In November dad’s contract was cut short and he decided to cruise home to England rather than take the plane.
A few days later we found ourselves on board the Shaw Savill Line, s.s. Athenic bound for the UK. The weather on departing from the port was, of course, tropical but a few days later the weather in the Atlantic was wintry so we didn’t stay above deck for long periods of time.
The journey sticks in mind as on 22nd November we heard over the tannoy that President John F Kennedy had been assassinated. It came as a shock and we felt a bit out of touch with the outside world.
Mum was seasick for two days and my sister tripped on a large deck step, needing medical attention as well. We had cabin service but mum was given anti sickness pills, so we were soon able to enjoy the wonderful food on offer. Meanwhile I had friends on board from the Texaco club swimming days so I had sophisticated teenagers to spend time with. They had previously lived in India so were quite worldly for their age.
One afternoon mum and I sat on the deck overlooking the sailor’s quarters. It was a laugh a minute as they entertained us with their off duty antics, telling lewd jokes and dousing each other with buckets of water. It was all very Frankie Howard style.
The highlight of the cruise for me was the Captain’s Dinner except for the ballroom dancing, when I kept treading on the Chief Officer’s toes. I blame him as he introduced me to champagne! The food was excellent and plentiful. I experienced my first cream tea on the ship and managed to avoid any seasickness.
When we docked in London in midwinter it was a bit of a shock and at Liverpool Street, we all bought winter coats before getting on the train to Essex. Mum got a faux ocelot and looked really glamorous with her long auburn hair.
We stayed in Essex for a little while with dad’s relatives and first treat on the list was fish and chips next to the Elm Hotel in Leigh-on-Sea. We then headed back north to our home in Staffordshire. I returned to my school in Polesworth until dad was offered a job on a desalination plant in Kuwait, but that’s another story.