Friday, June 09, 2006

The Morning After the Night Before

You know how it is when you’re on holiday.

There’s no rush.

You crawl out of your sleeping bag, all blurry eyed, whenever the mood takes you. The younger you are, the later in the day this is likely to be. Passing traffic, the dawn chorus, distant nuclear explosions: they all mean diddley-squat to your average 22 year old.

That’s what we did, on the morning of Friday 26th July 1974.

Crawled out of our sleeping bags.

Hauled on our jeans (no need to put on a t-shirt, since we’d have slept in those, I expect).

Stumbled to the sink, one after the other, and blinked at Brigitte as we directed a splash of lukewarm water faceward.

Flung open the back doors, and stepped gaily into the German sunshine (I’m guessing around about 10am, so the sun is already high in the sky).

Blinked in one direction, at the vista of vine-laden landscape stretching away down the hill below our cosy lay-by.

Blinked in the other direction, as a succession of German motorists passing down the road into Enkirch stared back in disbelief. ‘No, Helmut darling. Those are not Struwwelpeters. Those are hippies, from England.’

Blinked into our breakfast bowls, as we devoured the morning muesli. Quite probably we had a sackful of the stuff, purchased from the organic supplies shop in Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town. We did that sort of thing in those days.

Felt better. Gathered up our pans and bowls and cooking stoves and checked that we were leaving the nice German lay-by in the condition in which we found it. Piled into the back of the Earthtruck.

On our way to Istanbul, and all right with the world.

Got some good sounds going on the stereo. Striking it Rich, by Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks (a memory of which I am exactly and precisely certain, for reasons which will become clear much later in this narrative).

Fired up the engine. Swung the wheel to the right, to turn back out of the lay-bv and begin our stately descent back to the floor of the beautiful Mosel Valley.


Let’s be more precise: came to a grinding halt, as Yaya slammed on the brakes to avoid us piling into the opposite verge.

Swung the wheel again, only to discover it swung just a little too easily.

Switched off the stereo, the better to collect our thoughts.

Got out.

Examined the undercarriage, to assess why the wheel swung too easily.

Noted the bits of British Bedford iron, dangling down.

Swung the wheel again, somewhat more gingerly, to assess the connection between the ease with which the wheel turned and the bits of iron clattering against the tarmac.

Panicked, since Bertha was at this point parked diagonally across the highway (albeit a deserted country highway).

Despatched some of our number up the road, around the bend, to wave at descending German motorists. Or perhaps deploy our regulation Euro warning triangle: I’ve no idea what the law was in those days, or even if we were carrying one.

Panicked a little more, and got out the jack, from the toolkit on the roof we’d never imagined touching or opening, let alone deploying in a genuine automotive breakdown emergency.

Slowly – very slowly – arrived at the realisation that some of us were shortly going to have to walk down into Enkirch. And look for a mechanic.

Who probably wasn’t inclined to speak English.

And that, dear reader, brings us neatly back to the image we first displayed right back at the start of this story…

That’s Yaya, by the way, wearing a small tree on his head, Struwwelpeter-style…


Anonymous yaya said...

stunned silence in the ether
not one comment since last friday!
If i was to have had a brain scan at the time I'm sure it would have looked very similar to that small tree

8:25 am  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

Thank yoyu Yaya for yourour comment. I'm off to complain to the highest authority...

6:48 pm  
Anonymous jonathanM said...

I fear we may still be waking up...

12:17 pm  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

As so many England fans probably are, all over Germany, as we speak. (it hasn't escaped my notice that Bertha's return to Germany coincides - give or take 30 years of space/time continuum - with the 2006 World Cup)...

8:27 am  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

That has to be one of the collest holiday snaps of all time.

9:46 pm  
Blogger Philipa said...

Gosh I remember 1974, I'm sure that was when I got my first pony. 20 years later and I was travelling to Vienna in a 1974 Volkswagen camper van. What a memorable holiday that was! And now I'm living in a house that was built in... yes, 1974. And there was I hoping for something Georgian.

Like the photo's. I did some dreaming this evening - I've decided I'd like santa to bring me a Metz 54 flashgun and a Manfrotto tripod. I'll probably get a satsuma and a bag of nuts. Oh well, at least I'll be healthy and nutty! I'm going to read the rest of the travelog..

All best.

9:40 pm  
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

Gosh. Visitors. Welcome. I'd better get going again, hadn't I?

8:16 am  
Anonymous jessica said...


I was looking for ways that would help me get free traffic to my Blog. While I was searching on BlogExplosion I found your Blog. I know it does not have to do with getting traffic but I really enjoyed reading it, great job!! In fact I have my own Blog and I get a lot of free traffic from , If I were you I would submit this Blog to them so thousands of others can see it for free. Well, I will add your Blog to my favorites and I look forward to all the updates.


3:51 am  
Blogger Ruth said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


3:18 am  
Anonymous Broomhilda said...

3 years is long enough. Time to continue the trip please.

11:51 pm  
Blogger english inukshuk said...


5:26 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home