28th August, 1964. The date is etched on my brain but the few days between leaving my parents in SE Asia and arriving in New York are mostly a blur.
Sometimes one seems to remember silly things. Like my mother’s idea of sending me from Bangkok with a bouquet of orchids f0r her cousin in London. A lovely idea, but not practical. The flowers arrived, but in a sadly dilapidated state.
As was I. Still suffering from the after-effects of anorexia, I had been taken for a farewell meal of Thai curry that sat unhappily in my tummy during the long flight. Leaving Bangkok, in a cozy middle seat, I was obliged to endure my window-seat mate being copiously air-sick. At the intermediate stop in New Delhi, the aisle seat occupant disembarked and was replaced by a gentleman festooned with fragrant garlands, the scent of which, in a confined space became nauseating.
I arrived in London on August 26th a rare, blisteringly hot day. Emerging from Customs clutching the wilting orchids, I was met by my mother’s cousin who, curiously, wanted to go for coffee in the stifling terminal building. Maybe she saw me turn green at the prospect, because mercifully, she promptly changed her mind.
My brother was now working in London and the next day I took a train up to meet him. We went to see “The Fall of the Roman Empire” which had recently been released, and afterwards we went to eat, but I came over clammy and wobbly, and Peter escorted me “home”, concerned that I might faint. After that day I did not see my brother again for some ten years but I barely recall saying goodbye to him.
Somehow I managed to dismiss my malaise as “jet lag” and fatigue, and the following morning I donned once more my (by now ripe, I should think) travelling suit and set off on my new adventure.
I had never spent a great deal of time in England and I don’t recall feeling any regret at leaving. I had always gone back, periodically, and I imagined this would still be so. My mother’s parting words had been “don’t lose your British accent, darling!” If I was sending my teen-aged daughter off to a whole new life, thousands of miles away, I rather think I could have come up with something more profound, but then that’s how my parents were!
I was making a huge step, but it seemed like just one more aeroplane journey.
After my ignominious arrival at JFK, I controlled my outrage at having been called “a kid” and my uncle drove me 45 minutes to the small house on Long Island, that would be home for the next 13 years.
I was delighted to be re-united with aunty Kay and was loudly greeted by Wendy and Jill. I think Granny may have managed a smile!
Eventually I was more than ready to get to my bed, but first I needed a long soak in the bath.
As I wallowed there in a semi-stupor, I heard scratching at the door. I thought it was one of the dogs, but then I heard my uncle asking “can I come and wash your back?”…..