This is a letter that I wrote home to my brother from The Woodman. It was begun on June 29th and finished on July 7th.
We did absolutely nothing all day. In the evening, Dave, Linda, Jason, Sandy, Chris & I all went for a curry in Hertford to celebrate Dave’s leaving.
EXTRA-STAFF SLOUGH (0753) 821 831¹
¹I wrote this number in my diary as I had decided to contact them to see if I could pick up some extra work on my days off.
Sandy gave us a ride down to Broxbourne and we walked down to the station and caught the train into Liverpool Street. We caught the tube to Piccadilly Circus and went to New Zealand House and collected our passports and letters of introduction for Zaire. From there we went around to IMC for some more shots. I had meningitis and Linda had meningitis and tetanus. We also both had blood samples taken to find out our blood groups. That lot set us back a further £76 and we went to a nearby chemist to get the antibiotics and the malaria tablets he had prescribed for us – they cost us 43 quid.
Back on the tube, we made our way to Covent Garden and the YHA shop where we bought 6 bottles of insect repellent and across the road, we bought closed cell foam Karrimats.
We spent an hour or so watching life on the Thames go by then walked up and sat in Parliament square and watched the sun set on the Houses of Parliament while jets descended through the clouds overhead and Big Ben told the passing time.
With nothing else left to do we headed back home on the train. We now have nothing important left to do in London and probably won’t return there until a few days before we leave for Africa.
Dave¹ lent us his car and we spent the morning cruising the country lanes of Hertfordshire. Had a Ploughman’s² at a little pub and went and saw the Duke of Wellington where Chris and Sandy³ used to work. It is no wonder they are so lazy – a sleepy little pub in an even sleepier little village!
Jason⁴ took us cruising in the afternoon and Ray & Joan took us for a drink at the Fish and Eels in the evening.
¹Dave was a New Zealander who also worked at The Woodman.
²A Ploughman’s lunch consists of various pickles, bread and cheese.
³Chris and Sandy were the third of four sets of managers at The Woodman while we were there. They were lazy, slovenly and inclined to let the Pikies (gypsies) into the pub.
⁴Jason Roach was a young guy who also worked at The Woodman. He went on to become a Professor of Criminology at Newcastle University.
STARLIGHT EXPRESS, STARLIGHT EXPRESS.
We caught the train into Liverpool Street and from there went to Jessops Cameras in Oxford Street to do a couple of things, then to NZ House on Haymarket Street. We applied for letters of an introduction for Zaire¹ then went up on the roof. What a view!! It is said to be the best view in London.
From there we went to the IVC for the first of our “ab-so-lutely painless”²(!!) vaccinations.
- Polio (oral)
- Yellow Fever
- Typhoid OUCH!!!
We had tea at the Hard Rock Café (SAVE THE PLANET) after an eye-opening trip to Harrods in Knightsbridge: the place is mega, to say the least, and sells absolutely everything.
Another mystery bus ride took us quite by chance to the Apollo Theatre where Starlight Express³ has been playing for five years. We went and got our £20 seats for £8 and saw an absolutely marvellous 2 1/2 hours of singing and dancing, all done on roller skates with brilliant special effects and music. We both went home singing the tunes!
¹ We would be visiting the corrupt, dictatorship of Zaire during our Overland trip. I order to be granted visas to enter Zaire (the actual visas had to be obtained in Nairobi) we needed letters of introduction from our embassy, guaranteeing that we were people of good character. This was, indeed, ironic as the President of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, was a corrupt, murderous, psychopathic megalomaniac whose personality cult held total sway over the brutalized population of his country.
² The doctor who administered our vaccinations declaimed in his very posh accent that the jabs would be “ab-so-lutely painless.” They fucking weren’t!
³ Starlight Express, written by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, went on to be one of the world’s longest-running musicals, playing 7,409 times between 1984 and 2002.
We had a very relaxing day doing nothing. In the evening Jason took us to a pub in Hartford called The Old Barge.
We caught the train into London and went via the Circle Line to Kensington High St. We drew £1900-00 out of the bank and paid our final instalment of £1868-00 to Kumuka¹. From there we went to Harley St², where all the doctors hang out – Rolls-Royces, BMWs and Mercedes very thick on the ground, polished gold plaques proclaiming the presence of flash specialists behind painted, locked doors. We found the International Vaccination Centre & made an appointment for next Monday.
We cruised on a bus for an hour or so and ended up at Hyde Park on a beautiful evening so we wandered around amongst people in horrid deckchairs, sat beside the Serpentine³ while the sun went down behind the trees and watched the squirrels play on the well-kept lawns. We caught the Underground from Marble Arch to Liverpool Street then the trains home.
¹ Our 16-week Overland Expedition, travelling north from Nairobi in Kenya via Uganda, Zaire, Cameroon, CAR, Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, Morocco and Spain begins in August.
² The prestigious street in Marylebone has been noted for its medical specialists since the 19th century. Coincidentally, it was named after Thomas Harley who was Lord Mayor of London in 1767, seven years after my ancestor Matthew Blakiston occupied the same position (see the earlier post https://curseofthetraveller.com/?s=the+house+of+blakiston about my family backstory).
³ The Serpentine is a small man-made lake created in 1730 at the behest of Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II.
Bernie and Sue left for work early and we got up at about 9, packed and left the wee flat on Farnham Road. We caught the bus up to the bus station and went in to the shopping centre to say goodbye to Sue. After a snack we caught the train back into Paddington and from there the underground to Oxford Street.
We went to Jessops photographic store on new Oxford Street and negotiated the sale of 30 rolls of film as follows:
10 ROLLS KODACHROME 64
10 ROLLS KODACOLOR 100
3 ROLLS KODACHROME 200
2 ROLLS AGFA CT200
4 ROLLS KODAK TRI-X PAN 400
1 ROLL KODACOLOR 200
We also bought a lead film shield pouch and a small hand slide-viewer. The total cost of the film was only £118-00 which is pretty good value.
From there we went shopping for swimming togs and ended up buying a pair each. It was rush hour by now. So we made our way back to Liverpool Street and had a few drinks outside the station in a pub called Dirty Dicks. Then we caught the train back to Broxbourne. We went up to White Stubbs farm for tea.
Sandy gave us a ride down to the station and we caught the train to Liverpool Street. We spent the day just pottering around, and around lunch time we got on a bus to see where we would end up. We ended up at Surrey Docks, one of the old wharves which have been converted into a boring up- market shopping ghetto. We looked around there for an hour or so and did a bit of shopping (and shoplifting) at Tesco’s and had a horrible plastic snack in one of the horrible plastic snack bars. We caught another bus which took us on a track through the labyrinth of some of the inner suburbs and deposited us God-knows-where. We caught another bus back to Victoria Station then made our way out to Slough. The buses were as unpredictable as ever, but the main street looked much nicer in the warm evening sun compared to the cold, bleak, windy street we left behind in April. Bernie and Sue made us welcome as usual, and we had a yummy tea and watched TV while they told us about Africa. We all went to bed at about 10:00.