Mrs Rodney Walker.
POSTING TO HONG KONG
The surroundings were alien to me, a greenhouse of glass, a goldfish bowl, all around us glass no respite from the sounds of the hundreds of passengers thronging the airport lounge, the almost blinding glare of the naked lights, we could be waiting to fly to the moon!
A tug on the hem of my dress brought me back to the here and now, my two small sons both wanting to sit on my lap, picking up on my anxiety. I pull them up one by one onto each knee, I hugged them to me, and reassured them that everything was ok we were going on an adventure. When in reality I did not feel sure of anything right now.
We were sitting, waiting for our flight with Caledonian Airlines that was to transport us from Liverpool to our destination - Hong Kong.
I had only been as far as France on a school trip and that was by train and boat. Filled with apprehension and dread of this first flight with two children aged 2 years and 3 years of age, for the duration of over 30 hours. What had we let ourselves in for?
The airport was crowded, people everywhere, families jostling with hand luggage, trying to hang on to crying children and toddlers who would rather be anywhere but here. Several children were running around the seating areas shouting and screaming to each other, whilst the teenagers sat looking bored and weary, it had been a very early start to the day, they were fed up, some angry and resentful at having to leave friends behind, little thought of what lay ahead.
Smells of cooked food hung in the air like stale clouds, queues for refreshments snaked around the café unsmiling faces one behind the other. Young women sat around feeding small babies struggling to change their nappies balancing them on their laps. Toddlers walking with arms in the air to keep their balance, like clockwork toys, some crawling under the seats in between legs, the more adventurous making a bid for freedom heading for an open doorway.
One of the few consolations about this posting was that we wives were altogether in this move to the other side of the world, each of us having a different mind set, some already had experienced the situation of venturing into unknown territory with a young families to care for. Young women with care worn faces, already weary, but made of stern stuff, determined to make a go of this posting to create a life for their husbands and children, into the unknown, no clue as to where we would be living in Kowloon, only that our homes would be apartments. We knew the place would be hot and humid. This would be a first for most of us, and quite a daunting prospect with young children. But come what may, we are L.F wives we will do this and do it well !!! United we stand and all that!!
The most wonderful compensation of all was that we would have our husbands with us, we had endured a long period of separation when the men had been posted to British Guiana for nine months, and once back had been sent on a short posting to Cyprus. We would now function as families again, bringing up the children together.
We had lived our lives against the backdrop of music from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Hollies, Adam Faith, Cilla Black, TV soaps such as Emergancy Ward 10, Z Cars, Crossroads, entertaining us as we brought up the children single handed, in many cases babies were born whilst the men were away, wives experiencing childbirth without husbands on the scene. The solidarity of the women would close ranks to help and support where they were able. We laughed and cried together, some of us barely out of our teens.
We now looked to a future where we would all be together to experience a new life, some felt daunted others excited, we all shared the same feelings of trepidation and sorrow at leaving our own parents, families and friends behind.
I watch the scenes unfold, with a heavy heart, I have just left my parents they have dreaded this posting to Hong Kong, my dad stating many times.
" They'll not send you all out there with young children, not with the bombs going off and Red Guards on the rampage, what will you feed the children on for goodness sake."
"Where will you buy your make up and hair tints from?" added my practical mother. My parents had had some time to come to terms with their only daughter and grandsons leaving the country, as they had been visiting us at our house in Freckleton when our boxes were packed and shipped off in 3 tonners. Quite clearly they were in denial as I suppose I had been for some time. However, the practicalities of such a move and change of life style had kick started me into action, buying appropriate clothing for the journey, I remember choosing our outfits from a catalogue, clothes for the boy's including matching blue and white outfits with Clarke's red leather sandals, at least I thought, I would be able to spot the two of them should they try and escape whilst in the airport.
Little did I appreciate that the practicalities of shopping, packing, leaving house and friends was nothing compared to the emotional roller coaster of saying our goodbyes to family. I had not thought it could be so heart breaking so utterly sad. We had visited my parents the day before we left for the airport, my dad looked so grey and desolate, mum fussed about the boys having enough clothes, drinks etc for the journey, she was concerned about the lack of space for two small children over such a long time, she'd packed an extra bag that held little books, crayons and tissues.
The responsibility of my being their only child weighed heavily on my narrow shoulders, we promised to write, send tapes, photos, to keep them up to date with our lives, for us to hear from them and know they were well.
I remember hugging my dad he felt so thin, he was wearing his customary braces, looking over my head to gaze at his much loved grandson's Jason and Phillip. He held me close, we held on to each other for ages feeling each others pain at this separation. I knew in my heart at that moment, it would be the last time we would embrace each other. Dad pulled away from me we looked into each others eyes, green reflecting green. We both knew! I will remember that feeling all my life.
People began to move, our flight had been called, Rod gathered the boys to him and I picked up our flight bags, we were off! The boys looked so small and vulnerable, how will I do this, how will I cope living on the other side of the world without the loving support of my family? Just at that moment the boys shouted in unison, " Come on mummy you'll miss the plane." As I turned around I could see my family smiling, not just my very own family but also the family around me the other wives, children, husbands, the L.F. family, so feeling cheered and comforted looking forward to whatever lay ahead I boarded the plane for an adventure of a lifetime!!!!!!!!!!...............................................................