I’d hate to say – if only . . to our children in the future.

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All ready for a wedding.

The flight from London to Melbourne was particularly good considering the last time Maureen & I flew to Australia, which was not long after we were married in 1970, we were also travelling ‘staff travel’, and we were ‘off-loaded’ in Hong Kong and we were stuck there for about four or five days.
As a couple it was inconvenient, but with two children an ‘off-load’ would have been a problem.

The wedding went well, and we all had a great time, and the children just loved the beach.

After the wedding we stayed with Maureen’s aunt & uncle who had emigrated from the UK in 1951.  They were very hospitable and during one visit to the city via the old ‘red rattler’ we thought we would check something out.

Chelsea

The above shows Chelsea station, although part of the Melbourne network living in Chelsea gave the feel that you were in a small town rather than a major city.
Note the level crossing to allow the train to pass through . . . it was quiet, and the beach just a couple of minutes’ walk from the station.

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Red Rattler 

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inside of a ‘red rattler – I think the red rattlers was discontinued in 1985.

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We arrived at the terminus in Melbourne, which is in the heart of the city.

Walking around the city we passed the Migration Services centre (I am not sure what the exact name was in 1978), but this was what I wanted to check out. 
From memory this office could give you permission to stay in Australia permanently. 

I queued and when it was my turn an Italian-Australian asked

‘What de u vant’

I said ‘I’d like to stay in Australia, please.’

‘What skil av u ?

‘I work for an airline.’

‘We don-t-a need you.’

‘But I can fly a B747!’ said, I lying to my back teeth.

‘We plenty pilot we don-a-need you – NEXT!’

A Vietnamese chap behind me with limited English was smiled at, and asked to sit down – PC had not been invented in at that time . . . 

After our holiday we arrived home in November 1978, and now I had to settle back into the routine of shift work and selling frozen food, and it was cold after the beautiful beach weather of Australia. 
To add to the cold weather mortgage rates were about to go up in early 1979 to just under 12%, we could no longer afford to live in our house or even in Congleton because of the cost of petrol and the proposed mortgage hike.

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In March of 1979 the Prime Minister, James Callaghan lost a vote of confidence in the House, and he was forced to call a general election.

As all this was happening Maureen and I were discussing our future and we both considered that since our last visit eight years earlier, Australia had change in a positive way.  The living standard of the average man had increased considerably, but Maureen & I had the feeling that we were going backwards in the UK, because we were being forced to move closer to work because of the high mortgage rate and the cost of petrol to get to work.
Discussion in Parliament anticipated that the mortgage rate in 1980 would reach 15%. 
By July 1979 petrol prices for 2-star petrol had jumped to £1.40 per gallon (£7.13 today). The fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979 caused oil prices to skyrocket.

Instead of moving closer to Manchester airport we decided sell up and migrate to Australia – if they would have us.
The decision was made easier for me than Maureen, because I woke up one morning and found myself looking forward to retiring, I was only 33! 
I had to do something!

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We booked a meeting with the Australian High Commission branch office in Manchester and arrived at the appointed time.

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Chatsworth House in Manchester, where the Australian Migration offices were located. 

The meeting started a little ‘coldly’ because the person that we were meeting did not like living in England and told us so.
He complained about the way the British park their cars on the wrong side of the road. In Australia one would not dream of parking a car facing the wrong way.
He then told us that he was being posted to Germany and he was looking forward to the Munich beer festival because he did not like English beer.

We did not feel as if the meeting was going well.

He then asked if I had a criminal record, and in a fit of trying to lighten the meeting I replied that I did not think that I still required one. There was a long, long silence.

At that time migration to Australia was based on a point system, the applicant had to reach a certain number of points in total.
Points were given for being able to speak English, the education level of the applicant, the number of children, the age of the applicant, job skills of the applicant, the amount of cash that we were taking and so on. 
He then told us that if it was up to him he would not allow us to migrate because I was unemployable and at the top end of the age group, and he expected me to go on the dole as soon as we arrived in Australia.
But, under the points rule he had to sanction our migration because we were paying our own way and did not require government support – at that time the £10 POM had finished, and it was now a £50 POM system, which was not available for us.

We had our interview on the 9th April 1979 and it was 15th October when we received permission to migrate. 

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On the 24th October, our passports arrived, which contained the visa to live in Australia. We had until 20th September 1980 to arrive in Australia, any later and we would not be allowed to migrate.

On the same day we put the house up for sale. 

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I took this picture in 2008, during a driving holiday in the UK.

When we lived in this house the front living room window was a picture window from ceiling to floor giving us spectacular views over the valley. The bow window must have been put in by the new owners.  

The house was sold in two days, on the 26th October 1979. We could start packing . . . Australia here we come!

The legal process began at the speed of a snail. 

Late November / early December the mortgage rate increased to 15% and our buyers withdrew their offer.  

BOAC to British Airways

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I joined BOAC in 1969 and in 1971 an Act of Parliament merged BOAC with BEA to take affect from 31 March 1974, which would create British Airways.

The UK had joined the Common Market, as it was called then, in January 1973, so the merger of the two government-controlled airlines made sense.

BOAC was a small cargo unit at Manchester Airport so it was obvious that the dominant partner would be BEA, who were focused on Europe, as against the global focus of BOAC.

The writing was on the wall for the BOAC staff, so I started to look at my future and perhaps changing jobs, but my skills were limited, except in transport.

So, I decided to go back to school, or to be exact a college that was connected to Manchester University, to study transport. I did this while working shift work at BOAC.

During my time studying I considered going back to sea on short trips to perhaps the Mediterranean ports. The wine trade from Spain and Portugal looked interesting, but this would still require me to be away from my wife for several weeks, which was not an attractive idea.

One weekend I saw an advert for a deck officer to work on the supply boast to the oil rigs in the North Sea.

I had seen pictures of the oil and gas rigs and thought, not a problem, so I applied and was invited for an interview in Great Yarmouth, which is in Norfolk, UK.
To get to Great Yarmouth from where I lived near Manchester Airport would require a six-hour drive, which I did with great anticipation.

On arrival in Great Yarmouth, I met the manager (owner?) of the supply vessels that serviced the gas and oil rigs off Great Yarmouth. All went well and I was offered the job of 2nd Mate on one of the supply vessels. I was over the moon with happiness.

The Manager explained the details of the job and offered suggestions of whether to move to Great Yarmouth or remain in Manchester and commute when require.
Each ‘shift’ was about a week on and a week off, so I had the choice of commuting.
The phone rang, and the manager answered it and asked me to sit in the waiting room while he took the call.
When I had arrived, I did not spend any time in the waiting room but was shown straight in to the manager’s office.

I sat in the waiting room and looked at the framed photographs around the walls.

Note the flat deck at the stern. This picture is from the internet

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I then began to study the other photographs around the wall.

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This was not what I had in mind when I thought of going back to sea . . . 

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The money was good, but was it that good???

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Would my stomach accept the violent movement??

The above pictures are from the internet to illustrate what I was looking at while the manager was on the phone.
Eventually he came out of his office and saw me looking at the pictures, ‘What do you think?’ he asked.
I assumed he was asking about the quality of the photographs, but I deliberately ‘misunderstood ‘, and said ‘Thank you, but I don’t want the job.’

He thanked me and commented that I was not unusual once people had seen the photographs, at least he was honest with the lifestyle that he offered. 

I drove six hours back home and collapsed into bed. It had been an awfully long day & I would go back to college to study transport.

I was still restless and felt that I wanted a change before the amalgamation took place. There were jobs going in the Middle East working for Gulf Air, which my direct manager applied for and gained the position of cargo manager Bahrain.

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I did see an advert for a cargo manager Saudi Arabian Airlines based in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.
Maureen thought I was tailor made for the job. The money was particularly good, and we would have a house in a compound.
I explained that Riyadh was not the place to be for foreign women, and that she would not be able to drive or go shopping without me . . . . plus, the weather in July and August was not for the faint hearted, we lost interest in Saudi Arabian Airlines.
At that time BOAC had engineering staff based in Riyadh, and they refused to fly home with Saudi Arabian Airlines because they were DRY!  and they still are as far as I know.

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A Saudi B707 plane at Heathrow.

A few weeks later one of my BOAC friends left to work in Dubai, I was not the only one who was unsettled. It would be over forty years later before I met this friend again in Dubai – by this time he considered Dubai to be his home, and he had his own company. Maureen & I had arrived in Dubai off a cruise ship. 

In 1974 our first child was born, so I had to pull my head in and concentrate on cash flow.
We lived 32 km (20 miles) south of the airport and the trip to work was through the countryside which was mainly a pleasant drive. I did not have a company car so transport was at my own expense.CCI23122018_0002

In the winter getting to work could be a problem – Maureen outside our house wondering if we can get the car to start, or even if we should bother because more than likely the roads would be impassable. 

The town in which we lived was Congleton and was over 700 years old. It was a quiet country town of about 11,000 people.

Congleton The Motto is ‘Sit Tibi Sancta Cohors Comitum’ – To Thee be the band of comrades dedicated.
The town also had the nick name of ‘Bear town’ hence the bear at the top of the town crest, which is from an incident in Elizabethan times when bear baiting was popular (today we leave the baiting to the media).
It is said that the town bear died before an annual holiday period so the people decided to use the money that they had saved to buy a Bible, to buy a bear instead, so as not to spoil the holiday period.
Later a rhyme became popular, which can still be heard, even when we lived in the town – ‘Congelton rare, Congleton rare, sold the Bible to buy a bear.’

We loved the house and the views across the valley with the River Dane flowing through the farmland. (left picture)

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As we stepped out of the front door and looked to our right there was more countryside. (right picture).

By now I’d passed my exams and became a Graduate of the Institute of Transport – in other words a right ‘GIT’. 

Our mortgage at the time was £5000 or £71,000 (approx. today), and income was £30 / week or £422 / week today, and the mortgage rate was 8.9%.

In 1976 our second child arrived, and things were getting tight, mortgage rate had jumped to over 9%, and would soon reach 11.2%

In 1970 petrol was 33 p a gallon (£4.65 today), in 1975 it was £0.55 (£7.75 a gallon today), I needed more overtime or find a way of earning extra cash.

I worked a five-shift pattern –

Day shift 9am – 5pm / early shift 7 am – 3 pm/ late shift 2 pm-10 pm/ evening shift 6pm – 2 am the following day, and night shift 11pm to 7 am, we were never more than two days on the same shift, so I had daylight time to consider how to add to my income. 

The people that I worked with were mostly males, but there were a few females, so I started buying eggs from local farms and selling them to the staff on the airport. Later I branched out by selling potatoes from other farms.
I could see a demand because buying from me saved my work colleagues shopping time when off duty.
Fortunately I had what the English call an ‘estate’ car, which the US and Australians call a ‘station’ wagon so I could carry quite a lot of goods if I dropped down the back seats. 

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                            The above was not my car just the same model.

As time went on people started to ask for other items and I found out where ‘end of line’ products went when after the production line changed in a factory. I was now selling frozen food, all branded names such as Birds Eye, it was just that Birds Eye had changed their product line and sold off the excess of the old product to a dealer, and I had found the dealer.

This became so popular that I rented a 20,000 cubic foot freezer chamber from a Congleton butcher, to be able to buy larger volumes at a better price. In addition, I had three chest freezers in my garage.

I then moved into Steak Canadien, which were one pound (in weight) frozen packs of ten slices of beef in single packs. I began selling this item to pubs as well as staff on the airport.
These packs went down very well in pubs because each slice with a little lettuce & sliced tomato on a roll were popular with the public. I sold the packs at £1.00 a pack of ten and the pub sold each slice with the bun and salad for at least £1.00. The profit to the pub was huge.

sheet three27122020I also sold packs of four lamb steaks, each steak being four ounces of pure meat, very popular with children, as well as the pubs because one lamb steak and chips was a lunch time meal, and of course everyone would buy a beer . . .   

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One unusual product, that I have not seen since, was a large frozen custard tart (catering size), which was very popular with families, including mine!  
Similar to the above, but frozen so you did not have to eat it all on the same day.

By 1978 I had earned enough profit for the four of us to fly to Australia to attend Maureen’s cousin’s wedding. We would be the only members of the UK side of the family able to attend. Few people went to Australia for a holiday!

Because I worked for British Airways, I could take advantage of ‘staff travel’, the airline sold discount tickets to staff.

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Chelsea Beach in Victoria, Australia.
October 1978.
Which was a short walk from Maureen’s uncle’s house.

Should we or shouldn’t we . . .

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Before we emigrated to Australia we lived in a small town (small for the UK) of about 11,000 people called Congleton, which is in Cheshire.
During the time we lived there we took part in the celebrations for the town’s 700 th anniversary.

I worked shifts for BOAC (later British Airways) at Manchester Airport, which was 50 kms from home.
We enjoyed our time in Congleton, and loved the location of our house, which was one of five that over looked the River Dane.

The above picture show the view from our bedroom window.

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The above view is from our living-room window.
The above photographs are getting old.

Life was good until the interest rates went up to 18%, petrol climbed to stupid prices (I didn’t have a company car, so I was paying for my own petrol) and the weather could be a pain.

The whiteness of the above two photographs is the frost – not snow.

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Come Christmas we had snow, which was fine and felt very ‘Christmas’, until you had to dig the car out and try to get to work – if the road was open.
At times only four wheeled drive vehicles were allowed out of the town.

So a decision had to be made, because the cost of living in such a beautiful area was killing us. We decided to move closer to the airport, but which airport?

Instead of moving closer to Manchester we decided to move closer to Melbourne airport in Australia, so we began the long process of gaining permission to emigrate. Which is another story.

After about a year we finally had permissions to emigrate.

It took us over a further year to sell the house, due to the high interest rates – we sold the house twice, but the first time it fell through because the buyer couldn’t secure the loan due to the interest rates.
Finally we sold, but we had to be in Australia by a certain date or else our Australian residency visa would expire.

We left power of attorney with our solicitor and flew out just in time. We paid full price for all our tickets, I was too old, at thirty five, to emigrate for £50.00.

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 Our first Christmas in Australia on Chelsea beach in Victoria.

I was out of work for eleven days, and was offered three jobs. The best job interview I’d ever had was in Melbourne. I was taken to a pub for lunch by the State Manager & the Admin manager of an international courier company, and at the end of the lunch they asked when I could start.
I started the next day and was given a company vehicle as part of my package. At the end of my first day I left the office in the dark on a wet rainy Friday, driving a strange vehicle and I didn’t know the way home.
In the end I kept Port Phillip Bay on my right and kept going until I recognised the railways station near where we lived.

From then on we’ve never looked back, Australia is a great country.