Fuzzy photos & Unreliable Tasting Notes (FP&UTN) continued ...
OK, this was a bit weird ... neither of us had ever set foot outside South Africa before and now we're starting a whole new life and career 9,000 km away in the Northern Hemisphere. We'd only been married a month.
As a privileged white boy, with a private school education, it was the fulfilment of a dream. Many of my pals had been beyond the borders before, quite a few all the way to Europe on the post-matriculation jolly that was seen as a (rite) right-of-passage. As a spoiled brat I watched various family members head North as I languished in Durban feeling sorry for myself and licking my wounds.
When the opportunity came and I'd "earned it myself", I came over feeling vindicated. I didn't spend a moment to consider how my new wife would feel about it nor that "earning it" was a relative term with a huge leg up from the aforementioned privilege.
Consider this episode of FP&UTN as a tribute to my new bride, Carmela. It was my dream and I didn't consider her feelings for a moment. Upon reflection, I now understand what a self-congratulatory dork I was at the time and recognise the sacrifices she made to help me realise that dream. Carmela had lived a sheltered life in a close family. She must have been terrified (in fact I know she was) at being torn from the bosom of her family and dragged away on somebody else's dream. Someone who had a ready made job at the other end. Someone who expected her to pull her weight for his own selfish, privileged dream. If you're thinking "Tosser Harrison" at this point, you'd be correct.
I was so self-absorbed, I wouldn't notice the loneliness she had to endure. I was off to Fleet Street every day to do my dream job.
But before I go there, I need to fill in a few gaps. I never thought Dad had been too empathetic with Carmela's and my needs. I now realise that he was more in tune with his new daughter-in-law's needs than his entitled son was. To be honest, we were both bricking it. I'd not been on an airliner since I was a toddler and I don't think Carmela ever had. Dad rearranged a business trip to Johannesburg so he could take us to Durban airport, fly with us on the first leg and show us the ropes at what is now OR Tambo International. I'd forgotten that. Carmela hadn't. I asked her to verify a few memories and this was one of the first that she inserted into the narrative.
Thank you Dad. Also thanks to Sybil, a Durban friend who had made her way to London before us and was lodging in Earl's Court, I seem to recall at one of those Antipodean backpacker places.
Auntie Argus had provided me with the opportunity of a lifetime but that was where it stopped. We had been booked into a fleapit hotel for a fortnight. In those days there were plenty to be had. When we got to our room, the bed was unmade. There were bloodstains on the mattress. I would have put up with anything but even I thought it was an imposition for Carmela.
After all, I would be reporting to work the next day and this was to be my new bride's home for a couple of weeks. Thank heavens for Sybil is all I can say. I can't thank her enough, even 46 years later.
A priority list evolved:
Well, I got to work successfully the next day. Never underestimate the British penchant for giving directions. To this day it helps to ask someone who appears to know where they're headed. In fact, they'll often offer if you contrive to look baffled enough.
My colleagues were a pleasant bunch but helping us find accommodation wasn't high on their agenda. Why should it have been? Permanent lodging became a priority on the first weekend. I recall we cut our losses in the fleapit after a week and were ensconced in Ross Court atop Castlebar Hill in Ealing. I learned very quickly not to disabuse future landlords of the myth that my accent was Australian rather than Seffrikkin.
With a flat in the bag, a coat for Carmela and a twin-set and Lunasix 3 for me we set out ticking off attractions. This was in Hyde Park, near Speakers' Corner. By this time we'd hooked up with Phil Duff hence the groovy pic. 46 years later I was told by Shelley-ann when she noticed my twin-set in this photo (she's seen the pic many times) she couldn't believe she's been married for 40 years to a man who once wore twin-sets. Personally, I think it looks the epitome of cool.
We watched telly for the first time in our tiny modern studio flat. Coronation Street, Crossroads, footie and wrestling on Saturday afternoons. After we'd paid the rent and the TV rental we didn't have much left over for other stuff. Anyway it was a massive novelty. Our friends and family in Durban hadn't started watching the SABC test pattern for hours on end just yet. If my memory serves me well, the furnishing was pretty basic: a tabletop Baby Belling in the kitchen, a divan, a chair, and the sideboard in the picture. It had sliding aluminium framed windows that rattled frantically when Concorde flew over and was a mile from Ealing Broadway station.
When we'd stayed briefly in Earls Court we'd had to eat at affordable restaurants and there was a chain of Balkan eating houses that offered particularly good value meals and a carafe of red. Apart from vinho verde obtained via Lourenço Marques I'd never had anything besides South African wine, some of it like, Backsberg, very good in its day (Carmela didn't drink in those days). But it seemed the height of sophistication to be drinking European wine ... actually I don't remember it being that bad. I do realise, from experience, though, that Côtes du Rhône and Rioja have come a very long way since the £2/bottle from the 1970s supermarket shelves. Once we moved into the flat we ate a lot of scrumptious pasta concocted on the hot plate. Shit, it must have been lonely for the one stuck at home.
Sybil had told us about Green Line buses so we could get out into the country, which was a thrifty way to have a day out. As winter advanced, a coat was required.. I decided a leather coat might be cool. Warm and waterproof. It was neither. The only one I could afford lost most of its dye in the first bit of serious rain. On the inside. Walking up Castlebar Hill for 20 minutes in the rain on my way home from work. Yuk. I thought I was quite dashing in the park by the river, though. Carmela much more sensibly attired.
OK, so you were warned that the photos were fuzzy.
I can't claim that what our eyes saw at Oh! Calcutta! were in any way out of focus. Fuzzy, maybe. Phil had persuaded us to join him at the live show in the West End. He proudly produced tickets for the seats. They were VERY NEAR THE FRONT. At some point in the show, the cast lined up at the front of the stage completely kaalgat! Skande! Carmela now claims she persuaded us to move further back. Her story probably has some credibility, given how protected we were in good ol' Durbs. Phil must've been most disappointed. Hair wasn't a whole lot better in that regard.
Coming soon: , Elena arriving. New year in Paris. Phil lends us his sports car for the weekend. Coventry Cathedral - visiting the provost. Emmanuelle. In the back of a kombi in London
 So much so that, when I was a few months wiser, I took it upon myself to find a suitable landing stage for a few couples who arrived after me. I found a decent furnished flat in Bayswater that was cheaper than the skanky hotel for them. If I recall correctly, a few pounds were saved for a three-week sojourn compared the two-week stay that had been booked for us. It was a relatively easy sell to management.
 There was a lot of anti-Apartheid feeling in Britain in the '70s.
 A top end light meter ... in those days the entry-level Pentax SLR didn't have one built in. Camera equipment was much cheaper in the UK in those days.
 A photographer colleague from the Daily News in Durban.
 Stark naked in Seffrekkin.
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