Category: Aircraft

The power of community

Despite the gloom and real stress for many people it’s not wall-to-wall pessimism.

The reason I was prompted to write about this was a couple of connections made in the last few days and the power they have to keep this elderly chap still bouncing along.

Recently on the forum Ugly Hedgehog there was a gentleman who posted some photographs of some dogs that he had seen at the dog park. It was in a post called Today at the dog park.

They were lovely and I thought what a good idea it would be if I was able to republish them for next week’s Picture Parade. So I asked!

Well I was not disappointed and indeed said gentleman emailed me with a short bio and a photograph of him and his dog by way of an introduction. This is what he wrote:

I was born on Long Island and spent the first 60 years of my life there except for my Naval service for four years during the Vietnam war. I was a Naval Aviator, and after my active duty was over I returned to Long Island and got into a career in law enforcement that lasted 31 years. I made thousands of arrests during my career and many of those who were incarcerated threatened to “get me” some day, so I would prefer that you don’t use my real name.

When I retired at age 60 I moved to Tampa, FL because my daughter lived there and I have two granddaughters and now my son lives here too. It’s great for photographing flora and fauna all year round. My love for dogs has worn off on my kids as my daughter has two of them and my son three! Photography has been a hobby of mine for over 60 years. Here is a casual photo of me and my buddy Ollie (a three year old golden doodle).

Ollie and Nimbushopper

You will have to wait until Sunday to view his photographs!

At the end of November Jean and I wanted to join the local camera club. It was clear that I had a camera, a Nikon D750, that was way more advanced than I thought and, frankly, I didn’t know my way around it.

So we joined the Caveman Camera Club in Grants Pass, Oregon. Although at the moment the pandemic puts a halt on physical meetings, twice a month ‘zoom’ meetings are held. Also mentors were available. I took advantage of the opportunity to work under a mentor and last week I went the short distance of nine miles to meet with Gene. Gene had so much knowledge and had regularly taught photography for a number of years. I came away very inspired and very motivated to become better in my photographic and composure skills. Gene’s area of interest is landscapes.

What was clear was that for my whole life, and I have been taking photographs for a very long time, I had been taking pictures and not composing photographs.

It’s going to be a long journey but one that fills me with delight

Here are some of my very first attempts, taken yesterday along the Rogue River in the rain and mist.

The Rogue River looking downstream.

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The Rogue River looking upstream from the same point.

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Looking towards the top of the opposite bank.

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Trees in the mist.

Well it’s a start!

But I just wanted to reiterate that staying local both literally and virtually is very rewarding.

Magnetic rivers!

Yes, you heard that correctly.

There was an article on the website EarthSky News yesterday that, literally, took me out of this world. It described the role of magnetic rivers in newly forming star clusters.

There’s not a dog in sight but nevertheless I wanted to share this article with you.

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Magnetic rivers feed star birth

Astronomers have learned that the pull of gravity can sometimes overcome the strong magnetic fields found in great star-forming clouds in space. The resulting weakly magnetized gas flow can feed the growth of new stars.

See the lines – called streamlines by scientists – in this composite image of the Serpens South star cluster? They’re from magnetic fields in this great star-forming cloud. Notice the lower left, where magnetic fields have been dragged into alignment with a narrow, dark filament. In that area, astronomers say, material from interstellar space is flowing into the star-forming cloud and fueling star formation. Image via NASA/ SOFIA/ T. Pillai/ JPL-Caltech/ L. Allen/ USRA.

Astronomers have known for decades that stars like our sun form when giant clouds of gas and dust in space – sometimes called molecular clouds – collapse under their own gravity. But how does the material from interstellar space flow into these clouds, and what controls the collapse? The image above helps illustrate an answer to these questions. It’s a composite, made with data from SOFIA – an airborne telescope designed for infrared astronomy – overlaid on an image from the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope. This composite shows that the pull of gravity can sometimes overcome the strong magnetic fields found in great star-forming clouds in space. And it shows that, when that happens, weakly magnetized gas can flow – as on a conveyor belt – to feed the growth of newly forming star clusters.

A statement from the Max Planck Institute in Bonn, Germany, explained:

A major finding in the last decade has been that extensive networks of filaments permeate every molecular cloud. A picture has emerged that stars like our own sun form preferentially in dense clusters at the intersection of filaments.

Now look back at the image above, which shows the Serpens South star cluster, a star-forming region located some 1,400 light-years from Earth. In that image, you see a dark filament in the lower left. Now notice the “stripes” on the image, which astronomers call streamlines. They represent magnetic structures, discovered by SOFIA. The astronomers said these magnetic structures act like rivers, channeling material into the great star-forming cloud.

As you can see in the image, these magnetic streamlines have been dragged by gravity to align with the narrow, dark filament on the lower left. Astronomers say this configuration helps material from interstellar space flow into the cloud.

This is different from the upper parts of the image, where the magnetic fields are perpendicular to the filaments; in those regions, the magnetic fields in the cloud are opposing gravity.

Astrophysicist Thushara Pillai led the study showing that magnetic rivers feed star birth in the Serpens South star-forming region.

The scientists said in a statement from Universities Space Research Association (USRA) that they are:

… studying the dense cloud to learn how magnetic fields, gravity and turbulent gas motions contribute to the creation of stars. Once thought to slow star birth by counteracting gravity, SOFIA’s data reveals magnetic fields may actually be working together with gravity as it pulls the fields into alignment with the filaments, nourishing the birth of stars.

The results were published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Astronomy on August 17. The lead author of the new study is Thushara Pillai of Boston University and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.

In 1835, the French philosopher Auguste Comte wrote of the unknowable nature of stars:

On the subject of stars, all investigations which are not ultimately reducible to simple visual observations are … necessarily denied to us. While we can conceive of the possibility of determining their shapes, their sizes, and their motions, we shall never be able by any means to study their chemical composition or their mineralogical structure … Our knowledge concerning their gaseous envelopes is necessarily limited to their existence, size … and refractive power, we shall not at all be able to determine their chemical composition or even their density…

He was, famously, wrong.

He couldn’t have envisioned the range of tools available to modern astronomers. It’s a beautiful thing that, nowadays, astronomers can not only learn about the compositions of stars via their studies of their spectra, but also probe the deeper mysteries, going all the way to the births of these colossal, self-luminous balls in space.

SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. The HAWC+ polarimeter on board SOFIA was used for the observations of the magnetic field in the Serpens South star-forming region. Image via NASA/ C. Thomas/ Max Planck Institute.

Bottom line: Astronomers have learned that the pull of gravity can sometimes overcome the strong magnetic fields found in great star-forming clouds in space. The resulting weakly magnetized gas flow can feed the growth of new stars.

Source: Magnetized filamentary gas flows feeding the young embedded cluster in Serpens South

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Just read that paragraph just before the end of the article: “He couldn’t have envisioned the range of tools available to modern astronomers. It’s a beautiful thing that, nowadays, astronomers can not only learn about the compositions of stars via their studies of their spectra, but also probe the deeper mysteries, going all the way to the births of these colossal, self-luminous balls in space.”

What a long way we have come from just, say, 50 years ago.

It would be easy to get lost in the article in a scientific manner, and that would be entirely appropriate.

But there’s another beautiful way to get lost in the article; by dreaming of outer space and forgetting just for a moment or two this Earthly planet we all live on!

 

Droning on!

With thanks to Monika for the title of today’s post!

My father was born in 1901. He had two wives. Me and my sister, Elizabeth, are the result of the relationship between our father and his second wife; Betty. Our father died in 1956; December 20th.

My father first was married to Maud and they had two daughters, Rhona and Corinne. Rhona died in 2003 and Corinne died in 2014. Although Rhona and Corinne were half-sisters I prefer to think of them as sisters!

Both had children. But I want to concentrate on Rhona. She and Reider, Norwegian by birth, had four children: Rolv; Greta; Rikard; Marit.

As is the way in this modern world, Rikky who lives near Torquay in South Devon, recently called in to see my brother-in-law, John, and John remarked to me that Rikky’s new wife, Jazz, was gorgeous. I asked Greta for a telephone number and, hey presto, Rikky and I were in contact with each other.

This is a little bit from Rik’s bio.

So you may remember I was with Amanda at the time of Mother’s passing, seems a long time ago now. Well that ultimately came to nothing and I ended up living alone with a couple of huskies in a small flat in Torquay. I had invested a large chunk of Mother’s inheritance into a PA system and set up and ran a sound engineering business for years as well as running quite a successful tribute band to ‘The Doors’. The PA company eventually ended after going into a partnership with a friend who also invested a chunk of cash allowing major upgrades to the kit.

Unfortunately I soon found out he was more interested in holidays to Spain than actual PA work, the problem being I had now sold vital parts of my rig which was replaced by his. We went separate ways and he took his gear with him leaving me without a full system, BIG lesson learnt.

At that point I went back to employment as an engineer for a company servicing and repairing lifting hoists to the health care industry. Four years in and the company went into administration.

Later Rikky says:

Back to work again this time to DPD as a delivery driver for a couple of years following in Rolv’s (Ed: brother) tyre tracks. This was when I also met Jazz on a random night out with friends. We immediately realised that we had many mutual friends and had actually met before many years ago when I was playing in her Dad’s Jazz band! This was around 19 years ago when I was 30 and Jazz was only 16. I only have a vague memory of her then sitting in a corner of the rehearsal room furiously scribbling in a sketch book.

Not much has changed there except she now holds a degree in Art and Design. She is also a Holistic Therapist and has trained in many holistic therapies including Reilki, Reflexology and Massage and is a very talented and beautiful woman. I feel incredibly blessed. She has two daughters Sanije and Latoja (nine and eleven) who I consider as mine; their father left the country last year and went back to Albania which actually has been a blessing for the girls as he is a difficult man to say the least.
So the driving job became another engineering position this time with a company specialising in fire alarms, a couple of years in and the contract I was working on was TUPED over to LiveWest which is one of the largest social housing companies in the South West. Two years after that and the company merged with another housing company, the role changed slightly so I was offered voluntary redundancy which I took giving me the financial opportunity to retrain as a commercial drone pilot and so here we are today.

Thus Rik became a commercial drone pilot and as the home page of his website declares:

We can accommodate all your aerial requirements from photography to cinematography, inspections to 3d mapping.

The name of Rik’s website is Ahead4Heights which strikes me as apt. And from the About page of that website, one reads:

Here at Ahead4Heights we have a passion for flying drones and creating visually stunning aerial films and photography. We are PfCO certified by the Civil Aviation Authority and hold full public liability insurance giving you complete confidence in us to provide the service you require.
With our post production studio facility we are able to add voice overs and original music written to your brief if required as we have our own in house composer and audio recording engineer.
Our UAV fleet consists of a variety of drones from the market leading DJI Inspire 2, capable of filming in incredible  5.2k resolution and producing the RAW file format standard for the film industry to our Pixhawk based quadcopter (equipt with a 4k camera) which we use for autonomous flight taking photos used to generate 3d mapping of locations useful for the construction industry.
Finally we have a heavy lift Tarot 680 hexacopter which is used as a backup drone and also for specialised  payloads such as thermal cameras and high power lighting.
If you simply want aerial photos for property sales, photos and footage for weddings and events we will be happy to offer our services to you.
We can also carry out inspection work on roofs, tower masts and bridges etc where specialised safety equipment and scaffolding would otherwise be required. Utilizing both the high resolution and thermal imaging cameras we are able to identify problems with the insulation of properties, stress points in structures and damage to roofs and guttering.
Ahead4Heights also holds certificates in the building and setting up of drones so if you require a drone built to your special requirements we would be happy to discuss. We would also offer a full maintenance package with any build projects.

A couple more photographs.

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And, of course, one more of the dogs! That is Storm and Tia.

More tomorrow!

Revisiting an earlier post about Pharaoh

Another post from many years back.

From June 4th, 2013 to be exact.

Continuing the theme of revisiting earlier posts this week!

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More on Pharaoh’s life

What a wonderful relationship it has been.

Years ago if I was ever to own a dog, it had to be one breed and one breed only: a German Shepherd Dog.

The reason for this was that back in 1955 my father and mother looked after a German Shepherd dog called Boy.  Boy belonged to a lovely couple, Maurice and Marie Davies.  They were in the process of taking over a new Public House (Pub); the Jack & Jill in Coulsdon, Surrey.  My father had been the architect of the Jack & Jill.

Jack & Jill, Longlands Avenue, Coulsdon, Surrey
Jack & Jill, Longlands Avenue, Coulsdon, Surrey

As publicans have a tough time taking holidays, it was agreed that the move from their old pub to the Jack & Jill represented a brilliant opportunity to have that vacation.  My parents offered to look after Boy for the 6 weeks that Maurice and Marie were going to be away.

Boy was the most gentle loveable dog one could imagine and I quickly became devoted to him; I was 11 years old at the time.  So when years later it seemed the right time to have a dog, there was no question about the breed.  Boy’s memory lived on all those years, and, as this post reveals, still does!

Pharaoh was born June 3rd, 2003 at Jutone Kennels up at Bovey Tracy, Devon, on the edge of Dartmoor.  As the home page of the Jutone website pronounces,

The Kennel was established in 1964 and it has always been the aim to breed the best German Shepherd Dogs for type and temperament. To this end the very finest German bloodlines are used to continue a modern breeding programme.

and elsewhere on that website one learns:

Jutone was established by Tony Trant who was joined by Sandra Tucker in 1976. Sandra continues to run Jutone since Tony passed away in 2004. Both Tony and Sandra qualified as Championship Show judges and Sandra continues to judge regularly. Sandra is the Secretary and a Life Member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of Devon.

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Tony Trant

Turning to Pharaoh, here are a few more pictures over the years.

Pharaoh, nine months old.
Pharaoh, nine months old.

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One year old: June 3rd 2004.
One year old: June 3rd 2004.

The next picture of Pharaoh requires a little background information.

For many years I was a private pilot and in later days had the pleasure, the huge pleasure, of flying a Piper Super Cub, a group-owned aircraft based at Watchford Farm in South Devon.  The aircraft, a Piper PA-18-135 Super Cub, was originally supplied to the Dutch Air Force in 1954 and was permitted by the British CAA to carry her original military markings including her Dutch military registration, R-151, although there was a British registration, G-BIYR, ‘underneath’ the Dutch R-151.  (I wrote more fully about the history of the aircraft on Learning from Dogs back in August 2009.)

Piper Cub R151
Piper Cub R151

Anyway, every time I went to the airfield with Pharaoh he always tried to climb into the cockpit.  So one day, I decided to see if he would sit in the rear seat and be strapped in.  Absolutely no problem with that!

Come on Dad, let's get this thing off the ground!
Come on Dad, let’s get this thing off the ground!

My idea had been to fly a gentle circuit in the aircraft.  First I did some taxying around the large grass airfield that is Watchford to see how Pharaoh reacted.  He was perfectly behaved.

Then I thought long and hard about taking Pharaoh for a flight.  In the Cub there is no autopilot so if Pharaoh struggled or worse it would have been almost impossible to fly the aircraft and cope with Pharaoh.  So, in the end, I abandoned taking him for a flight.  The chances are that it would have been fine.  But if something had gone wrong, the outcome just didn’t bear thinking about.

So we ended up motoring for 30 minutes all around the airfield which, as the next picture shows, met with doggie approval.  The date was July 2006.

That was fun!
That was fun!

What a dear dog he has been over all the years and, thankfully, still is!

As if to reinforce the fabulous dog he still is, yesterday it was almost as though he knew he had to show how youthful he still was.

Because, when I took his group of dogs out around 7.30am armed with my camera, Pharaoh was brimming over with energy.

First up was a swim in the pond.

Ah, an early birthday dip! Bliss!
Ah, an early birthday dip! Bliss!

Then in a way he has not done before, Pharaoh wanted to play ‘King of my Island’, which is in the middle of the pond.

Halt! Who goes there!
Halt! Who goes there!

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This is my island! So there!
This is my island! So there!

Then a while later, when back on dry land, so to speak, it was time to dry off in the morning sunshine.

Actually, this isn't a bad life!
Actually, this isn’t a bad life!

Long may he have an enjoyable and comfortable life.

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Pharaoh died of old age on June 19th, 2017. He was 14!

Despite the fact that we have six wonderful dogs including Cleo there is still a twinge of sadness when Pharaoh is mentioned. And now you know the origins of Pharaoh!

Let me close by sharing a photograph of Cleo.

Picture taken of puppy Cleo on the 13th April, 2012 when she was then aged 11 weeks.

Batman to the rescue!

Seriously!

It’s unbelievable but there’s a guy who transports rescue dogs and cats to their new owners. And he dresses up in a batman tunic!

This story was recently carried by The Dodo and is shared with you all today.

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There’s A Real-Life Batman Going Around Saving Shelter Pets

“It’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me”

BY

PUBLISHED ON 07/03/2019

Not all heroes wear capes — but when it comes to helping animals in need, some really do.

That’s what one homeless pit bull named Koko learned when the Caped Crusader himself changed her life forever.

Photo Credit: Batman4Paws

Koko arrived at the Pet Resource Center of Tampa as a stray. Day after day, she waited patiently for a family to choose her. But, before that day could come, she was put on the euthanasia list. With an hour left to live, Koko was pulled from the shelter by her foster mom and months later found a forever home in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The only problem? She had no way of getting there.

Enter the Dark Knight — otherwise known as Chris Van Dorn, founder of the animal rescue nonprofit Batman4Paws.

Batman4Paws

An eight-hour road trip dressed in an elaborate Batman costume is all in a day’s work for Van Dorn. “I would say I’m just the middleman,” Van Dorn told The Dodo. “The real heroes are the people giving these dogs a good, loving home.”

Koko is one of many dogs and cats whom Van Dorn has helped transport from overcrowded shelters to the safety of their forever homes.

And while dressing as Batman isn’t necessary to save an animal’s life, it has helped Van Dorn open up a dialogue about the importance of adoption and fostering.

Batman4Paws

The costume just makes everybody happy and smile,” Van Dorn said. “It’s special to see Batman walking around, and when they find out that he’s doing a good deed in the world they get even more excited.”

“It kind of just came as a way to embody all the good I wanted to do in the world,” he added, “and make it easy for people to talk to me right off the bat.”

Batman4Paws[/caption]

Van Dorn grew up watching the Batman animated series and began volunteering with animal rescues when his family adopted an Australian shepherd named Mr. Boots. When it came time for Van Dorn to start his own rescue organization, he decided to do it as Batman with, of course, Mr. Boots occasionally stepping in as Robin.

Batman4Paws

Every superhero has a secret identity, and for Van Dorn, wearing a mask was an intentional way of keeping the focus on his mission of saving animals.

“When I was first starting out, I was keeping everything really anonymous,” Van Dorn said. “I would sign everything ‘Bruce Wayne’ and not put my real name out there … My catchphrase is, ‘It’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me,’ and I still hold that true today.”

Batman4Paws

His cover was blown when GoFundMe honored his campaign, naming him as their GoFundMe Hero for May. Van Dorn hopes soon to put his private pilot’s license to good use by purchasing a plane so he can fly the animals to their forever homes every week.

But for the time being, he’s using his Batmobile, and making a difference whenever he can.

“Actions speak louder than words and I’m just doing my best to empty the cages,” Van Dorn said. “And I challenge anyone to go to their local shelter because it’s a depressing place, but if you can help out in any way — whether that’s to foster a dog or adopt a dog or just volunteer your time, then you should go out and do it.”

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This is one amazing guy. Simple and straightforward!

This is just beautiful!

Change of mind!

I wasn’t going to do a post for today.

But that was before I saw Flying With Birds!

Then I changed my mind.

This is the post (and I trust I can share it with you!)

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If you have ever wondered what it must be like to be a bird flying alongside them is about as close as you can come.

Christian Moullec takes us some amazing flights with his birds in this wonderful video. He has been helping birds migrate from Germany to Sweden since 1995. His efforts have raised awareness about the disappearance of migratory birds in Europe. I hope you enjoy this beautiful video as much as I did!

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Enjoy!

It is just beautiful!

Too close to home!

A post that involves dogs but not what I had in mind!

Last Saturday I published a post The burning of our forests! that included a photograph of the nearby Klondike fire.

Courtesy Jeffersen Public Radio

Then last Sunday I was speaking to Maija, my daughter back in England, and she was asking how the fires were and I distinctly recall saying: “Sweetheart, I think we are over the worst!

That same Sunday evening, around 9:45pm, in other words two evenings ago, one of our neighbours, Margo, who lives on 60 acres adjacent to the west of us, called with real alarm in her voice:

Paul, have you seen the fire that is burning just to the North-East of us?

I replied that I had not but immediately went to our deck that runs the whole Eastern length of our house. Mount Sexton is just a few miles to the North-East of us.

This is what I saw!

Taken on the 2nd September, 2018 at 21:44 PDT

Apparently, a short while previously the wind had blown down a tree that had fallen across some high-voltage power lines causing sparking that had, in turn, ignited the extremely dry grassland.

The fire was between Oxyoke Road and Three Pines Road and roughly 2 miles from us line of sight.

That explained why some thirty minutes before, in the last of the light of the setting sun, there had been a number of helicopter flights come across us en route to dropping fire retardant close by. It hadn’t occurred to me that it was an incident so close to us.

Many of us living nearby then called each other to spread the word.

Jeannie and I, in turn, drew up an evacuation checklist and started getting things ready. More importantly, getting ourselves psychologically prepared to have to vacate the property at very short notice: Jeannie and me: six dogs; two horses; two parakeets; three cats; two chickens!

Thankfully an order to evacuate did not come during the night.

So yesterday morning I grabbed my bike and rode to Oxyoke Road. On the way I stopped to photograph the smoke in the air.

Three Pines Road looking to the East.

Once at Oxyoke Road I chatted to a search and rescue volunteer on duty controlling the traffic.

His report, as of 11:30 on September 3rd, was that the fire was just 15% contained, was “pretty active”, and that they were keeping an eye on the winds that were expected to be rather gusty later on that afternoon. I am writing this at 13:40 on the 3rd and the present winds are 6 mph, gusting 12 mph, from the North-West.

I rode back home to brief Jeannie and found her working her way through an idea for evacuating the dogs!

H’mmm! I am not sure Pedy is getting the message!

But a few words from Sweeny seemed to sort things out.

So there you are my good people, a post about dogs! Sort of!

Fingers crossed we will speak again tomorrow!

Assuming we don’t have a repeat of last night’s spectacular sights!!

Photo taken by Holmes Ariel of the Hugo Road Neighbourhood Watch group.

At least this rural living keeps one fit!

To England and France, Part Five

Beautiful, peaceful and relaxing days!

We were in Reggie and Chris’s villa in the village of La Croix des Luques inland from the Cote d’Azur, Southern France.

I quickly realised that their villa was not far from the world-famous sailplaning airfield at Fayence. Or LES PLANEURS DE FAYENCE as it is known. Reggie gladly offered to take Jean and me across to the airfield.

Many years ago, when I was living and working in Colchester, Essex, I became a very keen and active pilot with the Rattlesden Gliding Club in Suffolk eventually qualifying as a gliding instructor. So when Reggie suggested that I see about getting a dual flight at the Fayence Club I didn’t need asking twice.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t accommodate my wishes before we had to leave France so that opportunity had to be let go.

Another opportunity, this time for Jeannie, was taken advantage of. Chris was a member of a local art class and while we were going to be there the class would be meeting at the villa. Would Jean like to take part?

Jean is a good amateur artist, as many of her paintings and sketches around our house attest to. So that did take place and it was a wonderful afternoon for all concerned.

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Stella, Christine’s sister, working alongside my Jeannie.

Then on a subsequent day Reggie and Chris took us for a drive along the beautiful coastline that is the essence of the Cote d’Azur.

To reach the coast Reggie took a route that went down towards Frejus and Saint-Raphael and then joined the coast road just west of Le Dramont.

I found this was stirring up very old memories. For my father, a Chartered Architect, had a passion for this part of France and every summer back in the 1950s took the four of us (Mum, Dad, me and my sister Elizabeth) for a month’s holiday. Thus many of the coastal town names had echoes from over 60 years ago. (Father died in December, 1956 of cancer.)

As we drove along, I reminisced aloud to Reggie and Chris that when I was 15 my mother decided that it would be a good thing for me to do a student exchange with a French boy. It was arranged and in the early part of the summer of 1959 in to our house in Preston Road, Wembley came Philippe, whose home was in Paris.

Then in about 4 weeks it was my turn to accompany Philippe back to Paris. It was a very ornate apartment with an air of luxury living and I felt very lost in the place. Apparently, Philippe’s father was a director with Air France.

Anyway, the father announced just a couple of days after I had arrived that all the family the following day would be flying from Paris to Nice airport, (with Air France, of course!) to then spend a month at the family’s French villa in the coastal town of Antheor.

On me mentioning Antheor Reggie immediately exclaimed that we were just a few miles from going through Antheor and that we should stop there. I wondered if I would remember anything of the place.

Well I did!! To my amazement when we stopped to look down at the beaches below the level of the road I thought that we were very close to the beach in front of the villa at Antheor where I used to swim, frequently on my own, every day that I stayed there.

I told everyone to stay where they were and ran on to the next beach.

Bingo!!

It was the same beach that I now recalled so clearly.

Swimming memories from 1959!

Even more amazing for me was that the iron gate and steep stone steps down to the beach were still there, albeit no longer being used as a more modern set of steps was in place.

By this time, the others had arrived at the head of the new steps and were looking down at me as I became truly lost in days so very long ago.

 

I have no recollection why back then the rest of the family so rarely came down to the beach that was so close to where their villa was. Indeed, it was just a case of crossing the coast road, much quieter in those years, and descending the steps to the beach.

But for this London boy it was bliss beyond measure. Maybe at some level it reminded me of family holidays for our, as in sister Elizabeth and me, father’s death was still a painful memory.

I stood still and just looked at the beach and at the sea and was transported so very clearly back to the times when I swam around the rocks, wearing a face mask and snorkel, just lost forever in what one could see underwater.

Then it was time to return to the car and resume our delightful drive.

Soon after we stopped at a small beach cafe for an afternoon drink of something cool.

Everything, well for me at least, still seemed a little unreal; a little larger than life! I think that’s what inspired me to take the photograph above of the cafe proprietor and her cat!

Then we moved on again.

In due course, to another delightful evening meal somewhere local. The French expression “en famille” says it all!

These wonderful days were going by far too quickly!

In a flash it was Tuesday and Jean and I were being driven to Nice airport for another easyJet flight. But instead of returning to Bristol we had booked an easyJet flight into Gatwick. Because the last 36-hours of our vacation were being spent with my daughter’s family.

Maija’s husband, Marius, who is employed by The Royal National Theatre, near Waterloo Bridge on the south bank of the River Thames in London, frequently is working evenings but in order to spend time with me and Jeannie he had taken a day’s holiday on the 25th.

Our last day of our vacation dawned bright and sunny. It was a school day for Morten and after he had left for school Marius and Maija suggested going for a walk along the South Downs. Perfect!

For those unfamiliar with the South Downs let me quote a little of what may be read on Wikipedia.

The South Downs are a range of chalk hills that extends for about 260 square miles (670 km2)[1] across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley of Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, in the east. The Downs are bounded on the northern side by a steep escarpment, from whose crest there are extensive views northwards across the Weald. The South Downs National Park forms a much larger area than the chalk range of the South Downs and includes large parts of the Weald.

The South Downs are characterised by rolling chalk downland with close-cropped turf and dry valleys, and are recognised as one of the most important chalk landscapes in England.[2] The range is one of the four main areas of chalk downland in southern England.[3]

It is a beautiful place to walk.

It was a magical way of spending our last day.

Again, I was aware of stirrings in my old memory box from many years ago, possibly when I might have taken young Alex and Maija for a walk along the Downs, or something along those lines.

But today it meant so much for Jeannie and me to be with Maija and Marius for this gorgeous walk.

A couple of hours later we found a place to have a late lunch and asked the lady serving our table to take a photograph of all four of us!

Obviously, we had to be home in time for Morten’s return from school.

Those last hours of that day were focussed on keeping Morten company. What else mattered!

So the last photograph of the whole vacation is the one below. A picture taken of Morten planting some seeds that were bought while we were out that day.

We arrived back in Portland, Oregon around 6pm on the 26th and too late to drive all the way back to Merlin.

So after we had collected the car from the long-term parking we stopped off at the first motel that we saw heading though southern Portland.

Then around 11am on Friday, 27th April we pulled up in front of the house to be greeted by six very loving and contented dogs. Well done, Jana!

That evening those contented dogs demonstrating their happiness did more than anything to communicate a precious message.

Oliver and Pedi

oooo

Brandy.

Welcome Home Jeannie and Paul!

The End!

To England and France, Part Four.

On to the South of France!

Alex drove us across to Bristol airport mid-morning on the 18th April for our flight, courtesy of easyJet, from Bristol to Nice.

The days with Alex and Lisa had been so wonderful yet had gone by so very quickly. Thank goodness that Alex and Lisa had already made plans to come and see us again in Merlin sometime during August. It made the parting a little less painful.

Our flight was a good one and departed on time and quickly climbed into a beautiful Spring sky.

Looking down on the beautiful planet underneath us I tried very hard not to think of the 8,000 or so litres of aviation fuel that Alex estimated our Airbus would burn on this 90-minute flight. (Alex is a Commercial pilot flying for an airline out of Bristol.)

But no time to get too introspective about the wake we humans are leaving on the face of Planet Earth because before Jean and I had really got our heads around the fact that we would shortly be seeing Reggie and his wife, Chris, our aircraft was positioning itself over Nice in readiness for landing at Nice airport.

The metropolis that is present-day Nice.

Reggie and Christine’s house was situated at La Croix des Luques, about an hour’s drive from Nice and up in the beautiful countryside that lay inland from the Cote d’Azur; that famous coastal region to the East of Toulon that boasted such places as Cannes, St. Tropez, Monaco and, of course, Nice itself. It was glorious countryside and in some ways familiar with the forested country back in Merlin, Oregon.

By 5pm French time we were at the house and Jean and Reggie were catching up in earnest!

I had a very strong sense that the next six days were going to be very relaxing and very entertaining.

Merlin curled up on the carpet below Hugo.

Plus Reggie and Chris had two dogs; two wonderful dogs. But talk about the fickle finger of fate. For their two dogs were named Merlin and Hugo! And, I should hasten to add, named before we moved from Arizona to Oregon in 2012.

Seriously!

To put that into context for any new readers of this place, where Jean and I live in Southern Oregon is on Hugo Road, Merlin!

Tomorrow will be the last day of sharing the details with you all of our vacation.

It will cover the balance of the time that we spent with Reggie and Chris in the South of France, a most amazing ‘blast from the past’ for yours truly, our return to England and another stay, just for 36 hours this time with Maija, Marius and Morten, then on the 26th our return flight to Portland.

See you tomorrow!