Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas from sunny Florida

Hello and Happy Christmas from life on-shorehambeach.blogspot.com
     I'm still publishing messages from those I have featured in 2013, but this is the most personal because it comes from Tom, our 8-year-old son.
     Tom was featured in September when he responded on behalf of kids to an earlier blog about kids' addiction to screens. It turned out to be an own goal and in fact, I'm just going to interrupt his screen time so he can give his Christmas message.

"Happy Christmas to everybody, whether you celebrate Christmas or not."

Sorry it's not longer but I'm up against Moshi Monsters, so I'll add my own message from hot and breezy Miami where Tom and I are lucky enough to be joining my husband, Richard, who is working for Airbus. 
     I wish all my readers a very relaxing and refreshing Christmas and I hope it's full of joy and excitement. I hope you are able to look back on 2013 with fondness and if you can't, that bad memories will quickly be replaced with good in 2014.
     So it's with great affection for cold windy England, and some dangerously icy American states, that I sign off with a little present from the brilliant King's Singers. 

Thanks for dropping by and see you in 2014. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Happy Christmas from the Friends of Shoreham Fort.

Hello and welcome to another Christmas blog from someone I have featured in 2013.To be fair this one isn't from someone, but a group, the Friends of Shoreham Fort.
     Regular readers will know that they are often featured and the last time was on 21st November when five of the Friends undertook a gruelling 50 mile sponsored walk in 24 hours in order to raise £1857 for Shoreham Fort.  Hopefully they reached their target.

Happy Christmas to all that have supported us in 2013. 

Another successful year for the last fort of its kind, Shoreham Fort, and for the charity, the Friends of Shoreham Fort. If you are thinking of making a change in 2014 then come and join the Fort Family and help us to achieve so much more next year. Without volunteers none of this could be possible, so whether you have an hour or a day it all makes a massive difference to us and the community. 

Have a great Christmas holiday and hope to see you in the new year.

See you soon with another Christmas message. 

Ta-ra for now and thanks for popping by. 

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Another Christmas message from lifeon Shoreham Beach

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's lovely to see you again. 

Following Tony Bathmaker's Christmas message, here's a little something from me. Bet you £5 you'll cry. 

They'll be more Christmas messages coming soon. 

Thanks for dropping by and see you soon. 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Happy Christmas from Adur Ferry Bridge

Hello and welcome to my blog. As we're only 16 days from Christmas, it's time to get into the festive mood and hear some seasonal greetings from some of those who have been featured in this year's blog.
       It's fitting that the first message comes from Tony Bathmaker, a man who, more than any other, is responsible for transforming one of Shoreham's major landmarks.
       Tony is West Sussex County Council's lead officer for the construction of our iconic Adur Ferry Bridge and was featured in October when he answered criticism about the delay in re-opening the new bridge.

"May I take this opportunity to thank everybody in Shoreham for their patience and understanding whilst the Adur Ferry Bridge has been constructed.  It was a genuine pleasure meeting the many of you who visited site during the works.  I hope the disruption is already becoming a distant memory and that you are enjoying using the new bridge.  My very best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year to you all."

Tony Bathmaker
WSCC Adur Ferry Bridge Lead Officer

       On a personal note, I'd like to thank Tony for contributing to the blog and for helping to create such a wonderful legacy.
       Thanks for dropping by and I'll see you soon with another Christmas message.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Shoreham Fort - Seven Forts Challenge

Hello and welcome to my blog. Sorry its been such a long time since I dropped in, but boy, what a difference a fortnight makes. It can be summed up in three words - Adur Ferry Bridge.

Althougth I saw it take shape, it was only when we were on it that we really appreciated its beauty. With its broad, uncluttered walkway, glass sides and stylish lighting, it really is magnificent. I contacted Tony Bathmaker, one of the project managers, and he's been delighted with the response and like me, has become aware that people are strolling across just for the sheer pleasure of it. So thank you WSCC, Osborne Contractors and everyone else who had a hand in making it.

I can't find a link between that and my next piece, so I'm going to dive straight in and tell you about the Seven Forts Challenge which was completed by some of the Friends of Shoreham Fort on the August Bank Holiday.

L-R Gary Baines, Craig Searle, Hayley Cropp, Tony Gilfrin and Andy Vincent

For ten months, Craig Searle, meticulously planned the route which took in Forts Southwick, Widley, Purbrook, and Farlington Redoubt. The intention was to complete it in 24 hours, so in the ten weeks leading up to the 24th August, they practised walking the 14 mile route between Shoreham and Brighton Marina RNLIs. 
When the day itself arrived, they received a great send off at Fort Nelson, and set off at 10.50 a.m, slightly behind schedule.

            Shadowed by Phil Penfold and Julie Searle in the support bus, they made great progress initially, but the walk on the shingle beach from Bognor to Littlehampton, took its toll. By the time they had reached Littlehampton Fort, Gary had injured his knee, Hayley her back, and Craig his calf muscles. All, but Gary, had blisters on blisters. He avoided those by changing his boots at every stop.
By 4.00 a.m they had reached Ferring. Then the rain set in. The walkers were now tired, wet and injured, so the support team fought their own exhaustion to lift their friends spirits. Meantime, back at home, Sharon Penfold was posting their progress on their Facebook page, but even she, "could just tell that morale was going through the floor,” 
            Nevertheless they trudged on, supporting each other and taking strength from friends and family who turned up to cheered them on.  
            They finally arrived at Shoreham Fort at 8.20a.m, having completed the 50 mile route in 22 hours. “ I never in a million years thought I would do it. It’s an amazing feeling,” said Hayley.
            Over the succeding two days, the walkers nursed their injuries, tended their blisters and Gary slowly re-gained the use of his legs. "I was like Bambi the day after. I got out of back and thump! Straight on the floor!" Would they do it again? I think the jury is still out.
            As always, the Friends would be pleased to welcome any new volunteers and if you missed their moving Remembrance Day service this year, here's a flavour of that crisp, cold evening.
 And I almost forgot, Shoreham Bonfire night. Another super, family event and an unmissable night. I did feel for the volunteers who ignored the torrential rain to build up the bonfire. Thank you. 

It's time to go now. Thanks for popping by and see you soon.


Friday, 8 November 2013

Your weekend starts here.

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's lovely to see you again.
  I've got lots to cover this week, but precious little time in which to do it so it's bullet points and capitals I'm afraid.
The procession will start at Beach Green at 6.30pm and shimmie down Kings Walk to the Church of the Good Shepherd.  The firework display is due to start at 7.15pm and the best view point is on Kings Walk or the nearby beach.
  If one of your party is in a mobility scooter or wheelchair, it's suggested that the beach side of the church garden would be a good spot but there's no guarantee of an uninterrupted view of the fireworks. When is there ever?
  It is a lovely community event and VERY well attended, so my top tips are:
  • Get there early and wear shoes suitable for walking on shingle
  • If you are travelling to the event from elsewhere DO NOT PARK ANYWHERE on the BEACH,  unless you like queuing in traffic. 
  • PARK in the ADUR REC CARPARK or in SHOREHAM TOWN and walk across the Norfolk Bridge then along the riverbank or road. The riverbank will take you to the procession, the road will take you to the Church of the Good Shepherd, the location of the fireworks and bonfire. Remember THE FOOTBRIDGE IS CLOSED until 13th November.
  • The riverbank path is narrow with steep sides so take care. 
  • Put children in hi-vis vests if you don't want to lose them. Adults can wear them too but may be mistaken for marshalls.
PLEASE DONATE - it's a free event organised by a team of volunteers.
PLEASE VOLUNTEER - They need helpers to build up the bonfire on Saturday morning, and clear up on Sunday morning.
This is a gentle and reflective event where tears may flow.
  It is suitable for families, but, as it is a solemn event, racing around the ramparts during the service isn't encouraged.
We've got two events for the price of one. 
  The first event, organised by West Sussex County Council, is the official opening of the bridge by HRH the Duke of Gloucester at 12.30pm. 
  The second is a celebration organised by Adur and Worthing Councils from 3.00 - 6.30pm. Personal highlights are the community conga across the bridge at 4.00pm and the fireworks display at 6.30pm.      
  Anyone who fancies wiggling across our new bridge should assemble at Star Gap beside Coronation Green at 3.45pm or the beach side at about 4.10pm.

See you over the weekend. I'll be all muffled up but won't be wearing a hi-vis this year!

Thanks for dropping by and ta-ra for now.

Friday, 18 October 2013

What makes us Human? written by Alison Lapper with Liz Coward

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's lovely to see you again for, what is, an EXCLUSIVE issue.
   As you know, months ago, Alison Lapper commissioned me to co-write her essay on What makes us Human? for BBC Radio Two's Jeremy Vine show. Excitement didn't come close and I quickly set to work.
  Ali and I bashed ideas around over lunches and coffees. We wandered down some blind alleys, but eventually there was enough material for me to get my teeth into. After watching The Elephant Man and listening to earlier speakers, I was ready to show Ali the first draft.  She liked it a lot and it gave us something to work on. A few drafts later, the job was complete and last Wednesday it was time to deliver.
  After up-teem read throughs, we had one last practice on the train up to London. Alison read it beautifully despite her dyslexia and the distraction of a ruler keeping her eyes focused on one line at a time. 
  Even before we left Shoreham, she was nervous.  BBC Radio Two gets over 13 million listeners, and the last time she spoke to Jeremy Vine they had had a run in. Moreover, the format of essay then interview, meant that she would be playing to her weaknesses, before she could play to her strengths.
  Nerves worsened when we got into the studio because the microphone impeded her view of the essay. We'd spent hours practising. We'd fine tuned the text;  we'd highlighted words, increased spaces, even changed what" to "wot." We'd done too much to be thwarted by a microphone. However, there was no time to worry, for moments later Ali was live on air. 

The problem with this question is that you have to find universal characteristics that link people like Hitler with Mother Theresa.
I could have a stab at it and say, freedom of choice, and the desire to humanize everything, but an Anthropologist may hiss, “What about X?” A human rights campaigner may snap, “Saudi Arabia huh?”  And you’ll always get that plonker who’ll yell,  “You don’t even look human love, so how can you talk?” 
However you cut it, humans are incredibly different, so this is a nightmarish question, unless you are an expert, of course.  But I’m only an expert on my life, and the challenges disabled people face.
Based on that, I think there are four vital things that make us human, the need to love, the need to be loved, and the need to be accepted and respected as a human being in the first place.
In the introduction to this series, we hear some lines from The Elephant Man.  John Merrick said them when he was chased into a railway toilet and trapped between two rows of urinals. With his back against the wall, he screamed at the mob, “ I am not an animal!  I am NOT an ANIMAL! I am a human being!” and of course he was.  But to be treated like a human being, you have to be accepted as one.
When I was trapped at Chailey, I was too afraid to scream, but then, I was only tiny and didn’t even know that I was different.  I understood that I was one of the 250, “strange little creatures,” that lived there.  But we were in the majority, so acceptance wasn’t an issue.
It only became an issue when we were faced with the outside world.  That was a whole different ball game.
As toddlers, we were taken to Brighton Beach, and we emptied it in 10 minutes because people dragged their kids away.  They said we were disgusting and shouldn’t be allowed out.
We were never asked if we minded being repeatedly sprawled naked in front of 10 to 15 medical professionals, and endlessly poked, pulled, rotated and photographed.  Every Wednesday afternoon, wealthy donors would peer at us through the classroom windows.  They didn’t seem to see children, just poor, pathetic, unloved creatures.
Although we’ve come a long way since then, I’m still stared at.  Some passers-by will do a double-take if I’m heard making an intelligent comment.   
I’m told I intimidate people.  I make people feel uncomfortable, or even turn their stomachs.  Why?  Disabled people aren’t a different species.  We are human beings with the same needs and aspirations as everyone else, and everyone has a basic need to be accepted.
I think that is why John Merrick said to Treves at the end of the film, “My life is full because I am loved.” Now he could die in peace.  Society had finally accepted him for wot* he had always been, a human being who just happened to be disabled.
Merrick also mentioned love, and I believe that loving, and being loved also make us human.
When I was little, the ward sister would say, “Put that crying baby down.  They don’t need a hug.”  In her eyes, children like us didn’t need human contact, let alone love.
We were all treated the same way, so we grew up thinking that that was normal.  Mind you, at the age of five, I also thought it was normal to be taken to Lewes Prison to visit the inmates.  Our surroundings were so alike, it seemed that the only contrast between us, was we were locked away as punishment for being different, and they were locked away as punishment for doing wrong.
Yet, I was aware that kindness made me feel loved.  Kindness, that I had experienced from my foster parents, my sister, some of the nursing and teaching staff at Chailey.   But of them all, my rock was always Nurse Mary Shepherd.  Because of her, I recognised that humans were more than just fed, watered, educated and disciplined.
Despite my up bringing, the need to love and be loved was instinctive.
As I grew up, I felt love and respect toward my friends and myself.   As I grew older, I fell in love, I made love and experienced the joy of parental love.
I still do, but these feelings, feelings that make us human, are often denied to people like me because of our disabilities.                        
So, what do I think makes us human? Four needs, to love, to be loved, to be accepted and respected.


The relief was palpable.

  During her chosen song, I left the studio for Ali didn't need my strengths anymore, she could use her own. She shone in the following interview. She moved listeners to tears and her essay was described as one of the best. 
  For me personally, I'm proud of my friend and my involvement in the project. I'm delighted that I've had my first paid commission, but I'm also mortified that the NewStatesman inexplicably, and unjustly, removed my name as co-writer when they published the essay. That said, no-one can remove the fact that we did a good day's work on Wednesday and, as Ali said, I hope her contribution to the series has helped to change attitudes towards disability.  
Thanks for popping by and see you next week.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

What makes us human? D Day -1

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's lovely to see you again.

With only one day to go before Alison Lapper and I travel to the BBC, we're busily engaged in fine-tuning her essay on, "What makes us Human?"

Due to the nature of Ali's disability, it's not just a case of practising, but mastering tiny, yet important details, like when and how to turn the pages silently.  I'll be doing that bit so wish me luck.

If you can, do join us tomorrow, Wednesday 16th October, on the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio Two between 12 - 2.00 p.m

Alison should be on at 1.00 p.m.  If you miss it, a podcast will be available to download.

I'll let you know how we get on next week. Thanks for dropping bye. Ta-ra for now.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Goodbye Shoreham Footbridge. Hello Adur Ferry Bridge

Hello and welcome to my blog. It’s lovely to see you again. 
      The imminent opening of the new footbridge, (christened the Adur Ferry Bridge), is a major topic of conversation on the Beach. Sadly, it's usually in disparaging terms.
      As we know, the old footbridge was in constant use.  Being a short cut to town, kids used it to get to school, disabled people whizzed across on their mobility scooters and pedestrians strolled over to do their shopping, visit the library, and have lunch. In short, you name it, we did it.
      Most of us had never known life without the footbridge, yet the anticipated five-week closure was greeted with resignation.  When this was suddenly extended to a permanent closure, resignation changed to mild irritation.  Then the bridge’s re-opening was delayed in August, so irritation turned to grumbling and criticism.  It's now been more than a year since it closed, so grumbles have matured into frustration and impatience.
      Rumours have circulated of a petition against the delay and a protest march across the bridge. In fact, the mood has been summoned up by a graffiti artist. 


Behind the board are the men responsible for the project. Tony Bathmaker, Project Manager with West Sussex Country Council, and Paul Reader, Project Manager for Osborne, the contractors. 
      Tony Bathmaker is passionate about his job. He knows Shoreham well as he led the team responsible for the award-winning restoration of Shoreham Toll Bridge. He’s proud of that, and this, project.  Both men are, so they have been stung by the criticism of tardiness. 

You may not be able to see people crawling all over the bridge, but that does not mean we’re dragging our heels. We’re working on less obvious aspects of the build, like mechanical and electrical testing on the span section of the bridge; lighting checks; installation of the few remaining glass panels; completion of the handrail on the north side; completion of the ramp on the south side; re-surfacing of the central walkway; training staff on how to operate and maintain the span; dealing with snagging problems as and when they arise and when the time comes, dismantling the site. This will be done, for the most part, when the bridge is open to the public, but it will not be a cause for further delay.
      All the guys here are dedicated and proud to be involved in building an iconic bridge in Shoreham. With hindsight we could always have done better, but the delays have, for the most part, been caused by the persistent very low temperatures during winter and early spring that prevented laying the concrete deck, and the collapse of the supplier responsible for fabricating the glass panels in late summer. 
      They’re not caused by lack of commitment. Our commitment to the job is total and we’re all working as hard as we can to get it finished. We know how important the bridge is to the community so it will not be closed a day longer than necessary.”

I believe him. I just have to learn to be more patient. Talking of which, the essay I co-wrote with Alison Lapper on, “What makes us human?” will finally be broadcast on BBC Radio Two on 16th October at 1.00 p.m. Please listen if you can.
      Talking of listening, we went to West Dean GROW! COOK! EAT! Festival on a glorious Sunday afternoon and after feasting on lots of little cheese samples, we sat down with a hog roast bap and enjoyed the sound of Ward Thomas, a rock-country duo. I reckon they would go down a storm at Ropetackle.
      That’s all for now, but please remember to put 16th October in your diary. It’s the biggest thing I’ve done so far and I’d love to share it with you.

Ta-ra ‘til next time.

PS. Here's a link to details of the official opening. http://lifeon-shorehambeach.blogspot.co.uk

Monday, 23 September 2013

"Everyone's addicted to screens!"

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's lovely to see you again.

If you're new, welcome. Come on in and make yourself at home. There's plenty of room for all.

In my last blog, I wrote about the night we realised that our 8 year-old had become addicted to screens. Whilst I neither named him nor printed a photograph, we only have one son so he was easily identified.

It is only fair therefore, that he is given the chance to have his say. Firstly, he wanted to set the record straight; he hid the computer when he was seven.

Me:     So Tom, do you think you're addicted to screens?

Tom:   No. Yes. Yes I do.

Me:     Why?

Tom:   Because everyone's addicted to screens.

Me:     Really?

Tom:   Yep, 'cos they're brilliant.

Me:      What's so brilliant about them?

Tom:   You can interact with other people, the only way you can see things move is on screen, and you can make yourself into a fish.

Me:    A fish?

Tom:   Yep.

Me:     So what's the best and worse thing about screens?

Tom:   The best thing is playing on Dad's iPad because I've just downloaded a new game called Clash of Clans, which is brilliant.    Is that a dictophone?

Me:     Yeah

Tom:   Cool

Me:    So what's the worse thing?

Tom:   Dad not letting me download the things I want to download, and you and Dad interrupting my 10 minutes.

Me:    Ok. So how about if a kid was addicted to screens, would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

Tom:   A good thing.

Me:    I see. Let's assume it's a bad thing. What would you say to a kid you thought was addicted to screens?

Tom:  How good are your games?

Me:     So you don't think being addicted to screens is bad at all?

Tom:   No way! Kids, let your imagination go wild with screens!   Can I go now?

I think that interview is what you would call an own goal.

I may have lost this battle, but the war is young and I've still got years left in me.

Thanks for dropping by and I look forward to seeing you again in a fortnight.

Ta-ra for now.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Kids addicted to screens.

Hello and welcome to my Birthday blog. It's lovely to see you again.

Now that I'm comfortably settled into middle age, it would be rude not to have a moan, so mine is about screens. I'm not fussy which ones; computer screens, mobile phone screens, DS screens, TV screens, all types of screens really, except windscreens. I don't mind them.

This is what I think of screens...

 ... + kids = nightmare. 

I don't mind kids having a play once in a while. No harm there.

I do mind kids who consider it their birthright to play on a screen of their choice, whenever they want, wherever they want, for as long as they want, regardless of sunshine, school, friends, family or their own welfare. I also mind when it reaches a stage when screen time is the only currency with which they will negotiate, and the only thing that will transform their behaviour.  I mind because we've got one just like that and he's only 8-years-old.

Now, I confess I gave screen time as a reward during the summer, because it meant that the piano and french practice was done without argument. Then, one day, I realised that what I was doing, giving 30 minutes screen time for 15 minutes homework, was like feeding sweets to a sugar addict.

The day itself started just like any other. Tom got up at sparrow's yawn, stumbled downstairs, watched TV, pinched a cheese string and waited for me appear. An hour later, I bustled downstairs, fed the cat, cleaned the cat litter, made breakfast, put on a wash, and launched an investigation into the disappearing cheese strings. Halcyon days.

Evening came, and I thought Tom was very sensible when he took himself off to bed early complaining of exhaustion. I sang "All through the night," tucked him up, and quietly shut the door. It did not remain shut for long. First one, then two, then three, four, five visits to the loo. This unusual behaviour was treated with motherly concern; could it be undiagnosed Type A diabetes?

It didn't cross my mind that he had an ulterior motive, either then, or when he repeatedly asked us what time we were going to bed. When the time came, I saw that his light was still on. As I opened his door, I glimpsed him stuffing something under the pillow. He stared at me with tired, bloodshot eyes and whispered that he had a nightmare. After a quick exchange, along the lines of, I wasn't born yesterday, he removed the pillow to reveal my computer underneath.  AND it was hot. It was immediately confiscated, he was instructed to GO TO SLEEP, and we went to bed.

In the middle of the night, nature called, and in the dimly lit bathroom I noticed a throbbing red glow from the laundry basket. I briefly imagined that the Devil had moved in with our smalls, but closer examination revealed a Nintendo 3DS. No diabetes then.

With the screens recovered, I pondered that our 8-year-old had feigned exhaustion, sneaked around, pinched the screens, and forced himself to stay awake so he could play on them. With the clarity of thought that only comes at 3 a.m, I concluded that our offspring had become a screen addict.

The next day I told him straight. If you were addicted to sweets, I wouldn't give you sweets as a treat. You're addicted to screens, so I'm not going to give you screens as a treat.

It didn't go down too well. It still doesn't, but we are resolute.

1. We have called it by its real name. The house has become The Priory and he's going cold turkey.
2. We have deleted the games surreptitiously loaded onto our phones despite taunts that we didn't know how.
3. We have changed the passwords on all phones and computers, and changed them again when he guessed them.
4. We have kept them out of sight. Hiding the TV was a bit tricky, but the remotes were manageable. Best bit was switching the TV onto the jewellery channel first.
5. We have put the DS in the loft. Can't find it now. That's the reason why it's not in the photo.
6. We have restricted the use of the computer/iPad to 10 minutes a day and timed it. Sadly we had to build in slippage time.
7. We have told him that the ipad has a motion alarm... only partially successful.
8. Pleas from Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Bin Weevils and all his mates, for Tom's account to be activated, have been ignored.

Of course, we still have the daily requests to play on a screen, followed by pleas or cries of indignation. We still have foot stamping refusals to do what asked unless it's rewarded with screen time. We can't restrict his use of screens at his friends houses, but he's only 8, so we can restrict where he goes.

The tyranny of the screen has been broken, for the moment. Tom has re-acquainted himself with his lego, reading, drawing and the piano. We no longer leap up suspiciously when Tom wanders upstairs and best of all, we've realised that we are not the only parents battling the scourge of the screens.

It was so much simpler in my day. All my parents had to contend with was mud!

Thanks for dropping by and I shall look forward to seeing you again next week.  Until then, take care of yourselves.


Sunday, 25 August 2013

Whoosh! There goes another target.

Hello and welcome to my blog.

Y'know I wanted to complete my next chapter before the end of the summer holidays? Well, as my Grandma used to say, "Who wants, never gets! So guess who didn't get it done?  Worse still, our internet coverage is playing up, (I blame the Footbridge), so I'm fearful that I won't have time to publish an original blog, before the line goes down again.

So, as Shoreham Airshow is next week, I thought I'd re-publish a 2009 blog on my brief, but meaningful, relationship with the ATC. I hope you enjoy it.

"The RAF appealed to me because it always seemed so romantic. All those young handsome Battle of Britain pilots fighting to save us from imminent invasion. Whilst I didn't have a burning ambition to fly, I did, to join the Air Training Corp. I rocked up to Hove 176 in the certain knowledge that this was the beginning of a glorious military career. The thought lasted as long as it took to explain the rules of membership. The problem? You had to ask permission if you wanted to take a week off. I translated that as, "permission to skive Sir?" and the potential response perplexed me. However, whilst I pondered over that, more immediate problems surfaced.

I could not, (and still cannot), tell my left from my right. Whilst this is not normally a major handicap, it is when you are being drilled. It wasn't the done thing to stare blankly at one's hands in response to an order to,"right turn," so I turned sharply to whichever side took my fancy. To say it occasionally worked would probably be over-stating it, but anyway, my incompetence on the Parade Ground was shortly to be trumped by that on the rifle range.

I squinted down the sights of my .22 rifle like the best of them, but was never too sure which eye to shut to improve the aim. In hindsight this should have been obvious, but to an eager beaver like me, it was not. So I decided to take it in turns, closing one eye and then the other as I tried to focus on the target. I was delighted with my 30% hit rate, unlike the rather sour officer in charge.

Now it wasn't all Dad's Army for me. I excelled at the 10 mile sponsored march along Hove Prom. My regimental shoes were half a size too small but did I complain? No. I kept up, took charge and boosted morale. Officer material written all over me, I thought, right up until the moment I saluted the Commanding Officer. As he sat comfortably behind his desk, I marched up, and snapped to attention. With a ram-rod back I gave him my best Top Gun salute. At that moment I had forgotten that our salute was more Benny Hill than Tom Cruise. Unfortunately the CO had not, and took an obscenely short time to remind me.

Well, as I nursed my bloody heels that night, I started to reflect on my time in the ATC. Not wanting to hurry the process, I skivved off a couple of weeks to reflect some more. It was with a heavy heart that I concluded that the RAF may not be the right place for my unique set of talents. So I returned with my uniform in a plastic bag and they tried to entice me to stay with promises of night time orienteering. Clearly they had forgotten my track record on the Parade Ground sooner than I had. Thus my romantic dream of becoming a much loved and respected RAF Officer was dashed and I became a lawyer instead. C'est la vie."

Well, the summer holidays are drawing to a close, so normal service will shortly be resumed and I'll have time to set some more unrealistic targets.

Thanks for dropping by and see you in a fortnight.

Ta-ra for now.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Bill's book.

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's nice to see you.

It's always tricky trying to write during the summer holidays. Routine's abandoned and finding forms of entertainment becomes the new priority. So, whilst Tom is at his intensive swimming lesson, I've got just enough time to tell you about my current project, a non-fiction book.

I'd never written a book before, so I've made lots of naive errors.  However, those frustrations are in the past, and I've now nearing the end and will shortly create a dedicated Facebook page to see if anyone is interested in it.

The book is a mixture of a soldier's war memoir, and a record of the Field Ambulance in which he served from 1940 - 1945.

This is the soldier.

His name is William Earl, and this is what he looked like in 1943.

I call him Bill, and this is him now.

It's taken four years to write and research Bill's book, and in that time, countless other projects have been shelved. Periodically, I've resented that. My heart lies in writing original drama and I've wanted to develop a feature film idea and extend my short play into a long one. I've had to withdraw from Wordfest because, as Bill gently reminded me, at 98-years-old, you're on the Grim Reapers' to-do list. Besides, Bill has been very patient.

So, this summer, I am determined to write Chapter eight, from Egypt to Rome, which deals with the aftermath of Bill's evacuation from Anzio, an afternoon of pleasure in Rome, and his departure for the next stage of the Italian Campaign.

Chapter eight marks Bill's final transformation from a civilian to a soldier. Although the Field Ambulance is still of the Army, not in the army, the final fragments of Bill's trusting and optimistic nature are blasted out of him in Anzio. From then on, life's goals are simplier: to help save as many men as possible and survive along the way.

The Italian Campaign was bloody, bitter, and, on occasion, fought in conditions worse than Stalingrad. In such circumstances, he's forgiven for losing his self- control. It happens when he was working alongside a doctor at an Advanced Dressing Station on the Adriatic Coast. The troops engaged the enemy and only light casualites were expected. However when they arrived, the men's injuries were far more severe than anticipated. The function of the two treatment tents, A and B, were quickly revised. A tent became that in which the men were to be treated, and B, for those who would be made comfortable and left to die.

As a Nursing Orderly, Bill's role was to put the unsuspecting men where ordered. For hours Bill shuttled between A and B tents, helping the doctor save lives in the former, comforting the dying in the latter. He spent most of his time with the dying, wondering what their families would think of it all. He only left them when a new batch of wounded men arrived, and the whole process was repeated.  It's under these circumstances that Bill furiously rants at God; how could He let this happen? How is this good? What is the point of this?  It's one of his blackest moments of the war, and one he shared only after many hours of interviews.

My stories are fripperies compared to his, so that's why I'm going to write the best book I can. After that, I'm going to list all my earlier errors in a book called, "How not to write a book," but for now,  I'll balance writing chapter eight, with carefree trips to see Circus Wonderland at Adur Rec and The Selfish Giant  Maze at the Royal Pavilion.

Thanks for dropping by. Have a great week and see you soon.


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

What makes us human?

Hello, and welcome to hot and sunny Shoreham Beach.

It's glorious here. The sea is like a millpond, its tranquility broken only by the gentle splash of swimmers or oars. Paddle boarders punt their way towards the horizon, now just a thin grey line punctuating the endless baby blue. A deep, relaxing silence prevails, occasionally disturbed by the clink of wine glasses, neighbours hailing neighbours, or barked instructions to, "keep in your depth!"

Last night, we had a rare picnic on the beach with my 80 year-old parents. Although they live in Shoreham, they hadn't seen the sea for years, the shingle slopes being too dangerous for those with arthritic knees. Happily, the new boardwalk has changed all that. Now we have a safe, even path which branches off towards benches with beautiful sea views. It was at one of these that we got out our picnic table and made a modest evening of it.

Gap or no gap, the boardwalk makes what was impossible, possible, and we are all the richer for it.

If the sea is food for the soul, then,"What Makes Us Human?" is food for the mind.

"What Makes Us Human?", is a series of essays that are being broadcast on the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio Two. The series started on 20th April with the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. Since then, 11 other guests, including Lord Puttnam, Mary Robinson, James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, and most recently PD James, have broadcast their responses to the question, what makes us human?  

Alison Lapper, MBE, and a beach resident, will be one of those guests and she will shortly be adding her answer.

Alison and I are friends, and we have worked together in the past, most notably on an earlier blog, "We will always think of disability in the same way." Nevertheless, it came as a delightful surprise when she asked me to help her write her essay. 

So for the last few months, we have bashed ideas around over lunches and coffees and worked through a number of drafts before finally settling on that which will be broadcast. The actual broadcast date has been temporarily postponed, but the essay itself will appear in print in the New Statesman this Thursday, 25th July, on-line in the autumn, and in a BBC podcast after it's transmitted. I'll let you know the date of the broadcast as soon as I know myself.  

Well, it's time to grab my towel and head back to the beach, so thanks for dropping by, take care of yourselves and see you next week.