29/8/90

Mrs Marjoriebanks, one of Ann’s neighbours gave us a lift into Warminster and we went to the Job Centre where nothing much was on offer. After doing some shopping we caught a bus out to Upton Lovell and walked back to Corton.

In the evening we went out for a walk around the fields with the Duchess’s Australian housekeeper Teri.

29/8/90

Spent some time in Warminster then went for a drive with Ann in the countryside. We ate a picnic lunch at Alfred’s Tower, 160 foot high tower built by Queen Victoria on the spot where Alfred the Great, the first real king of the English, raised his standard against the invading Danes in 878. From the top of the open-topped, triangular tower there was a magnificent view out over the rolling green counties of Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.

Later that night we went for drinks with Ann to the home of the snooty Duchess Diana Newcastle.

21/8/90

Once again we met H&B at NZ House and we all parted company for the day, Linda to take Helen to Knightsbridge while Brian and I headed off down Whitehall to see the Cabinet War Rooms. Situated beneath a huge building of stone now housing some useless piece of the bureaucratic machine, the CWR has been set up exactly as it was left in 1945 when WW2 ended. When we went in we were each given a Walkman with a taped commentary complete with sound effects of the Blitz, wartime radio broadcasts and excerpts from Churchill’s “fight them on the beaches” speech. The labyrinth of corridors and rooms was full of the equipment used there during the war, from the encoding machine with which Churchill and Eisenhower communicated and in the original Cabinet War Room were all the original maps and wall charts complete with thousands of pinholes where coloured pins were inserted and removed as the fortunes and lives of millions of men were manipulated by the Allied commanders. Even the original scratchpads could still be seen with scribblings and doodles 50 years old upon them. 

When we left the War Rooms we caught a bus over to Tower Bridge then walked around to the London Dungeon on Tooley Street. We spent an hour or so there and I think Beat was quite impressed with it.  We then caught a random bus which took us to Liverpool Street where we caught the tube to Piccadilly Circus and sat on the fountain watching the myriad people go by.

We met Linda and Helen for a drink then H&B left us and we went down to New Zealand House to meet Mike. We spent a couple of hours drinking and yarning in Slap Harry’s Bar, then went for tea at the Stockpot. Mike  is going down to West Africa on another Kumuka Overland trip then is taking a Unimog from Ghana over to Kenya. After that he reckoned he would finally go home as he has a girlfriend to meet in Timaru in another 6 months.¹

After we said goodbye and good luck to Mike, we walked back over to the nurses’ hostel where we recorded a tape to send to [our friends back home] Pippa and Chris.

¹Mike did, indeed, meet that girl in Timaru. He married her and they have two daughters: one of whom is now an Olympic rowing champion. They live on a farm not far from Geraldine where Linda and I live.

20/8/90

LINDA’S BIRTHDAY.  Linda and I caught a bus over to Oxford Street and I bought her a new pair of shoes for her 23rd birthday. We met Helen and Brian at New Zealand House at 10:30 and we all went over to the Stockpot (a budget restaurant with large, tasty meals) for an early lunch. Quite by chance, we met Mike Dyke¹ outside New Zealand House. He was just back from Africa (Christ! Is it 6 months already since we last saw him?) and we arranged to meet him for a beer tomorrow night.

We spent the afternoon hanging around on the perimeter of the heaving crowds of sightseers around the Tower of London and Tower Bridge while Helen and Brian joined the throng at those places. We met Louis and Jenny in Leicester Square and the 6 of us went for a Chinese meal in Soho to celebrate Linda’s birthday and as a last meal together before H&B leave on Wednesday. 

¹Mike, you will remember, had been one of the drivers on our African overland the previous year.

19/8/90

It was a very wet day so we caught a bus down to London. We killed some time sitting in Trafalgar Square watching people, pigeons and stone, then walked around to the St Thomas’ Nurses’ Hostel where we are to stay for a few nights.

Later on, I got very drunk over at the Red Lion!

18/8/90

Helen and Brian dropped us off at Junction 8 on the M74 south of Glasgow and left us to hitch down to London while they took their rental car back to Stranraer.

We only had to wait about 10 minutes for a ride with the truckie who took us down to Leeds. Our next ride (after being moved on by a cop for hitching on the motorway slip road) took us off on a tangent over to the town of Doncaster, a very boring industrial town on the edge of a flat plain beneath which lies huge supplies of coal which have given rise to a chain of huge coal-fired power stations whose cooling towers release towering clouds of pure white steam into the sooty yellow air.

We caught a bus from the edge of town into the city centre then the bus driver, who was going off duty, took us on the bus around to a street full of B&Bs. We checked into one and showered then watched TV for an hour or two before we went out for a sumptuous Indian meal which laid us out cold as soon as we got back to our room.

17/8/90

With such lousy weather and a limited amount of things to do in Aviemore, we decided to leave a day early. We packed up and checked out of the resort and drove out of Aviemore. 

We followed the main road round to Pitlochry then turned off and drove over to Loch Tay. About halfway down the side of the loch we came to a sign pointing off to the right saying Glen Lyon¹ so we turned off and followed the narrow road which wound up through a narrow tree-filled gorge and emerged in the beautiful and rugged Glen Lyon. We drove slowly up the Glen whose steep, U-shaped sides and many shimmering streams were amazingly like Glen Lyon at home.

At the head of the Glen, we turned left and drove up a steep grassy valley with a rocky stream running down the floor. Halfway up we stopped for a cup of tea at a set of stone sheep yards built on a flat area of ground. Sheep grazed amongst the bracken on the hillsides above the yards, their calls echoing around the valley. A stand of pine trees have been planted on the left-hand side of the road.

The road became steeper as we climbed higher and eventually we reached a saddle at the head of a small man-made lake. There was a cairn built amongst the heather on the saddle so we stopped there for photos and enjoyed the view out over the lake to the hills on the far side of Loch Tay. The sun was brilliant above us and the strong, cool breeze carried with it the fresh smell of the hills – of heather and grass, rocks and water, and the elusive and evocative smell of the sheep dotted about the surrounding land.

Beat and I had a quick look at the concrete dam holding back the lake: much of the water for which emerged from a tunnel in the side of the hill, probably leading down from another lake higher up. We dropped rapidly down off the hill then and came out on the edge of Loch Tay at the foot of the hill called Ben Lawers, then carried on down to Loch Lomond where we booked into a B&B in the town of Balloch.

¹Glen Lyon is a famous High Country sheep station on the South Island of New Zealand.

15/8/90

It was a cold wet day again but we paid a visit to the Glenfiddich distillery at Dufftown. The distillery, built by James Grant and which first produced whiskey on Christmas Day 1887, is a huge tourist attraction but despite the crowds we had an interesting tour of the place starting with a slideshow and finishing with a dram of the finest whiskey made. An added bonus was the three-quarter bottle of whiskey which the four of us each received by presenting our forged National Trust Heritage cards¹.

¹These cards gave tourists from overseas entry to many of the National Trust’s properties throughout the United Kingdom. They were valid for one month after they were first used but ours had expired. So I used the skills that I had perfected in Africa the previous year, when I’d regularly had to forge dates and signatures on currency declarations and vaccination certificates, to alter the expiration dates on our Heritage cards.

14/8/90

At last a fine day greeted us when we got up so we headed for Lochness for the day’s sightseeing. We drove up to Inverness through the rolling hills of the Eastern Highlands with streams, brimful from the rains, cascaded down through the heather and the hills gleaming in the fresh sunshine.

Lochness was quite quite pretty but the hordes of tourists and tacky souvenir joints rendered it into the class of all the other tourist holes in England. However, the day wasn’t an entire waste as on the way into Inverness we visited the site of the battle of Culloden, where the English dealt a final, crushing and humiliating blow to the Highlanders under Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746.

Charles Edward Stewart (The Young Pretender) was the son of the exiled James Edward Stewart who had never crowned but was recognised as the rightful King of Scotland by the French and Spanish. Charles was born in Rome in 1720 and from early on he turned his attention to claiming his rightful throne and trained himself rigourously to that end. He returned to Scotland in 1745 with the aim of reclaiming the crown denied to his father by the Act of Succession of 1701.

He landed on an island out on the West Coast of Scotland and raised his standard at Glenfinnan. He marched on to Edinburgh where he declared his father King and won the Battle of Prestonpans. With the support of the Highlanders he advanced south, but found the English apathetic to his cause.

In 1746 he was pursued back to Culloden where his army was slaughtered in a battle which lasted only one hour, by the forces under the Duke of Cumberland, son of George the Second.

Charles was rescued by loyal Highlanders and fled “from Glen to Glen” back to France. For generations afterwards, it was forbidden to have water on the table at Scottish feasts as the English wanted to prevent loyal Jacobites from symbolically toasting their king “across the water.”