Thursday, 17 November 2011

To James, who recently commented on this blog. I am the Author of this blog and would like to reply to your comment privately but don't want to advertise my e-mail address on the blog! I am not sure how to find your gmail account. Help! You could find me on Facebook and then we could converse properly.

Cheers Prue King

Thursday, 20 March 2008


My Mother died on 8th March and today it was her funeral. I think she would have enjoyed it. Tim, her eldest Grandchild talked about her life and what she meant to him, Georgina (my daughter) read a piece from this blog - the bit about her founding a scout group when she was about 18 and Simon (Adria's eldest) read the piece about her falling in the river in Patagonia in her late 70's. On the back was a picture of her on an ice field in Canada, sitting on a deck chair, cigarette hanging from her mouth and a plate of oysters in her lap. A helicopter has just deposited her there on a fishing trip.

We then went on to the Rainbow on the Lake at Steeple Langford and had a lovely time catching up with all the people who had admired her during her life.

Adria and Conrad did all the arrangements for the funeral which was brilliant. My thanks to them.

Thanks also to Linda F who posted the first comment that this blog has received.


Monday, 7 January 2008

Duke of Bedford and Woburn Abbey

As a child my Mother lived in the Old Rectory, Eversholt. Her Uncle, with whom she lived was the Duke of Bedfords main agent. These are some of her random memories:

Burnt Cottage
Just before we went to Eversholt we saw two old cottages with thatch on fire. Someone managed to get an urgent message to Woburn Abbey. They took two hours to catch the horses for the fire engine. The cottages were by then burnt to the ground.

The Duke
My Uncle told me that when the Duke changed for dinner he put on 'Tails'. They were made of crepe-de-chine, navy blue with white spots! His trousers were always creased at the side.

As children my brothers and I were allowed the run of Woburn Park. We asked, if we met the Duke, what were we to call him. After some thought my Uncle said:
"The boys will call him 'Sir' and I should call him 'Your Grace'.

The Old Rectory
The Old Rectory was surrounded on 3 sides by high wire fences with a curve at the top and barbed wire to keep the animals out. Our large gate, of which the Uncle had the key, had a small square wire cover over the key hole I, being very small, could climb through the hole. My brothers were too big - so I was sent to retrieve any balls that went over the fence. There was also a large cedar tree with a branch hanging over the high fence - which was convenient for us.

The Animals in Woburn Park
I watched the various animals: several herds of deer, Rheas and cranes from safety in the garden. There was the only herd of Pere David deer in the country at that time, which I frequently watched. Their bones creaked as they walked. I witnessed the wonderful courting dance of the cranes.

One day my Uncle and I bicycled to the Park Farm - on the way back we and our West Highland were chased by a Rhea with 12 chicks (exact replicas of mother Rhea) following her. The Uncle threw his bicycle at her, she swerved magnificently and all her babies swerved after her.

In my lone wanderings in the Park I found the European Bison enclosure. The large bull sauntered to the fence and I scratched his huge hairy head which he seemed to enjoy. I often visited him, until one day a keeper came along and nearly had a fit! He told me NEVER to go there again. I learnt later that the European Bison is one of the most dangerous and treacherous animals in the world!

Colonel S. H. Kershaw
My future Father-in-law came to live in one of the Duke's houses on Aspley Heath. The fire in the dining room became difficult to light and the smoke belched into the room. The chimney sweep put his long rod up the chimney and it struck some immovable obstruction. He climbed on to the roof and prodded with his rod but the obstruction would not move. He had, eventually to remove several bricks. Unbelievably, a red petrol can, half full of petrol, was found. As it was roughly the size of the top of the chimney it seemed quite impossible to have entered. The only explanation anyone could think of was that it had dropped from an aeroplane. The house was remote with a heavy front gate to the drive. As far as he knew the Colonel had no enemies!

The Flying Duchess
The Duke asked my Uncle to find a Dower House for the Duchess. The Uncle travelled to many houses and I always went with him (aged 12 to 14). We went to see one in Norfolk and spent the night in a Hotel. With obvious glee, my Uncle signed the hotel register, "Room 15 - Colonel E. B. Gordon and Miss Massey" (Nowadays it would be sinister, but it certainly was not!).

The Duchess was never satisfied with the houses she saw. Then we went to see one near Uckfield, called 'Whispers' (Now a school I believe). The Uncle told her about it.
"Buy it" she said.
He was aghast - but:-
"You know by now what I like! Buy it"
So he did.

It was a lovely house, not really big by Ducal standards - with a lot of land and a lake. The Duchess enquired if there was room for a hangar, spacious landing ground for her plane and plenty of room near the house for a Dower House. So she said 'go ahead' In time she went to look at it and approved, to my Uncle's relief!

Alas, she never lived in it. She went down in her aeroplane a year or two after the house was finished. After some time bits of the plane were washed up on the Norfolk coast.

Learning to drive at 15
I learnt to drive a car when I was 15. I mostly drove on the Park roads. I never met another car! I alarmed our chauffeur when he met me on my return from school, at Bletchley Station. I said grandly
I will drive Arthur".
I dursent" he replied.
"I am driving" I said and he had to give in.

The Prince of Wales
The Prince of Wales was going to have lunch at the Abbey before he accompanied the Duchess to the Beds and Herts Agricultural show. The Duchess, rather conspiratorially asked my Aunt and another friend if they would like to watch the Prince land on her landing strip, apologising for not being able to ask them to lunch too. They were delighted and promised to be at a discrete distance!

Meanwhile, as the Uncle was judging the jumping at the show he was on the ground by eight o'clock and I was with him. I bagged four seats next to the Royal Box and then enjoyed the jumping. (Every time a horse jumped my Uncle involuntarily lifted his right foot!).

After lunch I was seated when the 'Royal party' arrived. It was immediately evident that the Prince of Wales was in a bad temper. His face was saying:
"I did not want to come, the whole thing bores me stiff. The Duchess is deaf and she can't hear a word I say."
I was shocked. He had been a real pin-up prince, but from that time I disliked him.

Woburn Abbey
Near to the Park Farm buildings the Duke had built a beautiful house with a moat round it. His son had been born and no taint of germs should be allowed near his Dairy. Miss Gunnel presided over it and was one of the defenceless people I used to visit when the Uncle was at Park Farm. There was the butter churning room and a marble counter where the butter for the Abbey was made into small flat round pats with the day and date stamped on them. Another room had a long marble counter where large beautiful bowls stood, full of rich milk, waiting for the cream to be taken off the top.

The Duchess again
There was great excitement amongst us children at Christmas, as the Duchess always sent the Uncle and Aunt a lovely present. One year it was a wooden box about 2 ½ x 1 ½ feet by 12 inches, covered with Chinese pictures. Another year a beautiful seal in Royal Copenhagen (It looked almost as if the water was dripping off it).

When the Duchess was lost flying it was a very sad time for all of us. The Duke was badly hit by her death. In the course of time he told my Uncle that he would like my Aunt to go tot the Abbey and choose a picture in memory of the Duchess. The Aunt panicked! How was she going to choose a picture when the Abbey was stuffed with Rembrandts, Constables, Tititians, Vandycks and Gainsbroughs?
My Uncle calmed her with his advice. She should to to the Duchess' rooms and look at the many pictures there, some of which were obviously not 'old masters' and choose one fairly anonymous one which SHE liked. This she most successfully did. She picked a picture of moorland, about 3' x 2' 3" with a plain gold frame by Eggington. I inherited it and love it (along with the Chinese box and seal).

Eggington Painting
Years later, at my last home, a man came to mend my television. He knelt back on his heels and said "I see you have an Eggington". I was a bit surprised and asked what he knew about him. Evidently he knew Eggington. Eggington and his father were both artists and very good ones at that.

This is not a ducal story, but relates to the last paragraph! An expert on knitting machines came to sort my very complicated machine. She noticed a picture I have of my Uncle's Great Great Aunt. It is in pastels and probably by Russell 1750. She guessed the age of the portrait and said "I see it has the original glass still". "How do you know that?" I asked. Then she told me how they made glass in the 1700's. A long metal rod and a furnace and a lump of solid glass on the rod. An empty room with a perfect floor. When the glass was hot enough it was thrown with a splendid gesture on to the floor, where it covered a large area. The outside part of the glass was thin and only slightly wavy and was used for pictures. The middle part was thicker and was used for windows and the middle 'knotted' bit was for cottage windows, which were made of diamond shapes of lead holding the 'knots'.

The Ducal Estate
The Duke's estate at Woburn was very extensive. Besides the Abbey and the Park he owned most of the villages for miles around. And very good to his tenants he was. It was like a beneficent Kingdom. He had other estates in Devonshire, Somerset, Scotland and Norfolk and of course, a large part of London. His family were buried at Chenies. I visited all of these with my Uncle. In Scotland the local Agent presided, he had a beautiful daughter. She had a tame fox which followed her around. I was utterly enchanted.

The Devonshire estate was large. It had a big house, which was called 'The Cottage' and twenty two miles of the River Tamar and the most wonderful shooting. My brother and I had many happy times there. The elderly local Agent Mr Rundle had retired and his place was taken by Mr Bliss. Each had two sons the same age as my brothers.
We were all messing about and bathing in a lake below the house, except the eldest Rundle boy TED who was fishing in the river. Ted visited us on his way back, dressed in body waders. The other boys dared him to get in and swim. He jumped in and swam for TWENTY minutes. When, exhausted, he got out, his waders were full of water. It was a great comfort when later on, I fell in a few times to know that one did not necessarily drown if one had waders on!
My Uncle asked someone with a horse and cart to take 3 Rob Roy canoes and a Canadian canoe up to Launceton Bridge. We drove up in the car, when there embarked in the Rob Roys which were very narrow and difficult to balance. I fell straight out of mine and had a wet day! The Uncle was in the Canadian with dry clothes and refreshments. We then 'shot the rapids' back to Endsleigh. I thing about 10 or 12 miles. Very exciting.

The Uncle, in later years, had the shooting and we went down every Autumn and had 3 days at the pheasants. There were hills beyond the river so the birds came high and fast. I trained a Labrador so was fully occupied without a gun!. We had lovely lunches. I remember one very large farmer, who was six foot tall and 6 foot round the waist! He and his wife produced a feast for us. My brothers counted the glasses of cider, He drank 16! There were usually 6 guns.

I fished the Tamar much later on. My husband took our daughter Adria with us, aged 2 ½. When I had carefully felt my way over the stony bottom to the middle of the river, I heard a plop. Adria had fallen down the steep bank and was rapidly floating down stream. There must have been some reason, which I cannot remember, for Jack not rescuing her and I had to step extremely carefully as I tried to catch her up with her. NO way. Luckily the Head Gardener's daughter came to visit me and plunged in and retrieved her!

Years later Tony Coke and I had a few days on the Tamer. I got one good fish which Tony nobly netted for me, near the steep bank in fast water. He was a tall and rather large man and it was quite dangerous.

One year, when I was about 13, I went with the Uncle to Endsleigh in Devon. We then left for Dorset and Mr Bliss, the Agent came too. The car was a two-seater with a 'dickey'. I was in the dickey and with no hood I got colder and colder. That night I felt very ill. I somehow found my way to the Uncle's bedroom and more or less collapsed, dragging at the bed clothes. He got up in great concern and carried my back to my bed. We were staying with General and Mrs Gordon Steward and the Uncle woke them up. All I can remember from then is Doctors, being ill and the Uncle almost in tears.

Zebras on Woburn Estate
About half a mile from the Old Rectory lived the Zebras, looked after by an old man called Mr Cook. I was a frequent visitor. He carried a big knobbly stick and always got between me and the zebras. He was terrified they would bite or kick me. I was told that Lord somebody drove a Coach and Four Zebras along Pall Mall!

Riding on the Estate
I was riding in the Park with Bunk Clifford. He was on a bicycle and we took it in turns to ride. Galloping up a hill called 'Stump Cross', I took a fall and was winded and lay on the ground. Munster Marine, the horse, stood by me for a bit and then kicked up his heels and galloped off. Unfortunately he got me in the side and broke a few ribs! Bunk hurried up, but I told him to follow Munster and catch him. The man at the Park gates had caught him and Bunk rode him home. It was a Saturday and there were many cars on the public road through the park and someone gave me a lift home! We went back the next day to try and find my crop which I had left behind. A car stopped and hailed me. It was the car which had given me a lift and they gave my crop back. A great coincidence that we were both there at the same time!

Giraffes on the Estate
My brothers were told by a keeper that the Duke used to have giraffes which did not do too well. When the last one died they had a huge fire and cremated it. He said that in the intensive heat of the fire its long neck and little head rose up and waved about.

The Duke's Private Garden
On one occasion my Uncle let me peep into the Duke's Private Garden. I was greatly awed by privilege.

Many years later I visited Woburn when it was open and had tea in the cafe. (It was pretty nasty, with black tea and stale buns). I asked for a loo and was directed to - the Duke's Private Garden. What sacrilege!

The Park Lodges
All gates onto the Park (except the two into and out of the main road through) were locked and all had a lodge keeper and his cottage.
I was driving with Pinsent Elliot, the local Agent, and we got to Ridgemont Gate. Mr Mallet presided over this one and was always very smart in a long black overcoat and a bowler hat which he doffed and held rigidly, at his side. On this occasion he did not take off his bowler. After a minute or two Pinsent said:
"There is something wrong there, I am going back".
Mallet came out again and doffed his bowler. Pinsent asked
"why did you not take off your hat when we came through? You always do. Is something wrong?"
Yes, there was. He was very angry about something and had sworn not to doff his bowler to the next car that came through - "be it the Duke himself".

Pinsent was a very pleasant 'confirmed' bachelor. He was polite and distant to me until I got engaged to Jack and then he became quite friendly. I was SAFE, you see. He brought me home from some function and when we reached the top of the hill, in sight of the Old Rectory, we saw, outside the back gate, the Chauffeur and the housemaid in a loving embrace.
"I am going to stop here - we cannot spoil their good night kiss."
We waited until they parted and he drove on. Next morning the housemaid said to me:- very conspiratorially and with meaning:- "I saw you last night stopping in the car with Mr Elliot" ! !

More of the Ducal Estate
As a 12 or 13 year old my Uncle took me when he went to see the Duke and left me in the car in the garages. I came to know the cars and the chauffeurs well and the forge and the blacksmith and others, who I now forget!

I visited the Real Tennis Court and the sculpture Gallery. The first thing one saw in the Sculpture Gallery was "The Three Graces" which fascinated me. I suppose I looked at the other sculptures but I cannot remember anything but the Graces.

The Duchess once showed some Americans around the Gallery. They were suitably impressed and asked the Duchess, " And which is Your GRACE?".

There were to be new bathrooms in the Abbey. My Uncle told us of a happy morning when he and the Duchess inspected a great many bathroom effects which were arrayed outside the Abbey at the back. The Duchess gleefully tried them all out for size!

Shooting down a pheasant
Aged about 12 I took an airgun into the garden to pot at anything moving. My brothers did, so why shouldn't I? A pheasant flew up out of the cabbages and I fired. I hit the thing and it came down the other side of the high fencing. So I climbed the cedar tree and over the fence. The pheasant was fluttering. I tried, at point blank range, to put another pellet into it and carried it back, in triumph, to my Uncle. His only comment was "but out of season".

Another misdemeanour
Aged 17 I acquire a delightful Labrador puppy. I called him Shin, after the river we had been fishing and where he was born. He committed every sin in the book. My Uncle sent him to the keeper at Endsleigh. After a week he had to be returned as the keeper had a heart attack after trying to catch him. Another keeper, in Somerset I think, returned him as untrainable. Then an advertisement in the Field caught our attention. "Colonol Badcock trains difficult dogs". Colonel Badcock rang us after a week with Shin, saying he was untrainable. They only cure for his wickedness was a really thorough beating. I refused this and he came home, cheerfully as bad as ever.
I exercised him riding every morning on a lead - dangerous - and afternoons with a bicycle (on a lead) and took a few falls as Shin's energy was not even dented by the long exercise. My Uncle ordered him to live in the kennel, so I more or less lived in the kennel too. I walked him with a 20 yard rope, and brought him up with a severe jolt if he tried to run away. This chastened him a certain amount. I took him to the Evergreens, where I found a keeper in an open glade, feeding pheasants. Shin sat quivering by my side and the keeper remarked that he was becoming quite good! Five minutes later he dashed off and I brought him up short and the rope broke. I drive round the evergreens hooting and calling but as night fell I had to go home without him.
I had a call from a keeper next morning. There was a black Labrador sitting waiting by his gate with ten yards of rope trailing. Was he mine?
This was the last straw and he had to go. I have Shin to a schoolmaster who was quite certain he could tame him, but when I met them by chance a year later, I went to pat him and he shot away from me with such violence that he scratched nail marks in the tarmac on the road. He had obviously been really soundly beaten and was terrified of me.

The Church in Ridgmont
There is a little Church in Ridgmont which was ancient and unused. My Uncle took an architect to see it. (One of his jobs in the County was to look after old and unused Churches). The Architect dated it and said there was a Norman(?) Door which had been walled in and they called for workmen with pickaxes to find it. There was and they uncovered it. In the Chancel the outer layer of plaster on the walls was peeling, thus showing a painted under layer of great interest.
He said, "We must find some gentle handed person to uncover that." He then looked at me, aged about 15, and said, "Why don't you do it?"
Armed with a ladder and flat ended tool I worked away nervously and uncovered three more layers of pictures underneath. Very exciting and I wonder if the Church still stands and was restored.

After leaving school

When I left school my Aunt decided that before I thought of getting a job ( not necessary in those days) I should have a year at home to become a young Lady and not a school girl. I had a wonderful time, far beyond expectations.

I was invited, with my Uncle and Aunt to lunch at Woburn Abbey. A very large dining table seated about 20 people. We ate off solid gold plates. There were eight footmen waiting at table. After desert the eight footmen came round with two plates of goodies. I was almost overwhelmed with choice!

I was engaged and the date for the wedding was fixed and wedding presents were arriving. The post was brought to me, in bed one morning. There was a letter from the Duke with a one hundred pound cheque. I was really overwhelmed. I had never seen a cheque for £100 before.

Talking to the Duke about Hong Kong
Soon after I married, my husband was sent to China in a new Submarine. I sold the car, bought a passage (in a German ship, the Scharnhorst), and followed him. We had a splendid two years in Hong Kong and Wei-hei-wei, Canton and Shanghai. On my return my Uncle gave me a message from the Duke that he would like to hear of my time in China.
Being war time there was no petrol for visits so I walked the 1 ½ miles to the Abbey, pushing the pram with my year old daughter. I was met at the imposing portals of the Abbey by two footmen, who assisted me to de-pram Jill and escorted us along passages to the 'Sisters' apartment where I left Jill - then another walk to the Duke's room. I cannot remember much about the visit, but I think it went all right. I was then escorted back to the 'Sisters' for tea. The Sisters were two much favoured nurses who had presided over Battlesden Nursing Home which the Duchess ran. Both my Uncle and Aunt had been nursed there and my Mother died there. They had become good friends of the family.
We sat down to a cosy tea with Jill on my lap. Unfortunately she misbehaved herself and I had a large patch of wet, which trickled through to the back of my tweed skirt. Imagine my confusion when I has eventually escorted back to the pram and seen off by two footmen, with a large patch of wet on my skirt, while I wheeled the pram up the drive.

Moat Hall
The Duke gave my Uncle the money to buy a farm. After 24 years he was near retirement when the Duke died (during the second World War) . We went to stay in Suffolk with a friend and bought a farm in Layham, close to Hadleigh. The Duke also left him money.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

More Incidents

Living with Uncle Bos

Aged about 16, living with Uncle Bos and Aunt Patty ...

The Uncle kept horses and hunted regularly. I could have hunted too, but I knew I was a rotten rider and tried hard not to hunt. Staying with the Cruddas' in Northumberland nobody asked me if I wanted to hunt. I was just put on a horse and off we went to the meet. The two youngest Cruddas daughters were 7 and 9 and had ridden to hounds since the age of about 3. I kept close to them. Hounds were running and we galloped down a fairly steep field with a fence at the bottom. I, of course fell off. The two kids were very surprised that a big girl like me fell off over a jump!

Next there was a gymkhana and I was put on a large black mare. I entered the 'Musical Hurdles'. My horse suddenly stopped as we faced an empty hurdle and I went over her head and broke my arm!

When I got back home, arm nearly mended, but still in a splint the Uncle said "You have been hunting in the North, so come on - Out we GO!" I managed to fall at a jump, as I knew I would - and that was the end of my hunting career.

I felt despised by the hunting crowd which we saw a lot of, but it didn't depress me unduly!

After a lunch party (of hunting people) we went out to look at the horses. One was very lame and there was a lot of clever discussion as to why she was lame. They gave up, they did not know. Now where it came from I do not know, but I said, "Perhaps it is NAVICULA". There was a stunned silence, more prodding and poking and to cut a long story short, it WAS navicula!


We drove 20 miles to a lovely river but had to walk two miles to get to one beat - Tony 85 and me 84. I spent the day pleasantly and by six was at the top of the river, but decided I was too tired to fish and walked gently back to the place from which we would start our two miles back to the car. I passed Tony, who had a fish on and felt encouraged to have a go while I waited to start the journey back. It was a fast river, with about 1 ½ yards of gentle water near the bank so I got in and waded along the edge. The footing was on loose gravel and I simultaneously caught a trout and fell over on my back. I was carried rather swiftly down stream. Tony shouted "Keep calm" but there was no way he could get to me. After a bit, during which my mind dwelt on the fact that we were about 100 miles from the Arctic Ocean, I managed to turn over and swim to the bank - which was very steep. I was wondering what to do with my sodden self when the completely useless American ghillie and a fellow fisherman (called Martin) of about 50 arrived. Martin immediately took charge. He got off my thick Barbour. Divested me of my body waders, which he emptied of water and insisted that I put them on again, or I would suffer from hypothermia on the way back. Off with the jersey which he wrung out. I then landed my fish - which was dead and he and the ghillie escorted me across a river and walked me back to the road. There Martin insisted I took off everything and hunted out dry trousers and jerseys and a jacket. He closed up the car with the heater on and I awaited the rest of the party. I had not removed bra and pants and they felt very wet and uncomfortable on the 20 miles to our hotel. However, owing to Martin's care I was none the worse for the incident.

Tony Valder-Scott, boss of the party gave the ghillie a roasting for not being near two ancient fishers! In future any ghillie should always be near us and ready.

They next day Tony and I flew about 50 miles north to another river where they produced rubber tyres with webbing seats, right in the water. These were highly exciting as, with flippers you could paddle yourself anywhere and fish very comfortably. The ghillie there had not heard of our late escapade and sent me on my way quite cheerfully. Tony, who was a big man found it difficult to fit into the tyre and horribly difficult to get out of, so fished from the bank. There was a strong wind and I soon found myself on the opposite bank of the lake. I wondered it I should ever manage to paddle back against the wind. I did manage it and was profoundly thankful when I hit the opposite shore.

A few years later in Canada, Nicky Banks bought two slightly bigger rubber tyres and with rather a late start drove us 10 miles to a strange lake where we dumped the car and paddled into the unknown in our tyres. It was about 6.30 in the evening and dusk, but we could see for a bit, then fished in the dark. Nicky, at about 8 p.m., called out that we had better start back to the car. Of course, with my dreadful sense of direction I went in the wrong direction. Nicky rescued me and as I got exhausted paddling back he towed me back to the car. I should never have found it in the pitch dark!

We flew back to England the next day.

Tony and Me in Norway with Johan and Roland

In 1974, when I was 67 and Tony Cooke 68, we went on a delightful fishing expedition to Norway's wonderful river Laardal. My Uncle had been there years before. It was his best ever fishing trip and had stayed in my memory as a Magic Experience.

We went with two young Swedish men Johan and Roland Maxe who were everything two young men could be to two elderly customers.

The river was beautiful, fast, but sadly unproductive. On one occasion Johan made me cross the river, which, with his help, was quite exciting. There were piles of huge rocks on the bank. He leapt on to the first, leapt across on to another and pointed down stream and left me to get on with it.

With great nervousness I did one cast from the big rock and nearly fell off. I very cautiously crawled on to the next smaller rock but felt too unsafe and went one more rock down stream. From there I touched two or three fish and then I got to the end of the pool. I was not going back to the beginning again, but instead waded close to the bridge and stopped in the middle of the river.

After a few casts I had a good strong fish on. At that moment Johan, who had gone to fetch 'the Pirate' passed in the car. I yelled at him and waved but neither he nor the Pirate noticed me and they drove off down stream.

My big fish came off!

I went on across and fished the bank we had started on. By this time it was about five o'clock and all hope had gone. However, I got into another fish, again a good one. Johan appeared from nowhere and so did the Pirate. I had to play it for some time, by which time Tony joined us.

They were all quivering with excitement and shouting instructions. Johan even tried to take the rod from me, which I resisted firmly. This was Saturday afternoon and our last day (with no fish up to now(?)). To cut a long story short I landed a nice fresh 15 lb salmon and all the men hugged and kissed me and one might have thought no one had ever landed a salmon before!

The reason I started this story was for another lovely little excursion. Half way through the week Roland suggested a quick trip into the mountains by car. It was absolutely magic. 22 feet of snow lay everywhere and we stopped to admire the view.

Roland said to me "Would you like to telephone anyone?" Who, I could not think. "Anywhere in the world" he said. There were no mobile phones in those days and one thought carefully before making a 'trunk call'. "Can I ring England?" "Yes - of course!". He put in a call for me to Jill in Wiltshire. "I am in the mountains in Norway and there are 22 feet of snow all round us and it is absolutely beautiful". Jill could not quite believe what she was hearing, but we had quite a conversation, which was really the icing on the cake. (Early car telephone?)

Another little incident which pleased us - Johan went off and bought a salmon. When we stopped fishing about 7 p.m. They led us to a beautifully laid table by the fishing hut, where we sat down to a three course dinner (including the salmon) and suitable drinks. What a lovely thing to have done for us!!

Roland later caught the world's largest sea-trout - 39 ½ lbs. He sent me a photo with this great fat thing in his arms! I have lost the photo. This was on the EM in Sweden.

Fishing on the Ponoi - 1997 - a Diary

Thursday August 7th

Left Steeple Langford in Tisbury taxi with Tony and arrived Heathrow in time for a Bloody Mary and bar meal and bed - Arlington. Small hot room and slept little.

Friday August 8th

Breakfast (after coffee in room) and bus at 9.20 to Air Port. Arlington in the hands of the builders and fairly chaotic. Now called COMFORT HOTEL!

Off in the bus to Heathrow and after a long wait into wheel chairs and to plane (Cigarettes on the way).

Good flight to Helsinki where we found a man from Salisbury (Scot) Butler, who was going to the Ponoi.

A 'little walk' and back to vodka and tonic and a good fish supper. To rooms at 8.30 for early bed as being called at 4.30 a.m. Next day. HOW HORRID.

Saturday August 9th

Murmansk. Having spent two hours and gone through Passport Control ? times. We are now just rising in the Helicopter. We will be there in 2¼ hours DV.

Stopped for petrol at the dump and got to camp at 3 p.m. - new time. Tent No 11 this year. Brilliant SUN and heater. They have only got 6½ thousand fish since June!

Met Ian with whom I exchanged a kiss!. Mariusz and others whose names escape me. Early supper (4.30) and Tony and I walked down to the pool and back along the shore. Further than I thought and mosquitos were busy so once we were on the path to the cap I hurried ahead as Tony is VERY slow.

Alas his legs turned to jelly during the last bit and I had to call for help and was practically carried back by Mariusz and guide. The doctor was called. It was only legs. Heart and blood pressure sound, so he lay on the bed while ice bags arrived and all attention given.

I had necessary and very pleasant shower. Talked to Mariusz about lines. He is putting a new line (floating) on my reel. Bed with 2 sleeping pills (After 2 bad nights).

Good Night!. Breakfast with the Belgians which was pleasant and put up single rod with a dry fly. The Salisbury 'Scot' had 2 before breakfast.

Sunday August 10th.

Went with Max to Lower Tomba, in Helicopter, starting at 9 a.m. and getting back at 6.30. Tony OK but tired early. Got 3 salmon. Tony says 4 as the fourth got to the boat and got off! They others were let off.

Very jolly drinks and dinner with the wicked U.S. Doctor and his wife, a Finn and American girl. Good meal and a cigarette with the guides after dinner. Then BED. 9½ hour day, VERY strong wind which was difficult. Mrs Doctor says our Salisbury friend only got 6 though he says 9! 'He lied' she said! 9.30 and I'm ready for bed. Off at 9 tomorrow with Mariusz.

Monday August 11th

Went to Something Falls. A dour beat I thought, with Misha who was nice. Got one fish and two Pru???. Not good.

Wind HELLISH. All up stream in gust of VERY strong wind, so had great difficulty casting. Got lots of grayling.

Back to a vodka just after 6 to hear the nice Belgian tell the story of his friend(?) who took 45 minutes to catch a 6 lb salmon which was dead on arrival! Ten minutes to bring in a grayling.

Another Belgian told me all about his sons. One was good and one was bad. He went to Catholic School in England and Oxford and is now good! The Doctor told us all about his ???sten fly which caught all his fish and he hates it. Said he would give me one, then NO, he would give one to Tony. (Then he thought his wife might give me one!) An amusing chap in spite of his being nasty to me last year!

Now says I can go on smoking as I am so old!

The Belgians are lovely. The little Finn kills everything, birds, fish deer, bears and has a German Pointer which assists in the carnage.

I have left Tony in the dining tent with the Vodka while he tells them how to catch fish! He seems fit now and lasts the day out!

I did not leave 200 cigarettes at Murmansk, but cannot find here! Mariusz to the rescue I hope. Yes, in the dining tent.

Tuesday August 12th

Our first day was so hot that I did not use the sleeping bag at all - just my sheet. LAST NIGHT I froze in the sleeping bag and huddled in it all night. Ice in my tooth mug! But the sun is shining. Everything piled on so hope it does not get too hot today. The Doctor and his wife do not believe anything the Scotsman says!!

Went off with Robert A.lovely enthusiastic and polite young American. We went up stream about five miles. Tony had lots of fun and fish. I say three, he says 7. I caught NOTHING! Depressing - lost confidence! Had lunch in the tent (good) and afterwards I caught two quite small and later another, on borrowed time (Tony had stopped fishing). I got my fourth and largest fish and we went back to a Vodka and chat with a Belgian (beginner) and to Ian. Then a lovely shower and then dinner. As we left the dinner tent someone said to Tony, I hear you had a fish! He had four but he counted ones be caught and lost!

Wednesday August 13th

Poor 'one weekers' they only have two more days. Tho' today was HELL! UPSTREAM wind all day and RAIN. Almost non stop. Very cold but a fire in the tent for lunch and nearly got warm. Steep approach which Tony did NOT like! Guides pulled us up!

Thursday August 14th

Got five fish for the book and a sixth to the boat (16 lbs?) Which dropped off. Tony did not do well.

Had an early Vodka and a shower and stove in my tent made it RED hot and dried everything that was not in the 'Drying Tent' including my washing. NEED more WATER. Cooking not so bad this year and no water is BAD.

Teased the Vicomte about the Belgians singing in the dining tent. Then went back to talk to Tony about tomorrow and was sent back as I had a cigarette!

We are not going with Ian tomorrow, damn it as Tony thinks Upper Tomba too much. Mariusz very kind and says he will fetch us half way through the day if we like. BLAST it!

Interesting dinner with the Doctor holding forth about the Broux etc.. A great TALKER but fun. Poured all day. Drying tent full!

Friday August 15th

MILES up river (taken short!). Got only one fish in the morning, then suddenly four after lunch. Missed two 'niggles' COLD but some sun and no rain. Had Boris who is nice. They all are!

After dinner. Great goodbyes. Hailed as an 'average raiser' - Me and the Scotsman!

Needed more water in my tent again. So was a champion water user!

Great goodbyes to all the Belgians. Really quite the nicest bunch of people we've met. The Marquis is gorgeous only exceeded in niceness by the Vicomte. The little Finn who kills everything is a gynaecologist! Two hugs from Sandra - very nice too. The Scots man wants us to teach him bridge. Lives in Broadchalk! So will meet again.

Tomorrow an influx of 16 people so the boat will be busy (only 6 ghillies.)

We have missed Ian but hope to have him next week. There are seals right up the river nearly as high as the camp - which is BAD news for next week. I have added up and have 26 fish this week. Not bad really - average 15. I wonder why I catch them!!

Today I had a chair in the boat. It made an enormous difference - am not tired and had no back ache.

So the first week was GOOD. Amazing and we are very lucky. I have just re-lit my stove (9.30 p.m.) And the tent is warm in spite of a wicked wind. Lets hope next week is as good.

Saturday August 16th

I think I have lost a day somewhere. Saturday - the day everyone goes and 16 new people arrive, Robert was to take us out for two hours - wind was too strong and water dirty after rain, so I did three pictures - 2 of the camp and whiled away the day. Dinner at 4.30! I went down to river to watch the newcomers fish - 8 in a row! The first got two fish and others nothing.

Sunday August 17th

Today in Helicopter to top beat again. Fished for eight hours and got one fish! (And some grayling). Nothing showed, water dirty and sun bright. 'Jolly' dinner. South African on my right. Very pleasant. Drunken Doctor got his 300th salmon!

Monday August 18th

Wonderful day on Pornach with Don. Green highlander. The only fly allowed by him! Tried a bomber - no good. I lost two good fish, one about 5 lbs took me twice across the river and then dropped off at the boat. Finished with a 10lb fish. I got four, lost at least six. Tony got six. I am glad he was 'top rod'. Old Lancashire Peter got 18!! And lost 4. He is only allowed to hear about the four he lost.

Amusing dinner with a nice crowd. Shower in Co-Ed and bed. Exhausted 9 ½ hours fishing!

Tuesday August 19th

Had the dreaded Lower Tomba beat with Alex. We cast unceasingly and had not an over by lunch time. I had to be escorted across the stones to a rock slightly bigger than the rest to spend a penny etc. and then cry 'help' to be escorted back to the boat. No cover anywhere except up a cliff side. Modesty has to suffer! We bashed large slices of river to no avail until 5.30 when I got a fish and another quarter of an hour later. Seals had occupied the beat. I believe Mariusz went up and shot them (illegally) but the two Tomba beats have not recovered. The other beats, especially Clough, have benefited. Clough got 21 fish. That's more like it! Dinner with 2 Englishmen and South African Professor of Philosophy - Interesting.

Did not have a chance to ask Fred if he ever wrote an article on me. But will before the week is up.

Must have cast too many times today and in spite of a chair in the boat, am pretty tired. Tony bulldozes the conversation, but luckily the Englishmen and South African were chatty! Bed early as I had to light my fire to dry my washing.

Hands very sore - all fingers in holes!

Two Frenchmen from last year are here. English not good but I hear yammer yammer yammer in the next tent till very late.

We have three good beats to come - which is nice.

Wednesday 20th

Very disappointing 4th day. Hooked and lost six fish and landed one. WORST DAY YET!! Tony got two.

I cast till I was totally spent (in spite of the chair). After lunch Mariusz concentrated on the right bank and Tony. My left rod cast into the ocean. Could have caught a fish but didn't interest anything at all.

Bloody little Lancashire man so chuffed with his 11 fish (not that I blame him) that he didn't even ask how we did. Two other Brits got 11 fish so they were there damn them. (The fish)

Had a lovely hot shower and went in to dinner. SALMON! At last, sat with the South African Professor who lives in Hindhead and two Frenchmen and little Liverpudlian. Bed 10.10! Tired! Nothing so tiring as NOT catching fish all day.

Thursday August 21st

One day to go and 'Clough' a pool that for two days did magnificently. I think because all the fish were chased out of the lower pools by the seals. Our Guide was Max, a nice lad and a great caster. Had two fish before lunch. Tony 4. Only lost or failed to catch one fish while I was trying on my 'hood' as it had started to rain. Rain soon stopped and it was a lovely day. Had to be escorted to the undergrowth by Max and collected again, So did Tony. Went up in the Helicopter and collected at 6.

Must thank Pilot for his safe journeys. One is always hurried away to a safe distance, so do not say Thank you. The buggies work splendidly. Tony and I always get a lift. Mere 75 year olds have to walk. (Up and down from the Heli-pad.) So far the others seem to have the average 8 or 9 fish. Can you believe that that is an average?

Last night I met one nice friend (South African) Dick's brother, so sent love and kisses.

Talked to Fred before dinner. Staggered to learn that in the opinion of Mariusz and the guides, Tony and I are the best consistent casters in the camp (18 people) but we haven't been catching so many fish! 26 the first week, 15 the second.

Friday August 22nd

With Robert, young and enthusiastic but not too much so. Met several fish and caught 4. Total for two weeks 41 fish, under difficulties. Address exchanged with Ian, Fred and Peter. Photo taken several times! One by request with a cigarette in the mouth.

CLOUGH beat which had been so GOOD was not much today. Fish here and there but Tony's day was made by catching a 15 lb fresh fish. Best so far.

Paid our debts, I found I had got my fishing line FREE. (£25 or more). All very jolly but we get up at 5 tomorrow and have an 18 hour journey home.

Have packed most things. I think all will go in! My fishing bag has to be closed with white and black elastic - NOT elegant.

Sat next to the U.S. Doctor who was very nice. All fingers of both hands are RAW! After 108 hours fishing!

108 hours / 41 salmon = 1 salmon in every 2.6 hours

Be without a fish for, say seven hours and the rest of the time you got lots.

Saturday August 23rd Journey Home

Up 5 a.m. Finish packing and pad locking and kit bags out. Breakfast 6 a.m. and loo. (Took no medicines as I had not done for a week) and prayed my inside would behave. By wonderful luck it shut down completely and functioned normally next day at home . Perfection. But worrying .

REMEMBER if I go next year that the 18 hours getting home is very tiring. Can stand it, but the next 4 days of washing, tidying etc. and answering difficult letters is very, very tiring and help should be available next time - who or how I don't know, but SOMETHING.

Things are lying on the floor in heaps, for disposal (Monday) (Arrived Saturday night) and I feel too tired to cope with more than oddments which I move every time I go up or downstairs!

NEXT TIME MUST arrange to have assistance.

Fred told me (and said 'do not tell the others') that I and Tony were, in the opinion of the Guides and Mariusz, the 'BEST Consistent Casters in the camp!' Tony's and my comment ... The rest must be pretty awful!

Met Dick (our last year's South African friend's brother gave me his card). Fred says his 'article' will be coming out about now and will send it (Fred, the scientist). Ian is coming to see us later in the summer. The photographers full length film will be shown in about a year. We shall be told. Tony is fixing us up for next year!

Journey Home in 7 'transports':
Buggy to Heli-pad
Helicopter (Russian) to Murmansk
Finnair to Helsinki
Wheel Chair to gate 33
Finnair to Heathrow
Wheel Chair to luggage hall
Car to Wiltshire.

We are fixed up for earlier weeks. The 'ideal' week is taken which put us out a bit. Must have two weeks before or after . 'Before' is VERY cold, so it means the week after. Tony means the week after. Tony will be nearly 87. Wonder if he will make it or if I shall.

Fishing in Patagonia

Tony and I went with Tony Valdescott and his wife with a small party to Patagonia. In my childhood I had ridden a lot with a very lame groom who had worked in Patagonia. From that time on the country was one high on my list to visit. We landed in Santiago. What absolute bliss, I was in Patagonia. Our next destinations became more and more magical. We went first to Lake Velcho, huge and beautiful, surrounded by mountains. We stayed on a small island. Bruce Sanderson was our host. Daily, a small motor boat took us to various rivers and lakes with big trout in them. A Patagonian ghillie accompanied us, or we should never have found them.

As it was getting dark one night Peter Bates, who was also fishing the same little lake, got into a big trout (8 ½ lbs), so our ghillie put us ashore to walk back to our boat and stayed to help Peter. The path in day light was hazardous, but now it was dark it was horrific. There were fallen trees and logs and alternative tracks. Tony and I were well into our eighties and we certainly floundered our way and to our intense relief found the boat! We then drove back to Peurta Monte and flew to where we fished the Simpson River. It was beautiful and exciting as it had every kind of pool and rough and smooth beats. I drank Mate with the guides and walked miles and caught very few fish!

We flew on to Coyache and fished the Baker River. Again a big river which ran for many miles and was cobalt blue.

Our Patagonian farmer ghillie took us for a two hour drive to a river whose name I have forgotten. There were six men fishing with Tate and Lyles's Golden Syrup tins, with wooden handles fixed into the lidless top. They were 'spinning' with heavy lures, which when cast, peeled off the line which was wound round the tins, very effective. They left when we arrived and may have been poaching.

It was getting late, we had walked 2 miles from the car, forded a big tributary and had to do the same on our return. I started walking back down the river and met the Ghillie and Martin, in deep discussion on flies and then on past Tony who was playing a fish. OK, if he could so could I! I climbed down into the river which had about two yards of gravel below the bank and then was really fast flowing. Quite quickly I got a good trout and must have turned somehow for I was in the river, the fast flowing part of it. Tony shouted, "Don't Panic". There was no way he could get to me as I was going down stream much faster than he could walk.

This was getting serious. I had on two jerseys and a Barbour and body waders and it was 300 miles to the Arctic ocean. I managed to turn over and swim to the bank and climb up it and the ghillie and Martin arrived. The American ghillie was obviously dumbfounded and had no idea what to do with an ancient lady who was soaked to the skin. Martin took charge, but first I reeled in my fish and killed it.

"Off with your waders" was his first command. He held them up and emptied the water out. Then the Barbour, all the pockets full of water. Then off with the two jerseys which he wrung out. "Now put them all on again". I protested about the waders, I had walked from the car in shoes, but he insisted. I must put the waders on or I should die of hypothermia on the walk back. They then escorted me across the tributary and shouted to Tony to follow us to the car. With a few rests, Martin got me the two miles to the car and the American waited for Tony. There was a high fence to surmount and I needed help from Martin and the American to get over that.

"Now", said Martin, "everything off". While I stripped he searched the back of the car and found jerseys, trousers and a jacket. Windows were shut, engine and heater on and I was warm as toast all they way back and suffered no bad results.

The American had his tail twisted and was told that his job was to be with the elderly clients! Quite right.

Next day we flew back to Coyache and went fishing in a big lake. Nearly everywhere there was about 20 yards of reeds, difficult to fish over until the ghillie went back to the cars and collected two wonderful gadgets. Float Tubes. They had a harness of webbing making a seat. One sat on the tyre in the water, put flippers on your feet and paddled off backwards. A splendid way to go where ever you wanted in the lake. There were little zipped pockets at each elbow for flies and cigarettes.

I did get blown right across the lake and had a moment or two of panic that in the strong wind I should not be able to get back, but with a great effort I managed it and caught a fish on the way.

Henry Wyndham

His Mother died, was buried in St Edmund's churchyard, Salisbury about the year 1794. The Verger knowing that she had been buried with some valuable rings, went to the vault in the night and commenced to cut off the rings. This revived the lady and she returned home. Henry was born some years after this strange occurrence.

He was the owner of one of Uncle Bos's lathes. He was the age of Uncle Bos's Father.

This story can be authenticated in the annals of St Edmund's Church which is now disused.