14/6/91

Today is the 14th, a Thursday. Another month has passed and the first year of another decade has passed. I am in London at Leighton Mansions where I’ve been for a week and a half looking for work. It isn’t easy. Linda has a nannying job over in Notting Hill, about 15 minutes drive away. 

I was hoping to find work here in London and move into the flat here. But, as a second option, I placed an advert in the Farmer’s Weekly for tractor driving during the upcoming harvest and today I had a reply that sounds promising. So, it looks like I will be spending the summer driving tractors².

After spending a few days more with the nurses in their flat in Camberwell, we went down to Cortington Manor to stay for the weekend. Diana [the Duchess of Newcastle] offered me a job putting a new ceiling in her stables and so we stayed on there all week and I earned £150-00. After that, we went up to Norfolk and stayed with Heather Stevens whom we had met at John and Sally Blakiston’s before we went to Europe. We thought that we might’ve found farm work in Norfolk, or some kind of work in Norwich, but there was nothing going so we returned to London.

Before we left Norfolk, we went for a day trip around the county and called to see Brad White’s¹ parents in Thurne, a tiny village deep in the Norfolk Broads. He was very pleased to see us and gave us Brad’s address in Darwin where he is now living.

So, we returned to London. Linda got her nannying job almost immediately and I am still looking. Something will turn up. It always does.

¹Followers of this story may remember Brad from my days working at The Fitzroy Hotel in Melbourne back at the very beginning of our adventures. 

²As it turned out, I spent the summer driving tractors for the harvest at Knoll Farm, near the town of Fordingbridge in Hampshire.

20/5/91

SAPPHIRES AND DIAMONDS 

SAPPHIRES AND DIAMONDS 

We were up and away at 8AM and went into town in Eric1. We got a copy of TNT (an Aussie/Kiwi magazine which had a large Situations Vacant section) and sussed out jobs but there wasn’t much going and we soon got sick of it so we went and visited Harry and Brian at the Red Lion. We had two cups of tea with them in the cafe next door then went upstairs and yarned to Ange (one of the barmaids). On the way out we had a quick beer with Tom (the cleaner) then took Eric over to the flat where Diana and Roxy2 are staying in Kensington.

Back in town, we took Harry’s advice and went to Hatton Gardens in Holborn and looked at engagement rings. And we bought one! The shop was called Design 22 and we paid £585-00 for a ring with 3 diamonds and 2 sapphires. I gave it to Linda over beers at a nearby pub as we couldn’t wait any longer. 

 That night we had dinner with Diana and Roxy.

1Eric Escort, our car.

2Our former landlady the Duchess of Newcastle and her grand-daughter)

19/5/91

BOULOGNE TO CAMBERWELL

We left the hostel at 6:30 and hiked down to the port. We only had to wait for about half an hour before the call to board came and we set sail at 8AM aboard the ferry Pride of Canterbury.

We cashed in our few remaining French coins and got £2-38 for it which afforded us two cups of tea and a croissant each. About an hour and a half after later we docked and went through customs without a hitch.

Outside the terminal we made a sign that read LONDON and after about 10 minutes of hitching we were picked up by a Spanish truck driver. He spoke no English and we knew no Spanish but after a while we figured out he wanted us to help him find Charlton in East London where his load was bound.

So, by asking directions we got him to his destination then walked over to the BR station and hopped on a train for Waterloo East without buying tickets because we didn’t have any money. There was a ticket collector in the carriage we got into but for some reason he walked straight past us. When the train arrived at Waterloo East we walked straight past the ticket booth but we were bellowed at by an inspector to stop. I launched into a spiel in French about having no money and after about 5 minutes of pretending we couldn’t speak or understand English he let us go in desperation.  if he had been a bit bit more switched on he would have noticed that I could understand his questions. 

We snickered our way down to Caesars¹ and had a huge feed of English grease then caught a bus out to the nurses’ flat² off Camberwell Road. We spent the rest of the afternoon there and had a barbecue in the evening.

The Camberwell Crew. L-R: no idea, Sue, Dave (back), Alex, Hazel (front), Ferg, Linda

¹Ceasars restaurant was a local Waterloo eatery we had frequented during our time at the Red Lion.

² The friends we had made at the Red Lion.

18/5/91

BOULOGNE  After a breakfast of bread, jam and hot chocolate we walked down through the town to the ferry terminal and booked tickets on the P&O ferry across the English Channel for tomorrow.

With no money left and not a lot to do in Boulogne, we looked in a few jewellery shops for engagement rings and bought some fresh veggies in the market to cook for tea. We spent a couple of hours in the evening yarning to the wee Scottish girls and watching MTV.

Beers in Boulogne

17/5/91

PARIS TO BOULOGNE  We caught the train from the Gare du Nord up to Boulogne on the French coast and walked from the station up to the youth hostel. It didn’t open until 5:30 p.m. so we lay on the grass in front of the hostel and soaked up the sun.

The hostel was modern and well-equipped and there were some nice people staying there including two sweet young Scottish girls and a Canadian girl. After we had settled in we went downtown and bought some food and a cheap (64 pence!) bottle of vin rouge. Back at the hostel we cooked tea then sat around talking with other travellers until bedtime.

16/5/91

PARIS

We caught the first train possible into the city and got off at St. Michel station.  Our first stop was Notre Dame: the Church of Our Lady. Surprisingly small, it  was nevertheless a wonderful example of Gothic architecture with some beautiful stained glass windows.

We walked along the Seine river –  a vile smelling cesspool –  and crossed Pont Neuf to the Louvre where we spent a couple of hours. The important thing we saw there was, of  course, the Mona Lisa, but there wasn’t much else of interest apart from some early Monet and Renoir paintings. The majority of the works were the familiar biblical scenes of martyred saints and hovering cherubs. The Egyptian wing, however, was very interesting.

Movin on, we walked along the Quai d’Orsay then through the streets of the 7th Arrondissement to the Eiffel Tower. We paid 18F (francs) to climb up to the 2nd level with its impressive view, then another 40 francs to go to the top in the lift. Incredible [pronounced as the French would: “en-cray-arr-ble”]. At nearly 1000 ft the view of the sprawl of Paris stretched off as far as the eye could see in all directions. A sign a fixed to a wall stated that Wellington was 18,392 km away.  At that height however, many of the city’s landmarks – Notre Dame, the Arc du Triomphe,  etcetera, blended into the uniform grey of the city. Grey squalls coming across the city from the north combined to camouflage them completely.

Back on terra firma, we walked back towards St Michele and went to the Musee d’Orsay. Oh those fabulous impressionist works! Monet, Cezanne and Renior… exquisite colours and moods on canvas. But what grabbed our attention most were the Van Gogh’s. The vibrant colours. The thick, almost violent brush strokes, conveyed the madness of the painter in an almost palpable way. They were mesmerising.

By 5:30 we were sick of trudging around Paris so we caught the train back out to Arpajon and bought some food to cook for dinner. We spent the evening talking to a couple of New Zealanders who were also staying in the  hostel.

15/5/91

TO PARIS We broke camp early and walked up to the centre of town, stopping on the way to the station to buy some pastries for petit dejeuner.  We caught a train back up to Dijon and then booked tickets to Paris. Because our tickets from Chalon-sur-Sôane hadn’t been punched, we bullshitted that we hadn’t used them and got a refund!

The trip to Paris took about 2 hours and we ended up at Le Gare du Lyon. We decided to go out to the youth hostel at Arpajon instead of trying the expensive and probably full City hostels so we made our way to Le gare d’Austerlitz and waited with a Guatemalan guy who was also going out to Arpajon. There was a railway workers strike in progress that day so it was a long time before a train pulled into the platform but eventually we got out to Arpajon and found the hostel.

We pitched the tent then went round to the town centre with an Aussie girl and a couple of Poms for a beer. We also bought some food to cook up for tea.

14/5/91

CYCLES TO LE VINEYARDS

We made an early start and walked up to the “centre ville” with the intention of going to the town of Beaune to a cheap wine tasting venue mentioned in Let’s Go¹. But there were no trains or buses until late afternoon so after buggering around trying to hitchhike we hired a couple of bikes and, armed with some bread, wine and cheese, set off to cycle through some of the local vineyards. It took us half an hour to get out of town and into the quiet back roads. We cycled through a small wood then stopped for lunch in a field of buttercups.

After lunch we cycled into the town of Givry and stopped at a tiny grocery shop for cold drinks. When we went to depart I discovered that I had a puncture in my rear tyre which I fixed on the side of the street. We carried on further into the hills through small villages and vineyards then circled back towards Chalon-sur-Sôane.

After we dropped the bikes off we had a look around the streets of the town then wandered back to the camping ground. Dinner that night consisted of leftovers from our picnic supplemented by a can of sardines and some apples.

¹Let’s Go Europe was one of a series of guide books writted by stupid Americans for stupid Americans.

13/5/91

DIJON TO CHALON-SUR-SAÔNE We caught a bus up to the Gare at 9:00 and bought tickets to the town of Chalon-sur-Saone, about 50km south of Dijon: a place we’d picked at random. When we arrived, we hiked in the heat for 3km to the campground and set up camp. We filled in the rest of the day with non-strenuous activities such as lying in the sun and…

In the evening, we had dinner at a nearby Moroccan restaurant called “Les Emirs.”