2/5/89

The day was a lovely warm spring day.  Because of the shortage of staff at the pub, we worked the lunchtime session, then packed up some rolls, chocolate and a bottle of Coke and headed off on the bikes.  We rode up to the Broxbourne Woods¹ and found a spot to sit and eat our lunch in amongst the cool shade of the birch trees. When we had finished, we biked along the lanes past fields of oats, grass & horses & sheep grazing.  We stopped for a coke on the lawn of a pub called The Beehive, then went on to the little village of Little Berkhamsted. We sat in a gateway and took in the view out over the hazy, rolling,

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Field Friends.

tree-clad hills then went back into the village for a beer at The Five Horseshoes. I had a xxxx² and Linda had an AK³ shandy.  After that we rode back to The Beehive for two more beers then cycled on through the late afternoon sunshine. We stopped and walked out into a paddock and sat down and waited till curiosity got the better of the five horses, 3 Shetland ponies and a cow which inhabited the paddock. They came over and snuffled round and I took some photos of Linda and her friends – 2 little Thewell⁴ ponies & a quiet little Murray Grey⁵ heifer!  We spent ½ an hour with them then rode home.

¹The Broxbourne Woods are a 240 Ha (600 acres) reserve of birch, oak and hornbeam trees with a profusion of wildflowers forming a carpet beneath the ancient trees.

²xxxx, also known as FourEx is an Australian beer from Queensland. Australian beers were popular in Britain during the eighties and most pubs stocked at least one of them. FourEx, however, is fucking horrible so who knows why I chose it that day!

³AK is the flagship ale of the McMullens Brewery. No-one remembered what the AK stands for but local wags who disliked it reckoned it stood for All Kinds!

⁴ The pony cartoons of Norman Thelwell were a favourite of generations of pony-loving girls.

⁵Murray Grey are a breed of beef cattle.

25/4/89

I spent the morning mowing the lawn while Linda worked in the kitchen.  After lunch we got the bikes out, pumped up the tires, and rode down to Wormley.  We posted a letter then rode down to the New River and rode along the banks for half a mile or so. We stopped to watch a huge Swan get out of a lock then “swan dive” back into the river and it was then that the rain that had been threatening came down. We cycled madly back to a little bridge & sat under it in the cold wind and ate our bags of crisps as the rain splashed down into the murky, slow moving water and the wind rippled the surface and blew occasional spots of rain in onto us.  A couple of passing Mallard ducks paused to munch on a few chips that we threw them then moseyed on downstream in the rain.

After a while we decided the rain wasn’t going to let up so we rode back to Wormley and bought some chocolate at a corner store & went up to St Laurence’s church where we waited till the rain stopped and munched on our chocolate. Then we splashed our way back to the pub.

24/4/89

I got a letter from Joe today with a cutting from the Timaru Herald about the Mt Cook Cup game which Mackenzie won 18-9 against Pleasant Point.  This is one paragraph from it:fullsizeoutput_cfe

Linda worked in the kitchen at lunch time for a bit of extra money, then we caught the train into London and went round to Kumuka.  We paid our airfares to Nairobi¹ and found out a few things, then went and had a cup of tea and a bun. Then we caught a bus at random and it took us past the Hard Rock Cafe so we hopped off the bus and had a couple of burgers in there.  Then, we caught the Circle Line² back to Liverpool Street and the express back to Broxbourne.

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¹In addition to organizing overland expeditions, Kumuka also operated a travel agency specializing in cheap flights to Africa.

² The Circle Line is London’s original Underground line. Completed in 1884, the Circle Line is my favourite London Underground line. Sometimes, when I was at a loose end in London, I would just ride the Circle Line round and round…just for fun!

18/4/89

THE FAMOUS TWO GO CYCLING

We got up fairly late and after showers and brekkie we hopped on our bikes (after pumping the tyres up of course!)¹ and biked into Broxbourne.  We went to the bank, leaving the bikes tied up outside, and completed the formalities of opening our account with the tidy sum of £2155. We did a few other little jobs then bought some rolls and cans of drink and biked over the bridge and down to the canal².  We cycled along the canal bank for about 10 minutes passing under weeping willow trees green with the new foliage, under a bridge, past a little lock-keeper’s house – brightly coloured flowers, well-

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Lock-keeper’s House, New River Navigation canal.

mown lawns, sitting beside the black and white painted lock – and on until we found a patch of grass to sit and eat our lunch.  We sat on our coats in the warm sunshine and ate our rolls and mini pizzas while the canal water drifted lazily past and little coots paddled backwards and forwards amongst the reeds. A wheezing pug-nosed dog wandered up to us, sniffed around for a few minutes then took his little blank, gargoyle face away again.

After lunch we follow the canal for about half an hour until we came to the huge chimneys of the power station that had been on the horizon the whole time we were on the canal.  We turned back then and rode back to a canalside pub called the Fish and Eels and had a drink beside the weir where a couple of swans hung round waiting for morsels tossed their way.  We cruised back along the canal to Broxbourne and paused to look around at an old mill before pushing the bikes up the road.

Our next stop was the old 15th century Church of St Augustine.  We spent an hour looking around the church (built in 1460) and exploring the graveyard.  We cycled along the little fast-flowing stream to the main road, past and veggie filled allotments and the church school,  and bought a snack and drink which we ate on the banks of the New River³ on the outskirts of Wormley. We pushed the bikes up the hill and went into another church, this one called St. Laurence’s. Some parts of the church dates back to the 15th century but most of it was rebuilt in 1843. A bust on the north wall of the nave of one Sir Abraham Hume caught our attention and Linda copied down some of the biographical details on the plaque underneath along with a sketch of the coat of arms to send to Helen⁴ in case she wants to do some family research.  We left the church and yard to its memories and biked the rest of the way back to the pub.

¹Our bikes had been stolen to order for us by Billy Harvey, a local farmer/Pikie who was adept at not only stealing stuff, but also causing trouble. Mister Harvey will feature prominently in upcoming posts.

²The “canal” mentioned here is actually the River Lea, one of southern England’s prettiest and most famous rivers. Issac Walton’s The Compleat Angler, published in 1653, widely regarded as the finest book about fishing ever written, is partly set on the River Lea. Fans of the TV soap Eastenders will also be familiar with the River Lea (although perhaps unwittingly) which appears with the opening credits in the aerial photograph of London’s East End where it flows into the Thames opposite the Isle of Dogs.

³The New River is a navigable canal built during the 19th century to make navigation along the River Lee, with it’s tight bends, shoals and multiple courses, easier for canal boats and other river vessels.

⁴Linda’s mother, Helen, was a Hume before she was married.

11/4/89

DEAD BROLLYS AND TUBE STATION MICE

We caught the train into Liverpool Street and went straight round to Kumuka and booked two places on the 17th August safari northbound from Nairobi.  We had a ratbag lunch at a cafe staffed by no-comprendo idiots and a foreign head waiter, then went round to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. There were wax models of many famous people there, the most real being Benny Hill, Mahatma Gandhi, Grace Jones, Bob Hoskins (of Who Framed Roger Rabbit fame) and many others.

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Me and Telly Savalas.

A trip to the planetarium followed Tussauds then we went round to Tottenham Court Road to look at tape / radios. While we were waiting in Oxford Street station a bunch of mice came out and started playing round down under the tracks, apparently un-worried by the trains rumbling over them.  We went to the pictures and saw Rain Man with Tom Cruise and a brilliant performance by Dustin Hoffman. We wandered the windy streets for a while afterwards where dead brollies were stuffed in corners and in rubbish bins, their skins torn and their spindly legs bent and broken by the wind. We did another random bus trip then had a pizza for tea in Leicester Square. The trains got us home at about 12:30am.

10/4/89

Our first day off.  Ray took us down to Broxbourne and we cashed a travellers cheque,  then caught the train to Cheshunt, changed for the Enfield train and got off at Lower Edmonton¹.  We found the Health and Social Services office and waited for half an hour amongst the old people, the unemployed, and the maniacs, to get our National Insurance number, then answered some stupid questions to get a Tax Number.

We caught the train to Liverpool Street then the Circle Line to Kensington High Street where,  after a bit of a search, we located the offices of Kumuka Africa². We checked out a few details about the 16-week trans-Africa trip and watched a ½ -hour video on it.  We left there and spent the rest of the day wandering around music shops in Notting Hill Gate and the West End looking for a second hand guitar for me. We eventually found one in Denmark Street (a place called Andy’s, a three-story shop crammed full of electric and acoustic guitars).  After that we caught a double decker bus and just cruised around for an hour or so then had a curry for tea and caught the trains back to the pub.

¹All of these are outer suburbs of North London.

²Kumuka was a travel company specializing in overland trips in Africa. Eventually, the company would grow to offer overland trips worldwide, a decision that led to its downfall. Overextended, the company went bankrupt in 2012. But in 1989, their overland expeditions were very much hands-on, do-it-yourself adventures. The trip we would set off on later in 1989 saw us travel from Nairobi, in Kenya, all the way back to London via East Africa, the Congo Jungle, sub-Saharan Africa, the Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and across Spain.

7/4/89

We got up at 8 and went through the normal ritual of the day, that is, cleaning, morning session, break, and evening session.  We spent our afternoon break going for a walk up the road, across the fields, along a public footpath, talking to groups of horses and ponies along the way, then back round through the woods by little country lanes.  The pub was very busy in the evening.