Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Thursday 28th of January 2010. Battle!

It has been a battle too. Yesterday had the gear lever on the front right bike handlebar break and that meant that the bike was stuck in it's highest gear. Great for downhill, impossible to cycle up.
Had met a wonderful gentleman when asking for water and directions near Hastings. Invited in, John Short gave me a cup of tea and the much needed water and then the story of his fascinating life. A trawler man from Rye, he had done National Service in the navy, going on HMS Sharpshooter and LCT0437 - a very large landing craft, as well as having been a whaler in the Antarctic for a few years. His trawler was called Grace Emily [RX135] so many stories of sea fishing exploits from around the world. A beautiful house with 35 acres of meadows and woodland looking towards Folkestone on a clear day, which today wasn't. He gave me a photo of the trawler and showed me many more from his life. A really interesting man, lucky to meet him. The bike had been alright up to now, yet a wind from the west had meant that I was cycling into it. Then a downhill section and nothing from the gears oin the corresponding way up. Off and push. Eventually got to Crowshurst; instead of being at the expected 1 o' clock, it was now 4.20pm and I found Forewood RSPB reserve. A lovely couple, 86 year old Jim Lawrence and his wife Kate, looked after the bike as I spent an hour in the growing gloom of the very muddy woods. No new birds for the year list but common birds such as blue and great tits, great spotted and green woodpeckers.
On returning to collect the bike, was invited in for a bowl of rich veg' soup and toast. Not refused I can tell you. I was frozen and very wet from the sweat of the cycle/push! It was then that this wonderful couple offered their settee for the night. Also not refused. I hadn't been ale to find a local B & B and, don't tell my mother but I had thought of sleeping on the railway platform at Battle, 5 miles or so up the road.
It turned out that Jim had been an FA coach for a number of teams and had worked in the 1950's with the England team and other professionals at Lilleshall with Walter Winterbottom and Sir Stanley Rouse. Now luckily I knew something of the football of that time as I'd read about such things in my Dad's football annuals from the 1950s. Needless to say the 4 hours to bed time, luckily nice and early at 9.30pm, went quickly with chat, history lessons, brilliant photos and letters and even a World Cup Final ticket 1966 to hold!
Kate and Jim went to bed and I stayed up a little longer to see the headlines of the news. A book on their bookshelf caught my eye - 'Soccer in the Blood' by Billy Walker. Now Billy was a Villa player from 1920 to when he left 19 years later to become manager of Sheffield Wednesday. Described by Eric Houghton as the greatest player he'd ever played with, I just had to have a read. Did so in the morning because I fell asleep with it in my hand.

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