Taking a walk through Alameda gardens is something -he says trying to hide his bias and failing miserably – everyone should do at least once in their life; it should be on their bucket list alongside visiting the Taj Mahal (and climbing the Mediterranean Steps of course). That’s probably not the sort of thing people would expect an 18 year old sailor to say and I don’t deny my shipmates found it just a little odd; there is sometimes a certain expectation on testosterone fuelled young men to do what most people expected testosterone fuelled young men to do.
But one of the fabulous things about life in the Royal Navy is that everyone loves and respects each other’s passions in life. Sportsmen are supported, artistic achievements are applauded, all sorts of individual and team efforts are encouraged from chess and long distance running to rugby and the Field Gun Crew.
Many of my friends new something of my childhood days and how as a result I loved to wander, climb, discover, meet new people and just enjoy the beautiful aspects of our world as a sort of cathartic way of diluting past pains and replacing negative memories with lovely ones. There was a sort of unspoken understanding. Throughout my life I’ve often found peace in writing and in the arts as can be seen on my website spailpinfanac.com and my skills with a pencil were always very much appreciated by my shipmates; I often illustrated their letters home to their loved ones.
Looking up from Alameda gardens I could see quite an imposing triangular building which I later discovered was Trafalgar House. I could never have known that one day I would live there with my family. After the RN failed the flat above the Angry Friar I went off and found another one on the top floor of Trafalgar House and it passed their inspection. It wasn’t long before I set up my arty corner.
Alameda gardens are not exceptionally vast but are very beautiful; they are built on a gentle slope almost in front of the Rock Hotel. The Rock Hotel has a reputation of being very exclusive to wealthy people and looking up at it from Alameda I would never have thought that in a few years time my wife and I would have the occasional evening out there when we could afford it. Casting my memory back I think they had a steak night with bingo on a Friday and it was a real treat if we were able to get a sitter for the girls, dress up a little and enjoy a walk out from our home at 21 Edinburgh House.
As I walked around Alameda I felt as though I was in that film Labyrinth with the fabulous David Bowie; the paths through the gardens were both wide and narrow winding around beautiful tropical plants, herbs, shrubs and statues. Every so often there was somewhere to sit and just think, reflect or ponder. I sat on a concrete bench along one of the slimmest of paths where there were a variety of amazing cacti. As I admired the cacti I saw a group of young scouts walking along one of the other paths a few yards away. Some years later I would be asked to design a First Day Cover for the same Scout Troop and although the artwork wasn’t particularly brilliant I was pleased to be asked. Being asked to do something like that felt like being accepted, as though I belonged.