On Golden Pond

"EGREMONT councillors Connie and Peter Watson have celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and raised money towards Copeland’s links with Rungwe in Tanzania.

More than £1,700 was raised by party guests to install electricity in a school in Rungwe.
The surprise party was held at The Egremont Parish Hall and was organised by Lyn Walby, Paul Connor, Janet Kennedy, Andy Crowe, Ashley Napier and other members of Copeland Rungwe Link.
Music was provided by Mary Kipling and Feonix.
Lyn Baker prepared a golden wedding cake with 50 roses on it for the couple.
In a speech made at the party, Peter said: “It gives us so much pleasure to encompass in our celebration of our special anniversary the lives of people in Rungwe, who have become the very dear friends of Copeland.”
Peter and Connie met at a church group in Sussex and Peter said he could not imagine a time span longer than 50 years.
“When Connie told me shortly before we were married that all she wanted from me was 50 years, I was overjoyed,” he said.
“Just now I am feeling a little worried, not least because I remember those times as if they were yesterday.”
The couple married in Sussex on August 30, 1958 and later moved to Cumbria.
Peter taught at Wyndham School as head of the English department and Connie worked as a supply teacher.
He produces the newsletter Egremont Today."

 From the Times and Star,  September 2008

Catching the train from Whitehaven to Carlisle is quite an adventure: especially on a Saturday morning. The train is two coaches long, ancient and has a conductor to check your ticket. It travels extremely slowly, much of the route follows the coast. Across the Solway Firth, if the weather is fine, the hills of Dumfries and  Galloway are clearly delineated.

 I caught the 10:37am train to visit my aunt in hospital in Carlisle. My brother Mark kindly gave me a lift from our hotel in the wilderness of Cleator Moor. Waiting for the train were the young, all dressed up in what I thought were inappropriately skimpy costumes for the time of year. Students, with rucksack and loaded suitcases, returning to "the smoke" after the obligatory Christmas family visit. Elderly couples, wrapped up against the biting wind and men of a certain age with thick necks, shaven heads and builder's crack revealing jeans. They were all there as the ancient, rusted relic of a pre-privatised British Rail chugged into the station.

An elderly couple sat opposite me: the husband's head bowed as he reads the Mirror's sports page and the speculation about Gerrard and his leaving Liverpool. His wife, stares out the window, her lower lip jutting over her upper lip as she chews on the remains of her breakfast. They look at me suspiciously: I swear they can smell a Southerner up here. Further down the train are four lads ( in their late 40's, early 50's). Given the thickness of their necks and the vegetable state of their ears I speculate that they're retired rugby league players off to match in Carlisle: except they get off at Workington. Behind me sits a gaggle of young females, giggling as young females universally do to the annoyance of all right thinking old men in their late 60's.

The train limps into stations with rusted cast iron structures and platforms cratered and patched with grass and weeds. It is all pretty depressing and I'm impatient to get to Carlisle where I believe civilisation resides. We pass through Bransty Junction and Parton, no one requesting the driver to stop there and stop at Harrington, Workington, Workington North, Flimby, Maryport, Aspatria, Wigton and Dalston. I'm intrigued by the town name - Aspatria, it sounds almost Latin. A quick Google and I find that indeed it's name may have derived from the Latin for "from where the asparagus grows". Apparently there were roman settlements along Hadian's wall which supplied the troops with food stuffs. Greg Ridley, who was part of the 60's super group "Humble Pie" hails from the town.

Wigton, though tiny is the birth place of Melvyn Bragg, Sir William Henry Bragg (no relation) and Anna Ford. It also wraps itself in cellophane, British Rayophane Ltd being a significant employer. It along with all the other towns on the route have rugby league sides and many a football pitch, along with allotments can be seen from the train as it inches its way towards the metropolis that is Carlisle.

It was a glorious day in Carlisle on Saturday at around 11: 50 am . Helpfully the station had a left luggage service which I found easily with the help of a delightful young man wrapped in Virgin Trains red and shivering like a leaf : he was still there when I caught the train to London around ten to four.

My aunt is in the Cumberland Infirmary - a quaint name. I  imagined a tall imposing Victorian build with large airy wards and masses of glass to disinfect the place and drive away the germs. I decided to walk there from the station: it was twenty minutes away according to my iMap app. My phone rang and it was my cousin:she and her family and my brother were already at the hospital.

The hospital indeed was extremely light and airy, but was ultra modern. It main feature being a huge atrium and a massive glass window in through which northern light streamed. The wards were approached across walk ways and the whole effect was very startling. With huge tapestries hanging from the walls it had the air of an art gallery.

My aunt, who whilst in hospital had lost her husband of 56 years - it was his funeral in Egremont we all were attending - looked much better than I had feared. She joked and we reminisced, looking out old wedding photographs: I had been at the wedding as a young boy with my mother all those years ago. I was glad I visited her and I left feeling quite encouraged. She has much to endure. Another operation in Newcastle, a long period of recovery and decisions about her care and her home. However, she has a large family and I'm sure they'll do the very best by her.

The funeral itself was brilliant. My aunt chose the hymns and readings. They reflected Peter's, her husband, love of Shakespeare. They were all uplifting and the church was full - over 300 people attended - to say their farewells to a truly remarkable man of Egremont, the community and the local Labour movement. Peter, was a graduate of Oxford from the south coast who moved to Egremont after being recruited by the head teacher of one of the first comprehensive schools in the country. That was in 1969.

I and most of the family stayed at a hotel just outside of Egremont. It was a lovely time. So much laughter, I'd forgotten that the Coidans had a comic gene. If something could be said humorously it was: seriousness and long faces were foreigners to the Coidan clan.

I returned home to a loving wife and warm open fire. My wife said that I looked 10 years younger: such was the effect of this "mournful" family event. I don't miss the bleakness that is Cumbria in January, but I certainly will remember the warmth and love that I was privileged to share with so many lovely people at the start of 2015.


Steve said…
Sometimes, whatever brings a family together, is a good thing.
Bojo said…
Glad you enjoyed - and survived your trip - north of the Wash.

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