PC 155 OE (Overseas Experience)


The New Zealanders among my readers will immediately recognise the two letters OE – something everyone tried to do after school, to travel, to broaden their horizons and see something of the world. These days I gather Millennials and Generation Z believe it is less of a necessity, less of a need, more a want. Mind you, an ex-sister-in-law left NZ for her OE and never got further than Queensland in Australia! A year travelling, living in another culture, in another country, working in a different environment, and then back to New Zealand with all its delights and opportunities – or not. Some of course never return to the Land of the Long White Shroud, as the inhabitants irreverently refer to their country!

Two months ago Tony Buzan died. Some of you will never have heard of him, but for those who want to draw out the thoughts that run around inside your skull, his simple ‘Mind Mapping’ technique is brilliant. You can make these maps/diagrams as simple or as complicated as you want. They assist you to determine what’s important and what’s dross!

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I come back to this term OE. Many decades ago our Duke of Edinburgh suggested that, as a way of having some OE, anyone should be able to go around the world on £5. Let’s say it was at a time when a day’s pay was twenty pounds: clearly you were not going to get around the earth without working, using your wits, charm, having some luck etc. I am sure many people acted on his idea; certainly one took up the challenge and, having come back after 10 months overseas with £25 and a diary full of good experiences and adventures, wrote a book “Around the World on a Fiver”.

My own Nation ancestors lived in Somerset; then Stephen travelled to India, his eldest son to NZ, his second son to America and thence to London some one hundred years later; travelling is in my DNA. In the same time period the Everets, a family of Yorkshire solicitors, lived in Beverley, and travelled to York, Scarborough, Wetherby and Thirsk. For them the confines of the county of Yorkshire gave them a very fulfilling and rewarding life, but I would suggest that in 2019 OE could give you a greater, richer, more educational perspective. You may remember that wonderfully time-frozen comment by the father of Billy Elliot, the 11 year old given the unlikely chance of an audition for the Royal Ballet School in London. On the coach from Durham, Billy asks his father: “What’s London like, Dad?” “Don’t know, son, never been!” “But it’s the capital city, Dad!” Billy exclaims! “So! I have everything I need in Durham.” (And this is 1984)

These days I thought this would be unusual; we move around more and now overseas travel is commonplace. Then I had lunch with a chum last week who lives in Upper Wield in deepest Hampshire. He, like me, had worked for Her Majesty so the peripatetic life was the norm, but he told me of friends in the village who had lived there for 30 years, yet had never been to their sister village of Lower Wield, some 1.5 miles away, a thirty minute walk across the cornfields. Takes all sorts, I guess!

I have used the latter part of William Penn (1644-1718)’s prayer: “Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.” with clients, for too often I found that their outlook was quite parochial. Due to the curvature of the earth, at sea level we can only see just over 3 miles (5kms); climb a 30 metre tower and you can see almost 13 miles (20kms). From the battlements of Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire you can see 20 miles. In 1434, the Lord Treasurer to King Henry VI, a Ralph Cromwell, famously exclaimed that all the land you could see from the top was his!! (some 1260 square miles)

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The view from Tattershall Castle

Are you intrigued by what’s over the horizon, do you need to lift your eyes, to explore, to experience? Do you really know what’s out there? We can see everything on the internet, through other people’s eyes, but you don’t get the smell, the heat, the cold, the sounds, the emotions, the tangible cultural stuff without actually going and doing and experiencing. Somehow the physical limitations of our sight become our mental and emotional ones, except for those who acknowledge that travel and OE can be so enriching and rewarding. It doesn’t always end well, however.

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In 1972 Douglas Robertson took his family (his wife, their 18 year old son and twin 11 year old boys) on an ‘educational around the world trip’ in his 43ft schooner. Having crossed the Atlantic and transited the Panama Canal, they set out into the Pacific. West of the Galapagos Islands the yacht was attacked by killer whales and sunk. Confined to an inflatable raft, the family ‘Survived The Savage Sea’ (the title of his subsequent book) and was eventually picked up by a Japanese fishing vessel after 37 days adrift. Some OE huh?

This illustration may alarm some people, particularly those who don’t like sailing, but there are hundreds of other ways of gaining OE, dovetailing the adventures into the educational needs of one’s family. Some of course home-educate whilst away and these days the internet has made this so much easier. But most of us who live overseas for a while survive easily, assimilate the cultural differences and gain from the experience. And of course the only sure thing about life is that plans you make will have to change, to adapt. Too often external forces over which you have no control force a change; what’s that saying – ‘Nothing changes but the reasons for change’?

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180) was a well-known philosopher. Here’s his take on change:

“Is any man afraid of change? What can take place without change? What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? Can you take a hot bath without the wood for the fire undergoing a change? Can you be nourished unless the food you eat undergoes a change? Can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Do you not see then that for yourself also to change is just the same?”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. Whenever, wherever, get some OE before change comes and bites you in the bum!

Richard 27th June 2019





PC 154 The Fosbery Connection – Shipwrecked!

PC 154 1 Farewell Spit from Puponga

Farewell Spit in 2010 – getting longer every year

“Sorry, dear Papa. Needed to go to the powder room! Now, where was I? Oh! Yes. The second mate left to find a telegraph station and raise the alarm at Nelson. Meanwhile everyone I spoke to imagined we would somehow get off the sand bar, but we were stuck fast and I could see the captain and the gentleman passengers talking about what to do. By 8am, after an anxious night and having had some biscuits for breakfast, it was decided that we passengers would be split between the two boats, the lifeboat and the cutter. Henry, Mary, little Caroline, baby Emily, Emma and me were slung in a chair onto the cutter, along with eleven other passengers and four of the crew. One was a stowaway called Furness, a frightened young man who kept himself to himself.

I think the Captain wanted us and the others in the lifeboat to stay together, but no sooner had we got on board the crew cast off and we drifted away; we should have had the Chief Officer and some food and water with us! I could hear the Captain yelling for us to come back but the crew seemed resolute in their actions. I was told later that those left on board constructed a raft but we lost sight of the Queen Bee after about seven hours so at the time imagined we were on our own. The wind started blowing stronger and the waves began to break into the boat. We all took turns at bailing but we weren’t very successful; my dress was horribly wet and is completely ruined.

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The Queen Bee stuck on the sand of Farewell Spit

I’ve enclosed an extract from the report into the sinking, as it sums up nicely what we endured:

“Left the Queen Bee (in the cutter) on Tuesday morning at 8 am, with 21 on board. The boat had only three oars, which were almost useless, no sails, rudder or mast, and no water, excepting one bottle, which a passenger happened to have, and three tins of preserved meat. We tried to stay alongside the ship, to get rid of some of the passengers (??) as the boat was over-loaded, but could not, the wind and sea being very high from the west. After struggling for an hour we had to run before it; when two-thirds across the bay we found we were making no southing, and we expected to be blown seaward, the boat filling three times.

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(Ed: You will see that if the wind hadn’t shifted they could have drifted north of D’Urville Island and maybe lost completely!)

Fortunately the wind shifted north-west and by means of a rug held on to a brass rod, we made a little southing. At eight o’clock we sighted Savage Point above French Pass, when the wind shifted west again, which blew us to the mouth of Te Puna Bay, where we held on to our oars all night, but had hard work to keep off the shore. (Ed: They thought it better to attempt a beach landing in daylight!)

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 At daybreak we rowed into Te Puna Bay and landed on the beach, where we made fires, boiled some water, while some of the crew went over the hill to look for habitation and fell in with a Maori settlement, where they were treated with great hospitality. We remained in Puna ‘Harbour’ until the following day, when we rowed into Elmslie’s Place where we were picked up by the Aurora. Ten of us come on in the Aurora and the remaining eleven on a Maori boat.’

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And to think, Papa, we imagined that the Maori might eat us, such was our ignorance. So the Aurora took us into Nelson and at the quayside were several thousands of people congregated, who thronged the road and beach from the Pilot Station to the entrance. As we entered the harbour, ringing cheers went up from the crowd of people who were assembled on The Rocks, and were taken by one little knot after another the whole way up the harbour. There was a band which started playing the particularly appropriate air ‘Home Sweet Home’; it was so exciting. We came alongside the harbour wall and Lieutenant Gully lifted up Caroline into outstretched arms, then Emily, not 10 days old, (See Note 1) and then he helped Mary, Emma and me to climb ashore. It never felt so good to be on dry land. To the sound of louder and heartier cheers, we made our way to the shed where, to our surprise, were Philippa and Eleanor. (Ed: Two of Eva’s sisters who were already living in NZ) We clung to each other, wept with happiness and joy, as the band, at the request of the Bishop of Nelson and other clergy who were present, struck up the well-known doxology ‘Praise God from Whom all blessings flow’, which was warmly joined in by the enthusiastic crowd.

We’re going to stay in Nelson for a few weeks to recover from our ordeal and then maybe sail to Wellington. Will write soon. Love Eva.” (See note 2)

And all because someone kept the front page of a newspaper!

Richard 14th June 2019

Note 1. Emily’s health never recovered from the hash exposure of being in an open boat for three days and she died in 1880 aged 3.

Note 2. Eva Constance Fosbery went on to marry George Nation, my great grandfather, in Dunedin in May 1884, moved to California, bore three children; moved to London in 1898 and is buried with George and her second son Cecil in the cemetery of St Stephens’ Church in Shottermill, Hampshire.

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Note 3. The Queen Bee was uninsured and a total loss. There is no record of what happened to the 30 tons of cargo, for instance the 4 bales flour bags, 10 cases Van Houten cocoa, 30 bundle spades, 42 cases galvanised corrugated iron, 1 bale seaming twine, 150 cases Hennessy’s brandy, 2 crates brownware, 3 casks china, 15 cases marmalade, 10 kegs split peas, etc etc – or indeed all the passengers’ possessions.

Note 4. The lifeboat and Captain’s raft were also found, although when the raft had attempted to land on Puna beach, the waves smashed it to smithereens and the carpenter drowned. He was the only fatality out of the 30 passengers and 24 crew. The two boats and raft drifted about 100kms before coming ashore.

Note 5. At the subsequent Court of Inquiry Captain Davis was “adjudged guilty of the grave default in not using lead and other means of ascertaining his position when so near the shore and on a strange coast. The Master’s certificate suspended for three years. The certificate of John Going, second mate, was suspended for six months, as he was the officer of the watch at the time of the stranding, and did not use proper precautions to keep the vessel off the shore.”

PC 153 Courgette-Neutral?

Out on the right hand side of England, that’s the bump on the eastern North Sea coast, lies ‘East Anglia’. The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Kingdom of East Angles’. Officially Essex in the south was the ‘Kingdom of Essex’ and so not part of East Anglia, but I suspect most of us think it’s all ‘East Anglia’.  On the south side is the estuary of the River Thames and to the north The Wash, the land here so flat that on the change of the tide the seawater rushes in at an alarming rate. History relates that King John (1199-1216) was crossing The Wash on his way from Spalding, Lincolnshire to Bishop’s Lynn in Norfolk when his staff mistimed the tide and they had to scramble to safety, losing some of the Crown Jewels in the process.

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Within East Anglia the cathedral cities of Norwich, Bury St Edmunds and Ely vie for visitors with the university city of Cambridge. The Norfolk Broads, an area of navigable rivers and lakes covering some 300 sq kms, lie between Norwich and the coast. If you want to unwind and relax on the water, this is the place to go. And if you want to understand the impact of EU Fishing Policies you go to the run-down ports of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

And it’s flat. Not quite as flat as Lincolnshire but flat enough for its coast to be at risk from rising sea levels. There is a belief that the landmass of Wales is rising in the west and England sinking in the east, possibly on an axis of the M1 motorway (actually I made this last bit up!). A good example of the loss of the coast is at Covehithe, six miles north of Walberswick, where some 24 acres (about 10 hectares) of farmland fall into the sea, every year! At this point you might be forgiven for thinking I’ve won an assignment from The East Anglia Tourist Board to encourage more visitors? Not true!

But we did go to Walberswick for a couple of nights after Celina’s birthday. Everyone we told immediately asked: “Where? Wallburswick?” It’s one of those delightful English village names you have never heard of and never know how to pronounce. You need to get your tongue around the letter ‘l’ before sounding the ‘ers’!

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I’ve known the woman who runs The Anchor, a ‘pub with grub’, an Inn in the old-fashioned sense, for some 27 years, so it was a visit to catch up with her and her family, to walk and to enjoy the peace and quiet of this beautiful stretch of the coast. Walberswick lies just south of Southwold; the River Blyth flowing out to the sea between the two.

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If you still need a geography refresher, the well-known town of Aldeborough lies to the south with Snape, the location of an international music festival started by the local composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) lying a few miles inland. To get there from Hove, after getting around London, you simply follow the A12 road until it almost runs out, then turn right.

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The Anchor has been in Sophie and husband Mark’s hands for some 12 years; she runs the kitchens and front of house, he focuses on the range of beers and wine, about which he is extremely knowledgeable. On a busy weekend they might do 150 ‘covers’ for lunch and all their ten rooms are normally fully booked in the hectic summer periods. This year in particular, with the uncertainties about Brexit causing people to holiday in the UK (a new word: a ‘staycation’ – as in ‘stay’ at home ‘vacation’ – an ugly word if ever there was one!) they have noticed an increase in bookings. Through conversations with Sophie I know how difficult it is to recruit and retain staff although currently a number of Romanians are employed. At breakfast we chatted with Doru whose two sisters and their families had just been to stay; he looked as though he was glad to be back at work!

Wireless and internet connections were fickle at the best of times but everyone who comes here has probably come for peace and quiet and can do without for a couple of days ?? We walked and talked, walked with some chums and their dogs to Southwold; had a coffee and came back. We ate in The Anchor at lunchtime and in the evenings, the early summer log fire sending a delicious smell and warmth into the room. Eavesdropping on the other clientele, above the background murmur of congenial conversations, you could hear an amusing range of chat:

I’m coming to the Latitude Festival (Ed: 18th -22nd July 2019) and wondered whether you have a room for four?”

Mum! I need help with a Physics question?” This from Sophie’s daughter Rose in the middle of her GCSE exams. “Go and ask your father ……!”

The Bank Holiday BBQ; is that open to everyone, Harry, or do we have to book?”

“My Ceanothus is dying, Barbara” “Oh! I don’t think they last longer than 10 years!”

“I’ve just cycled to Bury St Edmunds in preparation for a 200 miler in a fortnight’s time – God! My legs are killing me. I need a pint of something cooling.”
“Coming outside for a fag Mike?”

“Can I order the battered cod and double cooked chips?”

“Do you have a loo I can use?”

Harry (Ed:Sophie’s delightful son who works behind the bar) can I have another one of these?

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The River Blyth

You may be wondering at this point whether the title of this PC has any relevance. Between The Anchor and the sea is a patch of allotments. I don’t think this is a particularly English thing, but for those who haven’t heard of the word, individuals rent, are ‘allotted’, small plots of council-owned land on which to cultivate flowers, fruit and vegetables for their own use. Sophie’s plot is about 30m by 15m and she grows as many vegetables as she can, all for use in The Anchor kitchen. She proudly showed me the seeds beginning to show, the runner bean canes and where the rows of courgettes will come up; with a delightful take on the phrase ‘Carbon Neutral’ said: “Last year we had enough courgettes from here to be ‘courgette-neutral’ for a few weeks.” So all the courgettes they used in the pub for those weeks came from her allotment; a delightfully modern country description – must be a postcard title I thought!

Richard 6th June 2019

PS Look them up at http://www.anchoratwalberswick.com and go and stay!