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Allan and Debbie's Family

A little bit of history

It was hot. Very hot. It was the summer of 1976, and we were getting married at Ashtead in Surrey. It was the usual sort of wedding - a thief had stolen Debbie's underwear from the washing line, we weren't speaking to each other after a row the night before, Debbie's brother who was supposed to be taking her to the Church had got stuck in a traffic jam, and everybody was wilting in the heat. After the ceremony Debbie went to get changed, and had to wring the sweat out of her dress. But everything was just fine, except that most of the canals had dried up so on our honeymoon we had to choose a new route to avoid the closures in the drought.

Soon we moved to Leighton Buzzard where we could buy a 3-bedroom house with the money from selling the maisonette in Mitcham (South London). We bought a dog whom we called Sian, the first of our many rescue dogs, and set about raising a family. David and Vicki were born in due course, which meant that the much-loved Triumph GT6 sports car had to go, and was replaced by a rather ancient and battered Triumph Herald Estate. Another dog Cindy joined us, so the house soon became too small. Our time was certainly full what with keeping the rather crumbly old house standing, taking the dogs to training classes, going on camping holidays and hiring canal boats every summer, working as a weekend pilot for the Wyvern Shipping company, being a keen Radio Amateur (G3XJO) and founder-member of the Leighton-Linslade Amateur Radio Society, brewing enormous quantities of rather potent wine, and bringing up the children. Debbie was working as part-time secretary to the landlord of The Cross Keys pub in Leighton Buzzard and I was working not only full-time for BT but also part-time as Technical Director and electrical circuit builder for the fledgling TCD which became the largest manufacturer of cameras in the UK. Ultimately TCD built cameras for a number of illustrious clients including Hasselblad and Agfa, and our largest camera (which cost over 30,000) was somewhat unusual in having a Sinclair Spectrum as its built-in controller.

After a few years we traded the house in for a new, bigger one at Newton Longville, and also traded in the tent for a new bigger one with wheels (yes, a Trailer Tent!). The house had been the show-house for the estate, so it was fully fitted (except that being for show, none of the curtains were big enough for the windows which were all nailed shut anyway, and there were no internal doors). In the spare room was a magnificent mirror-fronted wardrobe, but I don't think its designers ever intended it to conceal a massive Amateur Radio station. We had many happy years in Newton Longville and made many good friends, before deciding to trade 4 fixed bedrooms for 3 fixed ones and two floating ones.

We bought our first boat "Thistle" with the proceeds of the house (and trailer-tent) sale, except that our house purchase fell through when the vendor doubled the price after we had signed the contract, so it was lucky that we had an understanding bank manager. It took us 6 tense months to find a house that we liked, near to the canal in Milton Keynes. As work became increasingly pressurised there was no time for winemaking or amateur radio; I was grateful to be able to retreat to the sanctuary of the canals, and looked forward to being able to spend more time on them. After 4 years we sold Thistle and commissioned the building of our current boat "Keeping Up".

Our children grew up and left home, our travels on Keeping Up and abroad became more ambitious, and work became more and more demanding until I took early retirement and we reached the position we are in today.



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