This morning I got on a train at Waterloo Station and went to Portsmouth to meet my Dad's colleague, an old friend of the family.
Matt was a British officer in the Indian Army during World War II. He led a company of Gurkhas in North Africa and Italy.
Needless to say, Matt is a charter member of Team STORMBRINGER
I haven't seen Matt since I was 15, but he has been following my career.
Matt is 88, and I found him still agile and mobile, happy and joking and smiling all the time. Incredibly, he hasn't changed a bit.
I told him we kids all thought he looked like David Niven. He laughed and laughed at that, and said David Niven came from Portsmouth, and of course they had similar military careers.
Matt was so happy to see me. Our plan was to visit the D-Day museum. As we drove toward it, Matt pointed out toward the Solent - the stretch of water between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight - and said, "They say on the weeks before D-Day, you could walk right across the water, there were so many boats and ships lined up."
I asked Matt where he was on June 6th, 1944. He said, "Oh, I was a D-Day Dodger!" I know a little bit about what Matt went through fighting Germans in Italy, and he didn't dodge anything. Matt explained; Lady Astor was the first woman Member of Parliament. The legend goes that during the Normandy Campaign she blurted out something about the men of the 8th Army fighting in the Italian campaign as the "D-Day Dodgers"; implying that they had it easy because they were avoiding the "real war" in France. The Allied soldiers in Italy subsequently composed a bitingly sarcastic song to the tune of the haunting German song Lili Marleen; "The Ballad Of The D-Day Dodgers" - and Matt sang a few bars of it for me. I wish I could sing the way Matt does - I'd be a Rock Star.
When we got to the D-Day museum I asked, "Is there a military discount?" the young man at the counter said,
"For World War veterans, they go free."
"Good; two World War veterans." The young man looked at me like I was crazy. I pointed at Matt, then pointed at myself, "He's a World War II veteran, and I'm a World War III veteran."
That got a chuckle. "No, only the Second World War veterans get in free. This is the D-Day Museum."
They have an amazing embroidery that encircles an entire display hall.
Inspired by the Bayeaux Tapestry, that chronicled the Norman Conquest of 1066 - when William Duke of Normandy crossed the channel from France and became William the Great - thirty-four huge panels depict the stunning scenes of the world's greatest, most well-known and most chronicled military operation.
The embroideries are amazing; they are a significant cultural artifact, and they honor the men and women involved in the great Operation Overlord.
The official name of this incredible relic is THE OVERLORD EMBROIDERY
Matt and I had a grand old chinwag and reminisced about the Good Old Days. We toured around and looked at the countryside and the various military fortifications around Portsmouth, dating back to the Napoleanic Era, and before that, to the reign of King Henry the VIII, and before that, King Alfred the Great.
Then we went to his flat and I saw all the things from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Thailand - my upbringing, the places from where I knew Matt. We drank some wine and everytime we raised a glass we drank to "The Good Old Days!" and Matt would laugh and smile that charismatic smile of his. He told me stories about his life, stories about World War II and a few stories about our ex-pat life in Asia, a couple anecdotes I didn't know about (because I was a kid then).
It was a poignant moment in Time.
There will be more to come about Matt and his remarkable career - I simply don't have the time to write right now; there is an important project and Matt knows what it is, because I told him.
And then we drove down to Gosport and took the ferry to the train station. When I take off from Heathrow tomorrow morning, I will have travelled by automobile, ship, train and aircraft, all within 24 hours. This is an personal achievement I have been trying to gain this for at least the past thirty-four years.