1967 through 1970

• 1967

London 1967England – Sold the Old Blue Truck, packed change of clothes, met with the OVC Employment Agency. New job at Sheraton British Colonial Hotel, Bahamas – Start in June.  Shipping Line wanted a ‘Supernumerary Stock Officer’ – cattle trade to East Africa. “It’ll suit you perfectly – spend some time in Africa and then fly to the Bahamas.”

Clan MacTaggart

I became Supernumerary Stock Officer on the Clan MacTaggart carrying breeding cattle for Kenya, military vehicles for the Zambian Army – and lots of unmarked 44 gallon drums. 

Five Aberdeen Angus cows and two BIG Poll Hereford bulls – one was pregnant but not ‘due’ (they said) until we got to Kenya.

We sailed 3 days after my interview. A few days in the Canary Islands then South around the bulge of West Africa…  Off Windhoek in South West Africa – we entered the ‘Cape Rollers’. One of the cows became terribly seasick – London had identified the wrong pregnant cow! Seas rising, glass falling – serious storm building…

MacTaggartAround the Cape – ‘MacTaggart’ was born in a force 9 gale – 40 foot seas. Not an easy birth – labour lasted 2 days. Camped in the box with the mother. When it was over she must have considered me ‘family’ – she licked us both clean!

MacTaggart in safety harnessStill in ‘the rollers’ – off East London, the second crisis – a crew man fell in the engine room – lost a hand.  Pilot service sent out a boat and winched him aboard.  Calmer seas off the Natal Coast – North between Madagascar and Mozambique, past Tanzania, bunkered in Tanga – to Kenya.

 

MacTaggart officers at the Mombassa ClubKenya – Offloaded cattle in Mombassa – 10 days shore leave. Traveled to Arusha with cattle, spent a few days in Tsavo game park with the purser. Both pilots, we chartered a Piper from Port Reitz airfield. On landing, given an intentional 180 degree error in wind direction – we nearly lost it…

 

Trucks and DrumsTanzania – Berthed at Dar es Salaam – unloaded trucks and drums – met the British Officer in charge of Zambian Army unit. He knew the father of one of my flat-mates in London. They were returning to Lusaka via the ‘Hell Run’ through Morogoro (North Korean troops known to be training ZANU and ANC forces). Acting as guards to oil convoy breaking the oil embargo on Rhodesia. Asked if I would drive a Landrover in the convoy – Army would provide my travel, Lusaka to Johannesburg.

Not the smartest decision I’ve ever made. Convoy became famous. Ambushed by ZANU forces west of Morogoro – just 7 survivors. Our last three vehicles were delayed 20 minutes behind convoy – that delay probably saved my life. Fires still burning – small arms fire still crackling in surrounding bush – lead Zambian army unit returned with the body of the guerrilla commander. British Field Rank hat band and a monkey skin battle kaross.  The pornography of death.  Not pleasant.

Neither was the Tanzanian Military Police debriefing back at Dar es Salaam.  What was a civilian doing with a military unit?  An armed civilian?   Couldn’t hold the British Major – released him and he went to British Embassy – reported my plight.  Embassy negotiated my release – advised to leave Tanzania immediately. Captain of the Clan MacTaggart agreed to take me back on ship’s company.  Sailed on tide that night.  So much living in one day.

Had left a suitcase in the Landrover at Morogoro – total possessions, what I stood up in – a Wakamba wood carving and a £9 bar bill in the officers mess – but could have been worse… 

Royal Navy Blockade - of RhodesiaStopped by Royal Navy Blockade just off southern Tanzania – “Are you carrying embargoed goods for Rhodesia?” – “Of course not…”

South Africa – Docked in Durban and took a train to Johannesburg.  Stayed with friends in Bryanston and Sandton – then took an apartment in Tygerberg and got a job at the Skyline Hotel in Hillbrow.  Began searching for Hazel (friend from OVC in London – seriously injured in Aden).  No luck – family connections closed me out.

A new lady entered my life – Dutch, with little English.  I had no Dutch – a little Afrikaans.  No common language – but we communicated perfectly… She was also Jewish.  It was May – tensions building in Israel – Topol (still the star of Fiddler on the Roof) – left London for Israel with several flights of young Jews.  Young Jews in South Africa wanted to do the same – she wanted to go too – we went…

Israel – Not a place to be – last week of May.  We traveled North, driving a supply truck – towards the kibbutzim beneath Golan Heights.  Nearly made it – but not quite.  I recognised the sound of incoming mortar – but screamed in English…  Back in JHB two days later.  No photos – I had lost my camera – lost so much more…

South Africa – Couldn’t settle, couldn’t leave – drifting…

New job at The President Hotel – friends in Pretoria – Transvaal Pistol Club and trophies.  Renewed my search for Hazel – at a Braai Vleis (BBQ) – a stranger offered help and I found her sister…

I never did get to the Bahamas – it didn’t seem important…

• 1968

Johannesburg 1968South Africa – Hazel’s sister helped me in preparations for first meeting – what to expect, how not to react.  First meeting – Four Seasons Hotel Durban.  A week of separate ghosts, separate noises – together – alone – dragging each other down.  We promised to stay in touch – but we knew we couldn’t…

A promotion at The President…  A week in Swaziland to celebrate… My own Mrs Robinson…

An invitation – a 21st – in Brisbane.  Time to go home.  Had to be there by August 28 – booked a berth on P&O Arcadia – Durban to Sydney.

Australia – felt good – peaceful – warm – the air breathable – after so long at 6,000 ft.  Friend from London met me at the ship.  She was appearing at the St. George Leagues Club – I won a jackpot on the poker machines – $500 – a good start in a new country!

A train to South Brisbane station – in 1968, not Queensland’s most attractive gateway – driven to Clayfield – the leafy side.  An introduction to the real Queensland – EKKA week, Black & White Ball, show jumping – and her 21st at the Belleview Hotel.  We had grown apart – too much in two years.  We went to see the new movie, Benjamin – I laughed in all the wrong places – and that didn’t help… 

1967 PosterBus to Gold Coast – Frank D. “Meet me in the PE” – up the stairs, through Chevron Poolside tropical gardens.  By the time I found the Pink Elephant Bar, I knew where I wanted to live.  An afternoon drink with George Schofield – an invitation to dinner.  Next day I became the Food & Beverage Manager of Chevron Hotel…

New Zealand – just for a week – it didn’t feel like home any more.  It had only been five years – but a different lifetime…

Australia – Chevron Paradise Hotel.   A house with Frank – began preparing for annual International Air Hostess Quest.  New colleagues briefed me on the ‘benefits’ of the event.  During welcome cocktails, Anders and I compared notes.  Seems we both saw potential in Miss ** Airlines…  Following night, Poolside Luau – I was supervising drinks staff, Anders ‘spearing’ a keg, it rolled over my leg – I spent the night in Southport Casualty.  Anders won Miss ** Airlines…

• 1969

Gold Coast 1969Australia – Chevron Paradise Hotel – Settled into a quieter corporate life – resumed hotel management studies.  Food & Beverage Manager – 4 restaurants, coffee shop, room service, 2 night clubs, 6 bars and banqueting facilities for 600.  The era of the Maori Show Bands.

 

First game fishing tripA holiday on Hayman Island – first game fishing experience… and last diving trip – blew an eardrum diving for lobsters in Blue Pearl Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

• 1970

Gold Coast 1970Australia – Chevron Paradise Hotel – more of the same – studies continue – a new house at Moana Park – a week in New Zealand for a family wedding.

Another quiet year – quiet was good…

Next Page … 1971 to 1980

 

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