteenth century by forming a trade union.  They were put on trial, found guilty and sentenced to transportation to Australia.

In September we all went to see Sinatra at the Royal Albert Hall.  The man could still sing but his performance lacked the intensity of the previous times we had seen him in 72 and 83.

Late in September Rory and I took off on a boy’s holiday.  Rory was perfectly capable of looking after himself overseas but a holiday with him seemed a good idea at this stage of our lives.  He was twenty one and I forty six. We picked Greece mainly because he had developed a great interest in Greek history.  He was especially keen on visiting Knossos in Crete and the great ruins uncovered by Professor Evans.

First of all we travelled to Athens where we stayed for a couple of days. We did all the usual things climbing up to the Acropolis and visited the Parthenon. Athens struck me as having less greenery than any other capital city I had visited.

In a garden near Constitution Square we met up with a friendly, yet wary, bunch of feral cats.  I have noticed this before, the number of semi wild cats who live more or less cheek by jowl with humans.  We watched the guards, in their funny skirts performing their stilted high stepping outside the parliament building.

On the Sunday we went to Piraeus to catch the ferry to Rhodes, which took an epic sixteen hours. The ferry was interesting for a couple of hours.  I noticed that we were rarely out of sight of land. After they opened up the restaurant and we were able to purchase a meal.

Rhodes is a magical place with a massive Crusader Castle and a wonderful harbour, where one of the wonders of the ancient world, the Statue of the Colossus of Rhodes, to keep guard over the harbour.  Later still before being driven out, the Knights of Malta had previously been the Knights of Rhodes.

We then caught the ferry to Crete, this time a shorter journey, thank you God.  On our first day I hired a car and we went to Knossos. Professor Evans had really done a magnificent job in excavating and it was still going on.  In particular the paintings he uncovered and restored are often things of beauty.

We stopped in a hotel in Heraklion, not surprisingly called the Hotel Evans. We travelled all over the north of the island exploring all the little towns and taking dozens of photographs.  We explored Heraklion Harbour which had several half sunken ships in it. I couldn’t tell if these were relics of the Second World War. One morning we were having breakfast in the hotel discussing our plans for the following day, which was to travel to the south of the island and visit Agia Galini. We were approached by a fellow guest whom we had not spoken to.

Rory and I were in a little dread of this man as he looked like a hit man to us and we called him Peter the hit man among ourselves.

“Good morning.” He spoke and was obviously English.

“Good morning,” we replied.

“I couldn’t help overhearing you talking about your plans for tomorrow and I was wondering if I could ask you for a lift?”

“Yes, that would be fine,” I replied.  “We plan to leave about nine.” And so it was that the following day we left Heraklion with Peter the hit man as a passenger.

Over the next few hours we all relaxed and Peter shared some of his life with Rory and I.  He was a thoroughly decent man and he roared with laughter when we told him the ‘Peter the Hit man’ story. After dropping him on the south coat we never met again.

We spent several happy days exploring in and around Matala, a town in the south of the island. There are some interesting ‘hippy’ caves overlooking the sea where, in the sixties, the hippies gathered together to smoke cannabis and play music.  By the time we were there that had all gone.

And then we headed for the airport at Heraklion and flew back to Athens.  We made a pretty basic mistake at Athens airport.  There is a domestic Terminal and an International one.  Having some time to spare after our arrival, we counted our drachmae and went for dinner.

On return, we entered the terminal but could find no record of our late night BA flight.  I sought out the advice of a policeman who, helpfully, had a small Union Jack stitched to his uniform and whose English was very good. He explained that the international terminal was several miles away on the far side of the airport. 

No transport was available except for taxis.  I explained that I did not have enough money but could cash some travellers’ cheques.  That, explained my friend the policeman could only be done in the international Terminal.

Catch 22 was here and now.  If I hired a cab I could not pay him and this would cause an argument.

“Yes” agreed the policeman “But where would you prefer to have an argument, here on in the International Terminal?” 

It was a very good point and so we took off in a taxi to the elusive terminal. When we arrived I took off in search of Thomas Cook or someone similar.  The taxi driver insisted on keeping Rory as a hostage against my return. I had to go air side to find a money changer.  Here, after a bit of arguing, I changed my money and rushed back outside. Rory was still being held hostage and I bought him back.

The excitement was not yet over.  We waited a long time at passenger control while our passports were checked.  I said nothing and after a few questions went through without any fuss.  I did notice that the Immigration Officer did slam my passport down.

Rory went through the same procedure with his passport slammed down so hard it almost slipped off the end.

Rory remarked very loudly, “Someone has had a bad day.” 

The officer looked at him and signalled to a colleague who immediately grabbed Rory and led him away.  I went with him, despite being discouraged strongly from doing so.  I could see Rory getting a thumping.

He was led into a small office where he was questioned severely for about fifteen minutes and searched thoroughly after which he was dismissed in arbitrary fashion.  It was a very chastened Rory who climbed on the BA flight and who breathed a huge sigh of relief when we took off.

I leaned over and said “Never forget, you are not in Britain once you leave England.” Despite our last day we had a magnificent time in Greece.

In November we held a Chapter 44 ASIS meeting in London.  We tried to make it ultra British with Welsh Lamb on the menu and English wines to help digestion.  There were also Scottish pipers to add to the entertainment.  Sadly I could think of nothing from Ulster to make the occasion totally British.

We made a visit to Lamberhurst in Kent where I acquired a taste for English wines. Jenny was now going to Catering College and was in frequent demand to bake cakes for birthdays and wedding anniversaries.  And this she did, very satisfactorily.

The winter that year hit hard, at least by English standards, with a lot of snow blocking the roads.

East Berlin was a grim place full of flags and concrete.  We paid some Deutschmark to go on a guided tour of the Communist capital.  The museums captivated us; the nervousness of the people did not.

Once we stopped in a park for a coffee and everyone wanting the toilet had to line up to be admitted after which the toilet was inspected by a policeman after every visit.  Prior to entering, everyone, men and women were each handed two sheets of toilet paper. What you did if you had a stomach problem, God alone knows.

We had a few minutes to spend before getting back on the bus.  We wandered into a man selling bratwurst from a stall.  I tried with my pigeon Deutsch to buy four sausages.  The vendor told me he was not permitted to sell to Westerners.  That shocked me more than anything I saw in East Germany.

Naturally we visited the western side of the Wall.  I regarded it as an obscenity.  The western side had graffiti, the east did not. We found plenty of things to photograph.  There seemed to be no rules on taking photos.  My interest in photographing had extended to photographing flowers. I also took great delight in sunsets.  The boy is becoming civilised.

West Berlin was an island of lightness and joy nervously surrounded by a Communist sea.

I took Jenny and her boyfriend to Germany when I went there on one of the games.  I think they enjoyed themselves although it cannot have been easy with Dad sleeping in the same hotel. We took a bit of a Rhine cruise visiting Dear old Kaiser Bill at Koblenz.

And soon it was time to travel again, this time to Madeira via Lisbon.  The great Retail Spring Conference was planned for May 1985.  Our visit to Greece had convinced the Retail General Manager Fisher that Athens was too dangerous.  He was probably right.

We spent a day in Lisbon, and St George’s Castle, before catching a flight to Funchal in Madeira.  We were aware at the time that the runway at Funchal was believed to be somewhat short of an adequate length for safe landing.  We landed OK but the passengers all applauded loudly when we touched down and landed safely.  Many had also being saying their rosaries.  This was too much; we all wondered where the hell we were bound.

To say we had a good time in Funchal would be like saying Gary Lineker was a footballer.  We had a gas.  While there I had meetings with the Chief of Police, Nuno da Costa, the British Consul, Richard Blandy, and with Grupo Quatro, or Group four.  I made in the course of three days all the arrangements I needed to for a secure Conference.

In the early part of 1986 we visited London Docklands and Hambledon, the home of cricket where the game was played in the 1700’s and 1800‘s.

And then it was back to Madeira and its smaller sister island of Porto Santo.  I note that we hired an aircraft, a twin engine De Havilland Canada Twin Otter, a splendid machine.  I read a note in the photo album that this cost us £240 a day including the crew.   What?  That is astonishing.  We used the Twin Otter to go to Porto Santo.

We were anxious to set up accommodation for any of our guests who were diverted from Madeira or who could not land there because of bad weather.        The landing strip at Puerto Santo was about 10,000 feet and was a NATO airstrip. Porto Santo was more picturesque than Madeira but less frequently visited. At some time during our latest visit we had tea at Reid’s Hotel, built by a Scot of that name around 1900. Having tea at Reid’s was one of the things which visitors to Madeira were expected to do.

Having access to our own aircraft gave great scope of subjects to my photography.

And then it was off to Copenhagen for the Spring ASIS meeting.  Margaret came along and had a good time.  I think we took the time to see the Little Mermaid.

Not long afterwards, in May, Mobil, who had hired a flight on Concord as a reward in the forecourt games, found they could only fill three and a bit aircraft with customers.  They offered the remaining flights to the employees who had been involved in the games.  I was offered two tickets for free.  Margaret refused to fly, so I went on my own. That was a shame.  The flight day was 21st May.

It was thrilling, absolutely.  The buzz when the aircraft went supersonic was like having a great smack in the middle of your spine,

We flew out across the Bristol Channel and the southern coast of the Irish Republic before flying around the Bay of Biscay and returning home across the south of England.  Magnificent! In addition we were entertained by the Beverly Sisters.  They were a little gray, but still very entertaining.

In October 1986 I went to California again for the ASIS meeting and the combined Mobil Security meeting.  It was great fun and very pleasurable as a tourist.  I have always been very fond of California. Much time was spent in San Francisco, checking out the various bridges and spending time hanging out at Fisherman’s Wharf.

I took a quick trip to the south of California to pay a visit to Mexico,  I asked the Immigration officer for a stamp in my passport.  He muttered and moaned a bit but eventually complied.

I took a trip to Alcatraz, the former prison island in the middle of San Francisco Bay from where, they say, no one escaped. It reminded me a bit of Robben Island in Capetown, where Nelson Mandela is imprisoned.

I took a ride on a tram, thus fulfilling a wish I have held most of my life and visited Chinatown.

Later, in June, we had a short break in the Yorkshire Dales. This is an especially beautiful part of England. A lot of our time was spent staring Swaledales in the eye.  They stared straight back.  God knows there were enough of them. We went to Aysgarth Falls and the ruins of Jervaulx Abbey. We also went to a curious cliff formation known as The Scar.

In July 1987 we made a visit to Rochester, a historic town in Kent.  Rochester was to become of greater significance in my life. I was able to connect it to the Huguenots, French Protestant refugees. Of passing, but more immediate interest was the presence of the Dickins Museum.  I never actually found Dickins to my taste.

On 23rd August 1987 my father died in St Peters Hospital in Chertsey.  We arranged for the remains to be flown back to Northern Ireland for his funeral. I last saw Dad the day before he died.  I arrived on the Saturday afternoon about 6 pm.

“Did you get the football results?”  This was the first thing he said to me.

“Yes.” I replied.

“How did Manchester Utd get on?”

“They beat Watford 2-0.”

“Thank God” he said.

It was the last proper conversation I had with Dad. Despite our differences, I had always followed him in my support for Man U. It was a conversation I had with my Dad the day before he died.  When I visited the hospital the following day, he had died.

My father died from lung and throat cancer, caused by some 65 years of smoking a pipe.  He always said that he did not regret it, getting great pleasure out of smoking.  Except for a packet of five Woodbine when I was eleven and sharing cigarettes with Anne, my then girlfriend, I never smoked.

We drove home along the Silent Valley Road and then through Bray in Wicklow where we discovered that O’Shea’s hotel was still there.

In August I went to Lords to see New Zealand beat England heavily in the Second Test Match, 413 and 77-2 wickets against256 and 230.  What had gone wrong with our cricketers? Both teams were presented to the Queen and I got a, long distance, photograph.

Halfway through June 87 Margaret and I went off to Malta for a fortnight’s holiday.  We stayed in Sliema in a building that had previously been the British Military Hospital.  I enjoyed it.   It was now called the Holiday Inn and was really a fine hotel.  When I was back in Malta in 2016 it was still there, but sadly closed up.

It was probably about this time in Malta that I formed the view that not all was right with our marriage.  I had no idea what, or how to put it right.  I just stumbled along in the dark.  At the end of our holiday, on the last day, in fact, Margaret said to me, “Listen to me, mate.  Do not think I am ever going away with you again.” Nor did she ever go on holiday again. She did not and it turned out to be the last holiday we would take together.

There are loads to see in Malta and loads to photograph.  We went to a village in Disney style which had been used for a film about Popeye.

We visited most of the major churches on the island, including the Protestant Cathedral.  A guide remarked that there were 365 Catholic churches on the island of Malta.  I asked him what they did on a leap year.  Lightly he replied “Oh, then we borrow one from the Protestants.”

I took a photograph which subsequently won me another £50 in the Mobil News.  This may well have been my last winning entry. It was of two dogs lying on some steps.  I entitled it ‘My feet are killing me.’

We went on a cruise round the island and visited the Blue Grotto, a lake of the brightest blue water.

We hired a Mini and drove around the island. We tried the various types of Maltese transport especially the vintage buses which we loved.  Well I loved; I am not so sure about Margaret. Generally we found the Maltese to be very friendly and always eager to offer assistance.

We saw the plaque, displayed on the Wall of the Town Hall, the plaque recording the award of the George Cross to the island of Malta by King George VI.  I thought it was thoroughly deserved.

We clambered up and down on the forts built at the mouth of the harbour as part of their defences.  Again when in Malta in 2016 the same forts are still standing and looking impenetrable.

I note that the sea cruise was reported as cold wet and windy.  Unfortunately it was the same in 2016, but we did see something of Gozo, Malta’s smaller but sister island.

We returned home with my being no closer to knowing what was biting my wife at the end of our trip than at the beginning.  I had always, where it was possible brought her along and she had been to many places in Europe with me.  She could have come with me to most of the US trips but had always declined as not being interested in flying.

Part 16 – Pages 150 – 170

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2 thoughts on “My Unfinished Father – A Life Lived to the Full – Part 16

    1. Hey Carol Anne – many thanks, except l didn’t write this. This was my father’s unfinished autobiography. My autobiography is elsewhere in the blog 🙂

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