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Dear Whoever,

Youve accidently stumbled on my yearly therapy session, where I
ponder over the events of the past year and check to see if I can still
touch-type. I find the touch-typing impossible unless the computer is in
exactly the right position. If it isnt, I end up with a page of cipher that
even GCHQ would have a job de-coding. With the keyboard in the right
place it works reasonably well until I go walkabout. Thats when
everything has to be re-aligned. Letter finished, I edit out the bits I dont
want you to see, and this is whats left.
Last year, 2014, Liz and I were both in Canada twice. On the first visit
we went together. But we then made our second trips separately. Not
because we were planning a divorce or anything. But, on the second visit,
Liz was going with her aunt to visit Diz our daughter. And there was no
way I could handle three women.
This year, 2015, Liz and I planned another visit together. The idea was to
go out there in October-November to see the fall. But, like the man said,
The best laid plans of mice... But more of that later.
As a matter of fact, travelling has been a bit curbed this year. We had the
builders in at the beginning of the year, doing major constructional
changes to the house. They were followed by decorators who ate up
another fortnight of the year. So you could say that the first half of the
year was a no-go area for anything remotely approaching pleasure.
Mind, in February we did do a day trip to Portsmouth Harbour on the
train, because I wanted to go aboard HMS Warrior for a nostalgic look
round. When I first came to Cardiff, she was tied up at Neyland in
Pembrokeshire and used as a jetty. I used to go down there and do
surveys on the ships that tied up to her. In those days she was lying in a
creek near what is now the Neyland Bridge, and you had to get to her by
driving through a rubbish dump. When you got there all her top deck was
a concrete quayside and there were oil-pipes everywhere. Everything in
Neyland has changed now. The rubbish dump has gone and theres a posh
new road called Warrior Way.
Everything has changed on the ship too. She is now 100% restored
and lies there in all her former glory. The first ironclad and biggest
warship of her day, she never fired a shot in anger. She didnt have to.
Her very presence made the French think twice. Bit like todays nuclear
subs when you think about it.
We went to Padstow for a couple of days in July, where we met up
with David and Penny, and Sylvia, Jon and Saga for fish and chips in Rick
Steines, followed by a few bevies in a pub afterwards. The fish and chips
were disappointing. We get better stuff in Porthcawl for less money and
no queuing. The beer was fine. Cornish ale is up with the best. On the
way home we visited Tintagel Castle with Sylvia, Jon and Saga. Legend
has it that King Arthur was born there. Like all the Cornish coast, its
impressive and worth a visit.

Then, still in July, we had a week in the Azores. The story behind that
is that Davids ship was docking there for a week to replenish fuel and
victuals, so he suggested that we go out to meet him and have a few
meals and sample the local wine together. Which we did. I once told David
that I had always wanted to go to the Azores. And, while we were there,
he asked me how long I had wanted to go? When I said, since 1942, he
stepped back in amazement. But I remembered that, during the war, my
Uncle John was there in the navy. And he brought back a bunch of
bananas, something unseen in those dark days. And that fired my
imagination. So now Ive been and, guess what? I brought back a bunch
of bananas. And this has to be said, Azores bananas and organic
pineapples are the best in the world. Its all to do with the fact that the
islands are active, living volcanoes. Apparently the milk has a special
quality too. So much so that Cow and Gate are building a factory there.
Still on the subject of the Azores, when Davids ship, HMS Scott, was
coming into port, Liz and I stood on our balcony watching as the tug
hitched to her and the manoeuvres got underway. I was engrossed in
taking photographs at the time. Then Liz says, Theres a light flashing.
And when I looked I saw that the ship was signalling to the shore on the
Aldis lamp. Theyre sending a message, I said, there must be a signal
station here. Then I bent over the balcony and looked both ways along
the promenade, but there was nothing. When I looked at the ship again I
realised that the lamp was aimed at us, so I started reading it. ...cpo
david gregorys ship is tying up alongside you, it spelt out, and he will
meet you for dinner tomorrow night. Yikes! Here was the fourth biggest
ship in the British navy coming into port and sending a personal message
to me.
The rest of that week was brilliant. The Island is beautiful with
dramatic scenery, geysers, volcanoes, history, good food, cheap beer and
wine... and whatever else you wish for. Its all there. One fascinating
aspect is the village down in the hollow of a volcano. The air there is
heavy with the smell of sulphur. And, in the local inn, they serve you a
dinner, cooked in the ground from the heat of the volcano. There is also
another village where, for some unexplained reason, the villagers are a
crowd of dead-legs, wont work, just live off benefits, and spend all day
loafing around. We went through the place on a tour. And everything we
had been told was dead obvious. Groups of men loitering; people sitting
on doorsteps watching life slip by...The Portuguese government have tried
everything in their power to sort them out. But the more benefit they give
them, the more they demand, free houses and all that goes with it. All to
no end. There must be a message there. But nobody knows what it is.
August turned out to be our most dramatic month. First of all, we had
Diz and the kids over from Canada. It was a flying visit really, but lovely.
We didnt get to do any trips with them, but then we had seen them
plenty during the previous year and we were going out for another trip at
the end of the autumn.

Next we took a trip to Callington, where David and Penny live in

Cornwall. There, we met up with David and Penny and Jon and family
again for a couple of days. Sylvia and Jon had their caravan parked on
Davids drive and Liz and I stayed in a beautiful farmhouse just outside
the village. On the way home, Liz and I took the North Devon and
Somerset coast-road, which included a cream-tea in Porlock. By any
standards, that is a fantastic run, moors on one side and dramatic cliffs
and sea on the other, with views across the Bristol Channel to South
Wales. Wheres better?
Towards the end of the month, David went back to sea on the
Wednesday. Diz and co were already back in Canada, and Liz and I settled
down for our normal routine. So, that week, Thursday was a shopping
day. We got back early from the shops because Liz was going to Dyffryn
Gardens, a local NT property, with some ladies from the WI. A trip Liz had
organised. With everyone out of the way, I settled down in a chair to
read, and fell asleep.
I was woken a by a tremendous banging on the door. When I
eventually came round enough to open it, Sally and Peter, neighbours and
friends, were there. Liz is in hospital, they said. Shes had a stroke.
The nightmare had begun.
Sally and Peter then ran me to the hospital in their car. On the way,
they put me in the picture. Liz and her friends had just got into reception
at Dyffryn when, without warning, Liz collapsed. Fortunately there were
two doctors going through reception at the same time. They diagnosed a
stroke and phoned for an ambulance, which arrived within minutes. At the
hospital the stroke team lost no time in going into action. When I got
there, there was a bunch of eight nurses and doctors already round her
bed, doing their stuff. Liz was conscious but paralysed down one side and
could only talk in grunts. Now came a dramatic moment. They said that
they could give her a treatment that was fairly new to Wales. But they
can only give to patients who get to the hospital within four and a half
hours of having the stroke. The trouble is, its kill-or-cure. If it works, you
are well on your way, if it doesnt work you are dead... or worse. They
then said that there is a one in eight chance of failure. I gulped.
Liz didnt hesitate. I wa i, she grunted. No sooner said than done.
The team went into action immediately. At the same time they all said
that, under the circumstances, everyone of them would have gone for the
treatment. Enough to say that, within a few days, Liz went from being
paralyzed down one side and hardly able to talk to being able to walk
about and hold a lucid conversation. And now she is virtually fully
Contributing factors to her recovery were definitely the fact that the
navy turned up trumps. David had only just arrived on the ship when he
got our message. The navy sent him home immediately and his mates
covered his job for him. So he was back with us within 24 hours. Diz
dropped everything and was back in Cardiff a few hours after him. Jon
and Sylvia, who had just arrived at Gatwick on their way to Norway, spun

the car round and were back in Cardiff that evening. Then granddaughter
Katie, who was at sea with the RN reserves, was with us shortly
afterwards. I say that all this was a contributing factor for recovery
because the whole family spent most of each day evening with Liz. There
was lots of lively conversation and a lot of laughter the best medicine.
Even so, for a couple of weeks after that, life was not nice. It was
mainly spent on hospital visits and learning about strokes and all kinds of
things you dont want to know about. But thats the life-game.
Liz is back home now and doing all the things she did prior to the
stroke, except drive the car. But thats only a matter of time.
Then, more fun in October, Liz and I were out shopping. We were in
Homebase looking for paint, when I suddenly blacked out and collapsed. I
was only out for seconds and never actually hit the floor. But the paramedics came and did all their stuff and an ambulance took me to
LLandough Hospital. They kept me in the rest of the day, monitoring me.
And the conclusion was that the beta-blockers I get for a heart murmur
are too high a dose. Which meant my blood pressure dropped and and
then I dropped. Funny thing is though, they keep checking me and
monitoring me for this murmur thingy, but everything always turns out to
be normal. I was back at the consultant last week and he doesnt want to
see me again for another two years.
On another subject. I downloaded Windows 10 onto my laptop.
Then a couple of days later I found that I couldnt get onto the internet in
any way shape or form. Funnily enough, Liz couldnt get on the internet
either. Nor would my PC, which is in the loft. But if I switched my laptop
off, the other two computers were OK. But whenever I switched the
laptop on, every computer in the house lost the net.
This was a job for Jon. After an investigation, he found out the
following, which is worth knowing. I put my documents on one-drive. That
was fine. Then, in all innocence, I put my pictures across also. But my
pictures included videos, which use a hell of a lot of memory. So the
picture transfer takes up the whole of our broadband. Which means that
until these pictures are all downloaded no-one can get broadband when
this thing is switched on.
This download has been going on for 4 or 5 weeks now, stop start
because if we want to go on the internet we have to switch my laptop off
and use one of the other machines. Ive searched Google for answers.
There are none. Apparently Windows 10 is missing a pause facility. One
bloke says that he was downloading some music and he lost his internet
for 5 days solid. Thought you might be interested.
More recently, yesterday in fact, Jon, Sylv and Saga picked us up
the car and took us to the edge of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.
We went to the free-range bird farm where they pick up their yearly
three-bird-roast. Like them, Im a solid free-range freak. OK, so Ive no
conscience about the fact that beast on my plate has been killed for food.
But, as far as I can, I try to insist that it had a happy innings and was well
cared for and looked after.

Ive always known that hens and turkeys have a crap life. But, in
my naivety, I used to think that ducks and geese live by the side of ponds
and spend all their days on a muddy beach holiday. Then, in a TV
programme, I saw what passes for the humane standards that the law
insists on. The poor buggers spend their lives crammed shoulder to
shoulder in a shed. Apart from that, Ive seen enough and know enough
to realise that the red-tractor sign doesnt come anything near what I
want for the little fellah who will end up cuddling my roast potatoes.
But this farm brought back my faith in human nature. There are
fields and fields where ducks and geese are running about freely, well fed
and well cared for and with more personal space than the average human
can hope for. Every beast has to be up to a certain health standard, and
there are vets ensuring that everything meets the free-range organic
requirements. Its like a health farm for birds except that all the inmates
are electrocuted every December. Never mind. All in a good cause.
A really nice thing about it all is that you are served with a cup of
mulled wine and mince pie while you are being served. And the farmer
and his wife are around to tell you all about the workings of the place.
And you are free to take a gander for yourself.
After that we went to an Old English Pub that dates back to the 13 th
century. The owner tries to preserve as much of the old style as possible.
So much so that he insists that you switch off your mobile phone as you
go in. The ladies ate a meal of roast duck, while Jon and I had game pie.
Now that kind of day is a brilliant kick-off for Christmas.
Anyway, thats my lot for this year.
So heres wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Liz and Charlie