Thursday, November 22, 2007

Monday 17th May 1937

Whit Monday. A sea trip; Channel crossing! Hasty breakfast then dashed to the end of the Pier and went aboard “Queen of the Channel” bound for Calais. Although it was a day trip there were only a small number of passengers. Just right, actually. Early in the season and rather cold.

Out in the Estuary towards Margate. We had tea in the lounge, shivered in the wind of the foredeck, leaned over the quarterdeck rail, watching the foaming wake.
After calling at Margate, we rounded the North Foreland and turned southwards.
The ship began to roll, pitch and heave. Went down below for lunch. Through the windows, I saw the sky and the sea alternately. A child at the next table was messily sick and I nervously hoped I should keep on feeling alright. I did.
When we went on deck again, there was no land in sight astern but ahead we could see the coast of France.

We felt like two bloody fools in Calais, people turning to stare at the English day-trippers. So this was France! My impression was of a dirty town with quaint and decaying buildings. Had a ride on a crazy little train. There was some difficulty about fares. John explained to the amused conductor that we were “Anglais. Pour le jour”. Had tea at an estaminet. Bought French cigarettes, “Celtique Caporal Ordinaire” 20 for 3 francs. Rougher voyage back. In navalese, the sea was “choppy”
John and I spent some time on the sun deck, forward. Every few minutes we had to duck suddenly, as sheets of water flew upwards. Sometimes we did not duck in time…
The wind tore at us; there was no sun. People began to spew (again using lower deckese language!)

When we were approaching Margate I lit one of the Celtique cigarettes. It was pretty rank. The smoke went in John’s face. I said, “We are a supercilious pair of buggers. What we both deserve is a good spew!” John responded, but not with his usual enthusiasm. He became rather quieter from then onwards. No unfortunate incident occurred however. When I went below for a snack, John bravely came, had a cup of tea and smoked a cigarette.

“Queen of the Channel” was late in reaching Southend, John missed his train so stayed the night at my digs.


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