Observations of Life on Holiday by Gwen Bunting

Before we had the Corona Virus, before we were all locked down and isolating Gwen wrote this piece about a recent holiday. Holidays seem like distant memories now.

group of person sitting inside cafe le dome
A meeting of strangers Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

 

On a recent journey I could not help but find people’s behaviour fascinating.  Some being friendly; others reserved; and others downright aggressive.  As the journey progressed observations became very much clearer.

The mum and daughter syndrome: the mother commenting to me, that now she was a widow she could enjoy all things SHE wanted to do,  as opposed to her late husband’s  dominance.  Little did she know she had spawned a duplicate of her husband; a daughter!  The daughter was an aggressive type, would barge her way to the front of any queue. Wow betides those poor souls in her way.

The quiet man who gave off the aura of ‘don’t speak to me’ was an interesting personality.  He had a partner, whom conversed with him, but his sole intention at the dining table was to eat as much as he could in the time allocated. His partner was quite different.  Nice friendly person.

The very tall man, his wife was bent over due to a back problem. Preventing her falling by constantly holding her hand.  How dedicated can one be:  Never had a chat with him, but on leaving the group he warmly shook your hand saying ‘it was a pleasure to have met you?’

The sad lady who had dementia and caused a lot of anxiety for her friend, who had not realised she was so confused.  Her wanderings around the various hotel lobbies very early in the morning asking when the coach was leaving and having her bags packed.  She realised on some occasions she was confused.  It made life difficult for her friend, most of the group supportive when needed.

The gentleman who requested they change his bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice as this one contained too many pips.  He got his way after many arguments.  His face was not dissimilar to a beautiful pencil drawing on display in one of the hotel lounges.  The said ‘orange juice man’ was extremely tall and as we were in Viking country I would have enjoyed researching his family history.

The various nations with whom we shared our hotels with were varied.  One nation in particular took it upon themselves to attempt to clear the buffet of all foods.  Hiding  loaves of bread, butter pats and boiled eggs into every orifice that was available to fill.  Life is very interesting when you are travelling and gives me lots of ideas to write stories about.

Meeting Penfriends

Gwen Bunting is a recent recruit to the Wordsmiths. This is her fascinating account of her sixty odd year friendship with a friend in Holland.

Gwen and Lilian
Gwen seated Lilian on the sun lounger

I have been writing to Lilian Boogaard in Holland since we were thirteen-year-old schoolgirls it wasn’t until we were both aged twenty that we first met, this was in 1963.

 

I flew from Heathrow whilst waiting to board a KLM flight to Schipol Amsterdam thinking back to when I was younger. Standing then in the Queens Building as a young child with my mother, watching the aircraft land and take off. I made up my mind whilst watching the planes that one day I would fly from Heathrow myself.

 

It took me all year to save up for the trip. The flight was about £16 but hard to come by when you only earned a third of that amount weekly and had to pay your board at home.

 

The day duly arrived and my dear brothers drove me to Heathrow overnight. Having my passport and Guilders for my big adventure. They left me at the departure gate and I was on my own. A big step for me, but I moved on to the correct area and boarded the flight which lasted about an hour.

 

Landing in Schipol I followed the signs making my way through passport control answering their questions. We were not in the common market then. I was duly stamped and moved through, collecting my case from the carousel.  Walking through into the open area looking for Lilian. No one was there. I cannot remember how long I sat waiting. She had been given all the flight details but she was nowhere to be seen.  Eventually, they arrived and we drove off to Loenen a small village about 30min drive from Amsterdam. Their English was stilted and my knowledge of Dutch much the same.

 

We went into Lilian’s mother’s house a tobacconists shop with the most wonderful smell of cigars, the Dutch are big cigar smokers. When we sat down to have a cup of tea they were surprised when I put milk into mine. This is called baby-tea they drink theirs weak and black. The other comment was that I did not speak like the Queen, I said very few of us do.

 

I stayed a week with my friend we lived with her brother and sister in law, who was pregnant. The things I remember and hold dear are my first taste of plain yoghurt which I still do not like; the delicious cakes I bought at the baker’s next door and visiting a windmill in the village.

Gwen and Marijke
Marijke seated and Gwen

 

I was able to help make a dress for Marijke my friends sister-in-law. Her baby was to be named Michael and they wanted the English spelling.

Michael
Michael Lilian’s nephew

 

Other reminisces are eating chips with mayonnaise instead of vinegar.  My friend’s father was in the Dutch Resistance, but he never spoke about the war. The family stuffed four gold Dutch gilders inside a toy dog belonging to my friend’s brother. He was told never to let anyone have his toy. The dog was to go everywhere with him. These gilders were later retrieved and made into pendants. I was so envious of these necklaces, knowing the history attached to them.

Lilian’s father worked on farms inseminating cows, this was hard to explain in English. We accompanied him on several visits, him donning long plastic gloves. He jokingly asked me if I would like to shake hands.  This was my first chance to wear clogs, they used them on the farm. Happy memories.

I visited again the following year and taught Michael to walk I am told.

Henk and Lilian
Henk, Lilian and chips with mayonaise

Sadly my friend suffers from severe arthritis, causing her to retire from work early. She had been a physiotherapist with the largest clinic in Amsterdam. Lilian lives with Henk who is a doctor. They have no children, but I am pleased that after all these years we are still in touch.

Lilian and Gwen
Lilian with Gwen more recently

 

In the last two years, I have visited again, being taken out on the boat along with the family and Michael who was there to steer the boat. more than fifty years later, happy memories.

Michael and Marijke
Michael and Marijke

 

Gwen Bunting