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Friends

My friends have been so important over the years. At sixteen Jane Bates and I were allowed to cycle from our home in Witney to the Cheddar Gorge near Bristol. We spent four nights in youth hostels and lived on rolls and chocolate. My bike had no gears and ropey old brakes. Our parents were brave or foolhardy to let us go - mind you the roads were much quieter then and we were told to be careful who we talked to, though one rainy day we accepted a lift on a farmer’s trailer. On our next holiday we cycled to the Brecon Beacons.

My friend Penny Tautz invited me to Jersey with her sisters. We spent the whole week laughing. We thought we were very funny telling all the boys we worked in Woolworths! My first taste of surfing was sitting on the back of big Malibu surfboards at St Ouen’s bay. Penny joined me skiing one year - I used to snatch a week over Easter - and her company made such a difference. She caught the eye of the most handsome ski instructor and après ski took on a whole new meaning.

When I had the children I experienced a sort of lockdown, a clipping of wings. I loved my girls dearly but knowing mums at similar stages was a real solace. Wheeling a crying baby around the streets and meeting Sara and Ruth with their newborns was so lucky. It started a regime of meeting up for weekly get-togethers to keep us sane. We still celebrate Twelfth Night with a ‘playgroup tea’. Mary initiated a carload to go swimming twice a week for our dodgy backs. We get together for birthday lunches, Sally’s whatever the weather walks and take Pilates and Alice’s art classes. I have a problem with art though. For over ten years I have tried very hard to be an artist. I don’t seem to have improved at all - I blame it on a very poor visual memory and not doing enough homework! But I like going to the classes and seeing what other people are doing. I also love my art book group and, encouraged by Jane, the days out to see exhibitions. Our three residential sketching weeks in Sidmouth were challenging but fun and my trip with Mary to the Paris art galleries looking for an original painting by Delauny was extra special. So were the two stays on Mull with Mary and Jane - once I had got over the travelling! - brilliant driver though Jane is.

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Friends from Playgroup - Helping to start up our playgroup with Sally bonded eleven like minded friends who in one way or another have stayed in touch ever since. on my 80th birthday in a Zumba class for golden oldieswinter sunshine on the Mediterranean - ©Mum in Australia - ©

and Family

As it happened we chose three of the best beaches in the UK for our family holidays. Whitsuns were spent at Lee Bay, which is within walking distance of Woolacombe in Devon, where a scamper over the cliffs after supper with Don while Mrs Baston babysat the girls was sheer bliss. We also often stayed in a farmhouse at Marloes in Pembrokeshire where we learnt to surf. The annual trip to Mellon Udrigal in Wester Ross, where my parents had made their retirement home was an epic journey of 14 hours. We tried all ways: 600 miles driving over night - ruining the next day for me; staying in a hotel overnight on the borders; catching the motor rail at Kings Cross or Crewe and a couple of times going by train via Glasgow, Oban, Mallaig, Kyle of Lochalsh, Archnasheen, post bus to Laide, then final pick up by the parents. When the weather was good it was the best place in the world!

Even going up on my own for my mother’s birthday in December had its virtues. Out of the tourist season seals used to accompany me along Mellon beach with the occasional eagle soaring above. But Don, fighting the midges weeding the lily pond, regarded Scotland as a duty visit. When the girls were older we crossed the Channel to explore various ports. The children practised their French but we couldn’t get Don to. He and Katie though did translate the Latin commentary on the Bayeaux tapestry. People around dispensed with their earpieces to hear them. They had quite a queue following them by the end! In 1985 we spent a fortnight in Australia courtesy of my parents after dad decided he could no longer face the long journey.

Once the girls had gone to college we spent every year getting some winter sunshine on the Mediterranean and we spent a week in Antibes with my brother Richard and his wife Clare when they launched their Benetton yacht before sailing her back to Australia.

My parents always used us as their base down south. After my dad died, my mother came to live at the little house I found for her at 13 Newland Street, Eynsham. We had several happy holidays together. We went to Lake Lucerne and from our hotel pier we visited various places by paddle steamer. We went up Mount Rigi and Mount Pilates by cog railways, just as she had done with her mother 60 years before, when she could see for herself without me ‘painting’ the picture for her. On our visit to Llandudno we went up Snowdon. I left her at the bottom of the last climb and asked people coming down to tell the little old lady sitting on a rock below about my progress. She was never daunted by her blindness, In Venice during a severe flood we donned bin liners and walked round St Mark’s Square virtually on our own. Our trips to Iowa, USA, and Perth, Australia (with a stopover in Hong Kong), to see ‘Our Boys’ were great adventures.

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