Category: Flying

The Morse Code is 175 years old!

Two days of nostalgia follow! (You have been warned!)

As many of you already know, my father died fairly suddenly on December 20th, 1956. I had turned 12 some six weeks previously.

After about a year my mother remarried. His name was Richard Mills. Richard came to live at the house in Toley Avenue and had the unenviable task of taking on a new ‘son’ and ‘daughter’. (My sister, Elizabeth, some four years younger than I.)

Richard was a technical author in the newly-arrived electronics industry and one day he asked me if I would like to build a short-wave receiver. He coached me in the strange art of soldering wires and radio valves and other components and in the end I had a working receiver. That led, in turn, to me studying for an amateur radio licence. More of that tomorrow.

But the point of the introduction is to relay that The Morse Code is 175 years old on the 24th May.

Read more:

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Simply elegant, Morse code marks 175 years and counting

The elegantly simple code works whether flashing a spotlight or blinking your eyes—or even tapping on a smartphone touchscreen

There’s still plenty of reason to know how to use this Morse telegraph key. (Jason Salmon/Shutterstock.com)

By
Ph.D. Student in Electrical Engineering, University of South Carolina

May 21st, 2019

The first message sent by Morse code’s dots and dashes across a long distance traveled from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore on Friday, May 24, 1844 – 175 years ago. It signaled the first time in human history that complex thoughts could be communicated at long distances almost instantaneously. Until then, people had to have face-to-face conversations; send coded messages through drums, smoke signals and semaphore systems; or read printed words.

Thanks to Samuel F.B. Morse, communication changed rapidly, and has been changing ever faster since. He invented the electric telegraph in 1832. It took six more years for him to standardize a code for communicating over telegraph wires. In 1843, Congress gave him US$30,000 to string wires between the nation’s capital and nearby Baltimore. When the line was completed, he conducted a public demonstration of long-distance communication.

Morse wasn’t the only one working to develop a means of communicating over the telegraph, but his is the one that has survived. The wires, magnets and keys used in the initial demonstration have given way to smartphones’ on-screen keyboards, but Morse code has remained fundamentally the same, and is still – perhaps surprisingly – relevant in the 21st century. Although I have learned, and relearned, it many times as a Boy Scout, an amateur radio operator and a pilot, I continue to admire it and strive to master it.

Samuel F.B. Morse’s own handwritten record of the first Morse code message ever sent, on May 24, 1844. Library of Congress

Easy sending

Morse’s key insight in constructing the code was considering how frequently each letter is used in English. The most commonly used letters have shorter symbols: “E,” which appears most often, is signified by a single “dot.” By contrast, “Z,” the least used letter in English, was signified by the much longer and more complex “dot-dot-dot (pause) dot.”

In 1865, the International Telecommunications Union changed the code to account for different character frequencies in other languages. There have been other tweaks since, but “E” is still “dot,” though “Z” is now “dash-dash-dot-dot.”

The reference to letter frequency makes for extremely efficient communications: Simple words with common letters can be transmitted very quickly. Longer words can still be sent, but they take more time.

Going wireless

The communications system that Morse code was designed for – analogue connections over metal wires that carried a lot of interference and needed a clear on-off type signal to be heard – has evolved significantly.

The first big change came just a few decades after Morse’s demonstration. In the late 19th century, Guglielmo Marconi invented radio-telegraph equipment, which could send Morse code over radio waves, rather than wires.

The shipping industry loved this new way to communicate with ships at sea, either from ship to ship or to shore-based stations. By 1910, U.S. law required many passenger ships in U.S. waters to carry wireless sets for sending and receiving messages.

After the Titanic sank in 1912, an international agreement required some ships to assign a person to listen for radio distress signals at all times. That same agreement designated “SOS” – “dot-dot-dot dash-dash-dash dot-dot-dot” – as the international distress signal, not as an abbreviation for anything but because it was a simple pattern that was easy to remember and transmit. The Coast Guard discontinued monitoring in 1995. The requirement that ships monitor for distress signals was removed in 1999, though the U.S. Navy still teaches at least some sailors to read, send and receive Morse code.

The arrow points at the chart label indicating the Morse code equivalent to the ‘BAL’ signal for a radio beacon near Baltimore. Edited screenshot of an FAA map, CC BY-ND

Aviators also use Morse code to identify automated navigational aids. These are radio beacons that help pilots follow routes, traveling from one transmitter to the next on aeronautical charts. They transmit their identifiers – such as “BAL” for Baltimore – in Morse code. Pilots often learn to recognize familiar-sounding patterns of beacons in areas they fly frequently.

There is a thriving community of amateur radio operators who treasure Morse code, too. Among amateur radio operators, Morse code is a cherished tradition tracing back to the earliest days of radio. Some of them may have begun in the Boy Scouts, which has made learning Morse variably optional or required over the years. The Federal Communications Commission used to require all licensed amateur radio operators to demonstrate proficiency in Morse code, but that ended in 2007. The FCC does still issue commercial licenses that require Morse proficiency, but no jobs require it anymore.

Blinking Morse

Because its signals are so simple – on or off, long or short – Morse code can also be used by flashing lights. Many navies around the world use blinker lights to communicate from ship to ship when they don’t want to use radios or when radio equipment breaks down. The U.S. Navy is actually testing a system that would let a user type words and convert it to blinker light. A receiver would read the flashes and convert it back to text.

Skills learned in the military helped an injured man communicate with his wife across a rocky beach using only his flashlight in 2017.

Other Morse messages

Perhaps the most notable modern use of Morse code was by Navy pilot Jeremiah Denton, while he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. In 1966, about one year into a nearly eight-year imprisonment, Denton was forced by his North Vietnamese captors to participate in a video interview about his treatment. While the camera focused on his face, he blinked the Morse code symbols for “torture,” confirming for the first time U.S. fears about the treatment of service members held captive in North Vietnam.

Navy pilot Jeremiah Denton, a prisoner of war, blinks Morse code spelling out ‘torture’ during a forced interview with his captors.

Blinking Morse code is slow, but has also helped people with medical conditions that prevent them from speaking or communicating in other ways. A number of devices – including iPhones and Android smartphones – can be set up to accept Morse code input from people with limited motor skills.

There are still many ways people can learn Morse code, and practice using it, even online. In emergency situations, it can be the only mode of communications that will get through. Beyond that, there is an art to Morse code, a rhythmic, musical fluidity to the sound. Sending and receiving it can have a soothing or meditative feeling, too, as the person focuses on the flow of individual characters, words and sentences. Overall, sometimes the simplest tool is all that’s needed to accomplish the task.

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I do hope you read this article in full because it contains much interesting information. Many people will not have a clue about The Morse Code and, as you can see above, it is still relevant.

Finally, I can still remember the The Morse Code after all these years!

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Eighty-Four

Something a little different!

At the start of the week, indeed last Tuesday, a pair of geese hatched a brood of goslings.

I tried very hard to take some photographs of them but they stayed their distance and all I got was the following. (These are cropped down from the original.)

They are at the limits of the camera lens.

This is the morning of birth, Tuesday 16th April, and the goslings are still in the nest underneath the mother’s belly.

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Five or six goslings; it’s still too difficult to tell.

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Nothing to do with dogs but I’m sure you enjoyed them! This is the second time that we have had a pair of geese build a nest, lay eggs and bring the goslings into the world. The last time was April 23rd, 2015. Pictures here!

Falling dogs!

Literally!

This is both an unlikely story and a beautiful one.

For a hawk had ‘grabbed’ a puppy but then, for whatever reason, chose to let it go. But that’s enough from me, here’s the story.

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This puppy literally fell from the sky

From the clutches of despair to the most compassionate hands.

By CHRISTIAN COTRONEO, January 15, 2019.

The aptly named Tony Hawk is recovering from his high-flying adventure with a foster family. (Photo: Austin Animal Center)

Not much is known about the tiny chihuahua who suddenly appeared at a construction site near Austin, Texas, last week.

In fact, he literally fell from the sky.

Workers at the project heard his cries long before they saw him. They figured a puppy was trapped somewhere among the debris.

“They were going around the construction site trying to figure out where these cries were coming from,” Jennifer Olohan, communications director for the Austin Animal Center, tells MNN.

“And then they realized it was actually coming from the sky.”

High above their heads, a puppy was flying through the air — in the clutches of a hawk.

At that very moment, the bird suddenly let go and a tiny screaming puppy — no older than 6 weeks — fell into their midst.

Aside from a few superficial wounds on his head, the chihuahua was surprisingly unhurt. But terrified.

The puppy only suffered a few superficial cuts form his fall. (Photo: Austin Animal Center)

But that didn’t last long, as the workers quickly brought him to a medical clinic, and from there, the puppy found his way into the care of the Austin Animal Center.

“We don’t know where he came from — whether he was born as a stray or whether he was in a home and got out,” Olohan explains.

The unlikely paratrooper’s new name, however, came naturally: He would be called Tony Hawk.

Tony Hawk will be ready for his forever home in about four weeks. (Photo: Austin Animal Center)

Considering his sheer tininess — not much bigger than a mouse — Tony Hawk probably seemed like a good idea to a hungry hawk.

But maybe he wasn’t ready to deal with all that crying. In any case, Tony Hawk’s fears subsided soon after he found some traction on terra firma.

Mostly because he found a living foster home to ease him into his new life. In a month or so, Tony Hawk will be looking for a forever home.

But Olohan suspects he won’t wait long.

“We’ve had plenty of interest, tons of applications for him,” she says. “He’s certainly not going to have a problem finding a home.”

And so a tiny puppy without a past found himself free from the clutches of despair — thanks to the warm, caring hands that will help him shape a brand new future.

Tony Hawk is guaranteed nothing but soft landings from here on in. (Photo: Austin Animal Center)

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In a world that sometimes seems a little strange this is a heck of a good news story.

Well done all involved especially the crew at Austin Animal Center.

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!

A little birdie told me!

… not to be in such a hurry to shut the garage door!

I went out to the garage yesterday morning to sort out a few things and found a small bird almost fast asleep in a trolley cart I use about the place.

It clearly had got caught inside the garage when I closed the electric door the previous evening. (Some of the local birds do come in to the garage to feast on insects and spiders that they come across.)

(That’s sawdust in the bottom of the cart.)

I called Jeannie to come out and look at the little chap and she had the brilliant idea of feeding the bird some of the bird food we give our two parakeets. Plus, she brought out a bowl of water.

It worked!

In next to no time the aforesaid bird had had sufficient to eat and it was time to relax in the warm air.

Twenty minutes later he had flown away!

OK!!

The real point of today’s post is to advise you that my son, Alex, and his longterm partner, Lisa, are staying with us for a few days and quite naturally blogging is going to be on the back-burner.

Rather than go ‘silent’ I am going to share with you over the next six days a beautiful series of posts on the clouds.

Will explain more tomorrow!

The year after!

I make no apologies for turning in on myself.

Pharaoh, who is still so badly missed by Jeannie and me, died on June 19th, 2017.

I published my thoughts The Day After on mid-summer’s day 2017. I cannot think of a more apt article to publish today than what was shared a year ago.

Here it is. If you recall this from a year ago then my apologies – please come back tomorrow!

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The Day After.

By Paul Handover, June 21st. 2017

Trying to cope.

This is a very personal, possibly rather mixed-up, set of reflections of how the day after Pharaoh died felt for me. Some of you may prefer not to read this or view the photos.

I sat down to write this, late morning Tuesday, as it was becoming too hot to stay outside. I felt inspired to be 100% honest about my feelings and the photographs are, in essence, copies of the pictures that are in my head.

I woke early yesterday, a little after 4am, and started listening to BBC Radio Four using ear-phones plugged into my tablet while Jeannie slept on.

But I couldn’t get the images of Monday out of my head. Such that it seemed unreal to think that less than thirty-six hours previously Pharaoh was sleeping quietly near his bed, albeit unable to walk on his own.

Then, in what seemed like the flick of a finger, Jeannie was offering Pharaoh my dinner plate Monday evening.

For every evening, unless we had eaten a very spicy meal, Pharaoh always licked my plate clean.

A routine that had gone on for years.

I lay there in bed as 1pm arrived in England (5am PDT) and BBC Radio 4 was broadcasting The World At One. Despite the gloomy headlines still focusing on that terrible fire at the Grenfell Tower in London (not three miles from where I was born in 1944), the images of Monday kept thundering into my consciousness.

How dear friend, Jim Goodbrod, and I had driven into Allen Creek Veterinary Hospital, where Jim is a visiting DVM each week, to collect the required amount of euthanasia drug (apparently just 1 c.c. for every 10 lbs of animal weight – looking at it in the syringe it seemed such a small amount of fluid to bring an end to Pharaoh’s life.)

Then over breakfast, as in Tuesday morning, Jean said how difficult it was watching Pharaoh yesterday (Monday) when Jim and I were away getting the meds because it seemed to her that Pharaoh sensed something was happening outside the run of a normal morning.

Continuing with Monday. When Jim returned, accompanied by his wife, Janet, and knelt down to examine Pharaoh his analysis was that the time was right. Pharaoh had lost massive amounts of muscle tissue from his rear legs and hips.

It was time. Jean and I settled down sitting on the floor alongside Pharaoh’s bed. Pharaoh shifted his body and placed his wonderful, furry head across my outstretched legs. It was time.

Jim injected Pharaoh with an anesthetic. Slowly, gently Pharaoh fell fast asleep. Jim shaved a patch of fur from Pharaoh’s front, right lower leg.  Janet pinched a vein in Pharaoh’s leg and moments later, Jim injected the euthanasia drug. Jean and I continued to stroke Pharaoh’s forehead but frequently looked down to where the rise and fall of Pharaoh’s lungs was visible.

Then at 11:57 PDT Monday, June 19th., there was no more breathing. Jim took out a stethoscope and confirmed that there was no heart-beat. Jim closed Pharaoh’s eyelids while Jean and I sat quietly just holding on to Pharaoh. A few minutes later, Jean and I had wriggled out from under Pharaoh and then Jim slipped a plastic sack over the rear half of Pharaoh’s still body.

Pharaoh had died without pain and in the most gentle way imaginable.

Back to Tuesday, as in early yesterday morning, and now Jean and I were awake and I was reading every comment and response to the post Adieu, Mon Brave.

I must tell you that the love and compassion extended by every single one of you, including the numerous emails sent to me, is the most precious, special recognition of what Pharaoh meant to me, to my Jeannie, and to you all.

Thank you! Thank you so much!

Time then for a call into England and to let Sandra Tucker know that Pharaoh had died. For Pharaoh had been born at Jutone, the GSD breeding kennels run by Sandra Tucker, and Jim, in Hennock, Devon.

Pharaoh’s legacy will live on forever. What he stood for. What he represented. What I learned from Pharaoh. What he inspired in me. That inspiration that will live with me until it’s my turn to take my last breath.

Then it was time, as in yesterday, to get up and try and stay occupied. But I didn’t warrant for seeing Pharaoh’s empty bed as I walked out of the bedroom into the living-room.

It looked so empty, so lonely.

I burst into tears.

I turned on my heels and went out to feed the horses and the wild deer. As is done every morning.

Walking back to the house, I stepped up on to the rear deck and looked up at the line where the tops of the forest trees on the hills to the East meet the morning sky. It was a clear, cloudless sky.

The sun was within seconds of rising above that skyline. I took a photograph and then the sun had risen. It was 06:24 am. Fifteen hours to the minute before the exact moment of the Summer Solstice this evening (21:24 PDT).

I don’t know what it all means other than in some mysterious, natural fashion, everything is connected.

Dear, sweet, noble Pharaoh.

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I will close by sharing a photograph that I included in my post of June 19th, 2017.

For this photograph underscores what a loyal and faithful friend Pharaoh was to me.

Taken on the 26th July, 2006 at Watchfield Aerodrome in Devon. The aircraft is a Piper Super Cub.

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

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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!