Saturday 9-6-73
Outside the WizCoin-Op Laundry, Hatch End
Dear Father and Mother,

It seems like a long time since I wrote to you. I have been waiting for a wet day but so far I have been disappointed! It is overcast this afternoon, so we are doing some washing before going to visit the Abbesses this evening. Before I forget, S. says to tell you your letter didn't arrive this week. Apparently the third consecutive week it's been delayed.

It's just beginning to rain, I believe. The last rain I saw was in Belgium, where there wasn't much else. It was raining, too, in Aachen at the time I left, last Friday. The YH there was beautifully situated, though the management was not too friendly. I quickly picked up a lift in a VW to the border of Belgium, where I waited quite a long time for a lift with an 18-year-old German to Antwerpen, via Liège. I was quite taken by the latter - a picturesque old town with narrow, cobbled streets and delightful old buildings.

From the outskirts of Antwerpen I flagged down a businessman in a French Chrysler, going to Ghent (brought the good news of my presence from Aix [Aachen] to Ghent, probably in faster time than Dirk, Joris etc.) Dodging the watchful police outside Ghent, I secured a lift to Oostende with a Czech computer software man and his wife, who invited me to visit them in Karlsruhe (W. Ger.) While wandering about wondering where to stay in Oostende, I had Fortune smile upon me once again in the form of a local youth group leader who offered (through an interpreter) to drive me several miles to the YH. I figured the day's hitching saved me approx. $US 10. The weather was drizzly, the beach bitterly cold in the evening hours and oddly familiar - just the way I imagine a place like Folkestone (apologies to DDL).

The cross-channel ferry is outrageously expensive at 400 Belgian Francs, and was full of German and English schoolchildren, who were very interesting to observe. The English bodies on board I found most amusing - just like caricatures of everything I've imagined the English to be.

The weather fined up closer to England and I had excellent views of the White Cliffs, Dover Castle etc. Everything seemed somehow familiar and rather homely. I had a recurrent sense of déjà vu, which is possibly not surprising considering I have seen a lot of it before. The Union Jack at the masthead and a London-style bobby and a real London taxi caused mild surprise - these things look just as in the travel literature. Immigration gave me 6 months and I had no Customs check.

I walked about ½ mile to the main road and didn't have a chance to stop before being picked up by an ex-RAF chappie in a VW who delivered me to S's front door - saved another two quid and a lot of bother. I found S in sole command at Woodhall Gate and was agreeably surprised by the hospitable reception and standard of service accorded me. I have been sleeping on his lounge-room floor ever since (each night, I mean), though I didn't get to bed till 0400 this morning after inspecting the setting up of stalls in Covent Garden market (soon to be moved). Next Monday I may shift to an ex-Prudential friend's dwelling in Golders Green.

Scene: A park in Pinner Village
Time 1000 Monday 11/6/73
Dramatis personae: JCC

I'm afraid I haven't got very far with this. I have got out of S's place to avoid meeting the old boy's girlfriend, though I just see her walking past here (she has a key to the house).

A summary of some events in rough chronological order: last Sunday we drove to Oxford and the Cotswolds, came home through Cheltenham and inspected 'arrow-on-the-'ill. The sun was shining (for the whole week!) I renewed my acquaintance with places like Bourton-on-the-Water, but somehow nothing seemed as exciting as I remembered it.

On Monday I collected from Australia House 7 letters from Australia (three sent on from Lebanon inc. one from Gwen Lee) and one from Beth (the rest from youse). I'll get around to answering them ASAP.

During the week I have done a lot of the things all good tourists should, and quite enjoyed the sensation (prosaic though it was) of walking along storied streets and lanes. I have visited Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (inc. Royal Apartments and London Museum), the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, Mme Tussaud's and the Planetarium (disappointed at paucity of warts on Cromwell's face and found Gandhi most realistic of all), Regents Park, Harrod's, Marks and Spencer (bought underpants to replace rotted ones), Kew Gardens (lilacs rather faded in places) and a hundred miles of London streets, lanes, alleys, squares etc.

I visited the Bywaters for a meal on Thursday evening and found them very nice, rather odd but not exactly hilarious. They want to go to Aust for a trip - Douglas was carefully enquiring about the problems of hitch-hiking. He did some of it himself before he was married. Can't see why that should slow him down after what she's done. They would sell you their house for £27,500 if you are interested.

On Friday I visited IBM at Chiswick and have an interview with the manager of a new insurance specialist group on Wednesday at Hursley Park Estate near Winchester. Still think I'll work in Germany - money may not be even nearly "everything" but a difference of c. $4000 p.a. gives one pause. I have to pick up my work permit in London which has thrown my travel plans into disarray.

Found our hostesses at the Abbey exceptionally pleasant and very intelligent.

Mon. Still no letter from you this a.m. but one from DDL enquiring as to my whereabouts (they have a new divan "under the map"!) but saying it was "a mercy" (wasn't it just?) I hadn't turned up in the last fortnight as he has been preoccupied with his father-in-law's death, burial etc. As you know, the family's rather difficult to contact, I haven't met anybody absolutely mad-keen to take me there, and I have been out of London the last two Sundays.

Yesterday we went to the Isle of Wight in the train and looked up some old haunts. Hope to fit the Lengs into my busy schedule sometime.