Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, Saturday 14th March pm. For poor Fiona the journey between Ilchester and the hospital is a good hour 30 each way and between visiting hours there is a 2hour gap so the poor thing has to contend with a fairly rotten drive each way and then time to kill between visits. But fortunately she was able to arrange to have Friday off to catch up on a thousand and one things that have had to take second place over the past week or so by asking several dear friends to come and see me. Firstly, Fr Peter Farrell, the just about-to-retire vicar of St Cuthbert’s, Wells – Peter and Penny have been friends of ours since 1971 amongst our most valued and loved friends for nearly forty years. We spent some emotional time together, held hands, said a prayer and made some firm arrangements for days out, pub pensioners’ lunches and generally spending more time together in the days ahead. What delight to see you Peter. After a delicious hospital meal of fish and chips (not really delish!) friends from my first days in the RN, Canon Tony Ross and the delightful Joy spent an hour or so with me. Fr Tony was the first Chaplain I worked with the Navy in 1986 and he began to teach me the weird and wonderful ways of the Naval Chaplaincy Service. He was initially hard tack master and I confessed to him how much I had resented him telling me what to do as I was a young and thrusting priest with ambition. Over the years I have been able on many occasions at sea in the watches of the night to reflect upon his wisdom, knowledge and spirituality deeply immersed in Franciscanism which set me off on a naval career of 20 years – best years of my life (so far!). It was lovely to see them and pray together. They are now retired and living near Cirencester and, please God, we will pick up the pieces and see them again when my health has been completely restored. The evening visiting time was a FEAST. As I had four visitors so we had to de-camp from the bedside to the ward day-room where I sat in the hugest of chairs feeling a little like Andrew Marr or Libby Purvis on Radio 4’s Start the Week with my guests gathered around me. Firstly, dear buddy Capt Paul Whyte RFA who has been a stalwart of a chum, a real source of strength and practical help. Paul was accompanied by Kevin, a Sth African relation on a business trip to the UK and like Paul full of good whit, humour and excellent company. And then Lt Will Wernham and his beautiful new wife Dr Liz. Fiona and I were invited to their wedding, which we were sadly unable to make. Liz was at least twice as lovely as Will had said, not only in terms of looks but also with a sizzling, bubbly personality. And I am glad to say I got a kiss on both her arrival and departure. We all sat for and hour or so during which time I dispensed wisdom and emotion; Paul regaled us with stories of men overboard; Kevin spoke about life in Jo’burg; Will told us stories of a hygiene inspector in Sheffield and doc Liz managed to squeeze a few words in between. Altogether a superb, emotionally charged and fun-filled day that I shall long remember and value. Why value? Because I have learnt as much in these last few weeks about love, family, friendship and commitment that I had learnt in all my previous life. This has been one of the most extraordinary times of my life - it has been one long learning curve of how much people matter to each other. I have been fortunate to be blessed with a wonderful family and a long list of friends and chums, but to my shock I never really fully appreciated how deep love goes, how much we need it and how willingly people are to give of it when the chips are down. I have been deeply, deeply humbled and have been made inexpressibly grateful for every smallest act of kindest and consideration from people near and far. Thank you once again. Fiona is back with me today and we are looking forward to enjoying a take-a-way pizza tonight. I am eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s visit from great friends from Gibraltar, Commodore Richard and Denise Lord. Will try to update again on Monday.

Comments on this entry:

  1. Hello Graeme

    Tough time for you and the family I know, but loads of prayers from many people you’ve touched along the way will help you to beat this. Lots of love and best wishes to you, Fiona and the family from all here in Ladock.

    Rich and Fiona

    — Richard and Fiona Conybeare · Saturday 14 March, 2009 · #