Chapter 1 - Our Journey Begins

Come and join us while we are tracing our Suffolk roots.

The first part of our story takes us through Suffolk & Norfolk where we meet some of our living relatives, visit Benhall, the birthplace of Geoff's Dad and become familiar with places we have known only through photographs and letters.

Suffolk is the English County where our ancestors have lived for generations. Come with us while we explore the County of Suffolk and other parts of Britain, searching for information about our illusive ancestors. We, that is Jane and Geoff Aslett, haven't booked itineraries or planned our trip in great detail. We are setting off not knowing where our search might take us or what we might find along the way. Like the explorers of old, we think we know what we are looking for, but we are not too sure what we will find. Certainly there will be surprises along the way, but we know there will be lots of fun too.

One of the first people we are going to meet is Geoff's cousin Joyce. We will be with Joyce to help her celebrate her 97th birthday! Joyce, who still lives in her own home, by herself, remarked when I told her about our plans "I'm so looking forward to your visit, it'll be fun!" So certainly it will be fun.

Our plan is that we will fly out of Brisbane with Qantas bound for Hong Kong. After about six hours at Hong Kong we will leave on British Airways for Heathrow, arriving at the new and much talked about Terminal 5. Promoted as the latest most modern and up to date airport facility in the world, it was opened by Her Majesty, the Queen. The Queen was lucky she did not arrive on a BA flight or she might have lost her baggage, as apparently countless people have been doing. We were warned "Terminal 5, huh? Make sure you take a couple of spare sets of clothing in your hand luggage, as your bags could take a few days to come back from Finland, or Malta or anywhere." The reputation of Terminal 5 is not good - let's hope it will be a trouble free experience for us.

After our passage through Customs, hopefully with our baggage intact, we will find our way by train into Liverpool Street Station, London and from there on to Ipswich, at the southern end of Suffolk, where we have accommodation booked for the first night. After a good sleep (we hope) and a leisurely start to the day, we will pick up our hire car and head to Felixstowe on the coast, to meet Chris and Julie Garrard. Chris is the custodian of much Garrard Family information in Suffolk, and I am hoping he will be able to point me in the right direction for research into my Mother's family. Chris' Gt. Gt. Grandfather, Robert Garrard, and my Gt. Gt. Grandfather Hatsell were brothers.

From Felixstowe we will make our way north to meet Joyce at Caister-on-sea which is quite near to Gt Yarmouth.

So here we go!

Saturday, June 14th 2008
Up early, all organised and ready to go and after farewells to Akiko, Andy & Shiina, Anthony drove us to the airport where we joined the lengthy queue at Check-in. Through customs and proceeded to the departure lounge where we collected our pre-ordered British currency from Travelex. This, by the way, was a great way to handle the money exchange. Travelex (formerly Thomas Cook) make it possible to pre-order over the internet (48 hours ahead), charge no commission and better than bank rates. After a cup of coffee and a bit of a wander, we boarded the Qantas Airbus and were 'up, up and away'. We had a good trip and were able to pick out lots of landmarks from our window seat, as we passed over Queensland and Indonesia. We arrived at Hong Kong airport just after 6pm (8pm Aussie time).

Spent a rather tiring 6 1/2 hours in the airport. Hong Kong airport is nothing if not huge and all changed since we'd been there previously. As we weren't wanting to shop, we wandered aimlessly about, had something to eat and mainly just sat and watched the passing parade. Met a friendly sole from Adelaide, Charlotte, and her Grade 12 son Charles, who was on his way to Scotland to compete in some golfing tournaments. Coincidentally when we boarded our flight they were on the seats immediately in front of us.

Unfortunately the seat configuration (3-4-3) meant we had to climb over the young man in the aisle to get out for a stretch or toilet so didn't do that too often. It was a very long flight but we managed to snooze for some of the time and arrived feeling OK just after 6am on Sunday morning, 15 June.

Terminal 5 is very extensive but was not terribly busy early on Sunday morning. We walked (with the aid of people movers for some of the distance) for what seemed like miles, then down three escalators, into a train and then up 2 more escalators to immigration check point. From there we were directed (down another set of stairs) to the luggage collection area. We were doing well so diverted to the toilet. When we reached the baggage carousel there were only a few bags left of which two were ours, and no one else much around except a man with a clipboard who made sure we had the right bags - he then pointed way down the end of the building to the exit and then, changing his mind, said "You can go through that one if you like", which we did, and found ourselves out in the reception area having completely missed the customs inspection!! No one blew whistles or paid any attention to us so we carried on regardless to catch the train in to London.

After being directed to the right platform by a helpful Airport staffer, we swiped our Oyster cards and were soon rattling our way to Kings Cross Station. Not many people on the train early on Sunday but a couple of young Aussies sat opposite us and chatted.

It was not easy negotiating the many steps up and down at the Station with our luggage - escalators seem to be few and far between at most stations. Fortunately, one young lad, part of a noisy crowd, stopped to help and carried Jane's bag down one large flight of stairs which was very kind of him. Changed trains at Kings Cross Station and headed to Liverpool Street Station, a charming old restored building. As we had a couple of hours to spare before catching the 12.30 train to Ipswich we arranged to leave our luggage - at great expense - while we took a bus ride around London.

It was a typical Brisbane winter's day, sunny and warm, and sitting right up front at the top we had a great view. There were very few people on the bus but lots got on and off along the way. A very friendly lady with her young son, who had come down to London to see the Queens tennis tournament (son is a champion under 12 player and a very nice lad - reminded us of Andy), sat next to us and gave us a running commentary which was very helpful. She gave us her phone number saying to be sure to phone her if we needed anything when we were in her area. They got off at Chelsea and we stayed on till the bus reached it's destination, wherever that was.

An interesting little incident took place there, when the driver tried to do a U-turn at a narrow crossing and didn't quite make it. Sitting up at the top we could see that he was going to smash his rear-vision mirror on a post, as he crunched into the barricade on the corner. When he got out to inspect the damage, he looked up and saw that we were still there, so told us that we'd reached the end of the line. We got off and asked could we go back with him, so he said he would be leaving again in 10 minutes. We climbed back up top and the next minute he came up too and spent his 10 min break chatting to us about his trip to Australia with his Dad and how Brisbane was 'the only place he had had any trouble' - someone at the Gabba apparently took exception to his father's accent!

We had a quick cup of coffee, a 30p toilet break, and hopped on the train to Colchester where we were transferred on to a bus to Ipswich (work being done on the rail line) arriving about 2pm. Caught a taxi to the Carlton Hotel where our room was small, but at least it was clean and we were able to get a good sleep.

We went out to see what we could see in Ipswich, a fascinating city with many attractive old buildings. A subway to cross the main streets and very limited car access in the shopping area. Not many eating places that we could find open on Sunday, so had a drink & fish & chips at "The Cock & Pye" - served by a friendly Aussie chef from Newcastle! Later, taking photos of some of the buildings, a passer by started talking to us giving all sorts of good advice about 'looking up' to see the buildings - he was pleased to see we were doing that - and suggesting places to visit. All in all people have been very friendly and helpful.

Monday 16th June 2008
We were able to connect to the wireless connection at the Hotel so could read our emails and then after a good English breakfast, the car hire people (1Car1) picked us up and we took delivery of our brand new Vauxhall Corsa. It was an ideal car for us and having the tom tom has made navigating so easy - thank you Graham. Our first stop was to get some petrol and a small supply of food from the Supermarket. Interesting to see the different array of food and drinks available. There is a huge variety of packaged food and meals of all kinds.

We drove the short trip to Felixstowe where we were very warmly greeted by Chris & Julie Garrard. Chris & Geoff have been corresponding and sharing family history information for many years but had never met. We all got on very well and chatted all day. They have a beautiful garden and a very comfortable home full of all sorts of interesting collections, including over 80 cats (not live) of all descriptions and sizes, and a beautiful two story wooden dolls' house built by Chris and completely furnished and lit. We all went to dinner at the 'Ferry Boat Inn' which was quite close to where they live, and, as it remains light for so long, we were then taken on a little tour along the promenade and docks area.