Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A Retrospective Moment

"Been down so long it looks like up to me" - was the title of a book written by Richard Farina in the 1960's. Until his untimely death in a motorcycle accident Richard Farina was married to Mimi Baez, the younger sister of Joan Baez. Some years later I connected with that title because it seemed a pretty good description of my life, but that's another story.

But in a spell of being more down than up just recently I trawled backwards through parts of my life, using You Tube to look at some of the music, re-visiting real people, real singers and unfortunately, mostly real dead. Janis Joplin singing "Summertime" in 1968, played back to back with The Doors and "Riders in the Storm" - wow, good music - pass the bottle and fill the glass stuff! Red wine and rum now but it never was so in the 1960's, it was beer and stuff. We never got into all that sniffing and injecting stuff but grass was a regular feature, we either got drunk or we had a "smoke". I've never smoked so I rolled the joints and the others smoked them while I got drunk - I think most Sundays of my late teens and early twenties were spent in bed getting over hangovers.

And what did we drink, well it certainly wasn't wine, although I do recall the drinking of something called VP Sherry because it was cheap and effective, no it was mostly beer. None of the lager stuff that became fashionable later on either, no, in the 1960's it was bitter, Brown or Light ale and mild.
Brown and Light ales were by the bottle and the others came from the barrel and out of the hand pumps. Brown and Mild was a regular drink, as was Light and Bitter but me, I drunk Stout and mild, a thick, sweet mixture of Courage Velvet Stout and dark mild. Mild in those days came via the barrel and usually in two forms. There was the properly brewed and supplied mild and the slops mild. It was still legal in those days, though not for much longer, to utilize all the left overs from unfinished glasses at the end of the evening. These slops from glasses and the pump drip trays were all poured back into an empty barrel in the cellar and this disgusting mixture was re-served to customers as "mild". It wasn't too bad if you was mixing it with a bottle of beer but on its own, especially if it had a lot of lemonade content, it was quite awful.
Where did we drink, well for those readers that know Sheerness, we drank mostly in the Queens Hotel", a small pub that had the distinction of being the first and last pub in Sheerness, depending on which way you was travelling. In those days it also had outside toilets, which meant when it was raining hard you got soaked getting there and sometimes soaked being there, there was no proper roof - pubs were tough in those days! The first time I ever went in there I was sick across the bar and the landlord, but I got over it and so did he, eventually.

Seems hard to believe these days but in the mid/late 1960's we were Sheppey's original hippies, seemed as if there were only a couple of dozen of us. We grew our hair long, we wore denims, we played guitars and mostly, for protection from ridicule I suppose, we all took over and used the same cafe in the town all day long, Den's cafe. We mostly all worked but on weekends and holidays slept rough, did beer and pot, didn't wash, and hitch-hiked around - there were no limits, no morals and no pressures. It was a great time, easily the best ten years of my life and I could write chapters on our experiences and do you know, I often envy those that died when it ended.
In 1953 Dylan Thomas drank himself to death, aged 39, because the best times were all gone and in 1970 Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix all died - sometimes surviving ain't all its cracked up to be.

Me (the alternative Bob Dylan) in 1966


  1. Still hanging out at the pillbox at Shellness even then! And looking every bit the rebel (some things never change ;-))


  2. Actually it was one of the old gun emplacements in front of Sheerness Docks and if you look closely I'm almost smiling. We used to go there for our sex education lessons.