England - Round The World Tour 2003 T-27

pre-departure

Leigh-on-Sea

Friday 14th February

So, finally a chance to site down and write some more journal entries. We arrived in England yesterday via the Sea France cross-channel ferry from Calais to Dover. Seeing the White Cliffs of Dover has a significance to it that can only be felt by the British. Many a time I’ve seen these particular cliffs on return journeys from ‘the continent’ (that’s what we British call mainland Europe). When I looked out the window and ‘suddenly’ saw the majestic cliff faces leisurely parading past my window as the ferry eased nearer its final destination, I new I was approaching home. Having met and married a Dutch woman, I’ve visited the continent dozens of times more than the average Brit’ may have done. But even for those Brit’s that have never crossed the channel, the white cliffs of Dover are immortalised, if for no other reason than in the words of a very famous wartime song.

The trip back to my sister’s house from the port of Dover passed relatively uneventfully. A calm, almost serene, tranquillity enveloped me as I sat back in comfort whilst John Ashley safely navigated the 2 hours drive to Leigh-on-Sea. Upon arrival, the relaxation had to immediately be put on the back burner from the moment I set foot through the door. Crash! We arrived at Jacqueline’s house – and didn’t we know it! There was pandemonium all around as kids were running and screaming everywhere. The guidebooks often warn of the ‘culture shock’ phenomenon after entering a vastly unfamiliar and different culture such as India or South East Asia. Clearly they have not been to my sister’s house in Leigh-on-Sea! It’s always busy at Jacqueline’s house. I call her Jacqueline – her correct name – because she prefers to be called Jacky 🙂 Other than myself, I think my mother is the only one who calls her Jacqueline. During the day, there are always a lot of kids around at Jacqueline’s house. Some may be her own (she has four) and some may be visitors. Mostly, however, they are children that she looks after during the day. Jacqueline is a registered child minder. This is something midway between a foster parent and a baby sitter. She looks after several different kids at a time, sees them to school and back and looks after them at home until their parents pick them up one by one, usually late in the afternoon, after they get home from work. Every couple of months or so, you may see a new child running up and down the hallway between rooms. Every child is different. Some may be handicapped in some way, some may have social or psychological problems of one description or another but always, they are ultimately happy children at number 96.

The last time we stayed here, we dislodged Jenny-Lee (the eldest daughter and my eldest Niece) from her very large and spacious room. This time, we are to enjoy the comforts of one of the smaller rooms in the attic. I call it a room somewhat loosely. Although not quite as small as the cupboard under the stairs at number 42 Privet Drive, standing up abruptly anywhere but right next to the door, will be rewarded with a thump on the head from the sloping roof on three sides of the room. Although about a third of the size of our slightly cramped youth hostel room in Paris, you can actually stand up completely if you open the sloped roof window and stick your head out. Not that I’m complaining, of course, but in addition to us, our bed and all our backpacks, Jacqueline has also decided to set up the computer embroidery machine and computer in this room also. It’s what we British might call ‘cosy’.

Spoke to Mum this morning. She sounds well, all things considered. We would ordinarily have gone straight round to see her but it is ‘Lady’s night’ at the Freemasons this weekend and our presence here at number 96 is required so as to baby-sit Charlotte – Jacqueline’s youngest daughter. Jacqueline’s husband, Kevin, along with my two older brothers, John Ashley & Paul David, are members of the Freemasons Society and often engage in charitable fund-raising events such as this weekend’s Lady’s night, which is held once a year. Although there was still some ongoing debate earlier in the day, I believe that the Crohn’s disease charity will be this weekend’s beneficiary.

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