Anecdote – Seeing the legend that is Son House

Anecdote – Seeing the legend that is Son House


Seeing the legend that is Son House

I’ve seen a few legends in my lifetime. Music has played a big part in my appreciation of the world.

It was 1967 the height of psychedelia and Acid Rock. I was all geared up with my discovery of Roy Harper and playing Captain Beefheart, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors and Country Joe and the Fish. What a great year.

But it was the new sounds that had grabbed me.

I was eighteen and roaring with a lust for life. I was packed with energy and up for anything. Life was good. I had a motorbike and a new girlfriend. My hormones, endorphins and neurotransmitters were all firing on maximum. The world was glorious.

The motorbike conked out many decades back but the girlfriend is still going strong!

I had been into blues for four years ever since my mate Dick Brunning introduced me to Lightnin’ Hopkins. So it was no surprise that the poster caught my eye. There was a Blues package on at the Hammersmith Odeon. It was Delta Blues. Now I loved Delta blues. Robert Johnson, Skip James and Bukka White. I adored slide guitar. This package had a number of names that I was familiar with from albums I possessed – Skip and Bukka were there, Big Joe Williams, Hound Dog Tayler and Little Walter. It seemed like a dream come true. All I had to do was persuade Liz that it sounded like a fun night out.

That was cool. She was up for most things. We’d only been going out a couple of months. Anywhere was good if we were together. I’d played her some blues and she’d liked it.

On the night we all packed in to Hammersmith Odeon. There were so many on that they were limited to a few numbers each. Skip and Bukka were great. I was so glad I managed to see them before they died. Skip was extremely ill, but was still excellent. Big Joe Williams, who wrote Baby Please Don’t Go (the Them hit), went down so well that they couldn’t get him off the stage. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were great too though more folk than blues. It was an excellent evening and chance to see the originators. But the stand out act was a complete surprise. It came out of left field.

Most of these Delta blues singers had been performing in the 1930s and 1940s. They had stopped performing during the war and had been dug out of obscurity when the sixties blues boom hit.

This old guy, in his late seventies, struggled out on stage. He was stick thin and frail with someone bringing his guitar in for him. I think everyone in the huge hall wondered what on earth was going on. We’d never heard of Son House. It looked as if this might be a step to far.

Eddie ‘Son’ House sat himself down and adjusted his guitar. He mumbled into the microphone incomprehensibly. It was funny. He sounded like the cartoon character ‘Hillbilly Bear’. A murmur and chuckle went round the auditorium.

Then Son started to play.

It was as if all the years dropped off him. I was hit by the power and driving chords of that guitar. I had not heard anything as forceful as that. His rich voice cut in and it ripped into me. This was the real thing. I had not heard anything like this before. There was such authority in his performance that I wondered how such a frail body could command so much from the audience. It shook everybody. Death Letter Blues was the most incendiary blues I had ever heard. After that first number we were up on our seats shouting for more. The whole hall was baying. Son performed a second number and then straggled off the stage dragging his guitar along the floor behind him. The roof went off the place. They were short of time but there was no way we were going to allow him to get away with that. Eventually he came back out without his guitar and sang a foot stomping John The Revelator. Then he was gone.

I never saw him again.

But I had seen a legend. I found out that Son was the start of it all. This was the man who had taught the great Robert Johnson to play, who had influenced the young Muddy Waters, and provided that impetus into electric blues and rock. You could trace it all back.

Whether it was Roy Harper, Captain Beefheart or Jimi Hendrix, this was where it had begun. Son House had been the flame that lit the touchpaper.

I had seen and heard the man who had started it all.

Son House was a legend.

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13 thoughts on “Anecdote – Seeing the legend that is Son House”

    1. Ain’t nothin like a motorbike and a new girlfriend.
      Awesome that you caught Son live.
      I got to see Louis Armstrong with the Count Basie Orchestra.
      Different cup of tea, but arguably as strong.

        1. that must certainly have been quite a gig too. Louis was amazing – legends are hard to come by.
          Son was amazing too – and incredible to think that he fed straight back to Robert Johnson.

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Fleet Street, Lies, Propaganda and my father.

Fleet Street, Lies, Propaganda and my father.

My father came from a working class family in London. He was a cockney. His Mum (my grandmother) was Irish and my Granddad was a cockney meat porter in Smithfield market. My Grandmother was very austere and my Granddad like a knees up. Somehow they got along.

My Dad was highly intelligent and hard working. He taught himself after having to leave school at fourteen in order to earn money for the family. He had a place at Grammar School but his parents said they could not afford the uniform so he had to leave.

He taught himself to type and worked for Reuters news agency. Then he moved into Fleet street and worked for the Newspapers. He worked his way up to be manager of a big office of telephone reporters for the Evening Standard. He was brilliant at it. But management did not recognise his talents or reward him because he was not one of them.

He told me not to believe anything in the newspapers – particularly the gutter press. He said they were owned by the rich, they distorted, lied and fabricated stories to suit their owners.

My Dad did not play the game. He did not come from a Public School, did not have the right accent, was not in the Rotary Club or Masons. They treated him like scum. When he died they replaced him with someone doing exactly the same job on three times the salary.

The Express, Mail, Telegraph and Sun are pure tripe in my eyes. They are blatant propagandists and deliberately indoctrinate and incite. I don’t believe anything that’s in them.

Anecdote – The Horrific Accident. A real story.

Anecdote – The Horrific Accident. A real story.

Sometimes you have to stop and take note. Sometimes chance was on your side.

It was a Thursday night in March. A cold, dank, wet and miserable evening with little to redeem it. I had an evening class that I was running. I enjoyed it. I was taking an adult education class in the History Of Rock Music. It was very successful. I had a very passionate group and we were having fun. It was the second time I had run the course and both times had proved popular. It involved me playing a lot of very loud Rock Music and talking about where it had come from and why it was so important. The course lasted two hours with a break in the middle of twenty minutes where we had a drink and an informal chat. As a group we had become quite close. There was an easy atmosphere. But even so, it was tiring. I’d already had a long day teaching. I was running low on energy.

I had two of my boys at my school. They were both teenagers – one was sixteen and the other fourteen. Both old enough to be a bit surly and uncommunicative. Dad was definitely not cool and they certainly did not dig my choice in music. They endured the journey back and forth.

Instead of running them home on the night of my class I left them round at their Grandma’s to do their homework and watch a bit of telly. It was good for both them and their Grandma, who I suspect was very lonely, though I know they watched a lot more telly that either doing homework or talking to their Grandma. I’m still sure she appreciated the company.

That week I was talking about one of my favourite eras of 1960’s West Coast Acid Rock. The featured bands were Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead. It went well and I was able to play them a number of my favourite tracks.

After the course I picked the boys up and headed home. We lived twelve miles away out in the countryside. It involved driving down a number of small, unlit country two lane country roads. But I was used to that.

My older boy sat in the front and the younger one was in the back. The journey took half an hour.

As we approached the Golf Course on the narrow road there was a gravel pit with a sharp bend. I slowed right down to negotiate that bend. There was a nice looking house on that corner that I really liked, though I was put off by the location. It was right on that bend fronting directly on to the road. The cars passed right in front of it. Still I admired it every time I went by. It was my type of house.

Coming out of the bend I had slowed to twenty and was beginning to accelerate. My foot was pressing down on the accelerator and we must have been doing about thirty miles an hour. The road was slick with rain and glistening wet. Coming towards me were the headlights of another car. I noted that it was going very fast but that was fairly usual. I paid it no mind. A lot of cars travelled at speed on those little country roads. I did not pay it too much mind.

As the car got close to us it seemed to twitch. From that point on everything happened in a split second. I remember three separate images. One – the fast approaching car twitching. Two the car veering across in front of us. Three the car sideways in front of us.

It was so fast that it did not appear as a moving image – just three still shots. The driver must have seen the bend approaching and hit the brakes too hard. He lost it on the wet road and spun. If we hadn’t been in that exact spot he would have simply spun off the road and probably overturned on the golf course. Unfortunately we were in exactly the wrong place.

I had always imagined that I had the reflexes to avoid accidents; that in the event of a potential crash I could take avoiding action.

That is not the case.

The approaching car had been driven by a young teenager out with his friends. They were doing about 100 MPH. I was doing 30 MPH. the combined speed was 130 MPH. I did not have time to react. I did not even have time to take my foot off of the accelerator and apply the brake. It was instantaneous.

The oncoming car spun sideways straight into the front of us.

It was like being in an explosion.

I must have blacked out for a while. When I can round the front end of my car had gone. The whole bonnet and engine had been pushed back on us. The steering wheel was back to the seat. The other car had been stopped dead and pushed on its side in the road in front of us..

There was a few seconds of eerie quiet while the world came back into focus. I could hear hot metal ticking. I looked round at my older son. His face was covered in blood where it had impacted the windscreen but he was alive – dazed but alive. There were screams starting up from the other car. I tried to look round to the back seat. My other son was in the seat well. He had, unbeknown to me, unbuckled his seat-belt and been dozing on the back seat. The impact had thrown him forward into the front seats. He started screaming in pain.

My older son looked completely dazed. I looked down and saw his legs. The engine had come back at him and both his femurs were snapped and forced up in Vs in front of him. I was horrified. The lower part of his legs were invisible. The engine was right back to the seat. I could not see how they were there. I imagined them severed just below the knees.

I stupidly asked him if he was alright. He mumbled. I tried to talk to him. He was barely conscious. I ignored the screams from the back. From a cursory look I did not think there was anything life-threatening. My fear was for my son in the front seat. He looked in grave danger.

I tried to kick the door open on my side. It was not budging. The accident had bent the two front doors into Vs. It would not budge. The door was jammed. I could not get enough traction to force it. The steering wheel was in the way. I felt a wave of panic. I had this vision of the car going up in flames with us trapped in it.

Faces began to appear, peering in at us with terrified expressions. I could smell petrol and hear the tick of hot metal. At any moment I thought the car could go up with a big wooomph. I frantically kicked at the door. Eventually someone helped wrench it open and I somehow got out.

I clambered in the back to check my younger son. He was still screaming but I could not see anything major wrong. I went round the front to my older son. He was barely conscious. I talked to him and tried desperately to keep him conscious. He mumbled. I was sure we were losing him. There was nothing I could do.

A crowd had gathered. A nearby pub had heard the crash. They told me later that the noise had been like an explosion. They had rushed out to see what had happened.

The emergency services arrived quickly. The first on the scene was one of our GPs. He quickly got organised, checked out the youngest and then moved on to the oldest. He quickly set up a saline drip and administered some pain relief. The danger was shock. He was losing blood from those snapped femurs. At that point in time, unbeknown to me, he only had a 10% chance of living. But I could sense that. I was frantic.

My wife arrived. A friend of the family lived in the house nearby and had been one of the first on the scene. He’d recognised us and rung her. She was distraught. we hugged.

The Fire Brigade and then the ambulance arrived. They extracted my youngest son from the wreck, got him into the ambulance, administered pain relief and rushed him away. My older son was more difficult. He was trapped. The Fire Brigade set about cutting the roof off the car so that they could get to him. The medical crew took over the drip and his medical needs.

I was so helpless and frustrated. There was nothing I could do. One of the people from the pub took hold of me and assured me that it was OK. That the professionals were in charge. I had to stay out the way and leave it to them. That was the hardest thing. But I know he was right.

I went down the road picking up my Beefheart albums that had been strewn out of the car onto the road. They were all undamaged. Anything to occupy my mind while they worked on my son.

Eventually, after an hour of cutting, they got him out and into the ambulance. Then I joined him and we rushed off with Blue lights and sirens to the hospital. The driver of the other car was in that ambulance too.

I held my son’s hand while they worked on him.

We all lived.

My younger son had suffered a dislocated hip, one of the most painful injuries, a broken leg and a broken hand.

My older son had suffered two broken femurs, a broken hand and glass embedded in his face.

I suffered bruises, cuts, a broken tooth and a sliced eye-lid. I walked away from it. After a night in hospital I was released. My wife came to pick me up. I insisted we went to the garage where our car had been taken. I walked in and the man went ashen. He had to sit down. He told me that he collected car from wrecks all over the county but had never seen anyone live from a wreck that bad, let alone walk away.

I sat in that car in that yard strewn with other wrecks. I went through everything that had happened in my head. I put together every last detail and the sequence of events. I should have noticed my younger son had taken his seat-belt off and was lying on the back seat. I should have told him to put it on. But would that have saved him from injury or made it worse? Could I have swerved? Could I have braked? Should I have reacted differently? How had the impact affected each one of us? How had I not been impaled by that steering wheel? What had happened to each of my sons?  Only when I had pieced together exactly what had happened and reassured myself that there had been nothing I could have done to prevent it did I get out of the car and go home.

I was lucky. The impact had been off centre and I had been thrown around the steering wheel. If it had been plumb on I would have been crushed by that steering wheel. Instead I had been thrown around it and lived to tell the tale. We were all lucky. If the impact had been completely square we would probably all have died. The slight angle saved us. It threw the force off to the side.

Both my sons lived and made full recoveries. Both spent weeks in hospital on traction. My oldest was in for three months with both legs pinned and suspended on weights. The long term effects will no doubt come out later.

I have never trusted other drivers since. I flinch a lot.

Many years later I used to give a talk to the 6th Form who were just starting to learn to drive. I told them about my accident as a warning for them to drive safely. Except that telling it made it so real to me that I was so emotionally affected I could not speak, my throat seized up, and found, to my shock, that my eyes were welling up with tears. I had to walk out.

Anecdote – Travelling Around Texas in a Greyhound in 1971

Anecdote – Travelling Around Texas in a Greyhound in 1971


Travelling Around Texas in a Greyhound in 1971

Texas was out of step with the rest of the States in 1971. I picked that up without any hard detective work.

Liz and I were on or homeward journey, virtually living on a Greyhound bus. We’d started off again in Los Angeles, headed for San Diego and then down to the Mexican border. Getting across that border with long hair was nigh on impossible so we’d looked across and boarded the bus again.

We were heading back to New York via our friends in Boston. We’d had a great time in California. Our experience of America was of long-haired youths, peace-signs, sharing, colourful clothes, great music, great vibes and a shared view of a desire for a better world. It looked like the whole of the young world was caught up in a hallucinogenic whirl. The world was changing. There was a new sensibility and a new era.

Then we hit Texas.

It wasn’t the long drive across open flat lands; it was the people. It was as if not only the sixties hadn’t happened yet but the 20th century was still on its way.

Our Greyhound bus rolled to a halt in a small Texas town. It was as if we’d gone back in time or washed up on the set of a Western film. There were wooden boardwalks with hitching rails on the front of old wooden shop facades and dusty roads. I half expected Wild Bill Hikock to stroll out of the saloon.

He didn’t. But everywhere you looked there were guys in ten gallon Stetsons, cowboy shirts, jeans, cowboy boots with spurs and big silver buckled belts. It was like we were in a movie.

I watched one of these guys, complete with big jangly spurs, walk down the boardwalk, duck under the rail and then climb into a station wagon and drive away. I could not see how he could operate the pedals with big spurs on his feet. Where was his horse?

We made our way into a diner and took a seat at the counter. There was an eerie silence. The waitress assiduously avoided us. She served everyone else. It did not take too long to figure that we could have sat there for a month or two and still not been served. We left.

There was a nasty atmosphere like that scene out of Easy Rider, except this wasn’t a film set and this was for real.

Back on the bus a group of young crew-cutted men got on. They spied us and made a bee-line straight for us. There was all the standard abuse – ‘Is it a boy or is it a girl?’ and ‘How about a dance?’ One guy in particular looked mean. He stood over me and made as if to stroke my hair. It looked like it might turn ugly. I was getting my head round the fact that I might find myself in a fight. I didn’t fight but the bus driver was avoiding the issue and nobody else was jumping to my defence. It could have developed but fortunately I kept my cool and they got off at the next town.

We weren’t sorry to see the back of Texas.

Six Ways To Self-Edit and Polish Your Prose

Six Ways To Self-Edit & Polish Your Prose

Some great advice for writers.

Kristen Lamb’s Blog

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Whether you are new to writing or an old pro, brushing up on the basics is always helpful. Because no matter how GOOD the story is? If the reader is busy stumbling over this stuff, it ruins the fictive dream and she will never GET to the story. So today we are going to cover six ways to self-edit your fiction. Though this stuff might seem like a no-brainer, I see these blunders ALL the time.

….unfortunately even in (legacy) published books.

When I worked as an editor, I found it frustrating when I couldn’t even GET to the story because I was too distracted by these all too common oopses.

There are many editors who charge by the hour. If they’re spending their time fixing oopses you could’ve easily repaired yourself? You’re burning cash and time. Yet, correct these problems, and editors can more easily get to the MEAT…

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Anecdote – Dad’s death in Walton hospital.

Anecdote – Dad’s death in Walton hospital.


Dad’s death in Walton hospital

Death is not a subject that people want to hear about these days. We are institutionalising it. We leave to the experts – the medical team, nurses and then the undertakers. I think we should talk about it more.

This fear and silence is a modern phenomenon. Death used to be more common. It was not merely the old who died. Most families lost children. Nobody was immune. Because it was more common did not make it any the less distressing. But even so it was the family who nursed and cared for the dying and it was the family who laid out the body. The body would remain in the house. The Irish wake was a celebration of the life of the dead person and they were present at it.

We have become divorced from the cycle of life and death just as we have from nature. Increasingly we are marooned in an artificial cocoon. The reality of life and death is kept at arm’s length and institutionalised.

My father died from liver cancer at the age of fifty eight. Much too early. He never lived to enjoy his retirement. His illness spanned nine months – the length of a gestation.

He started to smoke when he enlisted in the war at the age of seventeen and it was a habit that stayed with him for his remaining forty one years. I hope he extracted enough pleasure out of those fags to warrant the loss of twenty to thirty years and the life that would have filled those years.

My mum and dad came to stay at Christmas. He was off his food and grumbling of a loss of appetite. Over the course of the next few months I’d phone him at work and he’d say he was fine but he’d been to the doctor’s for some indigestion medicine. It wasn’t until Easter that my aunt phoned and said I should go down to visit him because she was concerned.

I drove down and had a shock when I walked in. My father was so gaunt and thin he appeared to have aged thirty years. He resembled a refugee from Belsen. I could not believe that he was still working.

We had the meeting with the consultant. He told my mother that there was no hope. There was only palliative care. I do not think it sank in with him or her. They pretended it would be alright. He just needed medicine.

My father refused to discuss death. He ignored it.

That summer he grew weaker. He was forced to give up work, then even walking around became too much. He sat and read and watched television.

As summer progressed he became bed-bound. I spent my summer holidays helping care for him along with my mother and older sister. I gave him bed baths and helped feed him. We watched TV together. It was the cricket. He loved cricket and this was Botham’s Ashes. We delighted in the way Ian Botham took apart that Australian team

Dad read one of my books and said he enjoyed it. It was an old typed manuscript. I am pleased that he read it. I look back now and see all the faults in those early books. I have to rewrite them extensively. Dad was an intelligent man who worked for the newspapers in Fleet Street. He would correct and edit the raw stories. My errors must have glared at him but he was too kind to say.

We sat and talked for hours – but it was all trivia. How I would have loved to have talked in more depth about feelings and emotions. But there was a barrier. He knew the depth of feeling without me saying and so did I. That was the way things were then. Yet still it would have been nice to share more. I would love to have heard the stories of his life. But my father was a private man. He did not like to talk about his life and to do so now would have been to admit what was happening. I had to respect that this was not something he wanted. It was hard. It felt like pretence and it was a pretence. We both knew what was being acted out.

He always used to say that he felt alright in himself. I can’t forget that. I do not think he was in any great pain. He merely felt helpless, humiliated, impotent and embarrassed.

In his final week he required medication. They put him on morphine and the decline set in fast. He drifted in and out of lucidity.

Yet it went on. The strain was telling on all of us.

To get a break I went to visit a friend. I came back late evening. There had been a scare. The hospital had called the family in. I went in to see him. He was conscious. I said good night and he said ‘night bless’.

He died in the night.

The next morning I went in. He was cold and as hard as marble. You could sense that he was no longer there. Something had departed.

I remember looking out of the window as people walked by outside. Inside that room I was standing next to the bed with my dead father. My life had changed. Outside life went on as usual.

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Anecdote – Bryce Canyon and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Anecdote – Bryce Canyon and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


Bryce Canyon and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

In Easter 1980 we were driving around America in a VW van looking for the heart of wonder. We found it everywhere.

When we arrived at Bryce Canyon the snow had settled. It sat on the top of the stacks in a four foot layer. The red shale of the canyons walls were more vivid from the damp of the snow and the white tops merely added to the spectacle and made it even more magical.

The scale was impossible to appreciate. It looked like a fairy land. It was only when we walked down between the stacks that we were able to appreciate the size and immensity of the place. The red walls of the chasms rose up all around us enclosing us in its majesty. What looked delicate and intricate from afar now looked deep and mysterious.

We walked down the canyons and found ourselves encompassed in a maze.

The experience was awesome.

Later that day we stopped at a nearby restaurant for something to eat. In a corner was a little old lady and we started talking. She told us that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used to rustle cattle round in these parts. Their gang used to drive the steers down into Bryce Canyon to hide up until the heat cooled down. As a young girl she had seen them ride past.

The Wild West to me was a million miles away. Yet here it was in living memory. Those old movies of the Wild West were real. We met someone who had witnessed it.

She had not seen Paul Newman and Robert Redford; she had seen the real thing. We’d walked down the same canyons.

Anecdote – Mexican Borders – a tale of drugs and bribes

Anecdote – Mexican Borders – a tale of drugs and bribes

Mexican borders.

We were heading for Mexico City by van. I’d sorted the route. It was left at the top of our road.

We were going to travel from Los Angeles to San Diego and then straight along the main pan Mexican highway to Mexico City. We had three kids in tow and a tent but that van was going to be our home for a couple of weeks. It was a thousand five hundred miles.

The Mexican border was the first spot of interest. We went in on a six lane highway and out on a dirt road.

At the customs hut we were pulled over by three surly guards. The first guard told us that he might have to search the van for drugs. I protested. I was hardly likely to be smuggling drugs into Mexico, was I? The guard was unmoved. He pointed to a bunch of cars and vans that had been previously subjected to a similar procedure. They had been ripped to shreds. All the seats, upholstery, roof, panels had been ripped out and slashed to pieces. They had even had their engines removed. It did not bode well. I was imagining what I was going to say to the American teacher we had borrowed the van off.

But then the guard suggested that for a small fee he could make us exempt. I slipped him twenty dollars. He told me that there were three of them. I passed the others notes across.

Petrol in Mexico was half the price of the US so we’d come across with an empty tank. When we’d exchanged our dollars the miserable Mexican exchanger had refused to give us any small notes. We had been given large denomination notes worth fifty pounds. I thought that we would get some change from the garage. We filled up with petrol and I handed one of the notes over. A full tank had only set us back about ten dollars. He gave me around five dollars’ worth of change in a bunch of small currency notes. I protested vehemently. I couldn’t speak Spanish and he pretended not to understand English. I pointed to the price on the pump and demanded the rest of the change. Unrepentant and without a hint of embarrassment he handed me a few more notes. It took another three protests and a lot of angry exchanges before he finally coughed up the right money. He was totally unfazed by the whole scam.

The road, the main arterial road through Mexico to Central America, was a two lane job. It was the major highway for all commerce. There were big trucks roaring up and down it. But it was lousy. You would be driving along at full pelt, round a bend and it would disappear into a dirt track. We would bump and career along for a while before the tarmac would reappear. Obviously some municipal council had not paid their taxes. It was no wonder the whole road was punctuated with shrines to dead motorists. The drivers using that death-trap of a thoroughfare were crazy.

In way of illustration, one day we’d stopped at the side of the road to grab some lunch. A car travelling at high speed, swerved off the road, careered through the undergrowth right to the side of us without slowing and then scuttled back on to the road in a screech of wheel-spin, enveloping us in a cloud of dust. We were in shock.

But hey, much to the amazement of our neighbours, who were sure we would be killed by bandits or smashed to pulp on the road, we made it to Mexico City and back in one piece.

Waiting for Roy Harper in Brixton

Waiting for Roy Harper in Brixton

Anyone who knows Roy will know that he runs on different time to the rest of us. I lived up in Hull and he lived in Brixton. We needed to get together to do some work on the book. As I had no car at the time and was no longer as partial to hitch-hiking as I once had been I thought that train was the best solution. As it was half-term I had some time. I arranged with Roy the times and set off. He assured me that he would pick me up from the station.

Now I hadn’t quite expected Roy to be standing there when I arrived; I knew him better than that.

Clutching my bag I made my way out of the station and sat myself down on a bench in a prominent place to wait.

This was Brixton a few months after the notorious riots. Watching the news all one saw was rampaging black youths, overturned cars, petrol bombs and houses on fire. Brixton looked like a war zone. Colleagues in Hull, which, at the time was not the world’s most cosmopolitan city, thought I was going into some cauldron of race rioting. I was doomed. They assumed that as soon as the denizens of Brixton set eyes on a white face they would tear me limb from limb.

The minutes dragged into an hour. A lady from one of the shops had noticed me sitting there waiting and brought me a cup of coffee. She asked if I wanted to use her phone (this was before the age of mobiles) to contact someone. I thanked her profusely.

The hour became two hours and I was joined by a very drunk old man who offered me drinks out of his bottle, wrapped in a brown paper bag, put his arm round me, and engaged me in conversation.

After two and a half hours a taxi driver offered me a free lift to wherever I was going. Perhaps they wanted rid of me?

Eventually Roy appeared in his huge car and drove me off to his house.

I could not help wondering if a black guy sitting outside Hull train station would have received such a friendly reception?