Once on the ferry, we discovered we had seated ourselves beside the most fascinating Norwegian family. They had three or four children that Mom was busy with, but Dad – a social worker (and philanthropist!) sat with us discussing (in the most fantastic accent) history, world politics and life in Norway.
Turns out, there are a number of similarities between the policies of our countries.
At one point when we were discussing our respective tours, he pulls out a plastic pop bottle filled with sand from the beaches of Calais.
While I will admit that the beaches did look impressive from the ferry window, I live near beaches back home and really don’t care much about them.
I don’t mean that I hate the beach, I just wouldn’t intentionally take an international tour to lay on one. And I can’t handle the heat. I melt.
It was truly something to see the sand from his eyes;
“Please touch it. Let me place a tiny amount in your hand so you can feel it with your fingers while you imagine your toes in it. My wife and children sunned but I walked so far on the beach that I returned with bleeding feet. There are no practical shoes in France, did you know this? Feel the sand, please.”
He poured some of the sand into the palms of our hands, and we felt it as he insisted (yes, it was fine and soft), while he told us of Norway and the cause of his sand obsession;
“Back home we have not beaches. Yes, we have water front, but it is rocky and full of cigarette butts. In Norway we smoke, so you might be finding a beautiful location, but you approach and see it is but a rocky ashtray. Never have I been to a sandy beach. We came to Calais for family holiday because I want to see the beach. My wife, she is not so impressed.”
As soon as he was finished his story, he meticulously replaced nearly every grain of sand from our palms back to the pop bottle he would surely cherish forever. He even asked us to cup our hands and brush the particles into a teeny pile. His wife scoffed at him in the background, ‘boring sand!’ she said.
He told us the history of the ‘white cliffs of Dover‘ as we approached them. They were visible from a great distance – shining white.
He pointed out that during war and times of battle involving Great Britain (et al), the cliffs of Dover were the last thing many young men saw of their home, and the first – for the ones that were lucky enough to return.
The soldiers knew that if they could make it to the point where they could see the white cliffs of Dover, they were likely ‘home free’.
“The cliffs have great symbolic value in Britain because they face towards Continental Europe across the narrowest part of the English Channel, where invasions have historically threatened and against which the cliffs form a symbolic guard. Because crossing at Dover was the primary route to the continent before the advent of air travel, the white line of cliffs also formed the first or last sight of the UK for travellers.”
As we approached the cliffs to dock, we realized that our fascinating friend had sucked up all of our planning time and we still did not have a clue what we were going to do when we stepped off the ferry – we didn’t even know which direction to go to actually depart.
Left to the busses? Right to the street? Straight to the terminal?
- A Memory….The White Cliffs of Dover, WWII (poemsbyokie.wordpress.com)
- “A Memory” by my 96 year old aunt…The White Cliffs of Dover (pocketperspectives.wordpress.com)
- White Cliffs Of Dover Safe For The Nation (news.sky.com)