Monday, 12 March 2018
33. WHAT TO DO WITH MY LIFE AFTER THE DEMISE OF CAROLINE IN 1968
After my studies in Ghent and with really only RadioVeronica left for musical enjoyment, the reality of life set in. The idea of gap years not having been hatched yet, employment had to be found straight away, if not sooner. For the longest time I had been dreaming of working in English language radio, but with Caroline and even the smaller offshore stations gone there was little chance of that wishful thinking ever coming true. So I went hunting for more mundane jobs. Being a bit stubborn however, I only applied to positions of employment where knowledge of English would be an important factor.
At the Irish Embassy in Brussels they were most surprised to receive my application since -although not specified in their ad- they “were only looking for females”. In the late 60's 'emancipation' apparently did not apply to men. I had more luck when seeking a position at the Zeebrugge office of Townsend Car Ferries, the company which had started a roll-on/roll-off service between Dover and the Belgian port in 1966. Because traffic was increasing steadily the company needed someone who could look after the Belgian side of the accounts and explain things in proper English to the Dover 'overlords'. I started work at Townsend Belgium on December 6th 1968.
Just before joining the working classes I had a “gap-10-days” in Austria. (My only true vacation ever) In Ostend my friend and next door neighbour Walter and myself were joined by a busload of mostly elderly English holiday makers for the trip to Seefeld. And yes in the end we knew all the words to “She'll be coming round the mountain”...
It was whilst swimming at Die Kanne that we first heard Ö3 (Euh drei), the new third programme of Austrian radio, a pop music station that sounded somewhat Caroline-ish (it still does to some extent). As a result we spent quite a bit of time soaking up the hits at the swimming pool.
Working for Port Manager Noel A. Johnston MBE (photo above) at Townsend Car Ferries in those early days was an absolute pleasure. The office people busy in the small cottage near the old lock in Zeebrugge formed a tight-knit family, all trying to get the ships loaded and out on time through the very narrow Visart sluice gate. That was especially important since one of the captains was said to consider just two speeds when negociating the lock: “dead slow and stop”.
Only weeks after I began my employment the highlight became the first Christmas office party. It was held at the renowned “Chez Willy” restaurant with succulent “râble de lièvre” (saddle of hare) on the festive menu. In fact it was also my first time in a chic restaurant. Little did I know that this classy eating house would some time afterwards become one of my regular stomping grounds entertaining visiting company dignitaries, nor that a year or so later, in early 1971, “Chez Willy” would turn into a favourite dining place for Messrs Meister and Bollier of Radio North Sea International.