The Herald of Free Enterprise sinks and is yet to be righted with scores missing

Some family successes with Daniel and Debbie at school and some illnesses overcome and Daniel gets ‘Little Lady’ for his 15th birthday as we turn to outside pursuits as the Spring weather takes its time to come and I hatch plans for a new conservatory and koi carp pond,  looking to bring my Little Paxton History project to a conclusion. Thatcher’s Tory government is losing popularity and by-elections despite her visits to Russia where she at first opposes arms limitation but then becomes more optimistic but she makes some controversial political/industrial calls favouring the US and many of our arms weapon scientists are killed in suspicious circumstances. More problems between Iran/Iraq, in Ulster, with industrial relations as the budget solve little and unemployment is high. The Herald of Free Enterprise sinking and mass Spanish food poisoning deaths leads the stories of other mass disasters to boot.


March has been a poor month for weather that may have started and ended mild, but had some very cold, windy and wet weather in between. Gales carried our dinghy across the lawn and into the river one night and the so-called ‘Killer Storm’ produced 99mph winds which ripped down branches, whipped up spray from the river and demolished some of my fences and others locally.  It also toppled Waresley Church Tower, shredded two airships in Cardington and killed ten people throughout the UK. The buds are waiting ready to sprout and the first daffodils are just out and so spring should soon start, after its delay. I was nursed a sore back much of the time and Della has had chicken pox but still retained her appetite, but we have been saved any heavy influenza this winter. My mum Grace has had her hip operation and is half way through a long period of confinement to bed and we visited her in hospital but only after she had a relapse with chest pains from a possible blood clot. Daniel celebrated his 15th birthday, has started shaving and rejoices in my gift of his new boat, a Viking 17 ‘Little Lady’, and petrol supplies are granted for his hard work at school.

We are pleased at his being allowed to take ‘O’ level maths this coming June, his success at the ‘mock’ practise exam and in being promoted to the top set accordingly which only came after a big fight with the school. We were relaxing together watching TV boxing as Daniel welcomed Steve with games of chess afterwards and then live football this afternoon. Debbie has similarly succeeded in gaining admission to Kimbolton Preparatory School on her own merit as she successfully competed amongst 59 candidates for 40 places and now starts next September, whilst still enjoying her horse-riding lessons. We overcame some family crisis incidents this month with Di struggling over responsibility for the children at times and there was an atmosphere of conflict after differences with Diana over Della’s behaviour but things improved with the weather and after we bought Quadro for the children to assemble and play with outside. The new boat was a performance, first collecting ‘Little Lady’ with Daniel and Steve from Walton-on-Thames, then securing boat parts at Harry Kitchener, LH Jones and finally a propeller from Ely Boat Chandlery and I celebrated the arrival by  laying 40m of power cable to the moorings. We all wait for the start of the spring weather and it will soon be time for the river piling to begin and to take the winter cover off of The Lady and start work. I went out to clear the gutters, downpipes and dovecotes and restored water to the moorings. The house and garden are fine, the alterations now satisfactorily made to the swimming pool boiler room, in line with gas regulations, and now that my history project is well underway, my attention has now switched to the possibilities of a Koi carp and enclosing conservatory, which is quite exciting. I visited The Avenue Koi fishery for advice from Steve Field on pond filtration and planning my new conservatory and koi-carp pond and also discussed the idea with Dad and Nigel who concur. Nigel asks me to be the Godfather to Kate and Ashley and I also had a visit from John Lamb and took him over to Nigel’s Hail Weston House to review the landscaping operations. The ducks have resumed laying and so I started restoring the swimming pool for the season and cleaning out the duck house. On one trip to St Ives for coffee and the general auction we passed a hunt in full regalia One set back as our young white dove chick is lost to local cats. With the longer daylight and growing outside attractions, I am making efforts to get my Little Paxton history to a reasonable stopping point after more visits to Huntingdon archives and the St Neots Local History Society. Di has booked a weekend in Brighton for us and some sun would be nice.  Elsewhere, the conflicts still abound with none solved. The Tory budget went off like a bit of a damp squib and Tory Harvey proctor mows down 10 students and survives a bid to oust him as MP and so UK politics has seen an encouraging rise (for me) in popularity for the SDP/Liberal Alliance, after a couple of successful bi-elections. The inquest of David Penhaligon revealed that he was not wearing his seat belt but Matthew Taylor wins Truro for the Liberals and becomes the youngest MP with a huge majority and Roy Jenkins was elected Chancellor of Oxford University, beating two right wingers to do it. The trust of personalities takes a jot as Lester Piggott is charged with both Vat and tax fraud and Guinness Director Thomas Ward admits taking a £5m payment and, the government is criticised over Westland helicopters. Three Sicilian leaders of a Mafia drugs smuggling operation were convicted in the UK. After gilts soared earlier due to delays in interest rate decreases before the budget, Chancellor Lawson’s Budget reduced Income Tax and seemed to be designed to curry favour with a possible June election in mind, banks cut their base rates from 11% to 10.5%, as sterling soared and so the stock exchange seems ready to fall sharply and I am ready for that. However news of a 10% increase in Prescription Charges did not go down well and the NCB wants miners to work a six-day week! In a month of unrest, another 30,000 teachers, in 11 education areas, staged ½ day strikes affecting 1.8million schoolchildren.. British Rail will have to shed 1400 jobs before privatisation and the UK Stock Exchange recorded its record one day fall over fears of a US/Japanese trade war. Rows emerge after unemployment figures are published and record numbers of UK nurses are leaving because of poor conditions. Ken Baker gets Royal assent for his Education Bill but there is controversy over the government ‘pulling’ a Health Education Council press conference on inequality for the rich and poor over treatment. The management of the Caterpillar factory in Strathclyde win a court order to evict 800 protesting strikers. However,  the court of appeal in London has made legal history by directly applying European Community Law directly in an equal pay case, but the defendant employers may still appeal to the House of Lords. In news of other disasters, The Herald of Free Enterprise capsizes at Zeebrugge, trapping countless passengers after water flooded in through open bows doors and they soon find 52 dead bodies are found with 80 people still unaccounted for. A Danish ship full of explosives is still drifting off of the Cornish coast and they say 17 trawlers have now been sunk by submarine net snagging off of the Irish coast. A huge explosion at BP’s Grange Mouth plant, killing a crane driver, with a bang that could be heard 20 miles away. More feuds and bombs lead to deaths in Ulster and more feuds and bombs lead to deaths in Ulster news of the INLA feud continuing with 9 more deaths Charles Haughey has become the new Republic of Ireland Prime Minister for the third time, but only after the Speaker of the Doyle had to use his casting vote. English football clubs remain banned in Europe, a youth is cleared in the PC Blakelock trial but Wilson Silcott and others are convicted of the murder by confessions only, which is dangerous for justice. There is some disquiet over Thatchers stance towards Russia and US President Reagan’s criticism of the UK Labour party’s peace policies. Thatcher tries sabotaging the East/West nuclear arms limitation by linking progress to civil rights and is at first fearful at the prospect of France and the UK losing our nuclear deterrent if East West Arms talks succeed. In some questionable political industrial decisions, Thatcher’s government has given the go ahead for an American-designed pressurised water reactor for installation at Sizewell and the  BAC Chairman threatens to pull out of the Four-Nation European Air Bus project unless grant aid comparable with partners is available. The former MI5 agent, Peter Wright, is awaiting the judgement of the secrets case in Australia and yet another top secret defence worker has died in suspicious circumstances giving rise to the conspiracy theory that The Russians are decimating the western arms scientists as one tactic in levelling their apparent disadvantage against the US/UK star wars programme. News then emerges of Terry Waite being held hostage as a ‘suspected US Spy’.  Then Thatcher got on better with her Gorbachev/USSR trip, falsely hoping that it would restore the Tories popularity but at least she ended up no longer seeming set on ruining the chances of intermediate nuclear disarmament. There are harsh measures including £1,000 airline fines against Tamil refugees.  Reagan suffered in the wake of his Arms deal confessions, with more US finance scandals breaking as the US is intent on keeping open the Straits of Hormuz in the Gulf despite Iraqi war planes attacking the Iranian oil pipeline terminal at Ganaveh after former recent attacks on the Kharg oil terminal. South African Archbishop Tutu was warmly received by a packed Westminster Abbey congregation after which news broke of  South African journalists resign over government pressure on reporting because details of the latest South African conflicts were concealed by government censorship as Zulus die. The trial starts in Spain of the alleged perpetrators of the huge poisonous cooking oil scam that it is claimed killed over 500 people and crippled tens of thousands of others but agricultural chemicals might have been to blame. An Italian Air Force General, Licio Giorgieri, has been shot dead, a fatal ski lift crash in Luz Ardiden kills six and injures more than 100 passengers and massive earthquake hits New Zealand. The Medina treasure ship has been found and its valuable contents being recovered as salvage.