THE BIG TRIP VI – AND ANNE’S DESPAIR

Once again we rose to the rattling of the alarm clock, had we fooled ourselves into thinking this was a holiday? After more unusual fare for breakfast – raw fish has never been high on my preferred breakfast menu – we were whisked off on a 3 hour road trip towards the coast. The scenery was much as I had seen on the odd television programme, small shops by the side of the road, millions of scooters, often carrying whole families and swathes of rice fields.

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Suddenly we turned off the road and entered a different world. The potholes had disappeared, the grass verges were neatly trimmed and floral displays abounded. Brand new buildings, retail space on the ground floor, offices or possibly apartments above. Not many were occupied but from a rural third world we were catapulted into the first world by turning a corner.

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At the end of the road we saw shelters, small offices and the river Halong. Hugging the kerb was a long line of tourist coaches and hugging the river bank a long line of small boats waiting to transport holidaymakers to the larger boats a little way off shore. We were provided with life jackets and catapulted onto a small boat along with our luggage. Why, oh why did I choose to buy a luggage set in white I asked myself.

I could mention at this point that it was pretty cold. The sun was shining, but gave us little warmth. I was muffled up to the eyeballs.

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We climbed aboard our boat, two decks, about 20 cabins and a dining room and a spa. I suppose it could cater for around 50 people, but it was less than half full. Our cabin was very pleasant and we settled in for a night on the water. I just loved the way they described this as checking in to our private cabin – we had not been planning on sharing it with anyone else.

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Soon we were gliding along, and the scenery was amazing. Tall rocky outcrops rose out of the water and the river stretched as far as the eye could see as we cruised up or down the river, I wasn’t sure which way we were going. We were transferred into a smaller boat and taken into an almost circular cave where, they informed us proudly, Leonardo de Caprio had filmed The Beach. Sad that their high point of tourist info came from the halls of Hollywood, when this World Heritage site was worth seeing simply for its beauty and grandeur.

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The itinerary mentioned sunbathing and swimming as leisure activities, but certainly not for me, and no one else ventured into the water either. By now I was wearing as many layers of clothes as I had brought. My suitcase was practically empty – I was like a Ryan Air passenger wearing more than I had in my luggage.

After dinner, while DH went for a massage, I decided to have a quiet read on the bed and it was then that the trouble started …  to be continued.

Poor old Anne – well of course she wasn’t poor was she, despite losing vast sums of money at cards and treating her favourite women to wads of cash on a whim. This must have been a particularly long card game as someone painted a portrait while they were at it.

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But she was beginning to realize that she was not going to have an heir. She’d been almost constantly pregnant since her marriage and one after another after another she either miscarried or the babies only lived for a couple of years until only one son survived.

He was a bit strange though, and sickly. As was common in those days posh women didn’t feed their own babies, they called in a wet nurse to do this for them. Enter Mrs Pack a Quaker woman who apparently was well, very well endowed in the milk production area. She saved little William’s life and was thus installed in the nursery.

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He suffered from hydrocephalus, so his head was out of proportion to his body, but this deformity was not reflected in his portrait, he was spared the vicious truth of the modern selfie. But he was quite bright with a burning interest in military affairs. He recruited 90 young boys, dressed them in uniform and drilled them daily. He even persuaded the king to come and review his troops. It’s just as well he had a big garden to play in. It must have been like the annual dreaded kid’s birthday party with hoards of screaming kids every day of the week. Sensibly, Anne gave him his own house miles away from the court.

 

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