A few things I’ve discovered
Editing my dad’s book has been a revelation for many reasons as you can imagine. Probably the most surprising is that, although I already knew a lot about the trips – I was eight years old at the time of the London to Capetown record – I never knew just how very dangerous they were.
I am guessing that my dad played down the dangers when talking to my mum – he didn’t want her to put her hand down with a firm foot (one of my mum’s expressions) in the way that I imagine she would have done. And it’s interesting that Ford Motor Company, in their publicity, always played down the dangers. They made the marathons drives seem more like something you’d read in Boy’s Own Adventure. Yes, they’d mention bandits in the London to Cape Town stories for example, but didn’t actually tell the story of how the old fella and Ken were very close to death.
I’m going to list a few things I have discovered about Africa by reading and editing the book. It will give you a flavour of things to come …
- In some areas of Africa, there are huge swarms of ants. If these swarms discover a dead animal - or human – they can strip it of flesh overnight.
- Just a few years before the intrepid duo went to the Congo thirteen Italian airman who were sent to the area were killed – and eaten – near Kindu, on the Congo River. If you find that hard to believe, Google will confirm.
- Boy soldiers aren’t a new phenomenon. One of the many dangerous people Eric and Ken met was a boy of about thirteen armed with an automatic rifle in a deserted spot. High on drugs or alcohol, and leading Eric and Ken down a deserted path surrounded by elephant grass, he would have shot them as the whim took him – and probably not even remembered about it the next day.
- It wasn’t just the ants that were a problem in Africa – disease-bearing mosquitoes, leeches and ticks that attach their claws into the skin – were rife.
- The truth about the Ford Motor Company people and their arrest in Africa.
- What do you do when you are driving with a sheer cliff on one side and a sheer drop on the other and two trucks are heading for you side-by-side? You have to choose between the ravine or the cliff …
- You are caught in a violent sandstorm in the Sahara. Do you drive or stay put?
- Why do you always have your gun at the ready and why can you never, ever leave your car alone?
- What do you do when you are miles from anywhere and you have just punctured your very last tyre?
- What is the most dangerous animal you can encounter in Africa?