Let Loose ! Beechams and 1967 - 1970
school at last - and all that new found freedom but no cash. I'd secured a
job at Beechams but that was still two months away. I worked for six weeks
on the building site that was the centre of Burnley and helped build the current
Market Square - not something I'm proud of. With money a' plenty Neville Dutton
and I set off for Yugoslavia - not for the faint hearted. Bus to London, train
to Paris, change, train to Trieste then a 50 mile bus ride to Porec with farm
animals for company! (Everything in Yugoslavia travelled by bus in those days!)
We had an idyllic couple of weeks there as the only Brits (except for a coach
party from Barnsley who mistook us for locals). The holiday was cut short
through necessity - there was only one television in the town and we had watched
from the street outside, peering into some poor souls living room along with
a crowd of locals, as England beat Portugal in the semi final of the World
Cup. On the Wednesday we set off and arrived home on the Saturday just in
time to catch the Final kick-off.
And so a week later I packed my bags and headed out to explore the hitherto undiscovered region south of London - ie. Worthing and Beecham Research Laboratories. Here I met up with Barry (forgotten his last name), who shared "digs" with me opposite Lancing airfield.
Journeys to work were undertaken on the back of a motorbike - nightmares would be a more accurate description. Picture this - Barry was 4ft. nothing, rode a 750cc bike, thought his second name was Sheen, and I was perched behind him - usually crying. I could see where he was going before he could (on the odd occasion that I opened my eyes) and somehow always seemed to be leaning horizontally when he was vertical and vice versa! I would arrive at work shaking uncontrollably and muttering a variety of four-letter words. ("Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys was the record of the times and when I hear it I still break into a cold sweat). For the sake of my health I found alternative accommodation three months later, somewhere with a sea view and within walking distance of work and the pub. My nerves recovered.
Sundays were in complete contrast and were spent looking out of the window of my "digs" on the seafront and counting the wheelchairs passing by and the odd show-offs with zimmer frames. During this time I was still in the grip of a school romance with a girl in Burnley, Susan Layfield, so was commuting north regularly. After eight months of my life lurching from brown underwear to mind numbing boredom to travel sickness, my system finally gave up, I left Worthing and took the train north to Burnley for the last time. I should have known. Susan was my first real girlfriend and, despite being younger, was more mature than I was (why have things never changed!) so when she left for teacher training college a few months later, she sensibly decided to make a clean break. It was something of a shock but c'est la vie!
You will have noticed, therefore, that timing has never been my strong point, but even I should have known better than to fall for a Worthing girl, Kathryn Barnard. The next 18 months were spent commuting south to Worthing at every opportunity! I joined Proctor and Proctor chartered accountants on Westgate and it was here that I teamed up again with Robert Bichard. Together we honed our skills at shove ha'penny on the boardroom table of the Padiham Building Society, ate fish and chips in Haslingdon council chambers, and tried our best not to audit our clients into bankrupcy! The rest of the time was routinely boring apart from the notable episode when a lovesick female cornered me in the vaults of the Marsden Building Society - Happy Days.
Outside work I met up with Barry Robinson and Fred Gill and together we tried our hand at folk singing and also took part in the annual Lucas show. There was Bob Faircloughs 21st party in a pub somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales where we all drank until 5 in the morning - along with the local policeman, and the time in a pub in Malham when I took my guitar along, played all night, and the landlord had to call the police to close the bar. The place was so full they had to evacuate people through the windows so they could make enough space to open the pub door!
Barry Robinson, Fred Gill and Kathryn Barnard will also remember the weekend we spent in a pub in Giggleswick, getting up early to watch the last steam train "The Oliver Cromwell" make its journey on the Settle - Carlisle railway. By the way that wasn't the reason we were there - just in case you thought we were "anoraks".
We even went for an audition for "First timers" at Granada studios in Manchester. It didn't go well. They stuck the microphone in front of us, I chirped up "We don't need that" - to which came the curt reply "then how do you expect us to record you?" This same member of the panel (well known) was obviously "gay" and, as we left after the audition, Fred was quietly singing "We're all queers together" to a well known tune. Political correctness hadn't been invented back in the 60's but despite this we didn't get asked back!
There were other notable moments - like the night we spent with Billy Connolly in the bar at the Cricket Club, laughing and drinking into the early hours. He was doing a tour of the folk clubs with "The Humblebums" and had no gig that night so wandered in for a drink. He was as crazy as he is now, I guess we should have known he was destined for great things. There was Tim Hart and Maddie Prior (later of Steeleye Span), Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick (Fairport Convention), Mike Harding (the Rochdale Cowboy), Gerry Rafferty - the names go on. If only we knew then how famous they would become - but in those days they were just struggling to make a living around the folk clubs. Magical moments to look back on, but there was a gathering storm on the horizon.
Kathryn Barnard and I were almost engaged in 1969, however that brief ecstatic moment wasn't to last. I still remember the stress of being grilled by her father, Norman, about my future prospects! To be honest, at that time, they weren't awe inspiring. The "Dear John" letter turned up a few weeks later. (thoughtfully she waited until after my accountancy exams). The event hit me like a stone wall - and for the next year life was something of a blur. I took the ring I'd collected the day before back to the jewellers (it was meant to be a surprise but the surprise was on me) and blew all the money for the engagement on a shopping spree in Manchester. (When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!). I may have been down, but at least I was down and dressed to kill. I've spent years trying to figure out what went wrong, maybe she had cold feet at the prospect of living amongst "those dark satanic mills", more likely it was down to my immaturity at the time. (Some things never change).
I never saw her again but if you are out there somewhere, Kathryn, I really do hope you found happiness. Anyway, by 1970 she married and that closed a chapter on my life. I learned a salutory lesson from the experience and, apart from the thought of meeting her new boyfriend and shaking him warmly by the throat, it's that you should never keep your feelings to yourself or give up something so important without a fight.
To be a teenager in the 60's was a fantastic privelige. They were golden years and, if I lived them all again, I wouldn't do a thing differently except maybe one - but that's for me to know. The last event triggered a life-changing move and the sixties closed with me leaving civilian life for the next decade. And no, it wasn't the Foreign Legion! (I never could stand having sand between my toes). So for the third time I was about to make a clean break - or was I? I never learn!