Flying to America to buy a tin of cod

A lady in waiting

Steve Hudson meets Lord LitchfieldIn the meantime, I continued with photographic modelling. One day I was sent to a studio in Chelsea. To my surprise, the photographer was Lord Litchfield. He was the 5th Earl of Litchfield and cousin of the Queen. I curtsied involuntarily. There were two models from a different agency who were typical high-fashion models.

 

 

One of them was called Maggie and well known internationally as a cat walk model. She was very thin; in fact, she told me that a photographer had said: “Sleeping with her would be like sleeping with a broken bottle.” After that remark, I doubt he ever got the chance to find out!

We went to Horse Guards Parade and borrowed a horse. My partner for the job was a beautiful New York model. She was six feet tall in her socks and I was six feet 2 inches in her socks. We were fairly well matched and were photographed standing by a handsome sixteen-hand grey mare, who was not from New York.

When we finished the session, Patrick suggested taking the models for dinner. The restaurant was rather formal but served wonderful food. In fact, it was my first lobster Thermidor.

Over dinner he told us about his lifestyle. One night he was staying at Buckingham Palace and after a rather boozy evening he staggered along a corridor, stumbled into a bedroom in the middle of the night and − shock horror − he found a lady in bed with her hair in curlers − if only he’d remembered which room he’d been given.

The woman was probably a Lady in Waiting!

On a photo shoot in Chelsea, I met a man who was the manager of a cargo airline. He liked my voice and asked me to record a series of training films for his staff. Some (too many) producers don’t understand the importance of a trained voice-over. I have ten fingers, but I can’t play the violin.

During our conversation, I asked if there was a chance I could fly with them to New York instead of a fee for the voice over. He agreed and arranged for me to travel on one of his planes.

It was so old it had to refuel at Shannon and Newfoundland. The flight took 17 hours, but was worth every minute. We eventually landed at Kennedy Airport. The two flight crew reluctantly took me on a short tour of New York. They were quite blasé because they had made the trip many times, but they were nice guys and realised it was important for me to share my first experience of America. They had to fly back the next day, so I started my lone adventure and walked to the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station and Times Square.

I usually walk around cities because I can’t be bothered to wait for a bus. I ended up around 112th street, which is Harlem. It’s a great place for jazz clubs, but can be dangerous for lone tourists.

At one point I was walking past a derelict building when a Mexican-looking lady ran past me screaming for help. Then a Mexican-looking man ran past me screaming at the woman

He pinned her against the wire fence and slapped her. At that point two policemen arrived and, after much screaming and shouting, arrested him.

I walked around the corner, which was busy with people milling around. In front of me were six rough-looking guys who looked like they were from  Central Casting. They were shooting craps on the sidewalk. I decided to walk in the gutter rather than disturb them - I'm thoughtful that way.

On the next corner was a group of ladies singing hymns. I stood at the back of the crowd admiring their gospel singing when I noticed two evil-eyed men looking at me. I had no idea why they stared. Perhaps it was because I was wearing good clothes, carrying a movie camera and a 35 mm Nikon and wearing a Rolex my mother had bought for my birthday.

They were like vultures. I turned and walked quickly across the street. As I looked at the reflection in a shop window I could see them getting closer. I had no idea where I was, but wherever it was, I didn’t want to be there. A bus stopped a few yards away and I jumped on it, regardless of its destination. Somehow I got back to a more civilised area.

Chicago

greyhound bus

When I was a kid I went to school with Maureen Mullard. I decided to pay her a visit while I was in the US because she had married an American and moved to Chicago.

I checked the buses and booked an overnight Greyhound. I was on my way to Al Capone territory. It was a rather boring journey but that didn’t matter, I couldn’t wait to see this famous city. I didn’t get much sleep because I stretched out on the back seat, so the noise of the engine was loud, but at least my dream of America was happening.

The bus stopped every four hours at a *Howard Johnson to give the driver a rest. Fresh orange juice and crispy bacon were not popular in England, so each time we stopped I ordered eggs sunny side up (or was it over easy?) with a side order of crispy bacon and deep fried onion rings. Lovely!

I arrived at *The Loop in Chicago and was instructed to catch another bus to Maureen’s street. It was beginning to feel like a spy movie. Eventually I arrived and Maureen was excited to see a friend from London. She immediately cooked eggs and crispy bacon for me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was egg bound.

After a restful night’s sleep, Maureen and her husband took me on a tour of Chicago. First stop, Lake Michigan, which is as big as England. Chicago is like London, big, busy and exhausting. At the end of the afternoon we went to the Top of the Rocks cocktail bar, with a fabulous view of the city, and enjoyed a couple of cocktails.

The next morning at breakfast, Maureen was in tears as her 3-year-old son was missing. They searched the house, and the police arrived with a tracker dog. Several more cops started to search the area outside. Maureen was nearly hysterical. After three or four hours, we had a rest and sat at the kitchen table for coffee. Because there were a couple of policeman sitting down, we had to pull the table away from the wall. One of the policemen slid behind the table and looked up with a very strange expression on his face − half smile, half wonderment.

“I think I’ve found him,” he said as Maureen rushed round to see little David fast asleep on the bench under the table. The big butch tracker dog was looking rather sheepish.

 

 

As if that wasn’t enough, the next day she couldn’t find her slippers. Some people….

My return flight was in the small hours of the morning so, after another 17 hours on a Greyhound bus, I arrived at Kennedy Airport and took a taxi to find my cargo company at the edge of the airport. It’s difficult to find small companies tucked away at the edge of an airfield. After about an hour driving around, the meter was going mad and I was running out of money. I told the driver. He was very kind and didn’t charge any more. Eventually we found the hangar where they were preparing the plane.

Our first stop was Newfoundland. It hadn’t changed in the two weeks I’d been away. It was still cold and miserable; the people looked like they lived in the Village of the Damned.

I wanted to buy my mother a souvenir, so I found the gift shop, which was empty except for a few shelves, which were stacked with tinned fish.

Ever the romantic, I bought a tin of cod and gave it with love to my mum. I don’t think she ever opened it. Today, she would be reported to the *RSPCA!