Caravanning and RVing in Australia

Into Civvy Street with Murphy
Chapter 8

We were living in Harrogate in a caravan at Vi's dad's farm and her brother Sydney told me that Ernie Taylor who ran a little garage nearby, was very busy and could be looking for help. Ern gave me a temporary job to help him and his apprentice catch up with a back-log of work and the temporary position lasted more than three years with me becoming foreman when the business expanded to take on more staff.

Murphy had a ball at Taylor's garage. One vehicle that gave him great pleasure was a little MG sports that must have had metal fatigue in every part because whatever you did to it, something broke. Studs sheared, nuts stripped and oil seals leaked. We did an engine recondition on it and when reassembled, the motor wouldn't turn as the pistons were too tight and so we tow-started it only to find the clutch was slipping.

When we heard its distinctive exhaust note approaching, everyone had their heads down and tried to look too busy to see what was wanted!

There was just Murphy and me left in the workshop one night as I finished a job on that car and I needed to move it to another position. This meant pushing it over the large inspection pit and Murph saw to it that one front wheel missed the plank over the pit and the car dropped on to its front axle. It happened to be right under the chain block used for lifting engines so I quickly put the hook of the pulley on to the front bumper and lifted the car up. Just as the owner came strolling down the driveway, the bolt holding one side of the bumper bar broke and the car dropped down with an almighty thud. We hated that car!

One of the apprentices was nicknamed 'Prawn' - Ernie reckoned he stood around like a raw prawn and the name stuck. One day Prawn was working down the pit and as I walked past I accidentally dropped a large socket spanner on his head. It wasn't Murphy who copped the abuse when he had recovered sufficiently to swear.

While at Taylor's we bought a 1.2 litre Jaguar sedan and used it for car rallies with the Harrogate and District Car Club. These were great fun and Vi and her brother Syd used to navigate while I drove between the various check points and also kept an eye on the navigation - not that I didn't trust them you understand. Often they gave wrong directions and to keep to the tight time schedules I had to drive very hard. Despite this I managed to win the 'Novice of the Year' award after our first year's rallying. I can still hear Syd's droll words as I furiously tried to make up lost time, "Dawn't knock t'bottom aht of it!"

One weekend I decided to do without their assistance and set off for a rally in South Yorkshire on an old ex-army Ariel motorbike with a clipboard and watch fastened to the petrol tank. Just a few miles from home the tank sprang a leak and it took a while to fix it. Then Murphy really jumped into action and stripped teeth from a couple of gears and completely jammed the gearbox. With just a large screwdriver and a mole-grip wrench I managed to take the gearbox apart and remove the damaged cogs but was still stuck until some young lads from a nearby farm came along, saw the trouble I was in, and went off to fetch some bits and pieces from an old wrecked motorbike. These bits let me jury rig the gearbox so that it was locked in top gear and with much clutch slipping I managed to get home again without ever getting close to the rally! It was a much more humble driver who enquired if anyone wanted to come rallying the next weekend!

That Jaguar was a great car and stood a lot of abuse but without a heater it was very cold in the chill English winters. After a particularly freezing trip from Yorkshire down to Mum and Dad's place for Christmas, I said I wouldn't do the trip again without a heater. Having little money I decided to make one based on the way aircraft heaters work using surplus heat from the exhaust.

I sleeved the front exhaust pipe with a length of tubing slightly larger in diameter and this made a jacket to warm the air. Underneath the front I fashioned an air scoop and at the back I made an outlet. From the outlet I led the warm air via a flexible length of tubing to the inside of the car and up to the bottom of the dashboard where it came out on to our legs and knees. It worked a treat and kept the windscreen from fogging up as a bonus. That's when our friend took a hand the following Christmas as we made out traditional trip south. It was cold and wet but we were cosy as bugs in a rug until, in Leicester, we had to drive though water under a railway bridge. The scoop picked up water, the exhaust turned it into superheated steam that melted the plastic of the flexible pipe so that the wire inside it unwound like a spring, all the windows fogged up and we were in a sauna. Once the water was gone the heater continued to work although it wasn't quite as effective without the flexible pipe. It now came straight out of the outlet and to shut it off we just used to stuff a rag into it.

Mum and Dad came with us on our first ever caravan trip to Scotland and we headed up the Great North Road in fine spirits on the first day until Murphy sent a dog out from the footpath right at the last minute so I hadn't a hope of missing it - and in fact ran over it with all three left side wheels. "Ah well - that's the first one," I remarked to Mum's horror. The poor pooch belonged to a vet but was past any help his master could give him.

Years earlier I had hit a dog with the gear-change lever of a motorbike and must have given it very sore ribs as it bent the lever into a 'U'.

When we emigrated to Australia we sold the old Jag to some university students who were going to use it for a trip to Spain. We never heard from them again so I guess it did the job OK.

Vi's sister Mary and her two boys came from their home in Australia to England for a holiday and Syd and I drove down to Southampton to pick them up in a 3.4 Litre Jaguar I borrowed for the occasion. It was a fabulous car and on some straight stretches I had the speedo up past the 100 mph mark only to get a repeat, "Dawn't knock t'bottom aht!"

Mary and her two boys had to return to Australia before Guy Fawkes Night, 5th of November, so we decided we would have the bonfire and fireworks on the Saturday before - which coincidentally was my birthday - but Murphy thought differently. The day dawned wet, cold, very windy and quite unsuitable for outdoor activity. The bonfire would have been too wet to light and as the wind by evening had increased to almost a gale, we stayed inside and had a few drinks to celebrate my birthday - perhaps it was more than a few because Syd disappeared after a while and we found him in bed not feeling too bright.

The huge bonfire had been assembled quite near Syd's large hen house which was full of chooks in battery cages. Suddenly a shout went up - "The bonfires alight!" It was alight alright and when we rushed outside we found it was roaring with the wind fanning it into an inferno - right towards the chooks. We nearly had Northern Fried Chicken long before the Colonel thought of marketing his variety!

Enterprising boys can achieve anything with Murphy's help because I would have sworn it wasn't possible to light that pyre. Fortunately the chooks survived and no damage was done. The rain had stopped by then so we stayed outside watching the fire consume the 'Guy' and letting off the fireworks.

 
Chapter 9

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