Life went on at 98 Fourth Avenue, I seemed to be getting on with dad, better than I ever had. We seemed to have accepted each other for what we were and were better off for it. Now that I was twenty, perhaps he had started to see me as an adult. I was bringing a constant succession of girls home. If dad was home, I just said hello as we went through to my room. One day he said, 'my God, I thought I'd had some women, but I've done nothing compared to you.'
He laughed and said, if you've ever got more than you can handle, put a word in for me.
I think I had won a kind of admiration from him. He had always been a ladies man and he could identify with my love of women. He was fifty years old and still had girlfriends of all ages, ranging from his own age to an age closer to mine.
I needed to get some money so Phil and I started doing a few odd jobs for anyone who would hire us. We got a decorating job at a music shop in Barton Street. When the owner went out at lunchtimes, we got some of the instruments out and set about making some music. There was a drum kit set up in the window on which I banged out some kind of beat while Phil played a guitar. You could hear us half way down the street. Included in the job, the owner wanted us to replace a small pane of glass in an upstairs window. Neither of us had any glazing experience but we said we could do it. I didn't have a tape measure so I got a piece of string and tied a knot in it. I pushed the knot into one corner of the window and held the string at right angles to the knot, cutting it to the correct length. I went off the Gloucester Glass in Russell Street and presented the glasscutter with my piece of string. He rolled about laughing and said, 'I've seen it all now, that's the first time I've ever had a piece of string brought in.' Nonetheless he cut the glass to the piece of string and it fitted perfectly. I got in a bit of a mess with the putty but it looked all right in the end.
I couldn't make enough money with these odd jobs so I decided that it was time to get another full time job. I put my respectable head on and managed to land the position of Chief clerk at the FMC Meat Company. I worked there for about three months, it was easy work and the money wasn't bad. I thought I had cracked it, but I was unprepared for what was to happen next.
One cold night at the end of April, I was sitting on the settee in front of the fire in our living room. Dad was sitting next to me in his favourite chair. We were watching something on the television, when suddenly dad slumped forward, holding his head in his hands. I was very alarmed and asked him what was wrong. His reply shook me to the core.
He said, 'I'm going to die son.'
I said, 'no you're not! I'll go and call the doctor.'
He pleaded with me not to leave him, because he would be dead by the time I got back and he didn't want to die alone.
I told him I had to go for the doctor and wouldn't be long. I helped him to the settee and laid him down, then ran to the phone box in Sixth Avenue and called his doctor. I told the doctor what had happened and asked if I should call an ambulance. He said no, he would come straight out. When he arrived, he made an examination then asked me how much dad had had to drink.
I went mad and said, 'he's had a stroke or something you fucking idiot. Fuck you! I'm going to call an ambulance.'
I ran back to the phone box and dialled 999. I should have done that in the first place. I should have known better than to trust a GP, Mum had died through the incompetence of her GP. Whether the doctors at the hospital would be any better I had no idea, but surely they couldn't be any worse. The ambulance took us to the Royal Hospital in Southgate street, where they made Dad comfortable, then told me to go home and come back the next day when they would be able to tell me more, but Dad was not in immediate danger.
Dad had a taxi outside the house. He was still working part time for Thomas taxis and he had a contract job to do the next day. I rang Mr Thomas to tell him that Dad had had a stroke and he would have to arrange to have the car collected. All that miserable old bastard said was, 'he's not going to do the job then, that's bloody inconvenient.' I put the phone down.
The next day, Gordon and Aunty Ina wanted to go the hospital to see how Dad was. All three of us couldn't get on the bike, so I took Dad's car. I had no license but I had learned to drive by having the odd drive in friend's cars.
Dad was very ill, he had had a cerebral haemorrhage. He had been a lifelong smoker and it had given him high blood pressure, due to hardening of the arteries. The doctor told us that Dad's condition was serious and that we shouldn't hold out too much hope for his recovery. I was devastated. We had never been that close, but he was my Dad and I loved him for all his faults.
I rang FMC where I worked and told them I needed some time off, due to Dad's condition, which they agreed to. I went to Matson to collect Aunty Ethel, to take her to see Dad. I had never seen her so down, the man she had brought up as her own son was now in hospital, fighting for his life. It was so hard for her. He was in danger of dying at fifty years old and she was eighty-four and in good health. It was so difficult to reconcile.
I continued to visit him and he seemed to be making progress. After a few days with very little change, I got to the hospital and found Dad sitting up in bed as if nothing had happened. He said, 'hello son, that was a close one, I thought I was going to die, but I'm feeling much better today.' My spirits were uplifted. I could hardly believe my ears when he said he realised he should have taught me to drive, in case of emergencies, just like this. He said he would make sure I passed my test, when he came out of hospital. He had always said, he would never let me drive his beloved car.
As I left the ward, I saw the doctor who had been treating Dad. I remarked to him, what a miraculous recovery Dad had made.
The doctor took me aside and said gently, 'don't build up your hopes, he is still very ill.'
I asked him what he meant, because Dad looked so good.
The doctor made some more rather sympathetic noises, until I bluntly asked him, 'are you telling me Dad is going to die?'
He said, 'yes, I think so.'
I thanked the doctor and rushed from the building, unable to hold back the flood of tears.
A week had passed, so I rang in to work and told them I would need another week off. They didn't like it but I told them I could do nothing about it.
A few days later, Dad had his fifty-first birthday. He was still looking well and was talking about coming home. I started to think the doctor had been wrong, but he had been so definite. I thought, a doctor wouldn't say what he had, unless he had been sure. But I still couldn't believe it, or perhaps it was because I didn't want to believe it.
A few more days passed and I walked into the ward, to be met by a dramatic change. Dad looked really ill and was talking in Arabic. He had been in North Africa during the war, but I had never heard him speak any of the language, or even of his experiences. I was shocked at how small he looked, overnight he seemed to have shrunk to skin and bone. When I left the hospital that night, I knew that it was only a matter of time.
The next morning, a policeman came to the door. He told me that he had received a message from the hospital, for me to go there immediately. I got on the bike and raced to the hospital as fast as I could. I went into the ward and straight to Dad's bed, which had been curtained off. The shock was even greater than before. There was almost nothing left of him, he had wasted away to almost nothing. His breathing was very shallow and laboured. I stayed with him until suddenly, he stopped breathing. I turned to the nurse and said, 'is that it'? At the instant she said no, Dad started to breathe again. This went on for about half an hour, when he stopped breathing again, but this time I knew it was different. I sat there for a few minutes, knowing he was gone. I got up and walked away, I had to get out of there and be alone for a while.
I went to Aunty Ethel and broke the news to her. I think, in some ways it was harder for her than it was for me. Dad had been the apple of her eye, before I came along, when I think she saw me as a little version of him. I think she was right too. I can see him in me, in lots of ways, some good and some not so good.
I rang work again and told them I would be off for another week. They told me to come back or lose the job. I told them, they could stick the job up their ass. That was the end of FMC as far as I was concerned.
The next day, I had to go to the register office in Montpellier, at the end of Spa Road, to register Dad's death. It was very hard to have to go into an office and give Dad's details to the registrar, so soon after what is a great personal tragedy.
Then I went to the Co-op funeral directors to organise the funeral. Dad had enough insurance to cover the cost of the funeral plus about eight hundred pounds which was to be split between Gordon and me.
A lot of people came to the funeral, many were relatives that I had never met, some were old girlfriends and some were his old mates. Five years after Mum had been cremated at Coney Hill crematorium, we were back there to pay our last respects to dad. After the short service, Dad's ashes were scattered to the winds, in the same area that Mum's had been scattered. Both of my parents were gone, I would have no one to fall back on. Whatever happened from now on, there would be no safety net, it would all be down to me. Dad had always paid the household bills, now I had to come to terms with the harsh reality of running my own home.
Dad had worked part time, both for Cathedral coaches and Thomas Taxis. He had always had the habit of not taking his wages until they had built up to a good amount, so that he could buy something special. As far as I know, he had never had a bank account and used this method as a form of saving. He had often bought a car this way. Dad had been doing quite a bit of work for Cathedral and for Bill Thomas, so it was a good bet that he had some money owing. I went to Rowley Chandler of Cathedral Coaches and asked him for the money he owed dad, but he said there was none due. He said that had recently paid Dad up to date. I didn't believe it and was very angry, but there was nothing I could do. I went next, to see Bill Thomas to ask him for Dad's money. His answer was the same, that there was nothing owed. To make matters worse, he was even more abusive than he had been the last time I had spoken to him. I had not forgotten his attitude when I had told him that Dad had been taken ill.
Bill Thomas said threateningly that he didn't owe anything and that I should bugger off and not come back.
Almost before he stopped speaking, I stuck the nut on him. I got him right on the bridge of his nose. He staggered back, with blood pouring from his nose. He was stunned and made no move to retaliate. I think that was a good move on his part, as I may have injured him severely if he had tried to take me on. The mood I was in, I could easily have given him a beating.
I looked at him standing in his doorway, whimpering and holding his nose.
I said, 'you're not telling me to bugger off now, are you Bill? I hope it's broke, you fucking bastard.'
Then I turned and walked away.
I applied to the council to have the tenancy of our prefab transferred to me so that Gordon and I could continue living at our family home. They agreed to the transfer and gave me a new rent book. I soon realised how expensive it was, paying all the bills, the rent, the electric and the gas, as well as having to buy all of the groceries. I knew I would have to find another job, pretty quickly. I hadn't really needed to work before, but now it was a necessity if I was to be able to live to a reasonable standard.
I got a job as a meat porter, back where I had been an office junior four years before. Fred Brain gave me the job, back at Weddel's in Longsmith Street. I was loading and unloading lorries and stacking frozen New Zealand lambs in the cold stores. It wasn't a bad job, we worked from early in the mornings, but finished early in the afternoons. I liked that because it meant I could get out and about on the Lightning on nice sunny days.
I had not been home long on one of these days, when there was a knock on the door. I looked out of the window and saw Bobby Grant smiling beautifully. It immediately raised my spirits just to see her. She said she had come to make sure I was all right and to see if I needed cheering up. We went out for a ride on the Lightning, ending up at the Stagecoach Inn at Newport along the Bristol Road. We talked about old times, because I hadn't seen her for a couple of years. When it was time to go she said, 'let's go back to your place.' I was really surprised, because throughout the years we had been friends, we had never been lovers. We had a wonderful night together, even though we both knew that we always be friends and would ultimately go our own ways. We repeated these wonderful evenings for a few weeks, then decided that it was time to end it. We went back to just being the friends we knew we would always be. Bobby is one of the greatest women I have been privileged to know. I rarely see her now because she no longer lives in Gloucester. She met a man and chose the life of a traveller, which I'm sure suits her free spirit.
One afternoon, I went to see my friends, Hughie and Diana. Hughie was home alone, Diana was out with Gillian and Carol. Hughie and I were sitting talking when Diana and the kids came in through the back door. Carol saw me sitting on the settee and ran towards me, arms outstretched and shouting excitedly, Uncle Cliff!
She jumped onto my lap for a cuddle, but as she did so, her knees caught me full in the balls. It was instant agony and brought tears to my eyes. The pain soon went away though and everything was back to normal so I thought no more of it until the next morning. I got up to go to work and my balls were aching terribly. I went to work but couldn't do much, the aching was getting worse. After work I met my cousin Hugh and told him about the pain I was in and that my balls were swollen.
He said, 'let's have a look.'
With some embarrassment, I pulled my trousers down and showed him. As soon as he saw the size of them, about the size of a grapefruit.
He said, 'I'd get down the hospital if I were you.'
I said I'd think about it.
That evening I went to the Talbot, in Southgate Street, where a lot of my pals hung out. It was often full of Scorpions, the old biker gang. It was my regular watering hole for years. Roger Haines was in there, so I related my sad story to him, he also advised me to go to the hospital. He said he'd come with me, so off we went to the casualty which had moved to Great Western Road. It was no different then to now. Even though there were hardly any people waiting to be seen, you still had to wait for hours. Nothing ever seemed to be happening, until suddenly everybody would be dealt with very quickly. The pain was getting worse, I think I had left it a bit too long, but I had been hoping it would clear up on it's own. I kept going to the nurse asking how much longer I was likely to have to wait, but couldn't get a sensible answer. It's no wonder they get problems with violence when they treat people in that manner. Eventually I was getting very aggravated and started shouting that if somebody didn't do something soon, I would start smashing the place up. A sister came out to see what the noise was about. She told me to sit down and be quiet, that I would be seen in due course.
I had had enough by now so I turned to her and said, 'I am in terrible pain here, I keep saying it but nobody is taking any notice. If a doctor does not see me in the next five minutes, I'm going to start causing pain to other people and you're the first one I'm going to look for. Get moving, I'm counting down.'
A few minutes later, a doctor turned up. I was called into a cubicle and he asked me what was wrong. By his attitude, I could tell that he had been told that I was a troublemaker, but as soon as he saw the extent of my problem, his attitude changed to one of concern. He said that I should have been seen straight away and told the sister so.
He told me I would have to be admitted into hospital for them to deal with it, but the ward I would have to go to was in Southgate Street. He asked if I needed an ambulance, but I said no, Roger would take me. The hospital in Southgate Street was just a few doors down from the Talbot so we went there first. It was just before closing time, so Roger parked in the back yard and we went in for a quick one. I walked from there to the hospital and booked in. This time they had been waiting for me, they asked me what had taken so long for me to get there, so I told them I'd had to arrange to get my car home. I was still driving Dad's car, even though I didn't have a license.
A bed had been made ready for me. It was about 11pm, so the rest of the patients were asleep. I got into bed and waited for someone to come to see me. Soon a very pretty, lady doctor arrived and told me she would be dealing with my problem and that she wanted to have a look. I was very embarrassed, I had never been in hospital before and certainly had never had to deal with a personal problem with a woman. She was very professional though, she told me that a blood vessel had burst in my scrotum and that it was filling with blood, squeezing my testicles. It was like someone squeezing constantly, without a let up. She told me that a few days rest and a course of injections would put me right. The next morning I saw that I was in a ward full of old men, all with urinary problems, like prostrate trouble, but thankfully the doctor had been right and after three days I was discharged from there, back to normal.
I went to a party at Diana MacPherson's parent's house, in Coney Hill Road. They are a lovely family, George Golding being the patriarch. The Golding's have all been good friends to me over the years and have been closer than many families are. I always enjoy seeing them on any occasion, but on this occasion I made a date with Diana's sister Dot. I was planning to go to the Bath blues festival and Dot said she wanted to go too, so I told her I would get the tickets. We saw each other for a few weeks, before we went our separate ways. I told her I would get in touch again nearer the date of the festival, we could still go together.
One evening I went to Longlevens youth club to meet Dave Bull and Dick Spackman. While there I met two girls, a few years younger than me. Two girls, one who would turn out to be the biggest ever influence on my life, the other would become a lifelong friend. They were Lynn Scarrott and Cathy Murphy aka Spud. I made a lot of friends at that club who would stand the test of time, Paul Colley aka "Jack" being one of the most notable.
A few days later I was riding around Kings Square when I spotted Lynn and Cath standing there. I stopped for a chat, then offered Cath a lift home on the bike. She jumped on and I took her to Pirton Corner, where I dropped her off, so she could walk the short distance to her home. I think she was a bit worried about her Dad seeing her turn up on my bike.
Gloucester carnival was due on Saturday, it was a really big occasion then. All of the big stores put floats in, all trying to out do each other. It was a spectacle well worth seeing then. My bike had metamorphosed into a chopper style with ape hanger handlebars and exhausts which pointed high up into the air. I had also changed and was looking more and more outrageous. The crowds had formed to watch the carnival procession and I managed to get to the head of it. I was wearing a shaggy waistcoat that had the colours of a piebald horse, blue jeans, sandals and a Nazi helmet. I took the bike slowly along Parkend Road, waving to the crowd. As I got almost to the turning with Park Road, I saw on crowd control duty, the Special Constable that owed a debt to. I accelerated away and turned up Arthur Street where I parked the bike. When I got back to Parkend Road, the procession was in full swing, passing slowly by. The copper had his back to the crowd, watching the procession pass. He was wearing a flat cap, not the traditional copper's helmet. He had made two big mistakes. One, he had set me up for something I hadn't done and two, he had no protection for his head. I managed to get behind him, the crowd was about four or five deep, but that was as close as I needed to get. I took off my Nazi helmet, grabbed it by the rim and swung it, with great force, over the heads of the people in front of me, catching him just off centre of the top of his head. He went down like he had been pole axed, I was already walking quietly away, no hurry, nobody realised exactly what had happened, I could see the fuss mounting but I was well away. I looked back and thought. I've let you off lightly mate, you deserved worse than that, but I'll call it quits. I saw him many times after that and could never resist a little smile. He never knew that it was me, but every time we were close up, I would point my finger at him and smile, while gently nodding my head.
Roger Haines and I decided to take a trip to Weston super Mare one weekend, we took Dad's old Austin Cambridge which I was still using without a license. We had a good day out, just wandering around, enjoying the sights. On the way home, I opened the car up, to see what it would do. Roger, who was more used to cars than I was, cautioned me against it, he said it's not like your bike, if you push this car too hard it will blow up. I was just about to argue, when there was an almighty bang from the engine. I pulled onto the hard shoulder and lifted the bonnet. I couldn't see anything wrong, but the clattering was horrendous.
I said, Oh well, I reckon it's knackered so we might as well keep going. I got off the motorway at the Patchway interchange at Bristol. As I took the A38 I saw Dave Coughlin and his girlfriend hitchhiking. I stopped and picked them up. I told them that it might be a slow trip or that we might not make it at all but they were welcome to come along with us. We kept going at about twenty miles an hour all the way back to Gloucester. The clattering continued unabated and the engine was boiling, with great clouds of steam coming from beneath the bonnet. I dropped Dave off, then Roger and I made our way home to Tuffley. I parked the car off the road, relieved that we had made it. The engine was completely knackered, it had broken a con rod which had thrashed around, beating the engine to death from the inside. It would never run again. Dave Keveren came and diagnosed the problem for me. I couldn't afford to have it repaired, so I sold it to him as it was. I had only used it occasionally anyway. I was much happier riding the Lightning.
The weekend of the Bath Blues Festival came. They had changed the venue from last year and expanded it to a two-day event. Gordon and Phil had left in the old Bedford van, on Friday afternoon, to make sure they got to the site in good time. Woodstock had been the biggest music festival ever and it was expected, a large crowd would attend this one. The era of the big festival was just starting. I picked Dot up on Saturday morning, the 26th June 1970. We set off on the Lightning, going through Bath towards the old army camp, which was now called the Bath and West showground at Shepton Mallet. A few miles from Shepton Mallet the traffic came to a standstill. I was glad we were on the bike, because it soon became impossible for anyone in a car to move. We threaded our way through the traffic until we got to the festival site. People were abandoning their vehicles and walking, making the traffic problems even worse, but we got there easily, parked up and walked into the showground and picked a spot on the ground where we had a good view not far from the stage. We would stay in this spot for the next two days. It soon became obvious that this festival was going to be bigger than anyone had ever expected. The music was supposed to start at midday, but there were so many people trying to get there that even the bands couldn't get through the traffic. When the music was due to start, somebody came on stage and told that there were no band's there yet but they were trying to organise some helicopters. There was a massive sound system set up, so when no one had turned up, Donovan who had been in the crowd, went on stage and asked if we wanted him to do a few songs until someone else got there. We all shouted, YES!
Donovan started singing his hit songs of a few years previous. He was on for so long I think he sang everything he knew, but still no one else had arrived. He said he would keep going if we wanted him to and we all shouted YES! so he started all over again. He was a real star, keeping us entertained, I admired him for that. Eventually a band arrived and the festival started, with non-stop music for the next thirty-six hours.
People kept flooding in, it was soon clear that this was going to be something special. It turned out that this festival was to be the biggest festival ever held on mainland Britain, with nearly a quarter of a million people packing into the site. I was glad that I had got here reasonably early, because Dot and I had a place not too far from the stage. At least we were close enough to see the artists performing. As I looked behind me, as far as the eye could see, there was a sea of people, rising up a slope, away in the distance. It was an awesome spectacle. The organisers had set up large video screen on either side of the stage, something that was in it's infancy then, but they were very effective, if only during the hours of darkness. They were essential for the people who were a long way off, but for us they were a bonus. Johnny Winter, an albino blues and rock guitar player from Texas came on late that night, he gave the most impressive performance I have ever seen in my life. I could see him on the stage and I could see him close up, on the screens. His music, combined with the energetic stage act, just blew me away. Of all the big names performing this weekend, Johnny was the tops for me. I have been buying his music ever since. On the first day, as well as Johnny Winter and Donovan, we were treated to performances by Fat Harry, Keef Hartley, Maynard Ferguson's Big Band, Fairport Convention, Colloseum, It's a Beautiful Day, Steppenwolf and Pink Floyd. On the Sunday, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers did the early morning shift followed by Canned Heat, who were brilliant, Joe Jammer, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Santana, Flock, a fantastic set by Led Zeppelin, Hot Tuna, Country Joe, Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds and finally Dr John. The Moody Blues were supposed to appear but didn't do so. Apparently because of the risk of electrocution due to a downpour of rain we suffered. Still, it was great value at £2/10/- each I paid for the tickets.
The sheer size of the audience had caught everyone by surprise, estimated to have been in excess of 200,000, consequently all the facilities were woefully inadequate. The toilets couldn't cope and anyone, like me, who hadn't brought their own food was going to go hungry. There was a van selling chips, not far from where we were sitting and though the queue was perhaps a hundred yards long, I decided that I would go to try to get us something. I stood in the queue for hours, making my way inexorably towards the hatch at the back of the van. All the time I was in the queue, there were entrepreneurs walking up and down, openly selling acid as if it were sweets. They were slowly traversing the queue shouting 'acid, get your acid here, acid mate'? It was easier to buy drugs than it was to buy food, that's for sure.
At last there was only one more person between me and the food.
Then I heard the man say, 'sorry mate, that's the lot, I've run out of everything, there's nothing left.'
The guy in front of me bowed his head and walked away, looking really dejected. I knew how he felt, I was absolutely starving. I had spotted a large pile of scrumps, you know, the bits of crunchy batter that are left after frying the fish, piled up on the far end of the fryer. I moved forward and asked him if I could have a couple of bags of those.
He said, 'sure, I didn't think anybody would eat them.'
I said, when you're as hungry as I am, you'll eat anything.'
Anyway, what's wrong with a good bag of scrumps? A bit oily, but so what, they kept us going. I really enjoyed them.
We left the showground on Sunday afternoon, hoping that we would be able to find something to eat and drink soon. We stopped at a pub not far from the site, but it was heaving with people and they had next to nothing left. It wasn't worth staying. We went into Shepton Mallet, but it was as if a plague of locusts had descended on it. All of the food shops were closed and looking through the windows we could see that they had sold out of everything. We gave up and decided that we might as well break for home. We had attended an historic event which was ultimately to lead to the founding of the Glastonbury festival
Shortly after the Bath festival came the Isle of Wight festival. Some of my friends were going and Dave Bull asked me if I wanted to ride along with him. It is one of my biggest regrets that I was too lazy to make the trip and missed out on what was to be the greatest festival of them all. I missed out on some great performances by legendary artists, not least, the last performance by Jimi Hendrix and one of the last by Jim Morrison of The Doors. How could I have missed such an event? Dave had an accident on the way to the Isle of Wight and came back with his forks bent right back like bananas, but he had still made it there and back.
Dad's insurance money paid out, it wasn't much but it gave Gordon and me a couple of hundred pounds each and it was more than I had ever had at any one time. I gave up my job and decided to enjoy myself. I bought a new leather biker jacket from Mead and Tomkinson's and I still have it.
Paul Hayes came to the house one afternoon to ask if I wanted to go to
H and L motorcycles in Stroud. They were Triumph agents and Paul wanted to get some parts for his Thunderbird. We got there okay, but on the way back, just outside Stonehouse, Paul's bike started to misfire, eventually expiring altogether. Paul diagnosed a stripped timing gear so there was no way we were going to be able to repair it on the side of the road. We were in the middle of nowhere, nothing but fields. We looked around us and spotted an old harrow, out in the middle of one of the fields. On investigation, we found that we could get a piece of chain off the harrow and planned to use it to tow Paul home. If anyone has ever tried to tow a motorcycle with another motorcycle, they will now how bad it is, but to do it with a chain makes it ten times worse. We tied it to Paul's forks and to the back of the Lightning and set off. Every time we tried to slow down then speed up or go round a corner, it snatched and almost pulled us both off. It was a journey of only a few miles to Matson, but it was probably the worst journey I have ever made.
About this time, I fell out with my brother Gordon. I don't think he had come to terms with the fact that I was not going to provide everything, the way Dad had. He complained to me that there was no orange squash in the house so I offered him the money to go to get some. He said that he wasn't going to get it and that I should go. We had a row and I told him that anything he wanted in future, he would have to provide for himself. He said he was fed up with living here and was going to move out, which he promptly did. He got a flat somewhere and for a while I didn't know where he had gone.
I can never remember the door at 98 Fourth Avenue being locked. I never even gave it a thought, we just came and went as we pleased. I often came home to find one of more of my friends sitting in the living room, waiting for me. There was next to nothing in the house worth stealing and although some things disappeared, I never had a problem with it. Mostly my friends were honest. Sometimes they would turn up with some grass and we would put some music on and sit around getting stoned. I had an old record deck, which stood on blocks of wood and an amplifier with no case. All the electrics were exposed, sometimes it would stop working, but I found that if I put my hand under the deck and waggled the wires, it would start up again. I frequently got an electric shock from it, but I kept it going like that for months until I got an old broken down radiogram and put my old amp into it. I wired it to the huge speaker in the middle of the radiogram and to another across the other side of the room. My first stereo and what a sound it had, with it's big bass speaker.
I started going out more often with Cath, but we had a problem. Her Dad was very strict over her timekeeping and I was very undisciplined over everything. Some of the places I went, never got going until after Cath should have been home. We often went to the Ship at Brimscombe, on a Saturday night. A lot of my old gang, 'The Scorpions', went there, sometimes we rode over, en masse, sometimes we all packed into cars, but it was always a good night out.
By the time we got back to Churchdown from Brimscombe, it was way past Cath's curfew. When I took her home late, she wouldn't let me come to the door, in case her Dad was there. The next time I called for her, he made a point of telling me to watch my step. Yeah! Like I was worried. I had no fear of anybody and no respect for anybody's rules but my own.
I was living alone, I had little contact with any family I had left, I was living life at a furious pace, riding fast and dangerously, I expected to die violently at any moment and I didn't care.
I could tell I was sinking lower and lower, so one night I came home from The Ship, sat alone in the dark for a while and decided to take a trip to Scotland to see my Aunty May and cousins Jenny and Vic. It was something like two-o clock in the morning so I went to Westgate filling station for fuel. They were the only all night garage then. Once my tank was full, I carried on along St Oswalds Road and saw the lights on in the British Beef building, so I turned in. They often worked all night and I knew I would be all right for a cup of tea and something to eat to set me up for the journey. When I got there I went up to the mess room and found the guys all sitting around playing cards and drinking tea. Nothing had changed since I worked here a few years ago, but they were a good crowd and they made me welcome. There was always food here so I cooked a piece of steak, a few sausages and a couple of eggs and ate it followed by a cup of tea. We had a good laugh as men do in these kind of situations, told a few silly stories, a few harmless lies, all being exaggerated out of all proportion about good times past. It was the best laugh I had had for ages and it boosted my spirits no end. I thanked them for their hospitality, bade them farewell, kicked the bike into life and roared off into night, feeling pretty good for the journey ahead.
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Copyright © 1999 Cliff Ballinger. All rights reserved.