Boarding at Freemantle, Western AustraliaSingaporeAfter nearly six weeks we sailed from Freemantle in another Russian ship M.V. Turkmenia, a smaller vessel, to sail through the Indian Ocean and thence the Java Sea to Singapore. We found the contast remarkable; Perth was burnt brown by the hot sun but Singapore was beautifully green. I was invited to a meeting with the British High Commissioner to discuss trade and drove in his car with him to attend a luncheon of businessmen at which I was to give an after lunch address. It was a unique experience to drive through the streets of Singapore with the Union Flag flying on the front of the car, my thoughts going back to the time not long before when Singapore had been occupied by the Japanese. Mabel was the mainstay of our retirement years and centre of enjoyment in the years we shared with our family. We took immense pride in the way our son and daughter faced up to challenges of life and thoroughly enjoyed the enormous privilege of sharing in the lives of their children – our five grandchildren. We wanted to reach out to our own parents and have them share in all this love that surrounded us.We kept active in ‘public’ life as Mabel supported and worked hard beside me when I was chairman of appeal to raise the money to build St Mary’s Hospice in Birmingham. She helped with the letters we sent out, roped in her friends and held ‘At Homes’ at Westerly. She also loved working for the Methodist Church and when I became Church treasurer was active in all the efforts to keep our little corner of the Methodist Ministry well-funded for the work it had to do. We still had official functions to attend but travel was part and parcel of our life together.We were fortunately to be able to travel extensively in America, a country she loved to visit and once declared she could happily settle in San Antonio, Texas. Mabel always enjoyed New York found it exciting place to visit, but was full of interest in whereever she went and usually added to her long list of friends. When crossing in the QE2 we met a family from Long Island and Mabel corresponded regularly with them and in due course spent time at their home of several acres just an hour from the centre of New York! Mabel also liked Bermuda.
In South Africa when we visited Cape Town she was appalled at the inhuman regime of apartheid. Whilst waiting at a bus stop on our way to go to the top of Table Mountain, got in conversation with a coloured lady and she and Mabel were obviously delighted to meet each other. When the bus arrived Mabel urged her forward to enter the bus ahead of her but the lady said ‘Oh, no! I have to use the rear entrance!’ Mabel was so concerned and during our time there fretted at the injustice which could thrive in such a beautiful country.One of the many interesting holidays we had during our ‘retirement’ was a couple of weeks in Israel: we wanted to visit the Holy Land. We stayed in Netanya, between Tel Aviv and Haifa, our hotel on the cliff-top with magnificent views over the Mediterrean. We walked a lot and travelled on various tours, including a visit to Jerusalem and many of the Holy places, but in Jerusalem we were sadly disappointed by the rampant commercialism at the Holy sites. It was only when we stood by the Sea of Galilee that we could feel the special peace of the Holy Land and feel that you were close to where Jesus had once walked. On another tour we passed a geat number of defensive sites and burnt-out tanks lying by the side of the road as we journeyed up to the Golan Heights which were captured from Syria the land of the New Testament.After completing my year as President of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, at which the Prime Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher attended my banquet as guest of honour and when I proposed the toast to Her Majesty’s Ministers, we set off for a six-week trip to Canada and America. My wish was to cross the Rockies by train and Mabel wanted to visit America to see the Grand Canyon. We travelled by air to Toronto and then armed with Canadian Railway travelcards for three weeks unrestricted travel, we made our way to Montreal and then to the beautiful city of Quebec and visit the Plains of Arabham. We had decided as we would be in and out of trains that we should travel light and keep our bagage to the minimum. However a few days before we left we attended a dinner and were seated next to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham and whilst talking to him about the first ever trade mission coming from Canada to Birmingham, he warmly responded to my suggestion that he might like me to hand a personal letter in to the Prime Minister’s office when we passed through Ottowa to say how delight he was as Lord Mayor that the Canadian Trade Mission had chosen Birmingham and was very much looking forward to greeting them. When I went to collect the letter found he had decided to send with it a set of engraved crystal goblets to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and suddenly we were encumbered with this delicate parcel which Mabel and I had fears of getting broken en route or mislaid or stolen at our various stopovers. We had a ritual of asking for the package to be locked up in the Hotel safe! When Mabel and I called to hand over the crystal goblets engraved with the Birmingham Coat-of-Arms a message was sent to the Prime Minister who was leading the debate about the transferrence of powers from Westminster to the Canadian Parliament. He sent his Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to meet us and to convey his apology as his presence was required in the Commons. We had coffee with him as we sat and talked about our plans to cross Canada he suggested we make a point of visiting Vancouver Island.