After hearing so much about the congestion at the Channel Tunnel and Ferries, we were expecting difficulties in getting to England but, in the event, our crossing was one of the best ever. We went from Dunkirk and everything was so well organised that it felt like part of the holiday. Fearing that it might be crowded we had booked seats and they turned out to be loungers with footstools, each one had a power point alongside and the Wi-Fi worked! The bar and facilities were handy and there were no queues. It would have been a shame to have travelled later and had to sleep… What a waste!
The weather was amazingly good throughout our travels in England and we didn’t need the warmer clothes we had packed. All too soon we were on our way back to the ferry again but it wasn’t departing until the evening so we decided to visit Sheerness, where I was when WW2 broke out. I had lived there for five years, since I was three years old, and had many happy memories of the island. We wondered how much I would be able to remember of the places I’d lived in and schools I had attended. It was fun.
Finding an antique shop on the Halfway Road, next-door-but-one to the house I last saw in 1939, was unfortunate in some ways because it swelled the total number of items that we then had to keep transferring from taxis to hire cars before we arrived home!
Memories of the last few months before I was taken out of the danger zone flooded back. I remembered being issued with a gas-mask and having to carry it everywhere, slung over my shoulder in a cardboard box – and feeling quite grown up because the infants had been issued with masks that looked like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck! We practised walking calmly to the air-raid shelter at school and knew what to do if the sirens went. We had an Anderson shelter in our garden at home, which I thought seemed like fun.
I remembered standing inside the house with my parents, hearing the declaration of war and starting to worry because I expected someone to come immediately to take my daddy away to be a soldier. It didn’t happen, because he was in a reserved occupation. He volunteered as a fireman as soon as my mother and I went north to stay with my grandparents and he was later transferred to South Wales.
I’m glad we had time to visit Sheppey Island – it is much more impressive now than it was all those years ago, but my childhood there – the seaside and the meadows behind our house where the early morning dew seemed heavy enough to pool round my ankles – remains fresh in my memory; sunshine was ever-present …if it did rain, it left no impression!
All too soon we were back in Dover – and it really was too soon for the crossing we had booked, so we were allowed on the earlier ferry. We were delighted… For once we might arrive at our hotel early enough to enjoy dinner! In fact, we did, after a smooth crossing in the same comfort that we had enjoyed on our way out. We saw that Dunkirk is much more interesting that we had expected and we might well visit it again to explore it properly.
Note to self: find out where the nearest airport is and hire a car.