from Charmian, Robert, Buckingham, Henry and Murray Willis

Had Keats been writing his "Ode to Melancholy" in 1997 he would not been at a loss for material - neither are we!

  • Thomas put to sleep in January

  • Matthew car written-off in March

  • Charmian made redundant in June

  • Murray joined the family in July

  • Rachel and Phil married in August

  • Robert celebrated 50 years and Rachel graduated in October


Robert’s essay on Thomas has appeared all year on our homepage. Assessing when Thomas‘s "innings" was over was traumatic. We think Thomas would approve of Murray who joined the family. In many way he is a "son of Tommy". We were invited to a presentation by the Royal Navy at Highclere Castle. Even the armed forces have to market themselves these days!

We went on our first caravan rally of the year to Bashley Park.
Robert’s mother celebrated her 84th birthday. It was good to see Sue Smith (nee Giles), Robert’s God daughter who he had not seen for years - he’s not too prompt replying to letters!

Sue Smith

On God-parents
All my God-parents are sadly deceased. Charmian’s continue to support her. If only I were half as diligent. To all my neglected God-children: sorry.


After a decade and more Robert managed to get in touch with his old school friend Rodney Wilton. He is well and living in Somerset.

Patricia and Ali (right) after their Round the World tour pictured with  Charmian and Bee.

This is our "rig", a Swift Corniche caravan and a Land Rover  Discovery TDI.
We used to tow with a petrol Range Rover but find the diesel Discovery more economical.

The month started off badly with Matthew’s car being written-off following an accident on the Oxford Street mini-roundabout. We are still battling will the third parties’ insurance company. How vital it is to have independent witnesses!

On the 3rd we saw "Mixed Doubles" at the Watermill, and on the 10th "Bugsey Malone" at Speenhamland School. Both were excellent. How fortunate we are having the Watermill.

We celebrated our 23rd Wedding Anniversary by going on a caravan rally to Padworth Common. We also rallied at Sandy Balls meeting up with the Wiggintons and their two dogs.  

New Labour won the General Election. May Day Bank Holiday was spent caravanning at Cheddar. We sang at the Newbury Spring Festival Matins. Birthdays this month: Charmian’s 46th, Buckingham’s 13th, and Bee’s 81st.

Over the Spring Bank Holiday we rallied at Longleat overlooking the house and the lakes with its hippos, with the roar of lions and tigers behind us. We had a delightful walk at Mere.

Patrea and Alan kindly invited us to Eton’s "4th June" where we picnicked and watched William rowing (?) on the Thames.

Family gathering at Eton. You may have seen Alexander (right) on Channel 4's
"Citizen 2000"

Charmian was made redundant on the 3rd and remained a job-seeker until October. The plus-side was that it gave much time for holiday rallies, the garden has never looked better, and the den was almost tidy. (In the Spring we engaged Robert’s cousin, Frank to decorate the house inside and out and it as an ideal opportunity to have a clear-out.)

In June we spent two weeks in Southern Ireland with the caravan. We rallied with the Upper Thames on an educational farm just outside Clogheen, which is about 40 miles north of Cork. Clogheen - referred to as a town - is more like a large village.

People very friendly, the pace of life very slow and laid back. Some places have a continental feel with broad streets. On the middle weekend there was a vintage cars rally and it was a treat for Robert to see a black Humber Hawk like the one he owned. 

 We visited Cork and Jamesons whiskey distillery, Dublin, and a small thatched pub with a singer. Every other property a bar or off-licence!

Henry had a great time chasing, but never catching, the rabbits in the field next to the site

Caravanning again! This time at St Merryn on a site 300 yards from a dog-friendly beach and a dog-friendly pub 100 yards furtheron. Wonderful! The place was full of young people - university/college students down for the surfing. Whilst there we walked at Fowey with Kevin, Vivien and her mother (who were staying at Padstow). We saw "The English Patient" at the comfortable little cinema in Padstow and also visited the Minack Theatre.

We partied at Roy and Lavinia’s at Shaftsbury - when will the vines be ready?

On the 16th we saw Alan Ayckbourn’s "Table Manners"at the Watermill and Robert enjoyed singing in the concert in aid of the roof fund at St Nicolas on the 19th.

Murray became a member of the family on the 24th. He is a fun little dog, a King Charles (Buckingham and Henry are Cavalier King Charles and have longer noses). Although he is three he is more like a puppy. We have the impression he was a little neglected. He certainly had to be taught how to go on a Snelsmore-type walk, how to keep up and realise there was another "good smell" just around the corner.

Murray’s introduction to our life-style was an NDOA barbecue at "Castle Stable" on the 26th . He survived being on the menu - just!


Park House celebrated 50 years in 1997. A reunion disco dance was held at The Liberty Ballroom, Greenham Common on 16 May. "Ricky & the Gamblers", a popular local rock group in the ‘60s reformed to play. This invoked much interest and E-mail correspondence. It turned-out that Robert had been e-mailing Julia Hicks after she wrote to the "NWN" website, and that she is Ricky's brother.

There was also an open day at the school on 12 July. Amongst former classmates who Robert had not seen for ages was Brian Nobes.

It was hot when we rallied at Whistable. So hot that we dare not leave the dogs in the car for a "pilgrimage" to Canterbury cathedral.

After a short illness Robert’s Uncle Ray died, although Bettine and Robert did manage to reunite him with his brother Bill (who he had not seen for 16 years) on 2 July.

Rachel, Robert's niece, married Phil Manley on 2 August. It was a lively service. They were transported in a pony and trap by Robert's cousin John. They now live in Basingstoke and Rachel is teaching at Longparish.

That Play

THE Mikron Theatre Company performed  "If you go down to the woods ... tales from the Newbury by-pass" written by Mike Lucas and Rodney Matthew, at the Waterside Centre on 30 August. It was well acted.
     Maintaining the best Radio 4 "Week-ending" treatment the play portrayed the events of the so-called Third Battle of Newbury as the protesters failed time and time again to stop the bypass. The caricatures  of the people involved were excellent.

   Whether the intention was to poke fun at the protesters, security guards, under-sheriff, bailiffs, police, magistrates, MPs, officials and local people, is unclear. Having seen the other play which the Mikron had been touring with, "Just the Job" about a family on their first canal holiday, it was hard to take the bypass play seriously.
     But the subject is serious, not to say tragic. All that time, effort and money spent on what turned out to a lost cause. It is hard to perceive our circle fighting our corner with the same energy and single-mindedness as the bypass protesters apparently did. They were prepared to endure physical discomfort and risk the possibility of prison.
     Of course there are campaigners amongst us. John Gould, MBE immediately springs to mind - his tame by comparison antics in the '50s are documented in Ken Clew's book.
  "If you go down to the woods" evoked many thoughts including what had been omitted, for example the years and years of discussions before construction started, and the reasons why the western route was chosen (Greenham Common, Newbury Racecourse, Thatcham Nature Reserves, etc). The play did hint at the future - the bypass as the western side of a ring-road around an amalgamated Newbury and Thatcham.
    What is slightly worrying about staging the play is the effect it might have on those yet to reach  the state of mind which the American psychiatrist Thomas A. Harris describes as "I'm OK - You're OK". Those in the audience who see life from a "I'm Not OK - You're Not OK" viewpoint. If staging the play has enlightened but a few, then it has succeeded.


Mrs Carolyn Maddox who took over from Mrs Phyl Shaw as the Headteacher  of  Speenhamland at the start of the Autumn term.

Victorious Choir


Charmian with Penny and Phil Williams

Trevor Selby
and Robert

Robert is now Hon Treasurer of the Newbury and District Organists’ Association. He helped organised "An Evening with Dame Gillian Weir" on the 4th.

At the Oxford Playhouse on 8 October we saw "A Letter of Resignation" which is a play about the Profumo affair.

On the 20th St Nicolas Church Choir won the cup in the church choir section at the Maidenhead Music and Drama Festival.

The same day, Charmian started her job for three months at BOC Transhield who deliver food to Marks and Spencer- usual hours 6am to 2pm, but often longer, and Saturday overtime.

Robert was 50 on the 22nd. He had a very busy day taking the dogs for a walk on Snelsmore Common during morning, his mother to church at lunchtime, and attending a governors’ meeting in the afternoon. Charmian gave him a party at "The Blackbird". It was good to see so many friends of long-standing. He received a wide variety of presents ranging a from die-cast model of a Morris Minor Traveller, to a clockwork turtle, cassettes entitled "Nunc Dimittis", and many more.

For his 40th Robert had a joint party with Phil Williams whose birthday is on the 10th. Unfortunately in September Phil had a ruptured appendix and septicemia which put him in intensive care, but he had sufficiently recovered to put in an appearance at Robert’s party.

Robert attended King Alfred’s College graduation ceremony on the 24th to see Rachel receive her upper second class BA honours degree (primary education with subject studies and qualified teacher status. It was a very proud moment

We went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the newly re-furbished. Oxford Playhouse. Also to St Andrew’s Day at Eton. It is a busy time practising for Christmas concerts and services. Both of us are in the Cromwell Singers, and Charmian has joined the augmented St Nicolas choir.

It’s increasingly hard to celebrate Emmanuel (God with us). Come Christmas Day, summer holiday and January sales adverts will dominate TV screens. Think we’ll celebrate Epiphany.

"We Wish You A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year ..."


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