Thursday, 20 March 2008

#070 - 1961 - A long weekend and meeting the Prime Minister

Trade continued to be good for us and in Sept 1961 we were appointed main stockists for BSA and Lambretta Spare Parts - ensuring extra discounts, we held our first staff dinner at the Rose & Crown Inn at Smalley and our annual ‘works outing’ to the National Cycle & Motor Cycle Show at Earls Court which was always looked forward to and enjoyed by us all. We would catch the 8 a.m. business train from Nottingham, have breakfast in the dining car and just finish that second cup of coffee as we glided in to St. Pancras, London and then by taxi to the show. Once there our suppliers fell over themselves to wine & dine us and try and sell us the earth. We caught the 6 p.m. train back to Nottingham.

The shop had another good Christmas mainly selling bikes to 15-18 year olds ( still on the 1945 birth rate bulge). Phillips kiddies trikes were in short supply that year (i.e. the luxury model with blow up tyres and a luggage boot) and I telephoned the Phillips works at Newtown (Powys) where they were manufactured and managed to reserve three, but they would have to be collected.

We had an Austin 1800 car then so could easily pick these up. I set off early but when approaching Weston on Trent the SU electric petrol pump packed up. We had had this problem before on a Riley “Elf”, so we always carried a service/exchange unit with us. The only trouble was snow on the ground and on that model the pump is just below the rear boot, I got it on but was mucked up to the eyes. There was no M54 or A5(M) or Welshpool bypass, the best way in 1960 was through Shrewsbury, on to narrow, twisty counry lanes to Montgomery through Sarn and Kerry then in the back entrance to Phillips factory near the railway. The trikes collected, it was an uneventful journey back to Long Eaton. (Phillips closed their Newtown factory in the early “70s” it is now split up in to various small units).

Kathleen had been living at No 1. Myrtle Avenue for 2 years by now, and we had become good friends. There was always a warming mug of milky coffee (sometimes laced with rum on a winter’s day) and I didn’t always wait until I had a learner rider to coach to enjoy her coffee and company. By now Dianne was 7 and David aged 4 was just starting Mikado Infants School. Although we didn’t know or speak of each others private life and our relationship was strictly platonic, it would seem that neither of us was very happy at home and this in no small way contributed to our growing friendship. Kathleen had a pedal cycle and with my knowledge of local byways I was able to give her a few routes to explore and in the summer evenings she would go towards the River Trent at Sawley, turn left by the boat yard and so down a lovely lane towards Kegworth, and also ride with the children to Dale Abbey where there is a famous farmhouse which has a church attached.

In March 1962 I had an invite to drive the team car on the “Tour de L'Avenir” i.e. the amateur “Tour de France”, a dream of a job, however due to pressure of work it was with great reluctance that I had to decline. Bert was home for the weekend and when I told him about the invite he wondered if he could go in my place. This was cleared by manager Bob Thom but he wasn’t very impressed. However, Bert did his usual ‘Stirling Moss’ job with the driving, helped the mechanic and did all the washing and odd jobs that are always needed on a stage race. This was Barry Hoban’s first stage race. When they arrived home following the race, Bob Thom telephoned and thanked me for sending such a good man.

At the end of March that year on Easter Saturday, Derby County were playing Preston North End in a Cup match, Keith and his lads Peter and David, Jean, Carol and I went. Our eldest brother-in-law had gone to work as a baker in Preston and had a big flat. We left Jean and the three children with Joyce - Keith and I going to the match. Derby won 1-0, man of the match was Prestons Archie Gemmill, Derby signed him there and then, what a player he turned out to be both for Derby County and later for Nottingham Forest. The only food we seemed to have each meal at Dougies (Jean’s brother) was “hot cross buns” and Cornish pasties.

We left Preston and travelled up north to Loch Lomond Youth Hostel which is on the shores of the Loch. En route, we had called at some friends at Inerleithen, near Peebles, the man of the house had been stationed at Chilwell Ordnance depot during the war and had married a Long Eaton girl who was a friend of ours. They lived in a pre-fabricated bungalow, these “pre-fabs” as they were called, were built after the war to house the returning Servicemen. These in Inerleithen were being brick built round the existing building. They gave us heaps of toast and mugs of tea, they had been clearing out all the rubbish and we rescued a ‘Marie Antoinette’ type hat.

We left their house going through the back way to Loch Lomand Youth Hostel. We had a meal there, then after dinner we took part in highland dancing and had a lovely night. In the grounds of the youth hostel there is a fairly high statue. Keith threw up the hat we had got from Inerleithen and it landed right on the statue’s head! Some weeks later the family came to this same hostel on a Woman’s Institute visit, espying the statue they were greatly surprised to see it wearing their hat!

We had a terrific drive on Easter Monday up the east side of Scotland to Oban; we looked round there then retraced to Connell Bridge, the railway ran at the side of the single track road, then over the Ferry at Ballachullish (there is a new bridge there now) and from there up Rannoch Moor, through Kinlockeven to Fort William and then on the road to the Isles, we only got as far as the King Charles monument when we decided we had gone far enough as we had planned to stop at Perth Youth Hostel that night. We came down the A9 arriving at Perth in time for an evening meal. Jean and the children decided to go to see a film while Keith and I went to have a look at the new Glenshee ski lift, we also went to Braemar and Balmoral. Keith and I headed back but it was now dark, we could see on the left a lovely big mansion all floodlit, we turned down a muddy track towards this house when we were accosted by a man with a shot gun who called to us……..

“Are you lost” he asked

“No, we just wanted to look at this beautiful mansion.” we replied, Keith mentioned in fun something about it could be a ‘Youth Hostel’

“No, but we can arrange for an overnight stay if you wish…..” said the man. By this time we were close up and I suddenly realised we were in conversation with Lord Hume, Prime Minister at that time. We told Lord Hume where we had left the family, he laughed and said you had better get back quickly. What a gentleman, we got back to the main road and proceeded to Perth, but by now it was after 11 p.m. and we were locked out of the hostel - Jean had to open a window for us. Keith and I considered a possible conversation when we got back to Long Eaton

‘What did you do over the weekend?’

‘Oh, went to a football match in Preston, visited a relative in Scotland, had a trip round Loch Lomand, the Road to the Isles, Glenshee, Balmoral and Braemar and stopped the night with the Prime Minister’ we decided against it as we didn’t think anyone would believe us!!

We drove home the next day going via Edinborough and the two famous bridges then on the M8 to south of Glasgow and so home on the Tuesday night. The Vauxhall “Cresta” ran like a dream, the fastest car I have ever driven apart from Bill Henshaws “E” type Jaguar.

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