Looking through old photo’s of my parents to find some nice ones of my godmother Jeanne, who has recently passed away, I came upon the bill of passage of our voyage on the ship Irpinia, leaving Flushing on the 28th of August, 1957.
My parents, or should I say my father, had decided to exchange dreary post-war Netherlands for sunnier climes.
My youngest brother was only 4 months old and I remember my mother telling me that she was very worried when she found out there was no baby food on board.
It was actually a freighter with a recent refit for passengers.
So my little brother started his life eating pasta.
Under one of the pictures, it says “Luckily today no garlic!”.
My parents probably never even had seen garlic or knew what it was. They were genuine meat, potatoes and one veg people. Meat only on some days of the week.
They were supposed to leave Flushing on the 27th of August, but because of a bad storm, the ship only left the next day. One day on a stationary ship.
Looking at the historical website of the ship, they were travelling Tourist class A or B.
Equality was still a thing in the future those days. Even the children of First Class had their own playroom, separate from the ruffians of Tourist class.
Looking at the pictures of the trip, they seemed to have had great fun nevertheless, going ashore in Vigo, Lisbon and Madeira.
Seeing places they before only maybe saw in magazines or newspapers.
Looking through our family album I always saw only my older brother and sometimes myself in the group enjoying the sights but no sign of little baby Clemens and I asked my mum who they left him with.
She told me that the baby just was left in the cabin, and one time, because I was ill, I was left behind too.
She told me then that I was not happy with being left behind and had climbed out of the window of the cabin!
The mind boggles at their casual approach to parenthood. I guess we survived to tell the tale and looking at other instances of their loving neglect in previous Snippets this was small beer.
The furthest trip my parents had ever done before this one, was on a bicycle to an auntie and uncle 50 km away from their home town.
Now they went on a journey of 8000 kilometres to a place they had never seen before in a climate they never had experienced.
It was the first time they saw people of different races and nationalities.
The second time I made a sea voyage was when after 12 years in Curacao we went back to the Netherlands.
This time it was on the New Amsterdam, leaving from New York. It took 10 days and I was seasick for 9 of them. Maybe the fact that the cabin of my brothers and myself were in the cheap innards of the ship. Just a little porthole to look outside and when the waves were high we could hear the propellers being silenced by being lifted out of the water.
My parent and my eldest brother were not affected but my younger brother and I spent days with piles of sick bags in our bunk being fed apples, as they were said to have a beneficial effect. They did not.
My little brother who has always had and still has a perverse kind of humour at one point pointed at the bag he had just been using and said with a grin”It is still warm”. Which had the expected effect on me.
The day before we would make landfall in Rotterdam there was a competition for the teenagers to design a hat and my mum promised me if I would get out of bed I would be allowed to wear a ball gown.
I was so excited that I forgot all about the seasickness and Cinderella did go to the ball. It proved to me once and for all that seasickness sits partly between your ears. It did not stop me from being motion sick for the rest of my life though.
I did not win the competition with my ‘boat’ hat but felt like a real grown-up that evening.
We arrived safely in the Netherlands where my mother surprised everyone with being 6 months pregnant with our baby brother. She thought she would share the surprise element with the rest of her family.
Never took to boats though.