Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Saturday, 30 July 2011


Okay, let’s go house hunting ... Don’t worry! I’m not moving house again. This time  it refers to another of my visits during my recent stay in Deal.

After exploring Walmer castle, Mats, Teresa and I drove some 3 km further down the road to Kingsdown, a tiny village located at the foot of the ‘White Cliffs of Dover’. Teresa and her mother and brother used to live there from 1972 (my very first stay with them at the age of 15) till 1976, after which they moved to Deal, 5 km further up the coast towards the east.

The 'White Cliffs of Dover' seen from the beach in Kingdown.

I have very fond memories of all my stays with them, but the years in Kingsdown were definitely the finest. I therefore longed to see the two houses again where I spent these memorable vacations.

The first house, which is located on Upper Street, was – and still is – called ‘Vikings’. Compared to the second house, it is just a small cottage, with a very peculiar entrance, the front door being situated at the end of a long open corridor. During my stay I occupied a bedroom on the first floor with a view of the back garden. The room had two brass beds. Jolyon, Teresa’s brother had his room in the basement. Teresa’s room was on the top floor. On the ground floor there were two rooms: the front room, which was the den with a television set and comfortable armchairs. The back room, over my bedroom, was the formal dining room. It was rarely used though and most meals were served in the kitchen or on a tray in front of the television. This was completely new to me, and I enjoyed it immensely as I was discovering all these new television shows on ITV, a channel we (still) can’t capture in Belgium.

Vikings in 2011
The house looks exactly the same as it did in 1972.

When I arrived at Vikings that first year, there was another language student staying with the family. It was a German girl, called Christina. Our stays overlapped one night, and she had to give up her bedroom and spend her last night at the house on a camping bed in Teresa’s room, while I was moved into the official guest room. I didn’t have much contact with Christina, as she was already well acquainted with the family and their daily life, while I rather felt like the ‘ugly duckling’, strange, ill at ease and unwanted. Mind you, that was just the feeling I had, because Rowena did everything in her power to make me feel at home.

In spite of her relentless efforts, I felt very lonely for the first four days and I remember crying myself to sleep every night. But somehow, I managed to pull through. Jolyon, who was 16 at the time, showed me his extensive record collection and taught me how to play cribbage and canasta. Teresa shared her love for Cat Stevens’ music with me, and I went home with a copy of his ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ album. Rowena cooked some special meals for me (although I must admit I still don’t eat grilled pigs liver,). She also put a lot of effort in keeping me occupied and correcting my English, which was very poor at the time.


Craig said...

Isn't it strange how a place, a song or even a taste can take you back decades, like sit was yesterday? Your clear memories of your lonely start in Kent are a case in point. Good job you stuck with it eh? Look at the long term friends you have made.

ladybird said...

Craig, Indeed. Btw, your comment reminds me of a song by the Dutch-French singer Dave (Do you know him?): "Parfois il suffit d'un parfum, pour qu'on retrouve soudain la magie d'un matin, et on oublie l'avenir pour quelques souvenirs." Beautiful words, no?

Craig said...

Hi Martine - no I'm not familiar with him. But yes, beautiful words indeed.

Louise said...

Your memories are poignant. I went to boarding school at 11 and also cried with loneliness. And I had my own language. How brave you were Martine . And how wonderful to be able to revisit this time in your life.

ladybird said...

Louise, It was great to see all those places again, especially as they hadn't changed a bit! It was just like being 15 again :)