We Revisit England

It was decided that our vacation in England would be of a one-month duration, so we chose the month of July - August, since it would also embrace the holiday period when schools would be in recess, and the children would be available, thus adding to the enjoyment of their grandparents. I had been saving my vacation leave from previous years, and so it was easy to arrange for a month's absence from work without any problems.

It was July, and Emma and I flew out of Ontario airport via Los Angeles on a direct flight to London's Heathrow Airport. Our Jumbo Jet was a 747, with nearly 400 passengers on board, and there were all the facilities on the plane that one could expect. Two different movies were shown, and for a small fee, you were provided with stereo music with your individual earphones. The meals were good and we arrived in London in the early morning hours to see Ron, Maureen and Paul waiting for us.

After an absence of many years, England seemed much the same as when we were last there. We spent the first part of our holiday with Maureen and her family at their home in Eastcote Avenue, Greenford, which is just about one and a half miles from where we had previously lived in North Wembley. It was nice to see the mother country once again, but after living in the U.S.A. for so long, it was impossible not to notice the great difference in life styles between the two countries.

We got in touch with Michael and his family who lived in Canterbury way across on the other side of England towards the Straits of Dover - North Sea side - and we arranged to spend some time with them. As a matter of fact, Michael had decided to spend his summer holidays in the beautiful resort of St. Ives, on the Cornish peninsular, and he asked us to join them there for one week.

We visited many friends we had made when we lived in England, and we were also able to renew a lot of old acquaintances. Emma even visited her former club in Greenford while I looked up many of my old colleagues both at Walker the Chemist, and at the Euston telephone exchange.

800px Austin Mini Baujahr 2000 2005 09 17

Our trip to St. Ives was the longest I had ever taken in a small car. It was Michael's Mini Austin, and we travelled over what was easily the widest part of Britain, east to west. The journey took about twelve hours, and considering that the little car was very heavily laden, it stood the trip extremely well. We passed through lush English countryside, and towards evening were skirting along the Bodmin Moors. St. Ives was not reached until well after dark, but Michael, who drove all the way, did not have too much difficulty in finding the house he had rented for the weeks vacation.

The Cornish peninsula is a fascinating part of Britain, and its coastline and beaches are a source of great attraction in the summer months. Our house was built on high ground, and it overlooked the bay and frothy blue water below.

By reason of the Geographical nature of the country, the streets in Cornwall are narrow and winding, but cute. Formerly a tin mining centre, it is noted for its fine clay and pottery, and its fishing, and the colour-washed stone houses seemed solidly built. Cornwall gave me the impression of being a favourite place for second homes, and for people in retirement, no doubt due to the mild climate of the area.

Each day we would make excursions by car to the several beaches that abound here, and on one of these we saw what looked like an outdoor theatre built into the cliffside and looking down on the beach.

On another occasion, we took a coach tour to St. Michael's Mount, a lofty island of granite rising some four hundred yards off the shore of Mounts Bay on the English Channel and quite close to land's End.

At low tide a natural causeway links the island to the mainland, but when the tide is in, access to St. Michael's Mount is gained by small boats which ferry you across.

A twelfth century monastery sits atop the island, part of which is now used as a tourist attraction. Ownership is now in the hands of Lord St. Levan, having passed through his family over the last three hundred years. At the moment, however, most of the upkeep of the property is provided by a national trust.

At St. Ives the nights were cool, and days warm and pleasant, and we really enjoyed a delightful week of English summer there. At the end of our stay in this Cornish setting, Emma and I left for London and Maureen's home using British Railways, thus making it easier for Michael and his family to return to Canterbury. Maureen and Ron met us when we arrived at the station near their home, and the ensuing week we spent with them was very enjoyable. Paul had grown into quite a big boy, and he was thrilled when, on two separate occasions, I took him out to see London the way I always liked to view this great metropolis.

We joined the Underground train near the house, and went as far as Westminster Bridge which is on the River Thames. Getting onto the Thames embankment, we walked along it for well over a mile, enjoying the river scene, with pleasure boats going in both directions filled with holiday makers. Once the main source of traffic through London in early English history, this river still has a fascination and great charm for all. Some of the finest photographs of the city could be taken from many of the bridges which cross it, and on a clear sunny day it is a truly remarkable sight.

River Thames and Lambeth Bridge 7July2007

Paul and I walked the glorious stretch along the river from Westminster bridge to the Victoria Embankment Gardens. We took pictures there, then we strolled across to Trafalgar Square where he fed the pigeons. By then we were somewhat hungry, so into one of the Lyon's restaurants nearby we went and had a meal. Fully refreshed, we walked back to the river and visited Cleopatra's Needle and the Sphinxes, taking more pictures with Waterloo Bridge in the background. We then climbed up Hungerford Bridge, which has a pedestrian footpath going right across the Thames to the Waterloo side. In the centre of the bridge we stopped to take pictures from that vantage point, obtaining splendid results depicting river scenes with St. Paul's Cathedral and the Savoy Hotel as background, with Paul, very often in the foreground of it all.

On our second visit to London, Paul & I (also with Vi, his paternal grandmother) took a somewhat different route. In deference to his grandmother we chose a less strenuous tour.

We took the train to Kensington High Street and visited the world famous Derry & Toms Roof Gardens.  What a beautiful sight and what great pictures it provided. We pushed on to the Albert Memorial and took a series of pictures, afterwards visiting the Museum close by, and the Albert Hall.

Before we left for California we had to spend some more time with Michael in Canterbury. It was therefore arranged for us to go to his place and take in as much of the local scenery as we could. So back to Canterbury we went. Michael's home was in a little cluster of houses called "Somner Close". It was within walking distance of Canterbury Cathedral, and we were able to make a grand tour of this historic building.

Erected as a walled community by the Romans in 200 A.D., Canterbury is the primary See of England, and is outstanding as a religious and cultural centre. About one half of the circuit of the city walls still stands, but of the original six gates, only one, the West gate remains. Much of the architecture of the cathedral is Gothic in design, and it contains the tomb of Edward the Black Prince. Archbishop Thomas Beckett was murdered in this cathedral, and his shrine there attracts many visitors. It was my privilege to stand on the sacred spot and have my photograph taken, which is now among my prized colour slide collection.

While in this area, we visited Dover Castle, a solid Norman structure built by William the conqueror. From the top of this ruggedly built stone fortress we had a clear view of the Straits of Dover and the surrounding countryside.

800px Keep and entrance of Dover Castle 2007

Unlike so much of urban England, the rural atmosphere of this important centre of the United Kingdom made us appreciate how peaceful life could be, and how much enjoyment could be had in surroundings that were just right.

My brother Frankie, who lived in Earl's Court, and whom I had not seen for many years, had been resident in London for a very long time and I decided to spend a day with him and enjoy his company. I made no mention of him or my sister Edna since we parted as small children, but, in a nutshell Edna got married to Bolton Applewaithe, and Frankie, still unmarried, left Guiana and took employment in Aruba for a long time, finally settling in England even before I arrived there in 1960. He was now an established officer at Somerset House, and was very securely fixed. He chose a bachelor type of existence, and had his 'digs' in Longridge Road. We spent the day going through Holland Park and doing the various joints in Earl's Court Road. Frankie was a complete extrovert, and very likeable. We certainly enjoyed each other's company that day.

Our one month revisit to England was a complete success, and we enjoyed every moment of it.