In 1967 we went our separate ways…
The following pages track our individual lives between 1967 and 1993 – when we started re-establishing contact with each other. They might take some time to complete!
Born in 1942, I like to think of myself as a ‘war baby’…
and that implies certain qualities like, for example, a good old British stiff upper lip. My father was in the Royal Air Force and had been stationed to an air base in Rutland (England’s smallest county). I was actually born in nearby Stamford where there was a maternity hospital. Stamford is a rather fine historic old town.
Once born I was issued my first ration book and clothing coupons and I toddled through my first few years as a new Europe was being painfully re-constructed.
Unfortunately, when I was three years old my mother died and my father later married her younger sister, my aunt, who became the person who brought me up and whom I always thought of as mother as I do not remember my natural one. Whilst the potential was there perhaps for what these days would be called a ‘dysfunctional’ family, my half-sister and I had a very happy childhood in Kent, by the sea: long, warm summer holidays and sailing pervade my childhood recollections. As rationing existed up until 1952, one of my earliest memories is that year, rushing up to the local sweetshop (known as the Blue Shop) to buy as much candy as I wanted – a dream come true!
I attended a mediocre private school in my earlier years, one my father was not pleased with. He went to talk to the Headmaster about my lack of progress and threatened the latter that he would take me away from this school if I didn’t improve. Embarrassingly, the Headmaster said to him ‘Oh, if you would Mr Hodges!’, rather pulling the rug from underneath my poor father’s feet.
Having been labelled as troublesome already, things did not improve at my next school – a State school which was the only alternative and where it seems I was always up to mischief. The school bus driver eventually refused to take me on the bus as I ‘messed around’, tipping the girls’ hats off so I had to take a different bus route to school, a bus where there were not so many girls!
Matters for me were made worse by bullying because of what was perceived as my ‘posh’ standard English accent rather than the Kentish way of speaking which my parents had metaphorically beaten out of us as this accent was not viewed by them as desirable. Not a brilliant academic beginning you might say. I ended up after secondary school at the Canterbury Technical College – the last resort in further education – and met my good mate Brian Grimwood with whom I’m still in touch, and a rather off-the-wall character called Brian Self. Self introduced me to one of my favourite records of all time, Dinner with Drac, a ‘cult’ song, rather than part of mainstream pop – we did spend a lot of our time listening to music at the local record store. Thankfully my musical tastes have been improved since then, mainly encouraged by my wife Patricia, an opera buff.
A couple of years later I went to work in the City of London, first in the Stock Exchange but then I joined Lloyd’s of London as a broker, a job I loved all my working life and which seemed to suit my personality and ambitions better than the stock markets.
During these first years at Lloyd’s, however, I kept getting postcards from faraway places sent by Brian Grimwood who was working as a ship purser. It was at around this time that my love of travel started to grow, having been first ignited by my parents who always organized family trips including one to Eastern Europe when I was around 15; this was a particularly unusual excursion in those days as these countries were in the coldest period of the Cold War and the depths of Communism.
Does travel broaden the mind?
or is it simply getting away from our everyday lives – a kind of escapism? Concealed by daily routine, the underground train, rainy wintry London, I longed for a place that would sharpen my senses and that would satisfy my natural curiosity about other cultures and peoples. In my view, when we travel we have more of a sense of place, of history, and an eye for the curious detail. So I decided to take the bull by the horns and organized a trip to the Middle East with my new friends John Polson, then from New Zealand; Peter Richards from Australia and who was a cousin of my then girlfriend and Keith Percy from Canada. This drive to North Africa and the Middle East in an Old Blue Truck is the central subject of this blog.
On my return I went back to Lloyd’s – but not for long. In 1967 I decided to join a trip to India called Comex (Commonwealth Expedition). I acquired a bus licence and drove a bus full of students, through Europe,Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, to India. Unfortunately, I fell ill in Afghanistan on the return journey and was diagnosed with infective hepatitis so I had to be flown home where I experienced my first 15 minutes of fame as the local media was interested in my adventure.
Again, after my recuperation, I found myself back at Lloyd’s and worked for 9 months, whereupon I decided to go to America by ship. I paid for this trip around the States by doing desk campaigns in universities all over the country. This involved leaving leaflets for Time Magazine etc on every desk in every classroom that I could get to before the janitors slung me out! Luckily enough, there was one Ford Mustang available and the rest were vans; when asked who wanted the Mustang I was first with my hand up so I got it. I felt cool in the modern sense of the word and managed to get in enough money to stay in the States for about four months, travelling basically the south, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, etc, an experience I really enjoyed. I know that I was not working very hard but enjoying myself but it turns out that I was the top ‘salesman’ of the take-up of the magazines; the owners of the company could tell from a code on the reverse side of the leaflets and were happy with my progress. I was astonished that pleasure could come so easily.
I got married in 1969 to Yolande, a Lebanese lady I met in London through friends and in 1971 I became Director of a firm of Lloyd’s brokers and started to do business in Mexico. This time, with new responsibilities, I was forced to concentrate on work… In 1973 my son Crispin was born. He is now 34 years old and has also made his career at Lloyd’s. He is now married and lives in Surrey, England.
I travelled a lot during these years in the City, and particularly to Mexico, a country I very much liked, guided by my Mexican/German friend and partner Walter Trotter with whom I’m still in touch. In 1977, my wife and son and I took the last but one Union Castle voyage to Cape Town aboard the famous ship RMS Windsor Castle. This is a mail ship which sailed from Southampton to Cape Town. It was a memorable sea voyage sailing down the coast of Africa, stopping at Las Palmas and finally Cape Town.
Life was good!
To say that life is good is to say that you don’t want something better, that what you have is enough and I felt I had more than enough in every way. There were trips to North and South America, work I enjoyed and a pleasant country life at weekends in Kent where we had bought a house we loved and where I watched my son grow up. Alas, nothing lasts forever and, almost imperceptibly, I began to feel dissatisfied with my marriage and in 1985 my wife and I separated. I started living with a new companion, Patricia my present wife.
Patricia and I have been together for twenty years and, again, have travelled a great deal: China, South Africa, inhabited and uninhabited islands in the South Pacific and the South Atlantic.
Friends met along the way…
Whether it is walking in the Himalayas, the Andes of Peru or England’s Lake District, we enjoy it all and hope to continue to move around the globe well into the future. As an extra dimension to our trips in Britain and Europe, we will in the future be taking our two Border Terriers – Archie and Milo – with us, they have been chipped and their passports are at the ready.
Travelling around the world has taught me much as I get older and mainly that there is no place like home; but for the time being at least I believe I will continue to pour money, time and energy into journeys, some exotic, some less so but an unknown location away from home always holds for me an irresistible anticipation and the thrill of the new and unknown.
A few recent pictures…
More from David…