They say, ‘If you can remember London in the 60s, you weren’t there!’

We WERE there. We DO remember – most of it.

London, 1966

Four young men, from four different countries, met in the Overseas Visitors Club in Earls Court. We had been brought together to be part of Commonwealth Expeditions – COMEX – a grand plan to rebuild the British Commonwealth – from a new base in Simla, India. Our part (as the African Recruitment Team) was to drive a Landrover around the coast of North, West, South and East Africa – ending in Nairobi, Kenya. Then fly to India with the African delegation.

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It never happened…

That year the British economy stalled – and the goverment drastically reduced funded projects. Comex 2 continued (as planned) later in 1967 – but our ‘African Venture 66’ was cancelled.

So – we decided to go it alone…

On a lesser journey (we thought), so we bought a 1957 Morris J2 van – almost a truck!  It was already old, it was blue, and it held together – sort of.

It survived a major collision with a low flying Citroen (our first day on the road!), forced entry by angry Guardia Civilia in Torremolinos, blown bridges in Algeria, sand filled tyres (no more spares) in Libya, an angry crowd in Cairo, a dodgy loading sling on the Alexandria wharves, encounters with hill tribes in Lebanon, a mad retreat from a squadron of Syrian tanks, an engine rebuild in Turkey, stripped to the chasis during a drug search on the Greek border, failed brakes in a Greek mountain pass and ferry rides through Greece and Italy.

Back to London…

And a car yard somewhere. Still only one owner – a little old lady who got lost on the way to church – in the Sahara.

After the 1966 Trip, we went our separate ways.

As young men tend to do – and within a few months had lost all contact with each other – as young men also tend to do. Careers flourished, families formed, parents moved. Years passed – old addresses failed. We now know that each of us was trying to contact the others – there were close calls, but only failures, for the next 30 years…

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1975 John visited Hong Kong…

to buy camera equipment for his publishing company. During the negotiations he mentioned that 10 years earlier he had travelled with an Australian photographer who later moved to Hong Kong. An hour later the camera shop owner drove him to Peter’s studio, he met his business partner, but Peter had returned to Australia a few weeks earlier!

In New York later that year…

and, on a whim, called Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario, and asked to speak to Keith, or anyone who might remember him. He was given a phone number of a government department “where someone may be able to help you…” He was told that Keith was ‘on a training course’ and would not be available for 2 or 3 days. It was a long shot but he left a phone number of a San Diego hotel. Four days later he was in San Diego and returned to the hotel to find a message from Keith – with a phone number. Which had been written incorrectly by the hotel staff! Worse, the phone number for that mysterious government department had been lost somewhere between New York and San Diego, and – another 20 years passed without success.

Then, finally, it happened…

Not through detective work, just an incredible coincidence…

Tokyo, 1993…

JATA (Japan Association of Travel Agents) Congress. Opening Ceremony, reserved seating with 5,000 international delegates in the auditorium. VERY formal, VERY boring. John was browsing the contents of his registration satchel. Nothing to read, just the delegates’ directory and the name leapt off the page…  Keith de Bellefeuille Percy, not a name designed to leap off pages… It HAD to be him. But, how to find him amongst 5,000 delegates? It didn’t take long… John and Keith were seated one chair appart – Keith in the row in front! It was a noisy reunion, caught on Congress cameras, and featured that night on NTV. The reunion lasted the entire week – but it took another 6 years to find the other two…

Late August, 2001…

John was preparing for a trip to England and Europe. Late one night, the computer beeped, an email from David, he had done a Yahoo search, found two John Polsons – and one was not a film star…

Two weeks later John arrived at David’s home in Kent…

at exactly 2:00 pm GMT on September 11, 2001 or 9:00 am in New York. The world had changed a lot in the last 35 years… but it changed a lot more in the following 35 minutes!

For 3 days, our reunion took place in front of the TV – with BBC and CNN broadcasts from NYC. Since then, contact has been continual and we have all visited each other several times.

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The 2nd Trip was in 2006 – and the 3rd in 2012

In June/July 2006 – we returned to Le Mans, France. And then – to Agen – we hired a canal boat and spent two weeks cruising through the locks on the Canal du Midi. Details are here… And we had a 3rd Trip in August of 2012.

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There are 4 chapters in this section…

In The Beginning… David
Peter… the Aussie
John… the Kiwi (then)
Keith… the Canadian

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