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.

1/5/91

FINISHED WITH TUCK’S FARM We spent the morning packing up and I got paid £1,300-00 for my weeks of work at Tucks Farm. I’d done a lot of extra work for which I had expected a bonus but none was forthcoming. So fuck them!

We had lunch at the Lydiard Millicent pub then went to John and Sally Blakiston’s. Later on, we went into Swindon and banked my cheque and did a few other jobs including booking one-way flights to Vienna for Friday!!

Along with us, John and Sally had a girl called Heather, from Norfolk, staying at Grove House. She gave us her address in Norfolk and told us we could come and stay with her whenever we like.

FOOTNOTE: The owner of Tucks Farm, Louise Hastings, was a mad old lawyer. Her and her husband used to have screaming arguments on a regular basis while I was there. While I was researching the details of this entry, I came across this story from the Express newspaper.

https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/7331/Evicted-by-granny

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.

27/4/91

I was awake at 6.00am as usual and read for a while before rising and having a bath¹. I went in for breakfast [I ate all my meals with the farm owners] but the Hastings’ were having a running battle² over some small point so I left as quickly as possible.

I stopped in Wootton Bassett to register the car then headed for London on the M4. I had told [our friend] Karen that I would pick her up at 12:00 but made good time into the city, arriving at her place at 11:30. She had gone for a swim so I decided to go for a short drive then return. I got back an hour later having gotten lost in Clapham and then being stuck in traffic! 

The traffic was horrendous going out of town towards Gatwick Airport on the M3 so by the time we hit the M25 (known locally as “the largest parking lot in Europe”) it was getting on towards 2:00, which was the time that Linda and Jen were due to land.

Eric Escort came to the fore, however, by cruising at 70 mph all the way to Gatwick and when we got there the plane had been delayed by 20 minutes anyway so we had time to recover our composure over a beer.

Around 3:00PM Linda and that “Damn Yankee”³ Jennie Bell came out of the customs hall and we were reunited.

That night, after searching all over Earl’s Court for a room, Linda and I ended up in a non-luxury hotel on Cromwell Road.  

¹My quarters for the duration of my lambing job were a caravan parked in a hay barn with an attached kitchen and bathroom.

²More about these mad bastards coming up in a day or two!

³ After dining in a restaurant In Doncaster called Damn Yankee, we’d adopted this as a temporary nickname for Jennie.

25/3/91-26/4/91

25/3/91-26/4/91 I spent these four weeks working as a lambing shepherd at Tuck’s Farm, near Charlcutt in Wiltshire. My diary entries for this period are sporadic, consisting mainly of song lyrics and wistful little poems that I composed while sitting amongst the hay bales in my lambing pens.

Footnote: One of my abiding memories from this time is lying in a sunny meadow on a fine, warm spring afternoon reading The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates.

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.