CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Cummings’ Goings: Channelling your thoughts

PUBLISHED: 13:37 31 July 2014 | UPDATED: 13:37 31 July 2014

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach

Archant

BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Mark Cummings takes a trip to the D-Day battle sites, beaches and war cemeteries of Northern France

I want to share a few words and pictures with you from a recent long weekend in Normandy. After 48 years on this planet I finally made the trip to the D-Day battle sites, beaches and war cemeteries of Northern France.

So many people have said to me: “I’ve always wanted to do that but have never quite managed it.” If you are in this camp I hope I can persuade you to make the very simple, inexpensive but richly rewarding journey. In the run up to our adventure I’d had the privilege of talking to local D-Day vets, soaked up all the 70th commemorations and met the man who heard Eisenhower’s D-Day speech before anyone else.

Trevor Hill from Stinchcombe was 18 years old at the time and a sound engineer at the BBC in London. Just as he was ending his night shift he was warned that he might have to work a few hours extra. An American jeep pulled up outside the studios and he was handed a special tape. This was the iconic Eisenhower D-Day speech which he had to listen to before broadcast. He actually took the recording home with him for a few days before someone noticed it had gone!

I took all these memories with me on an overnight crossing from Portsmouth to Caen and over the next four days cycled to places where events 70 years ago changed the course of the war. I’m sure you’ve had enough history lessons about D-Day this year so I’ll just leave you with a few photos and a quick resume of the highlights.

I shared the adventure with five mates who all have the same inquisitive nature and a joy of learning. Starting off at the Merville battery you get a real sense of what needed to be ‘taken out’ first before the landing could start. We had a brush with some living history at Cafe Gondree at Pegasus Bridge. Madame Gondree was just 10 on D-Day and was there when a glider-borne unit of the British 6th Airborne Division was to land, take the bridge intact and hold it until relieved. The successful taking of the bridge played an important role in limiting the effect of the German counterattack. She rules the roost 70 years on and we had the most magical lunch in her cafe.

Over the next few days we explored Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah beaches, the American Cemetery at Omaha and the Mulberry harbour at Arromanches. We also visited the graves of the fallen at Bayeux and the sheer cliffs the allies scrambled up at Pointe du Hoc. If you manage a few days I beg you to pop over because you’ll be intrigued, touched, informed, moved and will never forget what bravery and sacrifice was displayed on D-Day.

*************

The cider connection

When I was about 18, I was in a pub with my Dad and my big sister’s new boyfriend. It was a northern pub and I was about to learn the cultured art of boyfriend baiting. I now use all the techniques passed on to me from my Dad on how to wind up your daughter’s boyfriend.

As we approached the bar we ordered our pints of thick, creamy Yorkshire bitter and then turned to Rick who requested... wait for it... half a dry cider!!!!! The pub went silent, tumbleweed blew eerily across the bar and my dad choked rather violently on his sip of Tetleys.

You might guess that I’ve never been a cider drinker - until now. Three events have converted me to the juicy apple and I am now compiling my defence for the inevitable inquisition on the next trip ‘home’. Firstly, during my French excursion I fell in line with my fellow travellers and downed some classic Normandy cider which I have to say tasted fresh, cold, natural and delicious. However was this just the right drink in the right place? We move onto defence number two. I was sitting in Laurie Lee’s old school house in Slad as part of his centenary celebrations listening to villagers reading extracts from Cider with Rosie and everyone was drinking cider... well it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it? Tasted yummy. And finally the clincher. After an evening drinking Bayeux dry of its cheeky apple juice we all agreed that our yearly surfeit of apples shouldn’t be left to the burrowing wasp. We all bemoaned our abundance of many varieties of apples and agreed to search eBay for a cheap cider press and produce our own Cotswold classic. I present this defence to the jury and hope it meets with your approval. By the way, that boyfriend who ordered a half of Strongbow 30 years ago is still married to my big sister.

*************

Adult learning

In the last month I’ve signed up to an art foundation course in Stroud, another one in Bath and ended up in a group interview for a job at Waitrose. The reason for this mid-life career evolution is simple. Every time I take my 17 year daughter to an open evening or job interview I get swept into the adrenaline-fuelled atmosphere of the occasion and each time it seems I get mistaken for a mature student or a jobseeker. No-one considers I might be her Dad so I just go along with the flow. So I’ll be doing fashion textiles at Stroud, ceramics at Bath and Tuesday and Thursday evenings on the checkout at Waitrose.

*************

AUGUST THOUGHTS:

Did you spot them?

Last month, as a tribute to the article in CL with the Genesis legend Tony Banks, I impregnated my column with some of the band’s song titles. Here they are. Behind the Lines, Many too Many, Misunderstanding, Land of Confusion, Ripples, In Too Deep, Supper’s Ready and Illegal Alien.

Go on Jack...

My scribbling for this month’s column had been temporally interrupted to visit my daughter’s school to view her form’s art project. As I was just admiring her work I got a tap on the shoulder from expert artist and former cricketer Jack Russell. We caught up on old times and I told him about my recent visit to France. Jack is a keen expert on military history and has a special interest in the Glorious Gloucester regiment. Strangely, like many, he hasn’t done the Normandy trip and is desperate to visit Pegasus Bridge. I implored him to do it and I will be sending him a copy of this month’s edition to hopefully send him on his way

Phone with no home...

If someone passes you a cheap pay-as-you-go phone and tells you to answer it at 8.40 am it’ll be me on the other end. This game has been going on for a few weeks and has led us to interviewing many fascinating people. Any device to take us out of our comfort zone on air should be encouraged. I’ve interviewed headteachers, herring sellers, single mums, Severn Trent leakage experts, novelists and ministers. It doesn’t always work however. On a few heart-stopping occasions it hasn’t been answered, I’ve called the wrong number and once it was given to a delivery driver in Stroud and we haven’t seen it since.

*************

This article by Mark Cummings is from the August 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.

For more from Mark, follow him on Twitter: @cummingsradio

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

One hundred years ago this month the guns fell silent, marking the end of what was to become known as The Great War. Stephen Roberts remembers the impact the war had on Cotswold lives from 1914-1918

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations throughout the Cotswolds to visit if you dare

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New bat cams installed at Woodchester Mansion help study protected breeds while also becoming an added attraction for visitors. Jo Barber looks at the work of one of the UK’s foremost bat experts and the mansion’s valued volunteers

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From an all-boy, all boarding prep school for just 30 pupils, to the quietly trailblazing yet still traditional school it is today – here is a snapshot of Beaudesert over its 110-year history

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Of all the castles in the region, none have seen as much war, romance and royalty as Sudeley over its dramatic 1,000-year history. And with such a colourful and eventful past, it is easy to see why some people believe there could be spirits from bygone eras which still wander the halls and corridors to this day

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Following a record year for ‘visitor giving’ donations via local businesses, applications are invited to fund conservation projects

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

What started as a business ploy by one Cotswold firm has developed into an inspirational garden

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

If a bit of English eccentricity is your thing, spend an enjoyable afternoon exploring the delightful follies of Faringdon

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search