On A Road – Episode 2

Ten pounds a week seemed a lot of money to me at the time. I was a seventeen year old boy living at home rent free. I just had to do a few chores and keep my room reasonably tidy and I got fed and watered for free. 

My outgoings weren’t huge. My embracing of Punk Rock as my preferred musical form meant it was perfectly acceptable for me to clothe myself in the cheapest second-hand attire from jumble sales and charity shops. My mother was a hairdresser so my attempts to cut my own hair met with some opposition but she was prepared to cut it for free and, although the need to comb it or spike it up remained a point of contention, we were able to arrive at a workable compromise. 

I could borrow an endless supply of books from Dudley library. They even had a record lending section where, for a small fee, you could take home three records for a fortnight at a time. They had a Jazz section and I recognised some of the artists’ names from the Jack Kerouac book. 

Saturday afternoons, after my morning shift at the slaughterhouse and a good wash, I would catch the 261 bus to Dudley town centre and spend a few hours in the library carefully selecting the cultural sustenance I needed to get me through the week of provincial boredom that loomed ahead. I rode home on the front seat of the top deck clutching the talismans that would stave off the demons of Middle England: Vinyl recordings of Parker, Gillespie, Monk with which to fight off the Dooleys, Dire Straits and the inane babblings of Radio 1 DJs. Volumes of poetry by Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg. Unfathomable texts on Buddhism and French Existentialism. Anything but the Jane Austen novels so beloved of A Level exam boards. I was studying for A Levels in English Literature, French and Mathematics. In my free periods and lunchtimes I would go up to the Art Department and paint so they entered me for A Level Art too. Art and literature were my passions. But, because I was passionate about them, I found it difficult to tolerate the limited diet we, as students, were required to study. I loved Hughes and Heaney. I could see that Shakespeare had a way with words. I quite liked the brooding darkness of Hardy’s Tess of the D’Ubervilles. There was much in its grim, fatalistic world of unfairness and snobbery which I recognised as true. But … ooh Mr D’Arcy …. What wonderful breeches …. I struggled to relate. 

So, as long as I limited my intake of beer and ignored the need some of my contemporaries displayed each Saturday night to “Go For The Gallon” and neck nine pints during the course of the evening which, as it usually resulted in us ending the evening propping up the brave Galloneer against his front door, ringing the bell and legging it before we had to explain to his parents why we had allowed him to drink himself into such a horrible state, was not that hard to do, and as long as I didn’t do something as stupid and costly as get myself a girlfriend which, to be honest, given my tramp-like clothing, home-made haircut, tendency to ramble on about “bad faith” and “undifferentiation” and the faint odour of sheep dung and cow urine that hung around me, was not immediately likely, I was able to easily save five pounds a week.

I looked up the cost of a flight to New York. 

I realised I needed to step up my earnings considerably.


  1. Utterly delightful Andy, you have established a charming, wry, eloquent, authentic narrative voice immediately; I can see you so clearly, ( but I suppose I did spend many years teaching 17 year old boys! )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good work. That might have been me…except for me it was stacking tins of pet food in Boots and then hanging around Penzance”s record shops, mostly Chy An Stylus.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Much to discuss here, especially Dire Straits, we may end up fighting :>)
    re: The ‘“Go For The Gallon” and neck nine pints during the course of the evening’
    We had equivalents “down in one” was very popular.
    My mates Dig and Grattan’s favourite ‘pre-lash’ challenge was 3 bottles of pomane in 30 minutes. With that amount of fizz it is impossible not to vomit, but that was all part of the ‘fun’


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