Medal Winners Parade

Henley’s Leander Club Rowers returned from Eton Dorney Lake with 12 medals – gold, silver and bronze. This brings the Club’s total number of Olympic medals to 111. On Saturday Henley welcomed back its Olympic heroes with a civic reception. I was invited to watch the row-past from the riverside garden of my friends Peter and Diane Sutherland. Here’s a view  of one of the crews as they went past us on the way to The River and Rowing Museum.

Accompanied by a phalanx of other craft. we watched as they returned to Leander Club, then walked the short distance to the club to await the start of the parade through the streets of Henley in an open-topped bus. Here they are emerging from the club, and then a close up of five of the medal winners as they passed by.

Together with most of Henley I followed along behind the bus as it made its way to the town hall where it was greeted by Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin who boarded the bus and addressed the crowd. Some of whom you can see were out in their thousands.

The rowers then made their way through an arch of oars carried by young members of the Henley Rowing Clubs. Children from all the Henley Primary Schools were invited to the reception where they were given specially printed postcards to collect their heroes’ autographs while footage of the Olympic Regatta and the Henley part of the torch relay was played on a big screen in the town hall.

I’ll start my next story with this colourful picture of my first course of the best lunch I think I’ve ever had.

Last Monday I was invited to lunch at The Leatherne Bottle – an old but beautiful riverside restaurant near Goring-on-Thames. Graham and Julia Wells were my hosts, and together with Jane and Brian and Anne- Marie - a delightful lady I hadn’t met before – we boarded Graham’s boat ‘Meander II’ at Benson Marina. The weather was perfect as we glided along for about an hour. (The stretch between Benson Lock and Cleeve Lock at Goring is the longest stretch on the river and is where the Oxford crews practice). On arrival at the Leatherne Bottle we met Sir John Madejski (he owns the restaurant) and chatted to him for a while before deciding to relocate to a table at the water’s edge - it being such a beautiful day.

Wonderful service – fantastic food – and really happy and great companions. What more could we ask for? It was so lovely just lazing in the hot sunshine as we enjoyed our meal that it was 5.30 before we left for home. Here are a few photos taken on board the boat.

As we motored along in the sunshine, endeavouring to get back to Benson before the lock-keeper went off duty, we passed under this bridge

 built by the famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel

We reached the lock at ten minutes to seven but the lock keeper had already left, so Graham and Brian manfully operated the lock. And to end the most perfect day here is a photograph of my brandy-snap pudding.

Wednesday was a sad day, it being the funeral of my friend Gordon Greig who died suddenly while on holiday with his wife, Trish, in Spain two weeks ago.

The service was held in the parish church in Easthampstead, and was full to overflowing. Such a good man. He’ll be very much missed by his family and many friends all over the world. After the service we all went on to the Easthampstead Conference Centre where a series of video films of his life were shown. It was then that I realised that I had been to this mansion before, during the War. Canadian soldiers were billeted there prior to the invasion in 1944, and being a young lad then, one day I marched with a squad of soldiers the three miles from my home in Wokingham to Easthampstead. There a soldier took me to an enormous cupboard which he opened to reveal Aladdin’s Cave! It was crammed full of goodies – the like of which I could only dream about. He told me I could choose one item to take home. I chose a large bar of chocolate and ran home with it to my mother. We were four in our household then, - my grandfather, mother, brother Bob and me (my father being away in Gibraltar in the army). The chocolate bar was such a treat that my mother cut each square into four little pieces - one each which we ate after our Sunday tea. So it lasted for many weeks.

I hadn’t realised the dangers of making a sculpture head! On Thursday I carried on with completing my one of Rolf. As the fumes from the catalyst I had to mix with the thixotropic resin were highly toxic I needed to sign a waiver regarding the use of it and to wear a mask at all times. We did all this in Shirley’s shed in the garden so at least I could dash out in the fresh air from time to time. Here’s the shed and me in a mask.

Then we came to the laminating process and had to work very quickly as the fibreglass mixture we added to the head cures very fast – especially in the summer’s heat. Anyway here are two pictures. The first shows the rock-hard covering – resin, silicone rubber, French polish, and finally the fibreglass jacket. The second revealing the original clay image with the silicone rubber mould. The whole bronze head should be finished in two or three weeks. I’ll post the final result then.

Did you read about Eric Carter, the World War two Spitfire pilot, aged 91, who was not allowed by Museum officials at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent to sit in the cockpit of a Spitfire because of – yes you’ve guessed it – ‘Elf an’ Safety’ regulations? It wasn’t as if the aircraft was going anywhere, as it was not leaving the ground. Mr Carter is the last surviving member of a 38-strong task force sent to northern Russia in 1941 to protect supply routes. However a Mr Matt Jones, a fellow flying enthusiast, read about this and felt he deserved better so he organised for him to fly in a dual control Spitfire TR9 over Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex the other day. Good for him.