Weekend

70th anniversary Enigma reunion at Bletchley Park in 2009 #Bpark

8 years ago today was the 70th anniversary Enigma reunion at Bletchley Park.
The the wonderful Maggie Philbin and many other awesome people Christian Payne, Kate Arkless Gray, Benjamin Ellis, Hannah Nicklin, Matt Rawlinson and Steve Lawson, came up to Bletchley Park with me to interview as many veterans as possible to capture their memories of their time working on cracking the codes during WW2.
Here with Maggie is the phenomenal codebreaker Captain Jerry Roberts RIP, wonderful man and great family friend.
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We had an absolutely wonderful day with the hundreds of veterans that came along spending the whole day capturing as much as possible for posterity.
I had started a campaign to save Bletchley Park the previous year in July 2008 and met quite a few veterans, but this was the first time that I really got to meet hundreds of veterans and hear at first hand so many of their amazing stories.
Here are some photos from the day taken by Benjamin Ellis and Steve Lawson. There are many more, check out all the #bpark70 pics from the day on Flickr.
Here are a few of the interviews conducted that day in 2009.

I chatted to Hannah, giving an overview the day and speaking about the amazing discussions we had all had with the veterans.

Christian Payne interviewed many veterans on the day. Here are just some of his interviews. Enjoy 🙂

Interview by Christian with Bletchley Park veteran Margaret Warner of the WAAF:

Christian interviews Bletchley Park veteran Kathleen Saunders

Christian interviews Bletchley Park veteran Captain Jerry Roberts

Christian interviews Bletchley Park radio security intercept officer Alan Gordon Jackson

For more stories about Bletchley Park and the campaign we ran to save it check out my book Saving Bletchley Park.

US Amazon link here: Saving Bletchley Park 

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Fabulous autumn weekend in Paris via Eurostar using Citymapper and Airbnb 

I had a wonderful weekend this weekend celebrating my boyfriend’s birthday in Paris. We left London St Pancras station on the 11.01 train on Saturday morning arriving at Gare du Nord at 2:17pm (1 hour time difference).

  
Using Citymapper one of my favourite apps, we found our Airbnb apartment near Bastille Metro really easily. After dropping our bags we pottered around for a bit then walked towards the centre of Paris soaking up the atmosphere and the autumn sun. As it started to get dark we ventured into a bar/restaurant called Kong, where amazingly there were photos of 3 women on a digital display including one with hair very similar to mine.   

After a couple of drinks we had a delicious  dinner in the swanky glass domed restaurant. 
Full of food and drink we walked out and over Pont Neuf stopping to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the distance 😀

   
 We walked along the riverside, then crossed back over another bridge towards the Louvre and Pyramide. 
  
We then walked back in the general direction of our apartment stopping for a drink at a street cafe before getting the Metro for a couple of stops and getting a (reasonably) early night.  
Sunday morning we woke up full of beans and went for breakfast at a cafe over the road. “Le Francais” breakfast was €8, the croissant was DIVINE 😀

  
We then went for a walk along the Promenade Plantee, the Paris forerunner to New York’s Highline. It was busy with walkers and runners alike, plus a few sleeping party goers on benches, who hadn’t made it home from Halloween parties the night before. 

  
I was tempted, but didn’t take pics of the sleeping partygoers. 

We walked Promenade Plantee for several kilometres stopping for a drink (of coffee and water) at a small cafe. I made the mistake of asking for the “salle de bain” rather than “toilette” in the cafe and was kindly corrected by the lovely waiter. Maybe I had been trying to be posh? I’m not sure lol. 

We then walked up to Bel-Air Metro  and got a train to Bir Hakeim station near…..  

 ….the Eiffel Tower 😀

  
We took this pic down a side street before having French onion soup and steak frites before going for a walk around the base of the tower and then through the park. 

   
 
I wanted to go to Sacre Coeur to look at the view at dusk, so we got back on the Metro at Ecole Militaire for the journey to Abbess station. 

  
We walked up the stairs at Abbess station and then the countless steps up to the Sacre Coeur. Bloody hell. That’s a lot of steps. I’d forgotten how many 😱

   
 
There were a lot of people there in front of Sacre Coeur sitting around, smoking (so many more people smoke in Paris than in London!) and chatting and watching the sun set. 

   
  
 
We walked around Monmartre, past some great views, and a Windmill, before sitting outside another cafe for a nice cold beer before making our way back to Gare du Nord for the Eurostar home. 

  On the way to the Metro we passed the Moulin Rouge. 
We got the 8.43pm train home which arrived at 10pm. I love Eurostar 😀👍

It was a fabulous weekend, I highly recommend Paris as a great place for a relaxed weekend trip from London. I had thought that it might be a bit rushed, but it wasn’t, we had plenty of time and got home feeling relaxed and refreshed. I can’t wait to go back….  

Easter visit to Scotney Castle,  Bodiam Castle and Knole House

We had a lovely visit to the National Trust’s Scotney CastleBodiam Castle and Knole House in Kent, this Easter weekend. Scotney also has a really interesting house given over to the National Trust in 2006 when the owner Betty Hussey died aged 99 in 2006. Her cat Puss still lives there.  

  

Bodiam Castle is much older and a proper castle.

Knole House hosts an incredible collection of art and beds from the 17th century. There are many bedrooms containing beds that had been passed down, second hand, from  English Kings. An incredible place.

We had a great Easter weekend visiting these 3 National Trust properties and look forward to discovering more over the next year with our annual membership 😃

More pics of Scotney Castle, House and gardens below along with other pics from the weekend.

  

 

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day

When I was twelve my mother died suddenly. I can’t remember if it was a Saturday or a Sunday, but I remember it was at the weekend. My mum had complained of a headache around late morning and had gone to bed to lie down. After a bit I went in to see if she wanted anything and saw that she was obviously in a lot of pain. She either couldn’t hear or couldn’t respond to whatever it was that I said to her when I went in to see her. I went downstairs and said to my dad

“I think mum’s had a brain haemorrhage”

I’m not really sure how I knew that, but I had spent many hours reading my parents medical textbooks (my parents were both nurses). We had a chat about it and my dad decided to call an ambulance.

Being a weekend it took a while for the ambulance to arrive. When it did my dad took the two ambulance men upstairs to my mum. They examined her and then told us that they couldn’t take her into hospital as they thought my mum just had a migraine, it wasn’t anything more serious than that. My dad told them that he thought it was a brain haemorrhage, but they disagreed. They told us that we would need to call our doctor to get the sanction for them to take my mum into hospital. They were not allowed to take someone with a migraine to hospital. The ambulance men left and my dad called the doctor. As it was a weekend it took some time for a doctor to arrive. In the meantime I sat on a chair by my parents bed keeping an eye on my mum while my dad looked after my brother and sister downstairs. My mum was quiet most of the time, but now and again she would say

“My head hurts so much, please let me die, please god let me die”

I sat there, deeply traumatised, saying nothing until after some time the doctor arrived, a locum named Dr Patel.

Dr Patel tried speaking to my mum, I don’t remember exactly what she did or said, but she concluded that my mum had had a migraine and shouldn’t be taken into hospital.

I carried on sitting by my mum’s bed after the doctor had gone. It was now probably early afternoon. My dad went to fetch my mum’s best friend Jean Banks from up the road. Jean came and sat in the bedroom with me, she sat next to the bed and I sat on a chair a few feet away. We both sat mainly in silence, staring at my mum.

My dad came in from time to time to see how everything was.

My mum was gradually getting less restless and quieter, only occasionally saying that she wanted to die. I remember thinking to myself that in my opinion she was slipping into unconsciousness and that as she had had a brain haemorrhage that probably meant that it was too late for any intervention, and that she was going to die. I was horrified at that realisation and spent the time sitting there in silence trying to persuade myself that I was actually incorrect, and that of course she would be fine.

My dad came in again to see how my mum was. When he saw that her condition was deteriorating he called the doctor again. We waited another couple of hours for the doctor to come back. When Dr Patel finally did return, she examined my mum and said that she was going to call an ambulance. I knew that it was too late. My mum was unconscious.

Finally an ambulance did arrive to take mum away to hospital. The ambulance men carried her downstairs and out of the front door. I walked down the garden path following the ambulance men and my mum on a stretcher, holding hands with my sister Sarah who was seven. We watched mum being put into the ambulance, the doors shutting and the ambulance driving away down the road, it was just starting to get dark. My mum had been laying in bed for probably 6 hours in excruciating physical pain. I had been sitting in the bedroom with her for 6 hours in dreadful mental pain. That day, that long and traumatic afternoon is indelibly etched on my memory forever. As we held hands at the end of the garden path we looked down the road towards the ambulance which got smaller and smaller and then disappeared out of sight.

“Will she be coming back?” my little sister Sarah asked me.

“No, I don’t think so.” I replied.

We slowly walked back into the house together, and there my memory fades.

My mum never regained consciousness, we agreed for her life support machine to be switched off a couple of days after she was taken to hospital, on 11th February 1975. I was just twelve years old and my twin brother Stephen and sister Sarah were seven.

Mum

My Mum – Sally Valerie Diane Ambury 1940-1975

40 years on, I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember much of my mum, especially considering that we were together for 12 whole years. I just have a few fragments of conscious memory. The day she died is my largest memory of her.

What I do have however, inside me, is a feeling of strength and love that has kept me going through some times of dreadful adversity. It has enabled me to love my children and give them everything I can. It has meant that despite all the difficulties I have faced, I’ve had a happy life full of so many fun and interesting times. I cannot put into words how grateful I am for that. That strength, that happiness and relentlessness in the face of adversity, that, to me, is my mum, inside of me. My mum may have died very young, but she made me the strong and happy person I am today. Thanks Mum.

Mum, Sue, Sarah, Stephen

Massive thanks also to the many people who have mothered me when I needed it over the years:

Elsie Leah Reynolds, Kate Deans, Joyce Leforgeais, Denise Bell, Ha Thi Minh Tam, Hazel Lapierre, Sarah Pearson, Emma Black, Leah Black, and Paul Boca. I cannot thank you enough.

This mothers’ day I give grateful thanks to my mum, my surrogate mothers and to all mothers across the world who are doing their best to raise the next generation, the future success of our planet depends on you. Mothering, loving and nurturing someone is the most important gift you can give another person.

Happy Mothers’ Day! 🙂

** This morning I decided to start writing my autobiography, working title “If I can do it, so can you” based on my blogpost and talk of the same name. This post is what came out first…..

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Awesome London Walks street art walking tour

I went on a London street art walking tour today with my family. I thought I would like it, but I absolutely loved it. The tour led by Pepe Martinez started at Liverpool Street station and lasted 2 hours. We learnt about Shepard Fairey who also produced the iconic Obama HOPE poster, Eine, Invader, Inkie, Pablo Delgado, Jimmy Cochrane and many more. After the tour we warmed up and took a selfie at the Canvas Cafe on Hanbury Street and then got delicious salt beef bagels from Beigel Bake on Brick Lane.

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Autumn trip to Petworth

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We visited Petworth today, home of Lord Egremont and National Trust property.

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Petworth is well worth a visit, Turner lived there and there are many of his and other artists paintings, the 1930s kitchens are very well kept and there are 700 acres of land, landscaped by Capability Brown, and 700 deer. Go visit 😃

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