The famous white cliffs seen from the boats crossing the Channel from The Continent, are a stirring sight. A reminder of the way things always were, before the engineering triumph of the Eurotunnel and the Eurostar trains shuttling under the sea. These monumental yet unstable cliffs stand for England, and for hundreds of years returning travellers have gathered on deck for a first glimpse of the green and pleasant land come to meet the white chalk edge.
It's been years since we last took the car ferry, and we probably wouldn't have this year but for a spot of luck winning P&O tickets in a raffle at the village May Day fete. In the event, not only did we enjoy the crossings but they brought back memories of all the times when the boat trip was an integral part of the excitement of Going Abroad. Slower times, when exchanging pounds for French francs was undeniably exotic, and a first Dubonnet in the lounge bar positively sophisticated.
What I liked most was the sense of connection to all those other crossings down the years - the thrill, for a child, of passing through passport control; the first crossing I made alone as a teenager, going back from Brussels to see friends in London; the brief heyday of Hoverspeed, the hovercraft service. The sense too of all those other passengers down the centuries, watching out for the cliffs and the soft blue-greys and greens of home after the bright, clashing colours of foreign adventure.