Tag Archives: The Cruel Sea

Holiday in the UK

A few months after our trip to Thailand, we took off for a six-week holiday in the U.K. Colin longed to see more of his English heritage and now that I had retired from teaching, we could travel during the off-peak season. We bought a Brit Rail Pass, and had a glorious time touring England.
At Kew Gardens, we stood enchanted, reluctant to leave our charming surroundings. We drank in the beauty of acres and acres of daffodils. Their fragrance wafted towards us and brought back memories of Portland, Victoria, as a child when wandering round Daffodil Farm.
We spent April Fool’s Day visiting Penzance and St. Ives on the Cornish Coast but as the tide was high at Penzance, we were unable to visit St. Michael’s Mount.
The stunning scenery of Cornwall was a hiker’s paradise with trails scaling rugged cliffs and descending to isolated sandy beaches. The silence was only broken by the roar of waves or the shrill cries of the birds.
At St. Ives we climbed steep slopes, stopping to taste Cornwall’s famed clotted cream. The plaintive cries of seagulls filled the air as we looked down at the colourful fishing boats sheltering within the harbour. Ghosts of coastguards still patrolled the area on dark stormy nights and smugglers’ caves beckoned us to explore their depths. I stood motionless and Colin recalled his misadventures at sea, shivering visibly, remembering when he and his Dad were swept out into the ocean at Portland.
The following week, at the Salisbury Plains, Stonehenge with all its hidden history and mystery left us strangely silent and speculative.
At Exeter, we boarded the train to Ivybridge, a quaint little village not far from Dartmoor National Park, where the walking tracks were well sign-posted.
As we hiked across the moors, the wind whistled through the hilly tussocks.
The bleak conditions conjured up the deep baying of the Baskerville hound in the distance. Dartmoor looked forbidding.
At Eggleston, we rambled in forests of beech and larch.
The sheds on the Liverpool dockside housed a market, filled with craft stalls. The docks were much larger than the one at Portland, where Colin used to wander about as a child. We sheltered from the cold wind and peered out at the Liver Building and the two metal birds perched on top of the twin clock towers like watchful guardians. They glinted in the sunlight—a beacon guiding ships into the harbour. Legend has it that if they flew off, the city would cease to exist. The edifice still stood, though buildings just across the river were razed to the ground by the Luftwaffe during World War II.
After wandering around the craft markets, we went on a sightseeing cruise of the Albert, Victoria and Gladstone Docks. The swell of the water rocked the boat. Seaweed clung precariously to the side of the pier, dancing to the tune of the wind that whistled past, sweeping away leaves and paper in fierce gusts. Barnacles shut their mouths against the air.
The rhythm of the rocking boat, and the sights and smells on the dockside, made us think of the war. The navy had stationed the Liverpool Escort Force at the Gladstone dock and destroyers, sloops and corvettes had docked there. Scarcely able to control our excitement, our thoughts turned to the Compass Rose, made alive by Nicholas Monsarrat in his book, The Cruel Sea. I visualised it steaming in, battle-scarred and belching smoke, still smarting from encounters with Nazi submarines and planes. It was freezing even where we sat protected from the winds. Fifty years ago without air-conditioned cabins, the cold would have been unbearable.
We disembarked, my head filled with thoughts of war. The gale drove us to the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Beatles’ Museum—a magnet to all Beatles’ fans. Anything connected with the sea attracted Colin, so we spent hours there.
Excerpt from my memoirs.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized