|Following the convoy in Morlaix during our Holiday.|
Before I go any further, I've got to add something to my account of the year 1988. I had parted company with Black Bob, as I've already said, and for a few months tried to carry on by myself. This was proving to be difficult because of the increasing demand for my services, so I must have been doing something right ? Towards the end of 1988 a couple of people came into my life, one, to whom I owe a huge amount of gratitude and the other ?....well, what can I say ?
OK, the first one was Andy Blackbourn...."no E at the end !"
|Andy and a pal in Knoydart early that year.|
Eventually I caught on and eventually asked Andy if he would like to work with me in the garage. Andy's another one of those people with Castrol oil in their bloodstream, a good natural Mechanic ! I've met plenty of people who call themselves mechanics but very few of them are true natural Mechanics.
Andy is !
|Douglas Reilly in Glencoe that year.|
Douglas first turned up as a customer with a niggling fault with his Vauxhall Nova which was his pride and joy. He'd been round most of the Vauxhall dealers and tuning shops and wasn't getting any satisfaction until he came into the workshop in Govanhill Street. The fault was cured by a minor adjustment to the carburetter but Douglas was impressed by the fact that I explained the problem to him and showed him exactly what I was doing. So a few days later, to show his gratitude, he came round with a bag of buns for the tea break and got talking. He was in a pretty bad way at the time. He was out of work because I think he couldn't cope with the stress he was under in his last job in Holland. As a result he was under doctors orders and pumped full of anti-depressants and who knows what else. But he didn't drink or smoke and he was a highly qualified driver.And he could be good company too. So he eventually started helping me out on an informal basis by delivering cars to customers and collecting bits and pieces for me.
So this was the state of play at the beginning of 1989, Andy was working full-time with me and Douglas was doing odd jobs for us on a casual basis. I was still trying to get a builder to draw up plans for the new garage but without much luck. Sandra was helping me deal with the applications to Glasgow Council Planning Department and Building Control Department. This was my introduction to two of the most corrupt, inefficient and downright obstructive organisations I'd ever come across. Planning Department completely contradicted Building Control and the only time they agreed was when they told me that I couldn't rebuild the garage at Cathcart. At a cost, we managed to get round all of their objections until they decided that the ground wouldn't support the building I intended to erect. They advised me to appeal, again at a cost ! I engaged an expert on foundations who eventually turned up and asked me to have a hole about the size of a grave dug on the site at Cathcart. Later that day he wandered back, looked into the hole and said "There's nothing wrong with that, it would support a tenement !"......then sent me a bill for £600.00 ! His report was duly attached to the appeal and I thought that at last we could start building.
No Chance !! The Council's expert didn't agree with our expert ! Now I would have to appeal to the Secretary of State for Scotland in Edinburgh. Christ ! I just wanted to build a wee garage !
By this time we had to do our sums and realised that the money we had raised was rapidly disappearing. I'd been paying a mortgage on the garage in Cathcart and the rent for Govanhill Street for over a year now and with the costs of the plans and applications fees I certainly couldn't afford the thousands it would cost to appeal to Edinburgh.
If I had just went ahead quietly with the rebuilding I might have got away with not notifying the Council but I was determined to keep myself right legally.....maybe I was wrong ?
Well, then it was back to the drawing board and a lot of sleepless nights.
To lighten things up, John Dunn had suggested a family holiday in France, but this time with even more people than the first holiday in 1979. If anything is to be organised John's the man ! He got us all booked into nice Gites right on the beach in Brittany in a perfect wee town called Loquirec. John and Irene with Jenifer and Sasha were going. Sandra, Lucy, myself and Lucy's friend Julia were going. As were Irene's sisters and their families. And who could forget the Golden Girls ? These were Irene's Mother and two Aunts and they were treasures !
This was for July, so what could we do till then for a bit of amusement ?
I asked Andy and Douglas if they fancied a bit of cold weather hill walking and camping in Knoydart in April. I don't know if they knew what they were letting themselves in for but they both said yes. We decided to do a two car walk across Knoydart by leaving a car in Mallaig then all getting into the other car and driving to Kinloch Hourn. We then walked into Glenbarisdale, camped for the night, then next day walked over the pass through the snow to Inverie to catch a ferry to Mallaig.
|Andy and Douglas climbing out of Glenbarrisdale .|
|George and Linda Spence beside John Cherry's Rolls-Royce outside the Drovers Inn.|
|A sample of the decor in the Drovers Inn.|
|John Cherry leading the high jinks !|
|Alistair Rickett with some of the usual suspects.|
|Myself just joining in with the antics !|
|Alistair Rickett going to bed.....anybody's bed !|
Meanwhile back at the garage, in a fit of madness that wouldn't be repeated, I'd bought a BMW 316 from Jimmy Green the bodywork repair man. I bought it at a reasonable price, but soon realised that I didn't really need it. It spent most of it's time sitting outside the house in Nithsdale Road. But I reckoned it would be quite nice to drive to France in and then I would sell it. So when I had time I was going over it with a fine tooth comb, the last thing I wanted was a car letting me down on holiday. Strangely, I don't have a single photo of it, but I remember it well, nice wee car !
May was a busy month. Loads of work in the garage ! I'd been servicing and repairing a nice old BMW 3.0Si for a Greek customer of ours, Nontas Pitticas. Nontas was pretty high up in Paisley and was one of the main people involved in the setting up of a Paisley University in Athens. He was a really interesting and entertaining character who worked at two speeds.....immediately or whenever !
|Engine bay of BMW 3.0 Si|
|Transmission work on Nontas Pitticas's BMW 3.0 Si|
This was only five months after the tragedy of the Lockerbie Bombing by Gadaffi of Libya. John had some horrific stories about the aftermath of this atrocity. Some of his colleagues found bodies on their properties and one poor soul, who somehow didn't know anything about it, was traumatised by driving to work the next morning with bodies and parts of bodies hanging from trees along his route !
|The Dunns dancing round Long Meg.|
However, we had a fine day out at a stone circle known as Long Meg and her Daughters and a good lunch in the Shepherd's Inn in Melmerby. John was travelling all over the UK with his job at this time and was fed up with the bland overpriced rubbish at motorway stops. So he started searching out good places to eat that were just off the motorways and one of the first he found was the Shepherd's Inn. I told you he was an organiser !!
Lucy was at a bit of a loose end right now, she didn't know where she was going career-wise.Before she left Hutcheson's Grammar she had a part time job on the check-out at the local Coop. It wasn't easy advising her because really, she could have done anything she wanted to do....if she wanted to do it ! So to give her a bit of interest and experience I coaxed her into helping us out in the garage with paperwork and answering the phone. It must have bored her to bits, but if nothing else it helped her realise that she was capable of much more. I was a bit concerned that she might turn into one of those Teenager creatures that hide in their rooms and have nothing to do with their family and eventually screw themselves up mentally. But she didn't ! She asked me what I would like for my birthday that year.
|Lucy in the middle with Douglas and his bag, Maureen, Leo and Andy on top of Meikle Bin.|
A well remembered day on the hillside !! Andy and Maureen Blackbourn with Douglas Reilly and his pal Leo were there too. Many years ago I'd done this walk with our Dave and regretted leaving Lucy at the bottom of the hill because she was too wee at the time.
|Examining a Merlin V12 aircraft engine on Meikle Bin.|
Then it was the annual jaunt to Cally Palace in Gatehouse of Fleet for the S&D ball with Sandra who was by now a key member of staff in S&D . It's a pity Gerry Swan was such a fool a few years later and started listening to the wrong person....more on this later, it could be a story of it's own !! The Rise and Fall of Ian McDonald aka Plug ! Watch this space !
|George Waddell and me on the top of the Merrick in Ayrshire.|
And what can I say about George Waddell ? A fascinating character, absolutely full of stories, some comical, some tragic but all interesting. Doesn't drink or smoke but sadly in later life became addicted to gambling.
|Annual S&D Swimming Gala at the Cally Palace Hotel.|
|Interior of Delvin Road Garage after raising the roof.|
|Entrance to Workshop in Delvin Road .|
|Arriving in France after midnight, Raymond watching out for bats !|
It's just as well there were no mobile phones for the likes of us then ! It would have ruined our holiday if I had known what was going on in Glasgow while we were on holiday.
But anyway, the holiday....what a holiday !!
It was Great ! We set off in a convoy of four or maybe even five cars from Carlisle heading for Plymouth and a Brittany Ferries crossing to Roscoff.
John Dunn, if you read this I'd be delighted if you could fill us in on the details of the trip to France.
We arrived after midnight at the village where we were to meet the woman with the keys to our gite. There was only one street lamp lit in the whole village, and there underneath it stood this figure dressed in a nightdress or a shroud, and what looked like her bare feet. That was spooky enough, but what really got the rest of us going was the bats that were circling round this woman's head ! As the head of the family and a responsible adult I did the only thing I could have done... I pushed Lucy out the car and told her she was the only one with good enough French to speak to the Undead !
We lived to tell the tale .
So we were quickly shown round the house, we had no idea what it would look like in daylight, but inside was fine and we all crashed out almost immediately.
|The view from our window with the tide out.|
The house was beautiful and backed right onto a fabulous beach. There was a good restaurant next door and a nice bar next to that and we were only a few miles away from the first HyperMarche we'd ever encountered !
We had arrived during a particularly hot spell of weather so John and I decided that we just had to fill the fridges with good cheap French beer. You can imagine our delight when we found in the local supermarket cases of beer that cost practically nothing compared to what we paid in Glasgow. You can also imagine our rage and despair when we got home, chilled it and tried it, and found out that it was bloody shandy ! As it turned out, the weather was so hot that by the end of the week we had come to enjoy it so much we went back for more !
|Christine and David Murphy in the Grande Cafe de la Terrace|
I really don't like talking about this, but I suppose I should set the record straight. One afternoon John Dunn and I were debating ways to keep comfortable in hot weather when we seemed to remember that in hot climates people eat hot spicy food, so we decided to try eating one or two pickled chili peppers.
|Me, recovering from the chili incident the previous day !|
Now before I go any further I'l give you an idea of " les toilettes" in the Grande Cafe de la Terrace. They are perfectly acceptable, clean ,tidy and well appointed....but there are only two of them ! And they are situated at the end of a long corridor.
So there I was laughing and joking with a nice wee digestif at my elbow, when like a bolt to the bowels it struck me !
My guts are going to explode in the next seven and a half seconds ! That was what hit John earlier ! Well, they still talk about it, how I vaulted over the table and sprinted down the corridor to come upon a queue of Welsh women patiently waiting to use the facilities.
"Praise the Lord!" I thought as I saw one of the doors opening but this is no time for diplomacy as I elbowed several women aside and practically yanked the woman out of the cubicle. I made it with half a second to spare !!
But, bloody hell, how was I going to get out of here in one piece ? The Welsh women outside were vexed to say the least !
"Did you see that ignorant sod, Bronwen, damn nearly had me on my arse he did !"
"Yes Myfanwy, we saw it alright, but what would you expect from these French buggers. If I thought he understood, I would give him a piece of my mind, I would !"
"Ah ha ! this might be a way out " I thought. So I squared myself up, stepped out and dispensed a few "Bon Soirs" and "Apres Vous" here and there and managed to escape with nothing worse than a back full of glared daggers!
However I did suggest that I beat it rapidly before I got found out !
|The Golden Girls, and Sasha wondering just what sort of family she'd been born into !|
This was the year that the Tour de France was won on the very last day by Greg Lemond by the tiny margin of eight seconds. I remember seeing the photos of Greg Lemond and poor Laurent Fignon taken on the podium in Paris. Laurent Fignon looked like a man destoyed. And that is the nearest the French have come to winning the Tour de France ever since !
|The Minature Submarine on the Quay at Brest with the Gun under the trees.|
"Oops !" Well, what do you say it a situation like that ? "I'm sorry we sunk your ship and killed a thousand of your sailors, we won't do it again !"
But can you imagine the position Admiral Marcel-Bruno Gensoul. was in ? Click on his name and check it out !
And I won't even mention how John, Jenifer, Sasha and I swam across the bay at Loquirec, or the beach cricket game that went on until dark and was only stopped when someone let the bat fly into the sea !
|Looks like a holiday, doesn't it ?|
|The eerie atmosphere of the" Night of the Sausage" !|
And Lucy I'm sure remembers the time we went to a sea shanty festival when we got lost in thick fog on the way home. We crawled into a village with the usual one street lamp on outside the church and I asked Lucy and Julia to jump out of the car and go and read the name of the village on the bin outside the church. Of course it was one of your typical Breton horror show churches with life size statues of skeletons and devils all over the place. Poor Lucy, she was terrified, her and Julia had recently watched "The Fog", a real scary movie, at home. We made it back to the gite alive but had to fortify ourselves with several medicinal brandies, or at least John and I did !
|Sandra and Lucy recovering from the drive in the fog !|
|The Holiday House which really took our fancy !|
So we put the idea to Mimsie and Dave who both thought this was a great plan and Mimsie in particular was all for it !
Six weeks later than I'd planned, we re-opened the garage in Delvin Road ,Cathcart. This was a horrible time for me, I'd just about run out of money and the garage that I eventually had just wasn't the one I'd envisaged. But I had to get on with it, nothing else for it ! It would have been so easy then to get a bigger loan from the bank but I just had a gut feeling about this and made up my mind not to.
I could have, and maybe I should have, explained to everyone just how desperate the finances were. But I didn't want to worry people unnecessarily and I felt that people would have lost confidence in me. So I kept my thoughts to myself and struggled on, often working practically right through the night, a thing I said I'd never do ! I really understood what George Morrison was going through....welcome to the Club !!
This was when my friend Gordon Stoddart's son John joined us as an apprentice, and Douglas Reilly was now a full time employee. So there were three people depending on me for jobs plus if I didn't succeed Mimsie, Dave , Ricky, Sandra and Lucy would be homeless ! Stressful ? Just a bit !!
Young John was a nice kid, he was not at all academic, but he was keen as mustard on cars, and motorcycles later. On his first day we asked him to make some tea as this was a very important duty for all apprentices. John had been nicely brought up and asked where the teapot and cups and saucers were. He was horrified when he found out it was garage tea that was required which means a teabag in a muckle mug each and if the mugs reasonably clean all the better! He soon picked it up and Andy coached him closely in cursing and swearing, which is also a much neglected skill. But to be serious for a minute, John became a fine mechanic, very, very scrupulous in his work ! He learned to work efficiently but I think it was in his nature to pay close attention to detail. His work never caused me a minutes concern. He could be strangely impatient about other things though, when he was learning to drive it was as if every other driver on the road was an idiot ! He was probably right !
But we all got on well together and on the whole I think it was a happy ship ..... comments welcomed please !!
So what was happening at home over the last few months of this year ? Ricky and Mary I've mentioned, but he was keeping her well away from us for the time being. Dave was sort of courting a lovely French girl called Blandine for a few years now but nothing seemed to be coming of it, much to Mimsie's disgust. She always maintained that she could throw together a party in twenty four hours but a wedding would take a week, mostly for the cake. Sadly, not to be in these two cases.
Sandra and I had asked John and Irene's brother in law, David Murphy to design a kitchen for us for Nithsdale Road. It was the kitchen Sandra had always wanted ! And it worked so well it was still in place eighteen years later when we sold the house. Dave did the fitting for us and I think George Waddell did the plumbing and an old friend Jim McCormack did the electrics. But over the Christmas and New Year period we didn't have a kitchen, we had a building site !
|Our kitchen in Minard .|
That's roughly what happened in 1989, so stay tuned for what happened next year....