Monday, 18 October 2021

Cornwall at its best for a 50 year reunion

Barbara and I arrived in Zambia in late 1969 and our first of many friends were two single guys, Alan Minty, a mechanical engineer in one of the open pits, a fine squash player who introduced me to the sport, and Pete Love, an exploration geologist.

Barbara with Pete and Alan, Chingola 1969

Like many adventurous young men, Alan, Pete and I aspired to great things, future entrepreneurs who would make their own way in the world. When our contracts in Zambia ended we would no longer have the shackles of employment, and would be masters of our own destinies. 

As I was an "experienced" diver, with 30 dives logged in the UK, and had introduced Alan and Pete to diving in the sunken lakes near Luanshya, it seemed obvious to us that our future lay in running a diving school in Spain and we even registered our company LMW Divers and began to learn Spanish!  A pipe dream of course, and as we settled into Zambian life this was quietly forgotten.

It was not the end of our ambitions to go it alone, however. Pete and I invested in hi-fi equipment and ran a weekly disco, which was soon abandoned as it was obvious that this was not the route to millionaire status.

Saturday Night Fever with Pete, and Brian, the 'security guard'

Alan and I went a different route and invested quite a bit of our savings into a good second-hand Nissan station wagon with the aim of running a successful taxi business, as few of the local Africans owned cars, making full use of buses and taxis. Taxis were everywhere, rickety vehicles carrying inordinate numbers of passengers. Alan had a driver in mind, one of his African workers, who was keen to leave the mine. We planned everything meticulously, possible routes, fares and the commission for the driver, who, having great confidence in us, had given up his mine job. The great day dawned, we gave the driver his final briefing, he proudly took his seat in the taxi, drove away, and that was the last we ever saw of him or the car!! 

Sobering reminders that not everyone becomes a Richard Branson overnight, and after several years in Zambia, Alan, Pete and I moved on along our separate paths, and unfortunately lost touch.

Over thirty years later, however, Barbara and I met Alan and his wife Sheila purely by chance, on a tour bus visiting Robben Island off Cape Town.  We had a great reunion dinner in Cape Town, where we reminisced and caught up on how our careers had developed since our Zambian days. It transpired that Alan had a thriving family business in the oil and gas industry, specialising in, wait for it, risk assessment! Oh, the irony of it! If only we had carried out some form of risk assessment all those years ago our African driver would not have had his early Christmas present.

Lunch in Cape Town with Alan and Sheila Minty, 2006

Over the years I tried unsuccessfully to trace Pete via Google but two years ago I had a message from him on LinkedIn, and we arranged to meet up with him and his wife Pam, who now live in Eastbourne in Sussex. He had left Zambia in 1972 and spent a year at the President Brand Mine, with the Free State Gold Mines in South Africa, before returning to London and working in the Foreign Office for a couple of years.  He married Pam in 1974 and returned to the gold mines, with Vaal Reefs in the Transvaal, then on to the Anglo American Corporation Head Office in Johannesburg. Their daughter Natalie was born in 1979 and Pete then spent 5 years as Chief Geologist on Elandsrand Gold Mine on the Western Rand before returning to the UK in 1984, where he and Pam set up a training business which continued for 16 years, and in which period he dabbled in Management Consultancy and Venture Capital and worked as a geological consultant. 

Unfortunately, due to Covid, our meeting was delayed for two years, but last week Pam and Pete spent four wonderful days with us and we were transported back to days of the young visionaries of half a century ago. Even the weather was reminiscent of Zambia and we were more than pleased to take the opportunity to show them some of our favourite areas in West Cornwall, which seem to be getting steeper each year! Hopefully we might catch up with other friends from the past, via the wonders of social media, and maybe the photos below might whet your appetites to contact us if you are out there.

Maenporth beach, Falmouth
St. Just in Roseland
Levant mine
Crowns Engine Houses, Botallack
Arsenic labyrinth, Botallack
An obligatory visit to Falmouth's Chain Locker
Lizard Point
The Lizard Peninsula
Above Kynance Cove, The Lizard
@barrywills

4 comments:

  1. The flame of old friendships never dies, and a regeneration in wonderful Cornwall was sensational. It was as if the 50 year gap had never existed!

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    1. It was great to see you again Pete, after all these years, and to meet the lovely Pam. Look forward to seeing you in Sussex next year

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  2. Admire you for your bonding with people you met in your formative years and the way you bring our professionals together --narratives, photos--salute you, Barry (and and Barbara) and wish you many more years of such memorable journeys.
    Rao

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