Land of Hope & Glory…
When we last met, I was clutching an air ticket to Europe. Well, it seemed the lure of my birthplace was too great, and accordingly, I journeyed first to London – my first taste of overseas life – and what a taste it was! I watched a drug deal go down in Burger King within an hour of landing, then walked the streets and experienced begging for the first time; me, showering unfamiliar coins into outstretched hands, feeling sure I’d just given him my whole hostel fee. All new, all different, all intriguing.
18 months later, sitting alone, jobless and in the depths of depression in a damp Yorkshire flat, it seemed the excitement had not been destined to last. In the interim though, I’d worked everywhere, so it seemed. A part-time pub singer, casual karaoke host, ice-cream van driver (true WFA!), sales assistant and barman. But I’d hit a low point in my life, with the realisation I’d completed all of the Big Hairy Audacious Goals I’d ever set in my life – and stretching in front of me was a long, long nothing. I was down, and almost out.
The Power of Friends
But fate intervened, in the shape of an unexpected visit from my two best friends, and after some cajoling, I sold everything I owned, and with 700 British pounds in my pocket (to last me forever), hit the road on a hitch-hiking ‘journey of a lifetime’ through Europe. We ferried to Rotterdam and split up on different rides, with one friend getting a lift almost all the way to Italy, from where he made is way to Greece and the island of Santorini.
My other mate and I took a couple of weeks to make it to Austria, and here was the first of my ‘Connected Universe’ moments. I found a pair of sunglasses at a rest stop in Vienna, and upon reaching Santorini, imagine my surprise as our friend thanked me for finding his glasses, telling me exactly where he’d left them – at a rest stop in Vienna. It was the first time I ‘d experienced anything like it, but it wasn’t to be the last.
We split up as we travelled and I went South-East to Turkey – and scored a job as a musician and guide-diver for a dive company in Fethiye. As life goes, I fell for a girl, a Norwegian beauty. But so did a local Turkish man – and he was treating her wrong. It first came to a head in a crowded bar, where I confronted him about his behaviour. He smashes a glass against the wall and holds the jagged edge against my neck. “It would be that easy…” he says. A week goes by, and we’re communicating strongly-worded messages through friends.
Finally, we arrange to meet one evening to settle the score. It’s a part of town I’ve never been in. I have my seconds – two seasoned ex-Turkish navy special forces divers. He has his two seconds. He and I eye each other and face off. Then one of his men begins to talk, low and slow. “My friend, tonight you may fight…and you may win. But, you are in a foreign land, and my friend…you have no friends. He has many friends. Better you shake hands and walk away…”
Grudgingly, bitterly, eyes blazing, we both shook hands. And I walked away, able to tell this tale.
We are all connected
I mentioned the Universe continued to work in mysterious ways, didn’t I? Jump a couple of years forward – I’m living in London – population 6.5 million, and my brother, for the first time ever is visiting from NZ, sight-seeing in Camden. He saves an elderly lady from being knocked down by reversing van, by kicking out the van’s tail light. There’s a fracas and the police arrive. He’s asked his name.
“_____ Ward”, he tells the officer
“Where are you from?”
“New Zealand” he replies
“OK…” Says the officer. “Are you Greg Ward’s brother…?”
This particular police officer just happened to be moonlighting as the drummer in my band – what are the odds?
The band, you ask? Yes, on returning from almost a year away living all over Europe (including a glorious winter season in South Germany), I returned to London and met an Australian singer, an English Bass-player and a Scottish (Police Officer) drummer. As it happened, the landlord who owned our flat was in the music biz – and we attracted his attention. Soon, we were signed to his label, recording first a song, then a three-track EP. We wrote, we played pubs and parties…and then had the first taste of success playing the Rock Garden in Convent Garden. Heady days. We made no money, but we lived our dream…and when you dream, and achieve – why, you could Work From Anywhere!
Coming up: The return home, why attitude will always triumph over aptitude, and the birth of an events company…
Andy spends his time away from the computer cycling or hiking up mountains or catching a wave on his SUP.