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EIGHT



“The best way out is always through.”

Robert Frost, A Servant to Servants, 1914



As the home study report progressed, I prepared the dossier, contacting the bank, the accountant, and our referees as I did so. On my way to work, I called in at a large branch of Boots the chemist close by the main train station.


“I shall be travelling to Romania in the course of the next few weeks and I have been asked to take some supplies with me. I’ll be travelling by air, and I can only take as much as I can carry, but I would very much appreciate it if you could let me have commercial-sized supplies of E45 cream, and, if it is available without prescription, Pholcodine linctus.”


“I can get both,” said the manager.


“And what about Hibiscrub?”


“Yes, I can get that for you too.”


“How much do I need to buy to get a discount from you?”


“I reckon, since you’re taking these to Romania, to the orphanages, that I can let you have all of it at wholesale rates.”


“That’s really kind,” I said. “Can you get me enough to fill a decent-sized rucksack?”


He said he certainly could, but that I had better watch out, because none of it was lightweight. I reassured him that that was the least of my problems, and we arranged for me to pick up the supplies in the following week. 


I then paid a visit to Argos.


“Do you have portable swimming pools?” I asked the bemused-looking assistant.


“Well, yes. At least, we have large paddling pools.”


“And do they fold up?”


“Sure do. They’re made of reinforced plastic, with lightweight metal struts, and they all fit into a box which is easy to carry.”


I decided to take three, two for Romania and one to keep at home, in the hope that the child or children whom we brought in to England would delight in splashing about in our back garden.


Then I visited the army surplus store to get hold of a roomy but lightweight rucksack. I wasn’t too bothered about style, just space, and I found just the thing – a roomy main compartment, with a number of side pockets, both internal and external, with robust-looking straps and a comfortable harness.


Back at home, I turned my attention to the preparation of a letter of introduction to Dr Sadovici. I wanted to be sure that I could give him proper warning of my arrival, and reassure him as to my intentions, so I spent some time preparing an appropriate description both of me and Carmel and of our home and explaining our motives. Mary Gibson had said that he spoke English but I thought it would be wise to have the letter translated into Romanian, and after a little research in the legal press, I found a translator in London to whom I sent my offering. It was returned within a week and I decided that it would be a good idea to send it to the nurse in Bacau who was, as Mary Gibson had told me, some sort of liaison person. 


Things were beginning to pick up speed. Mrs Maudsley was as good as her word, and prepared her report remarkably quickly after carrying out interviews with both of us and our referees and inspecting our house from top to bottom. She pronounced herself satisfied and assured us that the application would go before the adoption panel far more quickly than she had at first said. 


In fact, the whole process took a little less than six weeks, and by early July, with her reassurance that we were likely to get the go-ahead, I was able to contact both the travel agent and my mother and arrange a flight for me and my mother from London to Bucharest on 15 July 1990. Friendly Travel would meet us at Heathrow and give us the tickets and our hotel coupons.


Three days before departure, after Margaret Maudsley had formally confirmed that the adoption panel had approved my request to adopt two Romanian children, I travelled to London, to the Romanian embassy, clutching my dossier with sufficient cash to hand over in exchange for the necessary entry permits. 


The embassy itself was an unremarkable building on an extremely expensive piece of London real estate, close, I gathered, to Millionaires’ Row. It was immediately identifiable from a distance, with a large Romanian flag hanging from a stanchion fixed to a balcony on the first floor. In the middle of the flag, where hitherto there had been a large circle on which some sort of socialist regalia was emblazoned, there was now a large hole. The effect was rather curious. Six months or so had passed since the socialist regime had been toppled. Why, I wondered, was it still necessary to display the flag in this way?


There was no immediate answer, but, of course, my task was not to examine the political fortunes of Romania or the progress of democracy, but to complete this stage of my journey and so, when a gloomy-looking retainer opened the embassy door to me and told me to wait in a side room, I patiently waited to be called into an office where an equally gloomy but, I suspected, rather more senior member of staff set about stamping the front and back of my dossier, including my and Carmel’s birth certificates and our marriage certificate, for which he asked me for the sum of £50. Cash.


I was not entirely sure of the effect of the stamps and the signatures – they appeared to do nothing more than confirm what was clear already – that the document had been notarised and carried the seal of an English Notary Public to that effect and that the London embassy had been paid fifty pounds for the privilege of adding its own stamp, but the official reassured me that I needed nothing more, and that there would be no difficulty entering Romania, for which an advance visa was no longer required; a time-limited visa would be endorsed on my passport upon entry.


There was no more to be said. He didn’t ask the purpose of my visit, and it seemed pointless my trying to engage him in conversation. But at least, now, everything seemed in place. I made a quick phone call to my mother to confirm that we would meet at Heathrow, and I returned home to pack everything ready for my expedition. 


And on the morning of 15 July, I took a train to London.

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