My time on the QE2, and the five years I spent in the Merchant Navy could fill a dozen books, but that isn’t my objective. So I will skip over the ins and outs of most of it, and just say that the friendship I formed with Roger grew, and we kept in touch, even when I had moved on, and eventually got to where I wanted to be and that was on cargo boats. Every time I came home on leave, the first phone call I made was to Roger’s house to see if he was on leave, or to ask when he was due to dock in Southampton, and we used to get together whenever possible.
Then on one such occasion, when I had just started my leave, I made the usual phone call only to find out that Roger and his wife had split up, and he was living in Plympton which is an area of Plymouth that I wasn’t acquainted with, so I asked his wife if she had a phone number I could reach him on, and she just said ‘Yes.’, gave me the number and hung up.
When I phoned Roger he was laughing down the phone, giving me his usual barrage of friendly insults, and insisting that I get my scouse backside on the first train I could toPlymouth, which I did.
I was met at the station by Roger who is an extrovert. There was certainly no way you could lose this guy in a crowd. His style of dress was unique, and he always wore some sort of Andy Capp style of headgear, and multi coloured jumpers or tops. In fact, unless it was weird, he didn’t wear it, but in saying that, it all suited him. That was just Roger.
During the short drive to the house he was living in, he really blew my mind with what he started to tell me when I asked how he was keeping, and how long he was ashore.
The first thing he said was that he had taken redundancy from the QE2, and the second was that he was now an arms dealer.
‘What!’ I almost shouted out, ‘An arms dealer? Jesus Roger, that’s a bit of a leap isn’t it? An arms dealer, bloody hell! Dealing a bit of weed is one thing but guns! Bloody hell mate that’s dodgy!’
Roger was laughing his head off at this point, while I was thinking, ‘Tell him to turn this car around and take you back to the station’,
Then he blurted out, ‘Not just guns scouse, tanks, and patrol boats if you want them.’
To be honest, at that point I wasn’t sure if he was just winding me up or not. I really just couldn’t take it seriously. But he wasn’t joking, it was the truth, and he told me that he had found out his wife was carrying on whenever he was away at sea, and that he had decided to take his redundancy and had gone into business with an old friend of his, and the other thing that surprised me was that he had himself a girlfriend called Elaine. An Irish girl he had taken up with on the QE2 after he had split with his wife. She also worked on the ship, as a stewardess. She was nice enough, but had a drinking problem which I thought at the time was going to be a bit much for Roger to handle, but anyway that’s the way it was, and of course that was his decision.
The house in Plympton was a nice: three bed semi in a quiet close, and I was made very welcome by Elaine who didn’t come to the station with Roger because she was baby sitting for Rogers friend while he and his wife were out to dinner.
Roger picked up my bag and led me up to the bedroom I would be using and that was it. We settled down with a cup of coffee, and he and Elaine started to fill me in on what had been happening, and gave me a little bit of detail about this new venture he had embarked upon.
Even at that stage it just seemed a bit iffy, a bit too good to be true, but Roger was convinced and so was Elaine that they were going to be millionaires in the very near future. So what did I know? Maybe he had landed on his feet, and was going to hit the jackpot. I remember thinking, ‘if anyone deserved a bit of good fortune it was him.’
It was only abouteleven pmwhen his friend and his wife arrived back home from their night out.
The front door opened and closed, and the living room door swung open, and this very nice looking young Thai woman dressed in a white ball gown entered, followed by this hulking figure of a man, dressed in a white dinner jacket and black trousers, dress shirt, and bow tie.
Roger jumped up and introduced us, ‘Scouse, this is John, and this is Tim.’
We shook hands, and Tim like the subservient, good Thai wife she was, bowed and said, ‘Welcome scouse,’ while John screwed his face up saying, ‘Isn’t she beautiful scouse?’ adding before I could say anything, ‘And you love me don’t you darling?’
And she squeaked, ‘Of course, I love you darling.’