So, the six of us cast members (two girls and three guys) piled into a passenger van in the dead of October for six weeks, criss crossing across England, Wales and Scotland. It was a tremendous opportunity; one that I took for granted. I didn't yet have the obsession with genealogy and my history with that great land. By then I had found my biological mother- but that family knew little to nothing about their own origins and weren't particularly interested in finding out about them. This was long before the internet, Ancestry.com and the onset of instant and fanatical genealogical research. It was still far too daunting a task for me to even begin building a family tree.
The UK was damp and chillingly cold for this california girl. I soon noticed that sitting in a drafty van for hours on end would cause my feet to first sweat, then become chilled- and soon they would be, essentially, blocks of ice at the bottom of my legs. I began to spend my nominal weekly stipend on every type of sock that I could get my hands on in the hopes of finding some miraculous cure for that which was ruining my otherwise enjoyment of exploring the countryside as it constantly streamed past my window.
Over the years I have been known to go to extreme lengths to thaw out my lower extremities. I have burned out numerous hair dryers by inserting them under the blankets on my bed. I own more than my fair share of Ugg Boots. Don't judge. My mother-in-law will recall many a family gathering where I couldn't possibly continue with the visit until after I had filled up a sink with hot water, sat on the counter, and soaked my feet until the icy-ness had been extricated from my tootsies. It's a thing. Even today, as I sit in front of my trusty lap-top, my feet are adorned with my favorite booties that are equipped with battery powered heaters so that I can remain toasty warm. That's them in the picture at the top of this page. By the way- it's seventy degrees outside. Had such a pair of joy filled muk-luks been available in 1991, life on tour would have been far more comfortable. It has occurred to me that perhaps this is nature's way of telling me that I need to move more and sit less- but I digress.
My daughter, born and raised in California, started college just outside of Boston last year. She too has experienced this life diminishing phenomenon. We are one in the same.
When last we spoke, I disclosed that my biological father, Clive Fisher, was on a boat bound for England. He had previously been corresponding with his father on average of two or three times a week. My grandfather seems to have had the foresight to transcribe the letters into composition books and they are compiled in a series of chronological chapters. My cousin, Kaylene, takes the time to photograph them and send them to me by Facebook Messenger every few days. It is a delightful window into my father's life.
As the dates were progressing to early 1964, I began to anticipate the time when, perhaps, my father would talk about my mother. Maybe there would be mention of the "nurse" that he had met at such and such. I harbor no delusions that it was a great romance. At this point I would be surprised if it was anything more than a one time fling. Things happened. It was a long time ago. No judgement.
Clive certainly enjoyed meeting the ladies. He spoke of them often. Sometimes he named them, sometimes he didn't. He never went into detail- or even eluded that there was anything more than flirtations. One time he mentioned getting to "second base" with someone. Cute. I wonder what that meant in 1964.
I mentioned in the last chapter how the letters were constant until April of 1964- and suddenly- like a punch in the gut- it was October 19th and he was traveling to England. My cousin says that she is sending the pages in the order in which they were written. Either an entire book has gone by the wayside- or "papa" decided that some things didn't need to be recorded for the record.
According to his letters, Clive was living in a boarding house in Exeter. He had a job driving (or conducting) on a bus. He talks about "Frances". I believe that she is the pen-pal that he had been corresponding with and decided that they should meet in person. When he got there, he discovered that she was practically engaged to a soldier and their imagined relationship was not to be. Clive was not thrilled- but he took it in stride. He made the best of the situation and stuck around to experience life in Exeter. He was not impressed with his "land-lady". Apparently she was a bit of a "tight wad" and complained when he took long baths or sat in front of the heater for too long. He experienced his first (almost) white christmas (grey?) in 1964. He missed his dad, siblings and their children- but he was determined to stick it out as long as he could. He thought that the "pommies" -at least the ones in Exeter- were a little too set in their ways- and generally "backwards". After moving to a new boarding house he liked his new landlady. She was from Bolton, Lancashire. They shared a common opinion of the "Devonsians" (as he called them) seemed to be stuck in the past and afraid of "progress". He said he liked the Northern Englanders more than the Southerners. On January 12th, while singing the praises of the new land-lady he asked "Do you know where your ancestors on your dad's side are from in England?" I instinctually exclaimed "I do!". And he was correct. They are from the Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire areas.
On January 30, 1965, Clive wrote to his father.
I received your welcome letter yesterday. It snowed last night. There's still some snow around today but most of it's gone. I'm writing this at work so I'm racing through it. There was a lot more snow this time than there was last time. The weather here now is dull as buggery.
My feet are cold."
* Please don't sue me