The Anonymous Widower

Man of the Noughties

They were talking as I drove back to Suffolk about who were the most influential men and women, who have died in the last decade.  The usual suspects were all paraded from Ronald Reagan to George Best, the Queen Mother and Heath Ledger.

But the decade saw the passing of the Reverend Chad Varah.

So why should I as someone, who has no religion, say that Chad Varah should be included on any list of important people of the noughties?  He has probably done more to help people in distress, first in the UK and then on a world-wide basis, than any other person of the last fifty years.  Most know that he founded the Samaritans, but read his entry in Wikpedia and you’ll see that he was involved in sexual education, stopping female genital mutilation and many other causes that affect how we all live in this complicated society. He was even a consultant to The Eagle comic.

But I had a personal link to the Chad Varah.  My wife gave her body to medical science and there was a Memorial Service in Southwark Cathedral for all those who had done so in 2007.

I wrote this after the service.

In the Order of Service is a list of over two hundred who gave their bodies in 2007.  Amongst is Edward Chad Varah, who founded the Samaritans.

One day in about 1973 or so, our marriage was at a very low ebb.  We had debts, a grotty, damp, rented, fourth-floor flat in St. John’s Wood, three children and to say the least, divorce was more than a possibility.  I had a small consultancy job at Lloyds Bank and as I was walking home, I passed his church, St. Stephen Wallbrook, where the Samaritans were based.

I saw the sign and was somehow drawn into the church, before spending half an hour or so with the Reverend Varah.  He talked me through our problems and made several practical suggestions, most of which worked.

We were always in debt to that kind and compassionate priest. 

My wife never knew of this until I told her, when I heard of his death on the radio, a month before she herself died.  I should have told her earlier.

So when you talk of great men and women, don’t forget the Reverend Chad Varah.  We can all learn a lot from his wonderful example.

December 13, 2009 Posted by | World | , , | 3 Comments

Parakeets in Den Haag

I took this picture of a parakeet at a bird feeder in the garden of the house where I stayed in Den Haag.

Parakeets in Den Haag

Parakeets in Den Haag

Unfortunately, by the time I’d got the camera sorted, the rose-ringed parakeet had flown.  That’s what birds do!  They fly.

But I did get this picture of several parakeets in the garden.

Parakeets in Den Haag

There is quite a few references to parakeets in Den Haag on the Internet.  They’ve been in Holland for some time.

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Transport, World | , | Leave a comment

Anne Frank

I said in the piece on Robert Fisk, that the next time I returned to Amsterdam, I would visit the Anne Frank House.  Strangely later I went over the library at the Hotel Ambassade, where I saw a signed book by Fisk.  It was one of many hundreds, by lots of famous authors!

I first visited the Anne Frank House in 1968 on my honeymoon.  This was my second or possibly my third, as I can’t be sure that we didn’t visit, when we came to Amsterdam with the children around 1980. It was very different then and a much smaller museum without the new building to the right as you face the original house.  This was added in 1999.

Perhaps, the building has lost some of its impact.  When it was just the house it was smaller and this added to the claustrophobia, that Anne and her family must have suffered.  But there is now a lot more information. 

As I said in the original post, “when we forget the story of Anne and the diary, then we will probably have lost our humanity.”

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Transport, World | , , | Leave a comment

Wandering Around Amsterdam

I took these pictures in Amsterdam over the last few days.

It was cold, but at least it was sunny!

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Fast Train to Rotterdam and Den Haag

It has just been announced that Thalys is now running fast through to Amsterdam.  So I looked up and see if I could book from Ebbsfleet to Rotterdam for a reasonable price at a reasonable speed.  I actually would go to Den Haag, but couldn’t find that on the Eurostar web site.  Or should I say, I could find it, but I couldn’t book it!

In mid-January, I have found that I could do the trip in three hours and forty-seven minutes for a return cost of £127.50 with a credit charge of £3. 

So how does that compare to easyJet?

easyJet on the same days costs £47.98 with a charge of £8 for the credit card. 

The parking at Ebbsfleet and Stansted are about the same and I suspect you can get them for about £70, with perhaps an extra tenner for diesel for Ebbsfleet.  And then you have the trains at the other end, which would both be just a few Euros.

As to time, the flight takes about five hours door-to-door and the train takes about six and a half.

So is it a no-brainer to take the plane?

No! I hate airports and all of the ridiculous rules.  Not all are security too!

So it is perhaps why I actually prefer to take the boat.  The last trip, I used Stena from Harwich and because I had a problem with the Lotus, I came back the same way.  It is not really such a long trip in terms of time, as I would do Harwich-Hook overnight.  But then coming back, you have the annoying delay, whilst they keep you on board, so you might have breakfast.  I don’t, as their offerings are not gluten-free!

I normally go over using Norfolk Line from Dover to Dunkirk, which usually takes about eight hours door-to-door.  That may be a lot slower, but I can fill the car with all the goodies that expats can’t get in Holland.  And I can also take my Brompton!

Cost of the ferry is usually about £60 with perhaps about the same amount for diesel.  I know that calculating the cost of motoring on the fuel cost is not valid, but it is the way we always add it up!

So perhaps, the easiest and most relaxing way is to drive via Dover.  At least you get a nice break on the boat and can listen to BBC Radio 5 Live all of the way.  And it’s only three hours slower than the plane.

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Limping There and Back

As I drove to get the boat at Harwich, the Lotus Elan developed a gearbox fault.  What it meant was that I only had second, fourth and reverse gears.

I was faced with a dilemma, in that did I drive back home and get the Jaguar or did I continue.  To complicate matters, I was also going to see Ipswich play Peterborough, so I’d miss the match, if I changed cars.

So I continued.

It now should be said, that the engine of the Lotus can drive the car happily in second and fourth, so without any mishaps, I managed to drive from Ipswich to Harwich carefully at about fifty-five.  I had dreaded getting on the boat, as on some ferries, you have to drive up a steep ramp, but in this case it was almost level, as they weren’t using the upper decks at all.  I only had a few kilometres to go on the other side, so it was a chance worth taking.

I did check in with a friendly forum called Lotus Elan Central and this identified the problem as a gear cable.  So I didn’t need to get any serious help in Holland and just drove back to the boat last night.

It was then a quiet drive home through the villages on a getting-better-sort of Sunday.  Weather wise that is.

The question that has to be asked is, how many performance cars could have limped home so successfully?  As a point here, my 2.2 litre diesel Jaguar always needs to start in first, as it has nowhere near the power range of the Lotus.

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Two Elans in the Dark

My yellow Lotus has found a friend; a red one in Holland.

Two Lotus Elans in the Dark

What do Lotus Elans do when they meet each other?

Seriously though, the red one is a left-hand-drive example from the second series, so it’s about three years younger than mine.  Note the different wheels!  The newer car also has sixteen inch wheels, as opposed to my fifteen.

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment