John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Mini-Cruise to Norway


Thursday 11th February 1971 to Sunday 14th February 1971
The departure date of our “Bergen Line Mini-Cruise” was Thursday 11th February 1971. Chris and fiancée Pamela, and Gillian and I, sailed from Newcastle upon Tyne on the TS Leda, which visited Bergen and Stavanger before arriving back at Newcastle on Sunday 14th February.

There are no contemporary entries in The Cooper Diaries for this period—
—and the later-added page (above) gets its evidence for the precise dates of the trip from the documents below:–

Documents from December 1970

The amounts stated above, e.g. “£9.50” (nine pounds, fifty (new) pence), anticipated decimalisation, for Decimal Day in the UK was actually the day after we got back, 15th February 1971.

I replied in kind: “£9.50”.

But the receipt was written in the pre-decimalisation way, “£9 10s.d.” (nine pounds, ten shillings and no pence).

Details of the return train journey from Newcastle upon Tyne to Preston, changing at Carlisle, supplied by Chris, with times of buses to Blackpool and Thornton pencilled in:

Pages from my “blue album”
In the lounge, a man sang with quite a heavy accent songs like Daisy Bell,
Daissy, Daissy, give me your answer, do,
I’m half craissy all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marritsch
I can’t afford a carritsch,
But you’d look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.
—accompanying himself on an electronic accordion. We nicknamed him Fritz.

“Pleeeess, help yourselves!” a waitress urged us. “You understand?” she persisted, when we hesitated: “Pleeeess, help yourselves!” But we were reluctant to enter the room where the smörgåsbord-style buffet was, in case we were stung with an exorbitant charge.

Gillian and I bought a troll; we didn’t know he was a troll, though, and called him the “Leda Monkey”. He originally wore a nautical-themed blue-and-white striped top, but Gillian later crocheted a singlet-type garment for him.

2011 photo — the “Leda Monkey”

2011 photo — Rainmac has acquired the blue-and-white top.
I have a vague memory that there was a third occupant of the cabin that Chris and I were in: his suitcase had a tag or sticker with just a “B” on it, so to each other we referred to him as “B”. (When I met Chris briefly on 15th October 2011, he remembered that Bergen Line labelled his own suitcase with a “W”. His surname is Woodhead.)

The washbasin taps were marked “VARMT” and “KALDT”, which amused us as we turned them on and off alternately, exclaiming, “Varmt! Kaldt! Varmt! Kaldt! Varmt! Kaldt!…”, for it seemed that Norwegian was just a distortion of English. This notion was confirmed to us, perhaps in Stavanger when we passed a “BUSS STOPP”. I don’t know what we made of the sign, though, at a Shell petrol station, also perhaps in Stavanger, which said, “GOD FART”!

In Bergen, in the evening, we went to the disco in the basement of Hotel Norge. There was some problem about admitting us — was it “members only” or “residents only”? — but the doorman conceded, “…but since you are foreign, we will let you in.” (We thought, “What a blooming cheek! We’re not ‘foreign’, we’re British; it’s you who are ‘foreign’!”)

We travelled on the funicular “Fløibanen” to view the city from the top of the mountain of Fløyen.

In Stavanger we visited the cathedral.

We passed a crossroads as evening was coming on, perhaps near the “GOD FART” garage; and I remember that the traffic lights, instead of changing from red to green and back to red again, were all just flashing yellow continuously.

I seem to think that the weather was very cold while we were wandering around. Perhaps to have come in February was not the best idea!

Almost as soon as we started homeward on the North Sea the wind got up and the ship commenced to go up and down, up and down, on the waves. At first the sensation was thrilling, like a roller coaster ride — it amused us when the crew came and put out cardboard containers (or “sick boxes”, as we termed them) in various locations — but soon the excitement was replaced by a feeling of nausea. I remember that I went on deck to watch the horizon as a reference-point. (The moon was not long past full.) I seem to remember that it was just Pamela and I who were there, or who remained there, and that at one point I caught hold of her as the ship rolled. I don’t think she would have been swept overboard, but she might have fallen on her face if I hadn’t been there. I also have the memory of lying on my bunk, meditating hard on one of the Psalms in an effort to keep my stomach from discharging its contents. That must have succeeded, for I did escape vomiting.

On 19th October 2011 I emailed Chris:
I wonder if you could repeat the information you told me about “B”: our seeing him still on deck during the storm on the way back, and the bit about him wanting to go to London when we thought it didn’t matter.
He replied (21st October 2011):
…Now to the subject of “B”: During the night of the storm, after we had all been out on deck, dealing with our sea-sickness, I remember spending some time in the toilets throwing up.
(Perhaps his departure to the toilets corresponds with my memory of being alone on deck with Pamela. I don’t remember where Gillian was at this point.)
After this, I think we went back into the lounge-bar which was situated aft, overlooking the stern. We looked out through the rear windows onto the windswept deck, which was now deserted except for the presence of one lone figure. This lone figure was our cabin-mate, “B”, who was wearing only a flimsy jacket and seemed to be battling against the wind! I don’t know whether we thought he was just brave, or perhaps a bit weird, still being out there, so close to the edge of the ship!
I also asked Chris:
Didn’t you “hurl” in the sink on the way back? I just have the impression from somewhere, if not this trip, of one having difficulty swilling chunks away!
He replied:
Yes, it was me who spewed into the sink that night. After we had eventually retired to our cabin, I thought I was feeling reasonably OK and would go to bed. As I was losing consciousness, however, I suddenly became aware that I was about to throw-up again. I immediately jumped out of bed and ran to the sink.
And he added about “B”:
The following day, when the crew must have known what our approximate ETA would be in the Tyne, an announcement was made over the tannoy concerning onward rail connections. However, as far as I can remember, they only mentioned a couple of possible departures from Newcastle Central station to London King’s Cross. Apparently, “B” had only caught the tail-end of this announcement, and asked us if we had heard what had been said. I replied that they had only mentioned the times of two trains which would leave for London, after our arrival. Maybe my tone implied that the information wouldn’t be of much interest to anybody else, whereupon “B” replied, “I’m going to London!” I think he then shot off to make enquiries of his own.
Monday 15th February 1971
When I returned to work, on Monday 15th February 1971, in Room 513 of Block 7 at DHSS, Norcross, the room seemed to be going up and down, up and down…

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