BOB CURTIS: Why I'm just glad to be British
FROM the comfort of our 'mountain' home, scanning the distant waters of Torbay, the ancient binoculars picked out the small Russian tanker, Kapitan Zhikharev, at anchor, 'waiting for orders'.
The vessel's nationality, together with the approaching 'Time of Remembrance', drew this aging mind back many years when anchoring another Russian vessel, also seeking a safe anchorage.
It was the middle of November and still pinned to my old cap was a remembrance poppy.
Probably frustrated not to be headed towards a loading port, the Russian captain was not in the friendliest of moods and while sipping his coffee asked: "What is red flower in your cap, pilot?"
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I explained that leading towards November 11, the British people paused to remember those who had sacrificed their lives in different wars, so that the country could live in freedom.
The red poppy symbolised remembrance.
Gazing at the protective Torbay coastline, he shook his head.
"In my country, we fight; some men live, some die, but we remember only our victories."
Several thoughts flashed through my mind but being a guest on-board his vessel, my reply consisted of: "Steer 270 please, captain. Engine, half-ahead. Port anchor; six shackles in the water."
As Remembrance Day approaches, I'd like to remind readers about the special service to be held at Higher Brixham's St Mary's Church, on Wednesday, November 7, 7pm for 7.30pm.
Organised by the local branch of the Royal British Legion, the service will once again commemorate the nation's gratitude to those who fought and fell and are forever remembered.
The service will be attended by several Devon and Torbay dignitaries and, hopefully, members of Brixham's Town Council.
There will also be representatives from the three armed services, the merchant navy, coastguards, NCI and the Royal British Legion.
Also taking part will be the 'lads' from the Brixham Male Voice Choir, together with the town band and children from the Brixham's Primary School.
The combination of the 'mature' voices of the male voice choir, plus the innocent wonder of the youngsters' talents, together with the splendid music from the town band, will surely unite people in thoughtful remembrance.
Shepherding the congregation, the Rev Tim Deacon, prebendary, will lead his flock through the moving service of remembrance.
Thinking back, the grumpy Russian captain surely missed out on the meaning of community togetherness, but then, we're all different. I'm just glad to be British.
Three days later, heading out of Torbay, with orders to proceed to Africa to load a cargo of ore for Germany, the Russian was in a better mood.
After signing my paper and shaking hands, he said: "So, why your country remember the dead, pilot?"
I'd quietly replied: "Because, captain, they shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old."
He looked blank… but I didn't care.
IS it just happening to us, or does the rest of the country suffer from phone calls, mainly in broken English, from unknown sources, either trying to sell something or request we take part in some senseless survey?
The intrusion invariably happens while we're eating, or watching something interesting on TV.
Today, for instance, and it isn't yet midday, there have been four such calls.
Losing my rag a little with the last one, I demanded to know why he was calling me and where did he get my number from? Plus, no, I wasn't in the least bit interested in purchasing vintage wine as an investment.
Drinking the stuff, yes, but certainly not dipping into the pension to invest.
The person on the other end must have sensed my anger because the phone suddenly went dead.
After ranting at two different departments in BT regarding the 'invasion' of these constant daily nuisance calls, and threatening to change our service to another phone company, a young lady promised to sort it out.
She explained it might take a month and could only protect us from calls made in the UK… plus, it would cost.
She couldn't say how much this extra service was, or why they couldn't prevent cold-calls from abroad.
Anyway, we'll see.
In the meantime, I was advised to check all incoming calls and only answer those numbers I recognised.
What a lash-up.