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Published: October 4th 2021
Back in London again and sponging accommodation off the Canberra nurses in Hammersmith, the first task for the day to renew the rego on the Kombi, which we did with no problems. I then caught up with cousin Peter for lunch before making my way over to the Chelsea apartment of a good friend from Sydney, Janie. I chatted with her and her flatmate Annie before we adjourned to the pub for several jars. We then decided to hit a flash joint on Kings Road for dinner. It turned out to be its premiere night, with good food, much hilarity, and free sherry and cognac to celebrate. The downside was the exorbitant bill around the 10 pound mark. Through a cause unknown, I managed to break my watch during the night’s activities. After the night out, we split back to Tooting Bec about 2am to the apartment of Alan and Ell (Dutch hostie) who we had teamed with at the restaurant. We had a further couple of benedictines before Janie and I crashed on the thick carpet in the lounge of Alan's luxury bachelor flat.
It was not exactly a great night’s sleep, but the trusting Alan left early for
work and left us to make our own way out, which we did around 9am after consuming numerous orange juices. I discovered to my shock that I had lost all my money and traveller’s cheques – a huge scare and subsequent retracing of steps until fortunately I found them back at the previous night’s restaurant. I returned to the Hammersmith flat via the Student Travel Centre just after lunch, then went with Bob in the Kombi doing the rounds of mechanics and panel beaters, finally managing to get a booking for both the following Monday. It was a quiet afternoon before going into the city that night with Janie, Julie and Bob for the movie ‘Chinatown’. Given it was cold and drizzly when we got out, we just took in a quick snack then home by midnight.
I slept through until late next morning, then spent the balance of the morning chatting with nurses Joan, Catherine and Dale over a combined breakfast/lunch. I took off into town around 2pm to pick up photos, check out AA insurance and look at some forward travel options. There was not much action until I got a phone call from Janie around 6-ish
inviting me over to Cheyne Walk for dinner. A few others were there, but they were generally a pretty stuck-up private school set, so I spent most of the night chatting to Janie and another gal, Marie. A few bottles of vino were consumed, and all were pretty pissy by night end. Her flatmate Annie shot through around midnight, ending up giving me a bed to crash for the night.
We rose early and cleaned up all the dishes from the party like good children. I dropped Janie off at South Kenso station for her planned trip to Yorkshire and I made my way back to Hammersmith. I spent the rest of the day at the flat, arranging photos, cleaning up my suitcase and ejecting unwanted clothes and gear.
Next day, being a Saturday, I made it down to Kings Cross station, where I transferred to the Hatfield train for the 40-minute ride to catch up with cousin Peter and his family. After lunch, we all went for a drive around the Hertfordshire countryside, which is amazingly serene and peaceful given it is only 20 miles from central London. I played games with their kids Kate and
Lucy in the afternoon, before a Chinese dinner and an evening of coloured BBC telly. A late scotch to the accompaniment of Shelley Berman preceded the cot at midnight.
It was a good night’s sleep, followed by porridge, eggs and bacon to follow – I didn’t think there would be many more of those in the following couple of months! I spent the morning just lazing around, reading my various books and magazines prior to a magnificent lunch of pork and veges followed by rhubarb crumble. Then we took a good old English stroll around Hatfield House and surrounding area in the cold and the drizzle. After an early dinner, I took the train back to Kings Cross and eventually to Hammersmith, where I was in time to join a game of cards at the flat before retiring.
It was a typical revolting wet London morning on the Monday as we took the Kombi to Earls Court for repairs. We got thoroughly soaked getting back to the tube, via a visit to Sundowners. Then it was up to Paddington where I picked up the train to Oxford, arriving an hour later at midday. I met up with
and old uni friend, Rick, who was over there on a Rhodes scholarship, before going out and having lunch with him and his wife Judy at a quaint pub called ‘The Trout’. They then took me for a tour of the city in the pouring rain – very spread out, but attractive architecture in most of the buildings. We also were able to visit Rick’s old college with its library, chapel, grounds etc. On leaving Oxford, I was lucky enough to get a quick hitch all the way through to Charlecote, in county Warwick, just near Stratford-upon-Avon. This included a one hour’s lesson on all aspects of English history from the driver. It was fun to catch up with my Sundowners pals Jenny and Ro again – they had a fabulous setup there with their own flat and a good job in terrific surroundings. We chatted down at the pub until closing at 11pm and then further back at the flat until the early hours.
I managed a late sleep-in next morning while the girls went over and did their cleaning hour, which was part of their accommodation deal. After breakfast, Jenny and I made our way into Stratford,
with first stop being to take in my watch for repairs. After a phone call to the Kombi repairers (and a horrible quote for the repairs) we took a stroll around the town, taking in the Theatre, Holy Trinity Church, Halls Croft etc before strolling out to the famous Anne Hathaway’s cottage. The lousy weather cleared for some sunshine, which made the walk quite pleasant. We then had a couple of ales at ‘The Dirty Duck’ before returning to Charlecote. We took in an early dinner before the three of us went into town again for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of ‘Twelfth Night’ at the R.S.Theatre.
Fortune shone on us next morning and gave us our first clear sunny day for about a fortnight. Jenny was able to get the day off work so we set off in the girls’ VW around 10am for a scenic trip of the Cotswolds district. The whole of that region was magnificent – small market towns, villages and hamlets, with houses generally made of the local honey-coloured quarrystone, and at that time of the year the area was relatively free of tourists and was very serene. First, we took in Warwick, with
its magnificent castle overlooking the Avon, and the superb looking Lord Leycester Hospital with the old city gates. After that, it was Chipping Camden, Stow-in-the-Wold, Upper and Lower Swell, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Bourton-on-the-Water and Moreton-on-Marsh. We had a few beers and a meal at ‘The Bell’ at Stow and a good walk around the whole district. Finally, we took a walk the length of a stream at Lower Slaughter before adjourning for Devonshire Tea and scones at Bourton, where we also saw the Model Village. Does a day get much more British than that! We made it back to Charlecote late afternoon, giving me time to make it across to the National Trust Park and I enjoyed just sitting in the tranquillity, looking out at the deer and Spanish sheep for well over half an hour. The evening’s meal was a big one at the Pheasant Restaurant – seafood cocktail, smorgasbord of pork, beef, turkey and veg, with cakes and puddings, washed down with sherry, wine and Cherry Herring – all for the grand sum of 3 quid. After it was all finished, we had locals John, Fred and Andy over for pizza, beers and a chat.
it was a reasonably fine morning in which to start my hitchhiking next day. I got dropped off by Jenny at 9am and picked up my first lift only minutes later. It took me 7 hours and 8 lifts to reach Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with stops at Leamington, Rugby, Leicester, Doncaster, Wetherby and South Shields. There were no waits longer than about 15 minutes and the rain, which came in spasms in the afternoon, really only caught me at Wetherby after lunch. I needed a bit of orientation once I reached Newcastle before I finally found my way up near the General Hospital to the apartment of Christine, the girl I had met on my last English Channel ferry ride. It was great to catch up with her again, and I met up with her flatmates Lynette, Mary, Diane and Anne, along with the odd man out, gay Mike. After dinner, we all watched some TV till around 10pm then Christine and I adjourned to the pub for a couple of ales. On returning, the TV was all about the British elections, with ‘our ‘Arold’ (Harold Wilson for those who can remember him) looking a good thing for re-election at that stage.
The following day was a late start and I wasn’t outside on the road to start hitching until about 10am. The plan was to take in the Lakes district, and I managed to score a quick lift across to Carlisle before meandering down over the course of the day through Cockermouth, Kermouth, Keswick, Windermere, Kendall, then back to Carlisle. The Lakes is an incredibly beautiful region with the stillness, trees changing colour, grey stone houses etc, as well as the black-faced sheep, Hadrian’s Wall (or what remains of it), the hundreds of miles of dry-set stone walls, my lift in a Jensen, and the final lift with a Scottish former shepherd from right on the border, who filled me in with two hours of animated stories of family feuds and poaching, not that I could understand half of what he said! In the evening, Christine and I took in dinner at a local Pizza joint, with good food and atmosphere and very reasonably priced. We left around 10pm and went up to check out the university, but there was no action there, so we walked home for 30 minutes in the freezing cold. I thawed out for a couple
of hours talking to Welsh Diane and Irish Mary before retiring.
The following day was a Saturday so Christine and I had decided to take in the Border Shepherds’ Show at Alwinton, a little village just over the Scottish border. We had a slow start to our hitchhiking but eventually got two good lifts in Minis, the second with a gorgeous chick with an equally gorgeous Old English Sheepdog. The show itself was pretty low key and casual, but nevertheless quite interesting. My highlight was my third place in the High Jump event, despite jumping in full kit of coat, scarf and all! However, I didn’t extend my participation to the hill run. Although cold, the weather held out pretty well, but with it clouding over we left late afternoon and were lucky enough to get a lift back home with the shepherd brother of the sheepdog gal.
The evening’s entertainment, ‘Roy’s Gay Hat Party’, was a classic. It was a very boozy 21st
birthday celebration for gay Mike’s equally gay mate Roy, which was held at the flat and would have to rate as one of the highlights of my entire trip. The ‘rules’ for the evening
were that if you were gay you had to wear a hat. I found out late in the evening that two of Christine's very attractive flatmates, under the influence of considerable booze, were having a competition to see if either of them could persuade one of Roy’s very handsome gay buddies to 'change teams', and they were literally throwing themselves at him. This of course prompted me to commandeer a hat for myself and cry out “I’m gay, take me, take me”. Needless to say, I had no success! All in all, it was a real education on gay life for an innocent young Aussie, an interesting insight into some of those living in the flat, and a fun night, albeit late and drunken, was had by all.
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