I Was a 7 Year Old Escape Artist


Yes, I escaped from parental holidays on Ramsgate beach in England with sand-filled cheese sarnies and goose bumps, to cub camps of beautiful wet tents in sodden campgrounds - heaven!
Progress was slow in the cubs but the sea-scouts beckoned with promises of boating on the Thames and escaping to the Swiss mountains, driving through France and Belgium in a 1936 lorry and exercises with the Royal Navy on coastal minesweepers until finally I could escape on my own two wheeler with an engine, for another foray around Europe only to return broke except for a carton of 200 Senior Service of which a pack was immediately bartered for a gallon of petrol at Dover, just to get home!
And then, charter flights appeared on the scene and a trip to the Costa Brava in a Super-Connie was not to be missed as a first venture into the air with four propellers as I could not yet afford a 4 wheeled machine with an engine.
Four wheels in the shape of a 1954 Ford Prefect came next but with mates with better wheels I again drove south to the Costas in Spain and came close to working a beach bar but that appeared to be captivity - not escapism.
Captivity happened, in the form of articles to a firm of Chartered Accountants for 5 years with only short holidays and weekends to manage my need to escape but after the articles ended, a period of adventure appeared, only to be throttled by job commitments and employers who did not appreciate the extra week tagged on to the allowable holiday allotment, but jobs were easy in those days and so I moved on a few times.
Escape To America beckoned to a wannabe cowboy and country and western fan so plans were made to emigrate to Canada. Escaping from England at the historic Tilbury Docks on the less than historic Polish Ocean Lines Stephan Batory to Montreal was an 8 day experience of escapism. Overcoming jet-lag in Montreal took a while but renting a giant of a car (Ford Galaxy) and driving to Dundas to stay with an old mate helped the trauma fade.
Ok, so I have escaped but what next? Build an ark out of a 1964 Ford Econoline and set up some sleeping quarters for a trip across Ontario and The Prairies to the Rockies. Being a confined Brit for some years shielded me from some weather concerns of altitude, mountains and temperature and who needed insulation in a van anyway and who the hell needs a sleeping bag made for freezing temperatures? I did, but as I am writing this, I guess I did not damage too many cells. Escapism is looking and feeling good.
Luck had been with me in that I met up with a great bloke at the Benbow Western Museum in Calgary who was a country singer/songwriter and pilot. The name, Cal Cavendish always brings back happy memories of that visit and other occasions that we managed to meet over the ensuing years.
The beauty of being an Escape Artist was showing itself in the people one meets on the road and the ones who stay around for a while.
Finally reaching the west coast with enough cash for only a month or two led to the escapism being moth-balled and a job found until sufficient funds enabled the visit to Nashville, Dodge City and The Alamo.
As long as escapism is your goal and you do not set deadlines that cannot be met then take your time and enjoy captivity as much as you can, I did, as the west coast of British Columbia offered unlimited escape potential to lakes full of trout (that was then) mountain trails and wilderness, but the real wilderness is further north in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska, all beckoned and were covered in due course from canoeing the Nahanni, crossing the Chilcoot Pass and hiking in Denali. Skiing, hiking, vanning and then south to Nashville via some historical western towns and the books of Louis Lamour before finding another consulting assignment before the next escape.
The short time I spent in Calgary with Cal Cavendish convinced me that I should learn to fly and add to the 8 hours I had put in at Biggin Hill (of WW2 fame) and get around in the air. Weekend escapes now meant the airport and burning holes in the sky and then cross-country trips with the Pitt Tail Draggers flying club. Some of my greatest escapes so far, with like-minded people who just wanted to escape into the blue and wing over some mountains and valleys to land on a small airstrip somewhere to simply sleep under the wing. A cross-country air-dash (The Almost Great Canadian Air Dash of 1980) found me in a 1946 Fleet Canuck with 25 other antique airplanes heading from Delta Air Park near Vancouver to Prince Edward Island and on landing at Geraldton being offered a bush flying job from an old flying mate, but at slave wages. A great memory of the return flight over the northern states was when our ragwing plane was parked outside awaiting a heavy thunder storm. The FBO saw our predicament and moved a twin Beech out of the hangar and we pushed our little plane inside....what a guy!
In between flying, skiing, hiking and touring Canada and the USA the thought of Australia and New Zealand came along with stories of great Kiwi fly fishing and the vastness and remoteness of the Outback of Oz.
It's a funny thing but I still remember the airline ticket price ($1,700cad) for a return allowing Australia, New Zealand and Fiji (and that was 1977)...it's far cheaper now but there is no longer any fun left in commercial airline flying.