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Used to work for AVIVA offshoring IT to India.  Now retired through ill health, writing my life story as a series of blogs chronologically from birth to current time.  At www.jw-alifeofsurprises.blogspot.com

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

All Roads lead to Rhodes (and a police horse) - 1986 - 1987

I was starting to get comments that I “looked” like George Michael.  I began to style my look on his (ex-WHAM! Pre Faith Album look); growing my hair longer and growing a stubble beard. 

My mates at the Wensum Community Centre all addressed me as George, had done for some time, as did their girlfriends.  Lisa Waterfield still does.  There was some competition from Gary Hughes as well.  Back from my visit to see Mark Cameron in Portsmouth, I again fell into my usual trap, over enthusiasm for women, under enthusiasm for work.  I was painting for Carters and we were sent out to a Nature Reserve property called How Hill to renovate inside and out. 

Each day we, (Bradley and various painters, builders etc) clambered into a Transit van and set off to How Hill.  In the main “living” room, cornicing and wooden carvings required detailed painting and I was doing this with Bradley.  Upstairs bedrooms were being painted by the rest of the crew and as if to prove a point made in my last blog (http://jw-alifeofsurprises.blogspot.com/2011/09/painting-porking-and-plans-afoot.html), any painter over the age of 40, looked at least 60, the consequence of years of working with paint thinners and toxic substances like paint stripper.  Leathery skin, cracked hands, thinning hair and bad coughs.  They looked miserable, smelt terrible and their moaning about life was doing my head in.  Fucking cheer up, I thought, do something different, and be something different, just shut up!
Bradley and I took great pleasure in winding up the foreman, a Ginger bearded chap who we hid from most of the time to avoid being given work.  The other guys were mainly working off ladders to reach the high ceilings, so Bradley and I would walk quietly up behind them and paint the heels of their shoes with White Gloss paint, which would rub onto their overalls and onto the trousers they wore underneath.  But I was bored and was unconsciously trying to piss Carters off enough to get fired.

I was spending a lot of time with my sister Helen and her husband David.  Whilst he worked shifts, I would go round to their house and keep her company.  I adored my nieces, Claire and Katie, and spent as much time with them as possible.  My more gentle side had resulted in my sewing together stuffed toys (baby seals), whilst waiting for discharge from the Army, which I named Bernard and Cecil and gave to the girls.  Mark Cameron came up to Norwich for a week and Helen, Mark and I went into Norwich for drinks and long chats about life, the universe and everything, (to steal a phrase).  Mark was moaning more and more about life on the south coast, the work situation too, but in contrast with the Carters Painters, he and I would do something with our lives to varying degrees.   
Mum had a “male friends” who she met at the singles club in town, purely platonic friendships, but she met a wider circle of ladies as well, who started to go to Spain with her each year.  One friend, Harry, was a gentle, sincere man, who mum liked a good deal, but he did not have the “spark” mum looked for.  Helen and I went out for a drink one evening and pitched up at mums quite late, to find Harry and mum having a nightcap, before he headed off home.  Helen and I decided it would be great to share our love of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore as their drunken alter ego’s Derek and Clive and proceeded to subject Harry and mum to such delights as “The longest Bogey”, “The Horn”, “This bloke came up to me”, Celebrity Suicide” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQsGBgDRNuM) (WARNING – ADULT CONTENT) and “The worse job he ever had” to name but a few.  Any aficionado of Pete and Dud will recognise these tracks from Derek and Clive Live and Ad Nauseam.  The content is mainly a stream of bad language built into skits lasting not more than 4 minutes.  Mum and harry sat there disgusted but unable to move, whilst Helen and I fell about laughing.

Mum always hit Benidorm in November and had assembled quite a large group of friends by now, who she met out there.  My mum had class (even though she liked Benidorm!), dressed immaculately, thought of herself as a new Joan Collins, (Dynasty was big-time TV then) and was the centre of attention wherever she went.  The other positive, I had the run of her house for two weeks.
Mum was not stupid, she knew I would entertain, but the one stipulation in all this was, ‘under no circumstances was anyone, even yours truly, to use her bedroom’.  That was sacred turf and the penalty for transgression would be severe.  The first weekend she was away, I invited the whole crew round, Rick Holmes and his band mates, the Wensum Community Centre gang and their girlfriends, the ladies who I met every weekend in town and various other hangers on.  I did not do drugs other than alcohol and cigarettes and I don’t think anyone else did at that time, apart from the odd spot of weed, smoked in the garden.
I spent most of the evening in my bedroom, carrying out a series of manoeuvres and experiments, designed to measure the capacity of the beds strength to withstand repeated banging and the recipient’s ability to use her legs afterwards!  Other bedrooms were also in full use and many a door was being knocked on, in the hope of hurrying the current occupants along.  I had already issued the dictat about mum’s room being out of bounds and this was being adhered to.  Unfortunately, Paul Waterfield and his new girlfriend Lisa could restrain themselves no longer and crossed the threshold.

In my ignorance and because they did such a good job of restoring the room to its original state, I did not know they had transgressed.  In fact, I was unaware until mum came home and after unpacking, came downstairs holding an earring in her hand.  Obviously it was not hers and despite my pleas of innocence, was the recipient of a clip to the ear (again), the threat of the frying pan around the head and booted out of the house, along with the silent treatment. 

Note – the silent treatment; wherein mum would not speak to you for a period of not less than 24 hours, which could extend to over 72 hours, no meals cooked and it was best to get out of the house as much as possible.
Summer of 1986 and the Wensum boys decided to go to Rhodes on a Club 18-30 holiday.  I saved and saved (meaning I had a few Drachmas totalling less than £200) and come the day of departure we met at the Lamb Pub in Norwich, suitcase packed.  Our party were Tim, Bradley, Ian, Gary (Hughes) and myself.  Paul Waterfield was now removed from such shenanigans under pain of death from Lisa.  We got the coach to Gatwick and flew out to Rhodes, arriving in the middle of the night, to find our hotel overbooked and we were dumped in another hotel for the night.

From left (?,?, Me, Ian, Bradley, Tim and Gary)

Our “booked” hotel, the Atlantic, was a Bed and Breakfast doss hole, with little to interest anyone, no swimming pool, only a pool table, so we would cross town to another “18-30’s” hotel, where most of the “around the pool” games and activities took place.  We took a cassette recorder (boom box) everywhere we went, playing Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, WHAM! (a lot) as loud as possible.
Ian and Me
Bradley(Hat), George (Me), Ian and Tim
Each day, (after the lay-in from the night before) was a series of beach and poolside viewing sessions.  The number of women easily outnumbered the men and I was in my element, or so I thought.  My abject failure to chat up and bed any girl until the later part of the second week was telling.  Mind you, we still competed with each other and this resulted one night in Gary Hughes scoring a direct hit on the bed next to me, as I lay there trying hard to ignore the muffled yelps and groans of pleasure.  We went on most of the “excursions”, including a sailing trip, BBQ and the “Greek night” where I had my “success” finally. 

We also hired a beach buggy, Tom drove and we shot off to Lindos via Falaraki, trying to maintain our cool whilst Tim took turns too fast and then said he needed to test the brakes, which ended up in near death as Ian, Gary and I did not have seatbelts in the back and shot forwards into Bradley and Tim.
Our main evening hang out was a bar we discovered, that had an open air courtyard and live music.  The guy who owned the bar was English and had been the guitarist in the group Sad Cafe’, whose only record I can remember was “Hurry Home”.  He did have an open mike though and I got up (supported by my backing singers) to sing “Club Tropicana” (WHAM!).  It was my first real live performance and would lead onto bigger and better things.

Greek night found me chatting to “Mary” from Southampton.  Mary was a lovely girl, pretty, blonde and happily pissed and we fondled and kissed most of the evening.  This being our last night, I was a bit put out when she told me she’d fancied me from the first day, but had taken two weeks to chat me up!  The coach back to the hotel dropped us off and she and I headed down to the beach and got sand in all the usual cracks and crevices, before heading back to her hotel for a shower.
As usual, i am in the front, strangling the competition!
I took her number (as if I’d see her again) and flew back to England, skint but satisfied, owning Tim a small fortune in money, lent to cover me for the final “13 days” of the two week trip!  I was then laid off by Carters, downturn in work they said, but probably because I was crap and lazy.  I signed on the dole and went to Portsmouth to see Mark Cameron again.  I told him about Mary and he said I should call her.  I did and we met on Southampton seafront and whilst Mark made his excuses, we revived the night on the beach in the seafront gardens.
Home again, football season again and the reserves for me as Bradley was back in good health and back in the first team.  The year (1986) drew to a close with a whimper for me, no work, on benefits, so not much in the way of spare cash to go out and no real girlfriend as such.  1987 started as 1986 finished, odd jobbing for Adrian Murphy and generally annoying mum by being around too much.

Mark Cameron rang me a few weeks into 1987 and said the now immortal line “Do you want to come to America with me; I have an aunt in California”?  “Yes” was my immediate answer.  I needed to know, no more than that. I asked no questions about where in California she lived, her ability to put us up, how we’d survive etc, and set about raising enough money to get out there and exist if need be.  Mark came back up to Norwich and we had to travel to London, to the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square to get our Visa’s.  Driving the “boat” my Cortina, was fun if not dangerous, with the front number plate balanced on the dashboard, bald tyres, rusting sills and rear doors that were held shut by a bungee cord across the seat and attached to the interior door handles.

We arrived into central London intact, just, and drove alongside Buckingham Palace towards Hyde Park, windows open, sun shining, stereo blasting out WHAM!  We were cool, certain we were attracting attention.  The largest Police Horse I have ever seen moved out into the road ahead and the policeman, who was sat astride it, put up his hand and motioned me to pull into the side of the road.  I told Mark to lighten up, that I’d be ok, but he sat ashen faced as I climbed out of the car and walked towards the horse, which proceeded to head butt me backwards towards and up against the car bonnet.

The Police Officer asked me where I was going and I told him of our plans and the trip to the American Embassy, and “did he know where The Embassy was from here?”  He looked at the car in disgust and asked me how I had the cheek to drive the thing into central London. I turned around and looked at the car and Mark shrinking down in his seat.  “My brother Richard is a Met Policeman” I offered, as if that would sway the encounter positively in my direction.  “Is he now, what’s his name then?” I told him Richards’s full name and where Richard was based (Peckham) and he spoke into the radio.

After a moment or two, he looked at me, at the car and said “right, go to the embassy, get your Visa and never, ever, bring that heap of crap into London again”.  I looked at Mark, gave him a confident “I know what I am doing” look and told the Policeman I liked his horse, to which it butted me in the chest again.  I got in the car and we drove around the horse and onto Park Lane and into Grosvenor Square.  We parked and went into the Embassy, went through the interview and came out with our Passports stamped.

The trip was on, it was time to save money and sell possessions. 

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