Sunday, May 22, 2005

Hooray! Hooray! It’s a holi-oliday!

27th July, 1974: the great adventure begins.

We met round the back of 123 Hadham Road, and doubtless spent much of the morning on last minute preparations. The photographs below show Stuie and Mark F lashing various items to Bertha’s roof. Look closely at the middle one and you can see part of the two foot high sun mandala on that side of the truck...

Finishing Touches Posted by Hello

I should, of course, have used colour film. I should also have pointed the camera at more of my fellow travellers than these two: perhaps the rest hadn’t turned up yet, or perhaps I was impressed that Stuie and Mark F were doing all the work.

However crap the photography, it does jog the memory. I’ve been zooming into these in Photoshop, and I’m struck by three other details:

1/ The size of heel on Mark F’s boot. You can’t tell by looking at the denims, but 1974 was also the tail end of the dreaded glam rock era. Which gave us David Bowie (dead good), T. Rex (better than we were willing to admit), Gary Glitter (whose name was unmentionable even then), and platform boots.

We’ll be coming back to these later.

2/ (in stark contrast) that cute little leather pouch hanging from Stuie’s belt. Hippy gear, de rigeur. We all had those for some reason. Come to think of it, I still have mine: it was just the right size for a passport, travellers’ cheques, and a Swiss army knife. It’s in the attic somewhere.

Stuie’s looks a little smaller. I can’t imagine what he kept in it.

3/ The sturdy straps holding the roof rack in place. We’d obviously never heard of bolts, but those are no ordinary belts, mate: those are Brown Lines: fantastically strong lengths of unbreakable webbing of the sort used by Transmeridian Air Cargo to lash generators and other scary engineering kit safely to the floor of a Hercules cargo aircraft.

I point this out because at the time they were doubtless technically still the property of Transmeridian Air Cargo. I still remember stealing two of them from the equipment cage in Transmeridian’s hanger when I was putting in a few hours as a loader on one of those casual job nights that may or may not have been the same summer we took Bertha to Europe. I’m 100% certain Stuie ‘borrowed’ the rest.

Naturally, I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Transmeridian. I just Google’d them and of course they don’t exist any more, but if any of the shareholders are still kicking around and happen to find themselves reading this I want you all to know we’re really sorry about the extra equipment shrinkage in 1974 but your contribution to our European holiday has not gone unnoticed and I guarantee your reward will be in heaven.

We probably set off around lunchtime. Various parents came to wish us well. Certainly Monique and Rollo were there: they’d been providing the sandwiches throughout the fitting-out and I expect they were looking forward to more peaceful evenings. I’m pretty certain Paul’s Mum and Dad came too.

I’m not sure about the rest but I do have a small memory from Stuie that sheds a little light.

Apparently both my parents were there. Strange, that: they were divorced at the time. And Guv being Guv, he naturally saw the departure of Bertha the Earthtruck for the far Indies as a good excuse for a drink.

So he came bearing gifts: two bottles of Champagne. Being ex-Merchant Navy, he may have been thinking of breaking at least one of them over Bertha’s bows as she sailed onto the A414. Or perhaps he thought we all ought to down a flute or two to settle our nerves.

It didn’t happen. God, we must have been psyched up. Stuie distinctly remembers, as we finally took our leave, looking out of Bertha’s rear window at Guv waving two unopened bottles of champagne over his head.

He’d have enjoyed them that evening, I know. And Bertha’s crew were shortly to embark on more than enough serious drinking to redress the balance…


Anonymous CarolineM said...

Perhaps Gov (your Dad?) had secured them to his hands with Transmeridian Brown Lines?

2:21 am  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

Knowing him...

8:54 am  
Blogger broomhilda said...

I have that butterfly feeling in my stomach...

2:29 pm  

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