Dad Uncategorized

When security was as simple as a padlock…

Or how one thing can lead to another…
I was recently at Normandy Barracks in Leconfield, East Yorkshire. The reason for my visit was to see the chapel where there was a plaque commemorating the 6 servicemen killed at 8:45am on 13th October 1956. They were:
– Sergeant B Jones
– Corporal J Bryant
– Corporal W E Lewis
– Corporal A E J Smith
– Lance Corporal V C Bowers
– Sapper J E Coates

Uncle Jimmy (after whom I get my middle name) was the corporal named above. He was only in his early twenties, and of course we never knew each other. After Pa died last year I realised that I needed to do more investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death (it was not something Pa spoke of very much).
The accident occurred on a single track railway when an unauthorised train was allowed onto the track and a head on collision occurred. The 6 men were in a wooden box van on the train which was reduced to matchwood. Although there was an enquiry and there were questions in the House of Commons afterwards about safety, I got the impression that the failure to use a token to control access to the line was a normal occurrence, but the fog that day led to the crash and deaths.
I had tracked the crash to Longmoor railway line, and by the benefit of the Internet tracked down the editor or the Royal Engineer veterans magazine where many years ago a photo of the crash had been published. He, amazingly, put me in touch with a friend of Uncle Jimmy\’s who was on the train at the time, and had run back to the signal box to summon assistance.
As a result of these investigations I discovered that a memorial to the 6 was in the chapel at Longmoor but would have been moved in the 70\’s when the Transport Corp moved. There were family recollections of it being near Kingston Upon Hull so I contact the RE Association there, and discovered that the chapel contents had been transferred to Normandy Barracks. Jimmy\’s memorial was there! To boot, Pa had been made an honorary member of the RE Association there, and attended the annual ceremony in the chapel and knew of the plaque\’s existence. A poor quality photograph was around, but nothing else. I resolved to visit someday and get a photo, and understand more.
What was really quite weird was that 1981 whilst a student at Hull Uni, I had paid a visit to the Barracks to visit an old schoolmate of Pa\’s. Pa did not know of – and so did not mention – that his brother\’s memorial was there. The visit was off the cuff, and (being 1981) a scruffy student cycling up to the guardhouse asking if there was an officer by the name of W E (surname redacted) on site caused a little excitement – but I was let in and spent a pleasant afternoon with Pa\’s chum, his wife and young daughter (crawling then, but now must be in her 30\’s).
Anyway, on our recent visit to the area we made an appointment to visit the chapel and amongst some beautiful stained glass, Jimmy and his 5 colleagues plaque was found. Mission accomplished.
On leaving the chapel we were chatting to the verger and she pointed out the telephone box just around the corner. It was red. \”So\” you might say, but this is 01482 territory and telephone boxes are white in the independent Hull telephone area.
So, to the point of the tale. This phone box was from the WWII era, when Halifax bombers were stationed here – the phone box was the only contact point the aircrew had with the outside world. The reason the box was still in place was that it still had the hasp end of the padlock used to lock the phone box shut. The reason for the padlock? Once aircrew were assigned to a mission they were permitted a phone call to someone (a veteran reportedly called his priest); but as the briefing for the mission was being given the phone box was padlocked shut to prevent word of the targets being leaked either deliberately or accidentally.
Imagine that. No go on, imagine that, really – imagine that. Complete communication lockdown with a simple padlock.

Armistice Day Dad Somme Trip Uncategorized

Cpl A G Bryant

Armistice Day Dad Somme Trip Uncategorized

L/Cpl D A Bryant

Armistice Day Dad Somme Trip Uncategorized

11/11/11 we will remember them

Dad London Uncategorized

I\’ve finally worked out why strolling the streets of London has this effect…

And by effect I mean a degree of melancholy. It\’s not a bad thing, it just is. But it\’s because as soon as I hit the streets of the more historical areas of London it inevitably brings back memories. Memories of Pa explaining the sights, statues, buildings, history etc; and in later years either talking to Pa on the phone about a recent trip or calling him whilst in town, to find out something I\’d forgotten (the location of the London Stone comes to me mind see – I was within a 100 yards or so, but could not recall quite where it should be).

For a (right bloody (c) Peter Sellers) Yorkshireman, he knew a lot about London. He could have passed the knowledge test for taxi drivers I should think. He made a decent tour guide too (as long as you weren\’t a bloody tourist!).

So I walk these streets with memories, and echoes of times gone by.

And, it seems, almost inevitably, I end up in the very first pub Dad took me (and me alone). We\’d been shooting at the rifle club under Somerset House, and as usual I\’d \”whopped his ass\” with the pistol. Having finished we wanted to quench thirsts. We went to the Wellington on the corner of The Strand. I was under age, so had a soft drink (I think I declined the offer of alcohol as I was dry having got stupidly (stupid as in drinking in the evening without having eaten anything ALL DAY) drunk the previous Christmas at the Curry\’s Loughton staff do). We returned home to Essex by tube.

A few months later I returned with some school friends, having some time to kill before a demonstration of quadrophonic playback at the IEEE around the corner. This demo was especially good, as it feature Atom Heart Mother by Pink Floyd. \”I know a pub\” i declared – as if they would be hard to find 😉 Happy days!

A few decades later, and I\’m back again. It\’s hardly changed, except the prices and the cigarette smoke.

Dad Uncategorized

Dad, RIP

We interred Pa yesterday at the Epping Forest Woodland Burial Park.

Dad Uncategorized

Start the clocks – 1 year on

If I\’ve done this right this post will be appear 1 year to the minute since Dad died.

If you\’re familiar with Auden (or more likely – Four Weddings and a Funeral) you\’ll know of the poem Funeral Blues [discussed (but not reproduced) at Wikipedia] by W H Auden, it starts with the famous words \”Stop the clocks\”.  It is (so I hope) legally reproduced here: Funeral Blues

Well, the day before Dad died was a Friday, and that\’s the day I wind the clock in my office.  I\’ve even a repeat appointment in my diary to remind me (you\’d think I\’d remember!).  But on this Friday I\’d spent most of the day at the Hospice with Dad, although (to be honest), he wasn\’t really with it any longer.  I got a few moments of conversation with him, but the morphine and other drugs were by now leaving him largely asleep or  detached from the outside world.  Still, it was good, and right, to be there.

However, towards the end of the afternoon, I returned home as we had a long standing dinner engagement with some friends (who, having been through this recently would be able to a) pass on their experience, and b) provide something different from the last week whilst Dad had been at the Hospice).  During the meal, I turned my phone to silent (I cannot bear phone calls in restaurants) and enjoyed their company.  However, after coffee was ordered I looked at my phone and saw I\’d missed a couple of calls.

I went outside to check them, and they were from the my family at the Hospice – they were visiting Dad and things seemed to be getting worse.
We quickly abandoned further plans for the evening, and I took the car and rushed down to be there.  Dad was more poorly, but (sort of) stable.  For hours we stayed, talked, and tried to decide what to do.  In the end, two of us stayed over and slept in the lounge area, to be close.  With very clear instructions to be woken if anything should change.

In the morning, things were pretty much the same, and we spent the day waiting to see how things would develop.  I suspected (although I could not confirm it until over a week later), that during the morning Dad was placed on the LCP (Liverpool Care Pathway).  His condition deteriorated with almost imperceptible progress.

During the afternoon, suspecting I\’d be spending a further night there, I called my wife, and arranged to meet midway to pick up a bag of clothes and so on, so that I could feel a little more human.  And then returned to the Hospice.

That evening we took dinner in shifts, so that someone would always be there, and as the evening wore on, I decided to stay down there again.  As we were making arrangments, and sorting things out, we were called back to Dad\’s room with some urgency. At 22:01 he died.

Over the next few days we did what you do, but eventually I had to return to the office to sort out some work stuff and there I discovered, that having forgotten to wind my office clock, it had stopped about 1 hour before Dad died.  For some reason I wasn\’t eager to start it.  No psychobabble, or soft hippy sentiment here, just plain didn\’t want to.  Only a few days later I recalled the poem.

Over the coming months, nothing changed.  But a year on, it\’s time to move on a further step into the \”new normal\”.  About now, I will wind the clock, think of Dad, and remember.

Dad Doctor Who Uncategorized

So, Doctor Who\’s back. And there\’s something I\’d forgotten for years.

Whilst looking around at the net after the news of Elisabeth Sladen's death I found this web page: – and I had completely forgotten about him.

As a kid when the credits rolled at the end of the programme I got a vicarious thrill of seeing my name appear week after week. My family would disabuse me, and maybe say it was my Uncle Peter. But I experienced the thrill nonetheless.

Friends and family might be more amused if they read the entry more carefully (email me if you don't see why!).

Dad Uncategorized

52 weeks ago today… Chinese Grand Prix

I drove down to Harlow to visit my father in the Hospice. Since he'd become quite ill with the cancer that was to kill him, I'd used sporting occasions to provide a reason to go and visit and spend some time with him, without turning it into a \”visiting the sick\” scenario. He knew and understood that, and was grateful for it.

During February and March it was, of course, the Six Nations Rugby, that provided the reason. We'd watch a match or three, criticise England and the BBC, but have a (as much as possible) good time, it meant a lot to me, and I believe it did for him.

After the rugby comes the Formula 1 season with it's generally boring processions around circuits. Our fascination with it had diminished over the last few years as off the track stuff (politics, strategy, pit lane stuff) took over from raw driving to make it less of a spectacle.

But a year ago I drove down to watch the replay of the Chinese Grand Prix with dad, when I got there he was in a deep sleep, but the TV was on – sound muted. I sat quietly, not daring to read my paper in case the rustling of the Sunday Telegraph might wake him; and gathered what I could of the race from the footage. An hour or two after the race finished, dad woke, fairly briefly and i discovered that he'd watched the live broadcast that morning having been unexpectedly awake early. We chatted for a bit, and he went back to sleep. I stayed a few more hours, hoping he'd wake again, but he slept heavily. So eventually I left him to it and returned home.

Today was the Chinese Grand Prix again, and this time it was chock full of excitement, good driving and entertainment. I don't recognise last year's race from this at all:

Dad would have liked it though.

Dad Uncategorized

Great news, but 18 months too late for this household

I just hope it works well…