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Below Bill Ayling shares with you some of the things that come to mind as he walks around Purley on Thames with his dog Ruby

December 2019


There is an old saying that everything happens in threes, that is exactly what has happened to me. From the time the computer broke down to when my catheter leaked, flooding all my clothing (even my socks) with urine. It was a disaster. Regretfully the computer could not be fixed and I lost everything I had on the hard drive. That included all my Mapledurham Island stories and my sixty poems.

Fortunately, Jane, my niece, had copies of all the stories I have had printed by Amazon and some of the more recent poems. On an old computer I found some of the very earliest stories which had not been published. If only I had taken the advice of friends and made copies of everything on a memory stick, I wouldn’t have had the problems.

Then one of my front teeth snapped off short, leaving just the root on the gum. The dentist did a remarkably good job in extracting this, but not, I’m sorry to say, without some pain. I have a little secret that when I’m in the dentist’s chair I recite some of my poems to myself.  Although I know what the dentist is doing, I am thinking of the poems the whole time…… .It does work! I did the same thing in the hospital when the doctors were trying to extract the catheter. It was not easy.

Firstly the District nurse came to visit me at home. As I said to Eileen, who fortunately was not in at the time. She would’ve been very surprised to find me in the bedroom with my trousers around my ankles and a rather pretty nurse kneeling in front of me trying unsuccessfully to extract the catheter. Eileen gave me a very severe look and said she was pleased she was not there, because otherwise there would have been some trouble!

Having tossed and turned all night, trying go find some relief from the intense pain Eileen decided to run me out to the hospital early in the morning. The A&E were very efficient, but I had to wait for a doctor to come down from the Urology department. All this time I was almost screaming with pain. Eventually a doctor saw me, a very nice young lady, but she had the problems with the extraction of the catheter, same as the District Nurse, and couldn’t get it out.

They put me in a darkened corner, but in a comfortable armchair. A young doctor invited me into a cubical and suggested I climb onto the bed.

“Lay back!” he ordered. I did as I was told and felt him fiddling about, suddenly there was a terrific surge of pain and I yelled, clearly heard by Eileen who was some distance away.  When I opened me eyes again the doctor stood before me looking at the extracted catheter in his hand, but the intense pain I had been feeling had gone!

I could only murmur “thank you!”

Coming back home in the car was a lot more comfortable than the journey out to the hospital!


Regrettably the winter floods have come back in the fields surrounding the village. It is not possible to enter the meadow or reach the lock. Water is gushing from the lock gates and across the middle of the field. The flood runs across the field in a semi-circle to the newly built bund. It is too deep to cross even with wellingtons on. The ducks would appear to be having a fine time. The new people at number Ten are managing to feed the ever-hungry swans and Canada geese. They are keeping up the fine tradition of Isabelle who fed the river birds for many years.

The Big Tree

The tallest tree on the riverbank now lays across the river, effectively blocking the river to all craft, whether going upstream or downstream. I have often wondered how high that tree was, and now I can see, from one bank to the other must be at least one hundred and fifty feet. A great heap of soil marks where the root has been torn from the ground and the shape river bank has altered dramatically. Many people have waded through the flood waters and mud, now going down since I wrote the previous paragraph, to take photographs of the fallen tree.

Strangely enough the ropes from which the youngsters swung themselves over the river still remain on the lower branches, but there won’t be any swinging from them again. It was a very dangerous thing to do for at that point the river has a swift current flowing against the bank.
For many, many years that big tree has been the focal point of craft using the river or pedestrians walking to and from Pangbourne. On one occasion, a Sunday, I saw a group of people laying down around the tree with their bare feet pointing towards the trunk. What was the purpose, and why they were doing it, I couldn’t fathom out. I assumed it was some form of religious ceremony, tree worshippers or something similar.
But now the tree has gone. It wasn’t even blown down by the gales, the riverbank appears to have subsided and one night the tree gracefully fell across the river. A part of the history of Purley has gone, it is all rather sad…

The garden

The grape vine has deposited its bunches of black grapes. The big leaves have turned yellow and brown and unfortunately dropped all over the patio and the furniture. Collecting the leaves is a never-ending job, as is the multitude of brown leaves which now litter cover the front lawn. The two big silver birch trees are virtually leafless, but the high hedge bordering the footpath is amass of golden berries. These will come in handy for the birds later on when the weather turns cold. The mistle thrush in particular enjoy these berries. John very kindly paid me a visit this weekend and has cleaned out the small gutter which runs along the back of the garage. I’m very pleased to have this done as we had water dripping from it when it rained.

Singing for Fun

Singing for Fun is going very well every Thursday afternoon from 2 o’clock until 4 o’clock. As well as the songs, Barry arranges a “Purley’s Got Talent” on occasion. I have the opportunity of reciting some of my poems to the seventy plus members – my largest audience by far! Barry, who is the maestro on the piano, has always kept copies of the dozen or so poems I have read to the very receptive gathering. Having heard about the mishap with my computer he had brought along copies of all the poems I have recited there. I have found some more poems on an old laptop, so I  still  might be able to compile my anthology of poems. Jane has very thoughtfully retained copies of all the poems which I have sent her and I’ve found some of the older ones on my first lap top computer

Bill Ayling