2 July 1984
Mon. Afternoon

Dear Diane,

I can finally say "London is Great." We were supposed to leave Thursday, 21 June, on the MAC flight that "always" goes and is "never" canceled because that Thursday run is very important. Well, to make a long story short - it was canceled about an hour before we were to leave. We were very depressed 'cause we were ready to go and knew we would be able to go because we were the second family on the list. Oh, well. There is another flight that goes on Saturdays but stops overnight at Frankfurt, Germany, and then goes on to London on Sundays. Fine.

We came home Thursday evening depressed. We went out and ate pizza for supper and then asked our neighbors over afterwards to cheer us up. They brought their new "Trivial Pursuit" that her sister brought her from the States. Is that popular in the States? A few people have the game here and it's becoming quite popular.

Anyway, Friday we made a run to the shoe factory (I bought 3 pair for $12.00 total) and to Euromercato--the closest thing to a K-Mart here. After lunch Michael worked on our car in case we had to resort to plan C for our vacation, which was to drive to Venice, Milan, & Turin.

Well, Saturday finally came and we went to the military airport again, not knowing if we would be getting on a plane or not. And even if we did get on the plane to Frankfurt, there would be no guarantee that we could go on to London the next day, although they told us, "Oh, it always goes." We'd heard that before. So, Plan A - fly to Frankfurt & on to London Sunday. Plan B - fly to Frankfurt. If we get stuck - tour Germany & maybe take the train to Holland. Plan C - if no plane, then drive to Venice, etc.

Well, Surprise! The plane flew to Frankfurt and we were on it! But what a plane! I believe it was a C-131 or something like that. It was a green camouflage cargo plane. Steven was screaming, "I don't want on that plane, I want this one!" (-a nice white commercial-looking plane). The seats on the plane were just canvas seats that fold down from the sides of the plane. They have to pass out earplugs to everyone. Steven refused to wear his. There were about 20 of us "passengers." About halfway through the flight they passed out oxygen tanks because we were gonna have to fly up higher than usual and the cabin just might depressurize. It was hard not to panic at that point. The cargo was piled between us and the passengers on the other side of the plane. The "bathroom" was a pot up in the tail section with a plastic bag in it with a shower curtain type thing to pull around you. Of course, both of my kids had to go. It was a very slow plane, but finally we got to Frankfurt. We stayed overnight at a nice hotel about 15 miles from the airbase. They provided the transportation. We didn't see much of Germany, but it was clean and everyone was very helpful.

Sunday morning we returned to the airbase and learned our plane had been rerouted to somewhere and was not going on to London! Well! We were a bit perturbed. I wanted to see London! We were just wasting Michael's vacation days (4th already) and getting nowhere. Finally, I persuaded Michael to just fly on to London commercially. It cost us over $500.00 but it was well worth it to all of us.

We finally got to London about 5:30 pm Sunday. Thursday night I had called our hotel in London that we had made reservations at and told them it would be Sunday before we got there. They lady said fine. When we showed up Sunday night, we found that she had just canceled our whole week of reservations. I was furious. It is next to impossible to find a room for 4 in London in June. We found a room for one night Sunday. Monday I went back to our 1st hotel and demanded they find us a room somewhere. After much bickering, their porter & I found a room in a nicer hotel that had had a cancellation that could keep us for the whole week. We ended up paying $75.00 a night, but that beat changing hotels every one or two nights like our 1st hotel tried to get us to do.

Steven and Angelique at the Tower of London - 25 Jun 1984

Anyway, late Monday morning we finally got around to seeing London. I was most impressed with the crown jewels. I could go sit in that room for hours. Photos just do not capture their full beauty.


goat and Angelique at London Zoo - 28 Jun 1984 train ride at Toy Museum - 28 Jun 1984

We saw the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Buckingham Palace (the changing of the guards was canceled that day), changing of the horse guards at Whitehall, British Museum, London Zoo, Toy Museum, art museum, fed the pigeons at Trafalgar Square, shopped down New Bond Street, Oxford Street, Harrod's department store, Picadilly Circus and took a train one day to Windsor to shop and see Windsor castle. We didn't get to see a lot of the castle because the Queen was there & Prince Andrew and a few others. One evening we walked passed Kensington Palace where Prince Charles, Diana, & baby William live. We saw a few lights on but we didn't see them. Steven would have enjoyed playing with Prince William's toys. He fell down and skinned his forehead in Prince William's backyard, though (-the back side of Hyde Park).

Tower of London guard - 25 Jun 1984

Windsor Castle guard - 29 Jun 1984

It was a good vacation and much needed.

We ate one meal at McDonald's every day. We also ate at Burger King & Kentucky Fried Chicken once. The British people were very courteous and helpful. Both of the kids would start conversations with anyone on the trains or in shops. They were delighted to find they could communicate with anyone around them. That's such a contrast to here in Naples. Angelique said she would like to live there.

We flew back Saturday on a charter flight for $385.00. We could have flown back on a MAC flight Monday (today) maybe. But with meals, hotels & transportation to the airbase, it would cost us $300.00 to stay another 2 days and still not know for sure if we could leave on the MAC flight. So instead of gambling on these "sure" flights, we decided to come on back Saturday and save 2 days of Michael's leave time.

So I'm on my 6th load of laundry since we've returned. The London "tubes" (subways) are very efficient, but also quite dirty for little children who play all over the floors and fall down a lot, etc.

I bought Angelique a pretty pair of Health Tex pale yellow pants for this trip. She may never get to wear them again if I can't get all the black off of them. That's been a 2-day project in itself. I may have to cut them off for just everyday shorts. I bought Angelique a red plaid kilt, vest & poncho at Harrod's. I bought a blue plaid one for me in Windsor. We also found a "Shakespearian Cottage" music box in Windsor. We picked up several other odd 'n ends. Michael, of course, bought books everywhere we went. We will have quite an extensive European library by the time we get back.

I got a letter from Mother saying they were putting shingles on their roof and getting ready to put in windows. Sounds like they are making progress. When is it suppose to be finished, do you know? She sounded quite excited. I know she must be sick of that apartment. I was quite surprised (somewhat) that she quit her job to keep Jeremy. I would have thought they needed the money to finish the house. Are they gonna be OK financially after building this house? I do wish they would come over here next summer. The chances sound pretty slim to me, though.

How was the World's Fair? Did they get a better turn out than Knoxville? Was it what you were expecting?

So sorry to hear about Chocolate's illness. Sounds like a rough time. I thought I had another kitten lined up for us. But the mother cat moved out with her kittens before the lady realized she had gone.

Has Daddy put his light up at his house yet? Mother said they were getting their mailbox up soon.

Hey, I love the blouse you sent for my birthday. It matches a pair of light blue Levi Bendovers I've had for a while, but never found anything to match them. It also matches my College Town rose color ensemble I got before going to Athens. I wore it in London. I haven't worn the slip yet, but I'm sure I'll like it when I do. It seems like everything I'm buying and wearing these days is bluish pink, rose or purplish blue. Mother sent a lilac nightgown I've been wearing a lot. Michael's mother sent me a pair of jeans that I asked her to send, but she sent the straight legs. They fit snugger than my regular cut ones - same brand, same size. I may have to send them back and ask her to try again. I hate to do that to her - especially since I asked for them. I wish I could lose 5 pounds and just keep them. That would make it simpler.

I can't imagine Laura as a size 12. She does look big (tall) in the videotapes, but it's hard to get proportions right without Angelique standing beside her. Is she bigger than most of the kids in her class or is that average? Has she got the guts to stick with "point." I was under the impression that was extremely hard to master. We'd like to see a tape of her ballet sometime.

There was an article in Michael's Family Practice journal about a Marcus Welby movie. If they rerun that sometime, would you try to make a copy of it for us? The FP Academy did a lot of work on that movie.

Angelique is gonna have a Care Bear birthday. Freda is sending Care Bear plates, cups, decorations, etc. I've ordered her a large stuffed "Tenderheart." I hope it gets here in time. She wants us to call her Tenderheart, now.

Steven is into alligators & crocodiles! We got him a rubber one at the London Zoo. He sleeps with the thing! We told him that kings used to put alligators in their moats around their castles. He said they were still there - they were just behind the trees now. He's really a chatterbox now. He's wearing underpants just like his daddy's now and doing just great. He still looks for alligators behind trees. I don't know what he would do if he really found one ... run or talk its ears off.

Steven and Angelique outside British Museum - 27 Jun 1984 Oh, I forgot to tell you ... At the British Museum we were looking at some display. Angelique noticed a hole in the wall. She went up to see what it was, put her eye up to it - and set off the alarm! It was one of those electronic eye alarms. Fortunately, a guard was very close by and turned the alarm off and didn't have to close off the whole section of the museum as they normally do until they figure out what happened. He probably saw her do it, but couldn't get to her in time to stop her. He just laughed about it. I sure was glad he was good-natured about it.

Later on, I took the kids to the bathroom. We tried to go back to where we were, but couldn't get back because they had sealed off the whole library section because someone had set off the alarm. They also closed the entrances & exits, too. Michael was trapped in the library for about 30 minutes. The kids were quite concerned about why they wouldn't let their daddy out. I imagine some kid set that one off, too.

Angelique is sending Laura a postcard. It will be mailed the same time as this letter. (That's the plan, anyway.) I wonder if they will get there on the same day.

Michael is going to Xerox a few articles for you that I find particularly amusing about life in Naples. They may not be as amusing to you until you come witness life here. Shall I hold June open for you next year? Come see us!!!!!!

Love,

Jeannie


P.S. - When ARE you coming??
Love, Michael


'Time must have a stop'
even at Italian red lights

by Charlie Sapp

    I had just settled down with my favorite bottle of acqua minerale over at the Burning Tire Bar and Grill when I noticed a rather forlorn-looking gentleman sitting alone at the next table. He was obviously non-Italian and, as he returned my nod, seemed genuinely eager to speak.
    "Bernie Jones. Guinness Book of World Records."
    "Hi, Mr. Jones. You look as though you just lost your last friend. Do you need some help?"
    "We at Guinness are interested in the shortest interval of time that occurs in nature. We had pretty much decided it must be something like the time from payday to broke or the attention span of a teenager, but we recently got a tip that the time between the traffic light turning green and an Italian blowing his horn is shorter than anything ever recorded. And, of all the Italians observed, the Neapolitans seem to be the most proficient."
    "Well, you've certainly come to the right place. What seems to be your problem?"
    "I've been here for a week watching traffic from dawn to dark and I can't find a Neapolitan who will stop for a red light."
    "Ah, yes, that does present a problem. Let me explain how the system works. The philosophy seems to be that, with no one coming on the cross street, it is foolish to stop just because a light changed color. If someone is coming and isn't man enough to take the right of way, then he deserves to stop. Therefore, the traffic will flow along one street until someone crossing pushes out into the traffic and takes the upper hand."
    "I see. Very interesting. Then the light actually plays no part in traffic control."
    "Not exactly. When a driver is finally forced to stop, he pulls up so far into the intersection that he is unable to see the light. The driver behind him becomes impatient and blows his horn. The driver in the front decides that the light must be green. Getting a sudden surge of confidence, he flies forth into the oncoming traffic. All of the cars behind him follow suit and so it goes until the drama repeats itself in the other direction. It is all very macho and, while the actual color of the light is irrelevant, the perceived color has everything to do with the flow of traffic."
    "Whew. I can see that there is much more to this than we thought. My task seems more impossible than ever."
    "Actually, all is not lost. There are a few Americans, mostly new arrivals, who still stop when the light is red and go when it is green. They tend to pretty much stick to the road between the base and home, though, so we will have to go to Chicken Corner to see them."
    I quaffed the last of the bubbly and we headed off into the afternoon traffic to see if we could collect some data. Arriving just as the base was letting out from work, we quickly set up the video and time-measuring equipment. It wasn't long before the action began.
    Although the first few Americans went right through the red light, a large Pontiac soon came to a stop. Its recent arrival in Italy was evident from its stateside license plate, the excellent overall condition of its body and the look of terror on the face of the woman behind the wheel. A Fiat full of auto mechanics was snug up against her rear bumper.
    "Set the timer, Mr. Jones. You are about to get your first performance."
    The "Avanti!" sign began to flash a warning to pedestrians to head for cover and, bingo, the light was green. Faster than the impulse could travel from the eye to the brain, a blast poured forth from the Fiat's horn, followed quickly by a second, then a third.
    "Incredible!" hissed Mr. Jones through clenched teeth. "That is the most amazing thing I have ever seen in all my years at Guinness."
    As he spoke, the Fiat driver continued to blow his horn with increasing frequency and the Pontiac driver quickly became more and more flustered. As she began to creep into the intersection, the Fiat became impatient and zipped around her, broadsiding a three-wheeler coming across from the right side. A large city bus, trying to turn across traffic, wedged itself into the wreckage. A horse-drawn cart began picking its way through the debris but was brought to a halt by a herd of sheep that wandered in from a nearby vacant lot. The cacophony of horns, motors, neighing horses and bleating sheep combined with the profanity of a dozen dialects to make the place unbearable.
    I helped Mr. Jones collect his equipment and we beat feet back to our car. Within a few minutes we were at the Burning Tire. Still shaken by his adventure, Mr. Jones opted for something a little stronger than bottled water. After regaining his composure, he spoke.
    "How do you folks manage to live in traffic like that for a full tour of duty?"
    "Well, Mr. Jones," I answered, quoting a prisoner of war upon his return from Hanoi, "We don't really have a complaint. After all, it is shore duty!"


table of contents | previous letter | next letter