Episode 22: Marriage, World Tour & Philip

Following my pedestrian arrival in Cairo, we flew to Athens and hitch-hiked from there to Vienna where, after much bureaucracy, we got married at a registry office on 7th July 1977. To our amazement the same day the Kronen Zeitung (a popular local newspaper) published a picture of us across their front page, as well as an inside story about the walk to Cairo. The Egyptian newspaper vendor at a restaurant where we were eating that evening was equally amazed when I suggested to him in Arabic that he look at the picture!

We took the Orient Express from the Westbahnhof to Paris, and after a couple of days visiting old haunts, travelled on to Watford for a blessing service and to introduce Angie to my parents. Our honeymoon consisted of a tour around Britain in my father’s Citroen Dyane, after which we hitch-hiked back to Athens, and from there travelled on to Cairo by boat and train.

We spent the 1977-78 school year teaching English at Madrassat el-Nasr, a superior government school which had before 1956 been the colonial English School. We lived at the top of the building in the time-warped old headmaster’s flat, and as we earned only around £70 between us a month, we had to live frugally. We shopped at the nearby vegetable souq and bought most of our other requirements in the shops in adjoining Harun al-Rashid Street. It wasn’t altogether an easy life, but it was a very good way to get to know Egypt.

At the end of the summer term, Angie went back to Austria and England, while I studied Arabic. Unfortunately I then contracted hepatitis, a very common disease in those parts, and I was still bright yellow and very debilitated when Angie returned. Curiously five weeks to the day after I went down with the disease, it just as suddenly disappeared, and we were able to continue on our world tour, this time by more conventional transport.

We flew to Bombay, where we stayed with friends, and then travelled, mainly by train, to Goa, Mysore, Ootacamund and Madurai. After crossing the straits to Sri Lanka, we visited Anaradapura, Colombo and Kandy. Back on the mainland, we went to Madras, Hyderabad and Aurangabad, before returning to Bombay for our onward flight to Bankok. My readers may remember Panny from my Paris days, and it was with her that we took a boat one evening and  experienced the amazing festival of lights on the waterways of the city.

Manila, the capital of the Philippines was, as they say, something else in Marcos’s day, a wild city of ‘jeepnies,’ brothels and non-functioning showers. It’s probably quite different now. We escaped for a couple of days to an idyllic beach on the island of Mendoro, before flying on to Tokyo and the prospect of profitable employment.

We fetched up there with a Japanese-speaking English friend we’d met on our travels, and she helped us get private teaching work and a mini-flat to rent. The first was technically illegal on our tourist visa, and the flat was a give-away. So when I got arrested by the police for not carrying my passport with me, and they tried to call Angie on our newly installed phone, I feared the worst. But fortunately she wasn’t at home and as they couldn’t interrogate her on the spot, they decided to release me. We loved our three months in Japan, but our stay was brought to an abrupt end when Angie found she was pregnant, and we headed to England for the birth.

We flew via Hong Kong to San Francisco, and then travelled by Amtrak right across the US via Los Angeles, New Orleans, Washington DC (where we stayed in my cousin’s apartment) and New York. It was an unforgettable experience, only slightly marred by Angie’s morning sickness. And so back to London Gatwick via good old Laker Airways, arriving in the early hours. Are you old enough to remember this first no-frills airline?

We lived in a tiny flat in Holland Road, Kensington, where the world now proceeded to come and visit us. Philip was born at the West London Hospital (which is no more) on 20th August 1979, and it was clear we now needed to get serious about our way of life.

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