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by Paul Beenaround Paul Beenaround

VIEWS: 13 PAGES: 44

  • pg 1
									The lim bo years
          by


   Paul B eenaround
               New beginnings

After the wedding reception it was straight to the
airport for Alex and his new wife, where they were
pleasantly surprised to find that his friend Barry,
who worked for the airline, had arranged for them to
have special treatment – including a bottle of
champagne - on the plane to London. They spent the
night there after dining out and seeing a show. In the
morning Alex’s uncle, who was a London taxi driver,
drove them to the station where they took the train
down to Southampton to board an Italian cruise ship
for their long sea journey to Melbourne in Australia.
They made some final phone calls to family and
friends while on board before the ship slipped its
berth. There was a carnival atmosphere, with
bunting everywhere and hundreds of people standing
on the dockside to wave them off. Most of the people
on board were like them, going on the £10
emigration scheme to Australia and so had
a lot of family and friends to see them off.
By coincidence an old friend of Alex’s
called Arthur was emigrating with his mother and
Arthur had quite independently ended up on the
same ship as them. During the course of the four
week sea journey they played many games of scrabble
together and shared a dining table for the whole
journey. The ship was like a floating hotel with many
entertainment facilities, including a cinema, several
           discos, a gym and a library. The food was
           excellent with three meals a day as well as
           morning and afternoon tea being provided.

                                                     2
         They often joined Arthur at the late night
         discos, which reminded Alex of the not so far
         off days when he and Arthur had visited the
          local dance halls in their home town.
It wasn’t too long before the ship started to feel a lot
smaller, even with so many people on board. For
Alex the constant flow of restaurant type meals soon
started to pall, and he longed for some good plain
food. They were supposed to go via the Suez Canal,
but due to the six day war between Israel and Egypt
it was closed and they had to go by the less interesting
route down the West coast of Africa. Their first port
of call was therefore Las Palmas in
Grand Canary, where Alex’s brother
was living. They had not seen each other
for several years and he was allowed on
board to see them. The long sea journey
was made easier for them as they had
their own cabin with a shower, port hole
and bunk beds, unlike many others who had to share
six to a cabin.
They crossed the equator on a very hot day, and
crossing celebrations were held around the swimming
pool. A greased pole had been laid over the pool and
the water below slopped backwards and forwards as
if in a teacup. Soon after this they arrived in
Capetown on a beautiful sunny day with Table
Mountain standing boldly in the background. The
ship was only there for the day and they opted for
doing their own thing whilst sharing a taxi with
             Arthur and his mother on a local tour.
             The driver was a black South African who
             Arthur thought had favoured visiting

                                                       3
predominately black locations, but it
was still a good tour, followed by a ride
up to Table Mountain in a cable car.
The next leg of their journey was the longest one.
They were at sea without seeing land for almost two
weeks before they finally reached Australia. Up until
then the clocks hadn’t changed, but once they left
Capetown they were changed half hourly every night,
and they lost a day when they crossed the
International Date Line.        The ship berthed at
            Freemantle, from where they could see a
            long white beach stretching off into the
            distance towards Perth, and there was a
            fierce hot wind blowing across it. They
            took a taxi to the city where they spent a
            very pleasant day wandering around.
It took several days to reach Melbourne, travelling
along a very stark and seemingly uninhabited sun
bleached coastline which stretched for several
thousand miles. To get to Melbourne the ship had to
pass through Port Philip Heads into a huge
landlocked bay before travelling a further twenty
miles to the port of Melbourne on the far side. The
honeymoon was over and Alex and his wife were both
feeling a little nervous and apprehensive about what
the future might hold for them.
At the time Australia was in a state of shock because
their Prime Minster Harold Holt had disappeared
whilst skin-diving off Port Philip Heads and was
never to be found again. They spent their first day in
Melbourne with Arthur and his mother before they
set off for their final destination, Tasmania, a very
large island 200 miles south of Melbourne.

                                                     4
        They were put into a government run hostel
        while they looked for work and somewhere to
        live. They also had to have mandatory chest
        x-rays and take out private medical insurance
        as there wasn’t a free health service there
then. During this time they got friendly with an
English couple ten years older than them called Bill
and Monica. Bill was a high powered confident type
of person. He was an engineer and had a job waiting
for him with the Shell fuel company. Within a week
they found a flat in the southern part of Melbourne in
a district called East St Kilda. While Alex was trying
to get a job in aviation he took a
job with the Melbourne Police
department as a motor mechanic
to tide him over, but as it happened
he stayed with them for over two
years as nothing came of his
attempts to get into aviation. The workshops were
located in the old Melbourne jail where Ned Kelly
and some other notorious bush rangers had been
jailed and hung. This building was opposite the
Melbourne Police headquarters, the equivalent of
Scotland Yard, at the top end of the city. His wife got
a job with a car insurance firm, which was a bit
different from the bank work she was used to doing.
They had very little money between them and they
just bought the basics that they could afford for their
unfurnished flat such as a bed, kitchen table and
                chairs, plus a couple of armchairs and
                an elderly TV. Their two cabin trunks
                with a blanket over them served as
                extra seating for any visitors.

                                                      5
          Melbourne has an excellent public transport
          system including a very large tram network,
so getting about was easy while they waited for their
car to arrive from England. Alex found a diving club
within a week and was invited on a dive the following
weekend at a place called Flinders, sixty miles from
Melbourne. When they came round to pick him up
there wasn’t any room for his wife in the car and his
leaving her on her own got him the sulks for several
days, something he was to become familiar with
throughout the course of their married life.
Their car finally arrived and he had
to have a sort of MOT done on it as
well as registering it with inclusive
third party insurance. His job at the
Police workshops was very tedious as
there were too many mechanics and not enough
work. Within a short time of being there an eighteen
year old apprentice, a very likeable lad called Dean,
died in a car crash, which burned, whilst coming
back from the Gippsland lakes after a bank holiday
weekend. The first Alex knew about it was when
their police sergeant in charge started clearing out his
locker.
They met Bill and Monica socially, with Bill being
keen to take up diving. He bought himself a load of
second-hand diving equipment and expected Alex to
show him how to use it, something that wouldn’t
happen today.       The moment Bill’s head went
     underwater his confidence and zeal disappeared
     and he only lasted for a few dives. On their last
     dive together they saw some porpoise’s that


                                                       6
looked a bit like sharks and Alex had never
seen anyone leave the water so fast. Bill
and Monica hadn’t been married very long, but he
heard later on that they had split up. The next one to
take up diving was Taffy, a store man at Alex’s
workshop. On one dive at Cape Schanck, a headland
in a nature reserve sixty miles from Melbourne, they
saw a huge stingray lying on the sand which must
have been at least 8ft across. Alex usually carried a
        small spear gun which wouldn’t have been
        much use against the sharks in the area, but
        Taffy said go on, shoot it. He didn’t, instead
        giving it a poke. It objected to this and lifted
        off like a small aircraft. Taffy’s diving didn’t
last long either, but he sold his gear to Dave, a huge
6ft plus Yorkshire man that he worked with, and
Dave turned out to be a natural. Because of his size a
single air tank didn’t last very long and he had to
invest in a twinset. Dave was a single bloke who had
emigrated with his cousin Eddy. Eddy also gave
diving a try, but he was nowhere near as good as
Dave. Sadly Eddy died a few years later after a
heavy drinking session when he choked in his sleep.
Dave and Alex often dived together and once had a
scary moment when they looked under a ledge and
saw four Port Jackson sharks lying there, but they
weren’t the dangerous kind.
Dave and Alex with his wife made a few weekend dive
trips to a place called Mt Gambier in South Australia.
Mt Gambier is famous for its huge Blue Lake sitting
on top of a hill, but they were there to dive the
famous freshwater Picaninny Ponds which
a few years later were made out of bounds

                                                       7
       due to the large amount of divers that had died
in the cave network below the 110ft level. This dive
site was situated in the middle of a sheep paddock
several miles from the sea. All Alex could say after
swimming out from a wooden jetty across a shallow
muddy pond and pushing through the reeds, was that
it was just like free falling as they descended down
the underwater chasm in crystal clear water.
The next day they dived in Baby Blue Lake
which was the complete opposite. It was very
murky with not much to see except sheep’s
bones, and they had a bumpy assent from a
100ft up the sloping sides as it was shaped like a bell.
Dave and Alex had some more scary moments when
diving at a place called Canterbury Jetty Road, along
the ocean back beach which could only be done when
the winds were offshore. The wind changed direction
while they were down and they had to make their
way up a depression in the reef to get out with heavy
surf rolling over them. Alex managed to beat the
surge, but he lost his grip on Dave who lost some of
his diving gear in the process. They were always in
search of new untested dive sites, and on one such
occasion they found one with a nice beach with sand
so hot it could only be crossed in sandals, which
pleased the girls. It was a surf beach with access
through one single break in the reef. They got out ok,
but when they started back they had to come back
underwater through the break in the reef because of
the heavy surf. They hauled themselves hand over
hand from rock to rock across the seabed due to the
strong undertow with their dwindling air supply
          giving out just as they reached the beach.

                                                       8
Dave often brought a girl along who he had
picked up the night before. On one such
occasion they were sharing his car with a
large Maltese girl who reeked of garlic when they got
a puncture. They couldn’t get enough ground
clearance to remove the wheel until she reluctantly
got out of the car still munching her garlic sandwich.
       Alex often dived on his own, which was a taboo
       thing to do then, though more people do it
      nowadays. Diving equipment was very basic
     with many divers improvising much of it. He
     built himself a power head, which was essentiality
   a .410 shotgun cartridge in a short barrel attached
to a firing pin device on the end of a broom handle. It
went off on impact and the effect on sharks was
devastating. Ashamedly he did kill a few harmless
Port Jackson sharks while testing it.
He used to go to Cape Schanck most of the time,
which was a wild place with a long climb down to the
beach from the car park. It had two sides that could
be dived, the eastside and the westside. The westside
was the best for diving, but the sea conditions didn’t
often allow it. The trek down to the beach carrying
full diving gear was very taxing; even more so coming
back up, and it was only at the end of their marriage
that his wife told him how much she hated their
excursions there. He couldn’t leave her at home on
her own, but he had to admit later on that the diving
had become an obsession which may well have played
a part in the breakdown of their marriage. When it
                   was too windy they used two other
                   dive sites with wooden jetties off
                   beaches called Portsea and Flinders.

                                                      9
They made good shallow dives, and she
probably liked their sandy beaches.
It wasn’t all about diving as he was already a
qualified pilot. He acquired a restricted Australian
private pilot’s licence, and after sitting the theory
exams and taking a flying test he was allowed to fly
within a fifty mile radius of the airfield. He started
off at a place called Morrabin, which was the light
aircraft’s equivalent of Heathrow, with parallel
runways. He only went up there once before he
found a smaller one called Tyabb, which had grass
runways and no air traffic control. It was thirty
miles from Melbourne and on the way to the diving
sites, so it could be said that he sometimes managed to
          piss his wife off twice in one day. The flying
          was a lot cheaper than in the UK, so he
          managed to go up every few weeks just doing
          half an hour at a time in a Cessna 150
          training     aircraft,    with   her  usually
accompanying him. On one occasion, when it was
very windy, they went up against his better
judgement because the instructor had insisted it was
ok as the wind was down the runway. From the
moment they left the ground he knew it was a big
mistake as he sat there gripping the controls and
fighting to stay in control of the aircraft. He went
straight on to the final approach whilst trying to look
calm and collected as the descending aircraft swooped
and dipped on the approach between a row of trees
before finally landing with a thump and still in one
piece, which was probably more due to luck than his
flying skills. Alex was already a Judo player so he
joined a club in his area. He rapidly progressed to

                                                      10
   brown belt level by taking two gradings at the
   Melbourne University. On one occasion a Japanese
   naval ship was docked in Melbourne and they sent
   twenty of the crew, who were all black belts, to
practice at his club. Needless to say the Australians
were well and truly beaten, but at least they got to
fight the real players. His wife didn’t seem inclined
to do much with her free time, not that he was
stopping her, except accompany him on whatever he
did. She didn’t seem to have any interests and as he
was to find out when their marriage was over, she
didn’t like his very much either.
At the Police workshops he transferred to the small,
but very busy, motorbike section where he was
trained in motorbike work as well as going on a crash
course with the police motorbike riding school. It
was all very exciting as these bikes were 650cc
Triumphs, Kawasaki’s and a few BMW’s and he had
previously only ever ridden a bicycle.              The
motorbikes he was riding were operational ones
decked out with flashing lights and sirens.
Once while on this course on a wet day he got stuck
on a tramline with a tram coming towards him. The
other guys were killing themselves laughing when he
left it to the last minute to take evasive action. Once
he got his licence he was allowed to take a bike home,
though really he was running it in after major repair
work as the police couldn’t use them until this had
been done. Because he didn’t live that far away he
had to go out in his own time to clock up the extra
miles. He usually did this once a month when he had
             an extra day off in the week after working
             his compulsory monthly weekend. It was

                                                     11
a typical government job, so he used to get
half a week’s pay in overtime, plus a day off. It was
on one of these working weekends that he was asked
to go over to police headquarters to be part of an
identity parade. He stood and watched a very beaten
up man walk down the line looking at them. He
didn’t pick anyone out, not even Alex. On another
occasion Alex had taken a          bike out into the
country on a very hot                day and found
that every time he went              up a hill the
engine seized up because            the piston rings
had been gapped incorrectly, not one of his jobs. He
was still twenty miles out of Melbourne and the only
way he could get home was by coasting down the hills
with a dead engine allowing it to cool off before
starting it up again on the flat. The police had a high
turn over of motorbikes and various agencies were
always sending up their latest models for them to try
out in the hope that they might get a sales contract.
One that really impressed Alex was a Triumph
Trident, which was unbelievably quiet and very
fast. He once took it up the road in a 35mph zone
and within a hundred yards he was up to a
100mph outside the Melbourne Traffic Office.
Every few months a new batch of motorbikes would
arrive that needed running in, which meant clocking
up a thousand miles in a week. The police riders did
this, but they had to have a duty mechanic following
them in a van. All the mechanics took a turn at this
perk and that was how he got to see most of Victoria.
He would cover 200 miles in a day and ended up
              seeing a lot of Australia that his wife
              never saw, including some of the places

                                                     12
where the notorious bushranger Ned Kelly
had been in action. On two occasions he
witnessed the police riders involved in minor traffic
accidents and then had to spend lengthy sessions in
the local police station making statements. On one of
these trips he managed to get the elderly workshop
van up to a 100mph going downhill, only to find out
later that one of its front tyres was nearly flat. On
another occasion one of the police riders went sick
and Alex had to ride his bike for the rest of the week,
and did he have a sore backside by the end of it.
       Once, when he was riding home down a hill, a
       motorist swung his car door open without
       looking, hooking the crash bar of Alex’s
       Triumph motorbike. This brought him to a
       sudden halt and he fell over sideways on to the
       adjacent tram line with his leg trapped under
       the bike, just as a tram was bearing down on
him. He managed to leap clear with the front of the
tram catching him a glancing blow on the hip. It all
ended up in court with Alex as the star witness.
There was more excitement when someone who
should have known better decided to make a film
about Ned Kelly, starring Mick Jagger with the film
crew setting up shop in the corner of their very large
workshop. Alex saw quite a bit of Mick Jagger and
the film crew, who were using their toilet facilities,
but not his girlfriend Marianne Faithful since she was
confined to her hotel room after a drug overdose.
They wanted the hanging scene to be exactly where it
had happened, in the cell block area at the back of the
building. This was where Alex used to eat
his lunch when it was hot as the thick stone

                                                     13
         walls were always cool. They even recovered
         the original hanging beam from Pentonville
         jail and rebuilt the gallows in its original place.
Alex got someone to take a picture of him standing on
the trapdoor with a rope around his neck. For the
100th anniversary of Ned Kelly’s demise, Alex’s
diving friend Dave was coerced into wearing Ned
Kelly’s actual armour for the benefit of the local
television stations. After picking up the armour
Alex realised why they got 6ft plus Dave to wear
it as it was very heavy and still showed the marks
of where the police bullets had hit it.
The police workshops tended to attract some
unusual characters, and perhaps even Alex would be
considered as one. One of these was the lube bay
attendant who used to be a hairdresser who was
Jewish and looked it. He was also as blind as a bat
and got the nickname of crasher Sam due to the
amount of cars he had damaged. He had a sideline
doing cheap haircuts in the lube bay surrounded by
drums of oil and grease. Even their sergeant in
charge had his hair cut there and needless to say his
haircutting abilities were far better than his driving.
There was also an Italian mechanic there called Toni
who got the sack after working under the dashboard
of an automatic car with the engine running, the car
just happened to be parked on a ramp with the
handbrake off and a steering column gearstick. It is
easy to guess what happened next when Toni’s
backside knocked the gearstick into reverse with the
car heading off down the ramp, ramming the nearest
              one in the parking lot with him still under
              the dashboard. Then there was the cheeky

                                                          14
cockney who was always off sick until one
day the sergeant in charge went to his place on spec
and found him working under somebody else’s car,
and as much as he liked him, he too got the sack. It
was around this time that some terrible bush fires
started on the grass plains near Melbourne and a lot
of people died when their cars died through a lack of
oxygen. Many of the drivers were later found dead,
draped over the duel carriageway dividing barriers,
after trying to escape from the flames on foot. Alex
saw the smoke towering into the sky some twenty
miles away in Melbourne.
By this time both he and his wife were starting to feel
homesick and so they decided to go back home when
their mandatory two years was up. They wanted to
use the same ship again, but had to book up a year in
advance. As it happened, by the time they came to
leave they both felt they could have easily stayed.
Australia has more public holidays than England and
            this gave them the opportunity to see
            many parts of the country. On their first
            big trip they drove 1500 miles up to
            northern Queensland, taking the shorter
            inland route. It took them a week to get
            there, stopping off at various places on the
way, including Brisbane where they nearly got eaten
alive by the mosquitoes. Their final destination was
Cairns, near the Barrier reef, where they spent a
week in a luxury caravan park. They took a boat out
to Green Island, where Alex had his first
dive on a coral reef and managed to get
some decent pictures with a very basic
underwater camera he had bought.

                                                      15
              One evening they went to a drive in
              cinema, but ended up sitting on the
deckchairs provided to watch the film. They made
their return journey via Surfers Paradise, taking the
longer coastal route to Sydney. In those days Surfers
Paradise was Australia’s biggest beach resort, but it
was nothing like the size it is now. The highway up to
Cairns was just a narrow single strip of bitumen. It
was nicknamed the crystal highway, due to the
amount of broken glass strewn along it from broken
windscreens. This was caused by two cars passing
each other and throwing up stones after hitting the
gravel strips on either side. Alex and his wife drove
into Sydney over the famous harbour bridge. At the
time the famous Opera house was still being built.
They finally made it back to Melbourne after three
weeks on the road and with 4000 miles on the clock.
Barry was by now flying with British Airways and he
visited them on one of his stopovers in Melbourne.
Alex managed to get him a flight in a Tiger Moth
biplane based at his local aero club. Alex had
already tried it out himself and had found it a bit
like riding a motorbike with wings.
They caught up with Arthur again when they made
a trip to Tasmania, though Arthur was soon to move
on to Sydney where he planned to live. While they
were staying in Hobart, Tasmania’s capital, Arthur
took them for a run in his speedboat under a very
impressive bridge. A few years later a ship was to hit
one of the stanchions of this bridge, resulting in a lot
of motorists dying when it fell into the river. Arthur
had his own little disaster when his car slid back into
            the water while he was launching his boat.

                                                      16
          They made one last big trip before leaving
          Australia, to central Australia to see the
famous Ayers Rock. They had to go via Adelaide and
change trains at Port Augusta as the railway gauge
was different up to Alice Springs, which is the nearest
town to Ayers Rock. It was an old train with no air
conditioning, and the journey took two days. They
had to sleep on board and Alex could remember
waking up early in the morning, in a sleeping berth
that he was sharing with two Aborigines and seeing a
herd of wild horses galloping beside the train. When
the train arrived at Alice Springs in the mid
afternoon the intense heat was like a solid barrier
which nearly knocked them over. After checking into
their non air-conditioned hotel they literally
staggered across the dirt road to the nearest pub
which could have been straight out of the Wild West.
The first ice cold lager he had there was the best he
had ever tasted. There was a dry creek
bed that ran through Alice Springs that
had a bridge over it. It only had water
running through it once a year when it
rained, but that didn’t stop the locals
running dry boat races on it.
Alice Springs probably looks a lot different today, but
back then it was the real deal. Alex and his wife did a
few local coach trips around the area, not realising at
the time that the Aborigines were confined to
reservation camps similar to those that the Red
Indians were held in the nineteenth century. This
was the case, not only in Alice Springs, but in other
            parts of Australia as well. They flew from
            Alice Springs in a six seater aircraft to

                                                     17
            Ayers Rock, getting some fantastic views
            of the rock and surrounding area. Ayers
Rock was not so well set up for tourism then, and
they were put up in some very basic accommodation.
This was before the events that led to the well known
story of the mother who supposedly had her baby
taken by a wild dingo. They had to be up at the crack
of dawn to make the climb to the top of the rock
before the sun got up. The rock is a thousand feet
high, and has just a guide rope strung out on metal
stakes to hang on to. The climb down felt even more
hazardous. They entered their names in the visitor’s
book that was kept under a pile of stones at the top
before going back for breakfast. The view on the
descent was really something, with the dirt road
stretching fifty or so miles into the distance. They
later visited the nearby strange looking Olga rock
formations and watched the sun going down over
the rock, before heading off in a non air-conditioned
coach in the direction of Adelaide. There were a lot
of elderly people on their coach and it was hard to
imagine how they coped with the heat.
Their first stop on the thousand mile return journey
was at a cattle ranch, though one couldn’t imagine
what the cattle ate in such a wilderness. One thing
Alex particularly remembered was the enormous
amount of daddy longlegs flying about in the evening,
which was terrifying his wife and some of the other
women. In the morning, whilst pouring milk on to his
     all ready full cereal bowl, he saw a very large
     ugly-looking insect climb out as the milk level
     rose. Needless to say, he went without breakfast.
     On the way to their next stop, at the Woomera

                                                    18
rocket testing range, they stopped for a
BBQ and it was hard to believe the amount of flies
that appeared from nowhere. They had to form a
line on re-entering the coach whilst brushing the flies
off each other’s backs. All Alex could see of the
rocket range were miles and miles of salt pans
stretching into the distance. These had been used by
Donald Campbell for record breaking speed runs.
Their final stop before returning to Adelaide was at
Coober Pedy, a place renowned for its opal mining.
The people lived in caves hacked out of the soft rock,
which had separate rooms like a house, as they were
much cooler to live in. Alex and his wife even tried
their hand at picking through the shale for opals and
got a few chips for their trouble. They also saw one
of the first solar powered generating plants, which
looked like a car park full of swivelling mirrors.
         Their two year stay was nearly up and they
         were packing their trunks for the trip home.
         Two years also happened to be how long
         they had been married. It was with a touch
         of sadness that Alex sold his sports car,
which he had had for a long time. Dave, his diving
buddy, who was now married, drove them down to
the docks to see them off on the same ship they had
arrived on two years before. Their first stop on the
five week trip home was Sydney, where they met
Arthur. It was then farewell to Australia and next
stop Tahiti, where Alex managed to do some
snorkelling. They went on a tour and visited the bay
made famous by the mutiny on the Bounty,
and also the place where the film of the same
name starring Marlon Brando was shot.

                                                     19
Their next stop was Panama City, after gaining a
day when they crossed the international dateline.
The taxi they took into town was so rusty they
could see the road through the holes in the floor
pan. It was a nice place to visit, which had a very
colourful history from the old buccaneer days, but
with a lot of poverty. On boarding the ship they set
off along the Panama Canal, leaving one passenger
behind who had died while they were there.
The first part of the journey was through a series of
lagoons where alligators could be seen basking on the
banks in the sun. The most interesting part was when
they reached the lock gates, which were under
American control. During this part the ship had to be
towed by small locomotives running on rails alongside
the canal. Once clear of the canal their first stop was
the island of Curaco in the Dutch East Indies; a lovely
place with brightly painted Dutch houses everywhere.
Alex found a dive shop and did a 160ft dive from a
small speedboat dressed only in his bathers. The
               water was very warm and he saw many
               wonderful things. Before the ship sailed
               they visited a floating market made up
               of stall holders who had sailed over in
               their boats from Venezuela.
               The next leg of their journey was across
the Atlantic, until they finally berthed in Lisbon.
Here they were taken on a coach tour, but the only
thing he could remember about it was a dog that
patiently waited for the traffic lights to change before
crossing the road. Soon after that they
were back in Southampton, where they
had started two years before.

                                                      20
              Back to square one

On their return his father made one of the flats over
his garage available to them and Alex started work
for him straight away, which eventually turned out to
be a mistake in the long run. They wanted to buy a
house, but the prices were too high and local council
assistance was unavailable to them. His wife went
back to work in a bank and Alex carried on working
for his father in the mistaken belief that he would
eventually be in charge.
He started diving again using his fathers 8ft inflatable
dinghy, and this was to mark the beginning of a
lifetime of boating. His father had a large cabin
cruiser, but not much confidence in using it. It was
only when Alex got him to take it further afield that
he managed to do some more adventurous diving. He
soon became seriously interested in underwater
photography and went on to buy one of the semi
professional Nikonos cameras that were around at the
time. He must have accumulated thousands of
underwater photographs over the years, even
winning a competition in Brighton and having some
of his pictures of a local shipwreck used in a book.
He bought a Triumph sports car with a surrey top
and chrome wire wheels, and it did look good. He
and his wife took it away on holiday, driving through
Paris into Germany and Austria and finally stopping
at Venice for two or three days. From there they
drove on down to Dubrovnik spending a week there.
They then took a ferry over to Italy and made their


                                                      21
    made their way back through France, stopping off
    at Pompeii and the leaning tower of Pisa.
    It was his wife who got to make most of their
    friends through her bank with their social life
consisting mainly of going to and holding dinner
parties, as well as the occasional dance or the cinema.
They went on a diving orientated Club Med holiday
with two of her friends to an island called Santa
Stefano, which was typically French. They stayed in
little chalets and used beads for currency,
and there were all sorts of alternative
sports to try as well as outside shows
every night. After taking the compulsory
medical test he dived every morning and
overall it was a holiday to remember.
Life carried on much as before, although there was a
bit of excitement when his father unfairly chewed off
one of his customers who had decorated their flat
because the wallpaper had fallen off the walls. Alex
felt sorry for him. His father was well out of order
and it was to be a long time before he got his custom
back again. Alex started flying again, sharing the
cost with friends, but his heart wasn’t really in it
anymore now that he was into boat diving.
Alex’s parents loved travelling, but his mother’s
health was deteriorating due to a faulty heart valve.
She was given a new warfarin dosage before going on
a driving holiday to Germany. They got as far as
Munich, where she had to be rushed into hospital for
an emergency operation due to internal bleeding
caused by an over strong dose of warfarin, and she
     nearly died. It was some weeks before they could
      return home and Alex was left to run the garage.

                                                     22
Eventually he bought an inflatable boat
to dive from. His wife accompanied him
most of the time when really he should have been
getting some of his pals to go with him. This scenario
was to carry on right up to the end of their marriage,
with the boats getting bigger and bigger. He had
aspirations to be a commercial diver, which led him
        to go on a hard hat diving course with Siebe
        Gorman in Chessington. It was a pleasant
        two weeks spent using the equipment in large
        water tanks, as well as learning to use
        underwater cutting gear, but jobs were hard
        to come by and he never managed to get one.
        Alex was getting more and more dissatisfied
with life as the working relationship with his father
deteriorated and they had no success at finding a
house. Eventually, after two years, he felt he had had
enough and wanted to try New Zealand, which was
where his brother was then living. When he decided
to up and go his wife never dug her heels in as was
her right, and with hindsight it is very easy to see that
they weren’t communicating about some very
important issues - instead she just went along with
whatever he decided to do. They left at a time when
his mother’s health was worsening. He sold the
Triumph sports car and bought a new Datsun estate
car, which they got at a good price as his father was
the agent. Because it was less than a year old they
decided to live in Melbourne for three months until it
could enter New Zealand duty free. At this time the
Post Office parcel rate abroad was very cheap and
they boxed and posted a lot of their things ahead to
his brother’s address in New Zealand.

                                                       23
On their travels again
They flew to Australia by Alitalia and had to change
planes in Rome. The airline had a problem and they
got a free day and night of luxury in a five star hotel
there. They had time to see some of the sights,
including the Coliseum and the arena where the
chariot races were held in Roman times. They
arrived in Melbourne after stopping off at Bombay
and Singapore. It then took them a week to get used
to the time change. By now his diving buddy Dave
had set himself up in his own garage in a place called
           Blackrock, near Melbourne. Alex spent
           three months working for him while his
           wife got an office job in the city. Their car
           arrived in very much the same way as their
           first one had, except this time he didn’t
have to have to do anything, not even register it.
There was a heat wave for most of their time there.
The block of redbrick flats they were staying in
retained the heat at night, making it impossible to
sleep and necessitating for frequent cold showers
throughout the night. Alex carried on diving every
weekend whilst renting air tanks and weight belts
from a dive shop. Their three months in Melbourne
soon passed and they shipped their car to New
Zealand by sea whilst they flew. Their first view of
New Zealand from the air was of both the east and
west coasts that straddled Auckland, their chosen
home. Alex’s brother met them at the airport and
then helped them find a hire car, which wasn’t easy
as this was the peak of the cricket season.

                                                      24
              They loaded up the hire car with all their
              posted parcels and went to see the
accommodation that he had found for them. It was in
a very old house owned by a similarly aged man
which had a connecting door into their part of the
house that did not have a lock. Whilst sitting there
and unpacking, he and his wife both agreed, (they did
agree on some things), that they couldn’t stay there,
not even for one night. They loaded up the car again
and left a note with some money for the old man
before going off in search of a motel at
what was by now midnight. They ended
up staying in the motel for a week while
they looked for work and a place to live.
They soon found a brand new flat in an
upmarket area of Auckland called Birkenhead, on the
North shore. It was one of six dwellings set on a steep
slope, which tends to be the way for houses in New
Zealand. The accommodation was above a large
garage, which was perfect for putting their boat in.
Alex soon got a job as a motor mechanic with the
local Datsun agency, while his wife worked for the
civil service in the city. His brother was going out
with a girl, but they parted company soon after Alex
and his wife had arrived.          They bought their
furniture through him as he was a furniture
salesman, but this wasn’t to last long either as within
a month of their arrival he decided to go home.
They both had to take theory tests to get New
Zealand driving licences and both failed on their first
attempt. Their cabin trunks eventually arrived, after
            being delayed by a dock strike, and meant
            that he was able to start diving again. He

                                                      25
               was then able to reassemble the boat
               trailer and get straight into the local
boat diving scene. New Zealand could be called a
diver’s paradise and he made the most of it by going
on frequent dive trips to the Poor Knights Islands
north of Auckland. This involved getting up at the
unearthly hour of 5am, then driving 125 miles to a
place called Tuta Kaka, which was where the fishing
and dive boats set off from for the Islands, which
were eighteen miles offshore. They left on the dot at
8.30am, and they sometimes almost missed the boat.
The diving was very good; in fact Alex thought it
could be ranked as one of the seven diving wonders of
the world. It was on one of these trips that he met
Dave, another diver, who was a dentist in Auckland
and they became friends. On most weekends they
used to do regular trips to a place called Leigh, which
had a slipway and a dive tank filling
station nearby. They then drove the boat
to nearby Goat Island where he caught a
lot of crayfish before it was turned into a
marine sanctuary.
They made a dozen or so trips to the Poor knight’s
islands in the fourteen months they lived in New
Zealand, and sometimes they used to travel further
north to see some more of the country. On one
occasion they went to the Bay of Islands and couldn’t
get any accommodation, ending up sleeping on a pair
of lilo’s in the back of their car on a very cold night.
They made two trips to the very top of New Zealand,
where there is a lighthouse. The first time they took a
            coach, which travelled along the Ninety
            mile beach, (which is really sixty miles long)

                                                        26
before driving through a gap in the
shoreline and back on to a dirt road. By this time it
was pouring with rain and foggy, so they couldn’t see
the lighthouse. The coach then got stuck on a
slippery slope and the men had to get out and push it.
The next time they went back in their own car on a
better day and drove up to the lighthouse. From
there they could see the Three King’s Islands in the
           distance, which is the most northern part
           of New Zealand. They also went south of
           Auckland to Rotarura, where there are
           volcanic mud springs, and Alex went for a
           dive in the nearby Lake Taupo.
Alex had his first taste of water-skiing when they got
invited to a BBQ party on the beach where the host
gave everyone a go behind his ski boat. He started off
from the shore by squatting down on the skis, but fell
off when he tried to stand up.
He made friends with an English guy at work called
Don, whose wife Shirley was a real looker. They
eventually returned to the UK as Don had angina, but
their marriage broke up soon afterwards. During his
time at the Datsun garage there was an apprentice
there who had a grudge against him and one day Alex
snapped and let him have it in the toilets. Don had to
pull Alex away from him; needless to say he never
had any trouble from the apprentice again.
While in New Zealand he had some anxious moments
when his mother went into hospital for a heart valve
replacement. He changed garages to a Ford agency,
which was just across the road from their flat. To get
         the job he had to some bullshitting, as he
         didn’t have all of his motor trade certificates.

                                                       27
It was a small garage without any hoists,
so all the work under the cars was done
on creepers. His mornings always started off well
when a woman from the office who always wore the
shortest of mini skirts would make her daily walk
through the workshop.          He had a young girl
    apprentice attached to him, but she wouldn’t have
    been very interested in this daily promenade. He
    went to night school to learn to weld so that he
    could get a boiler maker’s certificate, which he
    eventually got after a very tough examination.
They often drank at a large pub across the road and
one night as they were about to go in, a very large,
very drunk Maori decided to leave without opening
the glass door. He crashed straight through it
without missing a beat and passed them as if they
weren’t there. As in Australia, Alex joined a local
judo club and he often ended up taking the class
when the instructor didn’t turn up.
After spending a year in New Zealand Alex and his
wife came to the conclusion that they weren’t making
any extra money and decided to return to Australia
where the wages were much higher. This time they
gave Sydney a go where his friend Arthur was still
living. Before leaving they made one last trip down to
South Island, taking a train to windy Wellington,
which certainly lived up to its name, then flying to
Christchurch before joining a coach for a full tour.
They had left Auckland in summer clothes, but were
soon wearing winter ones as South Island turned out
to be a very cold place. They visited fjords and
glaciers - including the lovely ski resort of
Queenstown - but the thing that most impressed Alex

                                                    28
               was at Stuart Island, the southerly part
               of New Zealand. There they saw a very
large, still very much alive, white pointer shark
trapped in a net that had been left behind by the
falling tide. It was standing four feet off the
sand and had skin as rough as sandpaper.
When it was dead Alex tried lifting its head
and found it was no lightweight.
On returning to Auckland they sold their
car for twice what they paid for it and left for Sydney
on a Russian cruise ship. The ship took three days to
get there, and they were served with caviar every
night. Arthur met them at the dockside and put them
up for a few nights in his flat. The next day he drove
them around all the car sale lots until they found a
Ford Cortina in good nick. They soon found a flat to
live in not far from him, with jobs to follow. His wife
got a job in the city with an American bank, where
she eventually got a licence to deal in stocks and
shares and this gave her a first taste of high finance.
Alex ended up working for three different garages
before settling on one he liked, which was owned
by a likeable guy called               Gerry who had a
Greek          apprentice                working    for
him.      Gerry had a                     formula three
racing car which he often raced on the Sydney race
tracks. As was usual with every new garage he
started at he was given the mission impossible job
that the departing mechanic had left. Gerry sent him
on an air conditioning course as he was an agent for
one of the big name brands. This time Alex bought a
           trailer for his inflatable boat, as well as
           taking a theory test for a New South Wales

                                                     29
driving licence. They had arrived in the
middle of Sydney’s winter and despite being
a sub tropical location, it was still cold first thing in
the morning and unfortunately his car had no heater.
He soon found his feet in the local diving scene, but
couldn’t get his air tanks tested, so he bought a cheap
compressor from Adelaide and filled them up himself,
usually in the bathroom. Sydney was right in the
middle of shark territory, though the only one he ever
saw was a very large Wobbygong which was only
            partly dangerous. It didn’t take him long
            to find some good dive sites.             His
            favourite one was Shiprock which was
            situated on the Port Hacking estuary and
            he could snorkel to it from a nearby
            slipway. It was a fantastic place located
at the bottom of residential gardens where he often
saw all kinds of strange and wonderful fish. He and
his wife once ventured out on into Sydney Harbour in
their boat without the mandatory licence, tying up to
the steps under the famous Opera house.
Two minor interesting things happened while they
were there. The first was when a policeman rang
their doorbell in the middle of the night. He was
standing there holding a ripped off wing mirror and
wanted to know if it was theirs. The other was when
they came home one night and got into bed and then
felt something moving around under the sheets. His
wife only just beating him out of the bed. He
whipped back the sheets and saw what must have
been the largest and ugliest looking bug he had ever
seen, but its grotesque appearance didn’t stop him
from beating it to a pulp on the floor.

                                                       30
                They saw the start of the famous
Sydney to Hobart yacht race from the cliffs above the
harbour over the Christmas holidays. It was soon
after this that the Australian prime minster, Gough
Whitlam upset a few people and got his budget
frozen, which in effect meant he couldn’t pay the
government employees.          The British Governor
General stepped in and temporarily took over the
running of the country, which didn’t exactly please
the Australian people.
By now Alex and his wife’s bank balance was getting
very healthy and they even thought about buying a
flat. Meanwhile Arthur had set up an electric type
writer repair business and married a girl called Jo.
The exchange rate of the Australian dollar to the
pound favoured sending money back to the UK,
which had them thinking they could increase their
financial assets and buy a house back home. The
decision was finally made up for them when Gerry
lost his lease and Alex didn’t want to work for the
new boss. They (or perhaps he) decided to go down
to Melbourne and work for his old buddy Dave until
they had enough money in the bank to go back home.
His wife had to give a months notice before she could
leave her job and he got a job with a local car air-
conditioning firm. They gave him a swine of a job - a
Mercedes that took him two days to convert - but he
still managed to do it in the given time.
They packed up all their belongings including their
bed, on to the boat trailer and left without giving
notice on the flat or paying any of the utility bills as
they had no intentions of returning to
Sydney. They set off early on New Years

                                                      31
day and had only gone a few hundred miles when an
engine mount broke on the car, but were lucky
enough to find a garage open and Alex changed it in
the forecourt. The 560 miles to Melbourne would
normally have taken two days to do, but this time
they did it in one with a trailer. After going through
the usual border controls into Victoria, they arrived
at Dave’s place after twelve hours of nearly non-stop
driving. Dave, who now had two boisterous children,
put them up for the night and expressed a wish to buy
their boat and trailer. The next day they found a flat
close to their previous one in East St Kilda. He
started work for Dave immediately, while his wife got
a job in the city.
They went diving together, even using his
boat, which Dave had bought, though
they had trouble getting the money out of
him. He made another trip to the
Picaninny Ponds to do one more dive to
get some more photos of it. He had the devil of job
finding it as his memory wasn’t as good as it used to
be. After that they shipped their things home and
flew back to the UK. They must have picked the
wrong flight as they were on board for thirty hours.
They took off at midday and flew towards Adelaide
before turning north, giving them an uninterrupted
view of Australia from a great height. After seeming
to stop at every airport on the planet they finally
arrived at Heathrow. His friend Barry met them
there. Barry was now living in Windsor with a wife
and child. Before going home Alex bought one of the
               new breed of rigid hull inflatable boats
               commonly known as RIB’s.

                                                     32
           Another new beginning
     Back home Alex got a job with the local harbour
 and airport police and his wife once more went into
banking. He didn’t last long in the job as he couldn’t
adapt to the shift work, and he was soon back
working as a motor mechanic. All he really wanted
to do however was get out of the motor trade. He
took driving lessons and got a licence to drive
articulated trucks, but there just didn’t seem to be
any truck driving work about. He started work as a
trainee assistant manager at the local cinema, which
he did enjoy, but his wife wasn’t happy about him
having to work in the evenings. Eventually he got
another job as a stock controller in a shipping
company, though he still carried on working at the
cinema in a part time capacity for many years.
He and his wife bought a new three bedroom house
with their Australian money, which covered the
deposit with a cheap mortgage from his wife’s bank.
Arthur and Jo were on holiday from Australia at the
time and came to visit them for a few days. They
brought along two newly acquired MGB sports cars
that they were going to take back to Australia. Jo
had a few personal problems and they would end up,
divorcing within a few years. She later remarried
and had children, but sadly died while the children
were still young.
By now Alex and his wife were in their early thirties
and had no aspirations to have children. Life seemed
pretty good, particularly when Alex’s father sold one
of his businesses and paid off their mortgage.

                                                    33
              They were now taking two holidays
              abroad a year, and on a trip to Corfu
Alex was introduced to water skiing and windsurfing,
which he took up back home. The windsurfing giving
his wife a break from going out in the boat. They
once went on holiday to Malta with the couple from
the Club Med trip, but this time the guy was on
honeymoon with a new wife. Once again he and Alex
spent a lot of time diving on the many excellent dive
sites to be found in Malta. Most of the holidays they
went on were diving ones, which was alright with his
wife as they were always in warm and sunny places.
It was on one such trip to Florida that he dived on
the famous Christ of the Abyss statue off Key Largo
while his wife snorkelled above it. Sharm el Sheik
on the Red Sea was another place they went to.
Although now in Egypt, at the time it was still
Israeli territory. It had no airport then so they were
driven 200 miles south from Eliat in a mini bus in
the dark. It was nothing like it is today, having only
one hotel in Naama bay.           Now that hotel is
surrounded by a vibrant tourist industry with a very
Egyptian look. It was an exciting place to be back
then. The coral reefs were virgin territory, and
Israeli troops were on constant alert, with gunboats
anchored in the bay. The debris from the six day war
was to be seen everywhere in the desert. They were
shown blown up gun emplacements and a shot down
aircraft. There was a burnt out cargo ship anchored
in Naama bay which was rumoured to have carried a
cargo of frozen chickens. Perhaps this was why their
                 hotel served them some form of
                 chicken dish every night for dinner.

                                                    34
Some of the dive trips were done from
boats while others were by road along the
desert shoreline. While they were there Israel signed
over the Sinai territories to Egypt at Ras Mohammed,
and they saw the ceremony take place under the eyes
of the world press. After ten days they had had
enough of desert life, so they took the local bus up to
Eliat, where they spent their last three days. They
took the opportunity to visit Jerusalem and on the
way Alex swam in the Dead Sea and did the usual
thing of reading a newspaper whilst floating in it.
Soon after this he took up flying again, but not having
been up for sometime he had to revalidate his licence.
This meant taking lessons with an instructor and
going solo. Unlike the first time he found that going
solo was quite unnerving, which just goes to show
how fearless young men can be. He didn’t finish the
course as the hire rate kept going up.
Their local dance hall had changed its name and was
mainly used for floor shows. They went there to see
the Supremes and Roy Orbison perform just when he
was making a comeback. Roy stood just twenty feet
away from them, dressed in black and dark glasses,
belting out his world renowned hits. Sadly within
six months he died of a heart attack and Alex was
very glad he had got the chance to see him sing.
After six years they moved house buying a new one
at a good price, but it turned out not to be a lucky
house. After living there for only a few months
there was a terrific rain storm and they were
flooded. The first indication that all was not well was
when Alex went downstairs in the morning and found
the ground floor under two feet of muddy water. It

                                                     35
            was a nightmare he never wanted to face
            again as for months afterwards there was
            a constant stream of insurance people and
tradesmen ripping the place apart. By the time they
had got back to normal his wife was told by the
doctor to take a break from the pill which led them to
loosely agreeing not to take any precautions. The
inevitable happened, and they had a daughter.
Within a short time his wife had to go back to work
as they had to keep up the low cost mortgage on their
new house. They took on several nannies to look
after her. The first one lived in and was not a great
success. The second one was much better, however,
and they remained friends for long after she had
finished working for them.
Alex bought a Suzuki jeep for towing the boat, while
his wife got a Ford compact which all came about
through the generosity of his father. When their
daughter was old enough she often went out with
them in the boat. On one occasion, while out at sea
with no lifejackets on, they got caught up in some
rough seas. At one point the boat was surfing down
the back of a near vertical wave with his daughter
sitting between them and Alex didn’t dare think
about what might have happened if the boat had
flipped. His wife used to tow him on water skis, but
he mostly went out skiing with his friends and soon
learnt to mono ski. He changed the RIB for a bigger
one which they had to collect from Hull and tow
home. Their daughter started school when she was
four and he gave up his job to look after her whilst
             working from home as a motor mechanic.
             This lasted for many years and he spent a

                                                    36
lot of time with her, time that he would cherish for
the rest of his life. He pushed her to prep school in
a buggy and when she was bigger he used the car.
She was a little resistant to him at first, but as she got
older they started to do more things together in the
school holidays. After many unsuccessful attempts at
teaching her to swim he finally saw her take her first
few strokes at a school holiday class and after that he
regularly took her to the local indoor pool where he
kept coaxing her to swim towards him with ever
increasing distances. She liked riding on his back
even though he was not a strong swimmer, much to
the amusement of the other swimmers. Eventually he
started ducking down to the bottom of the pool with
her still on his back which was her first introduction
to underwater swimming. The pool had low and high
level spring boards which they both enjoyed using. In
the summer holidays the local pool used to put on a
Pluto playtime for the children. This involved huge
blow up toys that took some climbing up and Alex
soon became the biggest kid in town as he joined in.
The local leisure centre had a variety of fairground
rides, including a waltzer roundabout and a pirate
boat. She wasn’t old enough to drive the dodgem
cars, so he had to drive her around the circuit. A new
facility was put in called Qasar which consisted of
two teams shooting at each other with laser guns in a
semi dark military style indoor multilevel range. She
and Alex proved to be a crack team often shooting
back to back whilst covering each other, once getting
a top gun rating. She was a bit shy and on one
          occasion at the leisure centre while watching
          a summer show for kids he made the mistake

                                                        37
of going up on stage when the entertainer asked
for volunteers. What he didn’t know was that it
was karaoke, which he hated. He was stuck there
with two other people singing a few lines from the
Rolling Stones number I can’t get no satisfaction, and
he couldn’t sing to save his life, but it did give his
daughter a good laugh. The main problem with
working from home was that it cut him off from
normal adult contact. This didn’t really help their
marriage in the long run as he only had his wife to
offload on when she came home from work.
Soon after his daughters fourth birthday they bought
another house. The sale dragged on for months
which must have given him a few more grey hairs to
add to those from the flooding saga, while the people
    who wanted to buy their old house were slowly
    getting desperate. The new house needed a lot of
    landscaping as well as building a separate boat
    garage. He worked on it full time for a year, but
that wasn’t the end of it as he found a pet project to
do on it every winter. He turned it from a two and
half bedroom dormer bungalow into a four bedroom
one, but his wife did not always see eye to eye with
him over some of the improvements. While all this
was going on he had been letting the housework slide
until they eventually got a cleaning lady. They only
kept the new RIB for a year before he got hold of an
18ft Fletcher with a small cabin which allowed them
to do some overnight trips with a few home comforts.
In the meantime it was to be a while before they could
afford to go on a package holiday abroad, so they
took his wife’s car on driving holidays to France,
staying in Gite’s for three years on the trot.

                                                    38
            As their finances improved they took their
            daughter on her first holiday abroad to
Ibiza, followed by one to Dubrovnik just before the
war broke out. Later on they made several trips to
Florida and covered most of the theme parks in
Orlando, much to their daughters delight. They
usually did the parks in the first week and then drove
down to the Florida Keys where Alex could do some
diving. Just before their last trip there Alex had been
trying unsuccessfully to get his daughter to water-ski.
She finally succeeded when she tried it in Orlando.
Alex had to have a go and overdid it, which left him
suffering for the rest of the week with stiff legs. It
was on this trip that they saw the first space shuttle
take off after the first disaster, and even though they
were sixty miles away in Sea World, they watched it
climb slowly into a clear blue sky on top of a tall
column of smoke before finally disappearing with a
whoosh into a cloudless blue sky.
Soon after they had moved into the new house the
marine Decca navigation system became affordable to
amateur sailors. This opened up a whole new world
of diving for Alex because he could now get to many
previously inaccessible dive sites. That same year he
went to the London boat show and saw his ideal boat.
From then on he was busy working out how he could
finance it, even going as far as to build a new pair of
doors for the boat garage so that he could squeeze it
in. His wife probably thought it would never happen,
not even when he fitted the doors. But by the time
the next boat show came around his order was in and
he was due to pick it up the following month. He had


                                                     39
             to have the trailer shortened to fit the
             garage. The new boat was a small cabin
cruiser built for Scandinavian weather. It took him
several months to fit it out and his wife was probably
getting fed up hearing about it. They launched it in
the spring and a new, much more comfortable,
dimension in boating was opened up for them.
However as Alex was to later realise, all she wanted
was not to go to sea at all. His Suzuki jeep was
struggling to tow this huge boat and trailer which was
more than twice its size. They could only pull the
boat out when the tide was halfway up the slipway as
the jeep needed a run up to get over the hump at the
top. Eventually he bought a second hand Four Track
which was much more capable. The following year
he fitted the boat out with the latest GPS and wreck
finding equipment. While all this was going on he got
some film extra work in a well known television series
that was being shot locally. He ended up in thirteen
episodes, even getting killed and then carried away in
a body bag, in the opening scene in one episode.
Alex and his wife did make it to their silver wedding
anniversary, which turned out to be a joint one with
his parents golden anniversary. His father often said
later that most of the guests there seemed to be Alex’s
wife’s friends and not many of his. By this time his
wife was becoming very ambitious and career
orientated after being made a director of a small
investment company. She wanted to borrow a large
  sum of money from Alex’s father to invest, but she
  couldn’t convince him. She then went on to try and
   persuade Alex to change his mind, but he wasn’t
      that convinced himself.

                                                     40
            The beginning of the end

Within months of his father refusing to accommodate
her he had two ominous phone calls from a woman
telling him that his wife was having an affair with
someone else. He was too naïve to even consider it,
later on wishing he had asked more questions instead
of putting the phone down. When he told her about it
she showed total disbelief, only later realising that
there may well have more to it than he thought. It all
came to a head a few months later when their
daughter was staying with a friend, when she quite
casually said to him that she didn’t want to live with
him anymore and wanted to leave with their daughter
after the school holidays, whilst assuring him that
there was no one else. Apart from being gob smacked
he was totally devastated as this had come straight
out of the blue with no warning at all apart from the
anonymous phone calls. Within a few days she came
out with another revelation in that there was someone
else, but refused to tell him who. Her timing
was spot on as it was their daughter’s birthday.
He got a private eye to install a phone tap tape
recorder in the house, and every time he went to
work in the evening she would use the phone to make
arrangements with her lover to call around, and her
friends provided alibis as needed. He heard things
that he should never have had to listen too, but at
least he found out what and with whom he was
dealing with, certainly not the woman he had
married. The phone tap came to an end when he
reached the end of his tether, and he told her that he

                                                    41
was going to get a court injunction served on her
lover to stop him coming to the house. From then on
she stopped using the phone and moved into the spare
bedroom whilst still insisting that she would stay until
the end of the summer. He should have thrown her
out there and then, but he still had a ridiculous notion
that it would all come right in the end. One night
when he came home from work she had carelessly left
her handbag out, and he couldn’t resist looking
through it. What he found in her notebook was
unbelievable, she had actually worked out a plan
involving paying him to pick up their daughter from
school as well as how much cash she could make out
of a divorce settlement. With a month still to go they
went to Disney World in France for a distraction, but
in reality it was a disaster as she was in constant
contact with her lover. On their return she only
stayed in when he was working evenings, and there
ensued many harsh and embittered rows which
he could only look back upon as a living hell, but
she had seriously underestimated him, and he
gave her as good as he got and more.
Their daughter came through the crossfire
remarkably well with it drawing to a close after they
had the house valued and a price agreed for a
settlement, which his father covered as he didn’t want
to see him suffering anymore. His father very wisely
kept the house in his own name. She spent the last
day moving all her things out to a flat she had rented
whilst assuring him that her lover would only be
visiting. She was visibly shaken when he insisted on
keeping her key which made him think that she was
planning to have a free for all whilst he was away

                                                      42
with their daughter on a last outing. It finally ended
at the ferry terminal where he had to watch his
daughter being led away, making it one of the saddest
days of his life, and for a long time afterwards a line
from the Abba hit song, walking through an empty
house, tears in my eyes, often brought one to his.
It was soon brought to his attention that her lover
had moved in from day one and he found it hard to
cope with how she had lied to him whilst effectively
replacing him in practise with her lover as his
daughter’s father. This was the one thing after all the
other hurts had long gone that he found most
despicable and unforgiveable. When she brought
their daughter around for her first visit, he
confronted her about it, and from then on it was open
warfare. Soon after this his friend Barry came to
stay and was instrumental in getting him back on his
feet as well as helping him to fight the ensuing legal
battles over settlement. Barry managed to negotiate
a truce to cool things down, though this didn’t stop
her lawyers from trying to stitch him up. Not happy
with this she took it upon herself to write to all his
family putting her side of the story, with only one of
them taking up sides with her, and many years on this
particular aunt now knows exactly why he will have
nothing more to do with her. His divorce went
through in record time, and he felt more like the
guilty party when he had to stand in the dock in front
of a magistrate. She had done a good job of clearing
out their joint bank account, but he was lucky to get a
   job with a building firm to tide him over. It was a
     lousy job and he had a lot on his mind. He got
     the sack when they heard him enquiring about

                                                     43
another job when they were tapping the phone lines.
He registered as unemployed at a time when jobs
were hard to find, and he got placed in a retraining
scheme which got him nowhere, apart from learning
how to use a computer. Because he had a lot of DIY
skills he was able to find work with people he knew
who gave him a variety of jobs to do. It was while he
was doing some work for the private eye that he got
recruited into detective work. His temporary boss
was a tricky man to work for and Alex was doing a
lot of decorating work at his place as well as going out
on assignments, sometimes with Barry. Barry must
have had a lot of patience as Alex must have stretched
him to the limit while he was trying to coach him
back into the real world. He wasn’t totally well
himself as he had been operated on for cancer. Sadly
the cancer came back and killed him within a few
years and Alex lost a very good friend. He must have
applied for around seventy jobs with hardly ever an
interview, and after a year of this he finally got one
with a supermarket doing home deliveries. His ex-
wife continued to be a thorn in his side asking for
money long after the dust had settled, even though
she had a well paid job in finance, and her lover was
in a similar position. Thanks to Barry his divorce
settlement had a clause in it that excluded him from
paying for their daughter’s schooling which was just
as well as he had very little coming in.
He carried on seeing his daughter on weekends until
she finally went to university which gave him the
chance to distance himself from his ex-wife,
though this didn’t stop her from giving her own
family more of the same treatment.

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