"Those Gambolling Baby Boomers", the first of a series of seventies-themed pieces, tells how I came to be conditioned by my environment in the early 1970s after leaving Welbourne College, a public school situated near a little Thameside village in Berkshire. I'd been a boarder there between about the 9th of September 1968 and the last day of the summer term, 1972. It was first published as "Genesis of a Gentleman" at Blogster on the 10th of March 2006. In July 2007, and then again in November and December of that year, it was subject to further minor variations.
The Nautical College, Welbourne
Welbourne College was founded in 1917 as Welbourne Nautical College, originally preparing boys aged ca. 13 to 18 to be officers in the Merchant Navy, and then the Royal Navy.
I joined in September 1968 as Cadet Carl Halling RNR. I was only 12 years old, making me probably the youngest serving officer in the entire Royal Navy at the time. The college was still known by its original title of the Nautical College, but by 1969 this had been abbreviated. However, the boys retained their officer status and spent much of their time in full naval officers' uniform. What's more, naval discipline continued to be enforced, with Welbourne providing the rigours both of a military college and a traditional English boarding school. In 1996, she became fully co-educational.
The Welbourne I knew was powerfully allied to the Church of England, and so marked by regular if not daily classes in what was known as Divinity, morning parade ground prayers, evening prayers, and compulsory chapel on Sunday morning. And I'd like to go on record as saying that I'm indebted to Welbourne for the values it instilled in me if only unconsciously. They were after all the same values that once made Britain strong and great; and yet, by the time I joined, they were under siege as never before by the so-called Counterculture. While failing to fully understand the implications of the cultural revolution of the late 1960s, I passionately celebrated its consequences, and took to my heart many of its icons both artistic and political, Che Guevara being my personal hero for several years.
This Glam Rock Nation
In the summer of 1972, I left Welbourne after a year in the fifth form and four years in the college itself. My parents, brother and I had moved to a tiny little working class village suburb some dozen miles from the centre of London at the turn of the decade, which made me something of a fish out of water. For after all, I was no longer either in West London where I grew up, nor at the boarding school that had been my whole world for four long years and where I'd formed some of the deepest friendships of my life.
1972 could be said to be the year in which the seventies really began as the excitement surrounding the alternative society and its happenings and be-ins and love-ins and festivals and so on started to fade into recent history. As for me, I couldn't wait to get to grips with the dismal new decade even if for the first two years or so, I'd looked askance at commercial chart Pop and its teenybop idols. I was of the school of Hard and Progressive Rock...Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes and so on. But I was changing. For better or worse, this was going to be my decade. In late '72, I saw former Bubblegum outfit the Sweet on a long-forgotten teenage programme called "Lift off with Ayesha" and was instantly smitten with their high camp image. In January of the following year, I saw a certain rising Glam superstar on the chat show Russell Harty Plus in January 1973 and my devotion to the strange culture taking over the land became total. So many popular songs of the era were like football chants set to a stomping Glam Rock beat. It was the golden age of the long-haired boot boy and every street seemed to me to be pregnant with menace in this Glam Rock nation.
In late '72 I was launched by my dad on an intensive hothouse programme of self-improvement. I studied Karate in Hammersmith, West London, and among my fellow students were what I remember as shaggy-haired jack the lads who may have been influenced by the prevailing fashion for all things Eastern, what with the cult of Bruce Lee and so on. Some of them had feather cuts. I also went to swimming classes at a local baths. I had a fierce crush on one of my fellow swimmers, she looked a bit like a Skin girl with her cute short haircut, but my heart wasn't in the swimming, and one of the teachers told me so, wondering why I was wasting my time even turning up. She had a point. I learned how to play basic Rock guitar from a kindly soft-spoken man who taught Rock guitar from his little house near the Thames in suburban Surrey, and who looked so square with his short back and sides and baggy dad-style trousers; but he loved his Rock and Roll. He taught me the basis of the Rock solo, which involved going up and down the Blues scale in whatever key you chose. I was as lazy as they came, but I probably learned more from that man about the guitar than anyone, with the possible exception of a Welbourne friend whose songs I stole with their simple chord progressions...C, A minor, F, G and back again to C and so on. And then there was Deep Purple's "Black Night", whose simple bluesy riff I'd once played to a pal at Welbourne, at which point the kid turned to whoever else was present and announced something along the lines of: "Hey guys, we've got a natural here!"
Also through home study and with the help of local private tutors I set about making up for the fact that I'd left school early at 16 with only two GCE (General Certificate of Education) exams to my name; at ordinary level, of course, which is why they were called "O" levels. Then in late '72 I joined the Thames Division of the Royal Naval Reserve as an Ordinary Seaman, attending classes once a week on HMS Ministry on the Embankment. At some point soon after this, some of the older ratings, Able Seamen perhaps, or Killicks (Leading Seamen) made some remarks about my looks, implying that I was pretty or something along those lines. I think this may have come as something of a surprise to me as at Welbourne I'd been no lover of effeminacy to say the least, but I was intrigued rather than offended. The mood of the times was changing at any rate, and it was cool for guys to be androgynous. I had the right look at the right time, and it came to serve me well when it came to attracting female attention.
The Innocence of pre-Movida Spain
The dreamy, introspective aspect of my nature became increasingly marked in 1972-73, and I fantasised about fame and adulation as never before. I was growing into a narcissist. Throughout '73, I built an image based on the distinctive look of one of my Rock and Roll idols, spiking my hair, and even at some point peroxiding it. At some point I think I even started daubing concealer on a face which had become latterly troubled by acne.
I didn't fit in in the outer suburbs, unlike my brother. He became part of a local youth scene until about the middle of the decade, wearing the latest youth fashions, getting into Soul music, going to discos and football matches and so on, where I only really had one local mate, Joë, son of a BAFTA-nominated British cinematographer. However, I came into my own in Spain, or rather Santiago de la Ribera on the Mar Menor near Murcia, where the family had been vacationing since about 1968. I think it was towards the end of my summer '73 holiday that I finally started to be noticed in a big way by the local youth, most from either Murcia or Madrid, and so la Ribera became vital to me in terms of my becoming a social being among members of both sexes. A group of us became very close and remained so for four summers running. Spain was such a sweet and friendly nation back then in the relatively innocent early seventies, and the youth of La Ribera as happy and carefree as I imagine southern Californians would have been in the pre-Beatles sixties. It was really a great time, and probably signalled the start for me of a lifelong love affair with the Spain and the Spanish people, indeed with Latin and continental Europe as a whole.
Those Gambolling Baby Boomers
In the early 1970s, everything seemed to be mine for the knowing, for the experiencing, for the taking. It was a time of constant, frenetic change and to be young back then was exciting beyond belief. As I gorged on the fruits of a revolution that had been all but bloodlessly waged on my behalf I never once considered what would be the fate of succeeding generations of youth. They would have to come to maturity in a world in which a generation of Baby Boomers had lately gambolled like so many sensuous fauns. Pity their poor souls.
Chapter Four An Innocent on the Reeperbahn
"An Innocent on the Reeperbahn", the second piece in a series of seventies-themed writings takes place in 1973 and 1974 in a variety of locations. Among these are London and its suburbs, the French city of Bordeaux, Murcia's Costa Calida, and the port of Hamburg, current capital of the German province of Schleswig-Holstein. It was first published (at Blogster) on the 26th of March 2006 as "A Dandy in the Land of Blue Denim 1". While a final version was published at Faithwriters.com in December 2007.
Toilers of the Thames
1973 was the year of my first voyage as an Ordinary Seaman with the RNR onboard the minesweeper HMS Thamesis. Late in the summer she set out for Bordeaux in Gironde in the south west of France. I was just seventeen years old.
During the trip I made my best-ever RNR friend in the shape of a fellow OD, Kevin “Lofty” O’Shea. I also became quite friendly with one of the most unlikely pair of cronies I ever came across in the RNR or anywhere else. One half of the partnership was Mickey, a rough, wild but essentially kind-hearted working class jack the lad of about 23 who was rumoured to be a permanent year-long resident of HMS Thamesis. The other was a far older man, possibly in his mid thirties, but just as riotously extrovert as Mickey. And yet this guy was as posh as they came, with the patrician manner of a City stockbroker or merchant banker. Mickey took me under his wing with a certain intimidating affection: "We'll make a ruffy tuffy sailor of you yet!" he once told me, even though we both knew that that I'd never be anything other than the most pathetically effete sailor in the civilized world; or at least be possibly numbered among them. There was one occasion below deck during some kind of conference when, after having been asked by an officer what I thought of minesweeping, I replied that it was a gas...another when the ship had been prepared for a major manoeuvre and everyone on board had retreated to their respective allotted positions, when I was found wandering on deck in a daze only to nonchalantly announce that I was taking a stroll. Incidents like these made me an object of affectionate banter on the part of Mickey and others.
The crew spent its final night together in a night club in the port of Portsmouth, or perhaps it was Plymouth I really can't remember. The chief attraction was a n ebullient drag artiste who tried to keep us entertained by singing cabaret style numbers in a comic falsetto, and bawdy jokes told in a deep rich baritone, but she was ruthlessly heckled for her pains. At one point she turned her attention to me, or rather I think she did. I was trying to hide at the time, it being one of those rare occasions when I was wearing unsightly horn-rimmed spectacles. "Ooh...you look pretty, what's your name?", she might have trilled. "Skin!" was what some of the sailors bellowed back, this being a nickname of mine, perhaps as in "a bit of skin" or something. It's all a bit of a blur to me now. Before too long, the bearded sailor seated next to me had collapsed face down onto the table with a thunderous crash. Only a short while earlier, he'd performed the theme from "William Tell" on his cheeks while I held the mike for him. I'm not certain whether he ever appeared as a musician in public again, but he was certainly a star that night.
A Dandy in the Land of Blue Denim
Back onshore, I resumed my growing passion for louche and shady music, art and culture. Some time in 1974, however, I turned away from what I now saw as the old hat tackiness of Glam Rock, convinced that Modernist outrage had nowhere left to go. Instead, I turned my devotion to the more stylish glamour of previous eras and particularly the twenties and thirties. At some point in '74, I started using hair cream to slick my hair back in the style of F Scott Fitzgerald, sometimes parting it in the centre just as Fitz had done. I also built up a new retro wardrobe, which came to include a Gatsby style tab-collared shirt, often worn with black and white college-style tie; several cravats and neck scarves; a navy blue blazer from Meakers; a fair isle short-sleeved sweater; a pair of grey flannel trousers from Simpsons of Piccadilly, a pair of two-tone brown and white, or "correspondent", shoes; and a belted fawn raincoat straight out of a forties film noir.
As the seventies progressed I became more and more entranced by the continental Europe of recent times, and specifically its leading cities, as beacons of revolutionary art; and of style, luxury and dissolution. Certain key eras became very special to me, such as the 1890s, known as the Yellow Decade in England, and the Mauve in the US, Belle Époque Paris, Jazz Age New York, and Weimar Republic Berlin.
There were those cutting edge Rock and Pop artists who appeared to share my European love affair, such as Sparks and Manhattan Transfer, and Britain's own favourite lounge lizard Bryan Ferry. Much of the latter's work with his band Roxy Music was haunted by the languid café and cabaret music of the continent's immediate past. What's more, some of Roxy's followers sported the kind of nostalgic apparel favoured by Ferry himself, but they were rare creatures in mid-seventies London. As for me, I wore my bizarre outdated costumes in arrogant defiance of the continuing ubiquity of long hair and flared jeans. In 1975, I attended a concert at West London's Queen's Park football stadium in striped boating blazer and white trousers, while surrounded by hirsute relics from the Hippie era. The headliners were my one-time favourites Yes, whose "Relayer" album I'd bought the year before; but my passion for Prog Rock was a thing of the past. I'd moved on since '71...
Take to the Sky with a Natural High
It was while I was sitting Spanish "O" level in June 1974 in central London that I became deeply infatuated with a pretty slim Dutch girl called Marianna. She didn't look Dutch, in fact, with her tanned complexion and long dark brown hair, she was Mediterranean in physical appearance. And it was probably she who came up to me, because I was so unconfident around girls in those days that I would never have made the first move. Over the course of the next few days, I feel deeper and deeper in love, but I didn't have the courage to make my feelings known to her. This was so typical of me, to assume an attitude of diffident indifference when confronted by something or someone I truly desired. So, once we'd completed our final paper, I allowed her to walk away from me forever with a casual "I might see you around", or some other cliché of that kind.
For a week or thereabouts, I took the train into London and spent the days wandering around the city centre in the truly desperate hope of bumping into her. One time I could have sworn I saw her staring indifferently back at me from an underground train, possibly at South Kensington or Notting Hill Gate, as the doors closed; but typically I was powerless to act, and simply stood there like a lovesick fool as the train drew away. In time of course, my infatuation faded, but even to this day I will listen to certain songs and it'll all come flooding back to me. They include "Just Don't Want to be Lonely", a Soul ballad by the Main Ingredient that lingered in my mind as I sauntered up Kensington High Street in the sun; and "Natural High" by Bloodstone. I'd been a lover of Sweet Soul since the early part of the decade when I first heard "La-La (Means I Love You)" by the Delfonics and "Betcha by Golly Wow" by the Stylistics, and this type of music went on to soundtrack some of my most romantic experiences of the seventies.
Later on in the summer I found myself once more in Santiago de La Ribera, a little village on what is known as the Mar Menor or little sea, being a large coastal lake of warm saltwater off Murcia's Costa Calida in southeastern Spain, and the summer of '74 was one of the most blissfully happy summers I spent there. Every afternoon - that is, most afternoons as I recall - we used to congregate on the jetty facing our apartment on the Mar Menor which was largely deserted it being the time of the siesta, that's myself and my brother, and Spanish friends both male and female, to listen to music and talk and laugh and flirt.
To some youthful Spanish eyes I was an impossibly exotic figure in the mid 1970s, full as I was of stories and songs from what was then as it is now the most culturally vital city in Europe, while the young of Spain were still so endearingly sheltered in those years leading up to the death of Franco. All this was to change with Franco's passing, at which point the nation set about sophisticating itself to the extent that on my last vacation in La Ribera in the summer of '84, it was I who was in awe of the local youth rather than the other way around, so intimidatingly cool had many of them become, dancing their strange jerky dance to the latest coolest tunes, many from my own homeland, such as “Won't You Hold My hand Now” by King, featuring Galway-born singer Paul King.
An Innocent on the Reeperbahn
I returned to London in late summer '74 with a deep brown tan and hair bleached gold by the sun, and hanging long over my ears and forehead. While on my way one Tuesday evening to HMS Ministry, moored then as today on the Embankment near Temple station, I created a bit of a stir at Waterloo mainline, which wasn't the bright tourist-friendly station it is today but a far rougher place with its own barber and pub, attracting not a few souls down on their luck for one reason or another. For a start, I was accosted by a genial Scotsman in late middle age, a former seaman as I recall him telling me, when he wasn't going on about how good looking I was. He was harmless enough though, a sweet old guy in fact who behaved impeccably and was as far as I could tell just being friendly, so I was more than happy to chat with him for a while. I even went so far as to agree to a meeting with him the same time the following week, which of course I had no intention of keeping.
Within a few days, HMS Thamesis was on its way to Hamburg, second largest city of Germany and its principle port. Once we'd arrived, one of the NCOs, a Chief Petty Officer I think advised me not to wander alone in the city for fear of what might happen to such a pretty boy as me. I duly fell in with a group of about three or four, and on our first night ashore we set off on a voyage into parts of the city such as the red light district St Pauli with its infamous Reeperbahn, the so-called "sinful mile" which is lined with restaurants, discos and bars, as well as strip clubs, sex shops, bordellos and so on.
A day or so later, a coach trip to the suburbs was organised. We ended up in a park where I had my picture taken on a bridge by a reporter for the Surrey Comet. At some point, a group of schoolgirls breathlessly asked me to be in some photographs with them. On the way back to the ship, one of the sailors remarked that I'd been a hit with the Hamburg teenyboppers or something along those lines, while another retorted that it was only because I was so blond and Teutonic...or something of that sort. Whatever the truth, there was something so touching about the young suburban girls' simple unaffected joy of life, and the way it stood in such stark contrast to what existed only a few miles away.
Chapter Five Once in an English Seaside Town
This third story in a series of seventies-themed pieces was forged in February-March 2006 from scribblings committed to a notebook in 1978-'79, and concerning events that took place in the summer of 1974. I adapted it word for word, although regarding certain passages, I selected crossed out words or series of words rather than those I'd chosen in the late 1970s and certain sentences were formed by fusing portions of the original sentences together. Moreover, the structure of the story has been altered, and the punctuation changed and greatly improved on; and I edited out words, sentences, whole passages.
To the best of my knowledge, all the events depicted actually occurred; however, given that I was writing in '78 or '79 about events that took place some half a decade previously, the original conversations would necessarily have been somewhat different to how they turned out on paper. Furthermore, it may be that a certain amount of exaggeration crept in to my writing in the late 1970s, particularly with respect to the quantities of alcohol I consumed, but then again, these may have been reproduced with some degree of accuracy. I have no recollection whatsoever of the events depicted in the final nineteen lines of the story, and these may have been tacked on for dramatic effect.
The events in the story as a whole take place in "a certain English coastal town", but I have a strong feeling that it was in Lymington, a port on the Solent in the New Forest district of Hampshire that they actually occurred. Why I changed Lymington to Bosham I cannot say for certain, but it may have been a genuine mistake on my part. Final changes were made in July 2007. I think it's fair to say that we are dealing with a story in the truest sense, which is to say one based on real events, rather than a genuine fragment from a memoir.
Being the person that I am, it is my desire that this resurrected story of mine possess a strong moral centre. And morally sensitive readers will discern intimations of ultimate disaster in the heavy drinking of the protagonist Carl which given that he is only 18, is necessarily only at its inception. My story however is as much a little slice of history from a simpler age than today's as anything more serious and one which I hope will prove an entertainment as well as a morality tale. It finishes on an upbeat note, at the beginning of another night of purported pleasure, and yet as I recall I actually ended the night jumping into the chilly waters of the town harbour.
Once in an English Seaside Town
In July 1974, his (Carl's) father (could be said to have) made yet another effort to tame him, by sending him on a yachting course in a certain English coastal town. The owner of the yacht was an Old Welbournian, who also ran a sailing school. Carl stayed at a guest house owned by Mrs C-C...charming but slightly aloof, immaculately spoken, calm, kind and considerate. There he met Gilles, a Belgian boy of about twenty years, Mr Watts and his teenage son Dylan. None of these four were on the same course, but they nevertheless became very close. Dylan liked to listen to the older boy's theories on music, fashion and life: "Hey Carl, do you think if I put brilliantine in my hair, I'd look like Ferry. Now Ferry is totally smooth."
First day Carl discovered who was on his course: there was Corin, aged 28, who was cool, tall, dark and moustachio'd, wearing large and dark-framed spectacles, viewing Carl's whimsicality with considerable suspicion; but sociable; Roger, a genial old boy of about sixty; Bob and Pat, a thoroughly agreeable married couple; and the Captain. That evening, Carl and Corin, who had struggled from alleged want to the position of an urban executive, had dinner together. Mr Watson and Alan were dining in the same restaurant:
Carl made them laugh, dressed in blazer, flannels and white shoes with hair elegantly brilliantined, stuffing pieces of bread into his pockets like an impoverished student. He also made the Captain laugh the next day:
"Take the helm, Carl," the skipper ordered, "steer 350."
"Mmm...this is nice," Carl cooed, "what a lovely day, I like this."
"Oooh, you thing," the Skipper joked, for which Carl booted him up the backside, which made the Skipper titter with delighted disbelief.
Next day, Carl lost his temper with Corin, who had goaded him for wrongly plotting a course. The Captain's pupils, after an initial briefing, were expected to discover how to navigate for themselves:
"Oh shut up," Carl bitched, "let's see you do better!"
"Ooh, you thing!" the Captain interjected, with even more glee than before.
That evening, Carl organised an informal get-together between the sailing and the yachting people. Present were Carl, Corin, Gilles, Dylan, and four or five other sailing men, including Daryl, the course whizz-kid.
"He comes alive in the evening this boy," said Corin, "summoned by an alcoholic deity."
"I'm not an alcoholic, Corin..." Carl replied.
"You drink three pints to to my one," Corin countered, "so you've certainly got potential."
"Nonsense, as I was saying, Daryl, how long have you had long hair?"
"What...long hair? What's that got to do with anything...is my hair long...I don't know anything about that."
"Do you realise twenty years ago with your hair as it is, although it's only just surpassing the ears, you would have been hounded, persecuted, beaten, for being a deviant, a freak, are you trying to ignore that?
"And you would have been accepted?"
"Oh yes," said Carl, "knife edge pressed flannels, blue blazer, white V neck pullover, open neck shirt and cravat, a bit sporty, I suppose, but utterly acceptable."
"Safe? That's something I never am, safe."
"Well, quite frankly, I think you look ridiculous"
At this statement, Carl burst into laughter. His laughter was like no other, shrill, unearthly, it violently assaulted the quiet clientele of the soft-carpeted yacht club, a laugh that seemed to emit from the hideous depths themselves.
Daryl, fighting to contain gleeful hysteria and thus conserve respectability, had gone a redder shade of tomato, and Corin quivering with laughter hid his face in mock-shame:
"I disown him," he gibbered, "he's insane, insane."
Gradually the hilarity subsided:
"How do you get those bracelets on your wrist?" Corin queried.
"Easily, Carl boasted, exhibiting his arms, I have very slender, graceful wrists."
"Let me see..." Corin whispered, and Carl gave him a bracelet. Soon that bracelet was being passed around the entire group, each member attempting, often with great difficulty to put the bracelet on their own wrist. Presently, the bracelet was back in Carl's possession, and with horror, he observed that it had been mutilated.
"My bracelet," he cried, "how could you all! I entrusted it to you and you've twisted and bent it."
The group stared at Carl, not knowing whether to look sincerely sorry or merely laugh at his distress, and settled for a nervous cross between the two. After a moment spent in this atmosphere, Gilles dispersed it by requesting to see the injured bracelet:
"Let me see eet," he said, "I weel try to feex eet."
Carl handed him the bracelet. Everyone was hushed as the Belgian contemplated it, touched it, turned it round, rattled it, and finally, with considerable calm, placed it on the floor. He scratched his head, as if trying to settle on a decision, which resulted in his extracting his shoe. Carl, trying to preserve his cool, took a cigarette from his case, a cigarette which, once lit, fell from his slim white hand as a crack like a tree struck by lightning echoed throughout the thunderstruck clubhouse. Carl's eyes were suddenly attracted from the fallen fag to Gilles, who was raising his right arm, at the end of which was one shoe, profuse with studs, and bringing it to the ground with all his strength at regular intervals. It took Carl some time before he knew what the reason was for all the secretive sniggering that went on around him: his bracelet was the victim of these vicious shoe attacks which were supposed to be rather brutally persuading it to revert to its original shape.
"Oh come on, it's not funny," he moaned, reaching out to take the bracelet which a grinning Jules held out for him. He stared woefully at the shattered remains but oddly enough, the bracelet had not disintegrated, in fact, had not altered from its original, slightly misshapen state.
"Eet ees all right, Carle," Gilles suddenly chuckled, "I was eeting ze floor wiz my shoe, not your brezlet."
Carl looked at Gilles, looked at his bracelet, looked at the other lads, then his eyes started to sparkle, his throat to gurgle, and then it all escaped:
"Hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi..."
"I'm not with him!"
"We'll get thrown out!"
As the stunned salts recovered from Carl's falsetto assault of high-pitched shrieks, he told them:
"Come on, drink up, lads, let's go where the action is, let's go and find a party or something!"
"No, it's not worth it," said Daryl, "we're having a good time here. You're a real laugh, Carl, just as long as you don't go too far. We might as well stay."
"Not me. I'm getting outa here. Need a change of atmosphere. Who's coming?"
"Yeah...might as well," Corin volunteered
"Me too," the boy from Belgium followed suit.
As the ink-black of night seeped through the crystal-like clarity of day and dyed it a dark colour, another day died away...
"Lonely, isn't it?" Carl suggested.
The others agreed. They headed along the main road. Carl did his manic laugh to each car that roared by often standing right in its path of travel.
"That Belgian girl in your group is nice, Gilles, isn't she?"
"Oh yes," said Gilles, "eef only 'er farzer weren't wiz 'er all ze time."
"Hey, who's going for a walk 'round Bosham town?"
Corin and Gilles volunteered, and the trio turned a corner. The girls were blonde, standing in a sea of darkness. Female company was exactly what Carl and Gilles needed. The Dutch courage of numbers gave vent to a number of groundless verbal coquetteries, mainly coming from Carl. The two girls followed this trail of littered pleasantries to the water's edge and then persevered onto a pier. Carl followed them, an unlit cigarette in his left hand.
"Can I have a light, please?" he said, looking intently at one then the other of the two young ladies; one was slim and petite, the other was tall and thin, wearing shoulder-length blonde hair. "Well, shall I stay here or go and join my friends?"
"Stay here," mumbled the smaller of the two sweet Cockney sparrows almost inaudibly.
"Pardon?" said Carl and both girls answered by smiling coyly. There was a minute's pause.
"Well, I'll see ya then," Carl finally said.
As the trio moved down the street, the two girls followed.
"Why don't you turn around?" Corin suddenly said.
"Why?" said Carl.
"They like you"
"Course they do. If you can't see that, you're more short-sighted than I thought you were."
At this, Carl turned around.
"There's a predatory look in your eyes, girls," he said.
"Oh, not to worry. Wha's yer names?"
"My name's Julie," said the waiflike one, "and this is Sue...what's yours, baby?"
"Why do you call me baby?"
"Cos you look like one," they both answered.
"I happen to be all of eighteen years old!" Carl said with mock indignation.
"Are you eighteen?" Sue asked.
"Tha's right, why, don' I look it?"
"We fought you was abaht twen'y..."
"Really? Well I'm eighteen and my name's Carl"
"Wha's your name?" Sue asked Gilles.
"My nem is Gilles..."
"Where are you from?" Sue asked Carl.
"You sahnd Ameri'an or somefing."
"Well, I am half-Canadian."
"Oh, that would explain it," Julie resolved.
"Why," Carl went on, "where do you girls come from?"
"We come from London as well, south."
"What are you doing down 'ere?"
"We're spendin' a few days on 'er dad's boat," Sue said, pointing at Julie.
"Has your dad got a boat?" Carl said, with vague suprise.
"A yacht! Not just any old boat. Don' come from any old family, I don'."
"She's a cute one, she is..." said Carl.
The three males once again continued on their path and the two females once again followed, this time, more clamorously, in fact took to kicking a can at them to make their point.
"I weesh Corin were not 'ere," Gilles whispered into Carl's ear.
"His presence is disconcerting them."
As soon as Gilles had finished talking, the two girls turned a corner:
"See ya, then!" they shouted.
"Bye, Carl darling!"
"I wonder where zey went?" said Jules
"I shouldn't worry about it, you've got your Belgian girl"
Came the second to last day and a trip for both the yacht and the dinghy party to the Isle of Wight. Carl was determined to get to know some of the girls on the course a little better. He asked Dylan what he thought about some of the female monitors:
"How about Janet, for example?"
"She's too old for me. Why she was ten years in the WRNS."
"She's always nice to me."
"Sally's a pretty girl."
Yes, Carl liked Sally and determined to talk to her on this little excursion. Lunch was in a Yarmouth public house where slender men in double-breasted reefer jackets, flannels and sailing shoes would go between sails. Some wore white trousers, some wore R.A.F moustaches and some even wore bow ties; their ladies dressed in slacks, large navy-blue pull-overs and silk scarves. In the evening, they would all be in full evening wear.
Back in port again, cutting across a nearby lawn, he met the natural and rosy-cheeked Sally:
"Hello," She said with a smile that brought beauty to a face which was free of glamourising paint.
"Hello," Carl answered, where are you going?"
"Back to my room."
"Oh...hey, apparently there's a get-together tonight, you know, a few drinks, a bit of dancing, a lot of laughs, are you going?"
"I don't know, I..."
"Oh, go on. I'm going..."
Sally looked at Carl, dressed in sweater and brown cords and sneakers, his yellow-brown hair ruffled, and thought: what a sweet chap.
"Well...okay," she said, "I suppose I'll go...uh...this is where I turn off."
"See you tonight then."
"Yes, bye...hey wait! Do you know my name?"
"Yes, of course I do, Carl, bye!"
Back at the guest house, the clock struck five and Carl was all-a-spruce, taking tea with Mrs C-C, who would have been deeply outraged if anyone suggested that Carl was anything but a kind, courteous and thoroughly likable young man, who had but one fault, forgetfulness. She was supposed to charge for each packed lunch forgotten, but never did in Carl's case, even if he was the only one who ever forgot his lunch. It must be said, however, that it was difficult not to be thoroughly likable in the presence of this distinguished and attractive woman.
Carl, Gilles and Corin set out together for the dance. On the way, they stopped in a pub.
"Half of bitter!" Corin ordered.
"Half a shandy!" Gilles ordered ordered.
"Double scotch!" Carl ordered and then ten minutes later, "double scotch!"
"Nothing for me!" Said Corin.
"Alf o' shandy!" Gilles ordered.
"Pint of bitter!" Carl ordered ten minutes later.
"Come on Carl, let's go," Corin said.
"We mus' go," Gilles said.
"Drink up," Corin ordered, "we don't want you in a disordered state before the dance, do we?"
Carl swallowed his pint and the three departed. Arriving at the lieu reserved for the evening's festivities, they sat down at a communal table. Carl's blue eyeballs slid from side to side in an effort to register Sally's exact position. They found her, sitting next to a slim, smart but casually dressed young man with light blonde collar length hair and beard. He got up and approached the pair.
"Hello, Sally," he said, with a slightly reproachful look in his eyes.
"Hello," she said, slightly taken aback, especially as he was no longer the sweet, tousle-headed gamin of that afternoon but a world-weary and rakish looking youth.
"Do you want a drink?" he asked.
"Er, no thanks, she said, but I will have one later on."
"Okay then," the disappointed youth said, and he turned around and made his way to the bar.
"Double scotch!" He ordered, and then ten minutes later, "double scotch!"
Carl took a large slug of the weighty liquid that lay in his glass thereby emptying it. Then, he decided to step in and putting the glass down made straight for the couple.
"Oh hello, Carl," Sally said, suddenly looking up with a smile whose sun-like radiance quickly darkened as soon as the youth's apparent drunkenness dawned on her. Tapped on the shoulder and led away by Daryl, he was taken, across the room and seated next to the Captain at a long table populated entirely by the latter's set.
"Hello, Carl, the Captain said, you look a bit excited...fancy a drink?"
"Yes. Pint of bitter, please."
"Pint of water? Right."
Mainly for the benefit of Daryl, who was sitting opposite him, Carl filled the room with his manic laugh, which was greeted by looks of intimidated derision.
"No, Carl, said Daryl, you're just not funny this evening."
"Not funny? If I ain't even funny, then what am I?"
Carl got up, rather slowly, and walked, just as slowly and wordlessly to the door, opened it, then stepped into the warm summer's night...where there were no dreams of romance just around the corner of one lonely sea town street. Tonight everyone had abandoned him. Tonight there was nothing.
"Carl!" A boyish voice was heard, "Carl, it's me!"
Carl's sad eyes looked behind him to be faced by a soul-cheering sight. He suddenly felt warm all over.
"Dylan, it's you."
"Where ya going, Carl?"
"Dylan, it's not where am I going, it's where are we going."
"Listen, brother, you and me is gonna find a party even if it takes all night!"
"Well, I...I...I better ask my old man first. I think he's expecting me back at around eleven."
"Tha's fine, jus' fine. Le's go'n find daddy!"
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