Roy Harper gigs are great but they’re not worth dying for.

Roy Harper gigs are great but they’re not worth dying for.

We moved up North to Hull in 1975 which meant that I did not get to see Roy as often as I was used to doing. We’d become good friends and I was used to catching one or two gigs a week.

I had procured a teaching job. The pay was pretty poor and we couldn’t afford a car. That severely limited my ability to get to Roy Harper gigs that were too far away, but it did not completely 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. I reckoned that it was only a matter of four or five hours.

As it was January I dressed warmly. I had experience of hitching and it wasn’t always easy. There was a lot of time spent standing, trying to entice a car to stop. You had to be prepared for all eventualities.

Getting there proved easier than expected. The lifts were forthcoming and I arrived early. That was good because I had a great talk with James Edgar about album cover designs. I sat in on the sound check and caught up with Roy. It’s always nice to meet up with friends and gigs back then were not as tense as they are now. We had time to chat.

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

I made my farewells and headed off into the night which is where it went wrong.

When you are hitching you are at the mercy of any driver who stops to pick you up. You can get pleasant friendly ones, cold, quiet types, or really unpleasant bastards. That’s the risk. You wonder why some of them pick anyone up at all. Your job is to entertain them and make picking you up worthwhile. This particular guy was a lorry driver and he was a complete bastard. I’m sure that he’d only 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 already regretting having climbed into the cab in the first place. He was so rude and threatening 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 and the wind picked up. Soon it was blizzard proportions. The snow was flying horizontally.

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

At the time I was glad to leave and watched him pull away with a measure of relief. 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 night – which was partly to do with the late hour and partly the atrocious weather conditions. Visibility was atrocious. 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 had few options so I started walking. The wind was blasting snow into my face and within minutes I was freezing. I’d wrapped up warm but I wasn’t prepared for conditions like this.

It was slow progress. I could not make much headway against the wind and there were not any services on this motorway for a long, 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 by any car that did come along – though I hadn’t seen one for quite a while.

I was getting desperate.

At that moment a police car cruised past and seeing me madly gesticulating they 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. Perhaps he intended to?

Roy Harper gigs are great but they’re not worth dying for.

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