Thursday, May 11, 2006

Notes of a provincial boy... a sporadic series...

I left home for the first time when I was sixteen – the summer of 1963 – when the school holidays spent hitch-hiking around the country just – got extended. It seems so long ago... and it is, after all, looking back on those days from the vantage point of 59. I was moving fast, fuelled on a cross-cultural mix of beat writers, jazz, folk and blues, and poetry, that fed into my own artistic aspirations – music and writing – plus some burning need to break out of the environment I was living in – which in hindsight was not so terrible – but at that time seemed to me like being shackled in a dungeon. I ended up sleeping under the pier at Bournemouth with a disparate crew of other similar souls, participating in something – we could not completely articulate what but it was the nascent youth counter-culture, maybe. Then I went to the Edinburgh Festival on the thumb with, as I remember, the odd combo of Eliot's 'Four Quartet' and Jack Kerouac's 'The Subterraneans' in my pocket – roamed the city and met Scottish beats, took in the Delacroix exhibition(hardly Jackson Pollock – but it was stunning – I still remember it clearly) and most vivid of all, the Joan Littlewood Theatre Workshop version of Henry 4 – a modern day reworking that bounced off the zeitgeist so well – actors with long hair and mod/velvet clothes. I met a girl there and we became very involved in that pure and white hot teenage intensity – she had a couple of friends and two other guys took up with them – so we then had a group of six. The girls came from somewhere on the edge of Manchester – and I still remember the night ride in a lorry with her nestled into my shoulder as we travelled back to her home ground. She had a small flat and came from wealthy parents – unlike the other two girls who were Northern working class. But none of that mattered – it seemed as if we were participating in a breakdown of the old order. It ended in tears of course – her parents inevitably sniffed us out and she was forbidden to see me and dragged off home – it sounds now like some bizarre Victorian melodrama. I was devastated and angry – they could not quite make me out as I must have looked like their worst nightmare of daughterly despoliation – long hair and scruffy clothes – yet talked better than they did and was fiercely articulate. I and one of the other boys ended up staying with one of the other girls and her folks – who were generous, unfazed and gave us more respect than we deserved. Which offered a certain insight into the old white working class of the North. (And elsewhere – in Wales for example, the chance encounter with a lorry driver and his wife who were nudists and believed in free love – but that's another story...) After I went home for a while, due to a run-in with the law, we still kept in touch by phone – until it all fizzled out. I still wonder what happened to her. Especially as I spent a grim six months up in Blackburn in 2001 and realised that I was not far away from the geographic site of early doomed and long dead teenage love. The memory? Still fresh in its intensity...

3 comments:

Molly Bloom said...

I must admit this really brought a few tears to my eyes. The lovely descriptions of freedom and youthful idealism. The soft, touching description of the girl and what happened. And also, the sadness of who we lose and who we win to our hearts. I seem to remember a similar thing happening to me, with my dad throwing out my long-haired boyfriend into the snow at 3am and forbidding us to see each other when I was 18. It was the first time I heard my dad swear really badly. We argued all night about it. Oh dear...

The sad fact that we probably couldn't 'thumb' anywhere anymore or sleep under the pier for fear of having an ASBO slapped on us.

How times change. Where does all the time go to? It only seems a few seconds ago, doesn't it? And like you say, I don't think you ever forget these moments. They stay with you forever: the smells, the tastes, the joy of it all. The hunger for new experience. I really enjoyed this. Thankyou.
When is the next instalment?
We need to hear about the Welsh couple!

Molly Bloom said...

Yes, the true reality of art.

It's not a romantic ideal. It's what pulses and races through us.

It's what guides our every thought.

Not out for what we can get out of art but for the purity of joy that it affords us.

Next time you're in London, give us a bell and you can meet up with Anthony and I. I owe you a drink.

Rod... said...

Thanks for the offer - I have to be in London very soon to do a couple of things - will let you know... (I won't bring a warthog)... (unless you insist...)