‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – That’ll Learn Yer! Strike a Light, Oakwood Clock, Bond Bugs, The Cellar, Rocket Fuel and The Paint That Never Dried. – Cup of Tea Tales
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – That’ll Learn Yer! Strike a Light, Oakwood Clock, Bond Bugs, The Cellar, Rocket Fuel and The Paint That Never Dried.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’- Nearly the Death of Me. Being Run Over by an MG Midget. How Did I Survive? Leeds Hospitals in the 1960s and 1970s.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’- Your Mother Warned You about Boys Like Us! Parties, Parties, Parties! Wild Extravagant Youth, When the World Was Young, Or So It Seemed.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Five-a-side Soccer, The Judean, Spalding and Trauma! We Were Robbed! Twice!
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Youth Club Circuit, Band Practice, ‘The Who’ Moment and Orienteering Adventures on Ilkley Moor. A Teenage Life in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s.
Now, whilst my social life had taken over from any real attempt to learn anything at Roundhay School, there was more to it than just youth clubs. The regular meeting place was often the Oakwood Clock. The clock was made in 1904 by Potts and Sons and was designed by Leeming and Leeming for the Leeds Market, but due to alterations at the market, it ended up at Oakwood. (Strange that I now Live in the suburb of Leeming in Perth Western Australia) The clock tower originally had the road running right adjacent to it before the road was relocated to its present position and crossroads. We used to meet there on the benches after school, later in the evening, before heading to the youth clubs or to parties. On some evenings, we gathered and seemed to spend the whole night there. As I have said before, I was a smoker in these days and I thought I looked cool leaning against one of the poles, striking a match and a pose. It must have fooled some people, as I was quite popular with the girls.
One incident has stuck with me all my days since. For young readers, you may not know that matches were the most common form of lighting cigarettes and more common than the safety matches, where you had to strike them on the band on the box. This prevented them from lighting by mistake. Non-safety matches had a sandpaper strip on the box and they could be lit by friction alone. Swan Vestas was a popular make and the name always intrigued me. To keep the story on task, these could be lit off a variety of surfaces and some were thought of as cool, at the time. The zip on your Levis was one such surface and a quick flick, flash and flare would impress anyone, and could also set your trousers alight if you snapped the match. I had tried this but hadn’t really mastered it to the point where it didn’t just look weird. I was sitting on the bench below the clock waiting for friends to arrive. I decided to have a cigarette and struck the match on the bench itself. Why I didn’t use the box, I can’t say. The first time it failed, so I tried it again. You need to know that the bench was old, painted park green, and the wood was uneven and split. Shuffling your bottom whilst sitting on it often resulted in a nasty splinter through the seat of your pants, and I had experienced this on several occasions. At this point, you are probably guessing where this story is leading. The match was forcefully struck against the rough wood. There was a flash, but then the match snapped in half and my finger came into contact with the wooden bench. It slid in the direction of the strike, and a very large pointy splinter of wood stabbed into my index finger just below the nail and continued on into the finger and beyond the length of the nail, and held my finger to the bench seat.
If you have ever hurt yourself in public, then there appears to be an order of responses. First, all sound ceases, and this is quickly followed by a warm flush that passes from below the waist to your head. Pain comes last, but is none the less for it. I realised instantly why bamboo under the fingernails was a popular form of torture, as I was in agony. I seem to remember jumping up in reflex, which was unfortunate as the splinter snapped off the bench and a long piece remained under my fingernail. There is one other reaction that overrides all others, the question of whether anyone saw what happened. Pride is such an important human quality and embarrassment is almost worse than pain. After trying to impress, the opposite had happened, but luckily for me, no one had noticed the dancing youth under the clock, grasping his hand with tears in his eyes, stifling a scream.
I sat down, not wanting to look at what I had done. The unlit cigarette was on the ground, and the bench was covered with the discarded matchbox and unused matches. I looked at the finger and a spike of wood, half a pencil thick at the wide end protruded from my finger for half an inch. I had to do something, and I knew what it was. The spell (Spelk in Scotland and North England from Old Norse Spellker) had to come out. I didn’t want to do it, but the pain was increasing. I grabbed hold with my left hand and pulled. It didn’t want to come, but I knew I could only give it one try, so I gave it an almighty tug. I could feel it slip out, tugging at the flesh surrounding it as if it wanted to inflict as much pain as possible. I think the pain of removing it was worse than it going in. As it came out, I sobbed to myself, trying to keep the pain inside. Somehow, the whole performance went unnoticed. The wood was almost an inch long, and the finger throbbed, but the initial agony subsided. I thought I had pulled it all out, but I wasn’t sure. There was nothing else I could do but gather my matches up, strike a match on the box and light a cigarette and moan to myself. If we are lucky, we learn from our mistakes.
In time, I discovered I hadn’t extracted all the wood, as over many years small slivers of wood would work their way out from beneath the nail and eventually allow me to get tweezers on them and pull the piece out. I think it took twenty years for all the wood to make its way out. You would have thought that I would have learnt from such a lesson, but unfortunately not, and I continued to smoke until the age of twenty-three.
Lots of other incidents happened around the clock. I remember sitting and watching as a Morris Minor came down the hill, around the clock, and there was a screeching of metal and brakes. The front wheel had snapped, and the axle was producing a shower of sparks. It was very lucky that no one was injured and that no other car became involved. A year or two later, they changed the road and moved it away from the very edge of the clock base, to its current position that leads to the traffic lights. They created a little car park where the trams used to pass and scooters and motorbikes would park and groups of riders gathered to socialise. A group of rockers in 1970 took the next step up and three appeared in Bond Bugs, which were a bit like Robin Reliants. It was a small two-seater car with three wheels and all but six produced were orange. They had a top speed of 78 mph and cost six hundred and twenty-nine pounds. I seem to remember they didn’t have a reverse gear and sometimes had to be lifted by the front to turn them around to get out.
Apart from the Oakwood Clock, the other meeting place was Pete’s cellar. As I have mentioned before, Peter lived at Harehills and his house had a cellar with an external entry. The cellar was only used to store coal in one room at the time and so Peter turned it into his lair, den or whatever word best describes it. He had some old furniture in it and it had power and we set about decorating it to meet the wants of teenagers in the 1960s. It had bare brick, distempered walls and Pete collected a range of partially used tins of paint. To ensure there was enough, the paint was mixed together. Now I realise that there was a mixture of gloss paint and emulsion, but I didn’t know anything about painting and decorating. Pete’s parents didn’t seem to mind, as it hadn’t ever been used and we were clearing it out. The resulting paint colour was a streaky battleship grey, and we set to with gusto. Eventually, it was completed, and we sat back and admired our handiwork. The fumes were strong, so we quickly evacuated it and went out for the rest of the day. The following night, we gathered to inspect the work. It looked ok, in a wild hippy bohemian way, but some parts had dried and others were still quite tacky. Time would dry it, we thought. How wrong we were! Even after a couple of years, clothes could be ruined if you brushed up against the walls.
Now we had Pete’s Pad, we had to furnish it. Pete’s stereo found a home there and, to add to the ambience, a couple of Harehills black and white cast iron street signs appeared and then the obligatory flashing yellow roadwork lights. It looked fantastic. Some hanging fabric just gave it that little something. I think we even had a couple of Mateus Rose wine bottles with bulbs or candles in them as lamps. Those present sat listening to the Moody Blues, Days of Future Passed, King Crimson and Led Zeppelin II. It was perfect. Peter went upstairs and collected whatever alcohol his parents had. There was Schnapps, and this was added to wine and assorted spirits in a large bowl. The concoction was christened Rocket Fuel, for obvious reasons, as one mouthful nearly blew your head off. The night was a great success, even if our heads didn’t agree the next morning, and our clothes carried the paint stains as a reminder, it was the start of an important era in our lives.
There was a small drawback to the cellar, as occasionally the coalmen would arrive mid-party and have to deliver sacks of coal through those assembled. Eventually, Peter’s father saw the opportunity to renovate the cellar and turn it into a small flat. This was the writing on the wall for our social lives, but we enjoyed it until it was finished and tenants moved in. I hate to think what the builders thought when they had to deal with the paint that never dried.
The new venues we moved to were still fairly local. One was Paul M’s house and the other local was David B’s house. David was the onetime drummer/guitarist, and his house always had bottles of homemade wine and beer bubbling away. Added to this was our other friend, John L’s. His home was a regular and was mid-way between Moortown Corner and Gledhow Valley Road.
By the way, we learnt to hate the flashing lights as you couldn’t turn them off, or at least we couldn’t, and I think we returned them to be rid of them. Similar ones always seemed to be present at student parties wherever you went to one.
I must say, my friends’ parents were far more understanding than mine would have been. It was rare that they ever made much of a fuss. To be honest, the worse we were was noisy, and music volume was the biggest complaint. We used to sit around, put the world to rights and have high hopes for all our futures. Halcyon Days!