A few weeks ago I scanned and uploaded to BookFace some photos from the 10 week European excursion I made from September to November 1987. The intent at that time I scanned them was to write a blog post about the trip, which was my introduction to open ended travelling; and the start of the wanderlust that remained, pretty much unrequited again to 2011. I kept a diary of the trip, but it, along with other diaries from the 80s, was still in London and last week was the first time in a while that we went back there.
I was going to launch straight into writing about the trip, there are quite a few photos and I was initially thinking of just adding them to a post with minimal text, but as usual I have changed my mind and have decided to go way back in time and add some context. There is a good chance that I decide that that is not a good idea and this post doesn’t get uploaded and you won’t be reading any of this. If I do post it maybe you could let me know if writing this preamble was worth while, or least not a bad thing.
That 1987 European trip really was the impetus for the travels I undertook when I left NZ in December 2011 and obviously this blog is the continuation of those diaries I wrote in my 20s. It just took 24 years, three children and a divorce to get from 1987 to 2011. I was patient I guess.
We may as well start at the beginning or at least close to it. I was born in Carshalton Hospital, Surrey, England in September 1962. This makes me not far off 60 and I cannot believe how old I have gotten while I wasn’t looking, I certainly don’t feel (almost) 59. We moved to 177 Windsor Ave, North Cheam, Surrey when I was two, I have no idea of where we lived prior to that, though we didn’t move far I believe. The grey pebble dash house is 177 Windsor Ave and this was taken when I did a walk-by in 2013. North Cheam is and was a working class/lower middle class suburb on the southern fringe of London. I was happy there.
Our neighbours at 177 were the Aubreys. I think they were both retired, I also think they looked after me, and possibly my younger sisters after school if my parent’s shifts overlapped. I don’t have many memories of life in London as a child, but one of those memories is spending time at the Aubreys. They were very interested in archaeology and history and travelled to exotic places like Rome and Greece, occasionally bringing home small souvenirs of their visits. They bought me books and read to me about ancient Troy, Rome and Greece; particularly the myths and legends from those and other places. I still have some of the books they bought me, and they remain treasured items, particularly The Story of Rome and Story of Greece.
The most valued gift of the Aubrey’s was an interest in ancient history, in the exotic, in the far-off places; and the gift of an enquiring mind, though I am sure as a 10 year old I appreciated the stone arrow heads and small fossils they found in England more than the enquiring mind. I will never forget the Aubreys, or the ‘Strawberries’ as the childhood me named them. That interest in the ancient and the exotic has never left me, and though I am not overly interested in the detail of each and every place I visit, I still relish the visit, along with standing, absorbing and marveling at where generations of people have stood before and what they left behind.
We left England for Auckland, New Zealand in February 1973. With years of experience in the industry Dad soon found himself a job with Air New Zealand which meant cheap flights and numerous trips back to the UK. I think we went back to England three times between 1973 and when I left school at the end 79. Each of those trips was via Los Angeles, Hawaii and occasionally Fiji; the route Air NZ flew. We always stayed a few days somewhere on the way there or back, taking in San Francisco and Washington DC on one occasion. I fondly remember those trips and they were a strong introduction into the realities of travelling and long distant flight, of immigration controls and customs; queuing and sleeping in airports and the less glamourous parts of going to a different country.
I completed a five year aircraft engineering apprenticeship with Air New Zealand after leaving school; finishing in 1985. While I worked there I holidayed in Fiji and Los Angeles. I went to LA with workmates, Scott and Dave, and we rented a car for a few days, just to cruise; like you do when in LA. Just before I went on this trip I bought my first SLR, a Canon AE-1. I still have it though it stopped working in 1994 and was too expensive to repair at the time.
A lot of my workmates went further, particularly Europe, but I spent too much money on music; records and concerts. Some things just haven’t changed. I did holiday a little in NZ, with hitch-hiking trips and camping holidays and adventures down to the central North Island ski fields. A little taster for the mostly tame adventure I enjoy now.
I didn’t particularly enjoy my apprenticeship and engineering was not my thing; too tactile and I am all thumbs. It was probably safer for all when I left, anyway I had an urge to travel and holding down a job with limited annual leave was never going to satisfy that urge.
In October 1985 I left NZ for my first Overseas Experience (OE) as we called it then, going back to stay in my old suburb in south London. I lasted two years. In that time I met and married Deana, moved to the very nice suburb of Richmond-upon-Thames and did a small amount of travel around the UK and touched briefly on Europe with a visit to northern Italy in 1986,
and to Northern Ireland and the Republic. I have Cavan written on the back of this photo, and love the donkey and cart in the high street. I think it was taken out of the window of a bus.
Mostly I just worked to get by; we lived in an expensive part of London and both of us had relatively low paying jobs; I was a courier driver. My desire to travel the world wasn’t really working out.
That was about to change when Deana’s friends from Australia turned up and bought a VW Combi van… This is the van, but the people are neighbours and friends from NZ.