Never mind the boots – these feet were made for walking

I have said before that my musical tastes are eclectic – they range from Donovan to Debussy and Beautiful South to Beethoven.

Claude Debussy

In my teens I enjoyed the hits of the day and believe the 60s was one of the best decades ever for young people. It did not stop me also enjoying the sounds of Glenn Miller and that jazz wonder woman Billie Holiday.

Billie Holiday

One particular musical style that had me hooked in the 60s was country music, also known as country and western and not to be confused with folk music.

The “outlaw country” sound also had an appeal with so much of it based on travelling while longing for home; and on those born under a Wand’ring Star; or those who have the hankering to roam but never quite get round to doing anything about.

Outlaw country was rooted in blues and rockabilly music, and earned the “outlaw” tag with songs about the bad boys (and girls) who roamed the west, always one step ahead of the law.

It was said to have originated in the 1970s but that was just when they stuck a label on it.

Willie Nelson was an exponent of it in the 60s but at that time was better known for his songwriting than his singing.

Johnny Cash – Man in Black

Johnny Cash was the “Man in Black” and he was singing about prisons and lonesome cowboys in the 50s and 60s (even though, despite his reputation, he never spent more than one night in prison).

Both of them (along with Kris Kristofferson) joined up with Waylon Jennings (the man who gave up his seat on the flight which ended with the death of Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper) as The Highwaymen.

You may wonder where all this is leading – a discussion on country v classic or jazz v folk? No, this is taking me back to 1972 when I decided I needed a change after the best part of two decades in Rhyl.

My feet were starting to itch and I wanted to leave the nest and make my own way in the world.

In all those years I had never been more than ten days away from home at any one time. Only twice had I even been out of the country and, apart from Sunday trips to vist family in Liverpool, rarely even left Wales.

It was not that I didn’t enjoy working with my journalistic colleagues; or did not have a great social life; and I certainly loved my family.

I just needed to have a look on the other side of the fence.

The point is when I get an idea in my head I don’t just think of a small change – I think big.

Which is why not long after my 22nd birthday I was reading up on South Africa.

In fact not just reading (this was long before the worldwide web) but also writing off to the South African embassy for information and copies of their newspapers.

A 1970s South Africa advertising poster

South Africa was not chosen on a whim – two of my Liverpool cousins had gone to live out there and seemed to be getting on fine.

I studied the newspapers for style but also for the advertisements to get an idea of living costs out there.

Rather than saying I would get the equivalent of £XXX out there I checked out the prices of foodstuffs and general household products to work out how many hours or part thereof you would have to work to buy, for instance, a loaf of bread.

After all it is not much point in saying the pay is three times what you earn here if bread was four times the price of the UK equivalent.

After a month of research I had decided that it was worth taking a punt on emigration and I wrote to the embassy asking how I should go about applying for a job on a newspaper.

The fact that my politics leaned to the left and South Africa was a borderline fascist apartheid state did not seem like a problem. After all journalists knew how to out personal feelings aside when presenting a fair and unbiased report.

Oh boy was I naive.

It took over four weeks for the embassy to reply.

The letter was quite long and initially seemed quite positive until I realised the sender was couching the response in diplomatic language.

The reality of 1972 apartheid South Africa

What it amounted to was:


In hindsight it was a lucky escape.

I decided to put this rejection behind me and rein in the distance I might be prepared to travel for a new job.

I found the UK Press Gazette (launched in the year I stated my first job in journalism) offered a decent range of jobs in the UK for young journalists seeking a job.

PS before the 70s were over both my cousins had moved to Auatralia.

NEXT TIME: My first real job interview.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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