Caravanning and RVing in Australia


Camping with Murphy

Chapter 4

For one holiday we - Mum, Dad, my friend Ken and I - decided to go camping to North Wales and as by now I had a 500 cc AJS, I was elected to buy a large box sidecar from somewhere and carry the tents and all our camping gear.

 In those days you could camp on most farms providing you asked the farmer first and we set up our two tents in a field near a farmyard on our first night. We then made our second mistake - the first having been to ignore the young heifers in the same field - and went of to do some sightseeing. We had borrowed one tent and when we returned we found to our horror that 'Betty' - a very frisky bovine indeed - had wrecked the tent Ken and I were to share. We didn't have a good sleep under the borrowed tarpaulin slung on a rope between two trees because our third mistake had been not realizing that goods trains shunted all night long on the line at the bottom of the field.

Tired and dispirited, next morning we forked out for a new tent knowing that when we returned home we had to give it to the owner of the one we had borrowed. I have never been keen on tents ever since that time but Murphy had worse in store for us before the trip was over. Dad beat him though! We had no such luxuries as air beds or even camp stretchers and just laid our blankets on a waterproof ground sheet. Mum being a restless sleeper, even in a feather bed, tossed and turned all night and constantly pulled the blankets off Dad and, as it was quite chilly at night, he complained bitterly until he solved the problem by driving spare tent pegs in to anchor the blanket to his side of the bed.

All went well after that until, coming down the twisty road out of the beautiful Welsh mountains, I must have been cornering the outfit rather vigorously and loosened a weld holding the sidecar wheel on. Murphy waited till poor Ken took over on a flat road later that day before the wheel came off and, with the outfit sending up a shower of sparks where the hub was scraping on the bitumen, we careered off the road, mounted a large pile of road metal and overturned. My foot was caught up somewhere in the sidecar chassis but I managed to free it in time to jump off as the outfit cart-wheeled. Fortunately neither Ken nor I were hurt and the bike only had superficial damage apart from the bodgy hub which had been 'repaired' before we bought it. The worst casualty was Mum who had witnessed the whole incident from the pillion of Dad's bike following us and had been certain we were going to be killed. She had to sit down for quite a while to recover while we went off to sea rch for a new hub and stub axle.

Flying had its Murphy moments and when we had finished our basic training at St Athan we were sent to one of the the various Commands complete with our bright new sergeants stripes and 'E' (for Engineer) brevet or half wing. Derek and I were sent to Transport Command and a temporary posting to Topcliffe in Yorkshire to await the time when we would go on a 'conversion course' to learn about the Hastings aircraft we would be flying in once we had joined a squadron.

We were supposed to be fully qualified Flight Engineers despite the fact that we had only about six hours flying time in our nice new log books. It was from Topcliffe that I did my first overseas flight - and what an embarrassment that turned out thanks to my friend who managed to make things go wrong in a most spectacular way.

We had been issued with a 'Route Bag' - a travelling wardrobe that held a great quantity of clothes and toiletries and into this I packed what I felt was sufficient for a short trip of about four days to Malta and the Middle East. What I forgot was a civilian jacket although I did put in a large raincoat.

The flight to Malta was uneventful and next day I was invited by the seasoned crew members to join them for a visit to the Capital, Valetta, for some sight-seeing and lunch. When I found I had no jacket they said, "Just put your raincoat on - you'll be OK." Lunch was in a quite elegant restaurant with a large, highly polished, dance floor. Assuring the head waiter that I really did feel the cold and really did want to keep my raincoat on, I sat down to enjoy lunch. Wanting to make myself comfortable I decided to go to the toilet before eating but here Murphy stepped in. I had a bag of aniseed balls in my trouser pockets and, although I hadn't realised it, a hole in the pocket. The easiest way to get to the toilet was across the deserted dance floor and I was about half-way across when the paper bag burst and aniseed balls started to trickle down my trouser leg and roll over the polished surface with this ludicrous figure in a raincoat scrabbling about trying to pick them up. Murphy and the crew laughed for a long time but my face was the colour of beetroot and I didn't enjoy my lunch one little bit!