My wife, Jeannette, keeps all our old diaries, and the details are there. Sunday 19 June, 1983, Father’s Day, my parents had come to stay for the weekend. Lord and Lady Carrington were opening their gardens at Bledlow Manor, and it sounded like a very good way to spend an afternoon together. With our two daughters as well – they would have been 6 and 8 years old at the time – it must have been a bit of a crush in our four-seater family car. It was a lovely sunny day, and the girls quickly set off to explore the glorious gardens and grounds. Unfortunately, our younger daughter, hastening to keep up with her sister, tripped and gashed her forehead on the corner of a low brick wall. Quite a bit of blood, but Lady Carrington appeared from nowhere and gave us a napkin to help stem the flow. Then off to the Accident and Emergency Department at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, several x-rays and seven stitches in the brow. (It’s amazing how much detail Jeannette put in the diary.)
On Friday 9 July this year, 38 years later, I returned to Bledlow Manor for the first time since that accident, helping as one of Scannappeal’s volunteers to marshal all the cars on arrival in the morning, and checking guests in during the afternoon. I had the napkin with me, its authenticity confirmed by the initial ‘C’ woven in red in one corner. Washed and ironed all those years ago and kept in our airing cupboard, it has never been used since. Happily, Scannappeal Volunteer Co-ordinator, Anne Rodgers was able to introduce me to the present Lord Carrington during the morning, and I could return the napkin to its rightful home and acknowledge again the concern shown by his mother, and the kind and willing gesture she had made all those years ago.
Both Lord Carrington’s parents and mine have died during the intervening years, but perhaps the humble napkin served to prompt memories of those happy times.