Adventures in the UK, Breaking Customs
It's not as if we deliberately set out to break customs during our first entry into Heathrow Airport, London.
It was all quite innocent, really.
We were struggling under a huge load of suitcases we shared with our mother.
We were thirteen years old, on the adventure of a lifetime, but already we hurt from carrying our heavy burdens.
All around us we saw people with push carts, making their ways through the maze of Heathrow much more comfortably, we needed a cart as well!
There were no unused carts to be seen until we entered a stretch of walkway where a broad room perhaps twenty feet deep was enclosed on the far side by a long row of glass doors.
On the other side of these doors stood rows upon rows of empty carts.
We immediately set down our baggage and dashed off, too return promply, triumphant, cart rolling ahead of us, our salvation from the toil that was distressing us and ruining our adventure.
But as we stooped to move our luggage from the floor onto our cart running footsteps approached, growing louder.
We were halted and asked to explain ourselves, didn't we know we should not have gone through those doors, that this violated customs protocols?
We pointed out that there were no explicit markings forbidding our actions, but of course there had been, we had simply over-looked them in our zeal.
We were sternly lectued and sent on our way once cameras were reviewed to show we could not have been purposefully evading customs.
So we were then understood to be entirely innocent.
But there would be two more violation, also committed in innocence...
On our second incoming arrival to Heathrow the following year we were travelling alone.
We were only fourteen, off on a truly grand adventure, all alone.
We knew we must immediately change some of our cash dolalrs into pounds at the airport to get the bus into London, to Kensington.
We were confident we knew our way but very uncertain where we would find any banking services, let alone our own United Kingdom bank, the Midlands Bank, where we had all of our funds for our entire summer in our checking account. Money partly earned working in a mail room.
We were very eager t take care of matters and get settled in our hostel, Shield House straight away.
As we passed the foot of a bank of escalators we spied several banks windows and logos in the room above.
We searched frantically for an up escalator, there was none.
So we did what any impuslive fourteen year old might do, we ran up the escalator, arriving a long climb later at the top, winded but triumphant.
We quickly resolved exchanging our dollars for pounds and turned around to find, ot waiting sucomers in line, but waiing irrate officials.
It seems we had managed to break customs again.
We were clearly filmed breaking customs, but as we performed no other suspiscious activity while performing our transaction we were released with a stern warning.
We had pretty much forgotten the whole incident as we were arriving in Kensington.
We would break customs a bit more seriously the next time...
Our magnificent facility at caging free drinks and meals had not gone unnoticed by our mother when she inspected our bank account and discovered nearly all of our funds intact, unspent, close to end of our third month in the United Kindom during our second summer there.
Our reward for being thrifty would be a single expensive gift under 40 pounds, and a free ride on a hovercraft across the British Channel from Dover to Calais and back.
We chose a beautiful golden yellow nylon backpack with a sturdy aluminum frame for our reward, just 37 pounds, and then set off on our adventure to Calais.
We had a great time riding the train to Dover, we were a veteran of the British Railways, but how we became so might be another story...
We arrived in Dover and boarded our hovercraft, an enormous affair, parking for 400 vehicles? Or perhaps that was passengers? The center of the hull was filled with several decks of parked vehicles nearly stem to stern, at least six or eight cards wide but perhaps many more, and much the same in length, so easily 200 cars and very possibly 400...
We think their were six massive turbines which provided both lift and thrust.
Maneuverability was poor at hide speeds due to inertia and the frictionless glide on land.
At sea the waves thundered into the skirts and sent massive vibrations shuddering through the stiff rubber skirts into the decks.
Comfortable passenger salons, arcades and shops lined either side of this collosus.
Seats were arrayed like church pews on either side between the cars and the arcades.
We have always had a deep abiding love for the sea, any sea, the fiercer the better.
The channel is a rough sea on its best days, this was middling and the seas were about 18 feet at times.
We were not prone to seasickness and untroubled as we explored the mighty vessel.
We discovered a model of the hovercraft in a plastic kit set in a gift shop.
We purchased it immediately.
Models have always been another of our great passions, we would build models for an architect one day.
In Calais, it seemed as if everyone now spoke only French.
Parlais vous Francais?
Customs lay ahead, we did not want to go through, not once, let alone twice...
We turned back, unaware our status would soon alarm officals welcoming us back into the United Kingdom.
Customs officials in Dover made a very grave business of our failure to enter the country with no stamps from any country of origin ouside of their own nation.
This was most irregular and would not do.
Except, we were travelling alone and only fourteen, and it was perhaps also a kinder world then.
They finally stamped us back into the UK and sent us on our merry ways...
What an international rogue we were turning out to be...