If you’ve not been on an overnight Stena Line ferry, you won’t have experienced the early morning wake-up call. It’s a bit surreal! At 5.30am the constant hum of the engine is interrupted by the playing of a whistling cover-version of the late-80s Bobby McFerrin hit: ‘Don’t worry, be happy’. Then announcements in Dutch and English let you know that breakfast is being served. After not much sleep it’s all a bit disorienting.
After breakfast it was time to rescue Zoly from the kennel. Mike took in his breakfast and when I arrive Zoly was spinning with excitement with his tail wagging at super-speed. He was clearly thrilled to be reunited with his dads. So breakfast didn’t get much of a sniff. Our arrival also caused a mass chorus of barking from the other dogs, which wasn’t helping to get Zoly to settle down to eat his breakfast either.
The foot passenger gangway at Harwich is being replaced, so we had to disembark on a clapped out old bus. We wondered why a new gangway wasn’t put in place before the old one was taken out – clearly another demonstration of the excellent British welcome. Another gem was the large tourist poster in the custom hall selling the delights of visiting Essex all ‘…in under an hour!’, who knew it would take so long?
As usual these days, the customs officer hesitated somewhat about letting us cross the border back in to the UK – several times she very carefully examined Mike’s passport picture, then looked at his face then back at the passport – even holding it up to check the picture alongside Mike’s face. Losing patience, Mike explained that he’d lost lots of weight and that he went running with our dog. This seemed to work and we were allowed in.
The train journey from Harwich to London was uneventful – Zoly mostly snoozed (mostly on our laps). We walked from Liverpool Street over Tower Bridge and along the south bank of the Thames to Westminster. It was a beautiful morning and we wondered who will occupy City Hall next week – obviously we’re hoping it will be Sadiq Khan.
We had to catch the Underground at Westminster to get our train to Bristol from Paddington (we didn’t but that’s another story – but we did spot Dennis Skinner MP waiting on the platform). As the train arrived at Sloan Square the driver announced “This station has no working escalators, so anyone who cannot go upstairs should remain on this train until the next station: High Street Kensington”. There was a pause. Then the driver said: “Actually that isn’t going to work as there are no escalators at High Street Kensington either. Hmmm, you could cross over at High Street Kensington and get the train back again – but that means going up stairs too. I’m afraid you’re going to have to go up stairs”. These are the sort of announcements we’ve been missing in Holland. It felt good to be home!