My Oldest Friend

Just got back from my oncologist in Reading.  The result of the latest CT scan means that I have to have a PET scan next week in Oxford to check something.  This type of scan means I become pretty radioactive and have to keep away from children and pregnant women for a while.

Today I received some very sad news from Bangkok.  My oldest and best friend, Maurice Bowra, died last night.  He’d been ill for a year with liver cancer.  We go back a long way and first met in Singapore when I did my National Service in 1955.  He, being a corporal, and me, a lowly sapper in the Royal Engineers, I remember paying a weekly visit to his room (I was in the main barracks) where he’d saved all his “dog-ends” from his already smoked cigarettes.  I was an impecunious soldier at the time as well as a smoker so took the tobacco out of the dog-ends and, with my trusty Rizla cigarette machine, would make a few whole cigarettes.  Here’s Maurice on a recent trip I made to Thailand where he has lived ever since coming to work with me at my advertising agency in the mid-60’s. 

Maurice married Oye, my secretary, when we lived in Bangkok.  I’ve stayed with them at their home there many times since.  Maurice was a senior member of the British Genealogical Society and upon my 70th birthday he surprised me with the most wonderful bound book entitled “70 Years of Life: 50 Years of Friendship”.  This book is a fully comprehensive and illustrated history of, initially, our time in the army and subsequently many years working together in the large international advertising agency based in Bangkok.  At least thirty pages of the book gave a very detailed account, which he had researched, of my family history – going right back to 1767.  Maurice leaves his wife Oye and his two daughters Didi and Chada.  I intend to travel to Bangkok in early August to pay my respects at the cremation ceremony.

My young friend returned from South Korea on Sunday evening.  I must admit I was worried about her flying there, particularly because of the recent belligerent outpourings from North Korea.  However, she had a good time from a work point of view and even managed to get in a bit of sight seeing.  Here are four of her photographs, one of little blue men; another of a Buddha figure on Jeju Island; the third is the very nice view from her room; and finally these big “grandfather statues” all made from lava from the volcano.

I’ve finally finished the bronze head of my great nephew Max.  Strange how it looks different in photographs from every angle.  Nevertheless the sculpture itself worked out well, I think.

We went for a short row on Sunday afternoon.  Luckily we didn't go too far downstream, because when we turned round we found the strength of the river quite formidable – it took quite a while to get back home as the slightest relaxation of the oars meant we were forced downstream again.

On Thursday I had a meeting with the curator of the River and Rowing Museum to discuss more details of my exhibition.  There’s so much to do.  To add to it I made this large pencil drawing last week.  It’s of my grandfather’s pub “The Plough” and shows him standing by the door near my uncle and aunt.

Saturday dawned as the first gloriously sunny day of the year.  It also heralded the beginning of the bowling season here in Henley.  This picture shows the immaculate green before any of us had what is called a “roll up”.