Alexander and Lila Collier decided to arrive in Harwich twenty-four hours ahead of the disembarkation of the Kindertransport children. After a long drive, Sandy was pleased to see the Beacon Hill Fort looming in the distance. He noticed pillboxes had been built into the massive bank along the coast northwards and a two-storey hexagonal radar tower was in place that held commanding views of the Orwell estuary. There’s a malaise about this place. Talk of war tends to do that.
He parked outside the Pier Hotel and gathered their luggage—comprised of one suitcase and a few sundry items—from the trunk and followed Lila into the hotel’s lobby. They had booked their room earlier. After registering at the front desk, they carried on to their room to freshen up and to unload their paraphernalia. Twenty minutes later, they strolled hand-in-hand along the quay to the Angel House for a draft and lunch.
Though not quite lunchtime, they expected the pub to be busy and were surprised to find it almost empty. Sharing an uneasy glance between them, they sat near the door. A redheaded barmaid—who reminded him a little bit of the actress Maureen O’Hara—was at the far end of the bar in conversation with a man whom he assumed was a patron. “I do hope this establishment is not an unwise choice on our part. Though, it seems proper enough. I’ll get a menu. What would you like to drink?”
“No need to ask for a menu. It’s right here between the salt and vinegar. Half pint of bitters and lime would do me fine.” Lila slid out the menu to peruse it. “Lot’s of choice, Sandy. I don’t know about you, but I’m famished.”
A few minutes later, he returned and took up the chair opposite Lila. “Sally said she’d bring our drinks in few minutes.”
“It’s Sally, is it?” Her comment came with a teasing flick of her eyebrows. “I saw you chatting her up.”
“Ah, you’re daft, woman,” he chortled. “There’s only one girl that’s the apple of my eye and that’s you.”
“What were blithering about? You were gone for quite awhile.”
“Five minutes or so. But not more than ten.” Oh, I wish she wouldn’t do this. “We talked about Poland and whether Hitler would invade.” He slid out the other menu and examined his choices. “What did you decide for lunch?”
“And what?” He peered over the rim of the menu. She sure knows how to make a guy feel guilty. And for nothing.
“Do you think Hitler will in...