To misquote John Lennon 'There are Faces I Remember' This was one of my early ones.
I was desperate to leave home, excited to leave Liverpool not because either were bad but for reasons I still don’t quite understand. Maybe early hospitalization and rejection as the fat kid with glasses who couldn’t run were responsible. It made for detachment, and outsiders find it easy to move on. A less self absorbed motive might lie in the genes. Liverpool is a city of explorers, and it was the late sixties and like everyone else I just wanted to get out there.
I remember my father carrying my suitcase to the bus stop, and shaking my hand. Shortly after that he suffered a stroke and spent the rest of his life in purgatory. Along with my mum.
The train to Swansea had all the magic of the Hogwarts Express. We arrived at the station late evening where a University van was waiting to pick us up. Total strangers tumbled in the back and we were dropped off like World War II parachutists in flats and boarding houses all over the city.
I ended up in 17 Higher Lane, Langland, though Andy stone insists it was number 22. It was a boarding house with pretensions. The couple who owned it were silver haired and carried with them an air of pre-war gentility. They found us intrusive, but needed the money. The man always ate his breakfast alone and we were not allowed in until he had finished. The woman spoke to us as though wearing white gloves. They had allowed tradesmen into their house. All our needs were met by Beatrice a middle-aged hunchback who showed a fierce and undeviating loyalty to the woman with permed hair and the man who ate by himself.
17 Higher Lane.
The best thing about university is the people you meet and the manner in which social backgrounds merge and interact. I was a grubby scouser, tribal, parochial and convinced of ‘the truth.’ I shared a room with Andy Stone who spoke with a soft west country bur and tried to convince me that a band called ‘Love’ was superior to the Rolling Stones. He spoke of Keynesham ,and did imitations of a man called Horace Batchelor who spoke on Radio Luxemburg, selling his formula on how to win big on the Football Pools. Adjoining rooms were inhabited by John Davies, son of an Exeter University Professor. We envied his success with woman. A C17th rake but who settled down for a period of connubial bliss with the beautiful Sue, a red-head from Cardiff. Mick Gray from Alsager near Crewe; too old to be a puppy, he reminded me of an exuberant young dog. Brian Moss, possessed of a dry Bolton accent, was the prince amongst us because of his car, a white Triumph Herald.
Mick Grey, wearing his girl-friend's shower cap.
John Davies, the young D'artagnon with a lamp in lieu ofa sword
Finally, there was John Stratford from Cirencester who broke the stereotype of electrical engineers by having Stendhal as his bedtime reading, and Ian Jones who we treated with unwarranted cruelty and to whom I now apologize with all my heart.
Tomorrow there’ll be a post from Andy Stone and later, I hope memories of others who shared that house and later the much grander house on Langland Road with its ‘obviator’.