Farewell to a comfortable office life and it’s hey ho for the open road

Having made my decision to move on it was not just a simple case of finish work as a journalist at 5pm on a Friday and start working as a roadie for a puppet show at 9am on the following Monday morning.

Giving up the flat would be a bit of wrench. It was the first home of my own (I don’t count the caravan and cottage in Burnham as that was always temporary) and I had had some good times in it. There had been parties galore in the 18 months I had lived there.

It was also where I had told the love of my life how I felt and knew that my feelings were reciprocated.

On the other hand that link to my love would have been a daily torture if I could never see her again, and that was the way it seemed.

Handing in my notice to the corporation, as landlords of my flat, was simple enough. I would need it up to the last moment of work in Basildon would sleep there on the Friday night. Before leaving on the Saturday morning I would leave the keys with a colleague and the corporation agent could collect them on the Monday morning.

Before that, however, I had to arrange to get the majority of my furniture and belongings stored somewhere safe. Where else would it be safer than with my parents.

It was fortunate that there was clean, dry storage place in the outbuildings at Mum and Dad’s place. Each weekend for three weeks I hired a Transit van and took some of my stuff up to North Wales.

There was one mishap and that was on the middle weekend. when on the motorway the traffic ahead of me stopped suddenly and I just managed to stop about two feet short of the car ahead of me. I automatically checked in my rear-view mirror and could see the car behind had managed to brake hard enough not to run into me.

A few seconds later I was jolted back on my seat and the van was shunted into the car in front.

I got out just as the driver in front got out and headed towards me. Before he could say a word I said: “I was shunted.” At which point we both went to the back of the van and could see that vehicle was nuzzling my vehicle’s bumper.

The driver was getting out and, seeing us bearing down on him, before we could speak he also said: “I got hit.”

I was sure he was right because I had seen him stop, so the other car driver and myself moved down the line. There were only three more cars and each had a crumpled front and rear except for the last one. His rear bumper was bent but there was no car behind him.

He claimed he had been hit but the car had reversed and then gone to the outside lane, which had been clear.

We had our doubts but couldn’t really be certain as to whether he was the one who had failed to stop in time.

In the end all the vehicles were driveable, I escaped the worst because Transit vans are solidly built. I swapped details with the driver in front and the driver behind and after they had also swapped details forwards and backwards we managed to drive off soon afterwards.

While I was at home with my parents I typed up the information on the shunt, including the details from the other two drivers, and gave it to the hire company when I returned the vehicle.

I never did find out what had caused the initial stoppage but I did suffer from a stiff neck for the next few weeks. It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I was shifting scenery and loading and unloading the equipment before it had eased.

On the third weekend I took the last of it up, except for basics like a plate, mugs and kettle and pans, having bought myself a camp bed and sleeping bag to survive the last week.

Work kept me busy and my weekends were spent in North Wales but that last week was not easy. I was giving up everything and going on the road for at least six months. I hadn’t even considered what I would do after that.

On that last Friday I didn’t really have much to do. All the stories I had been working on and had been tied up and my notepad was clear.

I did have to say goodbye to one special person, a goodbye I believed might be forever. That didn’t stop me giving her a list of our tour dates with addresses and phone numbers for each theatre.

I woke early on the Saturday as I wanted to leave before the town was brought back to life. The keys were popped in an envelope which I dropped off through the letterbox at the office.

Then I was heading for home (North Wales will always be my home) in my car, a Morris Minor again, with my suitcases, camp bed, sleeping bag and kitchen essentials stowed in the boot and on the back seat.

I stayed with my parents overnight and packed away the last of my stuff.

On the Sunday morning I packed all that I would need in a single suitcase.

I had two black polo neck shirts; two pairs of black trousers; two black button up shirts; five pairs of black socks; two pairs of black cotton gloves; five pairs of briefs; a pair of black plimsolls; and a pair of black Chelsea boots.

You may have noticed a theme with this stuff – it’s all black.

I could say that I chose to do a Johnny Cash (Man in Black) as I was heading for a life with a broken heart. Actually I needed all the black clothing for stage work as although some changes would be done in blackout you would be less likely to see a stage hand dressed in black than in bright colours.

All the above were packed in my suitcase, along with toiletries, I also had my trusty portable typewriter with me, but as it happened my travelling attire was also black, trousers, shirt, socks, slip-on driving shoes and a black leather casual jacket (not a biker jacket).

I said my farewells and then I was on the road, heading south for Harry Corbett’s home in Dorset, in the village of Child Okeford near Blandford Forum.

I was setting out on my new life.

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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