Terribly Sad Day Today.

I received a phone call from Mel today telling me that her husband and my long-term friend Francis ‘Hattie’ Jacques had died. I knew it was coming but it was still such a shock.

I sat down and wrote this. It’s pretty rough but…….

Memories With Hat

Francis ‘Hattie’ Jacques

Hat was one of my best friends. I first met him when I was ten years old. We were both keen on the same girl – a dark-haired Welsh beauty by the name of Glenys Camp.

When I went to Secondary School I found that Hat was in my class. He was the coolest dude. I can still visualise Hat as a thirteen-year-old sitting on a desk with his feet on a chair – drainpipe trousers, the longest winkle-pickers and long fair hair greased back at the sides with a quiff that could reach down to his chin. Cool. Then the Beatles happened.

When we hit sixteen we got motorbikes and were mobile. Hat got himself a 250cc Royal Enfield that leaked oil and I had a 90cc Hondo sports. We would go all over the place.

Clarkie, lived out at Virginia Waters and had a sister called Linda. They started holding parties. Linda bought her friends and Clarkie brought his. Great times. We ended up with girlfriends from these parties and would always be beetling out Virginia Waters way to meet them from school, go to the Youth Club or out somewhere. Young lads together, best mates.

I was behind Hat, on my Honda, when he had a crash. It all seemed to happen in slo-mo, frame by frame. We were zipping down the outside of a long line of stationary traffic when one car, without signalling, decided that he’d had enough and suddenly pulled out to turn into a side road. We were doing about 40 mph and Hat had no chance. He laid the bike down, slammed into the side of the car, leaving an imprint of his leg in the door, then seemed to gather the bike up off the floor and somehow go round the front of the now stationary car, with its shocked driver, and stop at the side of the road. His knee was a bit sore from the impact but miraculously he was unhurt and the bike wasn’t badly damaged. We went on our way.

Hat also had a penchant for scooters. He and another friend Booker took to doing them up. Hat purchased this old LD scooter, stripped the fairing off of it so that it was just the frame, took the seat off, took the petrol tank from under the seat and put a motorbike petrol tank on between the lowered seat and handlebars. He built a seat that much lower with a backrest for passengers, put ape-hangers on it and created a souped-up hybrid. He attached a car windscreen washer pointing outwards so that he could squirt people and burned around Walton on it.

Hat taught me how to drive; at least, on my seventeenth birthday he took me out in my car. I’d bought an old sit-up-and-beg Ford Pop which I painted in every colour of the rainbow. Hat sat in the front with a six pack and directed me. It was always ‘straight on’. After fiddling with the controls to get the hang of things I went twice around the block and we were off. I remember going too fast into the sharp bend at Walton library and trying to lean it into the bend like you’d do with a motorbike. We went up on two wheels and very nearly went over. Hat didn’t seem fazed, just sank a bit lower in his seat. We shot off towards Sunbury and out into the countryside. Always ‘Straight on’. We picked up two hitchhikers and I was bombing along the road and Hat turned round and said ‘Not doing bad for his first time out in a car is he?’ I could see them shrink down in their seats.

We spent many happy hours cruising through the countryside with Hat in the front seat working his way through the beer. ‘Which way, Hat?’ ‘Straight on. It’s always straight on.’  How on earth we found our way back home.

My family lived in a bungalow and my bedroom opened on to the drive. A number of times I’d be woken in the early hours of the morning by Hat tapping on the window. He’d borrow his Mum’s Jaguar and be after driving fifty miles to the seaside at Brighton. I’d climb out through my bedroom window and we’d hurtle down to Brighton, run along the beach and then drive back. The only place that was open back then was Heathrow airport so we’d pop in there for a coffee and have races up the long escalator marked down.

Of course the police were a little suspicious of two seventeen-year-old lads driving around in a Jaguar in the middle of the night. We would regularly get pulled over. I remember one time this suspicious copper came over and Hat wound down his window. ‘Is this your car sir?’ ‘No.’ ‘Can you tell me the registration number?’ ‘Haven’t got a clue.’ ‘What colour is it, sir?’ Hat looked out the window. ‘Hard to tell with these yellow street lights.’ We spent two hours in the police station while they rang his Mum and confirmed that it was all kosher.

Hat would drive me home and I’d climb back in through my bedroom window. My parents never knew.

One place Hat liked to go was Hyde Park Corner. We’d go along to harangue some of the nutcases and listen to some of the more coherent. Most of us were in our hippie fineries, kaftans and afghan jackets, but Hat, being perverse, liked to dress up in Top Hat and Tails complete with spats and cane.

Hat was there on my first date with Liz. I was just eighteen and Liz was seventeen. I’d asked Liz out and told her to bring a friend. She brought her friend Wendy. I went with Hat. The four of us set off to a party which turned out to be crap so Liz said that her parents were away for the weekend, we could go back to her place. We set off and Liz played piano for us. I don’t think that’s what we had in mind.

Hat always had his finger on the pulse and knew just where to go. On Liz and I’s second date Hat took us up to the Marquis to see a psychedelic band called The Dream. He knew where it was happening and that included Middle Earth and UFO. Without Hat I wouldn’t have discovered anywhere near as much.

It was Hat who had sorted out for us to go to the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival in 1967 with Cream topping the bill. There were four of us seventeen-year-old lads. We tore up a fag packet, wrote PRESS on the cardboard with biro and pinned the card to our lapels with safety-pins. Somehow we blagged our way into the Press enclosure and back stage. We used all the facilities and ate with the bands. I remember Hat coming back from the loo chortling about how he’s just had a piss with Ginger Baker.

Cream were superb and we stood right in front of them in the Press enclosure, watching them up close. A great memory. Clapton played right in front of me. Good on you Hat!

Then Hat started going out with Mel and I was obsessed with Liz and life changed. I was at college in East London. Hat was working his way up in his Dad’s factory, bored to tears. I’d ask him what he was up to and he’s say something like three sixteenths. He seemed to spend his time drilling holes with different size drills in bits of waste metal. All part of the apprenticeship. Once he got a finger caught in a lathe and it drew his finger in and cut a screw thread on it.

Hat came along to our wedding in the Woods at Oxshot. Then we moved up North. Life and relationships, distance and families. Somehow we never seemed to meet up much – but when we did it was like old times.

Bye Hat. Miss you mate. So many good times. Take Care Mel. All so sad – it’s hard to believe.

2 thoughts on “Terribly Sad Day Today.

  1. So sorry to hear about Hat’s death. I remember hanging out with you taking me to gigs when I was about 12 or 13. Lovely guy. X

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