In the latter part of 1952 there was a heavy smog in London, resulting in pollution issues and this severely affected my mother’s health as well as mine. So, after I was born the following year, we simply had to move from there. My dad was offered a teaching job in Whittlesey that included use of the school house, so it was an ideal choice. We had relatives and friends in London and they visited us from time to time and we would do the same when we could, but during school holidays of course. Travelling to and from London in the car we had back in the late fifties and early sixties was fun for me, but it must have been tiring for my dear dad as the A1 was a dual carriageway at best in those days, not a motorway! Because one of my uncles worked on the engineering side of what is now British Airways, when I was felt to be old enough permission was given for me to have a look around a Boeing 707 that was in for service. It was most definitely a guided tour, but I got to sit in the pilot’s seat! My paternal grandparents were by then coming up to retirement and having visited us a few times in Whittlesey, they liked the place so much that they made their visit permanent, which I think may have surprised my parents. My elder brothers, being a few years older than me, were quite naturally off out with their circle of friends, whilst I preferred to keep myself amused. Both my parents were good, I was taught to read and found it a source of enjoyment. Being left-handed meant my writing wasn’t brilliant, but we all worked on that and I found setting the paper at an angle helped, it suited me. I have seen other left-handers manage in different ways, some by almost writing backwards. I was bought stick-together kits, but I was taught to read the instructions first and then identify all of the parts before starting the assembly process. A logical thing to do in my view. The good thing was that in most cases the parts were numbered. Then it was always a good idea to follow the assembly process in the correct sequence, although some instructions used pictures rather than words, which I personally didn’t think helped. Sometimes it could be a bit frustrating when I wanted to see the item all finished, so that may be one of the reasons why kit-makers put lovely pictures on the boxes! But all this taught me much, because I learned patience. As I write, I am reminded of a time just a few years ago when I and a couple of others were helping a good friend assemble a small occasional table which had glass shelves. One person did not want to bother to read the instructions and insisted he knew what he was doing. We ended up having to stop half way through, take the unit apart and reassemble it in the proper sequence just as detailed in the instructions, so that the shelves would all fit in. Instructions are written for a reason! I went on from aircraft kits to the complicated old ships such as the Cutty Sark, Endeavour and HMS Victory. I would make much of the rigging out of black cotton and my dear mum kept the models I made for a great many years. Doing things in the proper order taught me much. I have watched quite a few programmes on television about the care and maintenance of both steam and diesel-powered trains and it really is very important to do things the way they are meant to be done, I also have good friends who have worked on aircraft and they feel the same way, as lives are at risk if things are not done as they should be. I am thankful for the good teaching I have had, right from an early age. Mind you, with my dear dad as a teacher it was always in my interest to listen! For me, going to school was quite easy at first with us living where we did as I would simply go out from our back door, across the yard, through a side gate and there I was, in the playground. There was never any chance of me being late for school! We had visits from family and friends and as I have mentioned in earlier blog posts I would enjoy being taken down the road to the train station. I have never lost my enjoyment of watching trains, but I do not bother to write down their numbers or anything like that. Steam, diesel or whatever, it was and still is a source of wonderment to see, hear and smell these huge beasts passing by, rattling over the points and commanding right of way as cars and other road vehicles are made to give way to them. I was taught from an early age that the journey to and from is all part of the holiday, though I do wonder sometimes if that wasn’t partly to stop the “are we there yet?” from the back seat. But it did work! So I thoroughly enjoyed going on holiday, especially if it was a day out to Hunstanton and we stopped at the level crossing in Kings Lynn. I vividly recall one delightful time when we stopped at that level crossing in Kings Lynn and I saw my first diesel shunter engine, with bright yellow and black stripes on the front of it! Then a bypass was put in and we went nowhere near that railway crossing. We preferred Hunstanton to Skegness, I am not sure why. Perhaps it was the cliff walks over to Old Hunstanton, with its lovely old lighthouse as it was followed by a walk back to the main town and if I could I’d spend time on the pier in the amusement arcade. I became quite adept at working some of the machines in there, getting to know when pennies would be likely to drop in a machine like the ones used now in the tv series Tipping Point. Just along from the arcade was a cafe and we would call in for a bite to eat. It was a delight to have a cup of coffee as well as a bacon sandwich there! Just across the road from the cafe was the railway station. We never used that service, but I was saddened when that train line was closed down. My research has taught me that Hunstanton railway station was the northern terminus of the Lynn and Hunstanton Railway and the line was brought to public notice by Sir John Betjeman (28 August 1906 – 19 May 1984) in the 1962 British Transport film ‘John Betjeman Goes By Train’. This is a ten-minute documentary film as he travels by train from Kings Lynn railway station, pointing out various sights and stopping off at Wolferton station on the Sandringham Estate, then Snettisham station where he extols the virtues of rural branch-line stations. Wolferton was originally opened as Wolverton in 1862 and re-named Wolferton in 1863. Snettisham was only ever used for carrying passengers, whilst Wolferton and Hunstanton were used for freight until 1964. Hunstanton became unstaffed in 1966 and all three were closed for passenger use on 5 May 1969, when the line itself was closed. We had the occasional holiday on a caravan site in Hunstanton – ‘Golden Sands’, I think it was called. There was even a small boating lake, with some rowing boats. I couldn’t manage those, but there were a few electrically-powered motor boats and they were fun for me!
I have recounted in earlier blog posts about the family holidays we had in Devon and Cornwall. This was partly because we liked the area and partly because we had relatives that way. We had also made friends with people who owned a garage in the area so when Mum and Dad celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary down there these friends laid on a special meal for them. In time both my parents retired and they began travelling a little more, going first to Guernsey, then another year over to Jersey and they returned each time with such glowing reports that one year I did the same. I drove down to London, stayed over at my aunt and uncle’s then went to Heathrow airport. I was checked in and all went well, except for the weather, which was awful. The flight was delayed and so we waited, but eventually we were put on a coach and driven down to Southampton. We took off from there in a turbo-prop aircraft, a few passengers weren’t too happy as it was a bit bumpy to begin with, but we were soon clear of that. I enjoyed the flight as well as the holiday, it was just one week but it was the break I needed. I went on a trip to Sark, too. So a couple of years later I went to Jersey and did the real ’tourist’ thing, I went on tours around the island, I also sampled the local brew and found out that even though it was served in a small bottle, it really was very strong stuff! Quite relaxing, but I ended up with a rather thick head the following morning! Then work became a priority and for a while I was tending towards living to work, rather than working to live. So I began having an occasional holiday away on my own, one being a leisurely break away up to the Lake District. I started out from home, drove over to Wolverhampton to see friends there, then it was straight up the motorway to Kendal. I did each place a day at a time, I would drive to my next planned stop, find a hotel or inn to stay at for the night and then explore, never booking in advance. I did this for a few days, visiting Windermere, Grasmere, Buttermere and Penrith before returning to Wolverhampton. Then it was over to Coventry the next day for a look around the cathedral and finally back to Peterborough. For me it was a true holiday, taking my time all the way. I did similar holidays on my own in Wales, but then marriage meant I was doing many miles to South Wales as at the time my ex still had a house near Bridgend. I had been able to get a better car by then but I wore it out, putting over 100,000 miles on the clock in almost no time at all! We even honeymooned in Portugal and that was quite a change. Whilst there I was enticed into hiring a car so that we could travel around a little, but this meant driving on the opposite side of the road as well as operating the gear lever with my right hand! But I did it. One thing I wasn’t prepared for though related to the quality of the roads there. The main driving surface was all right, but the edges were really rough so it was a good idea to stay on the tarmac and not go near the edge. On one occasion we went over to Seville in Spain, going on an organised coach trip. Seville had some great sights, for me the best was the guided tour around the cathedral there.
Then work meant a good deal of travelling and money was short for a while but circumstances do change and it came about that I could finally afford a holiday abroad – really abroad, not just over to Belgium, the Channel Islands or to Portugal. Many of my work colleagues were taking holidays here, there and everywhere and then the opportunity came for me. I had flown a few times by now, but this time it was a real flight. My aunt and uncle were not in a position to put me up the night before and it would not have been fair for me to even ask them so I really did the absolute full ’tourist’ bit. I booked my holiday well in advance, I drove down to London Heathrow and left my car in the secure car park of the hotel. Early the following morning I was whisked off by taxi to Heathrow airport and was checked in. Security was gone through and I flew off to Philadelphia. I had chosen that place in preference to New York because the latter seemed too commercial and crowded from what I had read and heard, but it was mainly because I had a friend in Philadelphia and we could meet up. I went by taxi to my hotel, checked in and found that the bar & restaurant area had a ‘London, England’ theme! Even to the bright red telephone kiosk. I just laughed, I could not get away from BT! I saw a few good sights, including the famous Liberty Bell, I met my friend and as so often happens the time went by far too quickly. As I mentioned in a blog a few weeks ago, I then had yet another holiday in the U.S.A. some two years later, seeing the sights of both Washington D.C. and Orlando. What was interesting was that despite flying from Heathrow to Washington then on to Orlando, it seemed that my point of exit from the United States was to be the same as my point of entry. So I was flown back to Washington and only then on to Heathrow. I made sure that I handed in all of the appropriate documentation in the correct place, so the relevant authorities would know I had in fact left the country in a proper and legal manner. I was told that this was a very important thing to do if I wanted to be allowed in again at any time in the future! Over previous weeks I have detailed my lovely long cruise and so I really have travelled the world (well, not all, but a fair bit) by car, train, boat and plane. Right now, travelling isn’t exactly easy for any of us for a variety of reasons but things change. I have been watching a webcam of the hovercraft service from the Isle of Wight to the mainland – but that tale is for another day…
Notice seen inside the back of an ambulance:
“If you have a preferred route, please inform your driver at the start of the journey.”
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