Wednesday, April 09, 2014
I got off the train at 11.15 and i had nearly three hours before i would meet Dail so i wanted to make the most of it.A brisk walk took me to Cathedral Square and i crossed Bridge Street and entered the Cathedral Precincts.To me the west front of Peterborough Cathedral is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the country.It is a shame the Victorians built that porch in the middle which distracts from the beauty of the three doric arches.
"Oh yeah", he replied.
"Yes,it was Ivy Rayner and her daughter Brenda".
"That was a long time ago",he replied.
I didn't think he seemed very interested in my nostalgic ramblings so i sat at a table and knocked back my drink and left.I walked back into town and up Bridge Street.All the old pubs i used to know have all gone.There doesn't seem to be any pubs on the square at all any more."What do people do for a drink around here?",i wondered to myself.I walked up Long Causeway and Broadway and i realised that all the quaint old pubs had been replaced by newer ones like Yates and O'Neills.The old Embassy Theatre is now a pub and even the old library which i used to visit every day has become a puberama now.I turned up Park Road and passed All Souls Catholic Church where i was an alter boy over 50 years ago and reached my old school,the Kings School Peterborough in which i was lazy from 1963 to 1970.The front of it hasn't changed but there are a lot of extra classrooms built on the old playing field.
After that i had a quick walk around the park and was pleased to see that it hasn't changed much.The paddling pool and the putting green are gone but the aviary with the budgies and canaries is exactly the same.Even Jimmy the donkey's grave is still there.It all looks really nice, so well done Peterborough Council for looking after the park.
I had been walking for two hours now and getting a bit tired so i had a bit of a sit down in Yates bar for half an hour.I didn't like it though, it was full of football fans and I thought that it was a shame that there wasn't one person from the olden days that i could phone up and say," I'm in town, lets meet up".They have all died or moved away or just lost touch.
It was a brilliant game.Posh were easily the more skilful side and played some dazzling football and had chances for at least three goals before half-time but the finishing let them down.I was worried that Posh would get punished for missing their opportunities.The breakthrough came in the second half when Posh were awarded a free kick just outside the penalty area.
After that excitement Dail drove us the short distance to Stamford and we had a drink in the Golden Fleece.Stamford must be one of the prettiest towns in England with all the buildings made from Barnack stone.I was shattered by now and Dail had to go to work so we went to her house and I met her lovely little dogs and Carol's dog was there as well.I admired Dail's paintings on the walls which are quite superb especially the ones of her favourite subject,'Van The Man'.Dail went off to work and I retired to bed early.What a great day it had been.
My friends name is Darryl but at school he had the nickname Daz.I hadn't seen that photo for 43 years and it certainly brought some memories flooding back.I might write a story about school days later but what i remember most about Daz was us working together on Peterborough Market on Saturdays.We worked for Mr Holdich selling fruit and vegetables.Daz and i got there first and set up the trestle tables then Mr and Mrs Holdich turned up in the lorry with Peter who was this skinny little urchin.
"Morning Daz",said Peter
Then we would grab hold of him and put some dirt off the carrots down his neck.
"Look,stop picking on Peter,he hasn't got a father and his mother is no good",explained Mr Holdich.One day Peter announced he was joining the army,when we asked why he said,"Well its a good life",then we asked what the money was like,"I'm not sure but its bound to be good".How long had he signed up for? "er,i'm not sure",It turned out to be nine years.About two weeks after he joined the army he phoned up Mr Holdich and he was crying,"Can you buy me out of the army please Mr Holdich? the other boys keep beating me up".Mr Holdich had to pay £400 to buy him out of the army and he came back to the market.
Once we had the lorry unloaded Daz and i ran along the front chucking the prices on everything, often the price tickets would land back to front.
"Look,we know the prices, its the customers who want to know the bloody prices",Said Mr Holdich.If a nice looking woman walked by Mr Holdich would say,"I bet she can perform".
.A very attractive lady used to come to the stall every Saturday morning and Mr Holdich would say,
"You see her over there,she was Miss Sawtry 1947,i could have married her, but look at what i had to go and bloody marry".Mrs Holdich was a funny woman with frizzy hair and a red face and some peculiar habits that i won't go into.
Mr Holdich grew all the vegetables himself on his farm and he kept pigs as well.One day i said i wouldn't mind being a farmer.
"No,to be a farmer you have to start off with about £30,000 so you can lose it all like i have", he explained.You couldn't help liking him,he had such an unfortunate life.Once he got burgled and the thieves even stole his wheelbarrow to take away his safe.Mr Holdich was quite proud of the fact that the story got in the national daily papers.
"Cheap carrots, cheap carrots"he squeaked
halfheartedly.He was crap at it so we told him to shut up.The market cleaner was called Kingy,he was a funny little bugger, he wore a cloth cap and always kept a Jamaica cake in his pocket and cut of a slice with a penknife.one day he turned up at the stall without his sweeping brush.
"They've gorn and retired me Gordon, i don't know what i'm going to do",
"Don't worry Kingy, you can work with us",said Mr Holdich who was too kind for his own good.Before long Mrs Holdich had sacked him for stealing.
"Honest Gordon,i never nicked no ten bob".
"No, it was a pound note, i saw you put it in your pocket", said Mrs Holdich.
The market stall used to get really busy and Daz and i were brilliant at serving the customers at speed.One Christmas Mr Holdich put me in charge of selling Christmas trees and holly against a wall at the side of the market.The holly was really good,covered in berries and all these women just dived on it and were almost fighting over it.I lost all control and just let them get on with it.Another time i remember seeing two women fighting when one of them caught her husband out shopping with his fancy woman.That was really vicious..We used to be on the market from 6.00 in the morning until about 7.00 in the evening.Then i'd head home with a big bag of fruit and vegetables for my mum.
Saturday nights we used to go to the flicks and see films like Butch Cassady And The Sundance Kid or Midnight Cowboy.Sometimes there were parties and we would drink Watneys Party 7's and Woodpecker Cider.One night me and Daz and another friend were walking home from a party and we met this skinhead who had just come out of a chipshop.He put his chips down on a wall and challenged all three to a fight.He kept persisting till in the end Daz got fed up and punched him on the nose.He realised he had bitten off more than he could chew and ran off but he tripped over on the road which had been newly surfaced and his face was covered in tar and bits of gravel.To add insult to injury we ate his chips.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
I woke up Tuesday morning feeling all bleary eyed and goopy and the events of the night before came back to me. What a great night it had been especially getting the autograph. After the pub had closed most of the gang went their separate ways which left a hardcore of Nosey, Tom and i. We decided to see if we could get a last drink in the Grand Hotel where Nosey thought Van was staying. We hurried along the seafront in the rain but when we arrived they wouldn't serve us because we weren't residents which was a shame so i said we could go to my hotel next door,The Metropole. The three of us relaxed in the comfortable chairs and had a really good Van related chat. I ruined it though because i went outside for a cigarette and i got chatting to this blind lady who asked me to guide her to the bar because she could murder a drink. She joined us at our table and proceeded to ruin the whole conversation by talking about herself non-stop so in the end we were relieved when the bar closed. I'd had more than enough to drink by then anyway. I had paid £12.50 in advance for breakfast but i couldn't be bothered to get up. I turned over and went back to sleep until the afternoon.
When i finally got downstairs it was 3.00 in the afternoon. I went for a walk along the seafront and who should i meet but Dail and Carol. They were staying at the Grand and told me they had spotted Van at breakfast that morning. I said i'd see them later in the pub and carried on walking. I had intended to have a look around the bookshops but i couldn't be bothered so i had a walk to the end of Brighton Pier which was much more fun. It was packed with families out enjoying the half-term holidays in the sunshine. There was a tattoo parlour and i toyed with the idea of getting a Van Morrison tattoo but in the end i didn't because there were quite a few people waiting. After that i went back to Yates's because i liked the barmaid the day before. "Hello, i'm back again", i said to her and ordered some nice food and a pint of cider. Then i had a lazy stroll to the Lord Nelson stopping off at a couple of other pubs on the way. When i arrived, Othmar and Daria were already there and one by one the rest of the Vanatics arrived. The time flew by and it was time to head for the Dome.
It wasn't a sell-out by any means and Amanda had a spare front row ticket which she gave to Brendan and Brendan gave me his ticket in Row C right near the front which was brilliant. Thank you very much Amanda and Brendan. Shana opened the proceedings again and unlike her dad she did three completely different songs to the night before. I didn't recognise the first one but i think the other two were called 10,000 Things and Blues On A Rainy Day. Van arrived on stage and started with the now familiar Celtic Swing and Close Enough For Jazz. Then a welcome change, Higher Than The World which was great and Van's sax playing was sublime. Rough God Goes Riding followed and when Van said "Just Like Jesse James" Shana said, "Just like Van Morrison". Back On Top was next and then So Quiet In Here which was Van at his very best. At the end Van Van was really in the zone, repeating over and over, "We can dream on, in black and white". Keep It Simple, Queen Of The Slipstream, Keeping Mediocrity At Bay all followed with Van saying, "Move Over, Rover". Benediction was next followed by Whenever God Shines His Light with Shana. The percussionist Bobby Ruggerio was really good on that one as was Van on harmonica. Then Chris Farlowe appeared again much to my chagrin. A lot of the fans like him though and Van seems to enjoy his company. Early In the Morning, Rock Me Baby, Hoochie Coochie Man and Stormy Monday followed and Farlowe and Van dueted on Born To Sing which i have to admit i really enjoyed. Then Van played the keyboards while he and Shana sang Have I Told You Lately?. Then they duetted with That Old Black Magic. I can't understand why with Van's vast repertoire of great songs why they have to waste precious time singing this old jazz standard. The proceedings came to an end with Brown Eyed Girl, Stand By Me and Gloria. During Gloria i took the opportunity to take a couple of snaps and a bit of footage. (See Below). Soon all the gang were back on the street again, back on the corner again and the general consensus was that it was a slightly better show than the night before but only an average one by Vans high standards. I could do with less R & B and more of the transcendental songs as shown by So Quiet In Here but that’s just my personal opinion.
Anyway, the night was yet young. After the pub closed Dail led the way to the Grand Hotel and as she was a resident this time we got served and we sat in the window seats and enjoyed the luxury. It was great. I had a really good chat with Miquel about Keith Jarrett because he is a big fan so i resolved to get an album by him. All good things come to an end and everybody gradually went and the bar stopped serving. I tried to get us a last drink in the Metropole but the bar had closed so that was the end of that. Next morning i caught the 10.33 train back to Westbury, back to the forlorn rags of everyday life with no more Van gigs to look forward to....but wait, it's just been announced that Van is on at the Cambridge Folk Festival....Hmm, now there’s an idea.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I had a wonderful two days in Brighton seeing Van Morrison for many reasons. Here is what happened. I caught the 11.04 train from Westbury on Monday, grateful that the trains were running after all the terrible floods and storms of the previous week. I changed trains at Southampton and arrived in
Brighton about 2.00 and walked to my hotel the
Hilton Metropole on the seafront. I had chosen this hotel because it was at
this very hotel in the summer of 75 that i had the shortest job of my life. I
had started work as a kitchen porter at 11.30 and walked out at 12.15. I bet
they didn't think i would return in triumph 39 years later. After i got settled
in i went for a bit of a stroll and had something to eat in Yates's and then
took a slow walk to the Lord Nelson Pub in Trafalgar Street to meet my friends. It
was great to see Othmar and Daria from Switzerland,
Marion from The Netherlands, Julia from
Marsailles, Miquel and Tony from sunny , Especially great to see
Simon and Sandra again because it was
Simon who started the pre-show meetings of the Van fans in the first
place. Nosey was there with his friend
of 60 years Ted who i had never met before. Spain
Over the two days i met Peter & Kathryn, Brendan from
Dublin, Alan Douglas was
there and Alan Randall and his wife, Tom and Sandra, Dail and her friend Carol
who i met in .
Jez and his mate Steve from Peterborough Worthing, Amanda
and Paul, and Sue from London and her husband. I hope i haven't forgotten anyone. The Van fans are wonderful, i
don't think i have ever met one that i don't like and they are so kind and generous.
Julia gave me a really nice gift that i am playing right now and Nosey gave me
some great memorabilia from a friend
who i have never met but i hope we meet up one day. Van has created some amazing friendships without
realising it.... Eventually it was time to make our way to the Dome. Kim and i
came to this venue to see Van in 2004.and it was one of the lesser Van concerts
i have been to but after the enjoyable California
gig a few weeks ago i was hoping for a great night. Bristol
Over the two days i met Peter & Kathryn, Brendan from
I took my seat in the circle and Van's daughter Shana came on first with the band minus the brass section to start the evening. She looked beautiful as always and sang three songs, God Must Love Me, Serve Me Right To Suffer and Higher And Higher which i really enjoyed. Then it was time for the Celtic soul brother himself to walk on stage with the now familiar opening of Celtic Swing followed by Close Enough For Jazz. This was followed by Back On Top which i think i enjoyed more than at
. Then it was one
of the first highlights of the evening for me, So Quiet In Here. It was
great and i liked Shana's backing vocals and the brass section of Chris and
Alistair White were really good as well. This was followed by Rough God Goes
Riding, which was also great but i was beginning to realise this was almost
exactly the same set as in Bristol .
I wanted to hear something different. Van ended the song by doing his Clint
Eastwood impression again which was funny the first time i heard it. He is
trying to get away from his grumpy image though. Following this was Keeping
Mediocrity At Bay.I have seen a comment about him doing this song from
somebody who wasn't there. I think performed live it isn't bad at all. Benediction,
by Van's friend Mose Allison was next which was ok but the gig for me was
getting a bit 'samey' now. Van sat on the stool next for Keep It Simple which
is one of the best songs of recent years. Then it was the excellent Queen Of
The Slipstream. Bristol
Things took a nose-dive for me then. Van said, "Now i'd like to bring on my old china plate (Cockney rhyming slang for mate) Chris Farlowe". On walked Farlowe and he and Van sang Early In The Morning,Hoochie Coochie Man,and Stormy Monday which Farlowe had recorded under the name Little Joe Cook back in the 60's. I didn't hear all of it because when Chris Farlowe came on i had a sudden urge to go to the toilet. Dave Keary's guitar playing was good though. When i returned from the loo i didn't bother returning to my seat because i didn't want to disturb people again so i watched quietly from the back. Sometimes We Cry with Shana was next followed by Whenever God Shines His Light and Days Like This. Then the new arrangement of Brown Eyed Girl which is replacing Moondance as the song where all the band get to play a solo. Baby Please Don't Go was brilliant followed by the eternal Help Me. Then Farlowe returned for Gloria/Who Do You Love and finally Stand By Me. I was disappointed that there hadn't been a single different song to
but i was determined to make tonight special one way or another. Bristol
Before the band had finished playing i made a bee-line for the door and turned left and left again and made my way to the stage door. There was a mercedes parked outside and a man holding an umbrella. I knew he was waiting for Van. I stood against the wall and waited ten minutes in the rain. Then the door opened and out came Van with his assistant. I stepped up and handed him my moleskine notebook and my pen that i had got in the bookies a few days ago and said, "Could i have a quick autograph please Van?". As he scrawled his name i said, "Thank you very much Van, I’ve been a fan for 40 years", "That long huh?", said Van and smiled at me and gave me back my book and sad little pen and got in the car. A couple who were standing there applauded and he was gone... It didn't matter about the bit of ink on a page, that was just the excuse. What mattered was that for just a few fleeting seconds i had connected with the genius whose music has meant so much to me for so long. I wish Kim had been there to witness it, she would have been thrilled. It was the highlight of my Van fan career. To quote Van himself i was 'Higher Than The World'. I'll never bother him again I ran back to the front of the hall pumping with adrenaline to show my friends the autograph. I was so excited. A gang of us retired to a nearby pub for a drink and i tried to calm down. I'll tell you all about the rest of my visit to
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Pubs began introducing quiz machines where you could win money by answering general knowledge questions.I was soon completely addicted to them because i found i could answer the questions quite easily and could have a free night down the pub whenever i liked. The local pub landlords grew to hate me as i went further and further afield in search of quiz machines.One night i started in the Phipps Arms at Westbury Leigh and went on to The Hollies,The Royal Oak, The Castle, The Angel, The Horse And Groom,The White Lion, The Ludlow and The Crown. When i emptied my pockets that night i found i had £78 in £ coins.It weighed a ton.Brilliant.I mean, what other way could you go out at night and come home 3 hours later, smelling of drink and have seventy quid in your pocket? Dont tell me.
The Landlord of The Horse And Groom Rod Decided to use my talent to his advantage and asked me to be captain of the pub quiz team.In our first season we won the Trowbridge and District League and my fame grew in leaps and bounds.I felt really brainy. Then one night in the pub my mate Dave said i should go on Fifteen To One.This was a popular afternoon TV show which was a forerunner of The Weakest Link and at its peak had an audience of 4,000,000.It was very popular with pensioners, students and the unemployed.In a burst of egotism i sent off an application form and was invited to an audition in Bristol.Two weeks later i received a letter inviting me onto the show.I had been on the telly before,i was in the congregation on Songs Of Praise several years earlier( I'll tell you about that some other time) This was different though, this was going to make me famous! Everybody i met i told that i was going to be on the telly and to make sure they watched.
Next morning i was suffering with a really bad reality attack and all my bravado had gone out the window. I didn't feel brainy any more,i felt like a stupid scruffy lowlife.At the studio we drew lots and i was to be number 8.Then we were led into the place with the cameras and the genial host William G Stewart.I felt like i was about to be executed.The floor manager said,"One minute to recording" and i seemed to lose all control over my body, my right leg suddenly started shaking uncontrollably.William started asking the questions and everybody was coming up with the right answer.
I stood there looking at him like a dumb moron,then i realised what he was asking and i thought "Thats parallel,surely he wouldn't ask a question that easy".The buzzer went before i could blurt it out and William said,"The answer is parallel".
A couple of minutes later William returned and asked me who wrote the music for the film Brigadoon,i didn't know but i was in such a state i didn't care who wrote the music for fecking Brigadoon.I answered ,"Rogers and Hammerstein",in a sort of high pitched squeak, just to say something."The answer is Lerner and Loewe",said William smugly,and i was out. My entire TV appearance was about 14 seconds. I hoped against hope that nobody i knew would watch the bloody programme but of course they all did.For about a year afterwards i was known around town as Parallel Pat.People came up to me in the pub and said things like"Sorry i didn't see you on the telly,i blinked and missed, it" that sort of thing.Just when people were beginning to forget about it,the TV company went and repeated it the following summer and the piss-taking started all over again.I lost all interest in quizzes and licked my wounds for 5 long years.As they say though,revenge is a meal best eaten cold and i was to get my revenge in the sweetest possible way.
Five Years Later........
Five long years had past since my disasterous TV appearance.Then in 1999 they announced that if you hadn't appeared on the programme for 5 years you could apply again.
"I've gotta go back",I announced to Kim.
"London,i've got some unfinished business with William"
Once more i set off for London,
"Go get 'em Floyd",Said Kim,"Go kick some ass"
The stakes had never been higher,if i messed up this time i faced total humiliation but as they say 'Who Dares Wins'
This time i was number 5.As William came along the line asking the questions my leg started its familiar jig, but this time i was grimly determined.Finally William got to me,
"When Britain joined the EU in 1974 which two other countries joined at the same time?"
"Ireland and er um Denmark"
"Thank you god", i breathed a sigh of relief. Two minutes later William was back with my second question.
"Dancer Michael Flatley became famous in which musical show?"
Easy peasy "Riverdance".
Brilliant! i was into round 2 and had all my lives intact.In round 2 if you got your answer right you could nominate one of your opponents to answer the next question.This is where it got dirty. I soon got nominated.
"Such is life" is reputed to be the last words of which Australian outlaw?"
Then i went on a killing spree, one by one my opponents were going down like skittles,i was enjoying this.After a few minutes there were 12 down 3 to go and i suddenly found myself in the final.My two rivals in the final were a lady who worked at Tesco's and a lad from Galway called Brendan who had only entered so he could visit his brother in London for free.At the beginning of Part 2 you had to smile at the camera while they told the viewers all about you.'Pat lives in WestburyWiltshire,he enjoys reading and music particularly Van Morrison and he supports Peterborough United football club'.Then it was into battle.I got my first 2 questions wrong and only had one life left so the other two kept nominating me to try and kill me off.I held my nerve though and i answered 13 questions in a row correctly.The others started to get their answers wrong and i was fighting back.The Tesco lady was the first to crack and she was out.'Get your coat.' Then finally Brendan lost his last life and i had won. I scored 113 points and the 13th highest score in the series so far.
We had a big party in the pub to watch my glorious win and i had a cake with 15 candles and i blew out 14 of them.