Chapter 4

Chapter 4


Mexico and London

I spent about 8 months with Father in Mexico. My cousin Joan Bright was also living in the house and working at the British Legation, having succeeded her elder sister in the job. In the earlier part of my stay I did work with the railway engineers, and did quite a lot of travelling about on track inspections, laying out new spurs etc, but it was clear that there was not enough work for a totally inexperienced unpaid assistant, so gradually I gave up the pretence of working, and concentrated on more serious pursuits such as golf, swimming, and social life. Father had a small Ford coupe, as well as his official car and he allowed me to use it as I wished. To do this I had first to get a Mexican driving licence, and this involved not only a test drive but also a medical examination. When the time came to present myself for this, I had, accompanying me, a person who would act as my interpreter and guide me through the various departments. Father had wisely decided that this was essential, as in the Mexico of those days it was necessary to ease one’s way through the bureaucracy by the judicious use of small bribes, and to do this one employed a “coyote” or jackal as such men were known, who knew what each bureaucrat expected, and would do it tactfully, and quietly. I duly took the driving, and oral tests, and passed these without question, but at the Medical test my blind eye was discovered and I was refused a licence. Unfortunately I had not thought to warn the “coyote’ that I had a blind eye so that he had not prepared the ground. He was very upset at one of his charges failing perhaps because he only got paid if they passed, and then after a chat with Father in the office he arranged for me to take the medical again a few days later. This time it was a different Doctor, who held his hand over the same blind eye twice, and so I was able to read all the figures easily, and passed, and got my licence.


Eventually Father suggested, and I agreed that this carefree existence should end, and that I should return to England to get a job. This was no easy matter in those days even for university graduates, but fortunately Father was on good terms with a Mr Body who was a director of S, Pearson & Son, who owned a subsidiary Company called Whitehall Securities, which in turn owned and operated electricity companies in England, and in Greece. Mr Body’s significance, as far as I was concerned, was that he was a Chartered Civil Engineer, and in order to become an Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, it was necessary to be indentured to a full Member for three years. Mr Body agreed to take me on as his indentured pupil for this period, and as a start put me as a pupil assistant in to Whitehall Securities in its small civil engineering department at a salary of £120 per annum. So with mixed feelings I left Mexico after my 8 months holiday, by Ward liner for New York, and after two nights at the Biltmore Hotel sailed for Liverpool on a Cunarder.


As far as I can remember, my mother was then living in a flat in London, and to begin with I stayed with her, but in time she left England for a period, and I moved into a lodging house, No 7 Qeensgate Terrace in Kensington, with friends from Cambridge. I presented myself to Mr Body at his office, and he told me that he was trying to get me a position with a Firm building a dam in the Sudan. but that meanwhile I would work in the aforesaid Whitehall Securities.


So began one of the most boring and frustrating periods of my life as far as work was concerned. There was very little work to do, and what there was consisted of drawing lines on a map showing the future route of electricity lines. I had very little knowledge of electricity generation, and even less interest, and could not wait to get abroad into a proper job. Whenever the boss of the Firm building the Dam in Sudan returned to England, I got to see him, and asked him when he could take me on, but was always put off with promises. There were no other jobs then available for half qualified engineers so that I had to possess myself with patience. A saving grace was that I was living with very good friends, and with our very limited funds we somehow managed to enjoy ourselves in the evenings, and at weekends. Money was a very real problem as even in those days £12 a month was very little to live on in London or indeed anywhere, and I cannot remember that I got any allowance from Father, although Dick did in order to keep up appearances in the Army, rather a sore point with me.


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