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.

11/5/91

BERN TO DIJON  We left the hostel at 9 a.m. and walked in the rain up to the station. We bought tickets to Dijon in France then settled down to wait for our 11:50 a.m. train. We looked around a few of the shops out on the street but it was so wet and miserable that soon were back in the station and sat in one of the cafes writing postcards.

Our first train took us down to Lausanne where our train to France left from and not long after we got there a couple of policemen in plain clothes stopped me and wanted to see my passport. They must have been looking for a criminal of some sort and perhaps I fitted his description!

At 17:30 we caught the train to France and after about three quarters of an hour, high up in a misty mountain pass, we crossed the border into France. As with most European countries, the border formalities were perfunctory and we didn’t even get a souvenir stamp in our passports. The train arrived in Dijon at 7:30 p.m. and we walked the 1 km to to the camping ground where we pitched our tent for the first time. We have named it Vern after a character in a Far Side cartoon. It is very easy to erect and will be warm and comfy. We  finished the day with a short walk along the nearby River.

This card was the inspiration for the name Vern. We used that tent all over the world for many years afterwards and, indeed, Vern survived until early in 2021!

10/5/91

SALZBURG TO BERN We left the hostel at 9 and walk down to the station where we bought tickets to Zurich Switzerland.  While we waited we chatted to a Canadian girl who was hustling rooms at the hospital.

We found a seat in an empty compartment and settled in to munch on our salami rolls and chocolate bars had bought with our remaining Austrian change, commenting on how plush the on Austro/Swiss train was.  We left Salzburg dead on time and soon we were speeding through the countryside past green crops and plots of pine and birch. The mountains were spectacular, especially around Innsbruck where the towns was dwarfed by massive towers of sheer rock.

About midday, we were injected from our First Class cabin buy an officious train guard who obviously didn’t believe we were in there by mistake, and we spent the rest of the journey to Zurich slumming it in the second class accommodation which,  was none too shabby either. As we crossed the border into Switzerland, the Swiss customs officers came through the cars and only sullenly complied when we asked for our passports to be stamped.  The last leg of the journey was alongside Lake Geneva and a violent thunderstorm was raging when we arrived.

We bought onwards tickets for Bern (which stung us £18 each!) and caught the next train which pulled into the station. When we arrived in Bern an hour later, we tracked down the YH which was like a cross between Colditz Castle and a battery hen house run with the precision of a Swiss watch!

After we had settled in I went back to the station in the pouring rain and bought some grub for tea. We spent the evening in the common room of the hostel. 

7/5/91

BAD ISCHL It must have been a combination of the fresh clean mountain air and the noise of the mountain stream rushing by outside the window that kept us asleep until 10:30 a.m. We got up and after showers we went out into the still overcast day. We were out of money and none of the banks in town could give us a cash advance on the Visa card. We were told that the town of Bad Ischl, 20 km away, was the nearest place where we could get money.

So we caught a Post Bus down the lake and an hour later we were in Bad Ischl. The banks were all closed for lunch, so we sat in a cafe and had a piece of sacher torte each along with a Coke and then walked around town looking in shop windows.

The bank came across with 3000 Australian shillings and we set off back to Hallstatt on the next Post Bus. When we got back we had a snooze for an hour or so we went out to meet the Aussie chap, whose name was David, and his girlfriend Leanne. They were both pretty dizzy but we spent quite an enjoyable evening with them eating pizza and drinking beer and wine.

28/4/91

SUNDAY We met Jen at the Colton Arms at 11:30 and had a beer there with Gunner [I have no idea who that is!] then drove out to East london to see Louie. We spent a couple of hours with her catching up on all the goss, then drove round the North Circular [motorway] and dropped Jen off at Jo King’s flat. With nothing further to occupy us in London we drove back to Charlcutt, stopping for tea at a Granada [motorway service station] on the way.

19/2/91

MY BIRTHDAY  After work I put the stereo which head we had cannibalised from Joycie into our car. It didn’t sound too good but a new pair of speakers should make a big difference. In the evening Linda had organised a dinner party for my birthday. Ann and Bet came for tea along with Diana, and I had a good haul of presents. Ann gave me a beautiful and unique sheep’s bell, handmade in 1894 by a Wiltshire shepherd. Bet gave me a book on West Country shepherd’s lore and Diana gave me a pair of riding gloves.

16/2/91

LYDIA’S BIRTHDAY The flat came awake slowly and it wasn’t until 9:30 that we were all up and ready to go. Lyd and Linda went off to do some shopping in Kensington and Jenny and I went down to try and get Joycie (Jennie’s car) started. We tried turning it over for a few minutes then pushed it but without success so we left her and took Eric (our car: Eric Escort) for a hoon instead. We stooged around the Chelsea Docks for a while and finally ended up down at the Chelsea Bridge. We climbed down a set of stairs to the edge of the Thames and took some photos standing on a small shingle beach which the low tide had uncovered. It was a lovely warm morning and the clouds made a beautiful effect in the blue sky above the city. We spent about 15 minutes there beside the old river then drove down through Westminster and across Westminster Bridge to Lambeth then back across Blackfriars Bridge for a general tour of the West End before we headed back out to the flat. 

Lydia and Linda weren’t back from their shopping trip yet so we had another go at getting Joicey going and lo, she went, albeit a bit roughly. So we drove down the road and put some gas in her then went back to the flat.

Jen and Lyd went off to the theatre in the afternoon and Linda and I went into Piccadilly to kill some time. We window-shopped in the Trocadero and spent an hour or so having some lunch in the Rock Island Diner, then wandered through Leicester Square to the Polar Bear pub. We waited for about an hour before Jen and Lyd turned up with a friend of theirs called Peter and after a couple more drinks we set off to walk around to the Black Lion and French Horn pub where we had arranged the surprise party for Lyd. On the way down Regent Street we took a few photos of each other: a bunch of kiwi farm kids quite at home in the big city.

The party was a great crack¹ with about 30 people there, raging up and doing some serious drinking. A bloke called Murray Crawford turned up: the brother of Graeme Crawford who was in my class at Lincoln². Alex and Lucy (our nurse friends from our time at the Red Lion) were there, and Louie turned up with 3 of her friends. The party finished at about 1:30 a.m. and a bunch of us amused ourselves out on the street throwing a rugby ball around while we waited for taxis. Linda and I got a taxi with Paul and Anthony, two of Jennie and Lydia’s flatmates and when we got back to the flat we both crashed out on the floor in the girl’s room.

¹Crack (or craik) is an Irish term for something that is fun.
²Lincoln Agricultural College, where I obtained my Diploma in Agriculture in 1983.

15/2/91

Linda picked me up after work and we went home. I had a quick bath then we packed up some stuff and headed for London. It was a fine evening with a few cars on the London-bound side of the road although the westbound carriageway was jammed.

We reached the girl’s flat at 9 pm and made ourselves at home with Juliet, drinking wine and chatting. Jen turned up not long after us, and her and Linda busied themselves with making a cake and when Lydia arrived home at 1pm we ate cake and drank a bottle of cheap sparkling wine as a starter for her birthday. Everyone was pretty tired after a long week so we were all in bed shortly after midnight.

9/2/91-10/2/91

Spent all weekend up at the farm and finally managed to get the yard finished.

On Sunday night I went to a quiz night at the cricket club as part of a team made up of four guys from Wylie Valley Meats: Adi Hargraves, John Hargraves, Rocky Parker and me. We narrowly missed winning with only half a point separating us from the winning team.

The sheep yards that I built at Tuck’s Farm are still there. This is a screenshot from Google maps that I took today.