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C’est God’s Own Country, n’est ce pas?

09/07/2014 07:22

What I love about living in North Yorkshire is how incredibly fortunate we are to live just a few steps away from this. God’s Own Country.

dogs family stories

This was the weekend when Yorkshire showed her petticoats to the world. As ‘Le Tour’ passed through our back yards and the Royals and the Red Arrows graced our local stately home of Harewood House, I realised that Yorkshire was batting her magnificent eye lashes to the media.

Picture by Shaun Flannery/SWpix.com

Picture by Shaun Flannery/SWpix.com

Yes, my love, you are truly beautiful.

It’s fair to say that our dogs are equally enamoured of the rolling hills which surround us here, especially when the Zorbers are out on one of our regular walks. Very good fun to chase.

3

And since Yorkshire was swathed in yellow this weekend, it would seem rude not to join in. Not necessarily willingly.

4

 


Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Dortmund – ‘coned’ in spotlights!”

04/07/2014 08:24

One of my Uncle Joe’s letters will be posted to this Blog each and every Friday until they are done. Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

Joe and crew have experienced their first few bombing raids over Germany, the first of which ended in disaster. Joe is flying out of Chedburgh in Suffolk, New Year 1945.

 Letter 102; 2nd Feb 1945

letter 93 2 Feb 1945 page 1letter 93 page 2letter 93 page 3

Letter transcript:

“Ched’

Monday.

Hello Mom,

How’s things? Good or duff? Well I got your letter and the washing OK, thanks a lot ‘boofull’.

Well up to now I’ve only done one op since coming back from leave and that was on Saturday night. We went to Dortmund. It was the WORST spot we’ve been to so far, worse than Munich and that’s saying a mouthful! The whole of the Ruhr seemed to come to life in a big way that night! It’s a bad spot at the best of times but that raid was a ‘pip’. We were coned by searchlights once! And on top of that we were being predicted by Heavies FIVE times but got away with it by the skin of our tonsils! They came damn close anyhow.

We have found out since that OUR bombs were the best for the Squadron so it wasn’t too bad an effort. Still that’s enough of the line-shooting for now.

You asked if I know anything about that watch. Well it is now ready I guess but I don’t want to trust it by post so I think Jean had better keep it for me ’til I’m next on leave. Which incidentally is on the 8th March (or at least I hope so).

By the way we now have to do FORTY Ops for a Tour!! And the targets are getting harder instead of easier!

Who is this bloke ‘King Kong’ anyway!!?! Well there’s nowt much in the way of news so I’ll sign off for now saying God bless and Keep Smiling,

Lots of love Joe.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

P.S. I’d love a dozen pancakes right now! xxx

family stories

Even a world war can’t hold back a good old British Pantomime at Christmas time! It sounds like it’s a popular one too if Olive had to spend two hours trying to get tickets!

family stories, joseph To read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his fascinating yet ultimately tragic story. He was our family hero. He IS our family hero. If I knew how to complete an effective RAF salute, I would salute you now, Joe. Long may your memory live in our family stories. I hope to post a new letter from Joe’s correspondence with his Mother here every Friday until they’re done. It will be a turbulent and heart-wrenching journey. Subscribe to the Blog to make sure you don’t miss any of it.

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My younger self

02/07/2014 07:32

 That’s me, right in the middle of the back row.

family storiesI think this was Christmas 1989. My beautiful nan, Lily is still alive, although looking slightly confused!

This is the last year that the 4 generations of our family were all together…both mum (back right) and nan are gone.

We have always been a small family, with few branches or siblings, and it’s a rare photo of all of us.

Look at the shoulder pads in my sweatshirt! From memory, they were detachable by Velcro! LOL.

What I wouldn’t like to say to me now….


Me & Mine 2014; June

30/06/2014 13:51
No sooner have we hailed the arrival of June, than it is over.
This was a busy month, with school activities running in top gear and our garden renovations also peaking.
It is hardly fathomable that only three weeks of the school year remain.
Three weeks for my 7 year old to find new faces with which to sabotage every family photo.
family stories
There has been much basketball this month, following the installation of the teen’s hoop.
he shoots he scores
I got a knee trembling light aircraft ride and the best day of my year was spent with WWII veterans at the annual aircrew reunion.
There was a charity netball tournament, raising funds for the cancer charity which is helping one of our team members with her personal battle.
mine
I want to stop the clock for a few weeks.
The weather is warm, and the summer is already moving too quickly.
pergola pic
dear beautiful

Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Tickets for the Panto”

27/06/2014 08:54

It’s Armed Forces Day tomorrow. Please spare a thought for our servicemen and women, past and present.

One of my Uncle Joe’s letters will be posted to this Blog each and every Friday until they are done. Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

Joe and crew have experienced their first few bombing raids over Germany, the first of which ended in disaster. Joe is flying out of Chedburgh in Suffolk, New Year 1945.

 Letter from mum; 1st Feb 1945

letter olive 1 feb 1945 page 1 letter olive 1 feb 1945 page 2

Letter transcript:

“Sunday night.

Dear Joseph,

Well son, here is the last of your washing, as you know I can only do it at the week-ends, so I hope you have been able to manage. I had your letter from Liverpool, but have not heard from you since, I can only hope your journey wasn’t too bad. You wouldn’t be sorry to get there after such a long journey.

How’s work going down now? According to the news you are all being kept very busy, but thank God the end is definitely in sight I think , and I hope.

I took Brian into town yesterday to book some seats for the annual family trek to the Panto, after waiting two and a half hours I managed it, for the matinee on Weds’ week. How did you get on at the one you saw in Liverpool? Did you have a good show?

I had a letter from home last week, they were hoping to see you, but I have just answered the letter and explained that you went on Sunday but perhaps you will see them next time. In the meantime take care of yourself son.

So wishing you goodnight

God bless you,

Love from Mother xxxx

family stories

Even a world war can’t hold back a good old British Pantomime at Christmas time! It sounds like it’s a popular one too if Olive had to spend two hours trying to get tickets!

family stories, joseph To read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his fascinating yet ultimately tragic story. He was our family hero. He IS our family hero. If I knew how to complete an effective RAF salute, I would salute you now, Joe. Long may your memory live in our family stories. I hope to post a new letter from Joe’s correspondence with his Mother here every Friday until they’re done. It will be a turbulent and heart-wrenching journey. Subscribe to the Blog to make sure you don’t miss any of it.

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The Longest Day, the Longest Wait

24/06/2014 11:26

June 21st 2014 will go down in my family history as a summer solstice to remember.

family stories

My Uncle Joe (left) and ‘Smokey’ Joe Lee, aged 18, 1944

The longest day signalled the end of the longest wait. Two families that had not met for 70 years were finally reunited.

smokey joe lee and girls copyright

At the 11th hour, I had received an invitation to join 160 World War 2 veterans from Bomber Command at their annual reunion at Gloucester’s Jet Age Museum. But this was to be no ordinary trip, for two exciting reasons…

1. Each of the many elderly veterans was to get airborne and I was to join them. Volunteer pilots from around the country kindly gave up their time and their (very small!) aircraft to transport the scattered gentlemen from around the UK to their destination.

our ride for the day copyright

2. Amongst these 160 men was Joe Lee, Rear Gunner in Lancaster Bombers, and my Uncle Joe’s best friend throughout their active service. The two Joes’ families had not met since my uncle passed away in 1947 at just 22 years of age. This was to be our first chance to see each other.

Joe at 89 copyright

I knew it was going to be a great day. The sky was blue and as I drove across the magnificent Humber Bridge on my way to the airport, I remembered that I was about to climb to 4000 feet in a tiny motorised tin can and was grateful that the Midsummer weather was playing ball.

Just as I thought the prospects for this day couldn’t get any better, I met Ken Johnson.

ken johnson copyright

Ken, like my uncle, was  mid-upper gunner during the war, and immediately set about thrilling us with the tale of when he watched from his turret as his crew’s Lancaster was bombed from above by one of their own aircraft. As half of the starboard wing fell off, he lost intercom contact with the rest of the crew, rendering him unable to tell them what he could see. Even as he was thinking it, he noticed that worse had happened…..there was now a giant hole at the back of the plane where their rear gunner and friend had been sitting just minutes before.

Ken spoke, as so many veterans do, in a matter of fact tone. It made me think about how the elderly are ‘written off’ by the young. About how we fail to see the once-vivacious person who may now be hidden behind a slow walk or wrinkled hands. It made me think about my uncle, who like Ken had been just 19 years old when he put his body into a flying metal target loaded with explosives and flew into enemy territory, then repeated it over and over again. It made me think how luck (or lack of it) played such a part in the devastation or survival of families in wartime.

As you can imagine, this was a day of polarised emotions.

marquee copyright

The Cessner 182 which greeted us was really a (very small) thing of beauty….. *and…breathe…..* We entered the (have I mentioned ‘very small’?) cabin without dignity and donned our earphones. Not only could I see Mal, our fabulous pilot, but I could have actually played with his instruments  (pardon the expression) from my seat without too much effort. It was that small. But boy, what a flight! Golf Alpha November Zulu Oscar got us to Goucester in just over an hour, skimming the Malvern Hills, skirting the curves of the Trent, and reminding us all how lucky we are to be English, and alive.

cockpit copyright

It was as though Joe and his beautiful daughter and granddaughter had know me for ever when we first saw each other. There were hugs and unending chatter. I could immediately see why this 89 year old man had been such tight pals with my uncle. Finding me after all this time (a very recent event) had clearly had an impact on Joe and was reviving a lot of memories about his time with 50 Squadron and his friendship with my Joe. He even said I looked like him, a fact which touched me deeply for some unknown reason.

70 years in the waiting copyright

We enjoyed a fantastic fly-past across the beautiful summer skies by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, before saying our goodbyes and heading back to the knee-trembler for our trip home.

fly past copyright

This was the first time that Ken had been airborne since the war, so it seems justified to let him have the final word.

Mal: “How is the flight for you Ken? Are you enjoying it?”

Ken: “It’s a lot better when noone’s shooting at you!”

I love these guys.

 


Putting the Fun into Fundraising

23/06/2014 18:07

We are hugely lucky to have an active PTA at our local primary school, and a community of families who are, on the whole, eager to spend their money and join in.

It’s Summer Fayre (or Fair) time (depending on your way of thinking), and the gazebos were out in force yesterday for the event.

family stories

What I love most about these occasions is that they will be firmly implanted memories of childhood for my kids. The memory will never leave them, because it is a ritual as often repeated as the summer holidays themselves.

how do I look

The weather usually plays fair with us for this event, enabling the Pimms tent, strawberries, giant water-slide and ice cream sales to take serious financial advantage.

strawberries

Giant inflatables, motorcycle and side car rides, hot dogs and LOTs of stalls designed and run by the older kids add variety.

Maypole dancers, a DJ, Police fingerprinting and martial arts exhibitions just glaze the cherry which we plant on the top.

allo allo

This year was a double-whammy as we combined the Fayre with our Tour de France Yorkshire commemorative sponsored cycle ride. Over 45 mums, dads and kids took to our 21 mile route around the hills (!) of North Yorkshire. The Headmistress even saddled up on a tandem and joined in. There was many a proud parent and many a sore bum by the end of the afternoon.

riders

What are you doing this summer? I’d love to hear about your similar events!

can you ride 'tandem


Joe’s Letters, WWII: “A weekend in Liverpool”

20/06/2014 08:27

One of my Uncle Joe’s letters will be posted to this Blog each and every Friday until they are done. Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

Joe and crew have experienced their first few bombing raids over Germany, the first of which ended in disaster. Joe is flying out of Chedburgh in Suffolk, New Year 1945.

 Letter 101; 30th January 1945

family storiesletter 92 page 2letter 92 page 3letter 92 page 4letter 92 page 5letter 92 page 6

Letter transcript:

“Me!

60 Holden Street, Liverpool 8.

Hello Mom,

Well I’m ‘ere!I managed to stagger in at 9.30 or there abouts. Jean, as I had expected, had been down to the station to meet me at 12 o’clock and again at 4pm!!! Her mom had saved a dinner for me and she had to throw it away I think. Jean had been scared when I didn’t come at tea time, thinking I’d been recalled or summat!! When I did get in, SHE was at her aunty’s having taken her little cousin home. But when she came in and saw me I was mobbed and had a job to get me breath! All’s fair in love and war!! I’ve got a room to myself with an electric fire by the bedside!! Tea and toast in bed this morning then a few more “minutes” in bed! I cantered downstairs eventually at 20 to 12! This early rising kills me!

I’ve been over to Hoylake to see Joe Naisbit and BArbara but they were out; so Jean and I are going together tomorrow night (IF I’m up!) I haven’t yet told Jean that Harry is getting married on this leave because she may get that glean in her eye!!! God Save the King (or God help me!) I think I’ve told you that Jean is collecting stuff in that bottom drawer of hers. Well she got a wizard trinket set from work; you know glass’ tray, powder bowl, a couple of other dish efforts and a pair of candle sticks. She has a pile of other stuff but damn it she won’t show ‘em me yet!!!

Well there isn’t much more to say right now. I’m going to meet Jean from work and later we’re going to a Panto (SHE’S paying!) She says to send you her love and the kids too. By the way, my train leaves Lime Street for Bury at quarter to 12 Wednesday. We have to change at Stafford , Rugby and Peterborough damn-it!

‘Til the next time, God bless and Toodle-oo.

TTFNNNNNNNNNN! our Joyce!

Lots of love, Joe xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx”

family stories

A weekend’s leave in Liverpool with his girl. He sounds very happy and enjoying being spoiled rotten my Jean’s mum. It’s so easy to forget that Joe is still a teenager, so no wonder he’s enjoying a rare lie-in!

family stories, joseph To read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his fascinating yet ultimately tragic story. He was our family hero. He IS our family hero. If I knew how to complete an effective RAF salute, I would salute you now, Joe. Long may your memory live in our family stories. I hope to post a new letter from Joe’s correspondence with his Mother here every Friday until they’re done. It will be a turbulent and heart-wrenching journey. Subscribe to the Blog to make sure you don’t miss any of it.

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Joe’s Letters, WWII: “Plenty to chin-wag about”

13/06/2014 15:53

It seems fitting to be posting one of these letters on the anniversary of D-Day. Lest we forget…..

One of my Uncle Joe’s letters will be posted to this Blog each and every Friday until they are done. Please see below for a link to Joe’s full story and the other letters in this series so far.

Joe and crew have experienced their first few bombing raids over Germany, the first of which ended in disaster. Joe is flying out of Chedburgh in Suffolk, New Year 1945.

 Letter 100; Mum writes – 22nd January 1945

family storiesletter Olive 22 Jan 1945 page 2letter Olive 22 Jan 1945 page 3

Letter transcript:

“16 Elmdale……

Dear Jo ‘Enery,

Well son, it’s Sunday night once more, so here I am again hoping this finds you fit and ready for your leave. I have not yet had a letter from you to say whether you received your parcel safely (your last letter was Tuesday I think), but hope you did. The weather here this last week has been a bit of all sorts – mostly snow – and Brian and Joyce have been having the time of their lives with the old sledge.

sledge 1945

How’s things going down your end of the map, are you still as busy as ever? I hope you are getting some good food to keep the cold out. Buster is home on leave, Den says. When can we expect you, if it’s the 25th as you said that will be Thursday, so you might as well bring your laundry including pyjamas and have it all done.

I was glad to know Aunt Emm had written you again, squeeze them a line when you can. I wrote Aunt Doris to thank her for the 10/-, which I’m holding ’til you come because I haven’t heard what else you wanted done with it – and explained to her that your time was fully occupied but perhaps you will get a chance to thank her yourself.

Has Jean got your watch done yet? Remember us to her. By the way I’ve clicked for a good pair of fur lined boots off the nurse who lived with Mrs Adams. She has left to take up a good position in London and gave them to me because she prefers Wellingtons, which proved lucky for me now the weather is so bad.

Well son, I suppose we shall find plenty to chin-wag about when you come, but at the moment I can’t think of anything more to write about so I’ll say

Good night and God bless you always,
Love from Mother xxxxxx

family stories

Both mother and son are clearly looking forward to Joe’s leave. Snow and sledges for the kids at home must make Joe home-sick, but war or no war, a kid has got to sledge!

family stories, joseph To read more about Joe’s letters please follow this link. There you will find the full selection of letters to date, as well as more information about his fascinating yet ultimately tragic story. He was our family hero. He IS our family hero. If I knew how to complete an effective RAF salute, I would salute you now, Joe. Long may your memory live in our family stories. I hope to post a new letter from Joe’s correspondence with his Mother here every Friday until they’re done. It will be a turbulent and heart-wrenching journey. Subscribe to the Blog to make sure you don’t miss any of it.

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Devil in the detail

11/06/2014 07:30

I have no idea why I photograph some of the things I do, but there are just moments occasionally, usually when on holiday, that I see an object which is just so quintessentially characteristic of that time and place, that I have to capture it on film. For some reason they are often (but not exclusively) door-related.

These two say ‘Corsica’ to me.

bolt

lock corsica

 These, Brittany (or at least ‘France’).

knocker

brit 2

 This is a detail of the door from the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

sagrada familia door

And this? Well, this is a bucket of crabs that we watched come of a trawler in Wales! I did say ‘not exclusively’ door-related…..

crabs2

 

Photographic memories that conjure a place in time without words.