On A Road – Episode 1

At the age of seventeen I read “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac. Its tale of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, their travels across the U.S. and, eventually Mexico, their various friends, lovers, wives and acquaintances, the host of beaten angels they meet upon their way, lit a fire in my mind. 

Around the same time, I read “Nausea” by Jean Paul Satre. A very different book, but it too pointed a wearied, existential finger towards the undeniable feeling of revulsion I felt towards the life I saw being laid before me in a small town in the middle of England at the end of the 1970s where everything was beige and restrained. A stiff upper lip and a nice cup of tea were the acceptable response to power cuts, mass strikes and rioting. The bin men went on strike and the detritus of our pitiful existence piled up around us to a soundtrack of Johnny Rotten howling “No Future in England’s Dreaming.”

Spot on, Mr Rotten. I saw no future of any interest to me in the grey mundanity of my home town existence. I wanted Out. I wanted Far Away. I wanted Risk, Excitement, Glamour. I wanted the possibility that Life might have More to offer than I was being offered. Once again, Mr Rotten articulated what I was feeling inside:

“Don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it.”

I had to get away from this place.

And Kerouac’s breathless account of a series of weird, wonderful road trips threw me an escape ladder. That is what I was going to do – I was going to drive a car across America.

But, first, I had to earn the money to get me there. So, I began to look for ways to supplement the income raised by my morning paper round. The world at the time was not awash with employment opportunities for teenage boys. All the good jobs were taken. It was necessary to think outside the box. A mate got the idea (Lord knows from where) that we should go to the local slaughterhouse and ask for a job there. I wasn’t convinced. But I needed the money. So, one Saturday morning, we rode our bikes down Stallings Lane, past the trading estate, up the track to Tomlinson’s Slaughterhouse and knocked on the door. It was a small, family run business that supplied a chain of butchers of the same name across the Black Country. Mr Tomlinson was there every day. He was a self-made man, proud of the business he had built. He ran a tight ship. No none-sense, straight talking. At heart, a kind and generous man with a strong sense of local community. I don’t think that there was really any job there that needed doing but, perhaps impressed by our enterprising spirit in making the effort to come and ask, he offered us each a job.

Every Saturday morning from 8am till midday, whilst the slaughter house paused a while from its grisly business, Ian and I would don wellies and overalls, grab brooms, shovels and hoses and spend the morning cleaning out the lairages – the pens where the animals were kept before going to slaughter. Whilst our peers watched Tiswas in their pyjamas, we toiled in a dark world of shit and death. The smell of ammonia and excrement made you gag until you got used to it. When a cow realises that it is about to have a bolt shot through its forehead, it lets everything go. We began our weekends ankle-deep in shit and piss. But we soon developed a sense of pride in having the pens shining and spotless by the end of our shift. Mr Tomlinson would accept no less and insisted on an inspection of our work before handing us each a crisp ten pound note as our wages. Each week, I felt America draw closer.


  1. Brilliant I am gripped. Just what we need . . . . a serial, daily or weekly? (My son’s favourite book was ‘ On the Road’ , I struggled with it, don’t think I actually finished it.) Isobel

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for all your support on social media. It is appreciated. I am getting a lot of positive feedback on my work which is giving me the confidence to continue. After a lifetime in bands or involved in dramatic activity, the lack of immediate audience response as a writer feels really wierd. So it’s nice to get some.


  2. I didn’t have time to read all of it yesterday. I am in real estate here in California and all heck is breaking loose. Buyers cancelling, Sellers in anxiety. It’s a job of calming everybody’s nerves and then I get home and my husband has to calm mine. Anyway, I did not get to read all of your first post (You had me at “grey and restrained”) and now I’m looking forward to reading the second installment. Andy, you have a way with words. You have done well in your practice. It shows. So thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Andy

    I really enjoyed reading your post. Love the way you tell the story. I could vividly picture the scene and felt the emotions that you describe. A like it very much! Looking forward to reading more!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Riveting stuff Andy. About the same time in 1969 I was hitting the road for my own search for truth and adventure. I’m looking forward to reading more of yours. Love mark

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love it.
    The current pandemic had a similar effect on me – the need to escape to a better place, so I started writing about my childhood sojourn to Sea Point Cape Town in the mid 1970s. Just wish I had your ability with words Mr J.


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