Arrival at High Wycombe

High Wycombe and The Compasses.
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Nowadays

My parents wanted me to speak good English, and my English teacher had said that I should go and stay with an English family. My parents had arranged a one month trip and I was to stay in a family as a paying guest. I don’t even want to think what it cost them at a time when they couldn’t really afford it yet.
Anyway, I remember the trip on the ferry, from Calais to Dover. Were those ferries red, I have this picture of a red boat with lots of stairs, rather dirty, with a peculiar smell. I can’t remember if I was travelling with a group or on my own.
Taking the ferry was quite an adventure, you see. You felt like you were crossing the Channel, not just taking the train at Gare du Nord, and getting of at Waterloo Station as you do now. When they opened the tunnel, I swore I would never take the Eurostar, because, England would never be the same. But of course, I did.


Tea

Well, how I got to High Wycombe where my host family were waiting for me, I don’t remember, but there they were. And I can’t remember their name either. But they were just sweeties, all of them. They lived at a crossroads at what seemed to me a grocery store at the time. It was called The Compasses.
I had my own room and I can still remember my amazement and my embarrassment on the first morning when my hostess brought me a tray with early morning tea and the morning paper!!! Here I was, sixteen years old, being served. I protested that this was too much and that I wanted to have breakfast whichever way everyone else did, and to my relief, it didn’t happen again,
My English was straight out of my schoolbooks then. I could get a sentence ready, and utter it, but there was no understanding the replies.
My hosts were Catholic and I attended church with them on my first Sunday there. Their daughter-in-law was Polish and they went to a Polish Catholic church. On the second Sunday, I had exhausted the joys of church-going, so I bailed out and went for a walk, and… got lost.
My sense of direction, then as now, is hopeless. So I asked a policeman the direction of the Polish church, and asked him to speak slowly, as my English was approximate, and he started speaking louder and louder instead of speaking slower.
I did eventually find the Polish Church and my host family.

To be continued
  1. Terri Dulong, with her My Beloved Paris series gave me the idea of this series.
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6 thoughts on “Arrival at High Wycombe

  1. I’m glad the High Wycombe family was good to you and didn’t put you off England and indeed our language. The Man of the Place went to college in High Wycombe. It is a very affluent area.

  2. Oh, Claude…I enjoyed this story SO much! What a great opportunity for you to be able
    to go there at age 16 for a month. But I’m also thinking…they were fortunate to have
    you. Did they want to practice French at all? Or wasn’t that allowed? The purpose being for YOU to learn more English.
    Strange…I still run into that with my French…I get my sentence all ready in my head, but sometimes they speak so fast, I have difficulty understanding their reply.
    I’ve been to High Wycombe…it was a lovely village.
    Hope you’re enjoying your time away. SO glad you pre-date/posted these entries for us.
    AND…remember when I emailed you recently? Well, I’ll be sending you another one with updated info. Shhhhhh! For now….lol

  3. I too, am looking forward to the rest of the story.
    I remember when lived in Germany that our neighbors had
    teen-agers from England living with them and practicing
    their German.

    My boys were in the German Schools at that time so they
    did pretty well with both languages. They refused to
    speak German though when they returned to the States and
    it wasn’t until High School that they took it up again.

  4. Were you homesick at all? My god daughter spent a college semester in Seville Spain last year and it was a fantastic experience for her but she got so homesick toward the end that she came home a little early.

    Looking forward to the rest of the story.

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