David’s Bookshelf – Issue One – Cup of Tea Tales
- David’s Bookshelf – Issue One
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A Lifetime of Global Successes, Disasters and Wonders! Space the Final Frontier.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hetchell Woods (Bardsey) and Crags – A Special Piece of God’s Own Country or County! One of my Favourite Places to Visit.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Wonderful Yorkshire Dales. Trollers Gill, a Place with a Mysterious Legend and the Hell Hole where I Diced with Death.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Labs and all Manner of Magic, Misery and Mayhem. What Must have been the Worst job for a New Teacher, Chemistry with Boys with only one Aim, to Make Your Life Hell!
I suppose that the real awakening of adolescence was the realisation that you could find others attractive and that others could find you so. Up to this point in my life, I don’t ever really remember it entering my consciousness. Certainly, for most of my time up to almost the end of primary schooling at Harehills County Primary School, I had no interest in whether people were boys or girls. You could be successful in certain activities, sport or otherwise, and that was a nice feeling and, of course, your relatives loved you. If you were lucky, that was a given, but interest in girls was way down the list, until probably the last year. When invited to birthday parties we began to play postman’s knock. Someone would leave the room. Everyone was given a number and when that was done, the person outside would be invited back in. They would choose a number and whoever had that number would go back out into the corridor and share a kiss. It was all very innocent, but at the time was a new experience, and seemed delightfully wicked.
I do remember Harehills C.P. School having some sort of talent competition when I was in my last year and I put myself forward to do some magic tricks. I had bought a box of tricks from a toy shop on the way back from Hornsea, and I believe the shop was in the town of Beverley. There were a few simple tricks, a magic wand and I practised at home. The problem with performing to a large audience was that it needed to be visible and most tricks were one on one. Anyway, I made coins disappear into a glass of water, and was able to announce the card that someone had picked randomly and do a few other simple tricks. At the show we had dancers, singers, possibly Paul and Barry Ryan, people playing instruments and my tricks. It went better than I expected and it probably set me up for a life in entertainment, hence a career in teaching. There was something good in being the centre of attention and as a teenager, I reckoned it was better to be noticed and disliked that just be ignored.
My arrival at St. Edmunds’ Youth Club was the real start of attempting to get myself noticed. Youth clubs at these times were fairly basic. There would be a record deck with current hits belting out, table tennis, some dancing, but mainly girls around their bags, and a lot of preening, strutting and nervous introductions. Some people appeared to be naturally cool, and they were the ones we all aspired to emulate. The cool kids just had that extra something, and whatever it was, we all wanted it, or even just a little bit. As I have mentioned before, I couldn’t see what girls found attractive in teenage boys, but I was certainly interested in this beautiful alien species, girls. I am not sure when this lightbulb moment happened, but from then on, I was smitten.
Apparently, girls from Roundhay School had perused the boys, maybe from a distance through the bushes, or at Oakwood Clock or at the shops outside the girls’ school entrance, but I can’t say that I knew many, apart from the one or two who I knew from primary school. The other disadvantage I had was being from a family of boys. Two brothers were not a great help in understanding, nor conversing with girls, and so I was one of those who stood around embarrassed. This being said, I wasn’t really a shrinking violet either. I wanted to be cool and that meant acting and looking the part. In these times, my wardrobe, and most other boys’ wardrobes, was fairly empty. We had school uniform, and I had persuaded my mother that I needed a pair of jeans. There were only two brands that most of us would be seen in and they were Levi’s, the number one choice, and then Wranglers. Not quite Levi’s, but a bit cheaper and still fashionable. I think my first pair of Levi jeans cost about five pounds and that was a not insubstantial amount of money. This was the time when it was rumoured that you had to wear your Levi’s in a bath for the first time, to get them to shrink fit. I did it, but I don’t think it did anything but make my legs turn blue as the indigo dye leached out. My other gear was an ex-army and navy trench coat, denim shirt and t-shirts. I was fortunate that I could nick my older brother’s gear if he was out, and that helped to make me look less nerdy.
My Roundhay school friends at the time were Chris M, Stuart S, Roger H and Anthony I, and we were gaining a reputation that was not altogether wholesome. We became regulars at St. Edmund’s and then started branching out. Lidgett Lane Methodist was the nearest, and it became our home base. I remember there were two male leaders, and their wives or girlfriends. They were fantastic to put up with all they did. Cedric Robinson was one and I remember him as he had the most un-cool name I knew, Cedric! For the reason that they didn’t insist you attended the church, Lidgett had a wider circle of members and there was the old hall building and the new hall and one or two other rooms and a kitchen. Both Lidgett and St Edmunds became venues for our teenage rock band, where we could practise and perform over the next few years.
I suppose church youth clubs provided a safe environment for teenagers to meet, and could potentially recruit youngsters into the specific faith. I feel very fortunate that they existed as there doesn’t seem to be the same options for youngsters nowadays, apart from hanging around in shopping malls and the streets. These youth clubs would arrange occasional dances, activities and excursions, and I am very grateful for the leaders who put up with me and my friends and tolerated our chaotic and turbulent years. I never saw the leaders lose their patience, and they had a lot to contend with. Sometimes rival groups would send a posse looking for trouble and yet, on the whole, serious conflict was avoided.
So, I was kitted out the best I could be and there was a ‘do’ at St John’s Moor Allerton club off the Ring Road at Moortown Corner. It was held in a small parish hall and was a walk from Moortown Corner and so was easy to get to. I had borrowed one of my late grandfather’s pipes and had a pouch of tobacco. As a child, I had loved the smell of his pipe and thought it might add something to my maturity and charm. I had never smoked one, but how hard could it be? I had also come up with a theory. Girls would find me far more appealing, mysterious and attractive if I sat by myself looking morose, puffing on a pipe. As you can imagine, with this recipe for success, how could I fail to win fair lady? I can’t remember the date exactly, but I Can’t Help Myself was played endlessly, so after April 1965 and probably 1968. The Four Tops may not have been able to help themselves, but clearly, the girls at the club managed to, and by the end of the night, two things happened. One, I was feeling dreadfully sick and vowed never to smoke a pipe again, and two, I left without a female companion.
You are probably thinking ‘Silly Fool’, and you would be right, but did I learn? No! I tried this same foolproof method to attract girls for a surprisingly long time, before I finally gave up this approach. It never worked, but I know I wasn’t alone in somehow believing that it would be successful. I knew others that used it for years, with a similar rate of success.
So, what did I try next? I bet you are wondering, and was it more successful? Well, I guess the answer was, yes, it was more successful, but then it could hardly have been less so. Music and pop stardom, and well, a little notoriety, had worked for the Stones, the Beatles, the Who, and the Pretty Things. Why shouldn’t it work for me?
It was a chance encounter that changed everything for me. One evening at Lidgett Methodist Youth Club, a group of older lads arrived. There was one clear alpha-male leader of the pack and he had a long black coat and long black floppy hair (and still does). He was tall, lean, and had a presence that was undeniably noticeable and attractive. He was cool! Somehow, I got talking with his group and struck up a conversation. After the club closed, we all wandered down to the edge of the Soldiers’ Field and sat and stood around a wooden bench on Old Park Road. For some reason, we hit it off. They were not from Roundhay, but were Allerton Grange lads. We talked about music and we seemed to have similar tastes. Within his group was another lad, Roger, and our lives have been mysteriously linked over the years to the point that we now live two hundred yards away from each other in Perth, Western Australia. The rest I had no great affinity for and one tried to start a fight with me, which Pete put a quick stop to. I suppose it was to establish the new pecking order. We met up the following week at either St Edmunds’ or the Methodist’s as we called Lidgett Lane, and we got to know each other quite well. Pete lived in a large terraced house at Harehills, off Harehills Lane, near Potternewton Park, and he had an old cellar with its own entrance from the yard. He invited me round, and we used to sit and listen to his record collection. Pete also had an acoustic guitar. Stuart S and I were there and Pete played a song that was a current hit. Neanderthal Man, by Hot Legs, later to become half of 10CC. The year was 1970. It really was one chord, a rhythm and a chant. Needless to say, he could play it and we sang it. We must have thought there was something in it as it was suggested, probably by Pete, that we form a band. I was all for it. The complication of not having an instrument and not being able to play one was not going to hold me back. Nothing like teenage arrogance for believing they can do anything. It was a chance encounter and a decision that has had a profound impact on my life, Pete’s and later another friend, John’s, lives.
As part of an embryonic rock band, my kudos value took a quantum leap. This was particularly the case when we managed to gather together the rudiments of basic band equipment and instruments and somehow persuaded Cedric to allow us to practice at Lidgett Lane Youth Club. I wonder now if he would have agreed if he knew the consequences. Anyway, a band garners a number of things: critics, followers, hangers-on and would be members. The critics must have had a field day when we first practised at the youth club. If talent was measured in volume, we would have been on a par with the Who or the Beatles, but alas, it is not, and our main success was in emptying the newer hall of teenagers. I don’t think we ever cared, or really even noticed, but lo-and-behold, a small group of girls hung around and seemed to think we were rock gods.
I was in heaven. Girls wanted to talk to me, seemed to think I was OK. Apparently, I had always been on their radar, a fact totally unknown to me, but with ear-shattering power and a bass guitar they lost their reticence and whispers of who wanted to go out with who occupied the girls and the end products of their affection were blindly ignorant, unless directly approached. Like many things in life, it was the build-up and expectation that was more important than the final product. A girlfriend meant walking with someone, having to see them home, an occasional goodnight snog, a lot of embarrassment, followed not long after by the rumour that they no longer wanted to be with you. This soul-destroying news was quickly followed by news that someone else was interested. The broken heart was forgotten, and the process started again. This happened as part of a large group, and everyone seemed happy. As we got a little older, one or two long-term relationships formed, that lasted more than a couple of weeks. We saw the pairing vanish from the circle of friends as they just wanted to be together. The band members agreed the band was our number one priority, and we would never let a girl come between us. As in the Beatles, this was easier said than done, and the consequences have been marriages that have lasted a lifetime.