July 23, 2021

We speak on the phone by appointment now.

By John Guy LaPlante

I talk with two long-time friends who live far away from me, in a suburb of Washington, D.C. called Kensington, which is actually in Delaware.

Their names are Nigel and Olwen.

Our latest chat finally happened. It was wonderful. I look forward to the next one.

Oh, most of you know how old I am. Well, I will be 92 very soon. Nigel and Olwen are a full generation younger than I am.

They are Mr. and Mrs. Excuse me, Doctor and Mrs., although Nigel is totally unpretentious about that.

I won’t give you their last name. Privacy may be important to them.

But if you want to play detective, it will be easy for you to find it.

If you know anything about first names, you know that Nigel and Olwen are English names. I mean British English names. Just as you know that Antonio and Maria are Spanish names.

It’s entirely possible, of course, that Nigel and Olwen were born in the United States. Not so. They were born in England and they emigrated here.

I will tell you more about this in a minute.

In fact, I knew Olwen in person long before I got to know Nigel.

That’s because Olwen and I, oh, some 25 years ago, used to write for the same small weekly newspaper in Connecticut.

I was living in the small town of Deep River on one side of the great and beautiful Connecticut River, and she was living on the other side of the Connecticut in the small and beautiful town of Old Lyme, which was within sight of the open Atlantic.

I knew about Nigel but did not get to meet him for years. That’s because he was hundreds of miles to the west.

Back in London, where he was born and grew up, he got a Ph.D. in veterinary medicine and nutrition.

In Terre Haute, Indiana, Groton, Connecticut, and Kalamazoo over a period of time, he had working as a Pfizer biochemist.

Every two weeks or so, he would fly home to spend a few days with Olwen and their four kids in Old Lyme. Then back to the job he’d go.

As always, Olwen was very busy mothering their children plus much, much more.

She was a descendant way back of a publisher of a big newspaper in England and took pride in that. That made her right for running a newspaper, I would say.

And she was awfully good at something quite akin to journalism, which is public relations.

Her principal bread and butter job was to nurture an online, that is to say a digital, newspaper called LymeLine. Its online name was www.lymeline.com. Such digital newspapers were quite novel back then.

She wrote a lot of its contents, got others to write for it, and edited and posted it most days.

I contributed to it. In fact, so often that she labeled me one of her LymeLine columnists. She called my column Senior Moments because even back then I qualified to be a senior.

She’d let me write about anything I wanted to. She paid me a few dollars. it was a good deal for her and a good deal for me.

Oh, this is important. To its readers, LymeLine was free, whether they looked at it every day or every month or so.

You can take a look at it right now if you are interested. It won’t cost you a penny.

Yes, she’s still publishing it after these many years. Yes, from that suburb in the D.C. area. Or from Denver, when they visit one of their kids there. Or England, when she’s visiting there. Or from wherever they happen to be on vacation!

And she could even from my Morro Bay, California home, though she’s never been here.

She has managed to cover the expenses and make a profit by posting digital ads that are paid by local businesses and organizations.

Back in Old Lyme, she also did something else that was quite remarkable. Old Lyme had a small but quite well-known art school. It was called the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts. It had a fine reputation.

Olwen was appointed Director of Marketing and Public Relations and subsequently became part of the Senior Management team at the College.

And she handled those two jobs, at LymeLine and the College, simultaneously.

As you know by now, Olwen was hard-working, clever, and ambitious. And is still running LymeLine today, although she is now a grandmother.

Well, one day long ago I suggested to her that she start a similar digital newspaper on my side of the Connecticut River to cover my town of Deep River plus several adjoining small towns.

I was active in Deep River Rotary. Every Rotary Club in the world feels that it has to promote its town in good, positive ways. And I had thought of a new way–Olwen’s proposed new digital newspaper.

Deep River did have a regular small-town weekly paper.

But a free digital newspaper! Wow!

Our club met every Tuesday for lunch, and every Tuesday invited a speaker to come and speak to us about something interesting and stimulating.

I suggested we invite Olwen to come and tell us about her new venture. She did, and so well that it resulted in the ValleyNewsNow. Both digital newspapers still exist, and she still produces them from wherever she happens to be.

At the moment it is in a small, suburban, quite affluent community called Kensington, MD, where she and Nigel now reside. It is in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

As I said, it’s from there that to this very day she produces those two online newspapers week after week.

By the way, you, wherever you are, in a few minutes can reach, read and check out those two digital papers.

So I have gotten to know Olwen quite well. And as time went by I got to know Nigel better and better.

I got to hear interesting things about him How every fall, he would order a couple of cords of good, dense firewood and have it dumped in his yard.

And every fair day he would take 30 or 45 minutes and go out to that woodpile, and bit by bit with his chainsaw and maul would cut the big pieces to the right length and split it and stack it up neatly.

And from Thanksgiving Day through the first day of Spring, they’d have a fire going in their living room fireplace. Letting it practically die out at bedtime and firing it up again in the morning.

Of course, they also had regular, thermostat-controlled heat every day.

One day Olwen invited me over for dinner. It turned out Nigel was the chef. One of his creations was spaghetti squash. Totally new to me. Delicious. I said yes to a second helping. He told me how to prepare it.

I still make it now and then if I happen to see a spaghetti squash in the supermarket.

Oh, he’s also the one who told me about quinoa. Also new to me.

Then he became interested in honey bees. As we know, they are essential to just about every vegetable and fruit that all of us humans eat on a daily basis.

He bought a beehive full of the best kind of honey bees, read up about them, built a brand new hive for them, and with a beekeeper’s tightly netted hat on and his hands protected by gloves and his beekeeper’s smokepot going, would calm the bees and remove their raw honey and process it for friends and others who enjoyed honey.

Another time he became interested in building stone walls. Stone walls, as is well known, hold together through frost and flood for decades with no cement to prevent the walls from collapsing.

New England is covered with miles and miles of such stone walls.

He studied stone walls, was tempted to build a fine one on their property in Old Lyme, and then decided not to because there just were not enough hours in the day.

Oh, he loved to bicycle. They lived near a beautiful small state park. Every morning he’d bike into the park with their dog running alongside.

I was a biking enthusiast also although I never rode with him.

By the way, he still bikes in that D.C. area and Olwen pedals along with him.

Oh, one day I found out Nigel knows a lot about computers. He was showing me his office at home. He had a computer with not just one screen. Two screens! He would use the second screen to look up information he needed for what he was working on in the first screen. Much faster and efficient, he told me.

It turned out he was a computer expert. Here’s one example.

I often wanted to illustrate my posts with a photo or two. And just could not make them the right density, or the right whatever.

I would email them to him, wherever he was. He would make them right, then email them back to me. Problem solved!

It was back then that I found out that Nigel enjoyed doing IRS and state tax returns for people who needed a hand and couldn’t afford to pay for the service.

He’d set up in a public library or some other free space and help people with their returns. Did many.

There came a day back in Deep River, Connecticut, where I was living then, that I got the idea of moving to Morro Bay to be closer to my daughter Monique and son-in-law David. And I did that.

But my beautiful Hyundai Sonata was still back in Deep River. I had been in poor health and couldn’t undertake the drive on my own at that time. I happened to tell Nigel how much it was going to cost to have the car transported to Morro Bay and he just said, “I’ll drive it there for you, if you like!”.

Nigel told me that he would drive it the 3,000 miles or so to Morro Bay. Just he. Not Olwen. She had to take care of all those kids! He would do it for free. He would keep track of the gas and oil he bought and other expenses.

He’d stop at famous national and state parks to stretch his legs and take photos. And would arrive in Morro Bay on the day and date originally specified.

And all that happened.

He met Monique and David. He insisted on staying in a local motel. He got to see my very nice mobile home, a new experience for him. I drove him around to show him some of our attractions. It turned out it was his first time in California.

I enjoyed it all.

On the last day, I settled up with him and drove him to the airport for his flight home.

Oh, one more interesting thing about him.

When he and Olwen decided to leave Old Lyme, it was because they wanted to live closer to one of their adult children where they had settled.

They would sell their beautiful home in Old Lyme.

Nigel had become a very adept handyman–carpentry, plumbing, painting, wallpapering, you name it. He did a lot of that.

They’d get a better price for their house. And that happened.

As they moved around, they bought a house here and a house there. He’d choose a house that needed upgrading. Do all that work. Live in it for a while, then sell it. Then find another and do the same thing. Nigel, mind you, a Ph.D. Pfizer scientist. How about that?

Well, months went by with no contact between us. We were all very busy. I had a serious hospital stay, then several months in an assisted living community.

Then came the Covid-19 pandemic.

I wondered about him and Olwen. One day I put in a call to him. He didn’t pick up.

A day or two later he called back. He apologized. Said they were fine. Had been busy doing taxes again. That would be over soon. Then we would plan a nice long phone conversation.

So we made an appointment. I would call him on Wednesday morning, March 3, at 8:00 a.m. Pacific time, which would be 11:00 a.m. Eastern time for him.

And he told me Olwen would be there with him. They would both pick up. And we’d have a nice long chat, the three of us.

That all happened. It was wonderful. I’m sure we’ll do it again.

I can’t wait.

Comments

  1. This is lovely. So he’s has a PhD at Pfizer? Did he work on the vaccine? I just bough two stocks shares last week. 🙂

  2. John, you’ve led a very interesting life and seem to have met so many interesting people along the way. I wish I had found you years back, I really enjoy reading your stories. I guess I need to check out your website and order a couple of your books, I’m sure they are great too.

  3. Len Poulin says

    Hi John,

    I read all your blogs. Your blogs let me know that you are well and still writing. Are you loving your electric assisted Trike? A belated happy 92nd birthday. You are an inspiration on living big everyday, no matter what birthday has comes and goes. Forty years ago, you were my business mentor, who quickly became my personal friend and mentor. Now that I’m 71, you are still my mentor on how to age gracefully. I read somewhere that growing old isn’t for wimps. I think of you as an example as the aging process progresses for me. Thank you for your continued sharing.

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