The Start of a Lifelong Love Affair.

February 1976. I know it was February because my wife, who was a teacher, was off school – so it must have been half-term. We were less than a year married and on this occasion my wife had gone into the city shopping with her mother, leaving me and her father to build some flat-pack wardrobes. We joked about whether it was wise to allow the two of them to go shopping together. We laughed about what they might possibly buy – shoes or clothes we thought. But we never imagined what they DID buy:

They bought a holiday!

A notice in a travel agent’s window had caught their attention. 7 nights in an hotel in Ostend, travelling by train and boat. The travel arrangements obviously appealed to my mother-in-law who was seriously afraid of flying and my wife had decided to go along with it. 

I was a bit surprised when she told me. Ostend? Is that in France somewhere? No – it’s in Belgium. The 25-year-old me knew little about Belgium and even less about Ostend. I told my father that we were going to Belgium knowing that he had spent some time there in the years immediately after the war. “The Belgians are an odd bunch”, he said. “They put mayonnaise on their chips”.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, eventually July came around and we set off. Train from Cardiff to London Paddington, Underground from Paddington to Victoria, another train from Victoria to Dover, ferry from Dover to Ostend, and finally a taxi from Ostend ferry dock to our hotel. Carrying all our luggage with us. By the time we got to the hotel it was dark. We had dinner then went to bed thinking “What have we let ourselves in for?”

….to be continued.

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