A Journey Through Life and Love

By Kathy from England

On 2nd May 1958, I boarded the Britannic at Liverpool, with my one-way ticket to New York, waved farewell to my tearful mother and never looked back – well just a little at the Liver bird.   If I hadn’t undertaken this journey I would never have met my future husband.

It had been a long-held goal of mine to travel, probably fuelled by the ‘lantern slide shows of far-flung places’ we had at school, but also to visit my mother’s sister who had lived in New York since 1910 when at the age of 15 she had gone to live in New York (another story). It would be for me the first of many journeys around the world, living in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, and finally back in England.

Immediately after arrival in New York, I had to get a job.  This proved to be relatively easy in those days, firstly because the Americans loved the English and their accent, and secondly I had a good secretarial background.  I went for my interview at a large automobile company, who had just set-up their regional training offices in Rye, New York.   I was hired and immediately started work. I was earning more money than I could ever have imagined, the job was a ‘breeze’ and I knew I had landed on my feet running. I soon got my driving license, then a car, and felt very grand!  

I had been working there for about 18 months, and during that time many people had passed through the Training centre, and if they were from any country, whether it was England, Outer Mongolia, or Australia, I was always introduced to them.  I think my employees thought because I was English and therefore foreign, I somehow could relate to strangers better than they could.  

One day I was introduced to this new trainee, I shook his hands and welcomed him, but little did I know that I was, in fact, meeting my future husband.  I paid him little attention, as by this time, I was not overwhelmed with new trainees.  

I knew I was polite but indifferent, however from that day on, he always made sure he had lunch at the same time as I did and would sit at the same table.  A conversation, of course, soon sprang up, and we talked generally, and he began to interest me.  He had traveled himself, having been born in India, and then came to live in England – he wasn’t the usual run of people I met.   Of course, he asked me out and I thought, why not? I know I was very off-hand with him, not particularly enamoured and took it very much as just another ‘date’. However, he persevered. 

Thanksgiving in the States is a very big holiday, and of course I wasn’t at work and the phone rang.  My Aunt answered the phone and I knew immediately who it was. She asked him what he was doing on Thanksgiving Day – I think he said ‘Nothing, particularly’, and she immediately invited him to Thanksgiving Dinner.  I had no choice in the matter, and mouthed a very sarcastic ‘Thank you’ to my Aunt. I have a feeling that after that day I knew this relationship was entering a different level. Not too long after that, he proposed, I accepted, and then sat back and thought “What have I done!” 

Well, what I had done was to change my life forever and it was to go in directions I had never thought possible. Originally, after we were married, we were going to live in Bombay, but thank goodness, the firm he was working for changed their minds and announced we would be living in Hong Kong.  What a treat and eye-opener that turned out to be. It was like a large Chinatown. They did use rickshaws for real, and often you would see them stacked with all sorts of items, such as planks of wood, boxes, and even plate glass, all being carried at breakneck speed along the road. The cacophony of everyday living in Hong Kong never ceased and I did see ladies with bound feet hobbling about.  

Our first home was a lovely ground floor apartment, on South Bay Road, Repulse Bay, and we lived there for 3 very happy and glorious years, with our first son being born on Christmas Eve in 1961.  

All through this period, my husband traveled around the Far East and Southeast Asia, being away for six weeks at a time. We spent many long periods apart and had to adjust to these different aspects of our lives.  It was, on the whole, a very happy life and a good one too.  We were able to welcome my mother who visited us and she truly fell in love with Hong Kong, and was also happy to see me so well settled.

Unfortunately, this period in Hong Kong didn’t last, as the firm decided to move us to Singapore in 1963 where we lived for six years.  Although pleasant enough, it wasn’t the same as Hong Kong, which I missed dreadfully. We had two further sons born in Singapore, and eventually, we were moved yet again, this time back to England.  

Neither of us wanted to remain in England, so we decided that Australia sounded very good.  We applied to the Australian embassy, but were refused entry because our second son had cerebral palsy and they would only allow us in, if we left him back in England!!  We were disappointed but did settle down in Warwickshire. 

We had been living there for about seven years, and gradually adjusting to life back in England.  My husband played hockey for the local team and also enjoyed playing squash.  Life was good, and the boys settled down at school, with our second son was now living in a Cheshire Home.

My mother loved to come and visit with us in Stratford, and it was during one of her visits that tragedy struck.   My husband had gone out to play squash, and the doorbell rang – it was one of my husband’s squash friends, asking me to come down to the Squash Club immediately, and asked if my husband suffered from ‘fits’.  I said “No, never! Why?”  He didn’t answer, but was very quiet as he drove me down to the club. Not long after my husband was pronounced dead at the local hospital.  

Life had changed once again, forever.  There had been no warning of heart problems, and even if he had gone to the doctors that morning they wouldn’t have been unable to detect the weakness.  Now, they can, but not back then. I was stunned, shocked and it was uncomprehending. It was months before I felt warm again as it was like living in a refrigerator and I permanently stiffly held myself.  Gradually this did begin to ease.

It is now many years since this happened – I have never remarried and often wonder where we all would be if he hadn’t died.  I had a good life during my marriage, but have had a different life since he died, seeing our sons grow into adulthood, unfortunately watching two of them die, but also welcoming into the world our grandchildren. 

A story of love – yes

A story of loss – yes

but also

A story of a life itself

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