My mother and sister were waiting for me on the dockside. I was so happy and proud for them to see me returning in such a big impressive ship. I invited them on board and showed them around and then we caught the train back to the North. My mother told me that the police had been to the house looking for me, so I decided to get off the train at Blackpool instead of Manchester. I was aware that my father had stopped the mortgage payments on the house as my mother had written to me telling me that she had been given notice to quit, otherwise she would be evicted.
I had been paid off after the voyage and had several hundred pounds in my pocket so I decided to try to rent a house in Blackpool for my mother and sister. I had a place to stay in the meantime as an old friend had converted a double-decker bus into a caravan and so I stayed with him. I spent every day house-hunting. It took several weeks until I eventually found a double-bedroomed semi-detached in Cleveleys, which is the next town along the coast from Blackpool.
The owner of the house was an elderly and kind gentleman who was obviously impressed by the fact that such a young man as myself was looking for a home for his mother. He agreed to rent the house to my mother but we had to wait until he had finished the building of his new house before moving in. He told us that it would be several more weeks and so I decided to look for some work.
Finding work in Blackpool was not at all difficult as it is the biggest holiday resort in England. Bus and trainloads of people poured in continually. At that time there were over 3,000 hotels and guesthouses in Blackpool, all fully booked in the high season. On a sunny day it was difficult to find an empty space on the beach to sit down.
The boy that I was staying with was also in between jobs and so we decided to go into business together as beach traders. We sold orange juice and sunglasses. We would cover about 8 miles of walking distance each day, continually calling out:-
"Avoid the glare. Buy a pair. Sunglasses 2s 9d a pair!"
My friend 'Rod' would follow up with:-
"Orange juice, orange juice, freshly squeezed orange juice!"
Our business began to flourish. That is until the local protection gang moved in on us. They robbed us of our day's take one day then told us to get lost or as they put it 'get off our patch you bloody foreigners'.
We had obviously given them an idea, as I often saw their boys working the glasses on the beach after that. We had to leave them to it because we were so vulnerable and unable to resist them. For a start it was illegal to trade goods on the beach without a licence, which was almost impossible to obtain. Living in a caravan made it easier for them to sabotage our home if they really wanted to get heavy with us.
The next job I got was as a waiter on a pleasure boat which used to take out about 100 persons per trip. We did two trips per day but the job didn't pay enough so I only stuck it for a couple of weeks. About a third of the passengers on every trip would be seasick and most of them didn't have the intelligence to do it over the side. Consequently I was half waiter, half vomit collector.
From that job I went to work on the 'Wall of Death,' a side show in the amusement park. The 'Wall of Death' consisted of a vertical cylinder, 24 feet high and 30 feet across. The spectators would pay to watch two motorcyclists going round and round the inner walls of the tube. The speed of the motorcycles created a gravitational support so that they could spiral up and down the tube. I was employed as a general help looking after the bikes etc. but I rode the wall at every opportunity. I left that job when the boss told me that I could not ride the wall again as he was having trouble with his insurance company. They would not insure me until I was 21 years old.
I decided to visit my mother back in Manchester. It turned out that this was exactly the right thing to do because on my return home, my mum told me that we had to vacate the house within a week.
My Uncle Mack and I removed all our furniture, goods and chattels etc. to his workshop foundry. It was there amongst all the foundry machines that we lived for the next few weeks until the house in Blackpool was ready for us to move into. When it was ready, we made a mammoth move in my Uncle's open-backed truck. We removed all our worldly possessions the 40 miles to Blackpool. It did not take very long for us to get settled into our new home and I soon found out the regular hangouts of the local youth. There were a few tasty chicks about and I, being the new boy in town, had plenty of sampling to do.
Our new house was situated on the edge of a council housing estate comprising about 200 two-bedroomed houses. The only problem was that Cleveleys was about 3 miles away and the buses stopped running at 9:30pm. Needless to say, we preferred the 3 mile walk usually. I would pull one of the chicks, knee tremblers were the way we did it then. When I look back now, I find it ludicrous to think that we used to fuck standing up, wedged on the edge of a dustbin with the crutch piece of the knickers pushed to one side. I remember I nearly always had a sore penis due to the friction against the material.
One night I went with some boys to Blackpool about 4 miles away. We decided to miss the last bus and walk home, that way we could call in at every pub on the way back; in other words a 'pub crawl'. Half way home and about 7 pints downed, I met a young girl. She was 16 and she was also heading in the same direction as me. We walked together. My friends left us behind and about half an hour later we arrived at her house. It was now about midnight and all the lights were off in the house. She told me that her parents were probably asleep.
I felt so tired, the beer was taking effect but I also had a tremendous sexual desire for this girl. I grabbed hold of her and kissed her. She responded. My penis was rock hard as I rubbed against her. She did not pull away and that made me even more excited. I led her around the back of the house to the back door. I continued to excite her and slipped my hand underneath her mini-skirt.
I felt her hot, wet, sticky pussy. I knew she was a 'cert'. She was ready. Suddenly she stopped me and suggested we go inside her house and do it on the bed. She said that she could lock her bedroom door from the inside so her parents wouldn't disturb us. I thought this was a great idea and so we went upstairs to her bedroom. We had a great time, making love for several hours before collapsing into oblivion.
When I awoke, it was still dark and it took me several moments to work out where I was. I was desperate for a pee, I told the girl and in a half conscious state she told me that the toilet was the first door on the right. I didn't hesitate, I opened the door and in the dark I felt my way to the right. I found a door, pushed it open then felt around at toilet level. I felt something that felt like a toilet lid and lifted it up. Yes that must be it I thought as pulled the lid. It hinged up and down at the back. Yes!! I let go with a squirt of relief.
I was enjoying the relief of my pee when suddenly the light went on and in an instant I saw a child of about six lying at my side in a single bed. I was standing beside that bed totally naked and peeing into a child's hinge top work desk. I could see the wet soggy books. The child let out a scream:-
"Mummy, Mummy, Mummy!"
Through my drunken confusion, a danger signal flared up as I turned to flee, I came face to face with mummy. She also let out such a scream. I pushed her aside and ran into the blackness. The girl put on her light at the same time as the other light went on. I heard the woman screaming:-
"Jack, Jack, there's a madman in the house."
Now I could see the stairs, I half ran half fell down the stairs. Now blackness again. Where the hell is the door I thought? I was terrified. What if Jack had a gun? I felt around the door but I couldn't open it. I couldn't waste any time. Then suddenly the downstairs hall light came on. I saw the curtains, without hesitation, I picked up a chair and let fly at the curtain with a loud clang, the window gave way and I was through the opening and out. I cut my feet as I landed on the garden but that didn't stop me. I just ran, I was temporarily safe but the realisation of the situation dawned on me. Here I was, two miles from home on a public highway, totally naked. Surely that man would call the Police. I had to hide.
Alongside the highway ran a disused railway line so I climbed the over the fence through the brambles and waded through the swamp waist deep in muddy water and up the bank onto the old railway track. By now my feet were stinging terribly. I had to stop somewhere soon and pull out the broken pieces of glass. I looked at my watch. It was only 3am on a freezing November night. The North Sea wind was lashing me with all the ferocity of a 'cat o nine tails' the pain in my feet was competing with the pain of the freezing cold wind. Fear kept me moving.
Eventually I came to a small railway workers tool shed. The door was hanging off its hinges so I knew that it was no longer in use. The railway had been closed down for several years as they had re-routed the track to make way for a new motorway.
It was pitch black in the hut but I felt around until I laid my hands on some harsh sacking type material. I tried to lift it but it was very heavy. I felt around some more and found that there was a pile of the same type of sacks. I pulled one over onto its side and the contents of sand poured out into my hands. I scooped out the rest of the sand and did the same to five more of these sacks. I now had six damp, dirty sacks, which I laid down on the floor. I sat on them and began to pull them around me to try to get some warmth. I then set about trying to pull the small shards of glass from out of my feet. I couldn't see and so I had to feel and squeeze. I took out quite a few pieces before I passed out. I had spent so much energy in the last few hours that I was absolutely and totally exhausted.
The next day I slowly merged into painful consciousness. My feet were killing me. I was covered in black tar grease. The floor of the cabin was a mess of sand and bitumen, which was coming from a rusty barrel at my side. I scratched my watch face clean enough to see that it was midday. The wind outside was howling as the rain pelted down on the cabin roof. I thought 'well if I've not been discovered by now, I stand a good chance of getting home'
I ripped a hole in the bottom of a couple of sacks and put them one on top of the other like two Tee Shirts. I put another on like a pair of shorts, opening the bottom and tying it around my waist. I then ripped another sack into strips, which I bound around my feet. I used the thread from the sacks to bind the swaddling onto my feet. I was ready!
I made my way as far as I could along the railway and then back down the bank, over the fence and onto the road. The rain was a good help as no one had the time to stare at me and I made it home without further incident. As luck would have it my mother was out shopping so I was able to take a bath and clean up before she returned home. My feet took several weeks to heal up and I never walked home from Blackpool again.
After I had recovered, I decided to find another job. I bought the local newspaper and checked the vacancies column. I was attracted to an advert which read 'Aerial Riggers Wanted, Phone @@@|'. I went to a phone box and made the call. As I was making the call, I was looking out of the phone box window towards a building on the opposite side of the road. I could see a man in an office and as my call was answered he picked up a phone. A voice said 'Good afternoon, Provincial Aerials. Can I help you?’ I replied, 'Yes, it's about the position for an aerial rigger'. 'Oh yes' was the reply. 'Do you have a driving licence' I replied without hesitation - 'Yes'. As I replied I noticed that the name of the company on the other side of the road was 'Provincial Aerials' and the man that I could see was obviously the man I was talking to. I started to laugh in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere. I excused my laughter and told the man that I could actually see him on the phone. I continued to tell him that I had just bought the newspaper and by chance I had chosen a phone box right opposite his office. He laughed and suggested that I came across to the office.
The ice was broken. I knew even before I met the man that I stood a good chance of getting the job, whatever it was. I presented myself at his office with all the confidence of a professional. He asked me what experience I had as a rigger. I told him that I had worked as a 'Top Man' for an industrial painting firm and that heights and weather did not bother me in the least.
'Yes' he replied 'but what do you know about rigging aerials?' I told him that if he would give me a week's trial with an experienced rigger, then I would know enough to benefit his company. He said that he admired my confidence and pointed out that there were always the more difficult aerials to rig due to exceptional heights or weather and if I was prepared to be the one to accept those extra difficult or dangerous jobs then providing my driving licence was in order, I had a month’s trial.
I told him that he would not be sorry for his trust and added that my driving licence was at home and that I would bring it to work with me the next day, even though I had not taken my driving test and did not yet have a full driving licence. I figured out that I could stall the showdown long enough to take my driving test. I left his office and went to the city to steal a car so that I could practice my driving skills. I had learnt at an early age how to start a car without a key. My father had shown me how to do it.
I went to the streets surrounding the airport as I knew from hearsay, that many people left their cars parked there for weeks on end as they flew away on vacation or business. I found myself a Ford van exactly the same model as I had seen parked outside Provincial Aerials. I spent the rest of the day up until midnight, driving around the town getting all the practice that I could. I also put in an application to take my driving test, but that would take several weeks.
The next day I was up bright and early. I presented myself at 8am on the dot. The first question I was asked was 'where is your driving licence?'. I told my new employer that it had been put into the laundry in my jeans pocket and that it was drying out and that I would bring it in the very next day.
My excuse was delivered with such confidence, that it was accepted. My boss introduced me to a boy who was about the same age as me. He was a strong boy but obviously very shy. His name was Terry and he was a very good rigger's mate. He was due to become a fully-fledged rigger himself but the delay was due to the fact that he had not yet learned to drive.
Terry was to be my assistant and also to teach me how to rig aerials. The first day passed very smoothly. We only had four aerials to erect but the distance between each job was about 30 miles. This gave us time to get acquainted with each other. We struck a deal that if he worked really hard and fast and taught me all that he could, then I would secretly give him driving lessons. However I did not tell him that I had not even passed my driving test. The fact was that whilst teaching someone else to drive, I was in fact also teaching myself.
The following day I got up a little earlier and put my temporary learner's driving licence through a few physical changes. I wet it then beat it with a hammer then finished the job by making sure that it was totally illegible apart from my name. I left that just about readable with a little effort and concentration. On arrival at my workplace, I showed my wet soggy driving licence to the boss and told him that I had applied to the authorities for a new one. Once again he accepted my excuse without question. I knew that he was pleased with my few days' work, as Terry and I were now working so hard we did not even stop for meal breaks. I would always let Terry drive the van back at the end of the day, so he was happy. I just hoped that the police would never stop us.
Several weeks passed and I took and passed my driving test. I was now well & truly a professional aerial rigger. I began to study ways to make even more cash, now that winter had set in. Our job became more dangerous as the snow lay on the roofs. Often we would get a job to do on terraced houses. Row upon row of hundreds of houses all joined together with one long continuous roof. Once we were up on the roof we could walk the entire length of the street so that we could do 'foreigners'. That is the term used for jobs that we did unofficially for the benefit of our own pockets.
I discovered that if the coaxial cable, which ran down to the T.V. set from the aerial, and was usually mounted on the chimney, was punctured, then water or moisture could often enter the cable and cause a short circuit on the aerial signal. Terry & I devised a plan to create a lot more foreigners.
Whilst we were on the roof, we would choose the older looking aerials and one of us would sneakily pierce the outer cover of the cable with a very fine needle. After a big rainfall, we would return to the row of houses in the evening, and then one by one we would knock on the doors and ask the occupants if they would like to improve their picture quality on their TVs. In one evening we could rewire all the aerials we had previously sabotaged and make a small fortune for ourselves. This only lasted a few weeks though as our boss soon got to hear of our business. There was no scandal. One day he simply told us that we were sacked.
The fact that I was once again out of work did not bother me in the least. By now I had saved up enough to buy myself a small Morris shooting brake van and still have enough cash left to last until I found another job.
A few weeks later, I answered another advert from the vacancies column in the local newspaper. This time it was for an aerial rigger-cum-window leader. The aerial rigging was by now second nature and so I applied to the local Co-operative shop's headquarters and as I was the first to apply, I got the job. I was to accompany a professional window leader as his assistant and he would be my assistant as a rigger. This way the Co-op would get two jobs done with less overheads, and I would be learning yet another trade.
The window leading was quite easy once I had done a few jobs. The designs were in transfers of all sizes ranging from sailing vessels through to sunsets, islands, animals or just patterns.
Blackpool, as I have previously mentioned, is a coastal town situated on the North-West coast of England. In the wintertime the winds would lash the coast with all the ferocity of a tropical cyclone. Consequently, the leading of the windows would help to protect them from shattering under the pressure. Usually the leading jobs were of the houses and hotels along Blackpool's famous 'Golden Mile,' an area of densely populated side-shows, fortune-tellers, hotels and plush houses.
This was a tiring time of my life as we were constantly finding ourselves involved in parties. The holidaymakers were only allowed two weeks of freedom a year and so they came with the intention of letting their hair down on every possible occasion. As Alf and I were so near to their bed after they had had a few drinks, we were very easy prey. About that time I wrote a poem about that sort of people:-
I don't want to conform to a normal life
Of work and worry and trouble and strife.
“Good morning Fred. How's the wife?”
Stand at bus stop, stamp the work clock,
Pack of sandwiches, flask of tea,
Oh no that's not for me.
Down to the local twice a week,
Hey you! I was first. You’ve got a cheek.
Join the normies playing darts
‘n don’t tell them you think they're a load of farts.
Home to bed now half past ten
Will it ever end and if so when?
About that time I met a regular girlfriend whose father owned one of the larger hotels along the seafront. My adopted brother Jimmy came to Blackpool and got a job as a tattooist's assistant and had a room above the shop in which to live. One day my girlfriend's mother arrived at our house and informed my mother that I and her daughter had to get married as her daughter was pregnant by me. Now I knew that my girlfriend also went with the holidaymakers regularly and I did not want to believe that it was I that would have to marry and settle down to that life and so I conspired with Jimmy and two other friends to visit the girl's mother and tell her that they were also her regular lovers. Needless to say I never again saw that girl although I believe that she married one of the boyfriends.
I decided to change jobs again and leave town for a while. I applied to a London-based company G.U.S. to work for them as a rigger, and was accepted. Once again I packed my bags and headed for the big city. I enjoyed the change but became frustrated by the slowness of the traffic. I was used to driving fast. I took a room in the suburbs of London in the area called Peckham Rye. At the weekend I used to go into the city and enjoy a completely different kind of nightlife.
Soho's first teenage club had opened. It was a small coffee bar / club called '2 I's' (sometimes known as the 'Two Eyes') with a cellar underneath. In the cellar they had built a small stage for entertainers. They had a small band called a 'Skiffle Group'. I remember a young pimply-headed boy by the name of Tommy Steele. It was there that he made his first public appearance. Other regulars included such names as Joe Brown, Marty Wilde, Screaming Lord Sutch and the Undertakers, Wee Willie Harris and many others. I began to smoke dope and became accustomed to experimenting with other fashionable drugs at that time. Meanwhile my life became more nocturnal. I began to miss days of work and after crashing the company's van I was once again dismissed.