»  Letter: Tuesday, March 5, 1974

    J.R. Derbyshire to John Derbyshire

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J R Derbyshire
62 Friars Avenue

NEW YORK 10805

6 FEB:[1]   62 FRIARS AV.

Dear John.

Many thanks for your letter received today. I am surprised to hear you are thinking of crossing U.S.A in an old banger[2] & I don't think you realise what you are up against. Still I don't suppose anything I say will make any difference. but I hope you will give it a little more thought. I will try & give you some idea of what you are up against. To cross USA you will meet with a big change of Temp: in the weather from very hot to very cold which will effect your car as well as you. & there are vast spaces where you may break down 50 miles from habitation & mountain roads which will make your hair stand up. also you must not give a lift to anyone at all & that is a must if you want to land in one piece & with any money left. also you will need a gun. I am not kidding dont compare it with Hong Kong. there people have been reared a lot different than we have & the only thing they respect is the Dollar. You will meet a lot of nice folk who will help you & some who will knife or shoot you just for fun & you will be alone. I am not trying to put the wind up you but you must face facts. you are a tenderfoot alone & fair game for cops & robers & with your lack of driving experience it will be costly. If you break down it will cost you most of your capital as the garages can spot a learner so never have much money & look daft & you may get by. Also remember the cops depend on traffic fines on the spot as part of their salary & every state has different rules & if you are pulled up by them they will want to find everything out about you & if they do, you may lose car & everything so you see what you are up against. the USA is 3 different countries i.e. Eastern, MidWest, South, & each state has different laws & most traffic laws are different in every state & when you get into big towns you haven't much time to look about you. The trip would be very tricky for an experienced driver so I hope you are as lucky as I was at your age. when I look back to the near misses I had I shudder. I have lectured you knowing it will have no effect. but I always go by a saying of my old school master VIZ: No one knows everything, we all know something, so on conversing, if only 10% is something you did'nt know you are learning. End of lecture & the best of luck.

You are lucky not to know you had a bank balance.[3] I dont doubt your mate[4] is all you say he[5] is a 10 yr old banger. however well its been looked after has had its life span & I dont take notice of the mileage clock its adjustable so as long as you see it as a gamble OK. I am not looking forward to being a Great Grandad. For one thing it makes me feel old. & nowadays with the Pill[6] most youngsters opt out & have a good time. When I think of the good time I could have had with the Pill. "No enraged Dad after you with a shotgun." I hope you keep following my advice. & if you do risk it & get married see she has plenty of money & keep her on the Pill.

Noel called in for 2 hours on Monday he said some bloke is summoning him for threatening behaviour after Noel had booked him. So you see even Traffic Wardens[7] live dangerous. If you never fall for a girl you are OK. they are all the same in the nude & the pretty ones are Big Headed & the ones who give you the most enjoyment are like good Snooker (Pool) players have had a misspent youth. I always found the plain Janes were best in action but marriage is like eating a feed of mushrooms, you dont know till its to late.

The election is over now with little Harold[8] at the Helm so all is well. I am quite satisfied if they will let us have a vote of the people about Common Market[9] & Ulster dont worry we cant sink to much going for us. but its not a young mans country. [ … ] The Americans have been saying we are finished for the last 50 yrs. At one time when I was a boy all the world depended on us & our word was our bond Finance revolved round us & when we gave our Empire up there was no one to replace us as world bankers. that is 90% of the cause of falling values in the world.

We had a card from Enid posted before Xmas so it must have come by boat her address is (ELSIE GRIFFIN HOUSE (Room 1) 5 SCOTIA PLACE AUCKLAND, NZ says she is a barmaid at a select bar 7 mins walk away. she said a bloke came in for a drink who used to drink at The nook when you were there. Well all for now love from Mum, says she will write in a few days so take care of yourself & then we shall all be happy.



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  1. Dad mis-wrote the date. It should be "March." Compare the postmark.
  2. He means an old car. I had conceived the idea of buying a cheap old car and driving it cross country, to get a proper look at the U.S.A. I had in fact bought a car (see below), but didn't get round to the cross-country trip until a year and a half later.
  3. I was not (and am not) much of a money manager, and I think had discovered that I had more money than I'd been supposing.
  4. One of my dishwashing buddies, very knowledgeable about the buying and selling of "old bangers" had helped me locate one — a 1964 Chevy Nova.
  5. Dad means "it," i.e. the car.
  6. The contraceptive pill, still a marvel to people of Dad's generation.
  7. My brother Noel was working as a traffic (i.e. parking) warden in Swindon.
  8. Harold Wilson, of whom Dad was a fan.
  9. They did.