When I was nobbut a lass of about eleven my sister and I were taken on holiday to England by my parents. We travelled by ship each way. On the S.S Oronsay there we went through the Suez Canal, and tremendously wonderful for me it was too. But the voyage back on the M.V Rangitoto via Panama was even more wonderful as there were more children on board, and by then I had lost some of my appalling shyness and was able to enjoy their company. It was also, unlike the Oronsay, only one class, and that always means a happier ship.
And it was the best of the two ships for my parents too, as they met a lovely couple on the way home. This English couple and their three girls were to become family friends of ours from then on. The father, D. was coming out to New Zealand fill an important government position in Fisheries Research and it was through him I met the Green-Lipped Mussel girl.
One time I was staying at the couple's home, and D asked me if I would accompany him on a business evening meal. He was meeting a man from California who was very interested in the new research that indicated the our New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus) could help alleviate arthritis. It was enough of a treat to be in a restaurant ordering fabulous food off the menu, but I felt even more grown-up to be with D as he talked important business with Mr G. They were kind enough to even include me occasionally. Over dessert (crème caramel, as I recall), Mr G began to inquire about my 14-year old hobbies and activities. He seemed very interested and I expect I talked too much as I wasn't used to any adult paying me much attention. But I must have impressed this pharmaceutical mogul as he began to tell me about his daughter Alison, who was a similar age. In the end he gave me his address and asked me if I would consider writing to her, and, if we got on, being her pen-pal. Alison and I corresponded regularly for the next eleven years and I learnt a great deal about her affluent and rather decadent American life. We were as good friends as you can be through letters. Finally, when I was 25, and on my Big O.E*, I flew to Redwood City in California and met her for the first time. It was rather a disaster and nothing to do with either of us, but that's another story for another post.
* Overseas Experience