I left school at sixteen, way back in 1979 to be honest I thought it was better I left before they kicked me out. You see I was a little bit of a troubled youth. I am not sure exactly why, my new shrink will no doubt in time leech out of me some dark childhood incident that set me on the road to perdition, but its enough to say I was a shit, if there was trouble, I tended to find it out, or be involved in it, or indeed start it.
I have kept some of my school reports, in one my House Master ( I should explain, we were all allocated Houses, mostly named after Bishops of Worcester, who’s Cathedral my School was adjoined to ) My house was Wulfstan. St.Wulfstan worked some spectacular miracles, the most impressive I always thought was healing a man who’d had been castrated and had his eyes gouged out, they all grew back thanks to the intervention of St.Wulfstan, I would like to have seen that one, beats that David Blane fellow hands down. If he could do that on live TV, then hell that’s a show I would pay good money to see. Anyway, if the hope that by putting us young impressionable boys into houses named after Saints and Bishops would have a positive effect I am afraid it passed me by, I have never been responsible for any miracles, not as yet, and I have never been a Saint, but one can never say never, maybe there is still time.
My Housemaster, Fred, was a short, stocky Welshman who taught Biology, he liked me I think, even though I was trouble, because I liked sport, Rugby particularly, and whenever there was some inter house sports competition I would be there, propping up the team and getting his House points. He didn’t however like my school reports though and said as much. One clearly states, “He mixes with the wrong crowd” . My favourite ever comment on my school report was ” Sits at his desk like a sack of Potatoes” – to this day I really don’t understand the relevance of that statement, now I shall never know as the fellow is now up there along with St.Wulfstan.
I was convinced that my exam results at sixteen would involve summary and immediate expulsion before getting to the sixth form, so I decided to leave, save my parents the school fees, which were a burden to them as I was told each time another terrible report landed on the mat.
Anyway I started work at sixteen, an immature, un-wordly youth, with no idea whatsoever. My first job earned me the princely sum of £29.10 per week after tax, I was livin’ the dream. That was enough money to buy a whole lot of alcohol, chase girls, smoke fags, play pool and gamble. I was a total disaster at all of them, with the possible exception of pool at which I was just bad.
As I lived in the sticks my social life revolved around the local Pub, The Talbot, every day on the way home from work I would stop at the pub, then afterwards it was a 1/2 mile trek, or rather stagger uphill, often drunk I could just about put one foot in front of the other up the hill and home, to Nightingale Cottage on Ankerdine Hill. Its a stunning place, a hill of a few hundred feet, covered in woodland and with great views from the top of the surrounding plain, apparently there is no point as high in a line of latitude until you reach the Urals in the East. That’s how it felt on the walk back home, like I was climbing a mountain, but that was probably due to the volume of booze swashing around in my stomach.
In those days The Talbot was a real pub, today it’s a tourist attraction, a gastro pub, back then it just sold beer, lots of it along with Cider, you could get a chicken and chips in a real plastic basket for sustenance, pickled eggs and onions in jars, there was a pool table, dart board, fruit machines and a jukebox I spent a lot of money on that jukebox, mostly on rubbish, though i have to say the tunes of the era take me right back and I remember fondly the disposable cheesy pop, bad hairdoos and even cheesier videos, here’s a prime example:
I quickly became what is known in the vernacular as a piss-head, in other words one who imbibes too much, too often.
Women came into the public bar relatively rarely, so my attention turned to barmaids, my first serious fumbling fandangos were all with barmaids, older and more clued up than I was. I remember the first was with a girl called Jill, she was from another local village, had a really strong Herefordshire country accent, she was what you might call a big girl, big rosy red cheeks and an equally outstanding stack. I remember wandering off with her after she finished work one saturday afternoon, having consumed copious amounts of cider and being dragged into long grass alongside the river which meandered past the pub, my god her jeans were so tight I think it must have taken two people to get them on, it certainly took the two of us to get them off, it was the start of a fine fumbling romance.
The pub taught me my communication skills, so that’s why I am here today, I learned to talk through a pint glass. It was full of odd charachters, the most curious was old Joe, he was a farm worker, probably in his sixties, the grubbiest man you ever saw, he lived with the pigs on the farm, for reasons unexplained he couldn’t live in normal accommodation, when he talked to you even when sober his accent was so strong that he was almost entirely unintelligible, I gave up after a very short time trying to ever understand him by speech alone, instead I used a combination of lip reading, watching his hand movements and the odd words that I could understand to converse with him, we got there in the end. Joe always wore wellington boots, and a thread-bare old woollen coat, whatever the weather, baking summer day, freezing winter night, always the same. But it was the wellington boots that got me, they were not a matching pair. Eventually I asked him one day why his wellies didnt match, he proceeded to tell me that another farm worker had stolen one of his boots ( Only one mark you ). Bad things happen indeed in the country I can tell you.
The pub revolved around the seasons, in Summer being next to a clear and clean fast flowing river it was a great place to swim, I spent many sunny weekend afternoons lying in the sun and drinking, then swimming or in a canoe, or indeed canoodling, in early Autumn and the Hop picking season the college students and gypsies came to harvest the hops and the pub had a whole new clientel for a few weeks, once a month a Celidh, or a disco would drag in the local talent, the little world of the village and the surrounding area would come there to socialise and for me it was my first faltering steps into the grown up world. I lied about my age for two years, the Publican was a little shocked when i finally told him it was my eighteenth birthday one day and I was now a legal drinker, only St.Wulfstan knows how many pints of cider and beer I had consumed by then, but I look back and see a rather naive young man just on his way into the big world and finding his bearings, fumbling along trying to make sense of it all. Now I am fifty and I am still trying to make sense of it all, the difference is that I am a little wiser. I wondered why I wanted to write this post, about a time thirty plus years ago, I was seventeen or so years old, then I realised, back then I remember feeling very lonely, I wanted a relationship, I wanted a significant other rather than the boozy fandango’s that happened periodically, it seemed impossible and I wondered if I would ever meet a woman that I would want to be with and that would want to be with me.
Three decades later the itch is back all over again, I am feeling lonely, fumbling fandangos continue with occasional forays further, the difference I suppose is that I believe I will meet somebody at some point and that I am capable of being in a relationship that works. That now I make good friends who help to dissipate the feelings of loneliness, but that the problem may well be I’m not ready to be in a relationship just yet, that I just need to give it time and acceptance. Though I feel like the former is ticking away and the later is something I have never been to good at dealing with.
Going solo whilst it should a place I can cope with and even enjoy is not my favourite space, in fact I loathe it. A friend told me I need a woman who will adore me, she hit the nail on the head. I have an itch that needs scratching, maybe I should leave it alone, only time will tell.
You may like to read a fuller recounting of the miracle of the eyeballs & the testicles: