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The Day Before Yesterday: 140 - Farewell To England

...I was beginning to feel the strain of the last two days, my feet were killing me and Mark was falling asleep in my arms. We must have looked a pathetic bunch because a lady came to us and moved us to the front of the queue to the Document Desk and then we were told to look back and wave as we climbed the gangplank on board the liner. A row of cameras were taking our photos, so somewhere in England, our picture would be in the papers. We didn't know until then, the 'Canberra' was the first ship to sail after the strike. That's why we were chosen to be a typical family, about to embark on the journey of a lifetime...

Gladys Schofield concludes her entertaining autobiography.

A telegram arrived a week before we were due to sail, saying "Your departure has been delayed due to a shipping strike in Southampton. We will notify you as soon as it is over.''

We were all ready to go and had sold most of our furniture in a large house sale, the previous week. All the beds had been snapped up early, one single bed remained as the person said they would collect it before we departed. Our bed also remained, the person's who bought it we also knew, they were just getting married and had bought several pieces of furniture, so with the skeleton remains, we had to settle down once more, awaiting the outcome of the strike. It was in the news daily and the 'Canberra' was anchored their along with all the others.

I gazed out of the window watching my two younger girls struggling to open an old deck chair they had found and thought how easily children seem to adapt to situations. Most of their toys had gone and yet here they were laughing together, as they tried to solve their problem and decided if they can do it, so can I, after all they could not strike forever.
Does it matter if we drink out of odd cups for a while and the washing takes longer to dry. The days are warmer, things could be a lot worse.

The news was all good from Canada. Alan had married his girlfriend Ann, although we couldn't be there, he had Rod now to support him and Susan had been allowed to take three subjects of her exam. Just like Alan, she was too young this year, to take the full amount. She had already announced she would not go back to school in New Zealand, so it was to be hoped Susan had done well in the ones she had taken.

Cliff was fortunate to have an understanding boss who just let him carry on working until the last day and the weeks went by with no sign of the strike being solved. We had rented an old van for transport as the motorbike had been sold along with everything else. We would pile all the children into the back, if we needed to go into town and were getting quite used to living on a 'shoe string' when the second telegram arrived. It came on a Thursday at the end of June saying "Canberra sails Saturday the 2nd of July at 1.00 p.m., be in Southampton in good time to sail.''

How could they give us such short notice. I first informed Cliff and had to give the last of our belongings away, after the ones already sold were taken. Pat and David said they would travel down South with us to help with the children and see us depart. I was too busy to worry, we were booked on the overnight train on Friday night. Living in Yorkshire, this was going to be a long journey.

We gave a few keepsakes to the pleasant lady over the road, who had welcomed us to this neighbourhood and been so kind. She also had a little gift for us and we set off to the station, our two little girls hugging tiny attache cases with personal things to keep them amused on their journey.

As we waited to board our train, our smallest son was mystified as he watched all the hustle and bustle of a busy railway station and almost jumped out of his daddy's arms as one train gave a large toot. The train was crowded, only two seats couid be found, so we had to take turns to sit and stand. It's a good job the children were too excited to sleep.

We got into London about 5.00 a.m. Everyone was hungry, already the cafe's were opening to catch the travellers on the early morning train. Pat had brought a flask of tea. I said she was a thoughtful girl and after a meal, we thought we had better look around a little before finding the train to take us on our last loop of the journey.

We took photos of the children feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square and Susan posing on one of the stone lions and after a while we approached a taxi driver to ask him which station we needed for the Southampton train and he took it on himself to take us to the station. They ran a special train for the ones sailing and we didn't have time to spare and all got a seat.

As soon as we arrived in the port, we didn't need to ask where to go. Everyone was heading in the same direction. Poor Pat dropped her flask and it shattered in a million pieces. We arrived at a large transit terminal with queues of people who had arrived before us. The ship loomed before us in all its glory, so large and majestic. Pat and David had to stay outside and contented themselves taking photos.

I was beginning to feel the strain of the last two days, my feet were killing me and Mark was falling asleep in my arms. We must have looked a pathetic bunch because a lady came to us and moved us to the front of the queue to the Document Desk and then we were told to look back and wave as we climbed the gangplank on board the liner. A row of cameras were taking our photos, so somewhere in England, our picture would be in the papers. We didn't know until then, the 'Canberra' was the first ship to sail after the strike. That's why we were chosen to be a typical family, about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

A steward assigned to our cabins, showed us where to go. Our luggage was already on board and then we went back to the rail to look for our son and his girl. We saw them in the distance, Pat waving her umbrella to catch our attention and there we stood as the minutes ticked away until 1.00 p.m. The ship gave a long blast and we began to sail at exactly the right time. We watched the figures getting smaller and smaller, they never moved and then they had gone and we made our way to the cabins.

We had seen so many changes in the first half of our life and now in our forties we were about to start a completely new life at the other side of the world.

We had come a long way from our first little house and our primitive lifestyle. I wonder what awaits us in this new land.







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