We recently visited our family home of Bournemouth which in turn reminded us of some of the amusing anecdotes and rather odd events which happened in that somewhat different age. It gave us the chance to re-visit some old haunts and we had a thoroughly enjoyable three days there.

To give you a flavour, my father lived in 44 Christchurch Road, a place made memorable in our now grey matter as one of the flat's inhabitants was a mynah bird. I hope that kind readers may forgive me here, especially as I am now a churchwarden and verger, for quoting verbatim some somewhat blasphemous language which the bird picked up some seventy years ago.

The bird apparently knew its abode's address - Borty-bour CHRISTchurch Road before shrieking bugger at the avidly-listening guests. My grandmother, very much a "character" who delighted in answering to names such as Fossil and Honker amongst many others and whose vocabulary regularly included the words tiresome and irksome, was alarmed enough to ask my father where on earth the bird had picked up such bad language. In what may have been a difficult conversation, my father blamed his mother... Anyway, all these years on, we were pleased to stay in close vicinity at the Travelodge, borty-three Christchurch Road. Borty-bour appears to have gone and been replaced by a vast building of flats.

My trip started with a thumping headache, courtesy of standing in for the holidaying vicar and, if not taking the service, at least feeling that I had to check that everything was in place. Inevitably, one or two small matters (which the flock probably wouldn't have noticed had I not told them) led to my slight uneasiness but I left satisfied, even if my head didn't.

We had a circuitous drive from Swindon to Bournemouth and stopped off at Urchfont to visit the grave of my late friend and guru, Bill Frindall, to lay some flowers. The next stop was another cemetery, this time in Fordingbridge. The result can be seen in my Where Eagles Dare section: the grave of Neil McCarthy who played the part of Jock in the film, the one whom Burton suggests that his coffee may be best tasted cold after their parachute descent. We were pleased to find Neil's grave quickly, courtesy of finding someone's Youtube video celebrating the actor's film roles which also included Zulu.
My mum and dad's wedding reception was held just down the road at The Old Beams in Ibsley, sixty years ago in December. We stopped, and she said that it hasn't changed.

The only difficult part of the journey occurred at Ringwood when we were disappointed to find the road leading on to the dual carriageway towards Bournemouth closed. We interrupted a traffic warden nabbing an errantly-parked driver, and asked the way: yes, go towards Southampton and turn back. After my error in not eventually taking the first exit, a detour of some twenty miles. Petrol is still hardly cheap so it wasn't especially welcome.

Parking in Bournemouth is an onerous business but we were lucky to be able to park outside freely for the first night as it was a Sunday after which we, like everyone parking in the Travelodge, were filmed going in to use their 7 per day car park. It is at least underground.

We were very happy with the position of the hotel which is close to many of our family haunts which we enjoyed visiting. On our first full day, we visited St. Swithun's Church, now part of Lovechurch, and were kindly shown around by a pleasant lady. It's not the same now, though. My parents were married there, and I was christened there (likely causing pandemonium too. I am told that I was a stubborn baby, doubtless learning all the Taurean attributes early on...) We also saw the Lansdowne were my mum went to school and I went to college. The same place is now part of Bournemouth University but I am not proud enough to claim that I went to what is now Bournemouth University. It was then a college.

Our main visit on that first day was to go to Studland and Corfe Castle and it was a lovely day with nice weather. Oh dear, mention it quietly and not within ear shot of my mum, but the Sandbanks ferry - which she tells me has changed little - was not the proudest moment of her life many years ago when she took her younger sister to Sandbanks to watch the ferry but ended up on the highish seas around Poole Harbour and aboard the ferry after going into the wrong lane, missing the intended car park which had been their destination and ended up, well, not exactly on terra firma, as hoped for. She had stalled the car for good measure but the ferryman had insisted on letting her take the last available slot. Who pays the ferryman? Well, I guess that she did and it was likely more expensive than the car park. This time her journey on an open-top, double-decker bus was less fraught. It was my first time and most enjoyable. Mum recognised the car park which she hadn't found on that earlier occasion.

Although we didn't have the time to walk towards Old Harry Rocks, we visited the twelfth-century church of St. Nicholas which was quite beautiful. Swanage looked nice also but our stay was a brief one and one merely to change buses to go to Corfe. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in this quaint town with its historic castle. Last time I went, some thirty years ago, the weather wasn't great but we had delightful weather this time and had our lunch admiring the castle.

We returned the same way as we had come but the journey wasn't quite as successful. The bus left only slightly but unnecessarily late and after a part of the journey near Shell Bay where we were thrown about on the bumpy road, we still missed the ferry. It was windy too. The week before I had taken to a tree in our back garden to cut down a good deal of the ivy and ended up doing something to my knee which had me hobbling around for a couple of days before it miraculously and unexpectedly was healed; I went down to Bournemouth with the remnants of a headache which did go, but this day's injury was - presumably - doing something to my right elbow - further ligaments? - not straightening it often enough on the bus. Maybe age is now showing itself?
The Old Beams in Ibsley, where my parents held their wedding reception in 1962.
Old Harry Rocks, near Swanage.

My mother's trip aboard the Sandbanks ferry was less fraught than a previous voyage.

The delightful St. Nicholas Church at Studland.

Corfe Castle

Corfe and castle

A different take on wine and cheese, the culprit's identity being partially spared

Now part of Lovechurch, St. Swithun's was where my parents were married and I was christened.

Not Frankenstein's monster, but myself attempting to take a photo of the Shelley family tomb at St. Peter's in Bournemouth

The Shelley tomb and St. Peter's Church in Bournemouth, this time without interference

Christchurch Priory
The Lansdowne, Bournemouth: my mother and I were both educated here.
A monkey puzzle tree - but not the one we sought - in Wimborne Road Cemetery.
Where Eagles Dare actor, Neil McCarthy, is buried in Fordingbridge Cemetery.

We ate in a Wetherspoons in central Bournemouth by St. Peter's Church in the aptly-named The Mary Shelley, the Shelley family's grave being in St. Peter's. We visited it after our nice meal but the light wasn't quite good enough and I realise that capturing my shadow might make viewers think that they had seen Frankenstein's monster.

In one of the department stores nearby - it may have been Beales or Brights - I recalled meeting the now Sir Geoffrey Boycott and he quickly became my hero although, at the age of around 11, I think that I was trepidation of him. Not so much my mum who, when the signed bat wasn't immediately returned to us, asked the great man why he was keeping it. She was told that impatience would get her nowhere but he did at least call her Madam. He further explained that had he given the bat back to me earlier, I would likely "smoodge" his signature. Naturally, I still have the bat, unsmoodged. I think it fair to say that she did not warm as much to the England opener as I did but I am sure that she has mellowed since. (Mum's mum came from Yorkshire, incidentally).

That grandmother, another Taurean, of mine ran a guest house in Frances Road, near Bournemouth Station. She had a remarkable life: suffering from asthma, she moved to Bournemouth on the advice of her doctor at about the age of 18 and never suffered from it again, the pine trees, I am told, curing her affliction. She reached 100, and her death was a surprise such was her indestructability. She met her husband-to-be when she was a companion for an old lady in York Road which leads us to another tale. She was the said companion in 1935 when, a five-minute walk away, in Manor Road, a celebrated murder took place. That of Francis Rattenbury, a British/Canadian architect, who was battered by a mallet but only died four, presumably agonising, days later. His wife, Alma, and her lover, George Percy Stoner, in the Rattenbury's employ, both pleaded not guilty and the trial was one of the most sensational. Alma was acquitted, Stoner was sentenced to death but later had his sentence rescinded after support from the public. By the time of Stoner's reprieve, Alma had committed suicide near Christchurch. I have seen the Bournemouth house before but decided to try and find the spot in Christchurch where Alma took her life, in the belief that Stoner would lose his. My grandmother quite often talked about this case.

I got as close as rights of way allowed. I understand comments about unease about the internet but, assuming that information on it is generally reliable, I do find a treasure trove at times. This spot near Christchurch is unhelpfully on the borders of Hampshire and Dorset and, typically, I wrote to the wrong county first. Their definitive maps were most helpful and assured me that I could walk close to the spot as part of the Avon Valley Path walk. It is in a marshy and overgrown area and has doubtless changed since 1935 when Alma ended her life close to the Three Arches bend and bridge. With the help of Google Maps and the internet, it was possible to see the spot - if not reach it - and I was reassured to find in Sean O'Connor's excellent book on the subject, The Fatal Passion of Alma Rattenbury, that he too had come up with the same spot. I would also like to thank Janet Burn at the Christchurch Historical Society, based in Christchurch Priory, for her kind help. I met Janet afterwards and she and other volunteers do excellent work for people with enquiries. I suspect that other enquiries they receive might be easier than mine.

The Rattenburys are buried in Wimborne Road Cemetery in Bournemouth, as it happens just yards from my grandmother's house after she had moved from Christchurch Road. Francis's grave was unmarked for many years until a benefactor paid for a headstone which was quite easy to find. Alma's is close by but unmarked. Did I find it? Maybe, but there must be a doubt. So, whilst this might appear as a slightly ghoulish pursuit, it was nonetheless interesting. I had more success in this than we did trying to find a monkey puzzle tree which my parents had played on as teenagers. Hard as I tried, I can only assume that it has gone but the one place where they can be found in abundance is in Wimborne Road Cemetery.

I rather doubt that the extent of my readership extends to vast numbers and I would be surprised if anyone might have stayed at Bournemouth Backpackers in Frances Road. Who knows, though? If anyone has, that was the guesthouse which my grandparents ran, and which was then called Aston Glen. I am pleased to see that it hasn't changed much, although I have not been inside. It was that grandmother who became a centenarian.

Our last day was not a roaring success but, through it, we were home earlier than expected. The idea had been to visit the delightful cricket grounds of Swan Green and Lyndhurst & Ashurst. We saw neither because, after following a road which meant that I had to keep my wits about me but which went through beautiful New Forest scenery, road works in a previously unheard of village scuppered my attempts to find these delightful grounds. We had avoided the ponies on the road just minutes earlier, but a three-way crossing with lights proved beyond me and I was once again lost.

We went wrong also trying to find the final resting place of another well-known actor, Sir Michael Hordern, near Newbury. Hey ho, another time. It was a very pleasant trip.