Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Driving on the wrong side of the road

We drove through 6 countries in 24 hours, starting the journey in Dover... which is a place of memories for me.
Firstly, I went to boarding school there for 5 years, and still miss those old friends. I think there is a special closeness to friends made at British public boarding schools. I am still in touch with many of them; Kendra, Kathy, Jaki, Andrew, Geoff and recently others via Facebook.

I was also a Hostess for Hoverspeed on one of these hovercraft for a year when I was 19 or 20 ... and shared a house with two other hostesses. Our garden backed onto the White Cliffs of Dover and we used to party hard. We found out after renting the house that it had previously been a brothel ...I expect that the men who used to knock on the front door thought that our uniform was part of the service.

It is also the departure port for many trips that Cliff and I made across the water to buy duty frees and have a fun day out.

Poignantly, I now remember Kendra playing this song to me in her car in New York when I was 30 ... because it had the line, "as I wander along the white cliffs of Dover" in it ... I remember suddenly wanting to cry when I heard it. It was to become Cliff's signature tune for years for different reasons. When I returned from New York, he and I became involved and Kendra and I had NO idea of the heartache that was in store for us ... the loss of her two year old angel Sascha, and losing Cliff.

When on board the ferry I buy a bottle of Absolut and cannot stay in the shop as we used to browse through it together. I am scared that I am going to start looking for him. I avoid walking past the fruit machines (one-armed bandits) because they will taunt me ... he's gone, he's gone.

I sit down and fight back the tears as I remember him telling me that if there is a problem on board the ship, to hold his hand and not let go. He was a true Piscean and an extremely strong swimmer.

When we leave the ship I feel butterflies (which feel like hippo's) in my stomach ... this is to be my first experience of driving abroad, and on the "wrong" side of the road. Surprisingly I find it remarkably easy under Jenny's tutelage. I find it hard to control my feelings when we stop to buy cheap cigarettes because they have different cocktail making ingredients on display and Cliff would have had a field day... I have a little cry in the toilet and talk to him. We drive through France, Belgium and Holland in a couple of hours and I feel nostalgic pangs as we pass Gent because I lived near there as a child in a village called Sint-Martens-Latem. As a teenager I used to walk to the end of my road and sit here to smoke.

We then cross the Dutch border and I have to turn my emotions off so that I can focus on driving ... seeing signs for Breda and Bergen op Zoom actually physically hurt me. They may as well be scorpions' tails ... the last time we drove this way, we were having fun en route to see Cliff's sister Jean.
After a break, we drive all night through Germany and Denmark. We are a convoy of 3 cars (2 Dutch, 1 British) and the weather is atrocious.
When we arrive in Denmark, Dad says to me, "a certain someone would be so proud of you," and a little while later he tells me that HE is proud of me too. This means the world to me and is extremely opportune because at that moment in time I am longing to share the experience with him.
The summer house is lovely. The first thing Jenny does is make ice cubes for my vodka and cokes while Dad and I empty the car.
I'd just like to thank Mel for being a true Spartan Warrior and inspiring me to make this trip.

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