Greg
Greg's diary
May 1969
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Groogle

This diary was entered manually from the paper original, mainly from 1 October 2016 until 15 October 2016. The tale of woe about my car repairs that was originally here now has its own page.


Thursday, 1 May 1969 WGC → Reading → WGC
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Had intended to go back to work today, but things did not work out like that - I think my car has been a lot of what has been worrying me, but come what may, at the last minute I just could not bear the thought of going to work. Admittedly I still felt pretty crook - besides, though, I suspect had my car been in order, I would probably have gone to work. Still, as it was, I slept until nearly noon, and then spent a while considering how the Panhard 24 CT won the rallies it did at the end of 1965, and also how much longer it was likely to continue in production, if at all.

According to Wikipedia it had already been out of production for 2 years.

Finally drank some milk and decided it was about time I contacted Middleton Motors to see if they had an Ami fanbelt. Typically, the phone in Little Thistle was out of order, so I set off into town and rang up from there. Girl said she was pretty certain they had, and so I set off towards Potter's Bar somewhat apprehensively. They were certainly not very nice to me when I arrived, but sold me their last remaining Ami belt nevertheless - though I notice it was slightly large. Still, got it fitted with a minimum of trouble - I was quite surprised how easy it was to change - and asked about a tuneup, but the fellow turned offensive and suggested I bugger off.

I wonder what the background to that was. Yes, they had painted up the wrong door for my car, so I didn't accept it, but that wasn't my fault.

Did so, accordingly, and decided to get some money, then off to Reading to look for Jenny Hallett to get Paul's address from her. Took it pretty leisurely - the car is pinking badly, which makes me fairly certain that the ignition is too far advanced. This, coupled with the hesitancy, which, from the appearaence of the cab primary barrel, is probably spitting back, makes me think that running 5 star might keep it going for a while - otherwise I shall just have to add some naphthalene and see if that helps any.

I have no idea what gave me that idea.

Arrived at Reading around 1630, and after ascertaining the Jenny as not home, off into town and bought a relay for my headlight flasher, as I am fed up with buying dud diodes, and besides, this looked a real bargain, as the fellow who sold it to me swore it was. Then got an insurance quotation from the bloke I saw before for the Panhard - it is rated as group 3, and would cost me £26 odd with NCB - still none too bad, and better than I would be paying for the Ami with Higgs. Then to see Jenny, who all too soon disappeared for makan and reappeared with friends, so off in a while and back home, having learnt only that Paul is on the Isle of Wight.


Friday, 2 May 1969 WGC → Tun. Wells → So'ton →
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Up as usual this morning, though I still didn't feel too good, and decided I would have to go to work, and probably would not have, had it not been for the confusion it would have caused getting hold of medical certificates, etc. Off to work, and Richard Cooper asked me how I was feeling, which was a nice way round the situation, and so I said the appropriate and outside to hear Owen's and Alan's view of what I had been doing, and these were, in fact, somewhat more accurate. One by-product of my absence was that Richard had been enlisting Owen's help to make the catalysts, which suited me fine, and so I cast an eye over their apparatus, which for a beginner was not too bad, and then got down to the now-usual grading for Lola, which took me all morning with the odd mishap - though by no means as bad as the one I made the other day.

After lunch, rang up Paul Hallett to speak about Mini vans, with which he is having more than his share of trouble, and it strikes me with some force that the car is not worth the £135 he has agreed to pay for it. Then tried to ring Sonny up, and could not get on to him, so on through the afternoon, half-heartedly grading when not thinking of other things to do, such as finding various odds and ends to take with me for use in the car, and this included some naphthalene for my petrol, after I had discarded the probability of being able to whip 5 l of toluene, and also some wire and some goggles for Sonny. Then hung round and helped Owen and Richard making a catalyst at 1620 hrs. Then off south, engine misfiring a bit on the 3× petrol, and filled up with 5× at Mill Hill, then continued uneventfully to Tun. Wells, where Sonny was in no good mood, and so had a bite to eat, then off to take Jim home via the coast road, and stopped for fish and chips in Brighton, where Jim tried to pull the wool over my eyes by giving me the wrong fish - why can't he at least come clean about it? A bit further on, noticed to my distress that I was not getting any charge, though everything seemed in order with the charging system, and so on on sidelights with horrible visions of burnt-out alternators, and at Greenacres called the AA, who sent over the breakdown car from the Criterion garage, who sent over a Godess as an answer to my prayers, and changed the fanbelt, which did the job, and so it seems I was supplied the wrong part by Middleton Motors, which the bloke from Criterion agreed was a bit rough.


Saturday, 3 May 1969 So'ton → Exeter → Horrabridge
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Stayed in Greenacres talking for a while, then off with Sonny along the A272/A30/A303 to Exeter. Got some petrol just the other side of Sparkford, then on, giving up my original idea of going and seeing Bev tonight, and slept on the A30 a mile or so from Clyst Honiton.

Woke up round 0830, feeling hot - I had been sleeping in my sleeping bag, which, for this time of year at any rate, was more than warm enough. Went on to Exeter and to the uni - the car is misfiring worse now - and then tried to find the admin. offices, which are in Northcote Hall, but are not open on Saturdays, so swore and went into town, and there cashed a cheque, after quite a wait. Had something to eat, and drew a blank looking for accommodation, so off to Dunn's motors, where there was an encouraging number of Citroëns - as indeed there is in all of Exeter. One notices the proximity of a (good?) Citroën agent by the number of Citroëns about: there are a lot in Southampton too, though I have not noticed too many round Potter's Bar.

In retrospect, it's amazing how bad every single one of them was.

They had a listen to my engine, and decided the whole thing was valve trouble, as the thing spat back through the carb and nearly into the bloke's face. Could be, though I have a few doubts. Then off to Netherton House, talking under ½ an hour, which I could doubtless improve on if the car were in better condition and I knew the road better. Nobody could see me then, so with Sonny into Newton Abbot and had makan, went for a bit of a drive, then back to meet a tiny Mrs. Evans, wife of the bloke who runs it, who said she would see him about the coach house. Then off via Torquay and Peignton to Totnes, Ivybridge, beyond which we got a bit of sleep, and Horrabridge to Grimstone, where Bev was not. She arrived at Penny's house about a minute after we did, and I apparently pleased Mrs. Jackson by doing a couple of odd jobs for her in as many minutes. Had some coffee, then the 3 of us went to Plymouth and had makan at the China Garden, though Bev and Sonny hardly did justice to it. Then to see a flick, Hell in the Pacific, a survival story involving only 2 characters - extremely good indeed, especially in the human weaknesses portrayed by both of them. Finally home, dropped Bev, had coffee and off to sleep on the moors.


Sunday, 4 May 1969 Horrabridge → Newton Abbot → So'ton
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Bev woke me by standing in the room [?] with the door open, kissing Sonny, at 0255 this morning. Then Bev back, and Sonny and I went across a foggy moor to Newton Abbot, where we slept until 1030. Then to Netherton House, after getting some petrol in the nick of time - only had a float chamber full left - and was told that Mr. Evans was not prepared to consider letting anything for October yet, and that was that. Schluß.

Then off back to Southampton, car misfiring worse than ever. Got some more petrol at Exeter, then on to the A35 and A31, going very slowly indeed - could hardly get any revs up. Stopped at an AA service centre at one point, and the fellow had a look at it, thought valve trouble, and suggested I adjust the mixture, which was rich. On to Southampton, faring little better, and got there about 1440, which, under the circumstances, was not too bad a time. Inside to say hello to a despondent Jim, and then out again to remove my fan and have a look at the contact breaker. I think, though, that it is unlikely to be this or the condenser—it seems almost impossible that anything so simple could go wrong. Put the fan back on, and started up the engine, and was rewarded by the sight of an enormous cone of flame spurt 3 ft out of my carb, which made me decide not to go back to Tun. Wells, but to stay here until I got it fixed. Could not get Criterion [Citroën agent] on the AA emergency service, and so somebody else came along and started looking round the gearbox area for what he could see of a distributor, but could not and so went again.

The car didn't have a distributor. It had two cylinders and a dual-ported coil.

Sunny and Jim went [back to Tunbridge Wells] by train, and I went back with the McGibbons and spent the evening watching TV about the transatlantic air race—the world speed record was broken today: Empire State building to [London] Post Office tower in 5 hrs 30 min 24 secs. Somehow late to bed.


Monday, 5 May 1969 So'ton
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Up considerably later than I had expected this morning at 0900, which was only then because Mrs. Mc.Gibbon called me. She herself was rather puzzled that the McRaes had not arrived, as they were due to arrive on the 0710 train, and still had not shown any sign of themselves. I for my part had a cup of coffee, and then went out to start up the car, which just about made it, and spluttered off in the direction of Criterion Garages, and the had a rather agonising wait around, the brunt of which was that they might be able to look at the thing in a couple of weeks time. I rang up the AA, who told me of a place in Eastleigh where I might be able to get it done, so spluttered out there, and then they told me that the place was only for doing lubes and such like, so into Eastleigh to buy some decoking stuff, and then back to Greenacres, where Mrs McGibbon was prepared to let me do the decoke.

Accordingly set to removing the bodywork, cooling, inlet and exhaust manifolds and subsequently the heads, which was interrupted by a trip into town, and then back to examine to [sic] heads and remove some of the largest valves I have ever seen—40 mm diameter inlet valves. They were covered in coke, so spent a couple of hours cleaning everything up, in the middle of which the McRaes arrived, having been held up for 9 hours in Toronto and understandably bushed. Finished off my head cleaning and valve grinding, then had the problem of looking after a decidedly drowsy Mr. and Mrs McRae, and had makan, which Mrs. cooked. After that, they went to bed, I tidied up my mess and then headed upstairs to read, once again, about Amal cabs, which still look good for my Ami.


Tuesday, 6 May 1969 So'ton → Horsham
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Up again, despite intentions to get up at 0600, at 0900, thanks to the ministry of Mrs McGibbon, and almost immediately, before even having coffee, down to have a further go at the car, and got everything tidied up and clear of water before breakfast, which was with the McRaes. Then out again and put the cylinder heads back on, itself not without difficulties, mainly associated with seeing that the pushrod tubes were seating properly in their neoprene seals. Then had an unbelievable amount of trouble with the manifolding, and before I knew where I was I had stripped the thread of one of the bolts which held the inlet manifold in place. The metal of heads is extremely soft, far too soft for the job it is intended to do. Then drilled out the hole for the bolt and put a bolt with a nut right through, and then changed my mind and put the cooling sheath on, and then again the manifolding. With a bit of persuasion the engine started, making an almighty aeroplane-like noise, and spat back several times through the carb. Eventually it got tired of this, and I put the exhaust pipes back in place, and started it up again, only to discover that it was (apparently) blowing by the starboard cylinder head seal, so took the whole bloody lot off again, after which it was extremely reluctant to go back on again. Eventually got it to go on, though I don't know if it was square, and then had an equally impossible time getting the manifolding back on again, and in the end I gave up in despair, cursing the S.A. Citroën-Berliet-Panhard from here to kingdom come for ever having designed so badly an engine. Called the AA, who said they would send round a tow vehicle sometime and have the thing towed to Criterions, and then went upstairs and had a bath, in the middle of which Mrs. McGibbon and the McRaes came back, and I had a bit of explaining to do as to why I was still here. Eventually got all my stuff together, had a bite to eat, and, at 1930, set off with intent to thumb to Tun. Wells, until it occurred to me that one could thumb at a rate of 20 mph, and Tun. Wells was 100 miles away. Got to Portsmouth and decided to go by train, with the result that I arrived at Brighton at 2230 with no train leaving in the Tun. Wells direction until tomorrow morning. Then rang up the Shipleys, who seemed only too delighted to come and pick me up at Three Bridges, and offered me a half share in Jane's bed, and so I caught the train, chatting up a bird in a half-hearted sort of manner on the way, and then was met by the Shipleys, who took me home, gave me plenty to eat and drink, and off late to bed.


Wednesday, 7 May 1969 Horsham → Tun. Wells
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Up extremely late this morning, after a couple of misfires, and out to say hello to Stella, who was doing some vacuum cleaning, which however she dropped when I came out and insisted on making me some breakfast, talking to me while I was eating same and then adjourning to the lounge room to ponder the state of the world, including the news, according to Ivor, that Harold Wilson had lost his constituency, which obviously tickled them. Stella really doesn't like this place, though - she has a yearn to go back to the East, to where she was born and, to a great extent, bred, and get away from these smelly, stodgy Englishmen - she made a point of the way the English, en masse, smell. Yet there is something about Stella - she does not seem to have it in her to be unpleasant, and has a definitely oriental trait of trying to carry everything out on a personal basis, which I hardly find so far away myself.

Off after a long talk to a fish and chip shop, where Stella introduced me as her godson, which is doubtless a distortion of the fact, though it seems that Raiph [Ralph], Dad's godson, was curious as to what relationship we bore to each other, and it was decided that I must be his god-brother. Had some fish and chips and then started thinking about what we were going to do about the train to Tun. Wells, and got on to British Rail and found out the score there, and then hung around further for a while, packed my bags, and set off for Horsham station, where I was able to get by with my existing ticket, and spent a while messing around, finally arriving at Tun. Wells just over 2 hours later, firm in the resolution that I should buy a DS. Up to find Sonny having changed his driveshaft and carbs, and in the process of changing the throttle cable. He had apparently been worried about where I had been. Were still talking when Martin Jones came along and expressed his worry that there was water in his oil, which seemed likely to be well-founded, as the sump was full of mayonnaise. Thought about this, and offered to decoke the thing for him, at which he jumped at the opportunity. Then inside and spent a quiet evening - got rid of Jim, while Sonny told me all his latest worries, while I added to a few of my own.


Thursday, 8 May 1969 Tun. Wells
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Up this morning considerably later than expected or intended - in fact, at 1330 odd, although the reason seemed totally inexplicable. In any case, had a drop to drink, and then set up into town with Sonny with prime intention to get hold of some food, of which we have currently been in short supply - Jim also had been a little worried about the amount I eat, and so I agreed to pay a bit towards the food. In town, Sonny remembered something he had left behind, and so I went back to get it - Sonny has been less worried about me driving his car of late. Came back down again, did our shopping, rather enjoying ourselves in the process - on the whole, Sonny and I get on remarkably well. Then to Rawsons, where I bought a decoke/gasket set for the Alpine, which set me back 30/-, and then back home, where Sonny, Jim and I set to removing the cylinder head, which had a few complications in its wake; hundreds of pipes had to be removed, including the water jacket on the inlet manifold, and we also had fun with the radiator header tank. Eventually got the thing off, to find the cylinder bores full of up to 3 cm of water, which made us decide that in all probability it had only got in when we loosened the head studs. Martin came along round about this time, and was suitably impressed when he saw the amount of mess in there. The gasket was blown in several places, and I suspect that the head was not torqued down properly last time it was replaced.

Thinking about this from the perspective of 2016, it's amazing to think of replacing a head gasket once any more, let alone on a regular basis.

Took the thing in and then, for my own part, tidied up, while Sonny occupied himself with the problem of removing some rather reticent valves. Then, after a bite to eat, Jim and I went over to Sorrels [?] party, which was no roaring success, at least from our viewpoint. Highlights of the evening where when I had to start Peter's Viva for him, nearly killed myself verifying there was a spark there, and then got it going. Cooked some packaged curry, which was none to bad, though not enough rice, and then over with Sonny, who had taken Linda, 6 months pregnant and decolée [?], home. Talked for a while, then I off to sleep.


Friday, 9 May 1969 Tun. Wells
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Jim came in this morning round 0730 and informed me that outside were dozens of people having returned from the party for breakfast. Outside, and started replacing the valves of Martin's cylinder head, and then in they all came to have breakfast, fortunately not before we had hidden all the food. Then, after a while, they went off to college, and after a further period of thought I remembered my lack of sleep and so went back to it on the sofa. There I slept at length until an almost customary 1330 hrs, when Sonny and Jim also appeared, rested, and so made something in the nature of food, which, as usual, implied sandwiches and coffee. Then opinions were expressed about Martin's car, and so I asked Jim what he had done about a torque wrench, and he mentioned some Ghazali bloke, so off with him to St. John's road and found said Ghazali still in bed, so Jim thought to return to college, where he was promptly pounced upon by somebody or another and told, in effect, that he was a naughty boy for skiving work, while I examined the stuff they had floating around there. Some remarkably crude examples of motor engineering were indeed to be seen. Then left Jim, as he looked like having to stay there the whole afternoon, and back to put Martin's head back on for him, while it obligingly rained at all the wrong times. Eventually it was done, and we towed it to Mile's garage, where he lent us a torque wrench for 5/- and we torqued it up. Towed it back and on with replacing engine bits and pieces, then dropped a nut down the pushrod holes, to no great advantage. Finally got everything back together and discovered that the battery was so flat that I needed tow-starting, which in itself was a bit of a fiasco, but eventually we got it done, and I took it round the block, warmed up the oil, and after considerable debating decided that we ought to flush the thing out on the road, which we did. Then round the block the other way - thing got 80 [mph, i.e. 130 km/h] up downhill, and would doubtless have gone faster if wound up sufficiently. Came back and adjusted the tappets, after which out again, and after a while off in the same to pick Laura up, only this time on the way back the thing started boiling. Hung about for a while, after which off to the midnight movie, with Sonny paying more attention to Laura than was good for me. Did little in the flicks, then off home alone. Late to bed.


Saturday, 10 May 1969 Tun. Wells
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Up correspondingly late this morning, though one could hardly have expected otherwise after last nights late night. Finally came to on the small hours of the afternoon, and Sonny and I started thinking about having breakfast, which we did in a big, if slow and leisurely way. Then I was reminded that I should make a few phone calls, and so rang up Dr. Kulesza, who was not in, and was told that he would be at home at 2200 hrs this evening, which seemed odd, but I had little choice. The rang Lesley's home to see if I could persuade her to come out with me this evening, but was given the news that a) she was in a hospital in London, and b) mother was out, aunt speaking. She seems to have heard of me, and when I rang back later and spoke to her mother, who clarified that she was training in a hospital, and seemed pleased, almost having expected, to hear from me, and expressed her hope that Bev was not pregnant - it happened all too often to young girls nowadays. I hope Lesley was not pregnant.

Indeed, an interesting statement. It would have explained why Lesley changed places.

In any case, she is not now, as she is going to play hockey at Ashford this time next week, and by then I may have a chance to get in contact with her.

Then rang Laura up, and arranged to pick her up this evening, and then hung around doing little, unless it be watching Sonny at his phone technique ringing Fluff up wile Jim and Larry looked in vain for girls. Eventually off and picked Laura up, which somewhat annoyed me, as she was worried about the seed I was driving. Girls who worry unnecessarily about speed irritate me; Lesley does not, but goes as far as to say that I am quite a good driver (why do I compare all girls to Lesley?). In any case, got back, and almost immediately Sonny went off to Sevenoaks to pick Fluff up, while I stayed alone with Laura, though did little - I think, say what Jim may, the only was I could have Laura would be to make a steady girlfriend of her. But do I want to? She is a very nice girl, but I think I am in love with Lesley (oh, what the hell, that slopped out, and I don't really feel like thinking about the pros and cons now). Had quite a bit of fun trying to teach her the flute, then she wanted to wear one of my shirts, the result of which was that that was all she wore, and then read my fortune, which said that in the next week I would be worried about a brown-haired lady, with some romantic implications. Lesley? I wish I knew.

Even for me, this shows an unbelievable lack of understanding on my part. Only a shirt on! And Laura also had brown hair.

Then Sonny came back with Fluff, who is quite nice, and shortly later arrived Jim, Larry and Glynis, slightly rat-faced. Somehow the girls got talking, and later still we all decided to go down to the pub, where we got invited to a party at Woodbury Park avenue, which we did, albeit without Laura, who wanted to go home (had to?).

Probably a case of terminal frustration.

The party itself was not up to much, and soon we all came home, and I went off to sleep in Jim's bed, to be woken shortly later by Sonny's return. Finally off to sleep with Sonny round 0230.


Sunday, 11 May 1969 Tun. Wells → Heathrow → Tun. Wells
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Alarm went off sometime round 0450, and after a further 30 minutes I staggered out of bed and did my best to come back to life. Dragged Sonny out in due course, had some coffee, and then off in the direction of London. Got some petrol at Hildenborough, then on at quite a rate in the direction of Heathrow airport with hopes yet to make it by 0710. That we did quite comfortably, thanks in the main to Sonny taking out his worries on the car. We were in by 0655, and then discovered that the plane was not due to arrive until 0755, and later still that it had been delayed until 0825. Hung about, while Sonny imagined all sorts of dire happenings when Mum arrived. Eventually the plane arrived, and shortly later so did Bev and Stephen Kulesza. Mum was not too long, and came out looking decidedly worried and several years older. Spoke to her for a while, and then she suggested that we return to Tun. Wells and contact her later in the day. This we did with equal alacrity, and in the process, Sonny got himself worried about his oil pressure, which was apparently round the danger level - at any rate, he claims to have seen the warning light light up. Got back and went to seep, disturbed by a few people floating about, and then woke round 1500 hrs and rang Mum up, who said that Bev would go into hospital tomorrow and have an appendicectomy. Agreed to wait at home tomorrow for a phone call from her. Had a bite to eat, and then Sonny went outside to work on his car, while I contemplated my present slightly dreary situation. After a while, Trev rang up, and we went over to find him trying to get his engine started with no oil in the sump, petrol in the float chambers, sparks in the cylinders, and with incorrect valve timing. Told him what to do and back home, to get another phone call, and so off to help him again. Home and decided to go and see “Romeo and Juliet” at the Essoldo. Had makan, and off to see the film, which was truly fantastic - it makes me feel desperately sad, and reminds me all the more of Lesley, of that first love which is holy, which can never be repeated, and which for me bloomed in the summer of 1965 at those few parties where I got to know her. Why are we so far apart now? Why did misunderstanding ever come between us? did I ever think she didn't love me? did I leave her only a few months ago? did I make so little effort to understand her then and in April 1966? What can I do about it?


Monday, 12 May 1969 Tun. Wells
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Somehow woke up this morning at 1500 odd hours, which rather annoyed me, though Sonny had not got up much earlier, and was now out working on the car. Had an incredible hunger, and so into the kitchen to see what I could rattle together, and this proved to be nothing more than a cup of coffee and a rather greasy omelette. In due course, out to see what Sonny was up to, which proved to be a major tidy-up of the inside of his car. I went inside to see how the situation was with phone calls, and rang up Criterion garages, who said they could not be too sure how long it would take, but they would ring me back. After a while, Sonny came in with a couple of (metal) door pockets which he washed as preparation for intended spray with matt black paint. After a while, had the rather startling news from Criterion that my car would be ready in in half an hour, so arranged to go down there tomorrow and rang Mum to this effect. She suggested I rang tomorrow on the way to Southampton, to which I was agreeable, so then started doing something about my hunger, which remained pretty violent, so started making some soup, and then sent Jim off down to the corner shop to get some food.

Later settled down in the lounge room reading, playing the flute, writing my diary, thinking of Lesley and doing my best to console Sonny, who was worried about Bev. Then entered Jim and Larry with another bloke called Owen, who told us of his woes a) with the Tonbridge cars (he works for Caffyns) and b) with the Tonbridge girls, who apparently were not very responsive to his charms. For some reason Sonny made out to him that we were both married. Then off comparatively early to bed, but not surprisingly could not sleep, and lay there for some time trying. Sonny seemed to be suffering likewise, and came through at about 0230.


Tuesday, 13 May 1969 Tun. Wells → So'ton → London → Tun. Wells
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Had intended to catch the 0730 train to London this morning, but something went wrong and I did not wake until 0920, so quickly down to the station and caught a train which I thought would get me to London, but it turned out that the thing was only going to Tonbridge, so had to wait 10 minutes and then go to Cannon St., and by tube to Waterloo, where I had time to get hold of some money. Then rang up Mum, who was still at home and none too happy, and agreed to ring her sometime this afternoon. Then bought “The Naked Ape” by Desmond Morris, after having attempted to read it, somewhat over a year ago as “Der nackte Affe”. Then down by train to Southampton and by foot to Criterion garages, where I was told that they were very sorry, but they had made a mistake, and work would not start on my car until Thursday. There was little I could do about it, of course, and so off round the front to see if I could buy a Goddess, and had a log of umming and ahing, the bloke wanted to see my trade-in, and said it was in lousy condition and he could not possibly offer more than £500 for it. Arranged a test drive, and then off for lunch to read the literature that I had accumulated at Criterion Back to Criterion after a lunch of apples and oranges, and they told me that they had changed their minds, and that they were no longer interested in my Ami 6, and doubted that anybody else would be, and thus assumed that I was no longer interested in the DS19 I had been looking at (75000 miles, 19965, £565, 3 months guarantee), which rather annoyed me. Asked them to let me test drive it, and they said yes, wait an hour or so, then changed their minds and (rather surprisingly) said they would send it up to Tun. Wells for me to test drive it here. Odd way to go about things, but I did not mind.

And apparently I didn't smell a rat, either.

Then off back to London, sleeping most of the way, and rang up Mum, who proved to be with Bev at Denmark Hill, so over there with a toothbrush for Bev to see them. Hung about for a while, off to the Wimpy with Mum, and talked to her about the subject, and then back, said goodnight to Bev, and off to Waterloo, where I put Mum on the train and then went myself back to Tunbridge Wells. On the train met a Swiss girl called Ruth Erdin, who was having difficulties explaining to the couple opposite her what the headlines about Wilson in “Die Welt” were. The couple got off at Sevenoaks, and I got talking to Ruth, who was going to Goudhurst via Tun. Wells. Somehow ended up inviting her back to the flat, though she was not very attractive, and so off with Sonny. Had some tea and spoke at great length, then enter Martin and said that Laura had remarked that I had been driving his car, which did not particularly worry him - on the contrary, he said I could use it all I liked, as long as I paid for petrol and any smash-ups. Then he went on to talk about women, which doubtless worried Ruth, and eventually she and I set off in Martin's car towards Goudhurst at about 2440. We did not make it there until 0200, stopping several times on the way to our mutual enjoyment, supposedly to let the oil cool down - pressure was beginning to drop. Had quite a bit of fun and scratched me quite deeply, though she claims have been a good little girl up to tonight. Maybe she was a virgin at that, though I doubt it. Arranged to meet her on Thursday, and then home in about 10 minutes to hear Sonny's tale of woe, which, along with having something to eat, lasted until dawn.


Wednesday, 14 May 1969 Tun. Wells → Bromley → Tun. Wells
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Once again late up - must get back to some more usual sleeping pattern: this is comparatively ridiculous. I probably would not have got up when I did, at 1330, had it not been for Martin coming to give me a cheque for the parts for his car decoke. Stayed up after that, and had something in the way of breakfast. Sonny was not there, and I felt quite bored, so decided to go up to Bromley and see what was available there in the way of D types. Off accordingly in Martin's car, and it almost immediately started pouring with rain. Took me a goodly time to get to Bromley - could doubtless have bettered it even in an Ami 6 - but eventually made it, with the oil pressure hovering round the 2 km/cm⁻² mark, and in to see what they had, which to all intents and purposes meant nothing if not a 1965 DS19, with complete overhaul, as new for £745, which would probably be too much. In any case, had a look at it, and arranged to test drive it, though the fellow was on his own this afternoon and could not leave the place. In any case, started the thing up and did a bit of checking round: this car has quite a different character to it from the ID - the hydraulic pump makes a buzzing noise, not a clicking one, and the car lifts itself up much more quickly than I have ever seen on an ID.

The DS had a 7 piston rotary pump driven by a pair of fan belts, while the ID had a single piston pump driven, I think, from the camshaft.

It must be almost instantaneous at speed. The gear change mechanism was a bit sluggish, too, though this is supposedly part and parcel of the older Déesses.

Not at all. It was all a matter of tuning, though it's amazing how few mechanics understood the relatively simple process.

Then headed back through Bromley, chasing what could well have been a Mini-Ferrari, when suddenly my power went and I had no sparks. Wheeled it into the nearest garage, which happened to be a Rootes agent,

Rootes were the manufacturer of the car. My recollection is that the car broke down going down a hill, and they were on the left side of the road about half-way down.

and soon enough they found that the distributor baseplate had fallen apart, and bits had jammed into the flyweights, thus causing the drive dog to shear. Could do nothing about it then, and had to leave it until tomorrow, which left me just slightly worried as to what Martin would say. Thumbed back to Tun. Wells without any difficulty - significantly, 2 of the 3 lifts were in Minxes, same base as the Sunbeam Alpine. Rang Sonny and arranged to meet him at the Wimpy, and then in to see Graham and Jane James behind the counter, so did well financially. Sonny came in due course and told me that Bev had had the opearation, and was now recovering. Went home, and hung about for a little while, while Sonny had an argument with Jim. Then Martin came in, and I told him what had happened, and he seemed none too distressed - or, in typical English fashion, disguised his feelings. I offered to pay for repairs, to which he (damn him) did not seem to object, and then out again. I had a bath, and Jim splashed me with cold water, so Sonny and I decided to give him a cold bath, which resulted in a violent struggle, but we eventually got Jim in the bath, and about 1" of water on the bathroom floor.


Thursday, 15 May 1969 Tun. Wells
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Mum rang this morning round 0930, and so I had to get up and somehow explain to her why I did not want to come to London today, as a result of the immenent visits of the Goddess and Ruth.

The Goddess, of course, never came. For some reason I didn't mention it again.

Then put her on to Sonny, and myself went back to sleep until Sonny woke me a few hours later and offered me some coffee, so then got up and thought in more detail about what I was going to do today, and as a result enlisted Sonny's help in taking me into town and giving me £5. This he did, and then I bought some first aid for my shoes, then to Sainsbury's for food, and finally home, stopping only to buy a magazine which had some interesting articles on French cars in general, and a test on the Dyane 6 in particular, which showed her up as a very nice car, with even less performance than she should have had. Then home and tidied up again, repaired my shoes and hung about thumbing before it started to rain and I went down to pick Ruth up. Got there, soaking wet, about 5 seconds after she did, and then set off back home almost immediately and got wetter in the process. Back home, started to cook some tea, which proved to be an embarrassment, as by the time the water had heated, we were well under way with other pursuits which were not particularly compatible with tea-drinking - ended up rolling on the floor when we tried to get up to drink tea. This girl is randy, if ever I have met one. Before we had got too much further, Jim came back and put a temporary end to proceedings, and instead we decided to have something to eat early, and then, supposed, go off to see “Romeo and Juliet”. Had the makan, a very pedas curry, and Jim complained as a result, but eventually went outside, and Ruth and I forgot about Romeo and Juliet, and did our best to set up competition (no, that is not fair, Romeo and Juliet is a love affair: what I was doing with Ruth was purely sex. I don't think I could love anybody but Lesley.) In any case, had her (and myself) stripped to the waist within about half an hour - God, is she ugly! Maybe not, possibly, just somewhat pendulous.

She was only the second girl I had seen completely naked, and she much much more heavily endowed than Laura. But I don't recall thinking she was particularly ugly. Possibly much of this was written for the chance that Sonny or Jim might be able to decipher my diary.

In any case, be she forgiven for it by virtue of the fact that she is good at it, and proceed [?] at this point when Jim knocked on the door, I hurriedly put a shirt on, and she disappeared into Jim's room. Somehow transferred her to Sonny's room, and continued there, despite Ruth's opposition. The whole thing, however, was spoilt when Larry came along with his laugh, and scared the shit out of her - by the time I got down to it, she had dried up, and I shrivelled up. Persevered, and got somewhere, but by this time it was getting late, and Jim and Larry were due back, so we got dressed and went down to the Bull and had a drink. Poor Ruth - in many ways she reminds me of Queen Victoria in Kuching - she is quite intelligent, but so ugly that to preserve self-confidence she sleeps around (or does she?), which makes it even worse. I felt in a bit of a spot when she asked me to look at her and said, “Bin ich nicht häßlich?”. I somehow tried to tell her as tactfully as possible that I had seen worse, and maybe it worked.

My recollection was that I replied „Das habe ich nicht gesagt“. I pondered for some time about how appropriate that was.

After that at the Bull, back and messed around for a while, despite Jim refusing to leave the room - in any case, we were too tired. Then Sonny came back, and we took Ruth home, then back again while Sonny unfolded his personal tale of woe.


Friday, 16 May 1969 Tun. Wells
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Woke up, semi-conscious, at 0815 this morning, and misread my watch as 1615, which understandably agitated me. The extraordinary thing was that I felt quite wide awake a minute or two later, despite my strenuous activities last night and the fact that I didn't get to sleep until 0330. In any case, slept on until about 1030, when I woke feeling completely rested and had a cup of coffee with Sonny. Then set off slowly towards London, stopping en route to buy a newspaper with news about the riots which have been on in KL most of this week. The picture is not a pleasant one - nearly 100 people have been killed there in a 24-hour curfew on in KL, and food supplies are, not surprisingly, running low. Possibly the most depressing thing of the lot is that Tengku does not seem to acknowledge that the root of the trouble is in Malay preferentialism, but blames it on the Communists.

The Malaysian Constitution gives special preferences to Bumiputeras, effectively the Malays. It was without doubt a significant factor in the riots, and it remains contentious.

In any case, Tun Abdul Razak seems to be taking over in a National Operations Front with an object of restoring law and order to the country.

Then to see Bev and Mum - Bev had her appendix out yesterday (or was it Wednesday?), and is now recovering, though not feeling too good, and it looks like being next Wednesday before she comes out again. Hung about for quite a while, though there was not much to talk about. Mum ventured a few opinions on the situation back home; Dad rang up last night and told her his story (he was stranded in the home in KL, apparently with little more than eggs and dog food). Newspapers have ceased publication, and everything is in turmoil. Tengku thinks it will be back to normal by Monday, though Tun Razak says the emergency will probably continue for another 3 or 4 months, i.e. well into the time that we will be back there. Still, that in itself is nothing: I have been there before during a state of emergency, and noticed nothing. People in Malaysia, especially KL, are too civilised to go on like this for more than a week at the outside.

Out for a while with Sonny to get Bev something and to eat, and then back again, where we hung about for a further period of time. Off to cash a cheque just before 1500 hrs, then Sonny's tank emptied itself, and we headed, via the nearest petrol station, to Bromley, where I test drove a DS - I like the gear change, but am not so keen on the pwer steering; one seems to lose contact with the road, and at one point, going round a corner, I lost control in a way I have never done in an ID. Not altogether impressed, and Sonny much less so.

In fact, the steering of the DS is far superior to the ID. I was expecting it to feel the same, and it certainly doesn't. And when I went into that corner, I turned the wheel suddenly to the extent I would have done on an ID. But the steering of the DS is much more direct, and I nearly went up the pavement. The salesman was impressed, but not positively.

Picked up the Alpine - £11··1··0 to pay - and then burnt with Sonny back to Tun. Wells, watching him lift a wheel about 25 cm in the air, and, later, nearly hitting an oncoming Mini before he lost me. Back home, did little, but after a while, after having a nasi goreng, caught up on lost sleep, to be woken by the arrival of a policeman with the news that people were once again complaining about Sonny's exhaust noise. Off of our own volition to the [police] station, where we were told little of any comfort, and back to ring up Ruth, to arrange a rendezvous on Tuesday, and Lesley, who, bless her, seemed pleased to hear from me, and eventually arranged to see her on Thursday. Then off for a drink, while it dawned on me that, for the first time, I was actively juggling two girls. Back home again, and wrote a rather sloppy letter to Lesley telling her how much I loved her - I had to, as Sonny had alrady done so, and taken both of us by surprise.


Saturday, 17 May 1969 Tun. Wells → London → Tun. Wells
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And again up none too early, to the rather surprising sight of Jim waxing the floor with one of those machines I more commonly associate with our life in KB. Meanwhile, Larry was mowing the lawn outside, and Jim seemed insistent on leaving the window open, despite my complaints. In any case, eventually persuaded him to give up the polishing, as the polisher seemed to be suffering from some fault which was causing the leads to overheat and smoke. Eventually got up and not too much later came Sonny, and the two of us had some coffee, he also some bacon, while we wondered what Jim was up to. Allegedly he was having some girls over tonight, but this alone was not enough to explain why he was going to the trouble he was to tidy the place up. Still, that was no concern of ours. Set off instead for London, much later than intended, and apologised to Mum for not getting a cheque book for her. Then discussed the situation in KL, which, as we had expected, had considerably improved since yesterday, and Tengku's prediction that the riots will be over by Monday seems likely.

Bev was feeling better, though still none too strong, and again it was suggested that we went and had a bit to eat while she attended to her ablutions. Did so, and bought a paper in the process, and then off back to the hospital, where we stayed a fair while longer, however without effecting anything much. Eventually off home round 2000 hrs, while I had ample opportunity to observe a few of Sonny's less endearing driving habits. Stopped at the Wimpy bar, where we ordered more than we could pay for, and had to borrow some money from Graham. Home to find a red light burning, Larry making no progress with Sue, and Penelope making little progress with Jim. Off to the George, where we bumped into everybody all over again, had a drink, and then home to find the party over, and then had the usual sort of chat in which we accomplished little except a large expenditure of time


Sunday, 18 May 1969 Tun. Wells → London → Tun. Wells
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Up once again late - once lost, the ability to get up early is exceptionally difficult to regain. Accordingly it was this morning well after noon before we removed ourselves from our respective dormant protection and made our customary coffee. This process might have taken yet longer had Trevor not come over and asked for help tuning up his car - he said timing, but we decided that with the 40DCOE's, especially on a standard head, it would be these that needed tuning. In any case, we eventually got Sonny up and to talk to him, and subsequently to go elsewhere so that the neighbours would not raise hell - I think Trev's car could even be noisier than Sonny's now, if only from the carb intake roar.

In the meantime, I cooked a spahetti bolognèse [sic] au Gaſton, none too successfully, though it filled the gap. Sonny came back with a paper with the latest riot news in it, and then we set off on our daily trip to London to see how Bev was getting on, and she seemed much brighter today, having already emenated [sic] a couple of times from the room to go to the bog, and definitely she looked healthier than she has for a week or so. Hung about at length, especially as we could not do any errands for Mom, and watched the news and the launching (live) of the Apollo 10 space capsule which is to do everything except land a man on the moon. Even that looks like being accomplished in the next month or so. Then, round 1900, Sonny and I set off back home again, and in due course got home and Sonny thought about doing some work. Then I cooked some chicken curry, and in the process nearly killed Sonny messing around in the kitchen, and caused him to fall on the floor flat on his back, which hurt him considerably. Had a bath after that, spoke a while, in which we were joined by an insomniac Jim, and later to bed.


Monday, 19 May 1969 Tun. Wells → London → Tun. Wells
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And another week is with us, a particularly important time landmark now, with the riots in KL our continual worry: at least things appear, as predicted, to be returning to normal. The only thing that is not is the hour that Sonny and I, and, to a lesser extent, Jim, are keeping. Today it was again well afternoon before we woke up, despite Mum's request that we arrive in the morning, and as she wanted us to go to the bank for her, it meant more than a little hurrying in order to get there at a worthwhile time. Had no breakfast as a result, and off quickly to London, arriving shortly after 1400 - just to make matters worse, my watch was about 10 minutes slow, and so we had still less time than usual. Got Mum's shoes, which she wanted mended, from her, and this took an annoyingly long time - as ever, she infuriates me with the time she wastes with useless trivialities. In any case, we set off in Sonny's car to the bank, where I managed to get a cheque book with no trouble other than a long wait - I feel very self-conscious going there, with other people obviously Australian and probably considering me a Pom all over the place.

This must have been the Bank of New South Wales in Sackville Street.

Then to find a shoe-repairer, which we eventually did in Piccadilly Underground station, and got Mum's shoes done up quite well fairly quickly. Put some more money in the meter, and hit the jackpot - 2 hrs instead of 15 minutes for 6d - and along Regent St. to see Ja'afar Shawal of Interasia travel, quite a nice bloke at the top of 5 flights of stairs, and he told us the situation, none too encouraging.

This appears to be the availability of flights rather than the current situation in KL, which would have worried him too.

Back to the car, which needed a push start, and up to Bryanston Square, where we got the address of another Charter agents, and then tried to start Sonny's car, which again would not, so finally, after a lot of pushing and swearing, cleaned the battery terminals. Then back, slowly through the rush hour, to the hospital, where we stayed quite a while, watching TV about Germany, followed by some live colour TV from the Apollo 10 space capsule - quite fascinating, particularly when they showed two bloke [sic] upside down relative to each other, messing about with torches and biros floating in the air.

Tried to get on to Ruth, but without success: nobody answered. Then back with Mum to Ealing Broadway, back to Tun. Wells, meeting Richard Lyon on the way - brother of the Lyon twins in KL. Had some makan (only of the day) at the Curry Inn, and then back home, where Jim was still up and in a bad way because of threatened expulsion from school - had to sleep with him.


Tuesday, 20 May 1969 Tun. Wells
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Up this morning by some superhuman effort, round the 0830 mark, and rang Ruth up immediately, and explained to her that I had not been able to contact her earlier, and said that I intended nevertheless to see her today. Then had a cup of coffee and hung around for a while - of late I am becoming exceptionally lazy, and am doing nothing quite a bit of the time, even at the expense of this diary. Admittedly I have occasional zealous moments in which I make up for the rest of the time, though the pattern is becoming distressingly like that in April 1962. Still, my memory has improved since then;

Probably I meant April 1963, which also relativitizes my memory. I did start a diary at the beginning of 1962 (now lost), but I'm pretty sure I didn't keep it up for more than 2 weeks.

then I had difficulty writing a few cryptic notes in a pocket diary, whereas now I have no difficulty writing several pages about events which happened up to 4 days previously. Besides, with thoughts such as this I seem remarkably able to make up for loss of memory. Such, however, is not the case today; too much happened for that, even if Ruth does not agree. Walked into town at about the appropriate time, though admittedly I dilly-dallied on the way, and arrived at the Wimpy long enough after Ruth for her obviously disliked coffee to have a milky scum on top. Then off, after wishing Maurice a speedy end to his hangover, and then a rather odd route via the festival hall to Sainsburys, where we bought a lot of food, and then by bus - first time for a long time - up to Broadwater Down. Ruth was not too happy about coming to the flat - she had wanted to go to Hastings, and I suspect was not too keen on sex in any case. She claimed this morning to have been a virgin until she met me, which might even have been the case - she is a bit of an odd bag. I wonder how old she is. In any case, I decided I was tired and wanted to go to sleep, thus quashing her insistence on going to Hastings - I would not have minded going, had I not had very little money and no inclination to go swimming.

Presumably Ruth meant swimming in the sea, which is far too cold for that sort of thing.

In any case, I lay down on the sofa, fully intent on sleeping, and did very nearly go to sleep, but not quite. Eventually gave it up as a bad job and down to the Po-king for a cheap lunch (Gott sei Dank), and then up to see “Romeo and Juliet”, for which we were late as a result of stopping to see a 1923 Sunbeam which was in the showroom. I am having a lot to do with Sunbeams of late. Romeo and Juliet did not impress me the way it did last time, nor did the music impress Ruth to any great extent - she is furchtbar keen on mediaeval music, when it is any good.

In fact, though it's clear that the music in the sound track is not original, I still think that it's quite well done.

Then back home, to find Sonny, Jim and Penny already there, and Jim and Penny decided to do the cooking, which suited me fine, and not too badly did they do it. Then Sonny disappeared, Jim and Penny took to the couch, and Ruth and I had to be content with the armchair. Eventually Jim and Penny went off, ostensibly to Crowborough, and we took to the couch, while Ruth told me wie wahnsinnig sie mich mag, and I began to wonder if I had not bitten off more than I can chew. But women are enigmatic - Ruth is just plain ugly, and from this viewpoint alone I don't think I could love her,

As I've mentioned, I don't recall her as being particularly ugly—certainly had much worse later on. But somehow I didn't respect her.

but it occurred to me that, as an intellectual partner, she is way ahead of Lesley Cannings. Oh, what is the answer? I wish our relation had stayed in a purely sexual plane, but so is life. On the way, stopped for 1½ hours on the roadside - had only intended to make it 10 minutes. And I nearly promised to see her on Thursday.


Wednesday, 21 May 1969 Tun. Wells → London → Tun. Wells
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Maybe it is the fact that time goes quicker nowadays that causes days to be over before I have written up my diary - this seemingly homogeneous report is in fact coming in dribs and drabs. Or maybe it is the company I keep. Still, I am due for a Tapetenwechsel, and we will, I suppose, see what effect that has on it. Got up round the 1200 mark again today - I had better snap out of that pretty quickly - and it occurred to me that I was due up in London to do something or another for Mum. Accordingly down to the station, without any breakfast (doubt that did me much good) and off to London and Charing Cross. Just to make life that much happier, I got a letter from Lesley saying (again!) that she never wants to see me again. The only thing is, this time she is more convincing. Oh, what the hell. It would have only caused problems. Also, it has solved what to tell Ruth about tomorrow night (komm doch 'rüber!). Arrived in London and managed to book Mum's tickets for her, then rang her up and asked her which ones she wanted (the ones I booked) and if she wanted me to come out to Ealing Broadway. She did not, so I had nothing to do in London - those tickets cost her 6/- fees and £1 train fare for me, but I saw no point telling her that. Went up looking for a travel agent to tell me about flights to Madiera for Mum: the longer you stay, the cheaper it gets - for a return air fare, one pays £114. If one stays for at least 6 days, one gets the excursion fare of £74. And for £95 one can stay 11 days with everything included.

Then went and saw an hour show - these have changed in the last 12 years, for the worse, I fear. I often wonder at the motley crowd one sees there. Then out again, had my first bite to eat of the day, and tried to go back, but had to wait until 1910, so hung around and bought a couple of magazines.

In the evening, Charlie Francis and Brian came, and we had an exceptionally lively talk, which almost precluded me ringing Ruth up to give her the OK for tomorrow.


Thursday, 22 May 1969 Tun. Wells → Hastings → Tun. Wells
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Then Charlie and Brian left, Sonny had a bath, after which I persuaded him to shut up talking about Lesley; then he went to bed, Jim stayed up studying, and I did a bit of catching up on my diary. Then Jim came and asked me about square roots - took him [sic] an hour to tell him what they are and how to look them up, and still he didn't understand. Boy - is that bloke ever thick! Had a cup of coffee, and then to bed at about 0445. Woke again at 0745, feeling anything but rested, and set off down to the station accompanied by Jim. Went to Cannon St. - apparently there is no train to Charing Cross at 0832 - and thence to Paddington, where I arrived at 1000, just before Mum and Bev arrived in a taxi, Bev looking very pale. Got them their tickets and on to the train with apparently impressive efficiency, and Mum gave me a cheque for various costs, including the car. Down then to Regent St. to see Ja'afar Shawal, who took a deposit for Mum's flight, which should have been fully paid, and then showed me an article from the Malaysian High Commission about the rioting. Then to Carnaby Market, where I could not see Bruno, to a Wimpy Bar in Coventry St., where an American DJ talked to me like a long-lost buddy, and then to the Leicester Square hour show, which is more like the 1957 atmosphere - should be, too, since all the films are from that date. Then out and went back to Tun. Wells, arriving at the flat about 1415, and Sonny was none too pleasant about something. Hung around for a while, wondering whether I should persuade Ruth just to come up here, but eventually went down to the Wimpy to meet her. She then suggested we went to Hastings, so I succumbed and off - Hastings is a terribly dreary place, though for some reason Ruth likes it. Had some lousy fish and chips, and then back to Tun. Wells, where I had rather hoped to be rid of her, but she wanted to come up, and said she would get a taxi home - which she did, round 5 hours and 3 times later.


Friday, 23 May 1969 Tun. Wells → So'ton → Tavistock
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Had intended to wake up some time mid-morning today, but such was, unfortunately, not to be - not surprising, even at 1300, when I did wake up, I had only had 10 hours sleep, which under the circumstances was only just sufficient. In any case, put myself and my cases together pretty quickly, and got a rather reluctant Sonny to take me to the station, where I almost immediately got the train to London. At Sevenoaks, a rather nice girl got on and sat down opposite me - rather like a cross between Lesley and Bev, though with wierd, upturned nose. Seemed to have little enough respect for convention, and was carrying a geranium (I assume it was a geranium, though I have no reason to; I could not see it for the wrapping, and I don't know what a geranium looks like anyway). In any case, I left it at that; after all, there was not that much significance in it, though I found myself hoping that she would be on the Southampton train. The funny thing was that she was; when I went up to the Buffet car to have a well-deserved snack, after I sat down, I noticed her opposite me, reading “Wyvern”, the Uni. of Essex magazine. Wonder if she comes from there. Went back, wondering about this strange turn of events, only to have her come and sit down opposite me a few minutes later. That, however, is where the coincidence ends;

She clearly recognized a hopeless case.

I maybe should have spoken to her, but did not, and she continued on past Southampton.

At Southampton, caught a taxi to Criterion, and there found my car completed, albeit making the same popping noises as before, which annoyed me considerably, as did the fact that the thing would not idle; they said some bullshit about the thing being cold, and I took it out and it went well enough, though it still would not ideal—attributed it to a dirty jet, and set off for the Mc. Gibbons, where I picked up some barang, then went to Devon through the Whitsun traffic, which was better suited to thumbing than to driving - picked up a couple of girls thumbing to Crown Hill, Plymouth, from Southampton, which they left 10 minutes before I did. Took them as far as Yelverton, which was not bad from their point of view. Traffic on the Exeter Bypass was terrible, so I continued on the A30 through Exeter, and then on the B3212 to 2 Bridges, and down through Princetown to Yelverton, dropped the girls, then on to Grimstone, where I only had a chance to talk to Mum before going into Tavvy and booking in at the Queen's Head.


Saturday, 24 May 1969 Tavistock → Exeter → Tavistock
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Had asked the bloke to wake me at 0730 this morning, but he did not, though fortunately I woke of my own accord at 0805 - shades of ICI. Out for breakfast, where the slap-happy illusion was further helped by the girl giving me the dinner menu. Had breakfast despite, and then spent a while on the car, including adjusting the carb, which has now decided to idle, to give the correct 800 rpm tickover. Then tidied out the car, and subsequently myself, and set out for Grimstone, where I found Bev having breakfast in bed and Mum just on the point of getting up. Eventually got them moving, and set off on the A386 via Okehampton to Exeter (I always thought the A386 went across the moor; must check on that). Got caught in a couple of bottlenecks, one in Okehampton, the other coming into Exeter, and arrived at the Estate Agents 5 minutes before closing time. It is obviously a buyer's market - the fellow was quite prepared to spend ½ an hour trying to sell us a house, after he should have closed. Got the addresses of 10 different ones, and then set out to look for lunch. Instead we found Marks and Spencers, where Bev and Mum spent £40 with which was, on one side, remarkable alacrity, but on the other side an unending monotony. I should never have told them one could pay by cheque. Eventually finished, and off to the Ship Inn for lunch, only to find it shut, so ended up at the Empire Grill with a well-served but tasteless fillet steak, and then out to Exmouth to look at a couple of places, including one which Mum had though to be an excellent proposition; it was a beach bungalow made out of two old railway carriages, and was absolutely hideous. Mum disliked it even more than I and spent the rest of the time swearing alternately at herself and the agent. Then to Puddington, other side of Crediton, which I had estimated at 10 miles, but which came closer to 17 the way we went - even once I got to know the numerous country lanes this would not be likely to drop below 14.

The intention was to find somewhere for me to live while studying in Exeter. It seems that the most direct route to the University of Exeter is in fact 13.5 miles (21.8 km).

Still, this was the only disadvantage, and indeed it had been my favourite, but unfortunately it had already been removed from the market, so back, Mum cursing our luck - I must be becoming apathetic - to see an uninspiring house in Crediton, which we did not look over, and then another terrace house in Exeter, not far from the Uni, and with quite few possibilities, but in a lousy part of town - did not strike it from our list, but on consideration thought a place in the country would be better. Then off home, via Chagford, where we had somehow expected the Old Forge to yet be open at 1930, but of course it was not. Back to Tavistock for fish and chips. Then took Mum and Bev home and cleaned out my carb, as the idle was not going too well. I do not think this 26/34 CSIC (or is it SCIC?) has an idler jet; what I removed and meticulously cleaned proved to be the pump jet. In any case, it was a bit indecisive, and on top of that I had fun adjusting the lights later on, when the car kept stalling. Had a bit of a chat with Vickie, who, however, has exams. Very tired to bed.


Sunday, 25 May 1969 Tavistock, and around
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Whitsunday

Up later than intended today, and then only because a girl walked in looking for a non-existent tray, and so snappily up, and just managed to get to the dining room by 0900, the hour at which breakfast supposedly stops being served. Then did a bit more messing around with the car, which refuses to idle the same way for more than a few hours at a time, and I am getting fed up with it. Also suspect I need new piston rings, if not pistons and liners. Then off to Grimstone to find Mum cooking some breakfast, and so, after my own large one, halfheartedly helped her to eat the same. Then, by degrees, got Bev up, and in the meantime discovered that everybody except Vickie was going to see William and Mr. Andrew win some boating race, and we were to follow with the food. This we did, at the usual time lag one comes to expect when dealing with Mum. Got there OK without unduly losing our way in time to see William and Mr. Andrew coming down the finishing line. Helped them put their boat away, and then to some bridge, name forgotten, where we had a picnic lunch, and then home, taking William and Georgina with us for some strange reason. Back home, Bev was feeling grotty and Mum wanted to pack, so off in the car to see the end of the Ten Tors walk, which, however, was not where it should have been - went back, where I found William with the news that it had been held in Okehampton. I think I might go in the Ten Tors one of these years - could be rather fun, even if the course is up to 60 miles. Then off with Mum and Bev to Chagford, with the idling further playing up, and found an enormous queue outside the Old Forge - had to wait an hour before we got served. Still, it was quite fun to reënact the old days, even with a difference. Mum had to spoil it by blowing up over a wasted 4d in an attempt at a phone call to Mrs. Andrew - I have had enough of this. I have put up, with as good humour as possible, with Mum's continuous insinuations that I am an idiot, I do everything as wrong as I can, that I drive in a way that endangers everybody in a 5 mile radius, and, worst of all, that I know nothing about cars and that everything I do with one leads to disaster, but I have had it when she accuses me of lying when it is obvious I have not, and then giving me a lecture better directed at herself about honesty to oneself. I think, gradually, that I am coming to the conclusion that, were Mum not my mother, I would not want to know her. This does not hurt me unduly - just an unpleasant fact. I should still, on the other hand, very much want to know Dad - this after removal of all financial and protective advantage that go with parenthood.

Then back to Tavistock, all gradually calming down, where we had fish and chips. Then to Grimstone, where we watched, again, the Caine Mutiny. Queeg (or however one spells it) no longer reminds me as much of Mum as he did lat time (don't know whether I recorded the fact then). Then back to the pub for a drink, watched TV for a while, and to bed.


Monday, 26 May 1969 Tavistock, and around
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Whit Monday

Up still later this morning, and as before only because somebody came in looking for something. Out in almost record time for breakfast, nevertheless did not finish before 0939, and then out to Grimstone to find Bev still asleep, and Mum just getting up - I am arriving earlier every time. Then down with Mum and messed around tidying up her room and getting some breakfast for her, and at the same time trying to work out some plan of action for her, which, as usual, we did not. In any case, eventually settled down to the old job of trying to make my car idle properly, and once again got it going satisfactorily for the while, and decided to replace the dashpot lever, which was an adventure in itself. Then did up a few minor things like cleaning the lamp glasses, and fixing up the foglight warning light, and trying to work out whether a dashboard mounted mirror would give better visibility - it definitely would forward, though I have my doubts about rearward vision. Then finally it was decided that we would go down and watch William win another boat race, and took Georgina and some food. Arrived this time just before the start and accordingly had a longer wait, before we got our lunch. Pulled the seats out of the car, which went down very well - must do it more often. Why don't I get a girl with a Dyane? Could put an ad in the Uni paper. Then had makan in the Grotina, and after that off for a prolonged drive around Dartmoor, and nearly to Bodmin Moor. Then home again, and had some fish and chips, after which we dropped Georgina and went into Plymouth to see “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”, which was not as good as I had expected, though it still gave food for thought. Back, had a tearful parting scene with Bev, and then to the hotel and an early bed.


Tuesday, 27 May 1969 Tavistock → Exeter → Maidenhead Images for 27 May 1969
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Up at 0730, as intended, and got on my leisurely way, and then in to see Mum, who was still asleep, and so woke her up, and encouraged her to get a move on, and went down to ask Mr. Papps for the bill. Then had breakfast, paid the bill, and set off, watching a Pom complaining to the managress about a cat that lives here - very nice cat, and we were both on its side.

Went across the moors, and to Exeter, where we returned to Property Seekers, who, at Mum's instigation, decided to ring up Major Fraser again about Town Living,

 
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and he said that there was still a possibility that the house would, in fact, be sold, and so we decided to think about it.

This was the property in Puddington. From memory, it was part of a larger farm, and it looked nothing like the image (by Derek Harper).

Round to other Estate Agents, and had some morning tea, then arranged to visit the place, and bought an Ordnance survey map for the purpose. Out, discovering in the process that one of the roads marked on the map was in fact impassable to motor vehicles. Had a look round the main place, which interested Mum, and then saw the other cottage, which is in rather grotty state, though Mum saw no reason why I should not live there. I had a few of my own doubts, and wanted to have a look at a few of the other places, but Mum's mind was made up: she wanted that place. The thing that worrys me most of all is that upstairs the bedroom never exceeds 6ft [1.83 m, about 10 cm less than my height]. I would not mind living in the other cottage, which is not so small, but this looks like being an overpowering nuisance. Admittedly, the place has charm, but there are a few things apart from charm that I consider necessary for making a house habitable. Perhaps Mum likes the idea that it dates from the 14th century [modern estimates are that it's 16th century], which does not interest me; I would much rather have an original edition of the Canterbury Tales. Back into Exeter, and parked the car while Mum negotiated to buy the cottage for £300, with an option on the rest should it come up for sale - as I hope to God it does.

I can't recall this detail. I probably never mentioned the place again in my diary, but somehow we didn't complete the purchase. But the sum of £300 seems ridiculously low, even in those days; when I did rent a house a year later, I was paying £3 a week rent.

Then set off in the direction of London, looking at a couple of rather uninteresting places in Ottery on the way. I must confess that Town Living is by far the best we have seen, if only we could get both cottages (after all, I plumped for it right from the start). Drove on to Maidenhead quite quickly, stopping only at Ilchester for makan, and booked into the Riviera Hotel, right on the Thames, and doubtless expensive as a result.

Strange the tricks that memory plays. In the 1980s I had several connections with Maidenhead (Tandem was just up the road at High Wycombe), but until typing in this entry, I had been under the impression that we had spent the night at Henley-on-Thames, 15 km further west. But I recognize the hotel from its web site:


Wednesday, 28 May 1969 Maidenhead → London → WGC
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Girl in with the tea early this morning, but my old habits are rearing [?] their ugly heads again, and it took me a while to wake up. Finally did, and down to the dining room for breakfast, which was nothing fantastically good. Then paid the bill and set off for Slough, where I thought to get some parts, and Mum had a look at the Citroën Dyane, which apparently impressed her. Could not get the parts, and so back, and off to London, while Mum was asking all sorts of questions about the Dyane - I wonder if she is interested. I think the possibility of doing 45 - 50 mpg [5.5 - 6.5 l/100 km] interests her. In London, Mum got into just about the first hotel she saw, very untypical, and so unloaded and looked round for a parking space, then over and up to see Mum in none too good a room for which she is paying £4 a night - as I pointed out to her, a bath is not worth £1 a night. Then Mum made some phone calls, and I joined in, and also wrote a note to Bev, and then, after a bit of thought, we set off for the Bank of NSW. Dropped Mum there, and then parked the car, and came back to find her not there. After an hour of waiting, decided that I might as well go and have something to eat if she was going to be much longer. Then she found me: she had been waiting outside in the foyer for all of the hour. Off, meeting a Mike Bell [who? I no longer recall the name] by chance in Regent Street, and then had some pancakes in a place in Haymarket as lunch. After that, Mum thought she would like to see Portobello Road, and so out that way and found it without all too much difficulty, but Mum was disappointed with it - as well she might have been. In any case, she then proceeded to look at some furniture shops round the corner, and spent a long time there. When we finally did get away it was to go and have a look at her flat in Ealing. That was quite nice, and obviously has possibilities. Then had a look at a Bijou - I like the car, and think that, with a 3CV engine, I could go far (and fast). Then Mum wanted to show me some “Bijou” houses (coincidence, eh?), and then into town, and booked Mum into the Royal Commonwealth Society as from tomorrow for 4 nights. Then home to the hotel, saw the news, and off to WGC, where I had plenty of explanation to do to Mrs. Garrard, but somehow made it.

After nearly a month, it was a good thing that my room hadn't been re-let.


Thursday, 29 May 1969 WGC → London → So'ton → WGC
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Up as usual, or more or less, and down to to talk to Mrs. Garrad, who kept me at length from my breakfast. Eventually, however, got away and to ICI, where I looked in vain for Mr. Cheesmer, from whom I had got a letter this morning, and then off to see Peter Clegg, who gave me a pep talk, and told me a lot of nice things about my family fortunes and my ability, but with the usual let-down on perseverance. In any case, he was not particularly annoyed with me, and so I packed up all my barang and got out, heading down towards London and picking up 3 girls from Sheffield Uni, who were trying to get back to the North, and so dropped them at the beginning of the M1 and then into town, and parked outside the Vanderbilt to go and see Mum, and subsequently got all her barang and took it over to the Royal Commonwealth Society in Northumberland Avenue, and put the barang in there, and then out again to look for a watch strap and lunch, as I had once again broken my watch strap and could not be bothered repairing it. Found nothing in the Strand, and so had lunch at Lyons and then parked the car, as per usual, behind Farnum house and set off on foot towards Interasia. Bought a strap at Piccadilly circus, and then headed towards Carnaby Market, where Bruno was - he has in his employ, of all coincidences, a girl called Annette Wescott, whom Bev knew in Kuching. Apparently she was just dying to talk about it all. Mum in the meantime was very interested in what was on sale there, and bought quite a bit of stuff. Bruno himself is not looking too well - very thin, and looks as if he is taking heroin. Then off, through Carnaby St to Regent St, where Mum spent quite a while at a furriers, and then to see Ja'afar Shawal and pay Mum's fare. Then on, and cashed a cheque at the bank, after which I took Mum out to Portobello road, where she had a further look round, and then back to the RCS, where I dropped her and then headed out to Southampton - for all the high oil consumption and irregular idling, he car is still performing remarkably well, and goes as fast as ever it did. Arrived at the McGibbons, and met Pat and Russ, Jim's cousin and boyfriend, and offered to take them to Reading. Did this in due course, after I had been given makan, and got from So'ton to Reading in 49 minutes, to the great impression of Pat and Russ. Had a cup of tea and talk with Russ's uncle, and then on to WGC, where I arrived too tired to do any packing.


Friday, 30 May 1969 WGC → London → So'ton → Tun. Wells
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Up later this morning, as a result of my great tiredness of last night, and then got packing, pausing a while to try to ring Mum, who, however, was on the line, so carried on packing, a tedious business, and managed to contact her later, when I had more or less completed the packing. Somehow managed to load everything into the car, which sagged mightily under the load, and then set off into London, having a haircut on the way. Arrived at the RCS just a little late, which did not appear to bother Mum, and then off to park the car and do some work which Mum apparently thought took priority over lunch - going to the bank. Then off with Mum's fur to the furriers, where they told her that her prized Russian Chinchilla was in fact nothing more than rabbit, albeit very well done. Then she had herself measured up for some alterations to the thing, after which we decided that we might finally) go and have some lunch, about which we were as choosy as ever. Eventually found a little Indian restaurant were we had a couple of very hot curries, to the evident amazement of the staff, and then off in search of the Silver Vaults, which Mum had been told were hard to find. Nothing could have been further from the truth; there were signs everywhere. The place is enormous, and I was rather glad that we only had a limited amount of time to do it all in. Eventually off, and took Mum out to the Kuleszas, where I dropped her and went further out - this car is again not idling, and making a damned nuisance of itself in the process. Got to Southampton a little more slowly - the car is rolling more noticably with the load, and oversteering on occasion, which I can now hold without any great problem. Unloaded the car in Southoampton, where Mrs. McGibbon insisted on helping me, much to my worry, and eventually got it done. Then off to Tun. Wells, where I arrived to find everybody at a party, and so bedded down in the car and off to sleep.


Saturday, 31 May 1969 Tun. Wells → London → Tun. Wells
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Sonny woke me not much later asking where the hell I had been all this time, to which I replied Devon, and then said that Ruth had been calling frequently all week, and said that she had something important to say - damn it, it is too important to know whether she is pregnant or not. Then Sonny disappeared inside, with I suggestion that I stay there until he come out, and the next thing I knew it was morning, so off back to London via a petrol station, and arrived at Northumberland Avenue round 1100, as requested, but could not get a parking space, so by the time I arrived at the RCS on foot it was 1125, and Mum was not in evidence, so I went round the corner and had a bite to eat, and then back, to find Mum apparently having been in the vicinity all the time. Went up for lunch, while she told me about the gem of a piece of silver - milk jug - which she had bought at the silver vaults this morning, and then we went off, yet again, to Portobello road, much against my will, especially as I am rather worried about my car. In any case a lot more was happening today than at any other time, so walked around and had a look at some silverware, which absolute entranced Mum, though the prices were much lower than at the silver vaults, and I think she began to regret having bought the jug there. In any case, she bought quite a bit more stuff, including a rather opulent and possibly over-ornate biscuit box, another (plate) milk jug, and a few other odds and ends, all this taking a couple of hours. Then she transferred her attention to jade and stuff upon seeing a statuette of the Chinese Goddess of Mercy in rose quartz on a jade base for only £23, but instead of buying it we went over to the Chelsea Market, which looks more than interesting, and then almost immediately back to Portobello Road to buy the statuette. Then the farce was over, and we went back to the hotel to have a look at the spoils, after which we had makan, went and bought Mum some cough mixture, and hit the jackpot in a phone while calling Bev - spoke to her for 15 minutes for about 1/-. Then to a cinema to see “Skidoo”, which I thought quite a good film, though it started off rather drearily. What was possibly the best innovation was the credits, which were both read and written - the effect was fantastic, and most people stayed behind to hear them. Then to the RCS, rang up Dad, who must have jumped for joy to be called at 0530 on a Sunday morning, spoke for a while, and then I off to Tun. Wells, where I finally had a chance to talk to Sonny about various matters, which somehow kept us going until 0245, when we finally got to bed.


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