Tag Archives: london

April 6th 1975

“Picked Mum up from London”

Just as I was amazed – in retrospect – that Mum was able to travel TO Copenhagen by herself, I am likewise astonished that she did the same journey in reverse.

It’s funny how the mind plays tricks on you. She MUST have been together and confident enough at one time to do all of this, but all I can really remember (and often wish I could forget) was how she deteriorated during that last decade or so she was alive.

I have no doubt that she came home from her Danish holiday and spent a week or more complaining about she and Mormor argued all the time she was staying with her.

They could REALLY argue. Some of it you couldn’t make up.

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March 28th 1975

“Went to London with Niles”

Despite stealing his Saturday job in the great “Francis Records Job Coup” of 1975 Niles and I remained friends and it seems we traveled ‘up the smoke’ together.

Naturally – and is often the case – this diary entry does not expand on the basics, offering no clue as to what we got up to once we got there.

However, I do believe it was on this trip – maybe from the famed Portobello Market? – where I bought my one and only piece of ‘seventies glam’, namely a sky blue satin bomber jacket. I remember that whenever I bought it, and wherever from, that on getting home my Dad took one look at it and told me it was the biggest waste of money he had ever laid eyes on.

He may have had a point. It was made from particularly flimsy piece of super-thin material with shoddily finished elasticated wristbands and collar. But it seemed very “Cockney Rebel” to me, very Steve Harley, so I felt it was a more-than-worthy addition to my limited wardrobe.

It became a ‘good friend’ to me over the ensuing months and there are more photos of me wearing it – some now even on the internet – than I’d care to proudly acknowledge.

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March 27th 1975

“Mum goes to Denmark”

It’s very difficult for me to imagine, given my poor Mum’s gradual descent into severe mental depression and Alzheimer’s, that there was actually a time back in the seventies when she was strong, independent and confident enough to travel all the way back to her home country by herself.

But that’s what she did today in 1975, taking the extensive train and boat journey I have described before here at EFA70’sTRO, on her own.

I think what happened would have been that Dad would have travelled up to London with her and escorted her across to Liverpool Street to catch the late afternoon boat train to Harwich. Then she would be on her own for the next 24 hours until she arrived – no doubt to immediately argue  – at my Gran’s flat in Copenhagen.

Given the fact that she could not be left on her own at all for probably the final 12 years or more of her life, permit me a little pause for thought here. *sigh*

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January 5th 1975

“Took Mormor back to London – usual mass confusion” / “Nig came round”

This entry made me smile a little.

My Danish grandmother (Mormor) was not blessed with high levels of intelligence. Added to which she suffered long spells of abject eccentricity during which she would make my Mum – all of us – very exasperated indeed.

I suspect today in 1975 was such a time.

I can’t remember the details of this particular journey but I know in all the times we ever collected or returned Mormor to London for the train to Harwich (for her onward boat-train-boat-train journey back to Copenhagen) there was rarely a dull moment.

Whenever she arrived to stay with us she hardly ever brought money with her, always expecting my Dad to pay her way. (Conversely, whenever we stayed with her she would expect my Dad to pay for meals out etc., because she was putting us all up). When I say no money I mean NO money. Not even Danish money – which meant that when she went back Dad would often have to find a bank and change Pounds into Danish money to give to her, just so she’d have some for food and drinks on the overnight ferry and the trains through Europe. Maybe today in 1975 was one such day?

She also refused to use the underground train in London meaning Dad always had to fork out for an expensive taxi from Waterloo station to Liverpool St.

I think her finest moment of crazy eccentricity came much later in her life though, the final time she ever made it over the Channel to – as was invariably the case – spend a few weeks arguing with my Mum. She had found someone who flew his private little 4-seater plane to England once or twice a year and had persuaded him to take her as a passenger to Bournemouth airport. This was around 1993, only a few years before she died and when she was in her late eighties.

So, she had told us she was coming. However, what she hadn’t told us was any details about the plane, or the date, or the expected arrival time. Nothing. All we had to go on was a rough ‘window’, spread over a time span of two weekends.

On the Sunday of the second weekend we get a call from the pilot saying it had taken him forever to contact us. He was calling from Bournmouth airport. He had finally coaxed enough details out of Mormor to get our number via directory enquiries. They had landed late the night before. Mormor had not brought our phone number or any contact details with her so he was not able to call us any earlier. Regardless, it was felt he should book her into a hotel near the little airport… the only problem being she didn’t have any money or payment method with her, meaning the pilot had to pay for her. Dad took down all the details and we rushed down to Bournemouth to pick her up. She had travelled not only with no money, but no suitcase and no clothes. All she had with her was a shoulder bag with some toiletries in. Dad found the pilot and thanked and paid him back for the hotel and we headed back home in the car. On the journey back she and my Mum started having a BLAZING argument in the back seat because Mormor had asked “why we hadn’t been there to collect her at the airport the day before?“. I am not making this up.

Mormor and Mum spent the next couple of weeks arguing almost all the time. None of Mum’s clothes fitted Mormor, and Mormor thought all the ‘cheap and cheerful’ clothes we were trying to buy her were…. well just too ‘cheap and cheerful’. At one point she demanded better quality clothes saying she didn’t want to look like a vagrant. The irony was not lost on any of us and more arguments ensued. It was like we were all playing out a ridiculous West End farce.

It got worse however. When we had to take her back to Bournemouth airport a couple weeks later we discovered that she’d flown over withOUT her passport. She’d somehow managed to bypass immigration on the way in but we all knew this was not going to be so easy on the way out. Hours were spent trying to get someone to understand the situation and finally find a sympathetic official who would agree to let her board the plane to leave. Hours that this poor pilot had to wait around for, his plans undermined by my Mormor’s thoughtlessness.

The drama was not over just yet. Mormor never bothered to call us to say she’d got back home safely – in fact we later found out she’d turned her phone off at home so she ‘wouldn’t be disturbed’ – and so we were frantically calling Copenhagen airport and all the small regional ones to find out if the plane had landed etc. When we finally DID discover she’d got home safely – 48 hours later – the first thing she did was verbally rip my Dad’s head off for NOT paying the pilot the contribution for fuel he was expecting for the two flights.

She really was a mad old bat. Regardless I loved her as only a grandson could.

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News in 1973 (III)

[… “News in 1973” continued from part II]

The IRA Bombing Campaign

Flashback to January 1972: In Derry, Northern Ireland, a civil rights march turned into bloodshed after members of the British Army opened fire and killed 14 protesters, severely injuring 29 others.

Seven of the 14 were teenagers. Many witnesses later testified that all of those shot were unarmed and some were even shot in the back.

This incident, first called “the Bogside Massacre” but now culturally referred to as “Bloody Sunday“, only served to fuel the nasty conflict between the UK authorities and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).

A conflict with roots in “the troubles” that started back in the late 60’s, the principal issue of which was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the subsequent … erm… ‘strained’ relationship between the mainly-Protestant Unionist and mainly-Catholic Nationalist communities.

In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday investigations and tribunals were held which seemed to clear the British Army of all wrongdoing. This was considered a “whitewash” verdict which, along with the killings themselves, significantly boosted recruitment into the IRA, their numbers swelled by the addition of new terrorist cells intent to exact revenge.

On 8th March 1973, the IRA conducted its first major bombing campaign on the UK mainland, planting 4 car bombs in London. Two of the four successfully exploded, one outside the Old Bailey and the other at the Army Recruiting Office near Trafalgar Square. One person was killed and almost 200 more were injured.

It didn’t end there.

On 8th September a bomb went off at Victoria Station in London.

On 10th September, more bombs explode at a pair of Underground stations and two days later further blasts rip apart both Sloan Square and Oxford Street in the capital.

The IRA claimed responsibility for all of the bombs. Their plan was to create a climate of fear over a sustained period and I think its fair to say they succeeded, even if their actions gave them no sympathy votes from the general public living on the mainland.

I think its equally fair to say that most people did not really have a clue what the ‘troubles’ were really all about and, even if they did, found it hard to accept that religious differences were the apparent basis for most of what was going on. Personally, I never understood the issues on either side either – which is probably why I never felt it necessary to comment on the bombings in my 1973 diary (and London was ‘far enough away not to cause that much worry I suppose?) – until quite recently. Without trying to stir up more controversy I can only conclude that – like most wars – this was simply (someone’s) God playing with his damned joystick again.

A certain intolerance – on both sides of the religious/political fence – resulted in 36 bombs in London in 1973 and the death or maiming of hundreds of innocent people.

1974 (and beyond) had – sadly – far more horrors waiting.

[“News in 1973” continues in Part IV…]

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October 29th/30th/31st 1973

• “half-term – OFF TO LONDON TO GET HI-FI (I hope)”
• “Got a crappy amp – Dad has to take it back”
• “Got a new amp – Sounds BRILLIANT!”

October 29th’s entry was written in advance.

I remember some of this story. Dad & I drove to some non-descript warehouse on an industrial estate somewhere near the Wembley area of London. I have no doubt that this place was chosen from an ad placed in one of the many hi-fi mags I had been reading.

For all I know now, it may well as have been “Dodgy Dave’s Stereo Emporium”, the stock having fallen off the back of a lorry somewhere.

I bought – under Dad’s watchful eye but with my OWN money (hence the £35 withdrawal from savings) – The Alba HOUS208 Amplifier mentioned a few diary entries ago, the much-coveted Garrard SP25 Mk II Record Deck (with a similarly-prized Goldring G800 cartridge) and a pair of Wharfedale Denton speakers.

There is no reference to the Alba amp anywhere online (at least that I can find), but here’s a pic of the record deck

and here’s one of the shelf speakers…

I was so VERY excited this day, I can remember that.

However, when we got back home and I unpacked everything, my excitement turned to frustration as the discovery was made that the amp I’d bought was a duffer. I remember my Dad & I tried everything we could to try and make it work, but all to no avail.

The next day my Dad, bless him, used a free British Rail pass and traveled back up to – and across – London with this amp tucked awkwardly under his arm, found the warehouse and was able to quite easily swap the unit over. He then had to travel back on the tube to Waterloo, back down to Eastleigh… obviously hoping all the time that the replacement was not in the same faulty condition. A journey that took him the best part of a full day.

Frustration was then replaced by joy and relief when the new amp performed flawlessly under – what was doubtless – ‘rigourous testing’ using sundry ELP, Deep Purple and Hawkwind albums.

My first proper stereo!!!

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August 14th 1973

“Bludy hot. Went to London for the day with Trev. Good larf. Saw Monotone amp – SMART!”

Blimey, England was in the midst of a heatwave! Two “bludy hot” days in a row.

We probably caught the train to London, each buying a simple ‘cheap day return’ ticket for travel from Eastleigh to Waterloo, the only restriction being you couldn’t arrive in the capital before 10am.

This was of course back in the days when train travel was easy and affordable, the entire network publicly-owned and maintained. Since Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s disgraceful splitting up and privatisation of Britain’s transportation system in the late 80’s/early 90’s, there is no such thing as “simple” train travel anymore. Now, over 100 different companies – all apparently run worse than British Rail ever was – control the network, with a completely different company owning – and (badly) maintaining the track the trains actually run on.

Buying a simple ticket for a train journey these days is an exercise in futility, the sheer number of options as enormous as the restrictions imposed by the plethora of companies all fighting for your business. A quick check suggests that the current cheapest fare for a round-trip train ride similar to the one I took in 1973 is £28.50 (almost $50) which is a ludicrous amount of money for a 60-minute journey.

I don’t know when train traveling fell off people’s radar in such a big way – resulting in these silly pricing levels to cover costs – but I’ll bet it coincides with Thatcher and the Tories decision to decimate the system all those years ago.

In London, I suspect Trev and I eschewed the regular tourist haunts and instead headed straight for the capital’s Tottenham Court Road. In the 50’s and early 60’s, the road found itself home to a peculiar concentration of shops all selling surplus post-war radios and electronics equipment. In the late 60’s and early 70’s many of the shops had switched to selling hi-fi equipment, running the gamut from high-end name-brand stuff to knock-off Japanese radios.

Then, hi-fi shops sat side-by-side down both sides of the street, each with its own particular kind of ‘dodgy salesman’ specially trained to lure unsuspecting tourists or naive buyers into splashing out on something that they either didn’t want or which would break down within days of purchase. A pretty damning reputation.

Trev & I knew of the reputation – most people who read the hi-fi magazines of the day knew – so it seemed unlikely we would be duped. But that wouldn’t have stopped us from visiting every single store from the Oxford Street end all the way north to the City of Westminster, doubtless ooh-ing and aah-ing at the equipment on offer.

Seeing the very name “Monotone” conjured up all kinds of synapse-busting memories for me. I remember this brand sowell – I’m sure I owned a black Monotone amp at some point? – but, strangely, a Google search reveals absolutely nothing whatsoever about it.

In retrospect though, you would think I would have had the intelligence to have certain levels of suspicion about a hi-fi manufacturer – specialising in stereo equipment – trading under the name Monotone, wouldn’t you?

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