SEVENTEEN: TO BINSTEAD HALL 1995-1999

PREVIOUS CHAPTER: SIXTEEN: LITTLE ANGLESEY 1985-1994

1995

 1st January: I give TFSR four months’ notice of leaving, confident that Mark Smith would ensure continuity, with his excellent values and 18 years of action in TFSR. During the spring we had much work preparing Amity for a Baltic cruise, with the aim of learning the ropes before attempting a second Atlantic crossing three years later. All three lads helped enormously. I took a course and exams in nautical radio and navigation. Dan did the diesel course.

29th April: cruise in thick fog to the Nab Tower and back with lads and Arthur.  9th May Dan passed his driving test.  24th May Dan goes to UNESCO conference for Young Inventors in Romania.

10th June: retirement party for me at Netley Marsh. Wonderful to have all old friends and colleagues gathered there.

18th June, with lads and Arthur, set sail for Sweden, but in the North Sea we are driven back by easterly winds, narrowly slipping between off-shore oil rigs and finally finding shelter in Lowestoft where Björn has to leave. A second attempt up the east coast to Yorkshire is not much more successful and poor Dan is terribly sea sick. Hearing my radio communication with the harbour master in Immingham, a British frigate offers to take him ashore and we scramble to rendezvous with the naval vessel. Dan finally climbs aboard, delighted to be heading for dry land, but determined to catch up with us once we reach Sweden.

dan joins navy

Dan joins the British Navy

 

Adam, Arthur and I then crossed the North Sea to Gothenburg and recovered our strength for a few days in Kungsbacka at Martin Gellerstam’s house. True to his word, Dan rejoined us, and with Ulrika (Birger & Rose Marie’s daughter) we motored up the Göta River to Kungālv and on to the famous Trollhāttan locks, where a duckling drowned in the surging waters as the locks filled. Then, once across Sweden’s biggest lake, Lake Vānern, Göran and Rita came aboard and we motored between woods and pastures along the beautiful Göta Canal to Lake Vāttern. Near Habo, some twenty of Sigyn’s family welcomed us, and Grandfather Karl-Erik bravely steered the boat for a while on a lake cruise.

swedish family

Sigyn’s family meet/greet us near Habo

gota canal

On the Göta Canal, then right across Sweden to the Baltic Sea with Dan.

 

Adam rings us to say he has got a First at Oxford. Great news.

Dan and I finally leave the boat to over-winter at a yard near Norrtālje, north of Stockholm.

Back to England and on 11th September, I left with Grandma Ruth (via California) and separately the lads (who flew via Bali) for New Zealand, hiring a car and starting by exploring North Island.

At Ninety Mile Beach, a desolate sandy stretch on the western tip of North Island, the sons were jumping about on the dunes while father and grandma sat in the car out of the wind. Knowing my mother had never driven in her life, I suggested that this was her big chance – a wide, firm, empty strand stretching to the horizon. Why not have a go? At first, she demurred, but then changed her mind. With the engine running, and the car in neutral, we swapped places, Gran so small in the driver’s seat that she could scarcely see above the steering wheel. ‘Now,’ I said, ‘you press in the pedal that we call the clutch, with your left foot, and keep it right down’. She did that. ‘Next, gently press the accelerator with your right foot, but just a little.’  She did that. ‘Now, I’ve put the car in gear, so slowly relax your left foot and slowly press with your right.’ Gran shoved her right foot down, catching the engine unawares. It roared up in protest. Gran promptly took her left foot off the clutch.

Throwing up two huge spurts of sand behind, the car shot forward as if jet-propelled, our engine screaming and my mother peering intently through the steering wheel. After a hundred yards, we roared past Adam, Dan and Björn staring wide-eyed from a dune as we flew by. Another hundred and Gran grew tired of driving, so took her foot off the accelerator. At this, the engine died, our car made three or four shuddering lurches and stalled. Peace and quiet returned to Ninety Mile Beach. My mother turned to me. ‘There’s nothing to it,’ she said, ‘I don’t know what all the fuss is about’.

Volcanic eruption of Mount Ruapeho. Windy Wellington and crossing to South Island, down the west coast. Gold panning (almost impossible to stop!). Wanaka. Björn did a bungy jump, the Pipeline, the highest in the southern hemisphere. Going to take a photo from an extreme vantage point, I skid back on loose gravel down a slope to the chasm edge. I have to crawl back on all fours to reach level ground. Another genuine escape from death. We did white water rafting. Drove up east coast. Smelly Rotarua.  A last evening in Aukland. Next morning boys smelled a dead body in the park.  Grandma’s proposal that we should emigrate to New Zealand, I dithered, all three lads said, ‘Thank you, but no way. There is nothing here for us’. We flew home (Adam stayed an extra month), Bjorn and Daniel via Bali. A brief motorbike excursion for Björn and Dan in Bali, with Björn ending up with his bike at the back of a shop. Adam back 6th November, suffering from malaria (contracted in Uganda the year before?) and spends a week in Haslar hospital. Daniel at Grimslöv inventors’ course. Björn takes up a job in Laos with Murray Watson, surveying pre-river dam construction. 29th Dec – Dan back to Grimslöv.

1996

 Jan 28th Dagny Ärlig (Sigyn’s mother) died. A very kindly lady. Early February, in Paris preparing the Nagoya Recycling Forum with Arthur. Adam working in the Youth Section with Arthur, as an intern for six months, where he organises and helps to edit a special edition of the UNESCO Courier, on Frugality.

February 23rd-25th: to Jersey, to open a new TFSR Workshop.

March 2nd flew to Paris and then, with Arthur, to Tokyo for the Conference on Youth and Recycling.  Began my opening address by playing a piece on a tin whistle (from recycled metal, naturally). All went well. Restaurant with live fish to eat. 19th March return via Formosa/Taipei with fears of an imminent Chinese invasion.

June – Dan and I take the coach from Victoria Coach Station to Stockholm. Get Amity ready. Adam, who complained that Amity lacked a proper life raft, comes by coach from London with one in his luggage. Rita and Göran join us through skärgården. Daniel leaves, Arthur, Madeleine and Clara join us for the crossing to Helsinki.

Tallin, Estonia (l) and the river leading to Riga, Latvia  (r)

Then to Estonia, Latvia – Riga – little Arthur joins and falls overboard– Lithuania Klaipeda, Arthur leaves – Adam+Glyn+Little Arthur to Bornholm – thunderstorm – British Kiel Yacht Club. Björn just recovering from malaria, contracted in Laos, has a long search for the boat as Grandma told him we were at ‘the Kiel Yacht Club’ – and there are many yacht clubs in the Kiel area. Björn, Adam, Arthur and Glyn sail back across the North Sea to Gosport.

October: Adam starts at LSE and meets Anne from Oslo, studying international relations. They get to know each other better by drinking gin together up a tree. She is a lovely girl, has trained as a ballet dancer, has done a stint as a tabloid journalist in Norway, but now has changed course towards the academic life. She seems to be quite adventurous too. She will need to be, with Adam.

Autumn looking with Grandma for new house. Checked out Devon/Cornwall – too far. Then thought Isle of Wight  = “the girl next door”. Weekly visits often by bike, looking at houses.

1997

 January: Adam takes Anne to Paris. Dan on a new Inventors’ Course in Sweden. Björn for much of the year at ‘Border Consultants’ – working from Belford in Northumberland and Scotland making forest surveys, calculating the amount of wood in trees by aerial photography.  Later, he becomes a Forestry Consultant at FORTECH in London, with Scott Poynton.

March: I found the superb East Wing of Binstead Hall, near Ryde was for sale, with its huge lawn sweeping down to the beach. And with its own boat house! And so big that we could rent out parts of it for Scandinavian summer painting courses on the Island. True, it had drawbacks, like the water tank leak in the loft that had run for months, so all carpets, curtains, walls and floors were sodden and the place stank of black mould. But with that, I negotiated the price down to a mere £130,000 and took my mother to view. Stunned, she turned it down, point blank. As we were leaving, a woman came out of another part of the Hall and asked, ‘Can I help you? ’ I explained my deep disappointment. ‘Well, Number One is also for sale,’ she said. (THANK YOU, KATHY OTTERBECK!) We looked in at No 1, which was warm, cosy, light, dry and smelt of new baking. Mother approved: so we settled on the spot to buy this wonderful place, like a French chateau, very close to the sea, big garden, with fine trees all round. Fantastic bird song in the early morning.

binstead hall

 A part of Binstead Hall. Our house and garden in the centre.

 

2nd and 3rd April: Move with Grandma to Binstead Hall. Big DIY removal job. Furniture from two houses to fit into one. Great help from Ian & Liz Backhouse and lads. Repair work and decoration of Little Anglesey. Hope to rent. Start to discover the Isle of Wight. Moonlight walk on my way home from Fishbourne – along sandy track past Quarr Abbey. Hear waves breaking on the shore and a bell rings in the new abbey. Romans, monks and others have trodden that track for thousands of years. A timeless experience.

17th April:

        Dear Göran, Rita: Now I write with details of the Isle of Wight –

            Remember, in my previous news, I’d seen a house with Solent views

            A splendid garden, boat-house, beach and rooms where we could paint and teach

            A polished dance floor, up en haut, as suits a stylish French château?

            Well, sad to say, my dear old sports, Mama and I had second thoughts

            And though the place is very grand and suits the project that I planned

               (for Swedish artists, you recall?)   we felt the cost and work would fall

            On muggins’s back for years to come; and so Yrs. truly (& his Mum)

            Turned down the château, but – what’s more – instead, we bought the house next door!

            It’s smaller, cosier, has a track leading from its garden, back

            Down through trees to that same beach. Walk ninety yards and you can reach

            A stream that flows into the brine and ruins (1139)

            Built by French monks, of quarried stone, now a protected rural zone

            With foxes, squirrels, badgers, toads and birds and woods and unpaved roads

All very nearly traffic-free – and sparkling views across the sea

To Gosport, now seen from the south, and Portsmouth’s busy harbour mouth.

 

Well, there we are, the die is cast: a new home on the cards at last

We hope that you will visit soon (I think you promised early June?)

“Our home is yours” – so join us all, this summer, here at Binstead Hall

That’s BINSTEAD, Isle of Wight, UK ….   and share with us the pleasure.   HEJ!

Grim work with Probation Service, overseeing youngsters doing community work on the island. Rent out Little Anglesey. My first experience as a landlord.  2nd May Labour wins election. Fantastic. Time for big changes, though I still don’t trust Tony Blair. Too glib and ‘neo’.

Life with Grandma and Dan. Dot& Chris/Arthur/Göran & Rita/ Birger & family all visit. Grandma feels excluded. Birger shocks her one night on returning from the pub, by tootling on the bugle, and when she comes down from her room to offer us cups of tea, he burbles, ‘Oh, no. Only beer, only beer!’

grandma interviewed by county press

Grandma being interviewed by the local newspaper columnist

 

16 July: Adam gets a distinction for his Master’s course at LSE, though the youngest student in his year.

Sailing with Arthur, Adam and Anne in Solent and to Plymouth and back. St Catherine’s light – last people to see it manned. Go to clay modelling classes at Isle of Wight College. Useless teacher. All she has for advice, whenever she reached me, is, ‘That’s coming along very nicely’.

head of woman

An early effort

 

Bjorn started at Oxford Forestry Institute. I walk Hadrian’s Wall with Arthur and Richard Otterbeck and nearly split my skull on the sharp edge of a rusty harrow – falling backwards, having caught my boots in a wire fence.  One foot closer and my skull would have hit the corner of a rusty steel harrow in the grass. Inspired by Roman carvings and messages on our walk along Hadrian’s Wall – and the fact that messages written 1,700 years ago can still be read today.

October: Adam & Anne set off on 5 month back packing trip to New York, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile. Travel by local bus, $5 a night hostels. Hiking, cycling, Macchu Pichu. Lake Titikaka, jungle, deserts, high mountains.

1998

  4th Jan. Violent storm forecast for today. Islanders warned to stay indoors, but Dan and I wanted to be sure Amity (on land) was OK, so we drove to Richardson’s boatyard. Wind howling in the rigging and hatch about to blow away. Fixed it and then went on to Freshwater Bay. Great waves rolling in and crashing onto the beach. Then to the Needles observation point on the south cliff. Magnificent view of the seas roaring in and then exploding at the foot of the red and white lighthouse, sending spray right over the top. Tossed stones into the wind and watched them fly away. Then to the north side. Tried to get to the Needles Battery, steps by a wire fence. Wind increased till it felt like a solid wall of air blasting us. Impossible to continue. Got down on the ground, gripped fence with freezing fingers as there seemed to be a real possibility that we would be lifted bodily up and away. Lay to reduce our surface area and slithered back, hanging on whenever the wind increased in force. Finally dropped into the shelter of some concrete bunkers (WW II) utterly frozen. Exhilarating, but the most powerful winds of my life.

Late February, did a relief of Vermeer’s Dairy Maid pouring a jug of milk. Came out well. All spring: constant work on Amity, strengthening fittings, sorting out electrics, sails, rigging. Arthur comes over and lads help when they can.

vermeer's dairy

Vermeer’s dairy maid

 

Adam and Anne returned from their South America trip in March. Anne, who will start at Oxford in the autumn, returns to Norway for a summer journalism job. Adam is applying for jobs and seeking work experience. He does a week with the Isle of Wight County Press and knows that this is not the sort of journalism he wants to do. At the last minute, he applies to the Economist. His first interview goes well and wins him the chance to prepare a demonstration article over the weekend. He and Anne work on it with material from Norway. The Economist thinks it good, but he has no chance of an internship until the autumn, if then. Next they ring to ask him to start in July, but with no assurance that it will lead anywhere. He accepts.

Dan wondering about his future – go to Africa with the Danish Resandehojskole? Björn preparing for an exam. Adam has an article in the Unesco Courier. I do much gardening, repair and decoration work at Little Anglesey and at 54 Village Road. Dan goes to Stockholm, but finds that the Danish- Africa project is a fund raising scam (message hidden under table warning volunteers to stay clear) and comes home.

4th June: Amity afloat. See account of cruise across Bay of Biscay to Portugal. (Detailed account in my diary June 4th to July 1st, 1998.)

July: Adam started as an intern at the Economist in London and soon after watched the  World Cup final in Paris, France (3) v. Brazil (0). His face painted with green/yellow Brazil colours, he wandered the Paris streets with enormous crowds that night. Next morning he took the Eurostar to London, and on to Cambridge, to attend a small seminar with Nobel Laureate Amyarta Sen and other notables. But he still had traces of Brazilian colours on from night before. Fellow participants ask him if it is a skin disease.

Dan working on a marble moving invention/game with slides, flaps, cogs, drive bands, levers, pivots, chutes and other gadgets. Bjorn and Ellie visit for several days before Bjorn leaves for Sweden to do research at/for the Swedish Agricultural University. I start playing the violin with Dan on piano. Bishop Trevor Huddleston has died. He was a long-term campaigner against the South African apartheid system, founder of the UK Anti-Apartheid movement, and great supporter and patron of TFSR. A wonderfully inspiring man. We had sat together in the plane when he and co-patron Julius Nyerere attended our 1992 TFSR conference in Arusha. 29 July, Cousin Dot and I went to his memorial service in Westminster Abbey.

6th August: lit a fire on Quarr Beach at sunset.

16th August. Björn home with glandular fever. Not too bad. Needs food and rest. Late August, TFSR event in Wales. I spoke about origins and principles behind TFSR, which are perhaps being ignored now, at least by Netley Marsh. Back at Binstead Hall, started carving Portland stone “Captain Corelli” family group, based on a design from some pharmaceutical company’s perk to Erika.

September: Bjorn goes to study at the Oxford Forestry Institute, for a year. Sometime during the autumn meets Ellie Leveridge, a charming librarian at Nuffield College Library.

14th September: Last visit to 54 Village Road. Stood a while in the room where my dad died in my arms and where I spent so much time fundraising for TFSR. Thought of all the visits we made there at Christmas with Sigyn and the boys. Left the keys. Took cuttings from the wonderful blackberry bush and daphnia odora. Hope they will take root at Binstead Hall.

7th October: fitted stained glass apple into bathroom door at Binstead Hall. Looks good, and shows there’s someone in there.

15th October. Adam, who finished his internship at The Economist, has part time work there and at the Independent. He had two leader articles in the Independent.  Nov 5th: Adam left for Sierra Leone with UNICEF. I start packing for Atlantic crossing.

17th November – leave Portsmouth for London, Paris, and with Arthur to Viana de Castello in Portugal: port of departure for the crossing to Madeira. Björn to join us in there.

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