Thursday, 3 May 2012

Chapter Thirty two

24th March.
I finished work in good time today and Linda and I headed up to Exeter for the weekend. Tomorrow is a big day for Linda as she is doing her parachute jump for the Alzheimers Society. She has raised just over £500-00 and is funding her jump herself.
We had hoped she would be jumping with the rest of the group tomorrow from the Tesco people but due to a mix up...they all jump in the afternoon and Linda jumps in the morning. Booze-up and brewery springs to mind.
A glorious day in Exeter so we parked up near the Quay and went for a little walk. All very nice down there and we enjoyed it very much. They've turned this part of the city into a wonderful amenity and it seems to be very popular. We like it anyway.
Wandering through there and up into the city we soon found ourselves in the cathedral precincts. This must have been were the other half of the city occupants had gone because it was very busy here as well. Remember that if you should come down this way. Half the city camps out at the Quay, the other half camps out at the Cathedral. I imagine the rest of the city is a ghost town with bits of tumbleweed blowing through it.
We left after coffee on the lawn and headed up to the Holiday Inn past Heavitree. I knew a shortcut and took Linda that way. All went well until I made one tiny mistake. I went left instead of right, so chose to keep going as I could take the next right later on.
Twenty minutes later we seemed to be on a side road to Somerset and the city was rapidly dwindling behind us. Eventually I spotted a sign indicating the M5 and we were soon on our way back to civilisation. My shortcut, maybe NOT surprisingly, did not prove to be very good. It took us just under 50 minutes to get were we wanted and we covered about an extra thirty miles. It should have been a 10 minute drive with a distance of about four miles. I never heard the end of it.
Roxanne and Stephen had come down from Surrey to provide some much needed moral support to Linda. They were waiting for us at the hotel and we all enjoyed a good catch up together. Much gossiping later and following a really nice meal at the 'Barn Owl', exhaustion took over and we headed for our beds.
Up with the lark, we had washed, got dressed, breakfasted, checked out, and driven to Dunkeswell airfield by 08-00 on Sunday morning. This was made even more remarkable as the clocks had gone forward that night and we had already lost an hours sleep as it was.
Being cowardly in the extreme, there was absolutely no way in the world that I was going to jump out of any aeroplane...I wasn't even going to go up in the wretched thing...but I had agreed to hold Linda's coat and take some photographs. This is a picture of her standing in front of the 'plane...notice the mechanic in the background working on it.  

Linda seemed totally unfazed by the mechanic and happily disappeared to get ready for the jump. I staggered off and unhappily stayed in the toilet for ten minutes. Imagination can be a trial sometimes and mine was working overtime. Returning I found Linda all kitted out and ready to join the queue...she was still smiling.

She not only seemed quite happy and smiling as she waited in the queue, she was more than happy when she finally put that ridiculous helmet on and climbed into the plane itself. I would have been catatonic by now and probably on my second heart attack if it had been me, however Linda is made of sterner stuff and was grinning as she waited for takeoff.

They told us the plane was very fast and they were correct. One frantic wave later the blessed thing was roaring up into the sky and rapidly becoming a small cross shaped dot in a perfect blue sky. Higher and higher it circled before the first two leapt out. It then climbed up towards 10,000 feet and Linda and her partner launched themselves into the ether.
This would have been the point when, if it had been me, my poor overtaxed and over strained heart would have given up completely. Instead of two people coming down in tandem and waving to the crowd as Linda did, it would have been one person and one corpse...and I definetely wouldn't have been waving.

Slowly the pair of them got closer to the ground and then it all picked up speed and they were safely down and gathering the parachute up. I let out a breath now which almost blew the fence over. I don't think I had breathed since she took off twenty minutes before. Within a short while the bus bringing them all back pulled up and they all got out.
Linda as you can see looked completely unruffled by the whole thing and she was still smiling. I could not have been more proud of her as I knew this jump was something I could never do. She raised awareness of the Alzheimers Society to a lot of people through this jump and cash besides. To this day I am so sorry that her efforts were never offically acknowledged or supported by most of her colleagues...or the society itself. She was at a meeting a week later and the Tesco involvement was mentioned...but never a word to Linda either of thanks or praise.
Having got that off my chest, I know that those of us who care about her were very proud of her and think she is very special. I am also delighted to say she has agreed never to jump out of another plane again. Thank God for that say I.

We left the airfield and drove on down to East Budleigh. I wanted Roxanne to see the place and that was all the excuse I needed. If I could have been brought up here as a child I would have been a very happy lad. A quintessential Devon village and home to my English family, I grew up loving the place. I always feel safe here; I always feel happy here; and I always feel as if I belong here.

The white painted cottage on the left used to belong to my great grandparents on my mothers side; her dad's parents. Its the one with the white painted door and black door knocker. I visited as a child and loved it in there . I brought Fiona and Lucy here many times when they were young. Linda and I have also been down several times.

We were last down for Rememberance Sunday two years ago to honour my great grandfather. He was killed in 1917 at Passchendaele. These two photos come from that visit. My great grandfather was John Hill.

We had a little walk in the village before heading off to Budleigh Salterton for the rest of the day. All too quickly it was over and we had to return home. It still seems strange to us when we come home, and even more so today. When we got to the A30, Roxanne and Stephen turned right; we turned left. It still takes a bit of getting used too.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Carole. Ever since I was a little boy, the seaside has always been my magic place, my safe place. As I grew older the sense of history, the sense of timelessness, the sense of 'olde worlde' charm, pulled me time and time again.
      My great uncle travelled all around the world...and would have given it all up for a 'yard of good red Devon earth'. I know what he meant.
      Like you, I think both counties would definetly be in my top ten list