Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A family treasure

This bag was issued in 1942, to a new, war time recruit. He was just another young man, leaving his family behind to do what he he believed to be his duty.  His name was Norman Nicholls, and he had recently started 'courting' a young lady by the name of Barbara, with lush auburn hair and a sparkling smile. He was gone from her for 4 and a half years, during which time they wrote each other many letters, which followed him across the world to India, where he spent most of his war.

Norman was my husband's uncle, the elder brother of his father, Ken.  Norman was a second father to Jeffery, and Barbara a second mother - not to say there was any clash with Jeffery's parents, they were a quartet of dear friends till death.  Norman and Barbara never had any children, which, in my opinion, was a tragedy, as they would have made great parents, but their niece (Jeffery's older sister, Pat) and nephew gained immeasurably. Norman, Ken and his wife, Phyllis, died several years ago, leaving Barbara alone of the 4 family who were such close friends.  From their reunion at the end of the war until shortly before Norman's death, this bag housed those wartime letters, which makes it, by association, a symbol of all those special, loving years together.

Shortly before his death, Norman decided he didn't want to risk these letters falling into the wrong hands, and burned them. Recently, Barbara, in her early 90s, has been attempting to make clearing her home easier for those whose job it will be when she, too, dies, and confided that she didn't know what to do with the kit bag. To cut a long story short, I was given custody of it when visited recently.

This responsibility is a great privilege, and I treasure the lifetime of love that this bag symbolises.  Thank you, Barbara, for your trust.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Home from Home

Having lived mostly mobile for nearly 23 years, we've seen a lot of caravan sites!  We tend to favour the small, 5 van sites of the Caravan Club, not really being party people, and we've pitched in all sorts of nooks and crannies, and in capacious open spaces. Some we delight in leaving, others we depart from with many a regretful backward glance.  For the past 2 months our temporary home has been a large and luxurious site on the borders of Hampshire and Wiltshire, and we will depart with regret - even though we are delighted to be going home!

www.greenhillholidays.co.uk is a large site with fishing lakes, wildlife, a forest walk and easy walking access to the New Forest. It has plush 'log cabin' style facilities blocks nestling in the wooded grounds, a special family area with a smashing playground (my son would have loved it as a child!) a agin with a bar when it's busy, as well as onsite take away, laundry, shop etc etc etc - just the sort of site we usually avoid!

I'm so glad we didn't avoid it this time, it's one of the nicest places we've stayed, and marvellous value (I usually resent the high prices these 'all singing all dancing' sites charge) Only one site we've stayed on has been grander and beautiful, and that was a 'Stately Home' with grounds laid out by 'Capability' Brown - Burton Constable, in Yorkshire, where the caravans were laid out around the Georgian lake, with its elegant bridge. However, Green Hill Farm is much more a home - and you can watch the Boss herself digging holes, fixing the electrics and laying turves! The owners are working hard to make the site ever better, yet are managing to maintain a friendly atmosphere at the same time - an impressive trick.

Many large sites are a bit snobbish about the vans or tents they allow on their premises - not Green Hill Farm, I've seen some delightful vintage vans, as well as some that are more like a science fiction fantasy!  If you're an early bird, from some pitches you get glorious dawns, rising over the edge of the Forest - on our pitch, we've been blessed with some magnificent sunsets. Yes, we'll miss Green Hill Farm, many thanks to Lorna and her staff for making us feel at home, we'll be back when we get an excuse!