When an 89-year-old is told by his care home that he would not be able to go on a trip to France, you might expect him to just accept it and settle down in his armchair for an afternoon snooze. But Bernard Jordan is made of sterner stuff. In fact, one might have thought that the over-officious staff at his home in Sussex might have recognised this, as he had already demonstrated such qualities seventy years earlier, on 6th June 1944.
Which is why Bernard hatched an escape plan that may not have been as complex as some of those in the annals of Colditz or Stalag Luft III, but was nevertheless just as daring. He simply pinned his medals under his coat and told the staff that he was going out for an early morning stroll. Then, having enlisted a lift to the station from a friend, he made his way to Portsmouth to board a ferry for Normandy, where another veteran bound for the D-Day 70th Anniversary celebrations took Bernard under his wing. Continue Reading
We all remember those adverts in Exchange & Mart for a vintage car that we dreamed of owning: 1928 Rolls Royce Convertible, low mileage, excellent condition for its age, one careful owner from new, used for church on Sundays, low price to a good home. In most cases, when we rolled-up to inspect our potential prize, the truth would be somewhat disappointing, in either having to chase the chickens out of their improvised coop or contemplate the tree that had grown up through the cab over many years, which would need to be cut down before the surviving hulk could be moved.
The 1928 Rolls Royce Phantom 1 Piccadilly Roadster in the picture above, however, did fit that description when it’s owner disposed of it back in 2005. I became aware of it when one of those much-forwarded e-mails arrived in my inbox the other day from a good friend who knows of my interest in this type of vehicle. I often send these on, as he had, to other friends, but having been caught-out several times in past years, I now check their voracity on sites such as Snopes before I do so. Much to my delight, although it had been in circulation for some seven years, I found the contents of this one to be mainly accurate, apart from the car’s claimed mileage which had acquired an extra zero at some time in its many iterations. What the e-mail didn’t tell, however, was the interesting heritage of the car, and the story of the remarkable man who owned it. Continue Reading
So here I am, in the front room of my house watching TV. It’s 7.30pm on Friday 22nd November 2013. Fifty years ago to the minute and the day, I was also sitting in a front room watching TV, but that was in my parents’ house. My mother was crying, my father was sitting dumbstruck as the news came from the small black and white screen. John F Kennedy was dead.
When the news of the shooting first emerged just after 6pm that Friday evening, TV programmes were immediately postponed and for the next hour we had a simple message on the screen, accompanied by dirge music, interspersed occasionally by an update from the voice of a newsreader that was only preparing the audience for the inevitable. Maybe that’s one of the reasons we all remember what we were doing, because we had an hour to contemplate what it could mean for the world. For not only was this man a symbol of hope, he was also the first politician in my lifetime who wasn’t old enough to be my grandfather. Continue Reading
There is something wonderfully English about queueing; not only is it the only word in the Oxford Dictionary that strings five vowels consecutively together, but it could be worth no less than 119 points in a game of Scrabble if strategically placed for a triple-word score and formed by using all seven of your tiles – the odds of which occurring are, realistically, probably in excess of those for winning the Lottery.
However, it isn’t just the word that is fascinating, but the concept that an undefined number of people can randomly assemble themselves at a given point on the planet at the same time, all seeking the same, or similar, end to the quest that called them there. Having done that they will, almost unerringly, regulate themselves to acquire what they seek in exactly the same order in which they arrived, with minimal communication beyond an inquisitive eyebrow-raise, or surreptitious beckoning hand, occasionally accompanied by a polite “after you”. Continue Reading