Friday, 30 November 2007

MY STORY Chapter 11 Life Gets Messy

My young brother had returned to the North of England and I was trying so hard to live the prefect life. I became a perfectionist in everything I did, but also became depressed, agoraphobic and ridden with anxiety. I became afraid to eat and my weight plummeted to a little over 6 ½ stone (about 95 lbs), Anorexia before I even knew the word.

Here began a long road of addictive medication. On my first visit to my doctor, in my innocence I had thought that pills would make me better, so was only too happy to accept all that was offered, even hypnotherapy. The result was that over the next ten years I became addicted to a large number of prescription drugs until I was taking Anti-depressants 3 times a day, Librium 4 times a day and sleeping pills at night. This was in the early 60’s when the addictive quality of these pills was little known. They were the new wonder drugs. I also embarked on 5 years of Psychotherapy at the Tavistock Clinic, London’s leading psychiatric clinic at the time.

I tried to hold down my job and look as normal as possible on the outside whilst getting more desperate on the inside. A meal in a restaurant, a coffee in a coffee shop, a simple day out or a trip to the shops would all end prematurely as I would be overtaken with fear and panic. I suffered deep guilt and loss of self-esteem as I began to see myself as a failure and I could not understand my inability to cope with seemingly ordinary things. My Psychiatrist believed that a lot of my problem was suppressed anger and would do everything to try and get me to express this anger. The more he did, the more I clamped up. None of these treatments really helped me to overcome my current problems. I think the only benefit was that I developed more insight into situations.

During this time we had moved from our rented bed-sitting room to a rented one bedroom flat in Hampstead that was actually the converted top floor of a house, there being 2 flats beneath us. Two things happened while there that made us realise we needed to move on. After a change of tenants in the flat below we began to realise after a while that our telephone bills were higher than they should have been. Also on a couple of occasions I bumped into strange men on the stairs when I had got up during the night. It turned out that the girls in the flat below were running a ‘call girl’ set up and they had been coming into our flat during the day when we were at work to use our telephone.

So in 1965 we left London and bought a house in the north eastern suburbs. I was fortunate enough to be transferred from my position in a large London General Hospital to a local Geriatric Hospital where I worked as an assistant to the then Social Worker. Not too long after I started working there she moved on and after applying or her post and being successful, I became the Social Worker, taking care of the practical needs of 450 patients with the help of a secretary.

Unknown to anyone else I was becoming sicker and more reliant on medication to cope. I knew I needed help, that areas of my life were out of control, but how could I get back to that place where I knew that God was in control. I desperately wanted to hand my life back to Him. My answer came in the form of a Billy Graham Crusade in London, it was 1966. It wasn’t that I did not believe myself to be a Christian, just that I saw myself as a miserable failing one who just did not make the grade.

In desperation I persuaded my husband Alan, who was then not a Christian, to take me up to the Haringey Arena in west London. When we arrived the place was full to overflowing and we found a seat on the furthest away row, high up and at the back of the auditorium. When the appeal was given, in spite of the distance and the logistics of getting to the front, I was out of my seat like a shot. I ran for the nearest lift only to find it was being used by the St. John’s Ambulance for a medical emergency. To this day I do not clearly remember how I got to the front, but I did with tears pouring down my face, and I recommitted my life to Christ. Anyone at any time can get on their knees before God and re-commit or repent and ask Him into ones life, but for me at the time I needed to make this public declaration. I do not know how I managed to find Alan afterwards but I obviously did because he took me home.
Was this the end of my trials, definitely not, but it was the beginning of the next step of an incredible journey. God knows what He is doing as He takes us one step at a time, teaching us every step of the way through trials, suffering and joy. He perfects us through our experiences as we walk in the light trusting in Him. He finishes what He has begun and He changes us from one degree of Glory to the next. It may not feel like it at the time but He is a Gracious and Faithful God whose desire is to see us mature and find our completeness in Him. We will see how He does this in the years ahead as we travel through the continuing chapters
Our rented one bedroom flat in Hampstead
It was almost impossible to get two people in the kitchen at once
Very different to how young marrieds start out today
I have always loved reading

Changing hairstyles

This was a Vidal Sassoon

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Cotswolds Pt 13 - Hailes Abbey Ruins

Another of our visits while we were in the Cotswolds was to

Hailes Abbey Ruins

just a short drive from where we were staying.

It is the site of a 13th Century Cisterian abbey

Founded in 1256 and once a celebrated pilgrimage site, the abbey now lies in ruins.

Remains of the dramatic cloister arches survive and there is a small museum

I always find it interesting to walk around castle and abbey ruins

looking at the layouts and trying to imagine life in those times

The drain from the latrines

Pillar bases

The Monks Habit

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

MY STORY Chapter 10 Back on Terra Firma

A few months after we returned to the UK after a long sea trip Alan left the Merchant Navy for good. He found a shore job as an Engineer Surveyor for an Insurance Company. We eventually moved to London after about 6 month’s training in different parts of the country. I accompanied him while training. Some of the lodgings we stayed in were fine and others quite strange and we would have to move on quickly. We had little money so were not staying in the most salubrious of lodgings. One place in Scotland, our host’s Father was a serious alcoholic who stayed up all night eating oranges. The next morning there would be orange peel strewn everywhere. When I look back now I wonder how I ever survived some of these experiences.

We are both Northerners, Alan from the North East and me from the North West, but we eventually settled in London as this was the area that Alan’s company placed him. He worked from home, going out doing his inspections in the morning and his office work at home in the afternoon. Friendship wise we were starting from scratch so we needed to get to know some people.

I had always been in Brownies, Girl Guides and Rangers so was pleased to find there was a Boy Scout group meeting at the corner of the avenue where we lived. I went along to see them and they welcomed me with open arms as they were in need of an Akela for the Cub Pack. We were renting a bed sitting room in a large house in a predominantly Jewish area. It turned out that this was a Jewish Scout group and although it was closed to non-Jewish children they were happy for me to join them as long as I adhered to Jewish practice with the boys where necessary. Very quickly Alan was drawn in to help also and we made some deep and lasting friendships with other Scout leaders. However this Cub Pack was different to anything I had experienced before. Many of the parents were very wealthy and the boys would arrive at Cubs in chauffeur driven cars. When trying to get the boys to learn certain tasks they would ask why, as normally their Nannies did it for them. The parents however were always more than grateful when we took the boys camping and taught them some self-sufficiency. All in all it was a good experience and only came to an end when we moved away from the area some 5 years later.

During these 5 years living in London, alongside our social life I needed to work and found my niche in the Almoner’s Department of a local general hospital. Almoners who originated from wealthy people giving to the poor, became State run departments of Social Work. It always amazes me that this was the field I gravitated to because hospitals and illness frighten me. I think I was trying to allay my fears in the midst of a very interesting and rewarding job.

This was where my love of gardening began. My first garden was two window boxes on the window ledge.

So here we were attempting to get on with normal life after our exotic beginnings on board ship. However, the storm clouds are gathering though I am not aware of it. Probably as a result of my dysfunctional family life as a child I set out to try and create the perfect life. I think also I was wanting to prove to my Mother-in-Law that I was not too young to marry her son and could manage not only as good as anyone else, but better.

Also during this time my Mother suffered her first serious mental breakdown. She had undergone major surgery and while she was in hospital my Father, who had never been left to fend for himself, had a nervous breakdown and was found wandering in another city having lost his memory. Consequently my Mother returned home from hospital and instead of convalescing was immediately back into caring for my Father. It was too much for her and after a complete nervous breakdown she ended up spending a whole year in a psychiatric hospital. My Grandmother who was a widow and was helping care for my 11 year old brother, fell and broke her leg so Alan and I dropped everything and drove North to see how we could help. Alan’s company were very understanding but the hospital where I worked insisted that I would lose my job if I ever took time off again in this way.

After a week the best solution we came up with was to bring Stephen,my young brother to live with us until my Grandmother and Father were fit to look after him. In our bed sitting room we had 2 x 3 foot beds pushed together and we slept 3 to the bed with Alan in the middle. We lived like this for about 6 months. My friends from the Scout group kindly arranged for my brother to attend the Jewish school. They were very good to him and gave him lots of clothes as we had brought him down almost in what he stood up in. I remember him coming home on the first day and saying, “Barb, what’s a Gentile?” As you can imagine I was like a Mother to Stephen during this time and we became very close. He emigrated to Australia in his early twenties and I never saw him again. We eventually took Stephen back home and almost immediately another of my brothers who was a junior Chef on a large sea going liner decided to jump ship somewhere in the Mediterranean and he turned up on our doorstep when he got to London looking for help and financial support. Fortunately we had made friends with a neighbour in the bed sitting room next door and as she was going away for a while she allowed my brother to use her place while he was in our care. The sad part of this was that not long after she returned she decided to end her life in that same room one night while we were sleeping.

This brother Kenneth developed Muscular Dystrophy and he too emigrated to Australia before becoming wheelchair bound and apart from seeing him briefly when my Father died, I never saw him again. My other brother Geoffrey stayed in the UK and he too developed Muscular Dystrophy and became incapacitated.

As you can see my year of having nothing to do but amuse myself on the ship and visit the many ports, quickly turned around to something very different. The pressures and stress were building up and my way of dealing with it was to just try harder to make everything perfect. We will see the outcome of this in the next chapter.
My First Garden

The garden of our bed sitting room

As a child I longed for a red velvet dress

Stephen posing in his new clothes

The cubs at camp standing to attention for 2 minutes silence

A trip to the village store
The Akela
Gilwell International Scout Camp

Sunday, 25 November 2007

200th Post Giveaway Draw

And the winner is


Crafty Gardener

Its really strange because as the time drew near to draw this prize

I had butterflies in my stomach

I was excited to see who had won - would you believe it

Of course I wanted everyone to win as everyone who entered is a special blogging buddy

Crafty Gardener really does deserve the prize as she was the friend who turned one of my garden photos into my header

Crafty Gardener, I know you have my E-mail address so as soon as you send me your home address, which I will keep private naturally, then I will post the scarf off to you

I hope the Christmas rush has not yet started for overseas mail

Talking of 'stomach butterflies'. I was fast asleep at 2.0 am this morning

when the telephone rang right next to me

Apart from a time when we had some nuisance calls, the only middle of the night calls

I have ever had have been because of a death or an emergency in the family

By the time I had answered the phone and put it back I realised that my heart was racing

No idea what the call was as the line went dead

It took me over 2 hours to settle down again and go back to sleep

Now if that was my son, he would stay calm and collected until he knew the source of the call

Saturday, 24 November 2007

MY STORY Chapter 9 - Travelling to Spain and Switzerland

Apologies to anyone who might have read the first part of this post in an earlier posting. The second part is new to my blog

About 6 months after arriving back in the UK we were off again travelling but only for pleasure this time. Our first trip in 1961 was to Spain and our second in 1962 was to Switzerland. These journeys took place before mass travel, as we know it today, had really begun. I think it worth recording these journeys at this point, before I get into the realities of everyday life once we were back on land. The first one to Spain could be counted as one of my life’s disastrous journeys. Not disastrous in the general scheme of things, nobody was hurt and we survived, but………..I would not want to do it again.

The photographs were scanned from transparencies taken 45 years ago so are not of the best quality.

Part 1 - Spain

It is July and we are about to embark on a journey from our home in London to the Costa Brava in Spain, about an hour’s drive north of Barcelona. We had chosen this particular spot for our holiday, Callela-de-la-Costa, to meet up with one of my bridesmaids who was holidaying there with friends.

We were unable to find a travel agent in London who could help us. We found out later that this was because Callela was a new resort and the German travel agents had the monopoly. No internet booking in those days! I eventually contacted the Youth Travel Bureau who said they could help us with arrangements to get there. They had a group of young people travelling to Majorca in the Mediterranean, via. Barcelona, and they could arrange for us to travel with them. We readily accepted this offer and they also booked a hotel for us. The youth group were crossing the Channel by boat and we did not want to do that, so instead we chose the option of flying and then meeting up with the group at the train station in Paris on Saturday evening.

Our journey begins when the taxi arrives at our flat at 6.30 am Saturday morning. It is our first time out of the UK since we returned from our life on the ocean the previous year. The taxi driver drops us off at Victoria Coach Station to catch a coach to the airport. At this point we are following an itinerary that has been arranged for us. We board the coach knowing only that we are going to a small airport somewhere near the South coast. On the way to the airport the coach breaks down. Eventually a replacement coach arrives and we continue our journey. We arrive at the airport and board a small prop plane – no jets in those days. I had not flown before but as we taxied away from the airport building I began to realise that we did not have a runway. Alan thought I was mad suggesting this, but several minutes later, bumping up and down like crazy, we took off from a field. We duly crossed the channel assuming that we would soon be in Paris, but not so. After only a fairly short flight we landed at Beauvais another small airport near the coast of France. This airport did at least have a runway!

After immigration and customs checks we were soon boarding another coach and unbelievably half way into this part of the journey this second coach developed a mechanical fault and we had another long wait for a replacement coach. Our train was due to leave Gare D’Austerlitz Station I the South of the City at 8.0 pm and we were really beginning to panic when the coach reached its final destination at Gare Du Nord Station in the North of the City at 7.30 pm. We managed to hail a taxi and drove several miles across Paris arriving on the station platform just as the train was beginning to move away. Fortunately there was a rep. calling out our names. We were hustled onto the moving train (can you imagine that happening in today’s health and safety climate) puffing and panting and literally dragging our luggage.

This was going to be an overnight journey so we were led to a small, narrow carriage containing 6 couchettes, 3 on each side and one above the other. For anyone not knowing what a couchette is, it is a sleeping bunk that pulls out of the wall. Arriving so late we did not have a choice and a top bunk on either side had been left for us. At the time I did not like this choice as we had to climb up over 2 other bunks to get to ours. It was only on the return journey when we had been assigned the 2 bottom bunks that we realised that in effect we had the best deal at the top. The bottom bunks were bouncy, very noisy and far more claustrophobic than those at the top. The movement at the top was more of a swaying sensation which was a little more conducive to resting; I won’t go so far as to say sleeping. My main memory of this part of the journey was the announcements over the loud speaker systems at every stop we made between the North and South Coasts of France.

We had thought that we were travelling to Barcelona by train, but at 6.30 am the following morning we arrived in Perpignon in the South of France where the train terminated. We were then told that we had to be at the Coach Station by 7.30 am – oh! no, not another coach. We had just enough time to sample 2 new experiences, the first being a demi-tasse cup of the thickest and strongest coffee I had ever tasted. It was almost like treacle. The second being French public lavatories at the time, namely a hole in the ground. I had been almost a year at sea, travelled into the interior of rural Mexico, but this was the first time that I had seen a “hole in the ground”.

We were soon waiting in a queue to board our next coach. The reps. collected everyone’s Passport to make it easier when we came to crossing the border from France into Spain in the Pyrenees. We settled onto the coach after finding ourselves the seats of our choice and prepared for a long drive. Just as the coach was about to leave another rep. boarded the bus and called out our names. They had realised that another coach was actually going to be passing through Callela and there were 2 seats left so it was suggested that we change coaches. This we did and took up the only 2 seats at the back of the coach. It soon became evident that we were the only English speaking passengers on this coach, everyone else was French. My husband Alan loves languages and always studies some of the language of the country that we are going to so he had spruced up a little on his rough Spanish but ended up relying on his schoolboy French.

We duly arrived at the Spanish border late morning to find a 3 mile queue of vehicles snaking up the mountains waiting their turn to cross. It took everyone a while to realise that our Passports were still with the rep. on the other bus. What would we do, would we be left behind? As it happens, we had to wait so long that eventually the rep. on our bus was able to contact the other rep. and collect our Passports. A great sigh of relief, we were able to cross the border and once out of the mountains we stopped for lunch in a charming Spanish town.

About 5.0 pm we were told that we would soon be arriving in Callela, Alan and I being the only 2 passengers to be leaving the coach. We alighted from the bus and stood in disbelief as we watched it disappear into the distance. We were standing in a small square with not a person or hotel in sight. Just a few old buildings and a lot of scrubland and a couple of old cars.

I was by this time exhausted and very emotional and even regretting leaving the familiarity of London. I sat down on the ground and cried my eyes out. Eventually a man, seeing me crying, walked across the square and asked if he could help us. We told him our dilemma and gave him the name of our hotel. He knew where it was and offered to take us there in what looked like an abandoned car sitting on the road. We were a little inland at this point and our hotel was on the Coast, almost on the beach. We got into the car, (again would one do this today?) and he very kindly drove us to our hotel. He came in with us fortunately because at the desk we were told that they did not have a reservation for us and added to that the hotel was still being built so was not finished. They insisted that we go to their sister hotel in the centre of town. Up to that point we had not even realised that we were anywhere near a town.

Our very kind driver duly drove us into town. We tried to check in at this town hotel only to be told that it was impossible, they did not have a single room free and said that we must go back to our original hotel. This we did and they very reluctantly gave us a large, unfinished room on the 9th floor. This turned out to our advantage in that it was quiet, and being so high up we did not need shutters or curtains and the stone floor and plastered walls meant that it was nice and cool. We had a large en-suite bathroom, which we had not paid for and was quite rare back in 1961 anyhow, and 2 brand new beds and bedding. Alan gave the chamber maid a large tip and for the rest of the 2 weeks we were there she washed whatever clothes we left in the large bedroom basin.

We soon found out however that this was a German hotel, run by Germans, and every other guest was from Germany. It is worth remembering that 1961 was only 15 years after the end of World War 2 and in some quarters there was still a lot of hard feeling between out countries. It was certainly not a problem for us but the hotel staff made it clear that it was a problem for them. They always served us last in the dining room and often made out that they could not understand us.

Added to this when we went on our first day to meet up with my bridesmaid, it became immediately obvious that in the intervening years our lives had changed and that we had nothing in common. The group that she was holidaying with were wanting to spend a lot of time hanging out in bars and that was not our idea of a holiday. So we parted company and decided to go our own ways. For Alan and I we wanted to travel and see the local sights and spend the rest of our time on the beach. So we decided to make the best of what we had and get on with our holiday. A few days later a single Canadian guy booked into the hotel. He was touring and following in the footsteps of Ernest Hemmingway. He had come to this resort to chill out for a while and we very quickly built up quite a friendship with him and really enjoyed his company and he ours. All in all we had a wonderful holiday and were soon able to put the horrendous 36 hour journey out of our minds. If it had been today, we could have gone to Australia in that time.

There is just one outing that I will relate here and you will soon see why. We took a coach trip into the Hinterland to visit the Monastery at Monseratt. We had a wonderful day and on the return journey, just as we were coming down the lower mountain, the brakes seized up on the coach. The driver managed to control the coach until we came to a straight flat road where he was able to bring the coach to a standstill. Just imagine how it might have been in today’s climate of busy holiday traffic.In the end it all comes down to the wonderful tapestry of the experiences of life.

The 3 mile border crossing queue

The Beach

The town

High in the mountains at the monastry
We were driving from here in the coach whose brakes failed

The first flat road where the driver could skid to a stop

Part 2 – Switzerland

The following year we decided we wanted as simple a journey as possible so decided to fly to Switzerland. Compared to our journey to Spain the previous year it has to be said that this was easy but it was not without it’s mishaps. The first happened when we were in the airport. We had been told there would be a delay so went to a restaurant to eat. While we were doing so the waitress slipped and ended up pouring a large jug of milk over Alan’s suit. Yes, men did travel in suits in those days. What were we to do, the luggage was checked in so nothing to change into. The restaurant staff took him into the kitchen to try and dry him off. Have you ever sat on a plane next to someone covered in stale milk, it is not pleasant. The restaurant suggested that Alan have his suit cleaned in Switzerland and they would foot the bill. All well and good but it meant him being without his suit for a good part of the 2 weeks we were there.

The second mishap put me off flying for many years afterwards. We got into really bad weather over the Alps and this was a fairly small prop plane compared to today’s jet airliners. People were screaming and falling about and others were throwing up. We finally landed and I was shaking and Alan was green. So much for an easy hassle free journey.

We did however enjoy our two weeks in Switzerland very much. Our hotel was on the shores of Lake Lucerne and looking out on our first morning felt like being in fairyland. The balcony was covered in window boxes full of flowers and they were framed by the mist on the lake with the peak of the Rigi mountain opposite just peeping out of the mist. This view was accompanied by the most exquisite perfume from all of the flowers.

Alan had brushed up on his French only to find that we were in a German speaking canton. However this caused him to want to learn to speak German and over the years he has become very fluent in this language. It really helped in subsequent years when we found ourselves making quite a number of visits to Germany.

While the other hotel guests were off on coach trips the first week we hired bikes. They were so heavy and cumbersome but they got us around. The ferry stopped at our hotel and we were able to cross the lake to another town with our bikes and then travel back and forth across the lake from town to town and in that way seeing so much more than we could have seen otherwise. The second week we were more conventional and did tour the rest of Switzerland by what would now be called a people carrier with the 2 other couples that we had made friends with. These friendships lasted for many years afterwards. In ending I have to say that until this day Switzerland remains my favourite country to visit.

In the next chapter I will be moving on to more of the realities of life.
Our Hotel View from our room


A mountain road - see the Pass in the bottom left of the picture
Yes, I was scared

A postcard of another mountain pass we drove through

The Matterhorn

A ferry on Lake Lucerne approaching our hotel

The bikes
We are in a deeply wooded forest
The people who lived higher up the hill used a wooden cart on a pulley system
to get to their house

Inside the Rhone Glacier
Not really - we are on the way out, it was quite dark deep inside

More mountain scenery taken through the car window

On the way up to the glacier seen behind Alan

Typical Swiss village

The Cotswolds Pt. 12 - Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle and grounds are situated one mile south of Winchcombe in the Cotswolds.
It's recent claim to fame is it is the venue where Elizabeth Hurley got married,
the ex-partner of the actor Hugh Grant
Look closer and one will see that it has been the home of Royalty and Aristocrats since
the 10th century when King Ethelred (The Unready) gave the Saxon manor house and estate of Sudeleagh and its surrounding Royal deer park to his daughter, Goda, on her marriage to
Walter de Maunt
Even earlier than this, Old Stone Age Hunters, Roman legions and Saxon tribes had taken it in turns to colonise this unspoint valley where the castle lies in a fold of the Cotswold hills.
When Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509, Sudeley was still Crown property and the King and Anne Boleyn spent a week here in 1535, the last year of their marriage.
There is so much history connected to this home that it takes up a whole book
We were fortunate in that we booked a late tour of the state and private rooms
and we were the only two on this tour so we had plenty of time to browse and ask questions
Obviously the only photos one is allowed to take are outside.
The Castle is currently the home of the Dent-Brocklehurst family
The Castle is part lived in and part ruins
The ruins have been incorporated into the gardens
The gardens incorporate The Wildflower Meadow, The Victorian Vegetable Garden,The Tithe Barn Garden, The Stone Garden, The Mulberry Garden, The Knot Garden, The Ruins Garden, The Queen's Garden, The White Garden and The Secret Garden
Here are just a few of the pictures
First from the Museum

First a life sized Henry VIII

His six wives

Silk Embroidery

More silk embroidery
The Castle church
Lived in part of the Castle

Looking out from the drawing room

Private courtyard

The ruins garden

The young daughter of the family is currently in art college
This is one of her creations

The neon brain is another
Can you spot it

More of the ruin garden

Part of the secret garden