Sunday, December 8, 2002
It was Ken Payne, chairman of the Lloc Gliding Club (Lloc being a small village near our farm). Their gliders are stored in and operated from a large field owned by a friend of mine, Dick Moore.
I had frequently seen these gliders soaring overhead and had wondered what a glider flight would be like. This request was an excellent opportunity for me to have a flight in one, so I immediately said that I would be delighted to help, providing I could have a flight in one! Ken agreed, and I had a most pleasant and interesting flight.
There is an old saying: 'If God had meant for us humans to fly, he would have provided us with wings'. But just as some people go down to the sea in all sorts of crafts, then so must other folk go up in the sky in all sorts of flying contraptions, from the majestic Concorde and space rockets to what appear to be quite flimsy hang gliders.
But some of these hang gliders are fitted with 400cc engines and are successfully used for many land uses, such as surveying and crop spraying. Then there are the conventional gliders, used in the most graceful and increasingly popular sport.
The day of my flight came and I drove to the airfield. There were 2 gliders available, a single seater Grundia, and a double seater Bocian. Both crafts were made from wood and Irish linen (99% of gliders made now are glass fibre). I had previously been up in a plane for a charity tandum parachute jump, but I admit that I was rather apprehensive seeing the 2 gliders flopped down on the field like wounded seagulls.
The glider we climbed into was given a winch start. This is where a powerful, stationary engine pulls the glider very quickly. Ken called out "take up the slack!!", and a car parked nearby gave 2 slow flashes with its headlights followed by 2 quick flashes that gave the signal to the winch operator to go. And then we were climbing, almost vertically, making even a Concorde take off seem like a lame duck in comparison.
When we reached 1,000 feet the tow rope was released. We came to an abrupt stop, and I wondered if were were about to go plummeting down! But we remained horizontal. I got my breath back, and began to enjoy a very thrilling flight. The rural countryside below us looked so beautiful, coupled with the deafening silence, or just a slight wind whispering.
It got a bit cold, and Ken told me, apologetically, that as he couldn't find any more thermals, we would have to land. This meant landing away from the airfield, which was a bit annoying.
We came in to land at about 35 miles per hour. We had only been aloft for about 10 minutes, but when the weather conditions are right one can stay airborne for 20 minutes or more. I've had another glider flight since, towed up to about 10,000 feet by a single engine aeroplane.
What a thrill!
Sunday, October 27, 2002
Shall we go on a camping holiday?
My wife, Margaret, and I had to work extremely hard to build up our efficient and viable Guernsey milking unit. This meant that we had no holidays at all for many years.
About 35 years ago, in fairness to our young children, we decided it was time to take a break. We had 5 children but the youngest was too young to take on holiday. So Margaret stayed at home to milk the cows and babysit our youngest.
We decided that I should take the older kids (Robert, Lindsay, Russ and Gill) down to the Welsh coast (this was in the days before MS had entered my life). As we couldn't possibly afford to book into a hotel, Lindsay borrowed a ridge tent from one of his friends.
Margaret packed all our things into our old van and we drove to a camp site near Pwlleli in Caernarvonshire, which had been recommended to us by a friend. We arrived at the camp site at about 8pm. As none of us had ever been camping before we struggled for some time to erect the tent. Eventually we were able to get into our sleeping bags and fell asleep, exhausted.
At about 5am, the wind had started to blow and pulled the side pegs of our tent out of the sandy pitch. This meant I had to get up and collect some stones to keep the sides of the tent down. At 6am I thought I'd better try and cook some breakfast. I got the old Primus stove out and some meths to light it.
Unfortunately, my wife had not included a frying pan. What's the difference, I thought. I could just as easily fry some eggs in a saucepan (you can tell I was never domestically trained). I put the meths into the pan and started pumping the stove to get the paraffin lit. No success. I kept trying to light the darn Primus, striking numerous matches, when suddenly 3 foot high flames shot up into the air.
There was a lovely large frame tent pitched next to ours, which was in danger of catching light! I had to throw handfuls of sand over the flames to put the blaze out (most annoying considering the trouble I'd had getting the thing alight in the first place!).
After I had doused the fire out, I had to clean all the sand out, and try again to light it. The children were waking up now and Gill said that she was hungry.
Eventually I got the Primus going. I fried some eggs in the saucepan, and they did look a bit of a mess. Nevertheless I shared the gory mess with the kids.
After our meal they told me they were still hungry. The only quick thing to warm up was a can of Ambrosia creamed rice.
After finishing this Gill annnounced, "Dad I feel sick". This was not surprising!
After breakfast we all went down to the seaside to do some paddling.
When we got there I asked them what they wanted to do next. "We want to go home please Dad" they all said!
So that was the end of our camping expedition!
In later years we acquired a Thomson touring caravan. With my wife cooking, we enjoyed many happy holidays. But tenting again? Not likely!
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Did you hear tale of the guy with MS who prayed to God about the cross that he has to bear?
God took him into a big room which was full of large crosses and told the guy to take his choice of all the crosses there. He wandered about looking at all these large crosses until he eventually found a little one and he told God that he would have that one. God said to him that that was the one he already had.
The moral is obvious: there is always someone else much worse off.
About 4 years ago, I was admitted into hospital with a nasty MS relapse.
After my wife had helped me into my pyjamas and dressing gown I went to chat with the guy in the next bed. He was reading, with his legs - I thought - under the blanket. I asked him if he would like to come into the lounge for a smoke with me (I gave that stupid habit up 2 years ago). But he said he couldn't as his legs (that I'd thought were under the blanket) had both been amputated because they had gone gangrenous.
This made me realise that, however dreadful I felt, in comparison I was a neurotic hypochondriac.
That guy in the bed next to mine in the hospital ward who had had both his legs amputated, was an ex-rugby player aged 47 years. That made me realise that in spite of the fact that I was paralysed by the nasty MS relapse complicated by my diabetes, in comparison to this other guy my illness was very minor.
The medication put me right, but nothing would give this guy back his legs.
Just the other morning when our telephone rang, I picked up the receiver with my right hand and put it to my right ear but all that I could hear was an indistinct murmur. So I said "Will you speak up please as I cannot hear you". Then I put the receiver to my left ear, but was forced to say "please don't shout!".
My poor hearing was just because of wax in my right ear that was later removed.
But it made me think about the millions of folk in this world who are always hard of hearing.
And recently, after an eye check, my optician kept my spectacles overnight to insert a slightly stronger lens. It was purgatory for me! I couldn't read or watch the television, peoples faces were a blur.
But it was only until the following day, again making me think about all those folk who are blind or have constantly bad eyesight.
I sincerely thank God for my many blessings.
Saturday, August 24, 2002
'Does anyone speak Italian?", came the urgent call from the nurses at our local cottage hospital, where I was recuperating after a 5-week stay at our larger hospital where I was detained after having a nasty MS relapse.
As there was no reply to this anxious call, I said that I could speak a little Italian (and it was a little), and that was because during the last war - in approximately 1943 - my father had an Italian prisoner of war (P.O.W) living with us, and working on our farm. I was 12 years old and the Italian P.O.W. (his name was Dominica) could speak very little English.
The fact that we spoke Welsh on our farm confused this Italian more.
My father had little time to talk to Dominica, and as someone had to be with Dominica at all times it was up to me to try and converse with him. He was a very hard working and pleasant guy who frequently used to say "Italiano not want war. Mussolini very bad man". He had been captured at Benghazi and was worried about his family and his girl friend Fransessca, as he had had no word from them in about 3 years.
As he was such a pleasant bloke we gave him civilian clothes instead of the Khaki uniform with its large, round, red (I think) patch on the back and smaller patches on the trousers.
Whilst I tried to talk in English to Domin (That's what we called him) he in turn tried to teach me Italian. I learnt for example that every Italian word ends with a vowel. Domin's hobby was making lovely willow baskets of all shapes and sizes, and I used to cycle miles with him collecting willow saplings.
Although he was a P.O.W, he had a tremendous sense of humour and I felt sorry for him. He was able to converse a little in English with me. He told me how terrifying it was when our Spitfires were machine gunning the Italian troops. "I used to hold a large slab of stone over my head for protection from these bullets as our steel helmets were quite useless against a Spitfire's machine guns and there was no other form of protection for us".
Anyway, back to the hospital. As soon as I mentioned that I could speak a little Italian, the nurses pushed me in my wheelchair to the bedside of an elderly Italian lady who was very ill. She appeared to have lost all hope and was sinking fast and the nurses were panicking.
They asked me to say something, anything, in Italian to try and cheer the old lady up as she couldn't speak any English. Her daughter, who was half Italian, worked as a nurse at this hospital but she was off duty and could not be reached.
So I leaned down towards her and said (anyone who knows the Italian language, please ignore my spelling) "Coma stata Senora", a kind of "Hello" or "how are you?"
She jerked up, and waffled back to me many Italian words. Of course I didn't have a clue as to what she was saying and Italians talk so quickly. "Lo spero voi felige mia bella Senora" (Hope that you are feeling happy/better my lovely lady), I said to her.
"What is she saying please Glyn", pleaded the nurses, calling to the other nurses "Glyn has got her talking, but the he won't tell us, what she is saying!"
How could I as I didn't have a clue as to what the old lady was saying!
But I was the 'hero' of the day having cheered the old lady up a bit.
When the war was over, and Domin was going back home, he said to me "You Glyn have always been very kind to me, and I will write to you after I get back home". But he never did.
Were his years of captivity just a dreadful nightmare best forgotten?
Ex-British P.O.W.s may be able to answer that question for me! Dominica's address in Italy was: Dominica Petrella. Via Gariboldi, Avetazzano, Roma. Avetazzano is 30 miles from Rome. Does anyone know that address please, as I would truly love to make contact with Domin again, assuming that he is still alive now of course.
He would probably be nearing 80 years old by now.
Sunday, July 7, 2002
Very many years ago, I couldn't afford to buy and run a car. So, at the age of 17, I bought my first motorbike (years 55 years ago). It was an ancient 1937 BSA 250cc hand change.
I then graduated to 2 Nortons, all completely reliable.
The love of motorcycling was well ingrained in me!
After we started a family, my wife and I had to have cars and I thought that my motorcycling days were over.
I was diagnosed with MS in 1980, and the time soon came when I could no longer walk.
I didn't want to be stuck in a wheelchair all the time. And anyway, as a farmer I loved the open air. So I bought a Susuki quad. Superb!
I've ridden very many miles on the bike since then, although these days I can only do so by placing my 'good foot' on the footrest and getting my wife or son to lift me on and off the bike. Then I'm away, as the bike is operated via hand controls.
It's just sheer determination that I will not give in to MS.
Last week I had the bike serviced and it was running great. But when I was about 4 miles from home in a narrow country lane, it stopped running. I tried to start it a number of times but it wouldn't move forward at all. Fortunately, I had my mobile phone with me and phoned home for someone to come and collect me and the quad (in a trailer).
When we arrived back home I asked my son if he could see what was wrong with the bike. After a quick glance he told that there was no oil in it. This was strange as we had checked the oil before starting off. So my son went to put more oil in it.
That's when we found that the oil was going straight through the engine and out of the sump, as the sump plug had fallen out!
I phoned the motorbike dealer, explaining what had happened, and he came straight out to our farm to check it. I was worried in case the engine had been damaged. He took the quad back to his garage, and brought it back a few hours later, assuring me that the engine had not been damaged and the reason that the sump plug had fallen out was because they usually have an apprentice to do simple jobs like oil changing, and this particular apprentice hadn't put the locking washer back on the sump plug!
But all's well, that ends well!
Sunday, April 28, 2002
Many years ago a friend, John, and myself were nominated to go to the annual general meeting of our local MS Branch in London.
I was just starting with the symptoms of MS and was still able to walk a bit. John doesn't have MS, he was just one of our MS Branch helpers. As neither of us had ever been further than Chester before we were both delighted to be going to the 'Big City'.
When we arrived at Euston station our guy in charge hailed a taxi to take us to our hotel. But when we we arrived and tried to check-in, we were told that the hotel was full! The helpful receptionist phoned around and found us another hotel.
Both John and myself could barely wait to explore London, so we just dumped our bags at the hotel and off we went to explore. First of all we wanted to see the Houses of Parliament. Then we travelled what felt like 100 miles on buses and taxis to visit the 'Bloody Tower'. We kept dashing around seeing all these exciting places.
At 11pm I said that we had better go back to our hotel as we (me obviously in particular) were exhausted. I asked John the name of this other hotel that we had been booked into, but John said that he had no idea and hoped that I may have remembered. But I couldn't remember either! I thought that there was another hotel close to it which was all lit up with the name 'Endslea' or something like that.
We asked people walking about if any of them knew where this hotel was, but none of them had ever heard of any hotel by that name. Then we asked some policemen. None of them could help either and one suggested that we ask a taxi driver. So we stopped the first taxi we found and asked the driver if he knew where 'The Endslea' or something like that was. He was ever so helpful and fortunately found it for us.
It was now 12.30am and we were both completely exhausted. We flopped down on our beds and fell asleep.
We were woken by a knock on our door the following morning. It was two maids who wanted to tidy our room. As we were still in our clothes we pretended that we had got up and got dressed!
As the maids were busily tidying our room, John said 'and you will come and tuck us in tonight won't you?'. 'Yes sir, of course sir', they said laughing.
We thought no more about it and left for the AGM. That afternoon a guy from another branch, George, asked us if we would mind if he stayed in our room as the hotel that he was staying at was not very nice. Of course we didn't mind as there were 3 beds and although George was a bit older than us, we did know him quite well.
After the AGM both John and myself were determined that we were going to have an early night and we went to bed about 10pm.
A little bit later there was a knock on our door and I, thinking it was George, got up to let him in as he didn't have a key himself.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the door and those two maids walked in! After getting over the shock of seeing them I asked them what they wanted.
'You asked us to come, so here we are!', they said, giggling. We tried explaining to them that we were only joking, but no way would they go and they were obviously getting a bit fed up with our lack of enthusiasm!
Then there was another knock on our bedroom door. Splendid, we thought, it was George who would help us get the girls out. But when George walked in and saw the girls, he just said 'Oh! Sorry lads', and went back out again!
It took us quite some time to persuade the girls to leave.
And if George should be reading this, nothing happened!!
Monday, February 11, 2002
About 5 months ago my wife and I were going to a social gathering in Anglesey which was starting at 11.30am, so we set off from our home in Flintshire, North Wales at 9am giving us one and a half hours to travel the 70 miles to get there.
We were travelling along the A55 past Abergele. My wife was driving up a slight incline. She was accelerating to go faster, and although the engine was accelerating, the car was not moving any faster. It was obvious that the clutch must be slipping.
I've driven all sorts of vehicles for over 50 years, cars, vans, motorbikes, small lorries and tractors and have never had a clutch slip on me before.
My wife kept on driving as we were most eager to get to the meeting. However, about 12 miles after driving over the Menai Bridge to Anglesey the clutch went altogether and the car came to a stop. After the car stopped moving my wife trod on the brake pedal, but it rolled back a yard or so. The trailer with my electric scooter on it went slightly across the roadway.
Many cars passed us tooting their horns at us in annoyance, but there was absolutely nothing we could do.
Fortunately, we had our mobile phone with us, and we phoned for help. We were stuck there for nearly three quarters of an hour, hearing irate drivers tooting their horns angrily at us.
Another car went past us. His brake lights came on, and I said to my wife "That car looks as if he is stopping". His reversing lights came on as he reversed back down to us, and the young driver came to our car, asking if we were in trouble. We told him that we sure were!
The young man went to unhook the trailer from our car and as he was unhooking it another driver also stopped. Between them they pushed our trailer into a lay-by.
We thanked both men profusely, real 'good samaritans'!
Thursday, January 3, 2002
But what about the opposite of road rage?
The good humoured drivers. As a person with MS I went recently to a respite care home at Dyserth near Prestayn, Wales for a break.
One nice sunny day I had seen a sign saying 'Prestatyn 4 miles', so I thought that I would go on my Bec electric scooter to Prestatyn. I had 2 new batteries at £100 each, which it stated were capable of a 20 mile run.
However on my way back it was obvious that the batteries were running down. I wanted to go up a slight slope to get onto the kerb. I was unable to get up the slope.
So I called to a young boy aged about 10 years old who was cycling around to give me a push. This he willingly did, and I carried on along this kerb until the kerb came to an end. This meant that I would have to cross the road to get to the kerb on the other side.
As there was no traffic about I started across the road at about half a mile an hour. When I was half way across a car came from my left, so I stopped. So did the car. Then another car came from my right and he also stopped.
In just a few seconds there were a number of cars, and a large juggernaut, all stopped. But they all had pleasant smiles (and not smirking smiles). When they were passing, yes still smiles, and the juggernaut driver called out to me. He sounded like an Irish Scouser (having been married to a Liverpool Lass (a 'Scouser') for 46 years I quickly recognised the accent). He called over to me "And are yu shore dat yur alreet maite?". I just smiled and nodded back to him.
But what lovely, friendly people. The exact opposite of road rage!