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Great Expectations

Tuesday, 10th August, 1965, London

Dear Everyone,

Things are beginning to take shape regarding the Continental trip. We bought a red Bedford CA Van last weekend for £10. Hard to believe! The body work is pretty battered, but that does not matter. We are going round to the previous owner’s place tonight to pick it up. Then, as soon as we can, we will put it into a garage for a check-up. We fully expect to have to pay out about £20 for repairs, but even so it will be a cheap buy. If it falls to pieces on us somewhere on the Continent, we will just dump it or sell it for scrap. I was rather skeptical at first about buying a van for that price, but I think now that we may have got a good thing. Look at it this way; if you bought a van with a fair body for £30, the engine would probably be no better than a battered van for £10, and you can spend the £20 building it up, knowing what you are getting.

You remember that Malaysian chap, Fouad, who was living with us at Camberwell? He came down to London last night from Cardiff and Ade went to see him at Malaysia Hall, where he talked him into coming at least part of the way with us on the trip. He has a month’s holiday in September, so he and a friend, Marroff, are going to travel with us in the van for that length of time. Best part about it, of course, is that it will cut our petrol costs considerably when shared by four instead of two. Sleeping might be a bit of a squeeze, but we’ll work it out.

Ade and I went photographing around London last weekend and must have walked about eight miles in the process. We started by getting a tube to Charing Cross, walked along the Victoria Embankment to the Discovery, the ship that Captain Scott went to the Antarctic in, went over the ship, a beautiful old sailing vessel, then walked up to the Aldwych, where Australia House is. We then strolled down the Strand, with a short detour to take in the Covent Garden vegetable markets. We continued on to Trafalgar Square, then down Whitehall, through Horse Guards Arch, through St. James Park and down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. We then walked up Buckingham Gate to Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square outside the Houses of Parliament, across Westminster Bridge and down the Albert Embankment to Lambeth Bridge. Up Lambeth Road to the Imperial War Museum, then down Kennington Road and home. Where we are living now is quite close to the city, and you can see Big Ben from just up the street.

Thursday, 20-8-1965, Kennington

Ade gave me a letter enclosing my updated International Driving Permit when I got home from work yesterday – so I am all set for driving around Europe. And, next Tuesday is the 24th August, one full year away from home and two days short of six months in England. Our friend Tony, who sailed on the Galileo with us out of Sydney, is back from Spain and staying with us, so we are all going out Tuesday evening to ‘The Surrey’ in the Strand, a pub where they only sell Australian beer, to celebrate. It should be a jolly night all round.

A mechanic checked over the van for us on Wednesday and it seems the only major problem is the valves. Three out of four are giving no compression and the thing won’t start. We’re not going to get far if that doesn’t get fixed. We are having it towed down to a Bedford garage on Monday for a decoke, a new head gasket and whatever else is necessary - it should cost about £20. We also have to replace two of the tyres as they are pretty smooth. If it is going after that we will be off as planned next Saturday, and we have already booked it on the Channel ferry across to Calais. I don’t dare to think what we will do if it is not going. We have it parked at present outside our place in Kennington Park Road and this morning, while we were all getting ready for work, it was side-swiped by a bus. We heard this loud metallic scraping noise and rushed out fearing the worst, but fortunately there was little real damage, just a slightly crunched mud-guard and a twisted front bumper. To tell the truth, it looks no worse than it did before - it was pretty knocked about anyway. If anything, our concern is that if they think it reflects badly on British vehicle standards, they might not let us take it out of the country and into France. You never know! We kicked out the dent in the mudguard, bent the bumper back into place, and went back inside.

I must admit it looks a bit forlorn sitting out there by the kerb. Whoever had it didn’t look after it, that’s for sure. I wonder if it’s ever had a proper service. It can’t be that old, because the earlier Bedford CA’s had a two panel windscreen and this one has a single, slightly curved one with a different grille. Late fifties I’d say, which makes it about seven years old, and considering its state, it must have been a workhorse. Well, it’s about to get reshod and back into harness.

* * * * *

Posted by Ozac 20:13 Archived in England

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