My mates at the Wensum Community Centre all addressed me as George, had done for some time, as did their girlfriends. Lisa Waterfield still does. There was some competition from Gary Hughes as well. Back from my visit to see Mark Cameron in Portsmouth, I again fell into my usual trap, over enthusiasm for women, under enthusiasm for work. I was painting for Carters and we were sent out to a Nature Reserve property called How Hill to renovate inside and out.
Mark Cameron rang me a few weeks into 1987 and said the now immortal line “Do you want to come to America with me; I have an aunt in California”? “Yes” was my immediate answer. I needed to know, no more than that. I asked no questions about where in California she lived, her ability to put us up, how we’d survive etc, and set about raising enough money to get out there and exist if need be. Mark came back up to Norwich and we had to travel to London, to the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square to get our Visa’s. Driving the “boat” my Cortina, was fun if not dangerous, with the front number plate balanced on the dashboard, bald tyres, rusting sills and rear doors that were held shut by a bungee cord across the seat and attached to the interior door handles.
We arrived into central London intact, just, and drove alongside Buckingham Palace towards Hyde Park, windows open, sun shining, stereo blasting out WHAM! We were cool, certain we were attracting attention. The largest Police Horse I have ever seen moved out into the road ahead and the policeman, who was sat astride it, put up his hand and motioned me to pull into the side of the road. I told Mark to lighten up, that I’d be ok, but he sat ashen faced as I climbed out of the car and walked towards the horse, which proceeded to head butt me backwards towards and up against the car bonnet.
The Police Officer asked me where I was going and I told him of our plans and the trip to the American Embassy, and “did he know where The Embassy was from here?” He looked at the car in disgust and asked me how I had the cheek to drive the thing into central London. I turned around and looked at the car and Mark shrinking down in his seat. “My brother Richard is a Met Policeman” I offered, as if that would sway the encounter positively in my direction. “Is he now, what’s his name then?” I told him Richards’s full name and where Richard was based (Peckham) and he spoke into the radio.
After a moment or two, he looked at me, at the car and said “right, go to the embassy, get your Visa and never, ever, bring that heap of crap into London again”. I looked at Mark, gave him a confident “I know what I am doing” look and told the Policeman I liked his horse, to which it butted me in the chest again. I got in the car and we drove around the horse and onto Park Lane and into Grosvenor Square. We parked and went into the Embassy, went through the interview and came out with our Passports stamped.