United Kingdom ~ May 9 to September 2
At 10am on May 9, immigration and customs officers cleared our passports and suitcases, and we went ashore. Joanna Ramsey (who was the wife of mom’s boss at the Linen Chest and ended up being a good friend) and Hammy (this was obviously a nickname but I can’t remember his proper name) – a friend of dad’s from Hong Kong Tramways – rocked up to greet us!
Our luggage went by car while we got on a coach – a comfortably equipped single-decker bus – to Victoria Station, then got on a train to Carshalton.
Springs and streams have always been the feature of Carshalton. Alton means the enclosed place – presumably a farm – by the spring. The ‘Carsh’ prefix – possibly comes from cress-alton from the watercress growing in the springs.
The village grew a great deal in the 17th and 18th centuries. The medieval flour mills along the Wandle developed into small industrial sites, producing paper, snuff, leather, copper goods and gunpowder. In the second half of the 18th century the area became important for textile bleaching and printing.
The springs made the village an attractive place and by the end of the 17th century it was a place favoured by the rich. It has retained its enviable character to this day, despite extensive suburban growth. With its ponds and the picturesque settings of Honeywood House (now Sutton’s Heritage Museum) and All Saints Church, Carshalton still fascinates and delights the visitor, whether it’s to savour its history or to enjoy its shops, art galleries and pubs.
[Source: Carshalton: Past & Present]
Hammy accompanied us on the train, which was a 20 minute trip, then we got a taxi to 2 Woodstock Road, our base for the UK. Hammy lived in Wallington, a nearby town, and had his own business there – a garage I seem to recall.
From memory, Hammy was a good friend of Joy Schofield, who lived at 2 Woodstock Road, with her daughter Maureen. As she had four bedrooms, she would rent out two of them to Hammy’s friends visiting from HK, and that’s how we got to stay there. I guess you could say it was the first prototype of airbnb – LOL!!
According to dad’s diary, Joy and Maureen were very nice and the house was better than they’d expected! Hammy had lunch with us all then in the evening, Joy and my folks went to Hammy’s house, called «Maskee» (?!) and had a very enjoyable time!
The next day it surprised me to see that daddy had to go to London and register the whole family for rations! I thought that, being eight years after WWII ended, rationing would have finished but obviously not. From what I’ve researched … meat, butter, cheese, sugar and sweets were still rationed in 1953.
Certainly from daddy’s diary we ate a lot of rabbit and chicken during our stay in Carshalton! I saw that mom made steaks once and hamburgers (I bet they were kotletki, not hamburgers!) once so obviously beef was in short supply 😮
Not only that, he also had to talk to various government officials about our stay in the country. Joanna helped dad with advice about who to see and where, and we all plodded around London to get whatever dad had to do to get done!
We also went to the Vauxhall car company for dad to collect the vehicle he ordered and the experience didn’t impress him. And I quote … «Unusual inefficiency and indifferent attitude and told to come back on Wednesday»!!
On that Wednesday, mom met up with Joanna and another lady called Ronwyn at the “Troc” (the Trocadero – dad made a comment about the three of them being “big shots”! LOL!) to talk about the Linen Chest, one of several meetings mom had to attend.
All good with the pick-up and we collected mom without problems but heading back to Carshalton took two hours too long! However dad reckoned that despite being in a strange land, having a new car with new gears, he did a pretty good job getting there at all! I had to laugh! 😀
I think the difference with the gears was that our old car in HK had a floor gear stick while the Wyvern’s gear stick was on the steering column.
Now with the car he and mom took turns driving around the countryside.
They took us to Sevenoaks, to Brighton, to Epsom Downs, to Cambridge and just about everywhere in the south of England!
When we were in “the big smoke” Daddy was wide-eyed at seeing the Tube’s escalators and the automatic ticketing machines which – gasp – gave out the correct change to whatever amount was put into the machine!! LOL!
Mom was surprised that we could buy individual cucumbers and not have to buy them per weight like in Hong Kong!
It made me laugh to read the things which amazed my parents in the mid-20th century! In the 21st century one tends to think of Hong Kong being a super-modern city but obviously it was way behind London in 1953 😀
I also had a belly laugh when I read dad’s post about going to Mme Tussaud’s – he was saying how incredibly lifelike all the figurines were and he even found himself handing over the entrance fee to the figurine standing next to the cashier! However, on a more serious note, daddy did say that when we went into the horror chamber, we all saw the actual blade of a guillotine and other implements of torture 😮
It would seem that the main thing my parents did over the next couple of weeks was getting used to driving their new car, a Vauxhall Wyvern EIX with the licence plate NXD911, and finding their way to and back from London without getting lost.
There were a few run-ins with the police for minor infringements, like not switching on the parking lights when stationary or giving enough warning when turning into a side street. Dad made a wry remark that he expected to get a whole book of summonses for traffic offences! 😮
It was a lovely warm day on May 24 so we all ditched our sweaters and decided to go for a picnic to Albury Park with Joy and Hammy.
Albury Park covered more than 150 acres and included all that was left of the old village of Albury. The grounds were laid out by John Evelyn, the 17th century diarist and landscape gardener between 1655 and 1677 – at the time the park was owned by Henry Howard, who later became the 6th Duke of Norfolk.
On May 19 dad hired an “old fashioned piano” from Wise’s Music Store for two months so that he wouldn’t get rusty – imagine that!
He said that the cost of hiring it was 5 guineas (£5/5s), which would have been around A$1,200-ish in today’s dollar value.
I think Joy and Maureen must have been very brave to put up with dad’s scales, arpeggios and the rest while he practised every day!
Daddy also mentioned that on June 1, he checked out his first TV at Wise’s! I don’t think any of you youngsters reading this would understand how wonderful it would have been to see this new technology! Just awesome, seriously awesome!
The other days fluctuated from hot to freezing cold and the weather for the day of Elizabeth II’s coronation was especially rotten. Daddy recorded these details : 50°F forecast for midday of Tuesday, June 2, together with showers, hail and thunder 😮
As daddy had got seats for the stand reserved for the HK contingent, we all headed off to bed early on the Monday night as we had to wake up at 4 o’clock the next morning. Rather than rewriting dad’s account of the coronation, I will just copy what he wrote in his diary.
JUNE 2, 1953
Got up at 4am and after a hurried breakfast, we took Joy and Len (?) by car to catch the 5:15am train to Victoria.
Walked from the station to Hyde Park corner and to our stand, and were seated by 6:15. The weather was cold and overcast.
At 7 Mr & Miss B C Field came and sat next to us (that would have been Bevan Field, whose farewell party daddy went to in HK) and soon afterwards Mr & Mrs Johnson arrived and sat behind us (would that have been Johnson, the General Manager of HK Tramways? Daddy always sounded so formal with people he knew but who weren’t close friends!). Saw Mr Cora and wife, Mr & Mrs Nobbins and some other HK faces but none of our (close) friends.
Comfortable seats, free access to a tea buffet and bar, and to the conveniences. Altogether a very well organised affair. While we waited loudspeakers blared musical programs by the BBC, as well as news and commentaries.
Opposite the stands the crowds were 20-30 deep lining the carriage route, those in the front had been camping there 24 hours earlier!
Later in the morning troops arrived to line up along the route and were greeted with loud cheers but the loudest cheers went up to greet the «lap sap che» (lap sap cheh is Cantonese for the rubbish truck). On the whole the attitude of the crowds was marvellous. There were songs even dances, and even the showers couldn’t dampen their spirits. The ambulance brigade was very busy carrying away those who fainted.
At 12pm an RASC truck arrived and the troops were supplied with lunch bags.
From 11am, as the Queen arrived at the Abbey, the church service was relayed over the loudspeaker system. Before 8am we watched cars pass by carrying VIPs to the Abbey.
The weather was getting really bad by noon – pelting rain with cold winds, although there were a few short bright spells. The Johnstons kindly lent us one of their umbrellas.
At about 2.30pm, the head of the procession entered Hyde Park corner (Apsley Gate). There were all sorts of regiments with bands, then came the Canadian Mounties. They looked very smart in their red tunics, riding beautiful horses that all looked alike!
Just then the procession had to halt to await the Queen’s departure from the Abbey. As they stood there on the road, a mass of men in resplendent uniforms, it started pouring again! We all huddled together under umbrellas, lifting our collars, and it was a pity to see all those soldiers and officers getting soaking wet, knowing full well how much time and effort was put into making themselves look smart 🙁
15 minutes later a signal was given for the troops to proceed and they started off again. The RAF put on a good show but some of the infantry troops had ragged lines. In one case in particular half of one line joined half of another line (marching 12 abreast) and accordingly, all the other halves took up positions with the other half of a wrong line 😮
When the mistake was realised, all these “halves” started to break away and fell in to join their original line behind!
I felt sorry for the East Africans as they were marching in shorts, sandals on bare feet and a sort of T-shirt as their uniform.
Detachments of the HKVDC (Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps) and HKRNVR (Hong Kong Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) were smart. The outstanding uniforms were the Hussars, Grenadiers, Yeomen and, of course, the Life Guards with their plumed helmets and breast plates riding black horses.
The whole procession was 7 miles long. A beautiful picture was made by Standards of every possible regiments which were carried unfurled. The Navy put on a good show.
After all this mass of servicemen and women, of generals and admirals came the coaches of the man sultans from the Commonwealth. The Queen of Tonga, riding in an open carriage, got terrific cheers. Next along were the prime ministers of the Commonwealth … we could see the Canadian PM and Nehru clearly, and then came the Royal coaches.
The Queen Mother was looking our way and we had a great view of her smiling face Before the Royal coaches and the last of the PMs’ coaches was Churchill’s coach,
He got a terrific loud cheer from the spectators! He was smiling and waving to us. Somehow I thought he looked a bit silly in his flat hat!
Admirals of the Fleet and Field Marshals rode horseback. Monty got a big cheer from our stand, which he duly acknowledged, and then came the State Coach with the Queen and Prince Philip.
People nearly went mad, shouting and waving! Unfortunately the rain just started to get heavy at that moment and although I tried to use my movie camera at that moment, I only got a glimpse of her profile and that was all 🙁
After the State Coach passed, the procession ended. As we had been advised not to leave our seats before the troops dispersed, we took it easy and had our sandwiches. We finally left the stand, came out to Hamilton Place and found ourselves in an awful jam before the gates. We went back to another stand and waited until all the troops passed us on their way to their barracks, and then walked to Victoria Station.
Caught the 6:15 train, came back hungry, exhausted and pretty sleepy from the long day but we all agreed that it was a fabulous experience.
PS – a word of appreciation of the way London bobbies behave and control crowds is necessary to record. No shouting, no irritation, they were completely good natured and exercised great self-control. They really were marvellous!
[Source: George Parks’ diary entry 1953]
Queen Elizabeth II Coronation – 1953 (British Movietone)
A few days after the excitement of the coronation, dad drove us to Chipstead and Diana, a daughter of one of our neighbours, came with us. I have no idea why we went there but perhaps we were told it was a must-see part of Surrey so off we went!
Then on the 9th, Hammy invited mom and dad to his place to celebrate his birthday. They had a great time and ate lots of yummy Chinese chow!
I wonder if the Chinese chow was ordered from a restaurant or made by Hammy … mmm! No idea 🙂
The other people there were Joy (sitting next to Hammy on the left of the photo), Mr & Mrs Sherbet, Mr Hanford, Mr G Hicks and his daughter Beryl, for what it’s worth 😉
I had an impression that Carshalton was miles away but on checking, it was just 17 km away! No wonder mom and dad were zipping up and down day and night! However back in those days there were very few cars on the road – just around 2 million for a population of around 50 million! People were riding bikes or travelling on buses or trains to get around.
Another comment which made me laugh was mom’s reaction to Lindy’s new glasses. She had to have her eyes checked at the optometrist and was told she needed glasses. When they picked them up, mom almost had a fit that they cost £4.10s!
I had to research how much this would cost in today’s dollars and was shocked to find out that would have amounted to about A$1000 😮 No wonder mom had a fit!!!
However on the plus side, dad did say that when they took Lindy to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital to get her scoliosis checked, they didn’t get a bill for all the tests, etc. That certainly wouldn’t happen in this day and age!
Of course we did all the touristy things as a family …
On June 10 our folks took us to London Zoo in Regent’s Park and I had rides on an elephant, camel, pony, and in a carriage pulled by llamas and another one pulled by ponies!
Dad commented that he was more impressed with the Colombo zoo than this one!
We also checked out the Albert Memorial on the same day 🙂
The next day we went to Hampton Court Palace and wandered through the maze, but didn’t get lost in it – LOL!
We checked out Henry VIII’s wine cellar (I don’t think there were any bottles of vintage wine still there) before looking at the kitchen. I think we all thanked God that we didn’t live in Tudor times, especially if we didn’t have servants 😀
There were beautiful paintings in the Palace done by Titian, Kneller, Dossi and many others, and on the ceiling Verrio painted some magnificent scenes. There was a room with all types of weapons displayed on the walls and magnificent stained glass in the dining hall.
I think my father was most impressed with the place 😉
On June 19 dad drove us to Victoria Station, picked up Joanna then dad dropped her, mom and Lindy off at a beauty parlour. When he collected the ladies again, he said he almost didn’t recognise Lindy. She had all her long hair cut off and dad said she looked a lot older with her new look 😀
A few days later, on June 24, we checked out the Tower of London and were in wonder at all the gold and precious jewels on display.
Apparently when we went back to the car and were sitting there, having something to drink and eat, a group of children passed by and called us “Spicks”! What a joke 😀
My favourite group back in the 1950s was the Kingston Trio and I used sit by the record player with my tennis racquet and warble along with all their song, especially this one …
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There were only a few sunny days during June – it must have been hell for mom to do all our washing and have to try and get it all dry on the line during the lousy weather! What did she do when it rained as there were no dryers in those days 🙁
I don’t think kids these days would understand how “primitive” they would have found life in the 1950s!
TVs were just coming out in the early part of the ’50s … films had to be developed, as did the 8mm movies, washing machines were just becoming popular in the UK about the time we were there and then they weren’t fully automatic!
I asked Lindy if she remember if mom had a washing machine to help with the washing and Lindy said no, no washing machine 😮 From what I read up on, clothes were all hand-washed, using water boiled up in a vast copper, then rinsed and put through an unwieldy wrought-iron mangle. And no laundromats available for those who didn’t want to go through the chore of hand washing! Yikes!
And would you believe it … I read in dad’s diary that mom, or sometimes Lindy, used to IRON HIS HANDKERCHIEFS!!!! 😮
Dad was also bemoaning about how bad the quality of his shirts were after being ironed by a professional ironer, saying if our wash amah produced such results, she’d have been fired instantly!
It was a bit disconcerting to read in dad’s diary that he and mom were so impressed with the fresh air that smelled of newly mown grass, the tweeting of birds and the fresh strawberries in England that they were seriously considering going to live there! Augh! I am SO glad they didn’t 😮
However I will admit that dad would be in Seventh Heaven here what with all the concerts, etc, that he could go to regularly!
He and my mother attended so many ballets, concerts and recitals – either with or without us kids – that I had to put the details on a separate page so for those of you who are interested in reading about that, please click HERE.
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Joanna and Isobel were Gawlers, related to George Gawler, who was appointed Governor of South Australia in 1838, after whom the town of Gawler was named.
Although it’s called a chapel, it is actually a huge church! The beautiful stained glass windows showed episodes from Christ’s life and daddy remarked that he found the chapel far more impressive than some of the famous churches we’d visited.
The river Cam runs through King’s College’s grounds and there were punts available so dad declined, standing on the riverbank to take photos of all of us ladies being punted around by my mother! LOL! 😀
From that moment on, I have always rooted for Cambridge when Oxford and Cambridge had their Boat Race!
I only just found out that Oxford and Cambridge punters have different styles 😮 Cambridge punters stand on the till and punt with the bow or “open end” forward, while in Oxford they stand inside the boat and punt with the till forward. Devotees from both Oxford and Cambridge believe that theirs is the only true style, and the till end is often known as the ‘Cambridge end’, and the other as the ‘Oxford end’.
We went to the Garden House Hotel to have tea on their lawn before leaving around 5:10pm. We dropped Joanna back home and arrived in Carshalton at 7:50, tired out after a busy day!
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When we weren’t going out and about being tourists, Lindy and I had to knuckle down and do school work so that we wouldn’t be behind our contemporaries when we got back to Hong Kong.
There were a couple of kids around about my age on Woodstock Road and I used to hang out with them occasionally. Their names were Andrew and Diana but I have no idea if they were brother and sister or just friends themselves.
We were probably the same age … oh no! Maybe Diana was older than me, but because I was so tall, it looks like I was way older than the two of them! Feh! >:(
Dad did mention in his diary that one day they got a call from Andrew’s mother to say I was naughty at their house so I had to come home and was grounded 😮
Another time I got into trouble was when I pulled on a piece of string which was attached to a lattice fence in the back yard. The whole fence came crashing down and poor dad had to try to resurrect it to its previous glory 🙁 I mean really, who ties a piece of string on a rickety fence? It’s just asking for it to be pulled down, don’t you think? 😀
Coming from HK, which was a really safe place for kids, my mother used to get really anxious when she’d read in the papers about pedophiles snatching kids off the streets because I was keen to go to the corner store to spend my pocket money on candy!
I can still remember the smell from the corner
store shop … a mixture of mustiness, a sweet smell from the candy sweets in all those big jars they were kept in, newspapers and tobacco!
In England they called stores ‘shops’ and ‘candy’ sweets, so I made the necessary corrections to what I call things 😉
Anyway, it was with great reluctance that I would be allowed to walk down to the corner to get my bits of candy and then I would race back to the safety of the home. As the house and garden almost backed onto a large park, mom was even more worried if I would go with the other kids to play as there were very lurid stories in the papers about kids being taken from parks as well 😮
Back in those days there were separate stores for different items – you went to the butcher for meat, then the greengrocer to get your vegetables and fruit, and the baker to pick up the bread you wanted. It was pretty boring bread … white loaves which needed to be cut at home!
If you wanted fish, you had to go to the fishmonger and no way would they have had goodies like squid, octopus, lobster and other delicious shellfish 🙁 However you probably would have been able to buy cockles and mussels, alive alive-oh! 😀
Then I found out that I used to run out and help the milkman deliver bottles of milk to the houses along the road! It was probably more for me to see the horse rather than the thrill of delivering bottles of milk to the neighbours! LOL!
Back in the ’50s, a pint of milk cost 1/9d and I remember the bottles having a large plug of cream at the top which used to plop into a glass or cup or bowl of cereal – whatever that we used to pour the bottle into. It truly used to make me gag if I had the plug in my glass of milk AND, even worse, the milk wasn’t COLD! Kak! 😛
In those days there weren’t many fridges around and most of the perishable things were put in the larder to keep cool. The milk would have been lukewarm at best. Feh 😛 It really surprised me to see that as late as 1961 only 20% of British households had fridges 😮
This photo doesn’t make me seem like I’m having a whole lot of fun but apparently I did enjoy myself and the milkman was pretty happy to let me help him out too 🙂
On July 7 we all went to the Russian Orthodox Church which at that time was situated at 188 Buckingham Palace Road.
It was in an old Anglican church and I was absolutely astounded to read that Bishop Johann conducted the service!
Bishop Johann, as dad called him, was Saint John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco. He conducted services in Shanghai when mom and dad were there so I’m sure that they would have attended his services there.
How incredible after all those years 😮
After the service was over, mom and dad bumped into Mrs Komorsky, a friend from HK. Anatole Komorsky, a member of the HKVDC, had been interred in Shamshuipo by the Japanese but his mother, Zenis [sic] (I think that was a misspelling and the name should have been Zenia), had been left to her own devices, like most Third Nationals.
“Komo”, as Anatole was known as, was always keen to get to England so when the war ended, he must have taken his mother and gone to London.
I wonder if my folks stayed in touch with Zenia and so arranged to meet her after the service or if it was a big surprise?!
I guess mom and Lindy weren’t very impressed with the hair style they got from the run-of-the-mill beauty parlour the previous month because on July 8, they went to “Raymond’s” to get their hair done.
The salon was named after Raymond Bessone who was “THE” hairdresser in London during the 1950s!
«Raymond Bessone was the first TV hairdresser and kick-started the concept of celebrity stylists. He was born in Brixton and worked in his father’s barber shop until he opened his salon in Mayfair, which boasted gilt mirrors, chandeliers and Champagne fountains. His own flamboyant style was no less over-the-top. He adopted a faux-French accent and was usually spotted sporting custom-made, brightly-coloured suits, completing the look with a matching pocket-square, pencil moustache and exaggerated long cigarette.
«He was credited with popularising bouffant hairstyles in the 1950s and was famous for his immaculate precision-cutting technique, elaborate updos and celebrity clientele.
«During a 1954 television appearance, Raymond demonstrated his cutting technique by snipping off a “teasy-weasy bit here and a teasy-weasy bit there” – a catchphrase was born and from then on he became Mr Teasy-Weasy.»
[Source: Hairdressers Journal International]
So, while they went to get all glamorous, dad and I went to different music publishers and mooched around but when we returned to Raymond’s at 1:30pm to collect the ladies, we were told they wouldn’t be ready for another hour or so!
Dad took me to the Hong Kong Restaurant and I dived into sweet & sour pork. You can take the girl out of HK but you can’t take HK out of the girl 😀
Dad must have told the staff where to send the ladies when they were finished as they walked in at 3:15 looking very glam 😉
The next day we took a trip to St Michael’s Tea Cottage, a famous (?) 300 year old cottage. I googled to see if I could find out more about the cottage but, alas, to no avail 🙁
On Tuesday, July 14, mom was supposed to go up to London and have a meeting with Joanna but she cancelled and my folks decided we should go for a drive.
The plan was to go and take a look around Canterbury but halfway there they changed plans and we took the road to Dover!
We all agreed it was lovely to see the sea again and dad said that Dover reminded him a bit of Tsingtao.
We went to have lunch at the Crypt on Bench Street but it was closed until 6pm so we headed off to Ann Hathaway’s instead and then walked off our lunch along the sea shore 😉
A week later a friend of Lindy’s from HK, Deirdre Smith, came over to spend a couple of days with us.
The two teenagers went and played golf (mini golf I assume) and then, after dinner, dad took us all for a drive but got lost so he said that he will not be going out in the car without maps again 😀
The next day dad took us all to the Oaks, a park in Carshalton. This park was laid out for the Earl of Derby in the 1770s, with some changes made to it 20 years later.
They planted trees to make a perimeter screen, as well as putting them in groups to make it look like a natural landscape.
The Carshalton Urban District Council gained control of the park in 1933 and 80 acres were given over to the public.
Unfortunately it started to rain so we didn’t get to run around or do anything much so went back to the house. After lunch we all went to the Royal Opera House to see the National American Ballet Theatre.
I somehow cannot imagine taking two teenagers and a 5 year old to the Royal Opera House to watch a ballet in this day and age! Imagine how fidgety the youngsters would be 😀 Still, obviously things were different in the 1950s and parents wanted their kids to get their dose of culture!
We took Deirdre home – I think she was staying at her aunt’s house during the summer vacation – had tea and then went back to the house.
Finally it was my time to get all my long locks shorn! On July 31 my father took me to a hairdresser’s to get a cut. See … a little six-year old doesn’t get to have her hair teasy-weasied like her big sister! Hahahahaha 😀
So yes, I guess mom was fed up with putting my hair into plaits so I went and had it all chopped off 😮 My father was very sweet … he said that when I came out with my fringe and short hair, it made my features look softer and nicer! Way to go, daddy! Ever the diplomat 😀
Dad said that I came out and appeared to be happy with the hair cut. Oh yeah? I think if a hairdresser had cut my hair like that now, I would be seriously UNHAPPY as I hate seeing a fringe on my forehead 😉
I read some interesting facts about the Cumberland Hotel …
The historic Cumberland Hotel, located at the end of Oxford Street near Marble Arch in central London, takes its name from the Duke of Cumberland (son of George II 1721-1765) and has been the site of a public house from as early as 1747.
The Hotel received a royal visit by King George V and Queen Mary two days before the public opening on December 12,1933 – just in time for the Christmas holiday.
When it opened, the Cumberland Hotel featured all the latest developments for comfort. It was sound-proofed, double glazed, air conditioned and all 900 rooms had their own en-suite baths. All air entering the hotel was filtered to clear out any London smog. Two thousand staff were employed at the hotel and a specially built annex provided accommodation for 300 girls who worked at the hotel. There was one bath to every four girls and they ate in their own restaurant on the ground floor of the annex.
The next day daddy to us girls to Windsor Castle again, we had lunch on the lawn then played there and then took Helen back to her hotel at 5pm.
Mom and dad were very keen to see what Edinburgh was all about so on August 6, we loaded the car up and headed off to «Auld Reekie» (the nickname the Scots give to Edinburgh) and spent 10 days exploring the northern areas.
You can read about the journey to «Auld Reekie» HERE.
The last few weeks of living in England was full of going to embassies to get visas for the Continental countries we were planning to visit, and mom going up to London to have meetings with Joanna. When dad was at home, he was busy packing up all the things we bought during our stay so that we could ship it back to HK.
One of those days we headed to London to pick mom and Lindy up and as they weren’t ready, dad took me to the Dorchester Hotel for tea!
The Dorchester, the beginning
Once part of Henry VIII’s hunting ground as ‘The Manor of Hyde’ where generations of British monarchs ambled around its woodland, and later the celebrated ‘Dorchester House’ bought in 1792 by Joseph Damer, the space occupied by The Dorchester has always held an important place in British history.
It was during the 18th century that the building was catapulted into the eye of high society thanks to its easy access to ‘The Row’ in Hyde Park, the exclusive promenade frequented by the upper echelons of high society. Although the building took the name Hertford House while undertaking renovations by the Marquess of Hertford, it soon returned to Dorchester House under the ownership of Captain Holford, where it became famous across London as one of the finest palatial mansions in the capital.
Dorchester House was then sold in 1926 to Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons, in partnership with Sir Frances Towle, managing director of Gordons Hotels Ltd, whose ambition it was to create the ‘perfect hotel’, a vision of modernity, efficiency and style. The Grand Opening was held on the 18th of April 1931 with a gala luncheon in the ballroom for the elite of high society.
Its success as a venue of incredible luxury was instantaneous and the first of its many balls was held on the 21st of April by Lady Violet Astor. The Ballroom soon became the venue for Queen Charlotte’s annual ball and the debutantes’ ball, setting the tone for decades of society events and significant occasion.
The reputation of The Dorchester, among the great hotels of the world, is unique in having established itself within a few months after the hotel’s opening in 1931.
Ever since, The Dorchester’s combination of elegant luxury, sumptuous decor and unrivalled standards of personal service has made it more than a constant venue for the famous and influential – for many it has become a regular ‘home from home’.
Royalty and political leaders, both British and foreign, have been frequent visitors. Princess Elizabeth, the present Queen, attended a dinner party at The Dorchester the day before her engagement was announced on 10th July 1947, and it was here that Prince Philip celebrated his stag night on the eve of his wedding. He has subsequently been a regular guest of honour and renowned after-dinner speaker at events and charity functions held in the hotel, and on 26th October 1990, unveiled a plaque commemorating the reopening of The Dorchester after a two-year closure for refurbishment.
During the Second World War, several members of the government as well as service chiefs moved into The Dorchester on a semi-permanent basis. General Eisenhower, then occupied with the planning of the Normandy invasion, set up headquarters in the hotel in 1944.
Early on, The Dorchester became a haven for figures from literary and artistic circles. In addition to the famous Foyles Literary Luncheons, beginning in the 1930s, the hotel has also welcomed writers and artists such as novelist Somerset Maugham (a frequent guest up to his death), the poet Cecil Day Lewis and the painter Sir Alfred Munnings. In more recent years, Jack Higgins and Jackie Collins have been frequent guests. [Source: The Dorchester Collection]
Greedy little guts that I was, I had 3 sandwiches, a cake and an orange juice, while daddy just had cake and tea. This came to 6/6 which dad thought was very reasonable for the best hotel in London 😉
Waited outside 53 Green Street for Joanna, mom and Lindy and when they appeared, we took Joanna home to her pad in Kensington and we drove back to our spot in the country!
There were days when we also mooched around London, looking at the Horse Guards outside Buck House, and waiting for a glimpse of the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth when she stood on the balcony at Buck House!
More days packing and sorting through things, mailing things back to HK and taking things to Cook’s to forward to the “Victoria”, the ship we were taking back home from Italy.
On the 26th I had Andrew and Diana for my birthday party and the cake was a block of ice cream with 6 candles. The party finished at 6 and at 7pm some friends of the folks, including Hammy, came over and dad showed them some movies.
On THE day – the 27th – everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me and I got presents and a pile of cards from everyone in Hong Kong. Had lunch at the Golden Kettle and met Joanna afterwards. I don’t know what kind of restaurant the Golden Kettle was but we went there a few times and the last time dad said that the plov was really delicious!
More washing, ironing, packing and God knows what else preparing for the big trek onto the Continent. I would imagine my folks would have been pretty excited but also a little nervous about going into the big unknown!
Had a surprise on the 29th when dad got sick and tired of all the washing and ironing that was going on so took us to Drury Lane to see «South Pacific»! You can read more about it at the bottom of this page.
That evening mom and dad went to Hammy’s for their farewell dinner and, angel that I am, I didn’t create any fuss when I had my bath and went to bed!
The next two days was more washing, ironing and packing and taking suitcases and trunks to Cook’s to forward to the Victoria; going to the Automobile Association (AA) to make sure everything needed for the car was in order and getting everything else in order.
Bye Bye Carshalton! Hello Dover!
We all rose on September 1 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and Lindy got stuck into ironing handkerchiefs (!!) then mom took over ironing dad’s shirt and JACKET! Eeep!
I helped daddy with sweeping the floor and drying and putting away all our breakfast dishes, then we all went to say goodbye to the neighbours and then Joy and Hammy came to wish us bon voyage. Daddy wanted to wait for the mailman to see if we had any letters from HK but the guy was late so dad decided that it was time to go.
Gave Joy and Hammy hugs and kisses and then we headed off to Dover.
We got to Dover at 3:30 and stopped at the AA office before heading to the White Cliffs Hotel.
In 1947 this hotel opened on Waterloo Crescent by merging the former Brown House and the York Hotel into one building which had 50 bedrooms, 7 with private bathrooms (!!) and a further 15 bathrooms for general use 😮 Daddy said the rooms were very nice with – gasp! – a radio and telephone in each 😀
We freshened up and went for drinks outside the hotel, then went to the Crypt for a delicious dinner.
We had to go to the foreshore to walk off our delicious meal. The evening was so pleasant that we sat on the pebbles – which was known as the beach!! – enjoying the scenery.
We got back to the hotel at 8 and had our baths … dad didn’t say but I reckon we had at least one room with a private bathroom and retired for the night, dreaming about the adventure ahead of us the next day!
Such excitement!! 😀
Mom and dad got up early and were feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement about the trip ahead! We all had a hurried, mediocre breakfast, dad paid the bill and we went to the Eastern docks to catch the ferry to Boulogne.
We went through passport and customs control and the formalities were short and sweet. Getting us on the ferry was well organised and the ship was very comfortable. Woot!
At 9:45am the ship left Dover and we all waved goodbye to the White Cliffs of Dover!
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