This all happened in 1988, I had spent the year as Fleet Engineer for a Yacht Charter firm based in Corfu, Greece, bunch of pirates more like but that’s another story..
The pack of tossers laughingly described as my employers (Poms, NOT Greeks) had legged it back to England with the car and left my dad (Woody) and I basically stranded with no airfare and no money, on top of that they’d ripped us off for 600 quid and me with a very pregnant and very sick wife waiting for me in London.
Fortunately there is heaps of work to be had at the end of the Corfu summer (this was November) if you know how to stash a boat on dry land in an earthquake zone and you have the right contacts.
Woody and I got a couple of millionaires to pay our airfares in exchange for getting their boats “winterised”, one of these guys thought our employers had shafted us royally and decided to not only pay our airfares but takes us out and show us a good time.
The winterising work took up all the time we had and I was way behind with my tying up of loose ends, we borrowed a Land Rover and spent a manic evening charging about, giving away furniture, donating mopeds and saying our goodbyes, we finished about 9pm, manic, stressed to that point where everything seems to be a bit too real and ready for a beer and a feed.
Luckily Corfu doesn’t really come alive until 8pm so finding somewhere to eat drink and curse that tosser Mr Kendall wasn’t difficult, I think we ended up at the Mandouki Chicken bar but it’s all a bit hazy…
We crashed the night on a gin-palace the Kiwi boys were preparing to uplift the next day but our benefactor had too much wine for his duty-free allowance and we were at his mercy, drinking continued until…hell, I don’t know!!
Sometime during the night I threatened to kill Woody for calling me “tragic” but neither of us can remember how that all came about and the next morning we were still rat-arsed, Woody is terrified of flying so it was understandable in his case, our benefactor and I had no such excuse, we were just piss-artists.
The taxi came, we gave the gin-palace keys back to the Kiwis and fell into the dusty velour embrace of the diesel Peugeot, warned the driver that we would require an “Apothexi” dunno if that’s how you spell it but it means “receipt” and stops you getting charged your first-born for a 15 minute ride.
For reasons that defy explanation we had a bizarre collection of luggage, I checked in a huge suitcase, a rolled up bamboo screen, a tool-box and a crate of engine parts, the GA
decided better to ignore it all than try to work out the costs involved.
Woody started to get very raucous due to his inebriated state, mixed with fear and started hassling the GA
, our benefactor hustled him off to get some fags and I apologised.
Through the window of the airport I could see the distinctive tail and middle engine of an Olympic 727, not that I knew bugger-all about a/c then.
We hustled Woody on board, at one point I feared we would have to thump him to knock him out, he was misbehaving somewhat, like an ADHD kid on caffeine.
We had a row of three, our benefactor grabbed the window, I had the aisle and Woody was jammed between us, lest he escape.
Our flight was Corfu to Athens, we had to change planes in Athens for LHR
We tried to keep Woody from feeling nervous by getting him to look out of the window to take his mind off the flight, seemingly a recipe for disaster but it actually worked! He calmed down and this old sea-dog, veteran of the Cod-Wars, who had survived Icelandic shell-fire (one of QFF’s rellies must have known what was to come!) and numerous gales upon the unforgiving ocean, finally started to beat his one remaining fear.
The a/c interior reminded me of an old person’s sitting room, crossed with a London bus, sturdy, reddish and dusty but all good, the thing flew and we had stunning views over the Ionian Sea and the Greek mainland.
We slipped into Athens without incident and Woody was beginning to assume a human temperament once more, I think this was actually his first flight since his Fleet Air Arm days, he was in the Medical Corps so didn’t get to fly much, unlike his brother who was a fighter pilot in WW2 and gave a good account of himself, including getting a mention for crash-landing a Blenheim (that had presumably had the crap shot out of it) with no loss of life or serious injury.
Anyway, we had been told horror stories about Athens airport but it all seemed fine to me, busy and more grubby than Corfu (Kerkyra) but no biggie, I was not at the hungover stage yet, more a case of terminal numbness.
I was still counting my blessings for being able to rustle up enough trade to get us home to check on Mrs Jafa, who was undergoing every test the hospital could devise to try and decide if the embryo that eventually became my darling daughter (The Hormones) was viable, she wasn’t supposed to get pregnant anymore..doctors orders after the last miscarriage that damn near killed her.
We sort of hovered around in Athens in limbo, I had no clue as to how it all progressed and just went where our benefactor told us.
This eventuated in us going outside, into a bus which took us to a waiting a/c. after the 727 the engines looked enormous, the whole beast was something very different.
“Why are the engines so big?” I naively asked
“Because it’s an Airbus A300” relied our saviour
“Oh!” I thought…”That explains it” I had no idea what it meant other than Airbusses fell out of the skies on a regular basis and only the brave or foolhardy would fly them, silly me, shouldn’t listen to them London Plasterers….
As we boarded I was somewhat staggered, I had never been in a widebody before and I couldn’t work out why there were so many people, all sat in a row looking at me, I felt like I was in front of a cinema screen, it just seemed vast!!!
We drew the outside row and one middle row seat, across the aisle if I recall correctly, terminal tiredness was setting in, we were on the last leg and pretty soon I would be back in London, back???? I didn’t live there, we would be shacked up in the in-laws spare room until I found a job and a house, I’d have to go despatch riding until I found something better, like a school caretaker…loadsa money and a free house!! Just like father-in-law, well, less bitter and twisted perhaps!
Stuff happened, engines started and we wooshed off for the couple of hours hop to England and I can’t tell you a damn thing about the journey except that I woke up on the descent, dribbling down my shoulder, stinking like a student flat’s laundry basket and with a pounding head-ache and a diary full of Kiwi girls names and addresses, which I subsequently lost, if anyone is, or is related to, one of the Sue’s or Poppy from that heady summer of 1988, tell them to give us a shout, I was meant to meet them in Seven Sisters Road but had a bad motorcycle accident that very day…if they know why “Tuna” is significant, you’ve got the right girl, I’m looking for the guys too, John Beauchamp
whose real name might have been Graham but it was only a rumour.
Any road up, I had never set foot in LHR
before and felt a bit posh to be landing on a scheduled flight, the landing was smooth and after the dust-bowl dryness of Corfu and the wonderful sea and sand, London looked frost-nipped and wintry as we staggered down the airbridge to be met by a rather pregnant Mrs Jafa and the benefactors wife, who allegedly made a living photographing hot sturdy blokes doing manual labour…obviously the West end had a Communist PR
And then it was into the rush-hour, Woody hitched a lift with our benefactor to go crash with some mates in Shepherds Bush and I wandered off to start a series of events that wouldn’t make the slightest sense until one day I became a Jafa.
We, the undersigned, do hereby consent.....