Jack keeps the home fires burning while Wendy is otherwise engaged – –
The ‘Round the World Trip to Bedford’
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.
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.