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Monday, May 12, 2014

My Mum and Dad- Part 1

I have mentioned both my parents in earlier posts. There was around 20 years age difference between my mother and father. My mother was around 21 when they married in 1945. My father would have been in his early 40s. Our lives revolved around dogs, horses and boats. The dogs were greyhounds. My father was a farmer first and foremost but he was also a registered trainer of greyhounds. We were very much into bloodsports. I know that now such things as fox hunting and hare coursing are not exactly 'politically correct' and have been banned in this country for several years, but as a farming family you do anything that protects your livestock against predators such as foxes. I'm not sure where I stand in the debate regarding this activity. I suppose when you are bought up with it as being 'the norm' you tend to accept it without thinking about it, but I suppose I would say I come down on the side of the antis to a certain extent as we are supposed to be a modern and forward-thinking society and such things as bloodsports (although I don't like the term) shouldn't be practiced. I don't actually believe that they are a particularly effective way to control foxes or hares, but neither do I believe that shooting is very effective, as you would need to be a very good shot to be able to hit either a hare or a fox and particularly those animals which know the layout of the countryside and are able to avoid being shot. Then, when we drive out through the countryside on our frequent journeys to National Trust properties or wherever we happen to be going in our car, we very often seen dead foxes at the side of the road, along with a wide range of other wildlife such as rabbits and badgers, which have been killed by traffic, there isn't much difference surely in them dyeing under the wheel of a speeding car or H.G.V. and from the barrel of a shotgun. Both my parents used to go coursing during the winter months. It would be cold and frosty and would usually go off to somewhere her Cambridge. I wonder what they would have to say about there being a ban on this activity. Probably total disbelief. My mother died in 1981 and my father in 1993. 

I have mentioned that we had a hut on the River Ouse near Cardington Mill. My father owned several sailing boats over the years. One was a wooden, clinker-built boat called Amaranda and it was sailed on the Ouse at Cardington. He also had a small motorboat whose name I forget. He used to steer this up and down the river on Saturday afternoons during the long hot summers of my childhood. My mother would, as ever, be in charge of vast amounts of food, packed up in the back of whatever car we had at the time and then drive to this hut, gaining entrance to the site through a gate in Cardington Road and across a meadow and over a rather rickety bridge across a stream. The hut was painted bright green and was locked up for most of the time and contained such things as deck-chairs and Calor gas, which was used to boil the kettle for tea. 

Later on my father bought another boat, made of fibre glass and about the same size as Amaranda and he had membership of the sailing club at Grafham Water, a reservoir near Huntingdon. It is around a 25-30 mile drive there. I never took to sailing. Probably because my father had very little patience with us children and would not understand my lack of enthusiasm for sailing because he would bellow at me to move quicker about the boat when the boom moved across in a strong wind and it would hit you hard on the head if you didn't get out of it's way fast enough. Also, I never could fathom out which rope to haul on at the appropriate time and to me it was far to complicated. I would rather go and visit somewhere in the boat without all the hassle of hauling on 'sheets' (the correct term for a rope on a yacht. Don't ask me why!) Or forget which is 'port' or 'starboard.'

These boats were taken with us when we went on holiday to Frinton-On-Sea on the Essex coast (see earlier post for more details.) The clinker-built yacht was built by James and Co boat-builders in Brightlingsea, which is further down the coast and on the Colne Estuary, around 15-20 miles from Frinton. We did spend a certain amount of time at Brightlingsea, but there wasn't an awful lot there to keep children occupied. Even later still my father bought a much larger boat called Flashpoint which had a cabin on it with galley and we sometime went down to Brighlingsea and stayed on this boat, but I found it very cramped and it was moored off Mersea Island and you had to get out to it in a little rubber boat and to be honest I'm not a very good sailor. But it did mean that we had somewhere to go for a few day's holiday. At some point or other I do remember going to stay in a rather nice pub somewhere on the Hard at Brightlingsea, the name of which I forget. There again, it meant my mother got a break where she didn't have to cook food and organise things as she had to when we went on holiday to Frinton (usually for two week at the beginning of September, at around the time of the harvest. I imagine I must have had time off school but again I don't remember exactly.) We went to a rented house, so my mother would have to cook and prepare meals and it can't have been much of a holiday for her. (I mention more of this in an earlier post on here.)
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