I found that most itinerant travel runs smoothly and is uneventful, but it’s the eventful and unusual that sticks in one’s mind. Maybe I will just relate a few as each one is a story in itself.
1. I had driven my missionary friend to speak at a home Bible study in Mississippi. The hosts Father owned a stately home in the Cotswolds in England. He had bought it when the owner had died leaving no heir, and subsequently sold off one wing to another wealthy American. Our host, who we shall call Jim, planned to take his Bible study group to spend a week there in the summer. He asked me if me and my family would like to join them. Initially I was a bit taken aback, but on phoning Alan we agreed to go. The group spent their first weekend in London so on the Sunday evening we had the pleasure of the whole group visiting with us in our home.
The following day we drove to Sherbourne House in the Cotswolds. We were expecting just a large house in the country as Jim had not given any details at that point, but we arrived to find we had our own beautiful apartment in a magnificent stately home, where the maids had already been in and stocked the fridge. The week was spent cycling, swimming, Polo at Cirencester, pub lunches, Bible study and last but not least a trip in Jim’s Fathers Rolls Royce to a private restaurant on our last evening.
(I shall be doing a separate post on this week sometime) And…………
2. Alan and I touched down from one Atlantic flight, and having flown on to a smaller airport, were immediately interviewed by CNN reporters. The Gulf War had broken out while we were in the air and they wanted to know how we felt about flying at that time. We had not been informed by the Pilot so knew nothing about it until we landed and then we didn’t have much choice. And………..
3. It had been arranged for Pamela and I to stay in the home of single twin brothers during our time in an area in the North of England. These men were not considered too bright but they were the kindest and most generous of people one could ever meet. They looked after us like princesses and vacated their home and moved into a caravan on their land in order to give us the full run of their home. They had built their home themselves on land they owned and in many ways from outside it looked like a large shed, but on the inside it was so cosy and comfortable. They were collectors of antiques and their home was full of them, we had never seen anything like it. They also ran a dog sitting service and looked after people’s dogs while they were away. They had built a large dog house too, and each dog had it’s own room with carpet furniture and a radio. And……………..
4. Alan and I were invited to a home on the South Coast of England belonging to a couple on our mailing list. They were looking for encouragement and wanted to talk things through with us. When we got there we were told that we would need to book into a hotel because the cat slept on the bed in the spare room. OK. And…………….
5. We were invited to Spain to spend a week with another couple on the mailing list as they were short on Christian fellowship and needed encouragement. When we got there, these folks were wanting us to take sides with them in a feud with another Christian group that was forming out there. Certainly not what we were about. And…………………
6. It was a school half term week and my daughter was home and Alan had taken holiday from work so that the 3 of us could spend a week with an elderly retired missionary acquaintance in the North of England. She had planned a series of meetings in her home and wanted us to attend and share. We had stayed with her a number of times before, and she in our home, so we knew her well. As there were 3 of us and her home was basically a one person retirement flat, she had arranged sleeping quarters for us elsewhere. She was elderly and had spent her life on the mission field in some very remote places on earth so she never thought to check out the accommodation that was offered us. We were used to accepting whatever hospitality we were offered but this was something different.
We arrived at a large and fairly isolated stone house late at night. It turned out that the house belonged to a doctor and it had been divided into two homes. The doctor and his wife lived in one half while his Mother had lived in the half that we were offered. Since the Mother had died 10 years earlier the house had been occupied by an alcoholic brother who had since left. We knew none of this at the time and our missionary friend had only ever been into the doctors house.
We walked into a large and very sparse kitchen with a stone flagged floor. All I remember was a large wooden table and little else. We were only sleeping at the house. What I do remember vividly is the upstairs of the house. Our bedroom was large with 2 enormous oak wardrobes full of the diseased Mother’s clothes. The windows were covered in cobwebs and the iron bedstead was beginning to rust. We decided it was best not to look at the mattress. Our daughter was allocated a room across the landing. There was an open water tank on a wooden base in the room. I kid you not.
The bathroom was equally neglected. I knocked a mirror slightly over the wash basin and bugs of some sort fell into the sink. We all decided that basic ablutions were all that we could manage. At the end of the landing a door opened onto a dark and cobwebbed stair case leading to a loft or something. We did not investigate. My daughter was so distressed that I slept in the bed with her leaving Alan sound asleep in the main bedroom. How can men do this?
We slept little and in the middle of the night we were disturbed by a bat flying around the room. Neither of us would dare get out of bed in the dark and our shouts to Alan were of no avail as he was sound asleep. We just lay and dozed waiting for the morning light. My daughter began to have an allergic reaction to the dust and mildew and the following day we had to thank the owners for their hospitality but also tell them that we could not continue to stay there because of my daughters allergy. The wife was quite put out because she said she had broken her arm while trying to get the place ready for us.
Our missionary friend found somewhere else for us. We arrived at a house we could hardly see for overgrown bushes and trees. We pushed our way through the overhanging shrubs and were given a warm welcome by the owner, another elderly lady. The house was full from top to bottom with antiques and bric-a-bac and this lady was certainly a collector. There wasn’t a space left on the dining table or any of the surfaces and every stair tread was piled up too leaving just enough room to walk up in the middle. The problem here again for our daughter was the dust. Added to that she was given a bedroom that held the house alarm system so she was told not to get out of bed or move around. Again we were only sleeping at the house so we solved the problem by arranging for our daughter to sleep at our hosts home and we saw her to bed before we left and she did not get up until we arrived next morning. We continued to sleep amongst the antiques and bric-a-brac. And……………….
7. Again Pamela and I were travelling in England and we arrived at our next stop late on as Sunday afternoon. It was a large and very beautiful home. There was a meeting planned at another house in the evening so we had stopped off on our journey to eat a substantial meal at lunchtime. Come tea time our host asked us what we would like to eat. We did not know what to ask for never having been to the house before and we were not very hungry. One is usually presented with a table of food or a meal so this was unusual. I suggested a boiled egg with bread and butter would be fine for me while Pamela said she would like a tomato and herb sandwich. Our host said that was fine and would we prepare it and prepare the same for her and her husband. This was most unusual but we found out later that she did not cook having been in a previous wealthy marriage where she employed a cook.
We returned from the meeting after midnight to find that there had been a misunderstanding in our arrangements. When discussing plans for the next day it turned out that our hosts had been expecting us for 2 nights whereas our plan had been for 1 and we were due at another home in another town the following day. It seemed our host had employed a cook to prepare food for us and this was the first time it had been mentioned. In order not to waste the food they prepared a table there and then and at 1.0 am in the morning we sat down to a table laid with a large ham, beef and salads and many other accompaniments , not to mention desserts. I don’t know which groaned the loudest, our stomachs or the table. They do say that truth is stranger than fiction and we were beginning to believe it. And……………
Before ending this chapter perhaps one of our transatlantic crossings is worth a mention. It was at the time that Virgin Atlantic was a new and small airline and they only had 2 aircraft. We had arrived at Gatwick early in the morning for a midday flight to New York. We were going to Mississippi but had chosen this route as the cheapest way to get there at the time. There was a problem with our aircraft and we could not take off so we had to wait until their other plane arrived from Tokyo.
We eventually took off at 7.30 pm so were some 6 hours late arriving in New York. While we were waiting for a connecting flight a thick fog descended on the airport. We still had a long way to go as we were travelling via. Nashville. It was one of those times when the airline had no idea when we would be taking off so we were on and off the plane like yo-yo’s. I was trying to phone our friends in Mississippi from the airline desk when they told us to get back on the plane quickly as there was a break in the fog on the runway. We took off and suddenly the plane hit such bad turbulence that the stewardess standing next to us grabbed on to our seat speaking profanities and asking what was happening. Apparently we had flown straight into a violent thunderstorm.
By the time we arrived in Nashville the airport was closed for the night so after landing we were virtually stranded. The airline did not offer help in what they called ‘an act of God’ and we did not want to pay a hotel bill for just a few hours when we were flying the cheapest route we could find. Fortunately we knew someone in Nashville so roused them from sleep in the early hours of the morning. They gladly offered us a room until the first flight out the next morning. What we were not expecting was a long wait at the airport while full make-up was applied! We did eventually enjoy soaking in a hot bath and sinking into a comfortable bed for 3 hours in a most beautiful house until we could continue our journey the next morning. I never did count up the hours that this journey took, but it was a very long time and very tedious. We decided cheap flying just was not worth it. However we survived to live many more adventures so stay tuned.