Our stay with Doris’ friend Sheila and her minister husband in their home in Louth, Lincolnshire was the first time for Doris and me to sleep in a vicarage and we had a very pleasant time there. We had been visiting relatives for two days and I already realized that visiting my relatives was too emotional for me after being away from England for 23 years, and not seeing some of them for much longer than that. Rather than continue finding other cousins and their descendants, I decided to explain to them later by letter and apologize for not calling on them, and to change plans and become visiting American tourists.
With this in mind, we drove to the sea-side town of Hunstanton on the Wash, just 50 miles from Peterborough, where we always went with family, school and church trips when I was quite young just before the war started in 1939. We found that the Waterside Pub overlooking ”The Green” where we always went for a fish and chip lunch was now an Inn rather than just a pub as I remembered it, so we immediately booked a room which had a view of the Pier and the beach.
After a look around and a nostalgic walk on the Pier we went back to the hotel for a fish and chips basket with a pint of beer for me and a vermouth for Doris. The bar eating area was crowded and I overheard a man at the next table say, to his wife ’’These Americans like our fish and chips.” I could not resist telling him that he was wrong and that we were both British. He said he didn’t believe me because we were dressed like Americans and talked like Americans. I asked him where he came from and he replied that he was from Luton. When I said that Luton was where they make straw hats, he conceded, “You might be British because an American wouldn’t know that” and he bought me another beer. I had been dying to tell somebody we were returning Britons.
We were in Hunstanton on July 4th and I recalled the previous year when I was President of the Jacksonville British American Club and we had a big beach party with British and American guests for what we said we were celebrating was British Thanksgiving when we un-loaded an ungrateful colony.
From Hunstanton we drove down the coast roads to Yarmouth, another sea-side resort we went to with our parents. By a strange coincidence, we had both been told that we learned to walk in Yarmouth. We then drove through Cambridge back to London. Doris had been told we could stay with her cousin Dorothy and her husband Bert who were themselves vacationing at their cabin near the south coast at Littlehampton in West Essex so we planned to stay with them for one night on our way to the West Country where I wanted Doris to see Stonehenge and where I did my army training around there and the environs of Salisbury in Wiltshire.
Bert had inherited the cabin from his parents and it was very nice. He was an avid golfer and he talked me into playing a round with him the next day which I did with rented clubs and sneakers on my feet. After a pub lunch with them we drove to Stonehenge. In those days, there were few visitors and we parked on the side of the highway and followed a well-worn path across a field to see the arrangement of these giant stones. Today, I am told there is a road, a large parking lot, a tourist center and a museum with bus-loads of tourists arriving all day long.
From Stonehenge, we went about 10 miles to Salisbury and found a nice little hotel on the south side very close to where John Constable painted his, “Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadow.” We had the identical view not far from the hotel. The cathedral is the best looking of all England’s many in my opinion.
The next day, we drove to Chard in Devonshire where Doris’ cousin Frank and Eve Shardalow were living. We had been invited to drop in any time we could so we stayed a night with them. I had two boomerangs in my luggage and I am afraid one of them still resides on the roof of that house because of a failed attempt to show how well I could throw them. (Read my post, “Boomerangs are coming back” in the “Other” category of my blog.)
From Chard, we drove west heading for Lands End and we spent a night in Truro, Cornwall which has the prettiest little harbor I think I have ever seen. Truro is the only city in Cornwall because it has the only cathedral. (The others are just towns.) I re-discovered that the pubs in the south west serve apple cider as well as beer and I remember the evening pub visits when I was at Battle Camp at Okehampton on Dartmoor of Sherlock Holmes fame.
The next day we went to Penzance and the actual end of the land a few miles away and found ourselves standing on bare rocks in an icy cold wind being sprayed by wind-blown foam wondering why we had come so far to see the southern tip of the British Isles. Actually, I wanted to do it because on a golfing trip to Scotland with Dr. Hunt, I had driven us to John O’Groats, the farthest northern point of Britain and now I had been to both ends of the Isles.
Turning back towards London, we drove to Bath back in Somerset, found a nice pub lunch and a hotel near the town. The Roman baths built in AD 68 next to the River Avon were amazing to see. I believe that today Bath is on most American tourists’ list of places to visit.
After a night there, we went to Oxford where I had made a reservation at the Randolph Hotel where 25 years earlier Doris and I spent the first night of our honeymoon tour of Wales and Scotland. We had also seen it on TV in episodes of, “Inspector Morse” and we found the bar was named the Morse Bar. We were amazed to find the hotel exactly as we remembered it and nothing seemed to have changed. We joked that the carpets and drapes and even the concierge at the door were the same ones we had previously seen. In other words, it appeared to have been neglected for 25 years. They still only served dinner at 7pm and you had to have reserved a table. The bar was unattended and when someone finally came to serve us, it seemed as though he was doing us a favor. Even the dinner was disappointing but the breakfast in the morning was surprisingly good. What we thought was going to be a really nice nostalgic experience, reminding us how we felt on our first visit, was just a bit of a let-down.
Nevertheless, we had spent two very happy weeks reminding ourselves of all the good things we remembered and missed about England. We had always thought that one day we would return to live there permanently but now we realized that our life in the States was so comfortable and more natural to us and with our three children totally Americanized, one even already a citizen, we started thinking differently.
We drove back to London and dropped off the rental car and were picked up by the Carringtons for one last dinner, a summary of everything we had done since we last saw them and a good nights sleep. In the morning, they took us back to Gatwick and we flew directly to Jacksonville where Nick who was home from Vanderbilt, met us. Now, it was time to ‘change channels’ and start thinking about Adcom Wire again. We had had a wonderful trip back to England but within a few weeks, we started exploring how to become American citizens and that’s another memory for another day.