I told you about the trip to Heathrow. What I didn’t tell you was that my wife (oh how she loved that title) had forgotten her hair dryer and it wasn’t possible to go on holiday without it. You will see later why that was ironic. So, we ended up back at Mother’s house on Sunday morning before starting out for real. I would like to say that we had pre-booked a wonderful holiday in the sun but if you knew my wife… We started out with cash in our pockets – no credit cards in those days – a hired car and enough luggage for 5 – 7 days.
Which way to go? Well, neither of us really knew so we headed off to Wales. After a long journey, we ended up on the North Wales coast at Llandudno booking into the Hydro Hotel. Nowadays it is a multi-starred place with good Trip Advisor ratings. I am sorry to say that this did not apply to us. Remember that I was 22 and Valerie was 20. We were world wise – Not! Having booked a room, we were shown up and found that it was the pokiest room you can imaging with outdated furniture and a view of the dustbins out the back. Fortunately, we hadn’t paid a deposit or anything so we turned round and walked out. It was just as well we did because we headed out on the A5 which drives right across north Wales to Oswestry. On the way, we arrived at a small village called Bethesda and came across a small motel out in the country. The difference was chalk and cheese. We had a view up the mountainside and could see sheep grazing. From a small room with no facilities, we had a lovely room with an en-suite shower. It being our second day of marriage and a shower cubicle… Well, that was a first and last!
We had a nice two days there. We had a trip up to Rhyl to see a film – A Countess from Hong Kong starring Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando and a hit song for Petula Clark – “This is my song”. Two days – time to move on. My wife has a wanderlust at times like this. Where next then? Oh, the Lake District sounds nice, says she. Off we go and somehow find an extremely nice hotel that is all pine cladding. The significance of this will be obvious to those who know Valerie. For the rest of you, it will emerge in later life. Not only was it all pine clad but – and this was a first for us – had duvets on the beds. We had never seen such things at that time. Again, a lovely couple of days but where next. “Oh, I know”, says Valerie, “why don’t we go down to Chippenham”. We can stay at the Angel Motel and go and see my grandparents. Now, Valerie’s grandfather was not a bundle of fun. In fact he was the most hidebound misery that I think I have ever met. Every meal and tea break had to be to exact time and I never heard him crack a smile, let alone laugh. Grandmother was alright but very staid. What did I say? “Oh, alright”.
Distances: Romford to Llandudno = 268 miles. Llandudno to The Lake District = 161 miles. The Lakes to Chippenham, Wilts = 252. Not bad for little old England and a guy who hadn’t driven for a few years. Fortunately, the M5 motorway was substantially complete at this time and took us south of Birmingham. Someway on the journey, whilst on the motorway the clutch started to slip and going up one long steep hill, it finally lost all contact with the engine. Remember that this was a brand new Ford Anglia so this should not have happened. We pulled onto the hard shoulder and I walked to the nearest telephone to call the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) as their service was included in the hire. Whilst we were waiting, an extremely smart AA (Automobile Association) man turned up. He tried the clutch and announced that we would need a tow to a garage. We thanked him and, sitting there worried, waited for the RAC man. A scruffy RAC van with an even scruffier driver turned up. Ten minutes later we were on our way, him having adjust the clutch cable which had slipped. Good man!
Somewhere out there on these trips Valerie took a liking to a set of Carmen Heated Hair Rollers. Remember that we had to go back for a hair dryer? I can’t remember how it came up or why they became so important but I do remember that the whole time we were at the Angel Motel we were driving throughout that part of Wiltshire looking for the rollers. Not any old Carmen rollers but a specific set! It seems that everyone stocked the make but almost never this special set. Eventually, in Cirencester, we found this exact set and we were able to do something that I wanted. A trip to the Royal Tank Corps museum at Bovington seemed a great idea, but we had run out of time so we went home. It was to be many a long year before I got to see the tanks.
We came back to Watford to open up our new home for Valerie to start her new position at the bank’s Wembley branch on the Monday morning. I was to try the new commute from Watford to London, Euston and a Northern Line Underground train to the Bank Station and get back into the hurly burly of the bank’s dealing room at a time of huge balance of payments crisis for the UK. My days were to get even more interesting.