A day in the life with an unexpected twist & turn

Bill Heine

Bill Heine

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

Carers used to be the unsung heroes of Britain who have really lost the battle. Not any more. Now they have a song called Could You Be My Friend written by a three man team including the Oxfordshire Ambassador of The Carer’s Trust, Francis Rockliff, and Bob Heath, music therapist at Sobell House in Headington.

The song honours an estimated seven million unpaid carers in the UK aged between five and 95 who care for a relative or friend unable to manage alone because of old age, illness, disability or addiction.

HRH Princess Anne spoke at the launch dinner of the song at the Royal Windsor Racecourse.

“It would cost £119 billion each year to replace those who give so much to care,” she said.

She knew her subject. The words were informed and forceful. I sat directly behind her at the dinner and could see HRH scratching out and adding to the handwritten notes for her speech before she addressed the reception as President of the Carer’s Trust.

It could have been a safe, bland, polite event. It wasn’t. The Princess Royal arrived early, quietly, unannounced and talked to all the guests. I’m not what you might call an ardent royalist, but she knew how to work a crowd in a manner that was casual, fun and charming.

Princess Anne is a passionate professional who is not afraid to stand up for the downtrodden and she ended with a clarion call. “I hope you will go out and recognise carers who might not recognise themselves for what they do.”

The evening went on to take an unexpected turn or two. Before dinner the guests went to watch and bet on a race, the ‘Maiden Fillies’ Stakes’.

I walked over with the hostess of our table, Lady Martin (“Call me Judy, ‘Lady’ is so unnecessary) wife of Sir George Martin, producer of the Beatles’ albums. She is a keen race-goer, owns a horse through a syndicate and placed a bet which she promptly lost. ‘Loss’ was the theme of the race.

Some of these beginner fillies disgraced themselves their first time on the turf. Three fell. Jockeys bit the dust. One filly disappeared. The rumour was it bolted into the Thames and the boat traffic had to be halted. We never did find out what really happened to that horse.

Then there was the auction after dinner to raise funds for The Carer’s Trust. I thought I would chip in and bid so I brought along some cash. I took out £50 from my ATM, ready to help the cause out.

Our auctioneer was one Nick Bonham, who told us he didn’t claim to come from a dynasty but his family had been in the auction line for six generations. The last lot, a holiday at The Treasure Beach hotel in Barbados, went for a snip at £3,600.

The man sitting next to me at dinner, James Read, a pianist who also had a hand in composing the song to the unsung carers, said he had entertained guests attending another charity auction at David Beckham’s house where the bids were 10 times higher.

A simultaneous ‘silent auction’ also raised funds and included a seven day luxury South African safari, an original Picasso lithograph and an engraving by Salvador Dali.

It was an evening of surreal stuff that did not end at midnight on last Monday. I got home at 2.30am, the day my son was going to graduate and receive his PhD in quantum chemistry from Nottingham University.

He was getting ready to drive to Nottingham in the middle of the night so he could negotiate the rigours of the ceremony in the morning. His mother and I would drive up later in the day to watch his ‘big moment’.

But my son is one to find a ‘big moment’ whenever he can. “Dad, can you iron my blue shirt I plan to wear at the graduation?”

Yes, I am the only one in the family that does any ironing, so I went upstairs to prepare the shirt. Then he came out with it downstairs.

“Good grief. I’ve just seen a mouse walk out the front door. The front door, Dad. If the mice aren’t using the servants’ entrance, we’ve really lost the battle.”

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