The final retirement

Sue at Nan’s Farm and Gerry at The Main Aisle run a weekly prompt on their shared site Weekly Prompts.

This week they have chosen RETIREMENT as the prompt.

I have just retired for the last time and it was an easy decision to make, although, in some ways, it was the hardest decision to take.

I would have difficulty in telling you how many times I have retired.  It depends how you define retirement.

In simple terms I have retired three times.

Firstly, I retired at age 45, having served 28 years 151 days in the British Army.  I know that because I have a little red book to tell me so! 

I would have preferred to carry on serving but, quite naturally, in a time of cutting the numbers of serving personnel, preference had to be given to younger, more active, men and women.

I retired from paid employment at the age of 64, a year earlier than normal at that time.  I was more than ready to retire because my role was stressful and overworked, although I enjoyed it tremendously.

With my newly found leisure I volunteered to become a trustee of a local charity that had been providing housing for ladies and gentlemen of modest means since 1708.  I have been honoured to serve, alongside my fellow trustees, for the last nine years, the last five and a half years as an active Chairman of the Board of trustees.

My latest, and final, retirement was necessary due to ill health.  I had probably (definitely according to my wife) not resigned early enough but I felt that I would be letting down my fellow trustees and the near 100 residents that we served.

Today, I received a magnificent bouquet of flowers from the charity.  I will cherish these blooms but, more than those, I will cherish all the lovely tributes I have received from my fellow trustees.

This retirement is my last.  I shall enjoy it!

A Voice to be Heard

I have a voice!

Of course I have.  We all have a voice!

But that’s not strictly true.  Some people are mute, they never ever speak audibly.

Ah yes, there is a point there, but did you note the subtle nicety that, although someone cannot speak, they can still be ‘heard’.

That can only be a good thing.  Everyone should be able to have their voice heard, but we all know that all voices are not equal.

But what can we do about that?

We can carry on speaking, making our voices heard, even when we think our voice is inaudible.  

We have to speak the truth.  We have to speak the love.  We have to speak the beauty.  We have to speak the peace.  We have to speak the forgiveness.  We have to speak the reconciliation.

I have never before watched a Presidential Inauguration all the way through, as it happened.  Yesterday I did, and I am glad that I did.  There was much common sense, much compassion, and great reason for hope.

Did you hear Amanda Gorman’s poem?  Amanda, America’s Youth Poet Laureate, gave a stunning oration and, at the age of only 22, spoke better than the majority of politicians do nowadays.  Her words embody the hopes and dreams of all right-thinking people. She is smart, bright, articulate.  A lady to watch, learn from, and encourage to do wondrous things in the future.

Her final words spoke volumes, and should speak to all the world, not just to America.  Her voice, and ours are voices to be heard.

When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it.

For there is always light.

If only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

The Last Remembrance

Chris decided long ago that he could no longer endure the Ceremony of Remembrance parades and services.  It was too much for him.  He knew that he would break down and weep copious tears, sobbing at all of the memories that he could not set aside.  He could never forget!

Instead, each year, he went on his normal morning walk and found a quiet spot, apart from all human presence, and there he would remember his friends, and his enemies.  Not all had died young, not all had died in battle.  Some had not died, at least not straight away.

He remembered two young men.  They had all just returned to camp after manoeuvres and were told they could not go home until all the vehicles had been cleaned and put away.  One young man was newly married with a two week old baby.  He persuaded his friend to take him home in his car.  It wouldn’t take long, and they could be back before anybody noticed they were missing.  The car was sporty, high powered, and had a roll bar fitted.  The young driver entered a bend far too fast, lost control, and rolled the car.  It hit a tree.  The roll bar saved the life of the driver but decapitated the young father.

He remembered two young Corporals, erecting an aerial mast on top of a vehicle in Germany, right underneath a very high voltage cable.  One walked away with very serious burns, the other had horrendous burns and lost a leg and large portions of muscle mass.  Chris had the job of taking inventory of the burned vehicle and its contents and then visiting the worst injured once he left hospital to tell him that he no longer had a job but there was good news, his promotion to Sergeant had come through!

He remembered a young man who shot himself in the chest but survived, only to shoot himself in the head once he was back at work.

He remembered running for his life, literally, when it seemed that everyone wanted him dead, when all around him were falling, screaming, dying.  He would not forget!

He stood as usual, at 11am, at attention, alone.  He remembered.  How could he do anything else?

After two minutes of silence, of remembering, of trying to forget, he saluted, fell, and joined his comrades!

All at sea – Flying through the air, with, and without, the aid of a helicopter.

Originally published on 27/10/2017, this is part of a series that I promised may take a while to complete. I was right!

This is part of a recollection of “Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.

Number 2, Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by Jackstay, and 3, Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by helicopter can be recounted together because normally, when you go on a journey, you want to end up back where you started!

When I was posted to Gibraltar we (The Army) often entertained Royal Naval personnel when they had shore leave. We invited them to functions in the various messes (Officers Mess/Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess/Other ranks Mess, and we invited them to dine with us, often arranging a special dinner.

 In return, they reciprocated, and we were often invited on board ship.

 I came to know several of the Petty Officers of HMS Charybdis quite well, during 1976. I was invited to spend time at sea with the ship, in an exchange with a member of the ship’s crew, where we swapped jobs for a few days.

hms charybdis Life on board a Royal Naval vessel is unlike anything you may imagine. Space is at a premium and everything has to be stowed away to maximise space, and to ensure there are no hazards created by loose gear.

 Before departing from any port, the ship must be fully provisioned with fuel, stores, ammunition, food, and a myriad of items you wouldn’t even begin to think of. This is to ensure that, should the vessel be called upon to sail into conflict, or to aid others, it can proceed immediately, without having to stock up first. There is a good deal of manual labour involved in this, and the whole ships company (of 260 in this case) is put to work, less a few essential personnel. It is hard work, and I experienced it!

 Imagine having to stock a freezer so you can retrieve food, to feed 260 hungry people for 2 months, when you can only reach things right at the front. Just where do you put all those potato sacks, carrots, toilet rolls, extra large cans, butter, fat, oil, flour, spices. The list is huge, as is the quantity. You cannot run out.

 I shall not go into disposal of waste, recycling, or what can, under international law, be discharged into the sea. I mention it only because sometimes it flies off the ship!

 Whilst at sea it is sometimes necessary to load, or offload personnel, or materiel.

 This may be for changes in personnel, removal of severely ill, or deceased, replenishment of food, fuel, supplies, and the removal of waste for disposal, or recycling.

 The Royal Navy is supported at sea by Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels.

The RFA is staffed by civilians, and they have a variety of ships that can supply fuel and stores, effect repairs at sea, and even supply hospital facilities. They have a helicopter on board, and also cranes mounted on either side.

 Most modern warships have a helicopter on board, or a helipad that can receive a visiting helicopter so stores can be transferred from one vessel to another by underslung load. However, there is a restriction on how much weight can be carried that way, and it is an expensive method of resupply.

 The alternative method of transfer is by Jackstay, a method of using ropes and pulleys to carry personnel and materiel between vessels.
jackstay trfs

The light jackstay, employing human power, is used for transferring personnel, provisions, and light stores with a maximum load of about 250kg. The hauling end of the jackstay is manned by up to 25 hands. The other end is secured by a grommet strop to slip in the receiving ship. A traveller block is hauled back and forth along the jackstay wire by an in–haul rope in the receiving ship and an out–haul rope in the delivering ship manned by up to six crew in each ship. Working distance limits are normally between 24–61 meters with a normal working distance of about 34 meters.

 The heavy Jackstay, uses steel ropes for transfer of heavier loads, or to support feed pipes during transfer of fuel or water. Normally a powered winch is used.

 The ropes are passed from one ship to the other by first firing a thin twine by rifle and pulling this across, with increasing thickness of twine, then cord, then rope.

 Ships are unstable platforms when stopped in most seas and it is extremely dangerous to bring two ships directly alongside one another. All transfers are therefore done with the ships steaming side by side, in to the wind, at a distance determined by the state of the seas. It is a hazardous operation and constant adjustment is needed to ensure identical speed, and to ensure the distance between vessels does nor vary. The procedure needs to be practiced often to ensure the crew knows exactly what to do when the need arises. It is the ultimate in team work!

 This is how I came to “volunteer” for my first, and only, experience of transfer at sea by Jackstay, and return by helicopter. I was one of a dozen.

 Having watched others being hauled across from Charybdis to another visiting Frigate, it was soon my turn. Apart from a little dampness from sea spray I arrived safely on the other ship and was hurried along to the stern to jump into the helicopter for the return trip. This was only my second flight in a helicopter. The whole procedure took less than 30 minutes, but was very exhilarating!

 Flights by small helicopter are normally from, and to, a stable surface, and the take off pattern is normally a vertical lift into the air, transferring into forward flight whilst gaining height. Larger helicopters use a running takeoff and landing whenever possible.

 Taking off from, and landing on, a ship at sea, entails a helipad moving at quite a speed, often with buffeting wind, and large chunks of solid metal very close by. It is a very specialised skill!

 On take off, the aircraft has to rise off the pad and move to the left, or right, immediately moving away from the vessel.

 Landing is the more difficult skill. The helicopter must approach the vessel from the rear and then fly, at the speed of the ship, slightly to the left or right of the helipad. It then has to move slowly across so that it is hovering above the pad, but is, in fact, still flying forwards at the speed of the vessel. It must then drop down on to the moving deck, immediately ceasing forward flight.

 Naval pilots, I salute you!

 To the crews of both vessels, Thank you for not getting me wet!charybdis.jpg

 

HMS Charybdis was affectionately  called “The Cherry B.” Hence the cherry tree on the ship’s plaque.

 

 

 

Light Jackstay information courtesy of: MacFarlane, John M. (2013) Jackstay Transfer (Replenishment) at Sea. Nauticapedia.ca 2013. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Jackstay_Transfer.php

A little bit of Dad

In my final Lundi limerick yesterday I used the hamlet of Acton and linked it to the fact that it played a large part in my Dad’s life.

In the process of digging out a bit of real life background, rather than the normal wikipedia, or google sources, I rummaged through the suitcase that I brought away from Dad’s house after he died at the grand age of 96.

Mum had died nearly 11 years before and everyone expected Dad to follow fairly swiftly after. He was, after all, a hard working farm labourer, who had relied on Mum for meals, clean clothes, and a welcoming home. We had all, of course, forgotten his hard upbringing, his determination, and his adaptability.

Within a couple of weeks he had bought himself a microwave. “I’ve always wanted one of these but your Mother would never have one”, he said.

He went on to cook his own meals, wash, dry, and iron his clothes, vacuum the house, and thoroughly enjoy the whole new leaf that he’d turned over. My little sister (three years older than me), who lived a few miles away, kept an eye on him, had him over for Sunday lunch and, over the coming years, gradually helped him more, according to his needs.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a definitive history of Dad, purely an extension of the information about his link to Acton.

The suitcase I mentioned earlier has quite a few Bibles, and other books, in it, each one has a story to tell. Dad was a Methodist Local Preacher from the age of 20 until failing hearing, and health, caused him to retire, although he remained ‘on the books’ until his death, and received several certificates of Long Service, even up to 75 years service! It just could not be done nowadays!

Dad was a marvellous preacher. Inspiring, knowledgeable, plain speaking, always linking to everyday life, articulate but never verbose. In everyday life you would never dream that he was a gifted and effective preacher. He was a quiet, mild mannered man whose goodness shone out for all to see, always willing to help, support, and encourage all that he encountered.

First out of the case is a School photograph from 1922 when Dad was 12
How smart they all are, and I love the bicycle parked around the corner! Dad would have done a couple of hours work before going to school and would have many jobs to complete when he got home.
Sunday School prize that Dad received from Acton
Note the Superintendent was John Matthews, an uncle
and a 19th birthday present from an Auntie
A present from the Local Preachers Association on his recognition service as a preacher (Oct 14th 1929)
21st birthday gift to Mum
An article that appeared in the Local Preachers Newsletter after Dad died

Lundi limerick #105

Thinking of Acton I’m glad

so special to Mum and to Dad

It’s where they first met

and their future was set

Such a wondrous life they both had.

 

There is not a lot to be said about Acton,  a small hamlet in Staffordshire. You could so easily drive through it without knowing and yet, without its existence, I may well not have existed!

The one building that is there, an old Wesleyan Methodist Church that closed in 2003, is where my father, Charles Matthews, went to Sunday School, then to Chapel. Where he met my mother Irene Lily Matthews, née Talbot. Where they first started courting,  all very prim and proper in those days. Where Dad first qualified for his  75 years as a Methodist Local Preacher.

I will add some photographs to a later post, and give a little more detail. I thought it appropriate that for the last of my two years worth of Lundi limericks (Lundi being french for Monday, for those who hadn’t noticed!!) I should write about somewhere extra special.

Thank you Acton. Thank you Mum and Dad.

 

 

 

Altered reality — Wordsmatter

“As I watched and listened, I thought, Why can’t the PW see that statistics aren’t reaching this woman? Those facts and figures don’t seem to be affecting her actual life. Even though they might be true, this woman isn’t seeing the benefit of the work being done. The PW just isn’t hearing the NEED. She’s too focused on her response that she’s not hearing the woman.”

This is so true in this particular post that I happened upon by chance, but also in todays political and social everyday life. Everyone is so intent on putting across their own view, in justifying a decision, in arguing that their way is the correct and only way, that they do not listen. They are too intent on formulating a clever response, using buzzwords that mean absolutely nothing and, in so many cases, trying to belittle, embarrass, or bully.

Please read, and enjoy, this post by Tammy Davis.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–mostly because it is a lesson I have to keep learning myself. Perception is reality. A couple weeks ago I attended an event that included a panel discussion with people presenting differing viewpoints. One woman came from an under-served neighborhood and felt abandoned by the city. She […]

via Altered reality — Wordsmatter

Lundi limerick #96

Do you fancy a home in Joys Green

it is small and incredibly clean

No school and no shop

no post or bus stop

Not good if your child is a teen

Joy's_Green_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1427631

The village, shown above,  still has its own playground and a small football pitch. The Joys Green community centre is also still situated within the old primary school grounds and meetings regarding the local area are often either held there or at the Memorial Hall in the adjoining village of Lydbrook.

 

Lundi limerick #93

A small Cornish village called Maker

has neither a priest nor a baker

It does have pub

but ay there’s the rub

for everyone there is a Quaker

 

The village exists but is not, and never has been, predominantly Quaker

You can learn a little about the village here.

Although not all Quakers (also known as Friends) are teetotal, many do practice abstinence. It is a fascinating religion and, indeed, some choose to lead a Quaker way of life but are non-theist.

Members of the various Quaker movements are all generally united by their belief in the ability of each human being to experientially access the light within, or “that of God in every one”.

I know that at least one of my readers is a Friend.

 

 

 

 

How my home movie became a MAGA hit — Living in the future present

For a glimpse of mid 1970’s America, especially California, you will find this a fascinating read. There is the benefit of seeing  a good old fashioned “home movie”, although a very highly sophisticated one, if you follow the link:

The spirit of 77 in Los Angeles

In the mid 1970s, I worked as an exchange teacher in a California high school. It was an exciting and formative year for me and my family. 1976 was the bicentenary of American independence, and signs and flags everywhere announced “Spirit of ’76”. There was a palpable feeling of optimism. The Vietnam war was over, […]

via How my home movie became a MAGA hit — Living in the future present