Hitching across the Pennines to A Roy Harper gig

Hitching across the Pennines to A Roy Harper gig – Dying to see Roy Harper


When I started teaching the pay was very bad and we couldn’t afford a car. That severely limited my ability to get to Roy Harper gigs but it did not deter me. I could get there if it was on a Saturday and I had time to hitch.

I noted Roy was on in Liverpool. That was the other side of the country but there was an interconnecting motorway. It was only a matter of four or five hours.

As it was January I dressed warm. I had experience of hitching and it wasn’t always easy. You had to be prepared for eventualities.

Getting there was easy. I arrived early and had a great talk with James Edgar about album cover designs. I sat in on the sound check and caught up with Roy.

The gig was brilliant as usual and I hung around a little. It was always awkward after gigs when everyone wanted a bit of him. You rarely had time to have a good chat.

I headed off into the night which is where it went wrong.

When you are hitching you are at the mercy of your driver. You can get pleasant friendly ones, cold, quiet types, or really unpleasant bastards. You wonder why some of them pick anyone up at all. Your job is to entertain them and make picking you up worthwhile. This guy was a lorry driver and he was a complete bastard. He’d picked me up in order to make my life miserable. He was openly belligerent and unpleasant and obviously detested long-haired hitch-hikers.

We headed out of Liverpool and on to the motorway with me regretting having climbed into the cab in the first place. He was so unpleasant that I was weighing up my options should he attack me.

Outside the weather took a turn for the worse and as we climbed up into the Pennines it began to snow heavily.

At the highest point he suddenly pulled over on to the hard shoulder and ordered me out.

I was glad to leave and watched him pull away. It was now gone one in the morning and I was standing at the side of a motorway on top of a mountain range in a blizzard.

There were few vehicles using the motorway. That was partly to do with the late hour and partly the atrocious weather conditions. The cars and lorries that were going through were travelling at speed and either could not see me because of the snow or were going too fast to stop. That was not surprising as they would not be expecting someone to be on the hard shoulder of a motorway. I started walking. The wind was blasting snow into my face and I was already freezing.

It was slow progress. I could not make much headway and there were not any services on this motorway for a long way.

I was beginning to think that I had best get out of the wind and build some kind of shelter. I was numb and in danger of freezing to death. I was also at risk of getting knocked down.

At that moment a police car cruised past and stopped. They took me along to the services and dropped me off. I thanked them most profusely. They said I would have frozen to death out there. I think they were right. They had probably saved my life. I could not stop shivering and my hands and feet were completely numb. It took all day for me to warm up. That lorry driver could have killed me.

Roy Harper gigs are good but not worth dying for.

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