To England and France, Part Three

Refreshing dear connections from the past!

So on Friday the 13th of April daughter Maija ran Jean and me to the railway station at Haywards Heath to catch a train into London, specifically to Victoria Station.

Then we boarded the London Underground to get ourselves from Victoria Station to Bounds Green tube station on the Picadilly Line. It was a bit of a culture shock for both Jean and me; to say the least. But we managed it somehow and once at Bounds Green there was my sister Eleanor to greet us. Eleanor lives in Johannesburg in South Africa (long story) but needed to come to England and made arrangements that meant she could meet with us for this one afternoon and evening. For Eleanor had pre-booked a bed and breakfast in Coniston Road, London N10.

Eleanor is twelve years my younger sister and it was only later on in life that both of us realised what a precious age gap that was. For as Eleanor was growing up in her early years I was at the age of wanting to be the big brother to her and it became, and still is, a very close bond.

Eleanor holding her arms around Jean and me!

Immediately upon meeting we found a nearby cafe to grab some lunch and do a bit of catching up!

The afternoon and evening went by far too quickly and fairly smartly on the Saturday morning, the 14th, we said our ‘goodbyes’ and Jean and I struggled for the second time in twenty-four hours with the Underground! This time making our way from Bounds Green to Paddington Station, the main line station that serves Bristol and places in between, as in the Great Western Railway, as well as down to the South-West including Exeter and then on to Plymouth and into Cornwall.

Our train journey was from Paddington to Swindon Station to be met by Richard and Julie.

Richard is my longest, closest and dearest male friend.

He and I go back very many years, for we met not long after I had left IBM in 1978, where I had been an Office Products salesman, and then started my own company. Richard had, in turn, recently left Olivetti where he, too, had been an Office Products salesman.

We hit it off immediately and over the intervening years, as in the thick end of 40 years, there’s not a lot that we haven’t shared in terms of fun and frolics, and especially a great many flying exploits in my group-owned Piper Super Cub!

Piper Cub R151

When Jean and I got together in 2008 as you might imagine she quickly became close friends with Richard and Jules, as Richard calls Julie.

Plus Jean and Richard share a rather ironic, if that’s the right term, event. For both of them were diagnosed in December, 2015 with the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease!

As with seeing Eleanor, the time with Richard and Jules was far too short but, nonetheless, very

Murphy being cuddled by Jules

precious. Plus, dear Murphy gave Jean and me a much-needed dog fix!

Thus on the morning of the 15th, Richard and Jules ran us across to Bristol which is where my son, Alex, is living with Lisa, his partner.

The plan was to spend from Sunday, the 15th, through to Wednesday, the 18th, with Alex and Lisa. Alex had booked time off work for those days but Lisa unfortunately was working during the weekdays.

Yet another meeting of dear friends, as in Richard and Jules catching up with Alex.

Alex had arranged for Jean and me to go down to South Devon on Monday, 16th, to meet with John Joiner, my dear brother-in-law.

Let me explain some family background. My father had had two daughters with a previous wife to my mother. Their names were Rhona and Corinne and when they were alive they both lived in South Devon. In the years that followed my father’s death in December, 1956, both Rhona and Corinne, and their respective husbands, Reider and John, made me feel very special and very deeply loved by both of them. (Indeed, it was because of wanting to be close to Rhona and Corinne’s families that I settled in South Devon when I returned from Cyprus in 1991.)

Corinne died in June, 2013. John, who is now well into his 80s, lives in a small apartment in the village of South Brent just a few miles from Totnes in South Devon. I make a point of calling him from Oregon at least once a week but to be able to see John again after so many years was another big highlight of the vacation.

Inevitably, along came another lunch and in the photograph above you can see John on the right-hand side and sitting next to him, as in the left of the photo, is Greta, my cousin as in Rhona’s daughter, who spends a great deal of her spare time looking after John. Dear Greta!

After the pub lunch we returned to John’s apartment for tea and carried on sharing many special memories.

Indeed, one of those special memories was Benji the wonderful dog that Corinne and John had for many years. On one of John’s walls was this wonderful painting of Benji.

The other fact about John is his incredible use of the English language. Both in terms of his vocabulary and his diction. John’s legacy to me is, and will be for the rest of my days, the value of speaking well.

Another wonderful connection with past times.

The truth is that the odds are that I may never see John again. That made this day with John so incredibly special. Huge thanks to Alex and Greta. What a fabulous day!

The next day, Tuesday, the 17th, was Lisa’s birthday and yet another wonderful evening out.

Then came the 18th and the last few hours of being with Alex. At 12:50 that day we were due to fly from Bristol down to Nice in Southern France to spend six nights with Reggie, Jean’s brother.

Those beautiful days will be the topic of tomorrow’s post. See you then!

But before I turn away from today’s description of our days in England, let me address a question that John Zande raised yesterday. Namely: “Have to ask, do you miss the English village life? It’s so beautiful.

Here’s my answer:

John, yes there was no question that there were stirrings of great familiarity when down with John near Totnes. In my mind’s eye, I could still walk up Totnes High Street and name many of the stores that I used to visit on an almost weekly basis when living in Harberton.

But at the same time I was shocked and disappointed by the huge growth in new housing, someone said an additional 500 homes built in the area in the last 5 years, and all the traffic and crowded lanes that go with that expansion. Many of the lanes were so crowded with parked cars that they were effectively single-lane carriageways.

The relatively sparse housing in the part of Oregon where we now live, the way that the natural world seems untouched by us humans here on Hugo Road, felt very beautiful in comparison. We looked forward to being back in Merlin.

Upper Barn, Harberton, where I used to live before meeting my Jeannie!

14 thoughts on “To England and France, Part Three

  1. Lovely to hear about your reunions with relatives and friends Paul. I too had a sibling 11 years older than me (a brother) and it was quite a different relationship from my other brother, just 2 1/2 half years older. I also had a half sister as well.
    Totnes was the original ‘Transition Town’ in the UK wasn’t it? As you suggest, the image of cosy, English country villages ala Midsummer Murders is fast becoming an illusion, given the steady population increases in the UK – it’s almost impossible to get a parking spot in regional towns sometimes. Like you and Jean, my husband and I really appreciate the space and quiet we have on our acreage property here in Port Sorell, Tasmania, a coastal town of about 5000 people in the north west of Tasmania. Having been (retired) here 10 years now, we could never go back to the rustle and bustle and ever growing population size (4 1/2 million) of Melbourne in Victoria, where we spent most of our lives.


    1. That’s a great recollection about Totnes. Yes, it was Britain’s first Transition Town long before the term had any wider use. You and I, and our spouses, are so lucky to be at this stage of our lives and living ‘cheek by jowl’ with nature. We mustn’t forget how many aren’t so lucky!


  2. Paul, thank you so much for sharing your journey. I love how you share not only where you have been on this trip which is fascinating since I have no knowledge of the countries you are visiting. I also have always been amazed at how you tell your stories about your family and even the wonderful pictures that also tell a story about you and your loved ones. I appreciate that you are in some of them since lots of times you are the man behind the camera. I am looking forward to your coming home and hopefully more photos and stories. Since I am your neighbor, I can appreciate your comments about the beauty and quiet here.


    1. Oh, dear Belinda, that is such a lovely reply from you. But we are now home; indeed arrived back in Merlin on Friday, 27th April. Thank you ever so much!


  3. Nice essay! Something unrelated, for dog lovers:
    Wed, May 9, 2018 5:42 am
    The Litigation Daily from The American Lawyer (
    To:you Details
    Litigation Daily


    Jenna Greene
    May 09, 2018

    Good morning! It’s Wednesday, May 9 and I’m Lit Daily editor Jenna Greene. Reach me at On Twitter @jgreenejenna.

    For Winston & Strawn, a Dog of a Case

    Here’s a class action I wouldn’t want to defend before a jury: dog food contaminated with a deadly ingredient.

    Last week, 12 dog owners filed a consolidated class complaint in the Northern District of California against Gravy Train and Kibbles n’ Bits maker Big Heart Pet Brands Inc., which is owned by the J.M. Smucker Co. Winston & Strawn partners Ronald Rothstein and Sean Meenan are representing the company.

    The plaintiffs allege that a long list of canned dog food with yummy-sounding names like American Grill Burger Dinner with Real Bacon & Cheese Bits in Gravy also contain pentobarbital—which is what vets use to put animals to sleep.

    Some plaintiffs claim that their dogs died as a result of eating the food. Among them: a man who had 13 border collie and Australian shepherd mixes he used to herd his cattle, and who all died within two days of eating Gravy Train dog food.

    A Class II controlled substance with no safe level in pet food, pentobarbital also causes things like vomiting, explosive diarrhea, tremors, difficulty walking and coma.

    Not exactly what you’d want to feed Fido for dinner. So what’s it doing in the Home-style Tender Slices with Real Beef, Chicken & Vegetables in Gravy?

    “Pentobarbital is routinely used to euthanize animals, and the most likely way it could get into dog food would be through rendered animal products,” the complaint states. “Rendered products come from a process that converts animal tissues to feed ingredients, which may include animals that were euthanized, decomposed, or diseased.”


    That doesn’t sound much like Bistro Tender Cuts with Real Beef & Vegetables in Gravy.

    Also, according to the complaint, the drug isn’t even used on farm animals. It’s for dogs, cats and horses. Which could make the Home-style Meatballs & Pasta Dinner with Real Beef in Tomato Sauce more like Soylent Green for dogs.

    Big Heart wound up recalling 90 million cans of dog food due to pentobarbital.

    Based on a preliminary evaluation, the FDA in a Feb. 16, 2018 alert said the level of pentobarbital was “unlikely to pose a health risk to pets. However, any detection of pentobarbital in pet food is a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act—simply put, pentobarbital should not be in pet food,” the agency said.

    Big Heart blamed a supplier, and initially said beef fat (which the plaintiffs point out is not listed as an ingredient on any of the recalled dog food) was the source of the contamination. In an updated statement, Big Heart said the contaminated animal fat was “from cow, pig and chicken and no other animal of the nine types tested.”

    But the company didn’t actually say what the nine types of animals were. Elephants and bears? Or dogs and cats?

    The plaintiffs, who are represented by Lockridge Grindal Nauen; Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca; Gustafson Gluek; and Robbins Arroyo, allege Big Heart falsely advertised its dog food products as healthy. But Big Heart neglected to mention they contained pentobarbital—an omission that is “material, false, misleading, and reasonably likely to deceive the public.”

    And the plaintiffs said they wouldn’t have bought the food if it was accurately labeled—because Lamb & Rice Chunks with Pentobarbital Gravy just doesn’t sound very tasty.


    1. My head understands why, and would never deny someone the chance to improve their life, but my heart is saddened. I was reflecting just 15 minutes ago after coming down from the hayloft where I had gone to feed the horses as to whether the wild deer would return to their routine of coming out of the forest every morning. For while we were away they hadn’t been fed each day. None had been in evidence when I walked from the house to the stables.

      Then, bingo!, there were 5 deer that had silently appeared, like quiet ghosts, hovering near me as I poured out the ‘COB’ feed for them.

      As I returned to the house, noticing a sliver of grey cloud kissing the summit of nearby Mount Sexton and how calm this early morning was, I knew there was nowhere else in the world where I wanted to be, and how very fortunate I was!

      So many others are not so lucky!

      Liked by 1 person

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