Tights, Tear Gas & Timbuktu
A tear gassed teenager - twice
I was brought up in what seemed to be a nice, suburban family in a small and sleepy town in Yorkshire. But my dad is the sort of bloke who seems to attract trouble wherever he goes. Always.
Mind you, some of the places he goes to are just a little unusual. In fact, he recently wrote a book all about it all. (See below or click here.)
His first overseas adventures were in post-war Berlin, Germany. Many demobbed soldiers, after WW2, decided they'd had enough of foreign lands but my dad went off to the States.
My mum managed to keep him at home for a couple of years but then he was off to Africa - attracting trouble and adventures wherever he went.
True, most of these bizarre happenings took place in far-flung places but whatever that aura was that attracted trouble his way, it tended to follow him everywhere he went, including home.
This, strangely, led to me as a young teenager being tear-gassed twice in the space of just a couple of months. Truly.
The image you see here is a copyright-free photograph from Wikimedia Commons. The images below are from my own collection.
My problems started when he went to Timbuktu
My dad decided to demonstrate that he could drive to Timbuktu and back in two weeks. (Actually it was a bet). In the meantime, I was being hauled up in front of the headmistress back at school in Yorkshire who was berating me for having holes in my tights. (Panty hose). I explained, rather feebly, that I had no money for new ones.
'Then ask your father for money' she said haughtily.
'I can't.' I replied.
'Why on earth not?' she demanded.
'Um .. well ... he's in Timbuktu' I explained.
Needless to say,I was now branded a liar as well as a scruffy little madam with holes in her tights. Cheers, Dad.
We certainly had some great holidays. That's me on a camel in Morocco.
Unfortunately, I didn't then have the photograph you see above to prove to her that he really was in Timbuktu. What shame.
Tear gas number one
He hadn't been back from Timbuktu for long when he was asked by Ford Motor Company to be part of the team they were entering into the 1968 London to Sydney Rally. Ford, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the best way to get their drivers in shape was to send them on an army training course. See the image below.
My dad befriended the officers in charge, David Harrison and Martin Proudlock and invited them to our house in Yorkshire for dinner. My mum had laid out lovely buffet in the dining room and warned us kids to be on our best behaviour in front of such posh people.
She had not, unfortunately, issued the same directive to my dad who decided to show the officers his gun collection. (Which he kept hidden from my mum - she didn't even allow steak knives in the house, let alone real weapons).
One of these was a tear gas gun and yes, you guessed, it went off. Whether my dad did this deliberately for a bit of fun - I wouldn't put it past him - I don't know.
Spluttering and coughing we hadn't much idea what to do but the army lads came to the rescue. They threw open the double doors in the dining room and each grabbed one end of the dining table and manhandled it into the garden. With our eyes still watering, we had dinner outside in pleasant evening weather - which was just as well because we couldn't go back into the house for hours.
A nice family holiday
My dad decided (or more likely, my mum did) that we needed a nice, normal family vacation. So we borrowed a friend's caravan and headed for the south of France. We found a lovely campsite that was almost on the beach. It was a quick walk from the caravan, across some dunes and there was the beach and the ocean - lovely.
The approach to the campsite was a narrow dirt track and over a period of days, we noticed groups of what my mum called 'hippies' with backpacks walking along the track. Maybe, I hoped, there was going to be a music festival or something.
What we didn't know was that in 1968, French students were revolting. (You know what I mean.....)
Here's our happy family
I slept at the back of the caravan and at about six one morning, I woke and looked out of the window. On the dirt track,I was sure that I could see dozens of riot police heading up the track towards the 'hippies'. I decided I was hallucinating. What would police - in full riot gear - be doing in a quiet rural seaside area? I went back to sleep.
But we were soon awoken by a hell of a lot of noise and shouting. Yes, I had seen riot police and now, a student riot was taking place just yards away.
Suddenly, the caravan window broke and a small object came flying through. Tear gas - again.
My dad yelled to my mum to get the kids out and head for the beach. She grabbed by younger brother and sister and fled.(She only had two arms, after all).
She wore nice, demure nightgowns and insisted that the younger two wore nice, respectable pajamas. Me and my dad though ... we had to make ourselves decent before we could escape. But eventually, coughing, spluttering and crying, we got out of the caravan.
Our problems weren't over though
The ringleader of the student group was a medium sized bloke with shortish brown hair. He was wearing blue shorts and a blue and white striped t-shirt. So was my dad. To make matters worse, the ringleader's girlfriend (or co-ringleader) had long red hair and was wearing blue jeans and a white, flowing hippy-style top. Just take another look at that photograph of me on a camel above...
So when we ran in the direction of the beach, we had a bunch of riot police - dressed just like the ones in the photograph at the top of the page - in hot pursuit. Great.
Another tear gas canister exploded in front of us so now, we couldn't see where we were going.
Luckily, the riot police couldn't see us either. Equally luckily, we could move faster.They were encumbered with their clumsy riot gear whereas we weren't. My dad had just been on an army fitness course remember, and (when I couldn't get out of it) I played hockey and tennis and stuff at school.
Under the cover of the tear gas smoke, we ducked into an evacuated tent. No doubt its occupants had escaped to the beach. My dad turned his t-shirt inside out which made the stripes less evident and, using a leather thong bracelet that I always wore, I tied my hair into a tight bun.
What else did my dad get up to?
As you've seen,even having a quiet dinner with friends at home, or a normal family holiday weren't straightforward when my dad was around. So you can imagine (well, you probably can't) what he got up to when he drove around the world, or when he was in the Congo...
More about Eric Jackson
- Postwar Berlin-Spandau - Adventure, Danger & Friends...
Read a true story that took place in Berlin just after the Second World War. A young British soldier helps a German to escape from the Russians. A story of friendship, adventure and danger.
- Around the World in Forty Three Days
In September 1963, two men embarked upon a journey. They intended to drive around the world in record time in a completely untested car. Read their story and see original photographs.
- London to Cape Town record
In 1963, two men set off on an adventure - driving from London to Cape Town. Eric Jackson and Ken Chambers aimed to break the driving record. There were many adventures and dangers along the way.
- Petrol in My Blood
Adventurer, racing driver and entrepreneur Eric Jackson was born in a gipsy caravan in 1924. At the age of eighty, he wrote his fascinating autobiography. It's full of amazing adventures. Read on.