Saturday, 31 July 2010

Normandy ......

It was a lovely trip, sometimes sad, sometimes hysterical funny.... well it would be with my father there, he does come out with some pearlers at times....

The ferry across was like riding on a billiard table you wouldn't have even known you were on a ferry except for the "Brittany Ferry" signs all over the place... oh and the sea of course... 5 hour crossing and we emerged to blazing sun and a hot day.... I switched my Tom Tom on and within 10 minutes we were at the hotel.... We didn't do very much the first day, we just went down to Ouistreham beach front and wandered about having a look at this and that, eventually we decided to try out my mothers french speaking skills and got a remarkably strong french coffee ... then we drove back to the hotel and settled in for the night.....

Rabbits !!!
  
They are everywhere in Normandy, we had them outside the hotel, on roundabouts, roadside verges.... I have never seen so many BIG rabbits in my life, quite unafraid some of them....

The second day started relatively early, I was refusing to alter my watch to French time otherwise it wouldn't have been so early... We drove out to the local Carrefour and my mother bought a lovely floral display to put on Georges grave and after we had had a look around Carrefour for all of 20 minutes we set off to find Brettville-sur-laize Canadian war cemetery.... I have to say the cemetery is in the most peaceful and beautiful setting, it's very rural, no towns that you can see for miles and the cemetery itself is immaculate, it has lawns that are like billiard tables and there is nothing unkempt about the place. I was really pleased it looked so lovely.

 
I've uploaded the full resolution photographs so if you click them you'll see how well looked after the grounds are.... The one thing that really saddened me about the cemetery is how young practically all of the men here were. I only saw one headstone that had an age of 35, the vast majority were men in their late teens early twenties.... it really brings home how many died who were involved in the liberation of Europe... it's a really sobering place to visit..

We then went back to Hermansville sur mer and then onto Ouistreham again until the sun went down and then back to our hotel... 

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Normandy awaits......

Passport...Check
Driving licence both parts...Check
European health card...Check
Euros.....Check
Flip flops....Check
Camera.....Check
Batteries....Check
Driving gloves...check
Tin of Barley Sugar...check

I was kidding about the last two.... but I'm ready to roll off the ferry at Caen ...well fairly close to Caen anyway... not very far from Sword beach as it turns out..... My mother has had this photograph of George (handsome young man wasn't he ?)  put onto a waterproof backing and she/we are going to stick it to his headstone with some Araldite and waterproof tape so it can't fall off or get weathered, she was talking about putting some daffodil bulbs next to his grave which would bloom every spring, a bit of Wales in a far flung field so to speak....but we aren't sure we'd be allowed to do that considering it's a commonwealth war grave cemetery but it would be nice if we were allowed to ... we shall see.... I can understand her wanting to leave something with him, I'd certainly want to in her shoes..... I should imagine it will be quite emotional for everybody myself included....

I'm going over to stay with them tomorrow night so that nobody here gets disturbed by my leaving at stupid o'clock... then it's a three hour drive to Portsmouth and onto the ferry at 08:15am to arrive in Caen at 1pm (ish).....

I will report back with copious amounts of photographs ....

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

It's official .... I've completely dumped Windows

video

I've been waiting for Linux or more specifically Ubuntu to finally offer more than Windows and the day has come at last. Not only was the install of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS faultless, I encountered very few problems getting it up and running. I can now watch Freeview TV on my computer, and even run Windows programs if I want to, although I haven't wanted to yet because there is nothing I can't do in Linux that I could in Windows.... it's even prettier than Windows ever was, snappier response on everything you use, and more free software than you could shake a stick at.... it does exactly what it says on the tin....

I guess now I'll slowly forget how to fly Windows... but it's not a bad thing really, onward and upward, I'm not kidding myself into thinking Linux is perfect, because it's not, but it's just that little bit more perfect than Windows.... I honestly do not understand why people are still using Windows in any shape or form.... Gone are the progressively slower and slower startup times until you can actually login.... Ubuntu is there .... ready to use within seconds... can't fault it :)

Can you tell I'm pleased yet ? ;¬)

Now I've stopped gushing about Linux, we've had some gushing of our own here at Chez Brabrook namely torrential rain ... it's been like it for days.... has nobody told the Met office it's meant to be July !!! you know Sun, Heat, Warmth .... obviously not.

Andrea is on the cusp of her summer (yeah right) holidays where she gets 6 weeks off .... one of the advantages of working in a school I guess :) Her marathon training for Snowdonia is going swimmingly (see what I did there ?) ... she's well on track to complete it, and fair do's to her she's out in all weathers.... I'm really proud of her and what she's achieved since she started running.... not bad considering I didn't think she'd last a month at it .....

I have been brushing up on my French road signs and general driving abroad  skills....(I must remember to stay on the right !!!)  The French are quite mad when it comes to driving, they have some very bizarre road rules and regulations.... this time next week I'll be in France with my parents doing the rounds and touristy things people do over there.... My Tom Tom is loaded up with the latest map of France so we shouldn't have any trouble finding places, and besides my mother speaks french so we can always use her as a last resort...

I'm really looking forward to it, I've always wanted to visit George's grave and pay my respects and I've always wanted to try and take in the enormity of D-Day and the sacrifices made to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany...We owe so much to people we never knew who laid down their lives to protect and defend our country and others, I suppose individually they weren't fighting for such high ideals, more like survival, as brutal as war is, either way we owe them a debt we can never repay...and they paid the very highest price for our freedom....

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Small world isn't it

I've been researching as much as I can about George Hayes my uncle who's picture you can see on the left here..... this was dated 1943 so a year or so before D-Day..... he was killed on the 7th June 1944 the day after D-Day....

After interrogating Google and various other search engines to the very limits of their capabilities..... I stumbled across a post made in 2004 by a woman called Jo in New Zealand who was passing comment on one of the books I had been after one called "Forrard" and the other "Europe Revisited" both books were written by soldiers who served in 1st East Riding Yeomanry and both obviously gave background about what went on .... unfortunately both books are out of print and the ones that are on sale are going for ridiculous prices.... So I cheekily asked if she could scan the books for anything that mentioned George on or around the 7th June 1944.

Anyway I sent off a mail to this 2004 email address in New Zealand fully expecting it to bounce considering it was 6 years old.... but Jo answered me !!! much to my delight... it turned out that her father also served in 1st ERY and not only that but that he had kept a diary of what happened from D-Day onwards.....

Now this is where it gets very interesting.....

Although she couldn't remember where his diary had been posted she did give me the title which with my bloodhound DNA + Google I am pretty certain I've found it...

I knew that George was the very first soldier of 1st ERY to lose his life but I didn't really have any concrete evidence exactly how.....until I found the very diary Jo had been talking about here

The give away line is "our first casualty" thereby confirming it was George Hayes... He was killed because he wouldn't sleep under his battle tank, and on that night a shell landed close to where he was sleeping.... there seemed to be some argument at the time about the safety of sleeping under tanks......mainly because the ground was so soft and battle tanks do tend to sink in soft ground when stationary and if you're sleeping underneath it ... well you can guess the rest..... Of course he may still have been killed had he slept under his tank, we don't know exactly what happened that night, the only consolation I suppose was the fact that he was asleep when it happened, so he probably got killed instantly unlike some of his fellow soldiers.....

I am amazed and utterly gobsmacked at how a simple enquiry which could have been missed can reveal so much... and like the title says ......

"Small world isn't it"


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Normandy is booked :)

My first ever passport has arrived and the ferry and hotel have been booked in the city of Caen, France .... My mother has tried on a few occasions to get out to Brettville sur Laize to visit her brothers grave George who was killed on the 7th June 1944 the day after D-Day, she last saw him when she was 14..... and he was 21 ....it's a long time to wait to pay your respects...

I knew my mother had booked a coach trip out to France and had presumed it was all going well until she told me that they had rung her up and cancelled due to lack of interest...AGAIN !! ... needless to say she was quite upset by the cancellation.... So I offered my driving services to get them out there.... I couldn't do much else to help... and thought at least if I can get them out there the visit can go ahead....

I should imagine it will be quite emotional for her, I of course never met or knew him, but I have him to thank for my interest in joining the Army and setting me on the path I chose all those years ago .... and I've always wanted to visit his resting place and pay my respects ever since I saw a dog eared black and white photograph my Nan took when she visited her son's grave.....


So we are booked into a nice hotel in Caen by the marina (to please Dad... he has to at least see boats once a day to be happy or he gets withdrawal symptoms) .....and we are planning on visiting the cemetery where George was buried, and then onto a few other places to fill up the two days we have out there .... probably visit the Bayeux Tapestry and a few museums ... it should be quite a busy time ..... And I'm so glad my mother is finally getting out there come hell or high water........ :)

Monday, 5 July 2010

Nokia vs washing machine.... FIGHTTTTT !!!!

Needless to say the Nokia phone lost spectacularly, it refused to turn on, charge or in fact display anything.... So being a resourceful bugger I grabbed two 20 gram bags of silica desiccant whacked them in the microwave to re-activate them .....then grabbed an old used plastic bread bag and put them to bed with each other... I calculated that 40 grams of silica desiccant was enough concentrated sucking power to remove the water from a glass marble....

3 days later I plugged my phone in and it sprang to life !!! result... so all is not lost who think they have killed their mobile phone.... probably works for phones dropped in toilets/puddles/rivers etc ... the important thing is to resist trying to use the phone ... take the battery straight out and put the phone somewhere to dry or better still put it in a home made accelerated Gobi desert like I did :)

Freya hasn't been well for the past few days, she's been very out of sorts, miserable and whining... she's been running a temperature and complaining that her tongue hurts and she does have two small red marks on it ... I think we are over the worst of it now though.... (fingers crossed) ... but on the flip side she is completely out of nappies now, it didn't take her very long and we didn't rush her... she did it when she was good and ready to do it... I've never been a fan of forcing a child to get out of nappies and so far we've only had about two or three accidents with her.... obviously she was ready .... we've even had our first dry night with her.... she is growing up so quickly now, very chatty, quite long and involved conversations with only the occasional "dubba dubba" thrown in to fill in the gaps in her vocabulary .... she doesn't miss a thing, not much gets by her and has started giving as good as she gets with the other kids......

last night I shot a rat clean off the decking.... the joys of living in the country I guess, we don't leave any food out in our rubbish but I guess with leaving our rubbish out for two weeks (bloody council) it does entice ratty rattus... it squeaked and died pretty much immediately... I shall be out on dusk patrol again tonight to "off" it's cousins sisters and brothers in quick succession....Mouse wars was the beginning ... it's serious now ... and personal ..... ;¬)

At least in the country you can hear them rustling through the undergrowth.... you don't see them in the cities they prefer to use sewers .... so I guess we have a cleaner class of rat out here in the country....


Thursday, 1 July 2010

31 years ago today


A 16 year old boy got off the green bus that picked him up from Newcastle train station, and he walked into Albermarle Barracks, 16 years old, a bit scared, but I was very excited to start my career in the British Army, I was assigned Triangle troop at 11th Signal Regiment Albermarle Barracks.... and this is where it all began for me and forty other 16 year olds......we were beasted beyond our endurance by the PTI's and then when we couldn't go on any more beasted some more..... we were given impossible tasks to do, and we climbed mountains together, swam across freezing rivers, slept in trenches that were so cold it's a miracle we all survived.....we ate indescribable food from mess tins burnt to a crisp on Hexamine cookers, and enjoyed NAAFI breaks in the biting cold wind of northern England, we were taught how look after our rifles, and how to shoot them accurately.... We ran around that airfield so many times it would make marathon runners look like short distance runners..... at the end of it......those of us who made it through..... we emerged as men

Hilarious....but oh so true