Tag Archives: travel

I Was So Much Older Then – –

Jack keeps the home fires burning while Wendy is otherwise engaged – –

The ‘Round the World Trip to Bedford’

Me just after returning!

In (I think) 1961 I finished my apprenticeship as a painter and decorator. Two close friends also reached this landmark – John McDonald as an electrician and Bill Beveridge as a mechanical engineer.

I knew John through our shared love of folk music and Bill through our interest in left wing politics and anti-war sentiments.

For some reason we decided it would be fun to hitch-hike around the world. We had all, separately, already done this around Britain so it seemed like the next thing to do. But we were all still living at home with our parents so we reckoned we should dip our toes in the water first.

We jointly rented a small apartment in the center of our home town of Dunfermline which we promptly named ‘Dharma’ – we’d heard of Kerouak – – –

For about six months we hosted parties, piled up dishes and eventually got some kind of handle on things – ate regularly and even bathed regularly. When we made the decision to finally set sail we compared our savings and discovered we had twenty five pounds between us which seemed perfectly adequate! Before we set off I made the mistake of telling another friend who was a reporter on the local newspaper what we were going to do. He came and interviewed us and asked how we’d handle the languages we’d encounter. John jokingly said he knew Swahili as he could sing ‘Wimoweh’ – that wound up on the front page of the Dunfermline Press.

We eventually vacated the apartment and hitched to London where we knew two people who could give us temporary lodgings. Unfortunately they were on opposite sides of the city and tube fares and meals ate up our money. Reduced to a few pounds and desperate, Bill said he knew two sisters from Bedford who were due in court at the Old Bailey that day charged for civil disobedience. We met them and their parents outside and that’s when our plans changed.

The girls’ parents were very upper middle class and members of the Fabian Society (intellectual left wingers), and delighted to have three working class Scots to show off and take to parties.

We all got jobs and mine was with a high class decorating firm – I really appreciated the experience working for them. We wound up getting lodgings with a lovely Italian woman, Mrs Belfiore, who took us under her wing and really mothered us.

We frequented the Crown pub regularly and it had an upper room where we heard great music including, on one occasion Ken Colyer’s jazz band. Bill put down a deposit on a moped and I managed to almost cut off my heel with the pedal. We jointly bought a pre-war Austin 7 with cable brakes that hardly worked and needed early planning for traffic lights.

An Austin 7

We eventually got fed up and headed back to Dunfermline during a very cold winter in the Austin 7 with lots of scary moments and went our separate ways.

Life went on for all of us – – –

I had been working for my Dad before we left but he couldn’t re-employ me when we came back (maybe to teach me something?), so I moved to Edinburgh and hung out with art college friends for another six months. Got a job there with another very high class decorating firm and learned lots more.

I came home and fell right into the folk music scene – the rest is history.

3 Comments

Filed under between books, blue funks, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book – Wind, Sand and Stars

Jack gets to write today’s book review –

Wind, Sand and Stars – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

wind

Some years ago Wendy and I watched a movie called ‘Wings of Courage’ at the IMax theatre in Chattanooga. It told the story of a pioneering mail flight across the Andes from Chile to Argentina that went badly wrong. The pilot was called Guillaumet and he crashed in the mountains and had to walk over many days through the snow to reach safety. What I didn’t know was that the story was based on a chapter in this book.

As an enthusiast for anything to do with early aviation, I was delighted when Wendy handed me the book from some (pre-quarantine) thrift store outing. She thought I’d find the book interesting and she wasn’t wrong. Saint-Exupery’s writing is wonderful and the translation by Lewis Galantiere does it full justice. The author describes his own experiences as one of the early aviators opening up mail routes around the world – particularly in North Arica and South America. His descriptions of the perils of flying at low altitude and before the days of navigational equipment are amazing and nail-biting.

As I finished the chapter about Guillaumet’s experience in the Andes we watched ‘Wings of Courage’ again on line and it proved very true to Saint-Exupery’s telling of the story. When I came to the final chapter, I was once again blown away as the author described crash landing in the Sahara. He was trying for a record flight between Paris and Saigon and got lost as he was heading for a stopover at the Nile. He plowed into a hill top destroying the plane, but miraculously escaping injury along with his engineer. They struggled for days finding a way to rescue with very little food or water, almost exactly replicating the earlier Andes story, but with sand instead of snow.

The book, however, isn’t all about flying. There’s a good deal of philosophizing about the meaning of life, the relationship between people and peoples, and the futility of war.

I think the only thing that might bother anyone reading the book might be the authors views on the effect of technology on humanity. He appears to view all technological advance as completely benign but I suppose we have to allow for when the book was written.

‘Wind, Sand and Stars’ finishes with the author visiting Spain during the civil war and ruminating on the way a community can be so easily and sadly divided.

Many people know Saint-Exupery best as the author of the children’s classic The Little Prince. He flew a reconnaissance mission over the Mediterranean in 1944 from which he never returned.

2 Comments

Filed under between books, book reviews, bookstore management, Life reflections, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, what's on your bedside table, writing