Episode 23: London, Jeddah & Brighton

I worked temporarily as a security guard at the Soviet Exhibition at Earls Court, but was promptly sacked when I refused to deny entry to Jews, some of whom were protesting outside at Soviet emigration policy. So I signed on, and occupied myself learning to type and scouring the newspapers for employment.

Angie shrewdly warned me against a position with the Saudi Ministry of Education in Riyadh. But a post as English Instructor for Saudi Arabia Airlines (Saudia) in Jeddah was a different matter, with a considerably higher salary and free accommodation. I applied, attended an interview in Chiswick, and heard my American boss, say those magic words: ‘I want you down there.’

And so on 17th November 1979 I flew on a Saudia tri-star over Brighton, France and the Alps; on down the west coast of Italy;  across the Mediterranean; up the Nile; and finally over the Red Sea to Jeddah. It was a journey I would repeat many times over the next nine years, but emerging that first time into the hot night air at the old Jeddah airport and encountering crowds of Hajj pilgrims from every corner of the Muslim world, was an unforgettable experience.

At first I lived in shared bachelor quarters in Shorbatly, a settlement of pre-fabs outside town. I bought myself an enormous second-hand Chrysler Plymouth which had the inconvenient habit of stalling in the middle of heavy traffic, and of spitting fire when I opened the ‘hood’ to investigate. So once I was established I gave up pretending to be an American and bought, for cash, a new Toyota Carina Estate.

In mid-January Angie and Philip joined me at our allocated two bedroom apartment at the top of a seven-storey building in the huge airline housing development called Saudia City. From our balcony we had a magnificent view across the bay to the centre of town. Angie soon made a circle of friends through a gardening club where the plants – and the booze – were  rather different from our own late lamented group here in the North Laine!

For two years I taught marketing staff and mechanics, and was then promoted to Senior Instructor in charge of testing. In this capacity I participated in conferences in Hawaii, Ottawa, Toronto, New York and Princeton, and a training course in Esher.

On 15th June 1982 our daughter, Julia, with her crop of black hair, was born at the Baksh Hospital. Meanwhile, we shared a beach hut at ‘The Creek’ but on the whole preferred the clean water of our compound swimming pools. These were most inviting when I arrived home dripping with sweat, but I’d find Angie itching to go out shopping!

So she would often use the local bus service to get to the souq while I was at work. Other entertainment consisted of plays and concerts at embassies and schools, and lots of socialising, both with expatriates and Saudis. We were entitled to concessionary travel, which we used to visit Australia, Singapore, Kenya, the US, Cyprus and Austria. Meanwhile Philip started at the largely American Parents’ Cooperative School.

To backtrack, in my first days in Jeddah I got to know my colleague, Owen, who lived in a bare one-room apartment and moon-lighted all the hours God gave. Well, he used the money thus earned to buy himself a house in Eastern Road, Brighton. And that’s how, towards the end of 1980, we came to buy our first house in Hanover Street, Brighton. Owen had suggested Brighton was ‘the place to be’. Property was relatively cheap, London was within easy reach and Sussex University needed property to let for their students. Moreover, we’d know at least one person in town when we came back to live there.

In fact we never did live in that house, though we spent a couple of holidays there during the summer, between lettings. But in 1964 we found a much bigger one at 8 Clifton Hill. Alas, it turned out to be riddled with dry rot, and so the front half of the house had to be completely reconstructed, a task which my brother, Julian, oversaw. It was at his suggestion that we added another two rooms at the top. And so at last a home was ready for our return.

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