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Thursday, 21 January 2016


Day 4 of "Before Amnesia" - more random memories......

I remember living in Chadwell Heath, east London and Friday night beers at The Cooper’s Arms where a band called Ropey Boat played various songs including Love Potion No. 9.

I remember Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ LP playing repeatedly at a party.

I remember reading ‘Elvis Dead’ on a newsagent’s board on my way to Chadwell Heath railway station. It was a stunning moment.

I remember the assistant manager in BHS, Romford eating two cheese and marmalade rolls every morning on his coffee break. He was an open-mouthed, smacky kind of eater with crumbs all over his lips.

I remember going on holiday to Malta with Irene and her parents and getting my feet so badly burned by the blazing sun that I couldn’t walk for two days. I read four books.

I remember seeing Steve McQueen, not long before his death at fifty, in a western called Tom Horn. I thought that icons like him could never die, but in a way they don’t. They are always within reach via a DVD box set.

I remember a holiday in Amsterdam when we ran out of money and couldn’t afford to eat on the last day.

I remember our wedding day. Irene looked stunning. Her father wore amazing grey shoes and told a long joke at the reception about Morris dancers on a car bonnet (geddit?).

I remember living in Plumstead, south-east London.  Lorries would make a racket as they drove over a huge pothole in the road outside our bedroom window. It took the council several months to get round to repairing the hole. We had little need for an alarm clock.

I remember moving to BHS, Wood Green, north London and sharing a flat with Paul Anderson in Crouch End. We frequented The Stapleton Hall Tavern. There was a guy there who always wore a leather cowboy hat. He mooched about cadging drinks and fags. We called him Buffalo Bill, but not to his face.

I remember our Jamaican neighbour from the upstairs flat cleaning his car in the early hours of the morning and playing reggae music quite loud. Occasional shouts of ‘turn that bloody racket down’ bounced off the walls along the street.

I remember a sweet, smoky smell on the landing.

I remember loving piccalilli, then hating it.

I remember hearing about John Wayne’s death the day after most of the rest of the world. I was on holiday abroad and the newspapers were available one day later than the UK.

I remember moving to BHS’s head office on the Marylebone Road as Audit Manager. Our office was on the ground floor. One day the actor Derek Nimmo walked in and asked if he could use the phone as his car had broken down. He was wearing a bright pink tie.

I remember washing my hair with Fairy Liquid.

I remember Clive James signing my copy of Unreliable Memoirs in Selfridges. He wrote small.

I remember moving to Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, and our first proper house that we couldn’t really afford. Interest rates were 15% and most times there was too much month left at the end of the money.

I remember being told that my father had died of an intracranial tumour. He was 57. We hadn’t seen or heard from him in twenty-two years. I didn’t cry. I didn’t even feel sad. He was a stranger.

I remember David being born. Not long after he appeared, he pooped on my arm. Joy.

I remember Steven being born. No poop. More joy.

I remember trying to figure out six mini-roundabouts surrounding one large roundabout on a road into Hemel Hempstead.

I remember working for Alfred Dunhill Limited, across the road from Fortnum & Mason in London. One day, I saw Michael Caine walking along the street. On another day, I saw Terence Stamp in a nearby bookshop. I think I stared at both of them a little too long.

I remember the Dunhill archivist showed me the shop manager’s diary from the 1950s, specifically the entry recording that “Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy visited the shop today.”  There is no record of purchases.

I remember seeing Adam Ant in a London wine bar and being surprised that he wasn’t taller.

I remember the announcer at Baker Street tube station saying: “The next train is a Barking train.” For once, smiles in the rush hour.

I remember feeling sad when Rock Hudson died.

I remember a story from America about a baby called Jessica who fell down a well. She was rescued after a couple of days but, unhelpfully and insensitively in the tense operation, the ding-dong-dell tune rattled around my head.

I remember dressing up as a hillbilly country singer to perform Shel Silverstein’s “Beans” song at the Makro, Liverpool Christmas lunch. I had a straw wig.

I remember seeing The Rolling Stones twice at Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield and on both occasions witnessed the impossible as no-spring-chicken Mick Jagger sprinted back and forth across the stage several times.

I remember the two best bosses I have ever had, Mike and Peter.  I often thought about them when I had to make tough decisions – What would Mike do? What would Peter do? Only two such bosses out of forty I have had in my career.

I remember listening to Roger Scott on the radio. He was one of the great deejays. He died at 46 from cancer. He had a ‘radio’ voice.

I remember ‘Boom, boom, boom, boom, Esso Blue’.

I remember watching the fall of the Berln Wall on TV and Mrs McAtackney (the rat-a-tat-tat woman from my youth) popped into my head shouting: “Stop it. Stop it. Get off my wall.”

I remember being taught how to give a good, firm handshake.

I remember an obnoxious twat I used to work for.

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