Sunday, June 1 - Feels like being home again - in London, that is
My tour of England and France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day began with my 8:00 a.m. arrival at Heathrow. I was met by a driver and we waited a bit for a family from North Carolina to arrive and join us - JC, a WWII veteran, accompanied by his daughter and granddaughter. I immediately liked them and was heartened to learn that my fellow passengers on this tour would be interesting and amiable.
The driver took us to the Edwardian Vanderbilt Hotel on the Cromwell Road. I had requested early check-in and was immediately given a key to my room. This is an essential stratagem after an overnight flight with early-morning arrival. Otherwise you have to wait until 3:00 p.m. to get into your room, and the intervening 6 or 7 hours after your arrival can be rough.
|At the V&A|
|At the V&A|
I met the tour leader, Dr. Paul Winter, a military historian of the first water, as he greeted our large group. Paul had been hired to share the wealth of his knowledge on this tour, but instead (or, I should say, in addition) he was saddled with all the nuts and bolts of handling 46 guests ranging in age from 16 to 92. Of course, Paul stepped up to his unexpected responsibilities with integrity and aplomb. But I am a born ADC and all my instincts to jump in and render assistance came to the fore. I assigned myself to be his helper, and it was the beginning of what was to become an enduring friendship.
|Here I am in London again!|
Poor Paul was by now getting a taste of things to come - sloppy logistics from the tour organizers with the fallout on his shoulders, as our point man. Recriminations came later (from the guests to the tour operator - absolutely no blame attaches to Paul) but I'm all about realpolitik and dealing with the situation on the ground. I wasn't of much practical use, except in France where I became the unofficial translator with our coach drivers, but I supported him where I could.
|Our first briefing|
An elderly gentleman in our group, George, did a wonderful favor for me this night. At dinner he had overheard me saying that just before I left home I had discovered that the batteries of all three of my watches had run down, so he brought me his spare watch to use for the duration of the trip. It was a large, black watch with a frayed strap and an eminently readable face. I wore it every day with enormous gratitude for his gesture. And I was never late.
After that, I believe everyone fell into bed thankfully, to try and overcome the jet lag of the last 36 hours.
Next day >