Planning for Christmas and Beyond

December 14, 1958

Dear Dad and Russ,

Just before I forget, I wonder if you could send me with your next letter, two Dominion Life calendar pads.

Glad you both like the cufflinks. Boy, they sure arrived in a hurry! I decided to “mail early for Christmas” this year to avoid expensive airmail postage, but I had no idea that they would arrive in Canada so quickly. However, better lots early than lots late. I received your card to “all our friends in Bonn” and have circulated it to interested persons.

Well, I am now tentatively booked a room U-1, Upper Deck, SS Homeric, leaving leHavre on May 20 and arriving in Montreal on the morning of Thursday, May 28. The booking office here cannot give a definite time of arrival as a lot depends on what kind of a crossing the ship has – you know, if we have a few days rough seas we might be delayed by a few hours or a day even. However, as far as that goes, you will be able to check the time of arrival probably the day before with “Home Lines Steamship Agency of Canada Ltd., 1255 Phillips Square, Montreal. Telephone VIctor 9-4571”. It sure would be nice to see your smiling faces on the dock in Montreal if at all possible! The York family, and also Phil Weishar, one of our stenos here, are booked on the same sailing too so it should be a real “ball” for eight days aboard ship. However, as I said last letter, Ottawa (External Affairs) does not know anything about this as yet, as we haven’t written to them officially and, of course, the whole thing hinges on whether or not they approve our departures at the time we have chosen. So please keep all this information more or less “under your hats” until I can confirm that all is settled and approved. Personally, though, I am becoming rather excited about the prospect of returning to Canada and the more I think about it, the more I find that I have to do before closing up my apartment here and leaving Europe. That’s why I am passing on any little bits of information that I think you might be interested in, as I think of them, because if I leave everything until the last minute, I’m sure to forget to tell you something!

About my two airpacks. Yes, I certainly would appreciate having them shipped over here to me as I fear that I shall be rather cramped for luggage space and, even with the addition of the two airpacks, I will more than likely have to purchase another trunk or something. It’s amazing (and a little frightening) what one can accumulate over a period of 3 1/2 years! Shipping them through our External Affairs supply depot sounds like a good idea, but I think you had better check to see when they will be shipped as they will probably be included in a supplies and stationery shipment to Bonn, and it might just happen that such a shipment would not coincide with my hoped-for and expected departure. If such should prove to be the case, perhaps you could ship them through ordinary mail channels (by ship, of course). That way, I would be sure to receive them within a month after they were sent.

I am hoping to bring my Volkswagen back to Canada with me as I feel sure it would be a wonderful little car to have at my disposal for charging back and forth between Kirkwood Avenue and Carleton U. I am planning on having a few things done to it over here (much cheaper this side of the Atlantic) such as having North American bumpers installed and having my divided rear window converted to a single window. I shall also probably purchase all new tires and have a bit of work done on the motor and perhaps a bit of fresh paint applied where necessary. The little car has nearly 98,000 km on it now and it is still operating like a gem. The big deciding factor as to whether or not I shall bring it back with me will be the shipping costs. I could not afford to bring it with me on the Homeric as that would cost approximately $300.00, but there is a German shipping firm that has, in the past, offered to ship Embassy cars to Montreal on freighters as ballast, the only cost involved being the sum of $38.50 to cover handling charges in Hamburg. Johnny York is making inquiries on behalf of both of our VW’s next week so we should know before very long where we stand on this matter.

I was very interested in your comments re: my proposed visit to Turkey. However, I really don’t think a little dirt will bother me too much as I have been in some pretty weird places in my travels and I’m now almost immune to that sort of thing. I shall remember, though, to take along lots of soap.

I do hope that the Toughs can manage to get over to Chez Nixon on Christmas Day, as I rather feel that this would be a form of repayment for the two magnificent Christmas Days that I spent with them here in Bonn. As a matter of fact, come to think of it, it seems that I very nearly lived there all year round! They are certainly wonderful people, and any hospitality you can extend to them and it will be equally appreciated by me.

Your trip to Western Canada sounds terrific, Dad, and your remark about “really spreading” yourself by taking a roomette brings to mind that I, too, am really spreading myself on my Christmas-in-London jaunt. I was booked into a “Deluxe Suite” on the ship coming back from London on the night of January 4th! This wasn’t quite what I had asked for, but it would take so long to change my reservation at this date that I decided to just leave it and live it up.

I received a letter from the Rivoires last week and they and Sylvia will be on the station platform when my train pulls in on the morning of December 24th. Both Bob and Joan have managed to get the week off between Christmas and New Year’s so, as Bob put it, “we should have a ball”. Bob had lunch with Sylvia last Monday in London and he assures me that she hasn’t changed a bit, still as bouncy as ever and still talking a blue streak. Sylvia’s show opened in London on Friday and the Rivoires sent her flowers and I sent her a telegram. Needless to say, I can hardly wait to get to London to see all the old gang again. I will definitely be seeing the Happys sometime during my stay and I shall pass on your best wishes to them.

My stove is, at long, long last, finally repaired and going full blast. The workmen appeared on the scene last Monday and worked at it all day long. Then, at 4:30 in the afternoon they discovered that they had installed the wrong part and had to come back again on Tuesday and do the work all over again. The first day or two that I have the fire going was pretty awful as the smoke had a tendency to pour into the living room rather than go up the chimney. However, the smoke is now departing by the correct route and my apartment is real cozy. Almost too cozy, as a matter of fact, because as soon as my furnace was repaired, we experienced some very mild weather which, I hope, shows no signs of letting up. Today, the sun even made a feeble attempt to come out, but soon gave up and we had rain. We have rain every single day. We have only had about two mornings when there was a wee bit of snow (about 1/16 of an inch) that soon turned to sleet and that, in turn, dissolved into rain. Very depressing.

I am enclosing with this letter, some colored prints that I have made off some of (what I consider) my best slides of Ibiza. I’ve numbered them on the back of each and they are as follows:

1. A view of the town of Ibiza taken from the boat as it arrived from Barcelona at 8 o’clock in the morning. The white houses in the foreground comprise what is known as the “new town” and are built on land reclaimed from the sea. The upper part of the city, or the “old town” is all walled in and you can see the ruins of a Roman fortress and the steeple of an ancient cathedral dominating the whole town.

2. A view of the bay and beach at Port des Torrents where I stayed for my first three weeks on the island. The three white houses in the background are the ones owned by the Thompson’s and we were staying in the house on the left in the picture.

3. This is a view taken from the roof of the house and shows the bay and beach and the open sea out further. The point of land you can see in the distance is known locally as “Little Gibraltar”.

4. This is the Thompson’s boatman, Juan, returning with the provisions from San Antonio, and shows him unloading the boat down at the beach. Note the clarity and colour of the water.

5. View of the town of San Antonio. I have been told by the photography shop where I have these prints made that this is a particularly excellent picture as, evidently, I have captured a difference between “sky blue” and “sea blue” and also managed to keep the buildings and boats pure white. They tell me that in most pictures with so much blue, there is a tendency for everything (including whites) to become the same shade of blue. Of course, I must confess that I wasn’t thinking about all that when I took the picture – it was just a lucky shot.

6. The bay of Portinatx on the northern tip of the island of Ibiza. This was another one of those lucky shots. There was a storm off in the distance (note the dark sky) but the sun was shining like fury where we were, causing a lovely contrast between sky and multi-multi-colored sunlit sea. This was truly a lovely scene to behold with the white yacht (Belgian) seemingly floating in air over a carpet of greens, turquoise, and many shades of blue.

7. And yet another “lucky shot” this time of a sunset, taken without any filters at all – a very dangerous practice with colour film as it has a tendency to absorb just the red or blue rays of the sun early in the morning or late at night. This was taken on the Mediterranean from a boat as we were returning from a day’s excursion to the bay of Portinatx.

Well, anyways, I hope you like them. [The original slides will be scanned and shared here after they have been shipped from Victoria in the next few weeks.]

I must get a letter off to Bob and Joan now, so will close this letter with best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and New Year’s season. My best to the Toughs and all friends you happen to see.

Lots of love, Dave

December 23, 1958

Dear Dad and Russ,

Well, my train leaves for London in exactly four hours from now, and needless to say, I am very, very excited at the prospect of renewing old acquaintances with a goodly representative portion of “that old gang of mine”.

Just thought I would take this moment to quote you the text of a telegram we received from Ottawa this morning:

“Simultaneous departure your mission of Miss Weishar, Mr. York and Mr. Nixon authorized. Accommodation as outlined Homeric ex leHavre May 20 approved.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How’s that for a Christmas present? As I told you in an earlier letter, I had made tentative bookings for Phil Weishar, the Yorks and me on the Homeric sailing on May 20. Last Saturday morning the travel agency called me up to tell me that they regretted that every cabin we had asked for had already been booked, but that they were able to offer us alternative accommodation along the same lines but, as bookings were very tight, we would have to confirm them by Wednesday, December 24! So yesterday morning the Embassy fired a telegram off Ottawa-wards explaining the situation and telling them what accommodation was available, etc., and the above telegram was the reply from Ottawa. I shall have a double cabin (no. U-24) all to myself.

It sure feels nice to have a definite date to look forward to, I can tell you. The Yorks and Phil are very, very pleased with the way things are turning out.

Ottawa’s telegram, by the way, bore the security classification of “Restricted”. All communications dealing with personnel movements are considered classified inasmuch as Personnel Division would be swamped by requests for postings or complaints etc., if such information was public to all members of the department. In other words, nobody is supposed to know (in theory) of forthcoming vacancies or departures until such vacancies are truly vacant and such departures are truly effective.

But it is perfectly alright for you people to know about it now – Ottawa’s telegram makes it official. However, just in case word should get back to the department, I would appreciate it very much if you could answer all inquiries re: my return along the lines that I “expect to return perhaps in May sometime”.

At any rate I shall keep you posted on developments as they develop.

Oh, by the way, I wrote to George Howell months ago reminding him that I would be returning to Canada sometime around May or June of next year. I mentioned in this letter that I would like very much to spend my home leave someplace by a good old Canadian LAKE as that is one of the frustrations of living in Europe – no lakes. Well, I got a letter from George last week telling me that the family he knows in Toronto has a summer camp in the Haliburton region and that they have offered us a cabin for the whole month of June (or longer, if we want it) absolutely free of charge! George has asked for leave in June so what I think I’ll do will be spent a few days in Ottawa on my return getting unpacked and slightly organized and take off towards Haliburton (mit Volkswagen, I hope) for a month, before settling down in Ottawa.

Well, must do a little work now before starting the Christmas season.

Lots of love, Dave

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