‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Build-Up to Christmas. Winter and Christmas Parties at Harehills County Primary School in the 1960s. – Cup of Tea Tales
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Build-Up to Christmas. Winter and Christmas Parties at Harehills County Primary School in the 1960s.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hippy Attempt on the Summit of Mount Snowdon. What Foolish Things We Did as Students!
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Ashworth’s Sweet-Shop, Harehills. Sweets, Victory V Lozenges, Sweet Cigarettes and Other Delights We Have Lost Over The Years.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A’ Levels, the Final Year at High School, Planning to Leave Home, Getting into College and Growing Older if Not Wiser.
- David’s Bookshelf Issue 5
My last tale took music up to the end of the progressive era dinosaurs and the start of punk and new wave. The change in music saw a major change in my life. My free-and-easy existence as a student came to a sudden end, as I had to work and keep myself.
I had applied for a number of general teaching positions, and at that time, you were employed by the authority and allocated schools. I was lucky and was asked for an interview by the city of Rotherham. I was a bit confused as I received one letter asking me for an interview and one rejecting me, but I had trained for junior schooling and secondary schooling and when I arrived, it was for a secondary position. I hadn’t expected to teach in a high school as my practices had been junior and middle schooling. The interview went well, and apart from the incident on the way back to Leeds, where the head gasket on my mother’s Hillman Imp blew, the experience was positive. I was offered a position teaching English at a large highschool in the small village of Dinnington.
The school was very large, with over 2,260 children and about 120 teachers. Twenty-one teachers started when I did. Children were bused in from all over the area and about forty-eight buses dropped off and picked up the children at the start and end of the day. I certainly didn’t want to live in Dinnington, and once I was appointed, I started to look for accommodation in Sheffield. I saw an advert in a real estate office for a bedsit to rent and I was driven to view the place by the agent. She was a middle-aged lady, and she drove an Audi like a madwoman. She crossed the narrow streets of Sheffield at break-neck speed and doing emergency stops at junctions. I must admit, she scared the living daylights out of me. She finally pulled up outside a property in Upperthorpe and led a very shaken and stirred me into the house and up to the bedsit.
I don’t know what I expected, but I was sure that I didn’t want her to show me any further properties. I was too young to die, I thought. The room was small, had a bit of a cupboard area, which was a section of the corridor, had a nice sash window that was above a bay window of the flat below. The view was quite impressive and Sheffield in these days was still a thriving steel town. The walls were woodchipped and I don’t think had even been painted. The carpet was a yellow-green, worn thing that looked in need of a thorough clean, or better, throwing out. There was a small two seater-sofa and a single bed. A small kitchen sink with a cooker, gas water heater and a chest of drawers were the only other furnishings. The bathroom was just across from my room and there were two other bedsits on my first floor. I made a suggestion that looking back was almost unheard of. I asked if I could paint the place. The realestate lady agreed with glee and I was taken back to the office, in terror, and dutifully signed up and paid a deposit.
The rent was six pounds a week, which was about right for the place and within a few days, I moved in. Moving in was hardly a big deal. I used a car from my holiday job and took over my stuff. This was a few clothes, my records, tapes, a couple of towels, some sheets and blankets and basic pots and pans. My prized possessions were my acoustic guitar and a new stereo system I had bought from the Comet Discount Warehouse in Leeds. The deck was a combination record player, cassette player, and radio. It was about a yard wide, six inches high, and two feet deep. I didn’t have a television, and I never bought one until I got married. It had a clear plastic lid and cost the princely sum of two hundred pounds.
I spent the first weekend painting the woodchip white and when I had finished, it looked a lot better. I bought the basic food supplies and moved in. It seemed very strange that first night and the next day I took the work car home, and returned by bus. I got used to the bus ride, as I travelled it many times back to Leeds to visit friends.
People may wonder how I managed without a television, but I loved music and was quite happy just to listen to music, play guitar and write songs. This was autumn 1976, and with starting work teaching, I was almost as well off as I had been as a student. The summer before I moved, I was working at Budget Rent-a-Car at Wallis Arnold’s in Hunslet. It was a long, dry and hot summer and we spent a lot of time playing tennis on the court at Meanwood Park Hospital where my friend Pete worked. I had some money to spend and with the prospect of starting my teaching job, I bought my stereo system. The disposable income allowed me to start restocking my music collection. I read the New Musical Express and Sounds, and originally I followed bands such as Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes, but that year major changes were afoot.
Genesis had lost Peter Gabriel, and he released a solo album just called Peter Gabriel. I really liked it, but the remaining Genesis released Wind and Wuthering in December 1976 and I loved the cover and painted a large version of the flock of birds circling the tree on my bedsit wall over the bed. I was pleased with the result.
Genesis splintered again and released Then There Were Three in 1978 with a big hit single Follow You, Follow Me. This was more of a pop album and marked for me a change in musical interest and a broadening of my horizons. After Wind and Wuthering, I started listening to Casey Kasem present the American top 40. I had always had an ear for any music I found interesting, but this introduced me to people like Tom Petty, Bob Seger, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Rufus, the Isley Brothers, and many others. I started buying and enjoying their records and I still have many, including: You’re Gonna Get It – Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers 1978, Night Moves – Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band 1976, Silver – Daryl Hall and John Oates 1975. I bought many of my usual music, such as Songs From the Wood – Jethro Tull 1977, Please Don’t Touch – Steve Hackett 1978 and even a reformed Small Faces with Steve Marriott – Playmates. I spent all my time listening in my bedsit and I can’t say that I missed the television at all. I even moved into some more varied music with Cado Belle – 1976, featuring Maggie Reilly, Tom Waites – Small Change 1976, Solid Air – John Martyn 1973, but of course, Punk and New Wave was sweeping the UK and I found some bands of interest: Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True 1977, Ian Dury and the Blockheads – New Boots and Panties in 1977 on Stiff Records, XTC, Go 1978 and many others.
I was happy immersing myself in anything that I found merit in. My bedsit was small, but for a while, it was my home and I have mentioned one of my adventures there in a previous blog, when there was an armed robbery, but there were others. I used to keep my food supply in the top two drawers of the chest of drawers and I didn’t have a fridge, so butter and bread were there. One night I was woken by a scratching noise and the next day I found evidence that a mouse had found my butter. The next night I was again woken so I decided I would have to deal with it. I reached for my tennis racquet and walked over to the drawers. I slowly pulled the top drawer out and there was nothing there. I shut it and started to pull the next drawer out. There was a sudden scurrying, and I jumped and slammed the drawer shut. I stood there, racquet in hand, ready to strike. I stared at the drawer and something moved and I realised that it was blood. I pulled the drawer open, and a mouse appeared dangling from it, its head stuck to the underside of the drawer. I felt terrible. I had to remove the dead mouse and clean the drawer. I threw out most of the food and decided to buy some bait and put it in the corridor.
I kept seeing a kitten wandering in and out of the building and one night, whilst preparing some work for school, I allowed it to come in. I don’t know if it was a stray, but it sat on my knee whilst I marked some books and had a coffee. All seemed well until I noticed something in the corner of my eye. There was a flash and something small landed in my coffee. I looked closely, and I was horrified to see a flea swimming around. I had only ever seen a flea in books before, but out went the cat and I rushed out to buy flea powder. I covered the whole flat with the powder, and probably poisoned myself, went out to the pub, hoping the damage would be undone when I returned. When I got back, I spent the next hour vacuuming up all the flea powder and worried I would get up the next day covered in bites. As it was, all was well, but it put me off cats. I did buy a budgie to keep me company and the little thing was a good companion.
The final tale is a bit of a mystery. There was a good pub at the top of the hill and I often walked up to have a pint or two, and some nights there was a thriving folk club taking place in a large back room. One night I was there on my own and had one or two drinks too many. It was always easy to totter home down the steep hill, and that night, being a Friday, I just fell into bed and into oblivion. The next morning I awoke with a bit of a sore head, but nothing out of the ordinary. I had the stereo on a small table next to the sink and in front of the window. And I was just making a coffee when I looked down and my stereo was awash. The lid was raised and the deck and workings were clearly wet. I was horrified. I hadn’t had it long, and it was ruined. What had happened? Had the roof leaked? Had I spilt the kettle on it somehow, or was it something else? I dried it as best as I could and took the machine apart. I opened everything as much as I could and allowed it to dry. It took a day or two, but finally it was dry. The base had warped a little with the wetting, but it couldn’t be seen. I gingerly turned it on and, to my relief, it worked. It was fine, and I could listen again to my beloved music. No one knew what had happened apart from those reading this and my wife. I racked my brain, and I had a half-memory of going to the toilet during the night. I remembered lifting the toilet seat and I can only surmise what had happened. I guess it will have to remain a mystery!
Luckily I was saved from my bedsit when I got married shortly afterwards, and we moved, but the memory of the place and the music stays for ever.
I am well into producing my second edition of Cup of Tea Tales as a book. The Teenage Years will be available soon. I have also made a start on the follow up novel to Dead Men Don’t Snore. A Trembling of Finches will be available before the end of the year, I hope.