Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
We landed safely at Heathrow and taxied to our allotted bay, the usual stampede ensued and as
usual I refused to join it, instead indulging in my usual practice of allowing the sheep to fight their
way off the plane, and as the mêlée continued I reviewed my plan.
I decided to eschew London for the moment and catch a train to Southampton and spend some time
with my parents. While there I'd buy an air ticket to Sydney, say goodbye to my friends and then
make my way to London. I toyed with the idea of spending a few days in the capital city first, but it
would have been putting the cart before the horse. Better a few days on the coast, then move back to
London to say farewell to friends and most important of all, spend the final few days with my
children. I was taking an enormous step, it was possible I might never see them again.
Well, what can I tell you? A few days with my mum and dad, as usual having nothing to say to each
other, I bade them goodbye and left. Mum seemed unconcerned that I intended to live permanently
on the other side of the world and I felt cheered by that, I supposed she was finally getting used to
the fact that her baby was never going to come home and settle down.
Heather and Pete Miles were still together and that in itself was encouraging, he was a great step-
father, the boys adored him and I knew they were in safe hands. However unbeknownst to me, by
this time Pete was working on the oil rigs and as usual, for some undisclosed reason Heather kept
this information from me. In point of fact I've since learned that he was operating a six week shift,
that is to say on the rig for six weeks, then six weeks at home, ad infinitum.
So, I was back in England, possibly for the last time and unaware that he was working away from
home I naturally assumed he was coming home every evening and therefore she was not free to
invite me to stay when the need to seduce my compliance arose. That too was encouraging, I was
quite happy to stay out of his domain. However, for reasons which still remain obscure to me, she
preferred me to believe that he was still there, which was a mistake on her part, because in effect it
reduced her power rather than increased it. As long as Pete was sharing her bed I would always
leave and go home, no matter what! Nevertheless I was also aware that if she shouted shit, I would
more than likely jump on the shovel even after all my bitter experience and although still enmeshed
in her web, I was not stupid and part of my 'great plan' was to frustrate this very common female
trait. Let's face it, nobody, not even Heather, would believe they could pick up a phone, make a call
to the other end of the world and expect the recipient to hop over to England for an inconvenient
day or two.
Since the day she'd asked me to leave her, I'd been around a bit, I'd been involved in some extensive
world travel, including the somewhat on and off, tours of Europe, during which I managed to
squeeze in visits my family and other loved ones. On these visits, Heather rarely missed an
opportunity to solicit my compliance and if sex didn't work, she'd indulge in the alternative ex-
wives melodrama, the perennial, “You'll do as I say or you'll never see your children again!” ploy.
More often than not, in common with estranged fathers all over the world, I would collapse under
the weight of this female tyranny and... she got her own way.
However, of late my thinking had changed, I knew that if I were to remove myself from her
influence entirely, that is to say, go to live permanently in Sydney, her power would be reduced to
nil, defused completely, in point of fact she would be unable to use my desire for her plus my desire
to spend time with my children against me.
In spite of whatever you may think, on recent business trips to the UK, my only real desire had been
to squeeze some time in with my children. In my book I was now in love with somebody else and so
was my ex-wife, indeed he was living with her and that was okay too. With a man in the house all
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
she had left to bargain with was the time allotted to me with my kids. However this time was very
important to me and she knew that and it remained a string to her bow, or rather an arrow in her
quiver. However my decision to move to the other end of the earth would leave her with no
bargaining power at all and this was a great comfort to me, strengthening my resolve.
The down-side was losing forever the joy of seeing my children grow up, however, life is often
unpalatable, sometimes it presents us with problems that have no satisfactory answer. Indeed
sometimes our worst problems have no answer at all but merely a stoic acceptance. I'd spent some
years agonising over this dilemma, finally consoling myself with the notion that my sons would
grow into adults and wishing to know the truth would one day seek me out of their own free will
and when I finally arrived at the fateful decision, I welcomed that day.
The deciding factor, that is to say the straw which broke the camel's back came one fateful morning
in Germany when my bedside phone rang and instead of Ronnie Harris ordering me to hot-foot it to
the nearest airport, it was Heather ordering me home. Although we'd been separated and divorced
for a number of years, she would still telephone me from time to time and attempt to coerce me into
dropping everything and fly to England. However it was not always possible, I had a job and
contracts to honour. I'm no longer able recall her exact reason on this particular occasion? I think it
was when she'd received an offer of a free holiday in Mexico (from a Mexican boyfriend of course)
and rang to insist that I fly to England and look after the children and it became a classic example of
female guile. When I explained I was busy and could not leave right at that very moment, she
snarled, “Get your arse over here Harrison. They're your kids too, you know!” Again it was
emotional blackmail but in complete contrast to the usual: “I will never allow you to see your kids
Well, I hadn't wanted to be separated from them in the first place so I was no longer to be taken in
by either ploy. In both cases she was viciously twisting the knife, however, at this point I was able to
remain friendly, willing to negotiate a time convenient to us both. I explained that it was not
possible to do as exactly as she wished right now, “I can't just leave here and fly to England today,
my love!” I explained, “Not at a moments notice!” At this she became incensed and vitriolic,
insisting I do as she say or else! Forced to argue the point, I remained calm, “Or else what” I
laughed, “I'm sorry, but I can't just give up my job every time you take a fanciful whim, I need at
least a few days noti...” “You don't call playing those fuckin' drums a job, do you?” she stormed,
and proceeded to scream a stream of invective down the phone. “Okay okay okay!” I cried, losing
my cool at last, “Calm down for fuck sake! Alright, I'll have a word with Ronnie Harris.” “Fuck
Ronnie Harris! You get your arse over here this instant or you'll never see your children again!” She
snorted, pulling out the old war-horse and reversing her tactics yet again. That was the straw that
broke the camel's back, now I really had the hump. “Yeah yeah yeah!” I snarled, “Look Heather, I've
heard your fuckin' bullshit a million times before and like I said, I'll have a word with Ronnie and
we'll see what we can arrange. Okay?” and I hung up on her.
The phone immediately rang again but I ignored it and when it stopped I phoned Ronnie. Needless
to say, he was not happy, “Sorry, I can't help you at the moment son, if you fuck off now don't
bovver coming back!” was the general gist of his reply.
Divorce is supposed to separate couples, setting them free from each other, however I could see
Heather perpetrating this misery onto me well into my dotage, indeed it was never going to end.
Sick to the depths of my soul with the entire affair, her action became a catalyst, crystallising my
thinking and strengthening my resolve.
Putting the phone down I summarised my position:
(1) Liz Cornish had left for the South Africa, however, if I were any judge of character she would be
leaving South Africa very soon after arriving and she would make her way to Australia.
(2) Pete Miles was a wonderful step-dad and therefore my kids were safe and happy.
(3) Heather was unobtainable and behaving like an arsehole, therefore with my carnal desires totally
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
unrequited and virtually extinguished. I had no reason to remain in Europe at all and thus the
decision to leave was made.
As I sat in the plane at Heathrow, waiting for the aisles to clear, I reaffirmed that decision, “Buy a
bloody ticket to Sydney, Arro! Piss off my old son, that'll put a stop to her nonsense once and for
The sheep having finally vacated the aircraft, I retrieved my suitcase and made my way into the
terminal. On production of my British Passport the immigration official waved me through, I
collected my drums from the carousel, piled them onto a trolley and wheeled it through customs and
there too, the officials showed no interest and unimpeded I walked out of the building to the first
cab on the rank.
The driver watched stoically as I stacked the drums in the luggage compartment. After strapping
them safely in place I climbed into the passenger compartment and flopped exhausted onto the seat.
The glass partition slid open. “Where to, guv?” he asked, “Waterloo.” I replied, “Yer too late for the
battle, you know that doncha?” he said, “No way!” I replied, “I gotta meet up with my ex-wife soon,
now that's what y' call a real battle!” He chuckled, “Tell me abaht it, son!” he commented bitterly
and closing the window joined the traffic on the road into the city.
Settling back comfortably and inhaling the aroma of the leather seats, I thought “It's great to be
back! Nowhere else in the world do you find the equivalent of a London cab driver.”
A similar wit once existed on the buses, before the powers that be stupidly did away with
conductors, that is. Male and female conductors alike effectively controlled the young louts, well,
back in my day they did. A bus driver cannot be expected to leave the wheel every time there's a
need to referee a violent bout, can he? But enough of this present day gloom, as the taxi wended it's
way towards the railway station I fondly recalled some of my favourites bus conductor quips:
Me: “Do you go past Lords, mate?”
Cond: “We go past anybody if we're full up, mate!”
Me: “A return ticket to the Museum please?”
Cond: “Fink they're gonna let you out then, Grandad?”
Cond: “Sorry, we're full up, mate!”
Me: “Okay, how long will the next bus be?”
Cond: “Fifty four feet, six and 'alf bleedin' inches, same as this one, son!” Ding Ding.
I smiled dourly “That's all gone now,” I thought glumly, “finished! There are no conductors any
more, their lovely wit has gone forever, plus, you take your life in your bleedin, hands when you
board a public service vehicle nowadays. I recalled being viciously attacked on the underground
because a lout had tripped over my suitcase, although I had as much right to be there as he did.
“What other joys have disappeared?” I wondered, Trams! They're all gone now. They were
wonderful too! another victim of a huge environmental error. Some bureaucratic fuckwit public
servants should be accountable, they should be made to answer for crimes against their masters, the
These dark thoughts idled through my mind as we drove across the Hammersmith flyover, catching
a tiny glimpse of the building that had once housed 'Berkey Tech (UK) Limited' and memories came
flooding back as I recalled Peter Neilson sending me (along with an Australian Engineer whose
name I can no longer recall, I think it was Alexander?) to install the Berkey Animation Camera in
Canadian animation genius Dick Williams' London film-studios. “Wow! It feels like a thousand
years ago now! I thought, “Shit, I wonder if Dick is still a band-leader?” his trombonist Bill Hayles
became available during the formation of Doug Richford's London Jazzmen. (One of Williams'
musicians had died and felled by sorrow, he disbanded and Bill joined us..(and I'm afraid I don't
remember the name of the man who died now either?)
I also recalled Peter Nielson introducing into England the first machines that made reproduction of
colour photographs in newspapers possible. Common as muck nowadays of course! The same
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
Australian engineer assisted again by myself assembled it in the reception foyer, close to young
Susan's desk. Uncharacteristically, he was anorexic in appearance, the Australian engineer I mean.
Six foot tall, he was a parchment covered skeleton, a vegetarian and a health food fanatic, his
mother was exactly the same, in fact one supposes it was she who had encouraged him to starve
himself in the first place. As we passed the building I wondered if they were still alive and if so,
where were they now? And musing thus, my journey into the city seemed over before it had began.
The driver's cockney voice broke in on my reverie. “Ere ya go then, guv, Waterloo Station! Best of
luck wiv yer missus, an' all that!” “Thanks a lot,” I replied grinning, “I'll need all the luck I can get.
It's my ex-missus actually, but she stills screws me around from time to time.” “I know exactly
wotcher mean, guv. Bloody women! They never let up do they?” “”Fuckin' right they don't!” I said
ruefully as I payed him off.
Then removing my drums from his luggage rack I stacked them near the platform gate, so's I could
keep an eye on them while I bought my ticket. I'd contemplated leaving them in a coin operated,
'Left Luggage' container on the station, seeing as there was little point in schlepping them all the
way to Southampton and back. However, for some weird unfathomable reason I changed my mind
at the last minute and took them with me. One supposes I was nurturing a faint hope that either Cole
Mathieson or Bob Champion would squeeze me into a gig or two at their respective venues, because
despite my trials and tribulations and possibly because of them, I really desperately needed to play
some jazz right at this moment.
I bought my ticket, loaded the drum's into the 'Baggage car' and flopped into a seat further along the
train. The hour long trip was uneventful, I smiled as I amused myself recalling far more exciting
journeys. A picture of Toni Goffe's effective method of saving a compartment for us when the Doug
Richford band was travelling by rail, sprang to mind: Toni would rush along the platform until he
found an empty compartment, then getting in, he'd close the door behind him people spotting the
empty seats looked relieved and at this point he'd become a slobbering retard. Wild eyed, he'd spit
on the window and twitching violently, his nose squashed against the glass, slack blubbery mouth
squashed flat, he'd lick the saliva from the glass as it ran down the grubby window. It reminded me
of actor Charles Laughton's portrayal of Quasimodo, or the same actor playing the lead in 'I
Claudius' (a movie that was never completed by the way, due I believe to a large number of deaths
among the cast during the shooting). Back on the train, people gazed in horror at Toni's ghastly
portrayal then ran past the compartment continuing their search for seats. Of course seconds later
we, (the rest of the band) came ambling along the corridor and piling in with our saviour, we
enjoyed our journey in comfortable privacy.
However, the only thing which distinguished my current trip was the self denigrating amusement I
experienced when crossing the county border from Surrey into Hampshire, suddenly everything
seemed greener, more verdant, the grass, the leaves, even moss growing on tree-trunks seemed
greener, everything seemed more luxuriant.
I realised then that the subconscious umbilical cord which links us to our birthplace is never truly
severed. No matter where we go or how long we stay away, our birthplace always seems to be the
loveliest place on earth. As I stared at the verdant beauty, I knew it wasn't true, but I also knew from
experience that all people, folk from every nationality and from every walk of life felt exactly the
same way. Even those from the unforgiving ghettos of the poorest parts of Africa or New York felt
a powerful desire to return to 'the world' as they called it. Starving hordes from the Earth's harshest,
inhospitable parts firmly believed there was no place like home, even an Eskimo wouldn't leave his
'little icy hut for you-hoo-hoo' or for anyone else for that matter!
Whatever our conscious thoughts on a subject, our subconscious feelings often tell a different story,
I was leaving all this to begin a new life in another very beautiful place but my feelings were not
happy ones. I loved this place too and felt that fate was forcing me out and in spite of it being my
own decision, it was very much against my will.
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
I arrived at my parents home to find they were exactly the same, it was as if I'd never been away,
Dad opened the door and let me in, producing the inevitable pot of tea and some biscuits. Mum,
after writing to tell me how desperate she was to see me, slumped snoozing in her usual seat, “It's
Ken, Gert!” yelled my dad and she opened her eyes, “Hello Ken.” she said and dozed off again,
even before I could reply. I kiss her on the forehead, and sat down.
You've read all this before Right? And I had experienced it all before, over and over again, ad
infinitum. I tried chatting to them for an hour, but it was bloody hard work and after a what I
deemed a decent interval I gave up and walked into town to purchase my aeroplane ticket.
I can never do anything without it going awry, It's either slightly awry or a major Cecil B De-Mille
awry, but either way no matter what I do and in spite of what precautions I take, something will go
“What a load of bollocks, Harrison!” I hear you crying, “It's all in your head! All yer own fault!”
and I disagree, 'Arrison's law' does exist and this book is about 'Arrison's Law. Similar to Murphy's
Law but with a uniquely cruel twist and always with a trick ending. It's about ordinary things going
wrong and having a real nasty twist to them. e.g. like buying a really nice Japanese teapot on my last
visit to Tokyo and on getting it home finding there were no holes in the spout! Well I couldn't take it
back could I? I'll never go back! I still have it, an African violet grows in it now. Another example:
Stealing an electric kettle from a well known department store only to find on getting it home that it
leaked. Well I couldn't take that back either! I had no sales docket and was no position to complain.
Like running away to sea to avoid a husband only to find myself sharing a cabin with the man. And
I needn't have worried about it in the first place, because when finally I blurted out the truth, he
didn't care! And like buying an air-ticket to Sydney, which is what I did next. “Well so what?”
you're saying, “No big deal, what can go wrong with that?” and I agree, what could possibly go
wrong with that?
I took a long last walk from my parent's home into the city. Well it wasn't so far and besides, it was
the last time I would ever do so and I wanted to walk my old familiar paths, “Take the pretty route,
Arro.” I added sardonically.
Somewhere near the 'Old Dock Gates', close to the 'Seamen's Tailors and outfitters' that I myself had
used in years gone by, I stumbled on a small privately owned Travel Agency and that was good
enough for me, I entered, smiled at the girl and bought an air-ticket to Sydney. It felt really good, at
last I'd made the right decision.
Two days later a police report was broadcast on the radio, in which the announcer informed
members of the public that a number of plane tickets had been stolen. (I can't recall the exact serial
numbers now of course, but they ranged from something like BF 327500 to BF 327585. The voice
continued: “Police are asking anyone purchasing any of these tickets to take them to your nearest
Police Station immediately.
You've guessed haven't you? Your right! One of the buggers was mine! My one thought was, “Fuck
the police! I gotta get to that crooked bastard before they do! If they arrest him or he leaves town
before I get to him I'll never see my money and I gotta move fast, I don't have a lot of time!” and
hailing a cab I rushed to the agency and slammed into his office.
Waving my ticket under his nose, I snarled, “This is stolen property ya slimy bastard!” then quickly
I held it behind my back and reversed towards the door, “There are radio-messages going to air at
this very moment asking for the public's assistance in tracking down the thief, police are instructing
people to take their tickets to their nearest police station. But I've a much better idea, you give me
my money back and I'll just piss off out of your way. Okay? How does that suit ya? Either that or I'll
be the first bastard in line at the cop shop. Whadaya say?”
He didn't say anything! Without batting an eyelid he removed a wad of bank notes from his
briefcase and refunded my cash. Throwing the useless ticket onto his desk I walked out, figuring I'd
arrived in the nick of time, obviously he was about to scarper, otherwise the cash would have been
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
in the till.
I put a phone call through to Jan Stewart and broke the news, she laughed uproariously, “Fuckin'
typical 'Arrison, That's you all over, ennit! Why d' you always fuck things up?” I bridled violently,
“Me fuck things up?” I exclaimed, “I didn't steal the bloody ticket did I! I bought it in a perfectly
normal way in a perfectly normal travel agency, fer fuck sake! Well it looked normal when I went
in.” I added, ruefully. “Yeah yeah yeah!” she cried, “You're fuckin 'opeless, mate. So what now
then?” “Well,” I said, “it's a pain in the arse, but I'll hafta buy another one won't I? it'll delay my
departure for a few days that's all.”
She agreed it was but a small hiccup, then adopting her posh ER II accent, added, “Yore friend, Elex
Enderson, epperently miffed at my marrying a colonial, has gorn awf to settle in Orstriliah, Sydney,
to be precise.” “He's done what?” I exclaimed incredulously, “I don't believe you!” “Well it's true,
dear!” she replied, “He's living in Manly. It would appear 'Drake Overload' and the 'Antipodes' have
replaced 'Algiers' and the 'French Foreign Legion' in mending the English love-lorn male's broken
hearts. They're leaving our green and pleasant land in droves, dear boy vowing never to return, to
live forever in the sun drenched utopia of Orstriliah! I'm fucked if I know what's the matter with all
of you?” She ended tartly and I laughed, “You've hit the nail right on the head as a matter of fact!” I
retorted, “Fucking you lot and then falling in love with you is what's the matter with us!” “Oh is that
all it is?” she replied, “Well as you're pissing off there as well, while we're on the subject, what do
you intend to do about your child? I'm five years pregnant by you, you know and it's due at any
moment!” “Phone me when your water breaks” I sniggered, “and I'll swim back in time for the
She gave me Alex's Sydney number and of course I rang him. He was ecstatic at my decision and
we had a long friendly chat. He informed me that he was the 'Big Boss' of Drake Personnel in
Sydney, so he was in a position to have a nice day gig waiting for me the moment I arrived. That
came as a relief, at least I would have an instant income while I made contact with the Sydney
musical fraternity. He also informed me that he was living in a lovely ground-floor flat at Number
One, Quinton Road, Manly, “We got the entire ground floor cock, so there's a bed and a job here for
you here when you get here.” he chortled, “Let me know your flight number and arrival details and
I'll pick you up at the airport. Oh by the way, I've also got an enormous Holden Station-wagon, so
you've got wheels. I don't drive into the city, I use the ferry, unless I've got a musical gig of course,
which ain't often, so the car sits outside the flat all day.”
My situation was getting better and better with every passing second, “Thanks mate,” I said, “This is
wonderful news. I'll be there in... what? About a week from now I guess, providing nothing else
goes wrong.” I heard him chuckle, “Yeah, I heard it on the grapevine,” he sang, “about your ticket
being dodgy I mean, but it's unlikely your second ticket will be the same, eh mush?” I laughed with
him, “I wouldn't be too sure of that!” I said wearily and warily, “God only knows, mate! But I'll be a
lot more careful the next time, though precisely how still eludes me? Buy my ticket directly from
the airline when I arrive at the airport, I s'pose.” He agreed, and said he didn't know either and
wishing me the best of luck, rang off.
I visited Hugh Collyns to inform him of my decision and he was very unhappy about it, but then he
was unhappy about everything. I was concerned about him, he was medically depressed and I felt
his depression as if it were my own. “Look, mate,” I said, “this entire shit-fight is about love gone
wrong, right? Your's, mine, Alex Anderson's, we've all been dragged screaming through the fire, but
soon I'll be residing in the Anderson Shelter situated at his seaside resort in Manly. You, my friend,
are in exactly the same boat, why don't you come with me?” “But I like it here!” he exclaimed
angrily, bristling with indignation and pointing at the ground beneath his feet. He was affronted by
my mere suggestion and laid great stress on his last emphatic word.
Hugh Barnett Collyns was an aristocrat, admittedly a lower-runged aristocrat, about a hundred and
thirty something in line for the throne as he once described himself but now we were talking about
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
leaving his country, his England, his sceptred isle, land of hope and glory, “and don't you fucking
well forget it Harrison!”and so saying he closed off any further discussion.
He then suggested something that even I'd not considered, “Put your drums in my car, my dear chap,
I'll send them to Australia for you tomorrow morning via the generous auspices of one, Terry A.
Brooks, esquire and his Seven Seas Shipping Company. It'll take a few weeks for them to arrive, but
if we do it now it will cost you nothing and they'll be waiting for you in the Custom's 'Bonded Store'
when you arrive.” he grinned, That is unless you get there first of course, in which case they'll turn
up soon after you arrive and Maj's Customs and Excise chaps will contact you and ask you to collect
them.” He always referred to ER2 as Maj, using it as though it were her first name.
“Why not address them to me, care of Alex Anderson, Number One, Quinton Road, Manly, NSW
2097. Australia?” I suggested, “that's were I'm heading and that'll be my address when I get there.”
Hooking his thumbs into his waistcoat armholes and rocking back and forth like a policeman, he
agreed. “Sound thinking, my dear fellow! As good as done, mush!” he replied and another of his
quirks surfaced, almost in mid-sentence his accent had crossed from public-school to a curious and
very personalised 'ampshire patois.
As instructed, I loaded the now 'Royal Stewart tartan' drum-kit into his car, except for the Oyster
blue snare-drum which for some last minute reason, I decided to take with me as hand luggage, I
can't imagine why? It was in a small circular hand-held case and looked more like a hat box than a
drum. However for some reason I kept it with me and the rest of the kit was dispatched the very
The following Sunday morning I went with Hugh to the mid-day session at 'The Great Harry at
Warsash, where they 'as the jazz an' that.' and in the band was new face, well new to me
anyway. It belonged to Bobby Fox, a native Southamptonian, a trombone player who I had never
personally met and didn't know. However he knew me, because when the set ended he jumped off
stage and walked straight to me, “Christ Almighty!” he exclaimed, “Kenny bloody 'Arrison! I'm
Bobby Fox. What're you doin' 'ere?” He was my own height and slightly overweight, a charming,
jovial bucolic little man with a broad west country accent. I told him exactly why I was there and
that I was on route to Sydney and in exchange he related his own history, explaining that he too was
on a rare flying visit to Southampton and was catching the train home that very afternoon.
Slightly younger than myself he'd appeared on the South coast jazz scene soon after I'd disappeared,
then he too left, joining The Rod Mason Band in Plymouth. “Fuck Sydney, mush,” he said, “Come
to Plymouth with me, we need you down there!” “How come?” I asked, “What's Plymouth got that
Sydney hasn't?” He grinned and took a swig from his pint, “Well, it hasn't got a decent drummer fer
a start!” he laughed. But loife's full of little surprises, eh mush?” he replied, “Acker waved some
money under Rod's Mason's nose and he left us to join the Paramount Jazz band.” I nodded,
“Resulting in the usual turmoil, eh? Musical chairs, is it?” I asked and he giggled, “Come with me
and you could slip in unnoticed.” he said. I laughed with him, “Yeah, I know what you mean,” I
said, “y' hafta to grab these chances as they pass 'cos the bastards don't come by twice!”
I've explained how 'Musical Chairs' works in a previous chapter. In a limited society, after the initial
splash, the ripples spread, so that whenever someone drops out, inevitably everyone moves round
one place, therefore, Metaphorically speaking, when Rod Mason moved to Acker Bilk's band, the
traditional style trumpet players took a step sideways. As a result Roy Pellet, the incumbent clarinet
player became the reluctant band-leader and this caused even more ripples, culminating in more
guys leaving for whatever reason, a personal dislike or a grievance they may have had. Two of these
people were the drummer and the bass player. “Fuck Roy Pellet, I ain't working fer 'im!” was the
general gist. “Fuck Australia,” Bobby's voice echoed, breaking in on my thoughts, “Whadja wanna
go there for anyway? Come to Plymouth fer fuck sake! Join our band, mate, it's gonna to be a really
great band when it settles down, specially with you on drums!” I laughed, “Yeah yeah yeah, Bob!” I
sneered, “Save yer bullshit, mate! I can't come to Plymouth. For a start, Collyns here has already
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
sent my drums to Sydney by sea.” “Bollocks! So what?” replied Fox, “Buy some more and come to
Plymouth!” “Oh do piss off, man!” I cried, “Talk bloody sense, for Christ's sake!” Throwing back
his head he poured the remainder of his beer down his gullet and banging the empty glass onto the
counter, he said, “I gotta rush, mush. Here's my telephone number, call me in the morning!” “Fuck
off, yah dopey cunt!” I grinned, “I don't want your phone number, Bob! I'm never gonna call you!”
Closing one eye, he tapped the side of his nose knowingly, “We'll see.” he said confidently and
chuckling mysteriously to himself he walked out.
I thought it all a bit weird and turned back to the counter. Champion was behind the bar and he'd
refilled my glass. “Bit strange that one, ain't he?” I said, “What's the story on him then?” I waved
the piece of paper, “He insisted on giving me his bloody phone number!” “He's Bobby Fox, a
trombonist!” replied Champion, What else can we tell you?” “Well wassamatter with him?” I asked,
“Is he... you know, some kind of nutter or summink?” “Nah,” said Bob, “I'll agree he's a funny little
bloke, but he's okay. I believe one of his birds is a witch, or she claim to be. A white witch
apparently.” “Oh right, well that accounts for it then!” I sneered becoming even more sceptical,
“And between 'em they can peer into the future can they?” “Y' never know, mush.” grinned Champ,
“Who gives a shit anyway? I'd keep his telephone number though, if I was you, you never know
when you might need to cast a spell over someone.” “Always got a fuckin smart answer, aincha!” I
laughed and his expression changed, “Well, that's enough fairy stories fer now.” he grinned, “To
business! Come here again this evening and have a blow with the local band, then Collyns can get
as pissed as he likes and you can drive him home. It'll be just like the old days.” he added and I
laughed, “Good idea!” I said, “I was thinking about it anyway. I need a blow, some jazz would be
very therapeutic right now.” “Well that's settled then!” replied Bob, I want you here because Nat
Gonella has just come out of hospital and Dorothy rang to ask me if I could reserve a table for 'em, I
mentioned you were in town and she said they would love to see you.”
I was surprised at the news, “I didn't know he'd been in hospital!” I said, “What's been the matter
with him?” “Had massive heart attack.” replied Collyns, “Actually they let him out a few weeks
back, but he's been 'confined to barracks' so to speak. However, tonight Dorothy's letting him off the
leash.” “Givin' 'im a bit more rope, y' mean!” growled Champion with typical chauvinist cynicism.
Personally I was overjoyed, my chance visit coincided with Nat's first night on the town after being
hospitalised, plus I was going to get a little blow! “Right,” I said, “you've got me, that's it then, I'll
be here with knobs on!” “It's alright Bob,” muttered Collyns, “he was coming anyway, I'd already
made my mind up!” “Prick!” I murmured from the side of my mouth, That remark is gonna cost
you.” and swallowing the remainder of my beer I replaced my glass on the counter and waited.
Grinning, Collyns bade Champion to fill it
That evening Hugh drove to the pub and of course on arriving I walked straight over to Nat's table,
after the usual hellos, handshakes and a kiss on the cheek from Dorothy, she sat me down and said
they had only just heard my news, “Sod my news!” I said, “I've only just heard yours! What
happened, mate? Are you okay?” He smiled and nodded, “Not too bad, under the circumstances.” he
replied, sounding more subdued than I'd ever heard him. “Can you still play?” I asked, “We're about
to find out aren't we.” he grinned.
Cuff Billet was the trumpeter in the band and as Nat and I stepped onto the stage Cuff made as if to
leave, “Whoa!” cried Gonella, laying a restraining hand on his arm, “Don't go! Stay with me.” It
was an order and Cuff raised his eyebrows. Nat smiled as only someone who has stared death in the
face can, “You never know, cock, I might not finish the song!” he chuckled, “Don't be daft,” replied
Cuff, “of course you will!” “I'd still prefer to have you standing beside me.” said Nat, pointing an
emphatic finger at a spot on the floor. Cuff grinned and stayed.
It was a great band. Well let's face it, with trumpeters Nat Gonella and Cuff Billett accompanied by
pianist Monty Warlock, clarinetist Teddy Layton and me on drums it couldn't be all that bad! And
that's to name only some of us! I think Mike Blakesley was on trombone, but I cannot recall the bass
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player's name. He was a new boy on the block, a good player though. I remember he arrived in a
brand new Saab, swore by 'em, claimed he'd never bought anything else.
During the evening's celebrations, naturally Bob and Hugh came over to the stage and asked Nat if,
at this early stage in his recovery, he felt he could play for an entire evening. “You know, Like if we
give you a date could you do a gig?” added Collyns, “Only if I can have these blokes with me!”
replied Nat. The entrepreneurs eyed us pointedly, “Of course!” everybody confirmed their keenness,
“Right, that's great news, I'll let you know the date before the night's over.” said Champion and he
retired behind the bar to work out a way to fit us into his busy calendar.
We did a couple more songs, then Nat went back to Dorothy and I went to the bar for beer. I was
just about to take a swig when an unfamiliar voice broke in on my reverie. “Lovely playing, Ken, as
usual.” he added, grinning, “I've always admired your playing, I was going to come to you for
lessons years ago but you left town.” It was my turn to grin, “It was nothing personal, mate.” I
replied, he laughed and sipped his scotch, “I realise that, mush.” he said, comfortably. I'd glanced at
him when we shook hands and had noted his extremely expensively clothing, “It doesn't matter now
anyway, I went into business on my own shortly afterwards, I bought a garage, you know, a Service
Station - Motor Repair Workshop.” he sighed and took another sip, I haven't had time to breathe
since I bought the bloody place, never mind have bleedin' music lessons.” Then his face brightened,
“I heard you were gonna be playing here tonight and I didn't wanna miss that.” I smiled, “Thanks
very much,” I said. “It was great fun, I enjoyed it. And I know what you mean,” I added, “running a
business can be a full time job, eh!” “Bloody right!” he exclaimed glumly, missing the joke and
downing his scotch, “I've never touched the drums from that day to this. I've still got the buggers
though, never been touched, they're in the cupboard under the stairs.” My eyebrows rose, “Really?
What a waste!” I said, no longer interested, but continuing to chat out of good manners, “Yeah, it's a
full Premier kit minus the 2000 snare drum,” he mused, “I sold that years ago when I was strapped
for cash.”. He was ruminating now, as if talking to himself, “It's a shame really, they've been lying
there untouched ever since the day I bought 'em, never been out of their cases. Life's bloody
amazing' ennit?” His eyes cleared and straightening his shoulders he returned to the present, “If you
know anybody who's interested, I'd let 'em go for sixty quid, hard cases and all!”
The moment he named his price my ears shot out like antennae. After a lightning assessment and
knowing that a full set of Premier hard cases alone at current retail prices would cost o lot more than
sixty quid suddenly I was interested.. “And that's without drums in 'em!” I thought, “Bloody hell,
'Arro! The bass-drum case alone was worth almost that amount!” It was too good to miss.
Bobby Fox's eerie chuckle echoed inside my head, “I might be interested.” I replied guardedly. The
man's face brighten considerably, as grabbing a bar-coaster I scribbled my parent's address on it and
handing it to him said, “I'm staying at this address for a few days, Bring the drums there tomorrow
morning and I'll have a look at 'em.” Glancing at the address he jammed it into a pocket, “Right,” he
said, “I'll be there! Eleven o'clock sharp, okay? I gotta pop into my office so I'll drop 'em in on the
way. Is eleven o'clock, alright?” he added and I nodded. “Se ya tomorrow then.” he grinned and we
The following morning at eleven o'clock precisely, there was a knock on the door, I opened it,
expecting to walk downstairs to his car to view the merchandise, but he was a car salesman, he'd
pre-empted me by carrying the entire kit upstairs and depositing them outside the door. This was
before knocking, mark you. As soon as I opened the door he marched some of them inside.
Ushered my mother into the kitchen and closing the door, my dad left me to face the intruder, who
by this time was bringing the next set of cases inside.
Hopping sideways out of his road I was immediately on my guard, “Typical fuckin' businessman,” I
thought, “Once a car-salesman, always a car-salesman, and the bastard's got more than a toe in the
door, to boot!” and that was an understatement, he had a whole drum-kit in, the bastard was
notching up points all over the place! “Trying to intimidate me are you?” I thought nastily, “Pitching
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the old softener; “You wouldn't have me carry these drums all the way up here and then have me
carry them down again would you?” routine. “Well yes I fucking well would!” I snarled silently,
“And I will too if I don't like the look of 'em!” and I argued thus as I watched him struggle through
the door, “and I won't help you carry the bastards in neither, nor back down again!” I added nastily.
I allowed him to carry the entire kit into the flat without offering assistance, however once he had
them inside, I helped remove the lids. Before lifting a single drum from it's case I knew the deal was
done, as he'd described, each drum was pristine, having remained untouched inside it's womb since
the day it was purchased. Not even a patina of dust marred their surfaces, which incidentally was
Blue Oyster, the same colour and design as the Premier 2000 Snare Drum that Richard Minns had
presented me with some years before (and which for no fathomable reason I had decided not to send
to Australia). I was gobsmacked,,my snare drum could even conceivably have been the original, the
one this man had sold on buying his Auto-servicing business. I was looking at the matching set!
Again Bobby Fox's eerie chuckle echoed inside my head, it was weird, it all seemed too cut and
dried, all too pre-destined. Nevertheless the signals could not be ignored and taking my wallet from
my pocket I payed him the sixty pounds.
Instructing him to leave the drums as they were, I opened the door and showed him out, “I'll come
with you if I may?” I said, “I'll cadge a lift to a nearby telephone-kiosk, This changes my immediate
plans and calls for a very urgent phone call. Is that alright?” Sure!” he grinned, pocketing the
money, “Be my guest! It's been a pleasure doing business with you, sir and I'm really pleased that
my drums have ended up in your hands.” Laughing, I bowed a mock bow, “Thank you ,sir,” I
grinned, “and by a chance in a hundred million I should think, 'cos I believe I own the 2000 Premier
snare-drum that came with it. I got it from Richard Minns.” He laughed and agreed it could be the
very one. I called to my mum and dad, who were still in the kitchen, “I'm going out to make a
phone-call, I'm sorry about the mess, I'll clear it up when I get back, Okay!” and I followed the guy
out to his car.
Bobby Fox hooted with laughter the moment he heard my voice, See! I knew you'd change you
mind, mush!” he chortled and I felt myself bridle, “How could you possibly know I've changed my
fuckin' mind?” I snarled really miffed at his presumptuous evaluation, “Oh I knows all roight!” he
sniggered, “Fox by name fox by nature, know-wot-I-mean?” he chucked again and I imagined him
tapping the side of his nose. “I'll Phone Roy and tell him I've hired you, he'll be knocked out! How
soon can you get to Plymouth? You'll have to live here y' know, we're busy and we work mostly
here and in the far west so you can't commute!” “Hang on, hang on, hang on! I haven't said I'm
joining yer band yet!” I snorted, “You wouldn't be wasting your time and money on this phone call
if you weren't!” he retorted tartly and laughing aloud. I capitulated, “All right Bob, so you won the
little guessing game, okay? When do you want me to start?” “How about tonight?” he chuckled,
“Wait a minute though, what are you gonna do about drums?” “Well! You're the clairvoyant,” I
snapped, “You tell me!” I paused and he waited, “Okay,” I said, I've bought a new Premier kit
haven't I! I've got 'em here with me now.” I was telling the tiniest of white lies but it didn't matter,
they were only a couple of hundred yards away.
This time he screamed with laughter, “Shit, you don't waste time do you, how did you manage that
then?” “I'm a fuckin' professional ain't I! Know wot I mean?” I snarled, echoing his own words
sarcastically and tapping the side of my nose, he laughed again and I relented, “It's a long and
curious tale, Bob, I'll relate it to you over a pint of Plymouth's best when I see you.” “Good idea,
son! And when's that then?” “Hold yer horses mate, there are a few points I want to clear up first.” I
exclaimed, “First, is there somewhere organised for me to stay? I'll need a roof over my head when I
arrive? I don't intend to waste time schleppin' from one real-estate agent to the next looking for a
bloody room!” “Don't worry, son,” he replied, “our trumpet player Des and his wife have a spare
room you can use. I'll tell Roy to let Des and his missus know you're moving in when I s...” “Whoa
whoa whoa!” I interrupted, “Jesus Christ, Bobby! We haven't talked about money yet. How do I
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
know I can afford all this?” “Of course you can!” he sniggered, “Stop worrying, mush, the band is
very busy and the accommodation won't cost ya much. Mind you it ain't worth much, I'd better warn
you, it's not crash hot and it certainly ain't organised, if you take my point, Des's missus is a fat lazy
slut, never cleans the place, but it'll do yer 'til you find something better. There won't be a problem,
they need the money badly and they won't bother you, not for the short time you'll be there.” he
added the last comment sardonically and chuckled knowingly again. “Okay Bob, I give up, you've
got me, Tell Roy I am on the payroll from the day I arrive in Plymouth, but I can't make it tonight,
mate. Give me a few days, maybe even a week, there's a gig I wanna do, it's Nat Gonella's debut
after his heart attack and he's asked for me to play the drums and I really want to do it. I also wanna
visit my children in Crystal Palace. Then I'll travel to Plymouth by train from London when it's all
over and done with, okay?” Okay!” he replied, “We'll see yah when y' get here then!” I could hear
him chortling happily to himself as he hung up the phone.
Returning my hand-set to it's cradle, I set off back towards my parent's place. As I wandered along
the road I wondered at the sudden uninvited and unexpected changes, ”So, It's bloody Plymouth
now, eh? I muttered to my Gremlin, “This should be interesting, I've never been to Plymouth and
there's a regular gig plus accommodation waiting for me when I get there. Shit! That's not bad for a
sudden stroke of bleedin' fate, eh? One cannot help but wonder what you've got up your sleeve this
time?” There was no reply of course.
I confess I felt uneasy about Bobby's semi-veiled warnings re: the accommodation. I had to admit
that if he he was correct and I couldn't tolerate it, I would be out of there like a greyhound out of the
trap. However, as it happens, when the time came I didn't decide to leave at all, that decision was
also made for me.
Nat Gonella was great! He didn't drop dead in the middle of a song and Cuff Billett was on hand
just in case he did. The bugger played as well as ever and being the old trouper that he was he used
his head, doing a lot more comedy and singing far more songs than he actually played on, so Cuff
Billett also had plenty to do.
As a result, during the interval Bob Champion made a joke about Cuff having to play two trumpet
parts and on stage a few minutes later, Cuff picked up Nat's horn and played both instruments
simultaneously and I mean at the same time, not by swapping fours with himself like Clarke Terry
does, but by blowing both horns at the same time, with two separate embouchures, one on either
side of his mouth and he harmonised with himself to boot! It would have been a difficult trick when
sober but normally Cuff only attempted it when he was really totally pissed, so I suppose in this case
you could say it was doubly difficult.
The next day I had to phone all my friends and inform them of the latest change in my plans, much
to their amusement, may I add. “See, I told you! You're fuckin' 'opeless 'Arrison!” laughed Jan
Stewart, (nee Holloway). “You'd better stay with me, nip. Course you might have to rush me to the
maternity-ward while yer 'ere!” she added, “Right, I'll buy a bunch of roses at the station.” I said and
I hung up.
I farewelled Mum and Dad and caught a train to London to visit my kids and of course, Heather and
Pete too. Over dinner I explained the latest trick my gremlins had pulled on me and that I was off to
Plymouth on another wild adventure. To amuse the children I embellished the story, explaining that
I felt like a little tank engine who, desperate to pull into a nice quiet siding, continually found
himself shunted back onto the main-line, racing alongside the big huffing, puffing express trains.
They were delighted with my story and so too of course were Heather and Pete. They were also
pleased to learn I was moving permanently to the west country, their own part of the world in fact.
Heather even went so far as to hope I would visit George and Evelyn Steel, her parents, but I
couldn't guarantee that. I felt I'd failed them in some way, I don't think they saw it in that light, but I
did and therefore found it difficult to face them. I often wish I had visited them, they were always
very kind to me and I knew that neither of them nurtured any filial illusions, both were aware of
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
what had really transpired between their recalcitrant daughter and myself. Indeed until her recent
death in 1998, Evelyn often phoned Australia to speak with my son Karle and she always asked to
be remembered to me. They were very nice people. Ted Lynton recently opined that perhaps
George, a sergeant in the Scots Guards may have been a bit rough on his three daughters regards
discipline, but I never saw any evidence of that, he was no different than other 'normal' dads. Both
of them are gone now and I'm bitterly sorry that I never kept in touch. It's another unresolved regret.
Heather asked me to stay the night and I gratefully accepted.
The next morning Karle and Mark came bounding into the lounge-room, I was fast asleep on the
bed-settee of course and sibling rivalry being what it is they began crashing around shouting angrily
at each other and of course eventually it woke me up. “Oi!” I cried, “You know the rules, daddy
works late, so you don't wake him up early in the morning!” It was then that Karle made a tactical
error, swaggering over to the bedside and peering over the sheets, he glared belligerently into my
eyes, “We don't have to take any notice of you,” he sneered truculently, “you don't live here any
more!” My hand shot from under the bed clothes and slapped him hard across the face. “I'm still
your father though!” I snapped, “And don't you bloody forget it!” There was a sharp intake of
breath, followed by a few seconds of shocked silence, then bursting into tears, he rushed out of the
room and upstairs to his mother.
“What's the matter with you?” I heard her ask, “Daddy just hit me in the face!” he blubbed, “Well
you must have deserved it, Daddy would never hit you otherwise. Now go downstairs and behave
yourself!” she replied. “Good on ya darling.” I thought, “Exactly the right answer!” In spite of her
many frailties she was always an excellent mother.
Five minutes later he was at my bedside, “Here you are dad,” he said, “I've brought you a nice cup
of tea and the morning paper.” I smiled and took them from him “Thank you, my darling,” I replied,
“that's wonderful!” I put them on the coffee table and as I did so he climbed into bed and snuggled
close. I received him warmly and we had a nice cuddle. Ten minutes later he left my bed reassured
and happy an none the worse for the experience, better for it in fact, that was what the whole shit-
fight had been about from the beginning, he needed to be reassured that I was still his dad and could
still be trusted to react in the proper way.
Homo-sapiens is a mammal and like it or not must obey the same rules as other mammals. Cubs,
kittens and indeed chicks do not appreciate weak untrustworthy parents, if they cannot trust their
parents by word or deed, if their parents are not seen to be strong, powerful and in control, children
feel insecure. They need to know their guardians are providing a safe haven and providing the hard
lessons life requires. They need to know where they stand and they will push parents to the very
edge, in order to assure themselves that the status quo is being maintained. Children need strong
reigns, it is vitally important when we are young and parents who crack under the strain or back
down under pressure are not doing their children any favours.
Later that day I left Karle and his brother in the care of their step-father and stayed with Brenda for a
couple of days, after which I went to stay with Jan. It was her who brought up the subject of her
disastrous marriage to Vic Stewart and said she hadn't the faintest clue why she and he had married
in the first place. “You mustn't blame yourself my darling!” she added hastily, “It wasn't panic at the
thought of being pregnant with your child!” “Thank God for that!” I replied, “It's been keeping me
awake for years!” she reacted as though she'd missed the joke, “No, I dunno why I did it?” she
mused as if to herself, “But then, Vic doesn't know why he did it either, so I guess that makes us
even!” “In my experience, my darling,” I replied, “marriage is easier to get into than out of.” I patted
her tummy “Are you sure you're okay?” She laughed and assured me that although the marriage had
been a pain in the arse the divorce had been utterly painless, “All of us do silly things from time to
time, me old love.” she concluded.
And at this point I did something silly myself. Right then and there even as she was speaking those
wise words I called Alex Anderson in Sydney and told him of the latest developments explaining in
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detail what had recently occurred. He understood perfectly, ”Don't worry, cock, your room will still
be here when you arrive, no matter how long it takes. What do you want me to do with your
drums?” Without thinking I replied, “I s'pose you'd better send 'em back. Just address 'em to: Hugh
Collyns, c/o Seven Seas Travel, So'ton. UK.” “No worries,” he rasped, “It's as good as done, cobber,
I'll put 'em on the first available ship. Oh and give my love to everybody in the old dart, especially
Jan!” and he hung up. I couldn't help noticing the thick Australian drawl, the bugger had gone native
I still have no idea why I made the decision, it was foolish in the extreme, pure idiocy! The next day
I Rang Alex to reverse the order but he was never a man to allow grass to grow under his feet and he
had already dispatched them.
I was angry, not with Alex but with myself, “I don't need two drum kits in England! What could I
possibly want with two drum kits in England?” I reproached myself, “At best, or even worst,
depending on how good or bad this Roy Pellet band turns out to be, I will only be in England for,
what? Maybe two years at the most.” Besides, I have a lovely new drum-kit thank you very much,
why have the old one sent back?”
I waggled my head in self denigration, Why didn't y' leave them in Sydney ya dopey git? Man,
you're a dumb arsehole at times. Well... It's too late now!”
I contacted my old friend, Ian, who's wife was a school teacher and I donated the tartan drum-kit to
the school she was teaching at. “When they arrive in the UK,” I said, “Hugh Collyns will contact
you and pass them over to you, they are for the children to learn on.” They were gobsmacked and so
was I when a year later, having arrived in Sydney sans my drum-kit I was to realise the magnitude
of my magnanimously stupid action.
Meanwhile, here I was on my way to Devon. You'll no doubt recall from an earlier chapter, that I
had once lived and worked in the far west of England, during my stint with the Royal Air Force. If
you can call being in the Air Force living? Or conversely, if you can call being posted to Cornwall
to enjoy the 'life of Riley' working? In reality it was a wonderful holiday paid for by the great British
tax payer and I was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth. It was truly fantastic and I thank you
all, from the bottom of my heart.
However it was the last soft landing I ever made. Come to think of it, it was the only soft landing I
ever made! This time I was only travelling as far as Plymouth, plus I was a civilian now and an
impecunious jazz musician to boot. At thirty nine years of age I had discovered too late that the
profession which had chosen me, though attractive on the surface, was not the easiest way to make a
living. Admittedly there were some incredibly beautiful fringe benefits, but as a 'nice little earner' it
left much to be desired. Financially speaking I always did far better abroad, money seemed more
plentiful there, or that is to say, it was more regular, most of the time anyway. And it went further,
or bought more you might say, which is really all that matters in the long run. Apart from spending
it, money has no other utility. Without purchasing power, just like an aircraft tyre that has been cut
into small pieces, money it somewhat loses it's significance.
I'm serious about this! Money wouldn't even look good pasted on your shit-house wall! It's true!
Even wallpaper manufacturers shun it, as a motif I mean, although they may have produced some
during these latter years. I wouldn't know, I haven't bought any since 1964. Bar-keepers are the only
people in the world who find money visually attractive, they stick it on their walls and some even
stick it on the ceiling! Financially speaking I'd always been aware that life in the UK was a lot
tougher than working on a ship or abroad or on the continent. Yet here I was, back on the scuffle,
sitting in a train heading for unfamiliar territory. “Must be plumb crazy, M 'boy!” interjected WC
and waking with a start I glared out of the window, “Holy fuckin' shit, what am I doing here!” I
screamed silently, “Why am I on my way to Plymouth?” The only thing about the city I was familiar
with was the accent. As a child I'd come to know it through the voice of actor John Pertwee, who
during my youth had played the role of a Royal Naval bugle-boy in a wartime naval variety show. In
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
all probability it was broadcast from the Plymouth studios of the BBC and through this weekly
medium, Pertwee had succeeded in getting the entire population of the British Isles to repeat: “Ooh
ah, m'dears! When ah wuz blowin' mah bewgle in Plymouth Barracks, 't was bewglin' bewglin', all
the time bewglin'!” And we all repeated it over and over without ever connecting it to a particular
place or subject.
This was long before 'The Navy Lark' and 'Dr Who!' In fact Pertwee was probably a serving member
of the Royal Navy himself at the time, or if not he was attached to them via ENSA. I sat in the train
allowing my mind to toy with these mundane topics. Well it was preferable to drifting into maudlin
melancholy over the recurring loss of my partners, the important ones that is. First it had been
Eileen, then Heather, then Mary and finally (and especially my latest heartbreak) Liz Cornish.
Recent experience had taught me that if I allowed my brain to drift unoccupied, invariably Liz was
where it drifted to. I was still very much in love with her, desperately and was still missing her to
my utter distraction. It was debilitating, Oh I recognised the symptoms all right, but was unable to
cure myself. I'd felt exactly the same when separated from Heather and again when parted from
Mary Shepherd and now it was happening for the third time. No, actually it was the fourth time, if
you count the dalliance I'd had with a young girl when but a callow youth.
Frankly I couldn't believe it was happening to me again, “I dunno why, but I'm always plagued by
the tyranny of distance!” I sighed mournfully, “How come I am always half a planet away from the
woman I love?” and once again my heart was an open wound.
“Shit! I've allowed meself to drift again!” I shrieked and immediately another voice cut in, “Never
mind, son. Having a new place to live in an unfamiliar city plus a new jazz-band to play with, that
should give you something else to think about, Arro.” I thought and began to settle myself down
again. “True it's only a dixieland band, but say, on a scale of one to a hundred, where would that be?
A dixieland band would have to rate about eighty, perhaps even more? It would certainly be my
second choice, which is bloody good when you think about it.”
I smiled to myself, at heart I was still an ooblie, a dyed in the wool bebopper, however I had played
a lot of traditional jazz by this time and I was getting to know something about it. I was not over
familiar with all the tunes and I never listened to it at home, not in my leisure time I mean, however
I no longer felt uncomfortable with it and it sure beat the shit out of playing Rock And Roll I can
tell you that! I mean dixieland music, not to be confused with, 'New Orleans Jazz' which I like even
less. I can play it but I don't like it. I guess symphony orchestra players who prefer Mozart but have
to play Stockhausen and John Cage feel much the same as I do.
In Plymouth I found the address and rapped on the door, it was opened revealing a pretty, if
somewhat overweight woman. “Right!” she snapped, “Ken Harrison. Right?” “Right!” I replied,
“So I've got the right address. Right?” “Right!” she replied, “This is the right house. Right?” I said,
“Right! she replied again, Come right in!” and then she cracked up.
Things were looking good, I had my new landlady laughing already. “Come on then! Come in, come
in!” she cried, “Your timing's perfect, I've just this minute made a pot of tea.” “Well it's your timing
that's perfect then!” I replied, not missing a single opportunity. Leading me through the lounge-
room she apologised, “Excuse the mess, I haven't had time to clear up yet.” she waved a languid
arm, adding, “It's only untidy though.” I trailed after her thinking fondly of Frank Butler and his
She led me into the kitchen where indeed a teapot was gently steaming under a Jamaican woolly
hat-like cosy. “D' you take a mug, or a cup and saucer?” she asked reaching into a cupboard, “Oh a
cup and saucer, definitely!” I exclaimed, “I need a saucer, I dribble a lot these days!” She giggled,
almost cracking up again, “A dribble of milk and one and a half sugars.” I added, anticipating her
next question, “Oh you're a mind reader as well!” she exclaimed, “Mystic, Comedian, Drummer,
My what a mountain of talent you display, to be sure!” I smiled a secret smile, “You may scoff,
madam,” I crooned, “but it so happens, you are correct, I really can read minds.” She looked up
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
quickly and opened her mouth to speak but I held up my hand, “No, I'm serious! Honestly! I can
read minds! Better even than I can play the drums!” I was insisting, “For instance, I'm reading yours
even as we speak!” Again she raised her eyebrows but before she could interrupt I continued, “I
know exactly what you are thinking, right at this at this very moment” Her eyebrows lowered to a
scowl, eyelids half closed, head cocked to one side she was scepticism personified, “Oh?” she
asked. I looked intense and staring deeply into her eyes murmured, “Um... let me see now... er...
you're thinking... “Jesus Christ what a bullshitting little fart!” Of course he doesn't know what I'm
thinking!” She tinkled with laughter, “Well? Am I right?” I pressed her for an answer. Of course
you're right, y' daft git!” she chortled and poured the tea.
Pushing mine across the table towards me and sweeping her long hair from her eyes with the back
of her free hand, she grinned, “I s'pose you wanna talk to Des?” she asked, “As you can see he's not
here, he's out looking for a job, or some-such bloody nonsense!” Her humour had drained away and
she sounded utterly defeated. I did not solicit more information, I figured I was going to get it
anyway, just as soon as she was sure of her ground.
Excusing herself she went off to attend to something in another part of the house and lifting my cup
and saucer from the grubby table, I glanced around at the mess, Fox was right, she hadn't 'cleared up'
as she put it, for months.
In fact she hadn't even tidied up for me! Not even a quick dash around the surfaces with a dustpan
and brush or a mop in anticipation of my arrival. Looked at in the light of her expecting a possible
paying guest, it was odd. In my experience, most women go totally ballistic at even the suggested
arrival of anyone! Most of 'em behaved like my mother just before the doctor arrived. To not run a
quick duster over the home and pummel some life back into the cushions before the arrival of a
guest was to say the very least, a trifle unusual. “Bloody hell,” I thought, “at this girl's age and until
well past her fifties my mum would have polished the tables, scrubbed the floor, washed the
curtains, changed the bed-linen and beaten the crap out of the carpets with a broom handle! And that
was just for starters!”
I looked around at the evidence, Bobby was half right, her husband was half to blame, he obviously
did nothing to help and his clothing was dotted about the house. Laundry, (clean or soiled?) was
everywhere. “Well, he lives here too!” I figured, “He throws his dirty linen on the floor and that's
where it stays, birds of a feather, I'd say.” I decided silently, “It's usually that way, it's the only way it
can work,otherwise one partner would find life intolerable.”
She returned, sat down and picked up her tea-cup. We chatted away and in doing so I discovered a
very intelligent person, extremely intelligent, I mean way above average. I got the impression she
may have at some time had a successful career under way, or possibly a University degree to
achieve which might have been interrupted, probably by an unplanned pregnancy, I was guessing,
there was no way I would ever ask.
The door opened and a man strode into the kitchen, his wife introduced us and poured him a mug of
tea. From that moment on the conversation took a nose dive deteriorating to the usual boring male
crap. Sitting down, he picked up his cup and began slating his band-leader ruthlessly, “You know
Rod has left us I suppose?” he glowered, I nodded, “Fuck working for Roy Pellet!” he exclaimed
angrily, “I'm getting out! I'm not staying in the fuckin' band if he's going to be the bloody leader! He
can stick the music game up his arse for all I care!” was the gist of his outrage.
I refrained from comment, firstly because I didn't know Roy Pellet from a bar of soap and secondly
because I didn't trust anybody enough to tell Des anything and thirdly, I didn't care! I had no
intention of taking sides in other band-member's private squabbles whether they were with Mister
Pellet or who ever! He'd become my employer and I would deal with any problems if and when the
I recognised the symptoms, they were familiar, he was speaking with the bitterness of a man who
was suffering a major change in his life, a change in which he had no control, had been given no
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
choice and had no say in the matter and he didn't like it.
I glanced at the girl, she looked morose and I received the impression she was disappointed by her
husband's decision to leave the music profession. “Perhaps she enjoyed being an orchestra wife?” I
thought, playing the guessing game again, “Half yer bleedin' luck mate, none of the ladies I've ever
co-habited with liked it.” I muttered bitterly to myself.
The tension was oppressive, it had increased noticeably from the moment he'd marched in and now
it was weighing heavily, I needed to escape. Standing up I said, “Thanks for the tea, love, I think I'd
like to see my room now.” Des sprang out of his chair,”Jesus fuckin' Christ! Hasn't she bloody
shown you yet? Bloody hell! Sorry mate! Of course you'd like to see your room, you'll want to settle
in eh, unpack your things and that?” He sounded really pissed off and stamped angrily his feet as we
made our way up the stairs.
It was just a room, there's nothing more I can tell you, it was a bed-room with a single bed in it! On
one side of the bed was a wardrobe and on the other side, under the window stood a small chest of
drawers with an empty flower vase on it. At the window itself a pair of cheerfully floral patterned
curtains were the nicest thing about it. Left to myself I unpacked my belongings and did the best I
could with what little there was. When I'd finished I glanced around. “I guess it'll look okay with
some flowers in the vase and a few of my own knick-knacks around the place,” I thought, “I'll keep
it clean and if the band is as busy as Bobby says it is, I won't be here much anyway!”
In spite of myself my spirits had plummeted, “Oh Christ,” I thought, “I'm nearly forty years of age
and still living alone in a fuckin' bed-sitting room! Surely this must end soon!”
Bobby Fox had suggested I meet Roy Pellet and the members of his band that evening in their
favourite pub and he picked me up in the band-bus. Meeting them socially in their local boozer was
a good idea, I was interested in meeting the guys of course, but I also wanted to see something of
the local culture. I went along with nothing special in mind, but was unprepared for an actual culture
shock! I hadn't been in the place five minutes when I became intrigued by the local chat-up routine.
The young males in Plymouth had an extraordinary way of getting young females interested. As I
stood sipping my pint, a youth walked up to a demure looking maiden and glancing down at his own
crotch, said, “Ere! Yew want 'un now, or later on, when he's bigger?” The girl laughed derisively,
but I could read the signs, at least she was laughing and it looked to me as though she was very
interested, especially if it got bigger. I'd hardly got my breath back from that when another young
man walked up behind a girl sitting at the bar, she was wearing a low cut evening dress and without
preamble he bent down and placing his tongue on her back he licked her spine from her waist up to
the nape of her neck. She started visibly, then undulated sensuously as he progressed. “Piss off ya
dirty bugger!” she cried, but she too was smiling, “If you wantsa foind out more about moi tongue
you'll hafta come 'ome with me!” he said, his mouth close to her ear and she was interested, very
interested, a willing and educated tongue is always interesting.
Until now, in spite of freaking out at Heather's mad antics, plus blanching at Liz Cornish's feminist
quirks I'd always thought of myself as 'hip' or 'cool', as they say, but I confess I'd never seen or heard
anything like this in my life and it startled me. I liked it though! I found it very amusing.
Towards the end of the evening I'd also become intrigued by the way Plymouth folk said goodbye
when leaving a group, it was unique and, I thought, quite lovely. No matter where the conversation
was at any given time, when a person decided to go, he or she leaned towards you and whispered
confidentially, “Later on.” then they simply walked away leaving you in mid-sentence. I wondered
what it meant for a few minutes, then realised it was a shortened version of “You can tell me the
rest of this story later.” It also covered, “I'll see you later.” Most English people, well those outside
of this great west-country seaport, would have said, “See y' later on.” or “See y' later.” or even, “See
yah!” some even said a terse, “Later!” but in Plymouth they said “Later awn!” and that was how it
was pronounced in a broad west country drawl. I liked that too. Taking a swig from my pint of real
ale, I thought, “I think I'm going to enjoy living in Plymouth.”
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
The five other men involved turned out to be great blokes, Alan Harris was the new bass player
replacing Tony Baggott and I was distressed by that news, I'd known Tony since way back in the
days of Sinclair Road, Shepherd's Bush, where he'd lived only a few yards along the road from Toni
Goffe. Baggott was a great bass player and an extremely funny man, but was forever in trouble with
various ex-wives. Well, back in those days he was. At the time I am writing of now, he was married
to a German woman who I privately referred to as: “The Storm Trooper” and she certainly cooked
up a storm whenever she clapped eyes on Tony, so much so that none of his band-leaders would
allow her near their gigs much less the bandstand.
Naturally I'd been looking forward to meeting him again very much but when I arrived he'd already
departed. “Pr'aps he's having the same trouble, even after all these years.” I groaned ruefully,
“Different wife, same problem? Bloody Hell, tell me about it!”
Dickie Bishop was on banjo, I was never happy with the inclusion of a banjo, but it was par for the
course in this kind of music and Dick was a lovely bloke, he was a bloody good player too so it
could have been worse.
Des (I can't recall his family name) was still on trumpet but about to leave, so I didn't know what
was going on in that department and I didn't broach the subject. Bobby was on trombone and Roy
Pellet wielded the clarinet and baton (or, in the case of a jazz band leader, a nod of the head and a
few taps of the foot). Judging from his accent and demeanour I'd guessed that he'd worked his way
down from the middle or upper classes and indeed I subsequently learned he'd once been an officer
in the Royal Navy, so I was correct. In those days nobody got to be an officer in the Royal Navy
unless they'd been to the right public school.
The Roy Pellet Band. Circa 1971, just before I joined the ranks
Left: Bobby Fox, Des, Tony Baggott, Roy Pellett, my predecessor
and Dickie Bishop, extreme right..
After Bob had introduced me to everyone and placed a glass of beer in my hand, Roy took me to
one side for a private word. Apart from laying the ground rules he didn't say much, he did mention
tersely that the leadership had been thrust upon him, he had not sought it and was not happy at
having to take it on, “When Rod abdicated, nobody wanted the responsibility,” he said sourly, “but
someone's gotta do it and now I'm stuck with it.” I nodded sympathetically and he went on to
explain the ground rules, such as they were. “There's only one rule, mate,” he said, “I don't care
what you do just so long as you're punctual, get yourself to work on time, okay?” “You'll have no
trouble with me then Roy” I replied, “I'm a fanatic, I need to get myself to a gig at least an hour
before we start playing so's I can set the drums up and have a rest to allow my chops to recover.”
“Christ, when I said punctual I didn't mean that bloody punctual!” he snorted, reminding me of Ken
Colyer and I smiled as I recalled the story: Ken had decided Ian Wheeler was drinking too much and
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
laconically advised him to: “Take it easy, man!” A few days later at the bar, he was pushing the boat
out and asked what the band would like to drink, when he got to Wheeler, Ian replied, “I'll have an
orange juice thanks, Ken.” “Christ Almighty, Wheeler!” snarled Colyer, “When I said take it easy, I
didn't mean go fuckin' mad!”
With the exception of Roy's wife, all the orchestra wives were present, I met them briefly but it was
basically a male affair. After a while the girls sat down and talked among themselves while the men
remained standing at the bar drinking and telling jokes. In passing I mentioned I would liked to have
met Tony Baggott and Rod Mason again after all these years. “Ah well, now you're bleedin' talking
mate!” someone declared and everyone agreed, “Now they're what you call real characters!” They
were all genuinely sorry to have lost both men and in their absence began telling stories concerning
the two extraordinary ex-members, the best of which I will pass on here, for your predilection,
On the way home after a very late gig Baggott was driving the bus, Rod was the only passenger and
feeling tired he stretched out on top of the amplifiers and instrument cases and fell asleep. At some
point on a lonely country road, Tony misjudged a bend and rolled the bus, coming to rest upside
down in the ditch. Mason was buried under the pile of equipment in the back of the bus and
Baggott, suspended upside down by the seat belt, was unable to release the clip. Slowly
asphyxiating or so he thought, he began screaming, “Rod, help me! Help me, mate! I can't breath!
For God's sake get me down from here! Rod, Rod, Rod!” Suddenly a muffled voice from under the
pile of gear, snarled, “Aw for fuck sake, Baggott! Can't you see I'm trying to get some sleep!”
All men had similar anecdotes to impart, another favourite was recounted by Dickie Bishop and
concerned the time the band was appearing on a Luftwaffe base in Germany. “We had two shows to
perform,” began Dick, “(One), a concert in the afternoon to a sit-down audience of enlisted men in
their canteen, followed by a dinner dance in the evening for the NCO's and Officer's in the Officer's
Club. As soon as the afternoon concert was over we began packing up our gear to carry it to the
Officers Mess, however the guy who'd hired us, a jazz loving Luftwaffe Major, told the us to leave
the instruments where they were. “Nein nein nein, please do not remove your equipment, I have
many men who will see to all of zis!” he insisted, “Ve haf many hundreds of men here, you do not
need to do zeez sings, all vill be taken care of! Please, do not vurry!” and issuing some instructions
to his sergeant, he and his two uber-lieutenants invited us to the Officer's Mess for drinks and some
food, “Kom sie mit,” they insisted, “You must some refreshment have before you play. We
accompanied them across the square towards their Mess and as we walked, Baggott began to limp.
One leg stiffened, grasping the crease of his pants between a finger and thumb, he began shaking his
trouser leg vigorously. We ignored it for as long as we could but eventually just outside the door,
Bobby Fox said, “Alright! For Christ's sake, Baggott! What the hell are you doing?” and still
shaking his trouser-leg Tony, muttered, “You keep the goons talking, while I get rid of the sand!”
“I nearly shit myself!” sniggered Dickie, “The three German Officer's halted in their tracks and
stared at us incredulously, I felt an icy chill, “Hallo, hallo,” I thought, “that's goodbye to a lovely
gig.” After a pregnant silence you could've cut with a knife, the three burst into screams of laughter
and throwing their arms around us and marched us into the Officer's Mess crying, “Come, we must
buy you a drink!” They were knocked out and our the relief was amazing.” concluded Bishop.
Naturally I howled at the tale, “They'd obviously seen the movie!” I gasped, between bursts of
laughter, “Yeah and that's not all,” added Roy, “every time another officer walked in they related the
entire story again and another drink was thrust upon us. Man, by eight o'clock we were so pissed we
could hardly play!”
The wives, knowing what was happening joined us at the bar, enjoying the retelling of their
favourite stories and falling about at the recollections. This was my first evening with these people
and already my sides were aching. No wonder Des' missus wanted her husband to stay in the band.
Later, I was to remember that Baggott story when something similar and even more embarrassing
occurred, but here I go again, I must not get ahead of myself here.
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
I related some of my own favourite adventures, including the one involving the crooked Turkish
border guards (since replaced) and their bribery scam, followed by the story of me later coercing the
dancing girls to snuggle up to the same officials, kissing and breathing heavily into their ears to
keep them from examining their passports too closely. I also told of pretending to sack the two
recalcitrant girls in Diyarbakir and the agent's failure to back me up on his own behalf. Then of
collapsing on top of Liz and listening to her wondering what to do with my body. I concluded with
the tale of the Wiesbaden shop-owner who's car I'd crushed and who, ignoring my offer to pay for
the damage, insisted on calling the police thus incurring for himself a heavy fine for parking on a
yellow line! We all really loved that one.
After this point any further stories are lost forever in an alcoholic haze, I awoke the following
morning knowing I'd landed on my feet, these guys were even funnier than 'Terry and the Trixons.'
and I knew for certain I was going to have a good time in the west country.
I started working with the band and it was true, it was indeed a busy unit, working all the usual gigs
that dixieland bands did back then and still do I might add, though not as many these days. As
always there were the inevitable pub gigs but in the main we worked at the 'Hooray Henry' balls.
There seemed to be rather a lot of them in the western counties, I suppose the stately homes were
down there and the owners merely commuted to the city on business. I don't know for sure, it was
never possible to learn much from those people. Because of the way things were then and I suppose
still, in their world we came in via the tradesmen's entrance, were fed and watered in or near the
kitchens and apart from us playing the music and them doing the cocking of the legs, there was little
interaction between us. However, I must say that although we were served below stairs, they were
always very generous, the champagne and caviar were first class.
Actually the only interaction between them and us was restricted to the ladies and Bobby Fox was a
master at the game. We were on stage playing at a Hunt Ball near Truro one evening when he
looked into the crowd and spotted among the hunting pink a young lady he took a fancy to. She had
a very large nose and a revealing backless ball gown and Bobby glanced at me, Oi'm 'avin' her away
tonoight, mush,” he said, “I love girls with big hooters!” “You don't have a snowball's chance in
hell, Bob!” I replied sceptically and he looked at me and laughed, “You just see if I don't.” he
She was sitting at a table surrounded by a group of scarlet coated males, one of whom I presumed to
be her escort for the evening. Interval Time came around and Bob climbed off the stage, walked up
behind her and bending over he licked her spinal column from the waist to under her ear. “Meet me
later.” he whispered.
I watched wondering if he'd stolen the idea from the guy in the pub (or perhaps it was 'vice' versa?)
We'll never know which came first, the chicken or the egg? I've no idea and it doesn't matter
anyway. What I do know is that it worked like a charm. The girl didn't jump as if startled but instead
writhed with blissful delight and sure enough at the end of the evening she departed with Bob Fox
The inevitable festive season came around and we were engaged to play at a Grand Christmas Ball
in a village somewhere deep in the Cornish countryside. A small country town really and far enough
away from Plymouth to warrant staying the night. With no long drive home afterwards we really got
into the spirit of the thing, if you'll forgive a pun. It was a boozy affair and during the evening Bob
managed to attract the attention of the very attractive local Post Mistress. She owned and lived
above the village Post Office-cum-General Store and sure enough at the end of the gig she took him
home with her.
Needless to say, full of beer and woken by an urgent need to go for a pre-dawn pee, Bobby woke the
lady and asked where the loo was? Sleepily she replied, “It's an outside toilet I'm afraid, sorry dear
but you'll have to go downstairs, through the sorting room, out of the back door and into the garden,
it's the door just outside, on the right.” and she promptly went back to sleep.
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
Hopping out of bed Bobby made his way downstairs and opening the door stepped into the brightly
lit sorting room. Due to the Christmas rush it was full of people, all of them sorting through an
enormous pile of Christmas cards. Traumatised, Bob stood transfixed for a second, his nakedness
framed in the doorway, then breaking into a broad grin, he shouted, “Happy Christmas Everyone!”
and proceeded on his way to the dunny leaving them laughing into their hands. The same thing
happened on his return of course.
Back in our favourite pub a couple of days later Bobby giggled as he explained, “Well, they were
more shocked than I was, mush. I had to have a piss, I couldn't put it off any longer, knarmean?
Besides, the damage was done, “Brazen it out, cock.” I thought. Then laughing at himself he added,
“That was all I could think of at the time! Anyway, comin' back was even worse! I held a bit of
toilet paper over me dick and looked even sillier than when I first walked past 'em! They didn't care,
they were highly amused and waving at me, they yelled “Merry Christmus to ee zur! And a 'Appy
New Year!” I giggled, “I bet the postmistress had some explaining to do, eh?” “Nah,” grinned Bob,
“They wouldn't care! Nobody down here takes any notice of what the Hoorays get up to, they just
had a bloody good laugh at her expense that's all.” I admitted that I did too and he giggled again,
“The locals are convinced that all hoorays are a bit potty, y' know!” “Well, most of them are aren't
they!” I commented sourly, “No more potty than the rest of us, cock.” he replied, “Perhaps a bit naf
when it comes to coping with everyday things, things that you and I take for granted. All they really
know about is how to protect the family fortune, that's drummed into 'em from birth.” I nodded and
grinned, “ “You're right there.” I smiled, “Mind you if I owned a few castles and a palace or two, I'd
wanna know how to keep other people's grubby little hands off 'em!” “Exactly!” replied the Fox.
Shortly after this we had the pleasure of accompanying George Melly on a short tour covering the
southern half of England and among my fonder minor memories I've retained two major stories.
Somewhere along the way we stayed at was one of those large country houses which had been
converted into a private hotel and as we were signing in, Melly noticed a fraightfully twee cocktail
bar in what had once been the front parlour. On spotting it, we all agreed that after taking a shower
and changing into our evening-wear, a beer or two might be in order before leaving for the gig. An
hour later we walked into the bar to find it teeming with fraightfully naice ladies, each wearing an
enormous hat and I mean enormous, gigantic, some the size of bicycle wheels. The kind of thing
hat one associates with Ascot bonnets, I suppose.
I've forgotten now why they were there and which women's guild they represented, but what I'll
never forget is Melly turning on the charm and talking them into allowing him to try their hats on.
Those of you reading this who know George well will picture the scene beautifully. He was very
persuasive of course and laughing they agreed. He donned several until finally he achieve the effect
he was after, at which point he began camping around the bar like a demented Talula Bankhead.
Finally, hiding behind a marble pillar and peering around it, he did his Marlene Dietrich
impersonation, leaning his back, one leg akimbo, his foot raised against the pillar, he sang:
Underneath the lamplight,
By the village square.
(I've forgotten this line),
Was more than I could bear.
and dancing around the room once more, he draped himself sensuously around another pillar and
Falling in love again,
What am I to do?
Never wanted to,
I cawn't help it.
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
It is needless to tell you his audience were absolutely thrilled! They had no idea who he was, but
were delighted with his performance. (nowhere near as much as George was, mark you, he was
having the time of his life and we hadn't even arrived at the gig yet!).
I was a 'two pot screamer, so It comes as no surprise to me to learn that the only gig I can actually
recall in detail was at a restaurant called 'The Opposite Lock.' It was a pretty swish place, the
clientèle resplendent in formal wear, the men in tuxedos, the ladies in gowns dripping with
We began with our normal jazz programme and played until George sashayed on stage and began
his act. To this day I am still gobsmacked at what he got away with, he pulled no punches
whatsoever and sang the dirtiest songs in his repertoire, including 'The Lobster', which includes the
'Lobsters to the rear boys,
And lobsters to the front,
One sweet young lady
had a lobster in her cunt.
Singing Hey nonny sonny,
Backs against the wall,
If you cannae get fucked on Saturday night
Ye cannae get fucked at all
or something similar, that's a close enough approximation of his lyrics to illustrate what was
happening. He made no effort to avoid the naughty words, in fact he gave them emphasis and the
crowd, (males and females alike) adored it and George of course. Applauding enthusiastically they,
stamped, banged their fists on the tables and screamed for more, and George obliged, he knew his
audience well, he was performing before his own kind. I too enjoyed it, but as I packed away my
drums I couldn't help but think that if I were to attempt a similar performance among my own
people, (I mean the lower orders) I would be thrown out of the building and probably arrested and
prosecuted into the bargain.
“It's a funny old world that we live in,
But the world's not entirely to blame.”
I sang to myself, recalling another of Billy Bennett's poems and banged my bass drum in time as I
packed it away.
I'm not knocking George or his performance by the way, I adored him, he was bloody good value off
stage as well as on. In common with myself Melly was a keen observer of people and he told me
some great 'people' stories, the best of which I shall pass on to you:
“I was having a quiet libation in a bar in Bristol and sitting close by were two teenage girls. One was
explaining a family incident and in the telling referred to her sister Sylvia as 'she'. Her friend was
offended and interrupting, said, “Don't say she! Say 'Our Syl'. Be poloite about it!”
George loved that story and so did I, we fell about, then being a scouse, he waded in with a
Liverpudlian story along similar lines:
“This time I was on a bus in Liverpool and again two teeny-boppers were sitting close by chatting.
“I went out wi' a fella last night and he put his hand straight up me skirt!” said one sounding
mortally offended. “So what did y' do?” asked the other, “I told 'im straight,” said her mate, “Oi!” I
said, “Mind yer manners, tits first!”
George was delighted to learn I had personally known and worked with the famous Vaudevillian
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
sand-dancers, Wilson, Kepple and Betty and naturally we began swapping yarns. He told me some
beautiful tales about the theatre, or about theatricals, to be precise my favourites being about a
wonderful British actor named Wilfred Lawson. Wilfred had a drinking problem, well, it wasn't a
problem for him, but it was a hell of a problem for those surrounding him. For instance he was
playing the Duke of Gloucester (King Richard) opposite Richard Burton's 'Buckingham' in a
production of 'King Richard The Third' at Stratford, and one disastrous afternoon, after lunch the
two actors met in the street, “Ah!” exclaimed Lawson, “Richard dear boy, do come to my club for a
postprandial!” and Burton, himself by no stretch of the imagination a teetotaller, agreed and off to
Wilfred's club they toddled. Needless to say they got plastered and that evening when the curtain
rose, Gloucester staggered to the centre of the stage, where, weaving visibly, he began the soliloquy:
“Now ish the winter of our dishcontent, made glorioush by this shun of York;
And all the cloudsh tha' lour'd upon our housh...
In the front row an outraged man rose from his seat and shouted, “Sire, you're pissed!” Lawson
paused, walked to the edge of the stage and peering down at his assailant said imperiously, “You're
quite right sir, but you wait until you see the Duke of Buckingham!”
On another occasion Wilfred met Sir John Gielgud in the street and again insisted on him taking
him to the club for a drink afterwards insisting that John come and see his performance, “Don't
worry dear boy, I'll make certain we have the finest seats in the house!” he promised and he did.
Seated together later, a few minutes into the play Wilfred leaned across and whispered, “Ah! John
dear boy, you'll love this bit, this is where I come on!”
Melly passed on these and other similar stories and like all great comedy, they were of course
swathed in tragedy. One need hardly explain that towards the end of his career Lawson had a tough
time getting parts. Hardly surprising, because in truth it became a risky business employing him at
all. I may be wrong here, but I seem to recall the last time I saw him perform was in a television
presentation of a play called, 'The Bird In Hand' and he was wonderful, he died not long after.
I've explained elsewhere that The Ken Colyer Club was originally called The 51 Club, and that back
in the early nineteen fifties Johnny Stone and myself made regular pilgrimages to listen to the great
modern jazz that was played there. I've no idea who owned it back then, but during the sixties and
seventies when it became 'The Colyer Club', it was owned by a woman I only ever knew as Vi. She
was a lovely person, however she'd been treated in a somewhat cavalier fashion by Mother Nature
and it showed. For a start she had a glass eye and it was a good one, much better than her real one,
which bulged due to a thyroid condition. Not content with one macabre joke, Nature had invested
her with premature curvature of the spine so that she was quite mis-shapen. Given the appearance of
a hump-backed, pot-bellied, wall-eyed caricature, she could have been lifted straight from a Hogarth
or Breughel cartoon. Vi looked more like Quasimodo than Charles Laughton and to complete the
picture, her closest friend was a two foot tall dwarf who sang the blues. Whenever she appeared ,
Colyer used to lift her onto a chair in order for her to reach the microphone and she was a very good
blues shouter, may I add.
On the way home from a gig one evening, Bobby Fox asked to be dropped outside the 'Colyer Club'
simply because he felt the mysterious urge to hear 'the Guv'nor'. Walking down the outside steps
into the cellar-club, he found to his surprise that it was in total darkness. However the door was ajar
and he could hear a strange noise coming from inside. Creeping across the foyer he peered around
an archway into the club and saw sitting on the stage in the centre of a spotlight, Ken Colyer with Vi
on his knee, he was stroking her hair and singing softly:
“You're my Lilly of the valley,
You're the fairest of them all...
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
Bobby backed silently out of the club and left them to it.
I confess we all fell about when Bob related the story and promptly awarded it eighty-five points on
the Mulligan-Melly points scale. But later, looking back, no matter from which standpoint one
views it, I cannot help but think it was a lovely thing to do. Ten out of ten to Ken Colyer.
I cannot recall at what stage Des left the band, he was replaced by a pleasant young man called
Andy Lawrence, a callow youth with a friendly disposition and very long, well below shoulder-
The Roy Pellet band with Andy Lawrence on trumpet. Back row - right
A fine Louis Armstrong inspired trumpet player, he looked more like a heavy metal rock guitarist. A
few years later such differences in outward appearance wouldn't matter, but back then it was very
unusual. However, his facade was more outrageous than the man himself, apart from his good looks
and outstanding musical ability, I cannot recall a single thing about him. He performed no antics nor
exhibited any personal idiosyncrasies of any kind, nothing separated Andy from the average or made
him stand out in any way (I'm sorry, neither of these pictures are very good, but I'm afraid they're the
only ones I have that have survived my travels).
I've explained how each band has it's own humour and usually an accompanying argot, For instance
the word that eventually became the title of this book began life as part of Doug Richford's London
Jazzmen's private vernacular. The words, 'Hooray Henry', later reduced to just 'Hooray', is nowadays
used in every day speech when describing chinless wonders, silly walkers and leg-cockers, but it
came from the Mick Mulligan band and George Melly.
When coined, the words were an esoteric phenomenon guarded exclusively by the Archer Street
cognoscenti, (then London's Musical Labour exchange) and they leaked into popular usage via the
Rock industry, largely because the men involved in the rock scene were (and still are) public
property. There are always more available to the public than we were, more visible, approachable,
permanently on display of course. What a rock musician says today, the public will adopt tomorrow.
You can bank on it. We however, that is to say 'jazz musicians' made a terrible mistake in this
regard. Apart from a brief spell during what became known as 'the British Trad-Boom' (when for a
while we were the pop-stars of our day), we did ourselves irreparable damage by building a wall of
elitism around ourselves and naturally when a more accessible product came along the public in
reply turned away. But what the hell! It's too late now for such recriminations, besides, we enjoyed
it, we were so far up ourselves it didn't matter. We liked it that way.
In passing I mentioned Archer Street (as the then musical labour exchange). The 'Orchestral
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
Association building' was situated there and using the tiny street as a meeting place for musicians of
all kinds was a natural result of that. However it eventually died a death and again of it's own
making, basically, rebellious young up and coming rock musicians simply didn't bother with it, they
objected to it, despising what they saw as a herd mentality. Indeed it was Cliff Richards of Cliff
Richards And The Shadows who waxed angrily against the established 'session men', “I don't want
these people!” he ranted, “Why can't I use my own backing group?” He was on the road with them,
they were rehearsed and tight, yet in the studios, when recording his recording company chiefs
insisted on using a bunch of strangers! 'Bloody old men' as far as the rockers were concerned. and
Richards was right of course, it was quite ridiculous!He got his way too and the system changed for
Outside the studios, the problem was that a large percent of rockers didn't read music and therefore
could not freelance or gig around town the way we'd always done. This is a generalisation I know,
there was and still are many exceptions, however intrinsically rock musicians seemed to form
themselves into small-groups, quartets mainly then they'd rehearse their repertoire until it was tight
and they'd stay together for years, their business conducted by telephone.
Today's current 'hip' words were 'cool' when I was a young man, or, if you prefer, today's 'cool'
words were hip when I was young, ya dig? Back then they were the secret language of jazz
musicians, spawned among the black American masters of the art. People such as Lester Young
coined much of it. Lester was the original 'cool' player and 'gone' was the word he used to describe
being carried away by the music. The word 'man' now used as a common form of address is usually
associated with the West Indies, but it's possibly a Lester Young invention, he had an entire
language of his own going, 'dig' meaning to understand or appreciate, was possibly his too, but I
won't argue about it. The word 'Eyes' to Lester meant appreciation, if he had 'no eyes' for something
it meant he wasn't interested. It was probably derived from the tune, 'I only have eyes for you.'
Lester reversing it to, “No eyes, man!” meaning, “I'm not interested.”
Louis Armstrong jokingly referred to his large lips, his 'satchel' like mouth (hence Satch'mo) as his
'chops', because a pair of lamb chops is what he thought they looked like. (A trumpet player's
embouchure (formed by the muscles of his lips, cheeks and throat) are the muscles he uses to earn
his living and therefore Louis reference to “his chops” meant his personal muscular dexterity)
Eventually it came to mean any muscular dexterity required by anybody who plays a musical
instrument, a pianist's fingers, or a drummer's ability to manipulate his drumsticks are called 'his
When a musician tells you, “I'm losing my chops man.” or complains “My chops are gone.' it means
he's having a tough period when nothing he attempts seems to come out right. In fact trumpet
players, for no known reason sometimes suffer a complete muscular collapse and this is referred to
as: 'losing your chops'.
When I was young the phrase, “Don't give up yer day gig!” was a cruel sardonic comment made to
someone who played badly or sang out of tune and the word 'gig' referred to a one night stand or a
'once only' engagement. However, eventually it came to mean any musical job, I mean of any length
or standing, for example, a lifelong position in a symphony orchestra was, 'a regular gig'. Recently
however I heard the word used by people not even connected with the music industry or indeed any
part of show-business, so nowadays it can refer to any kind of job. So our original secret musical
vocabulary has become an integral part of modern everyday language. Rock Musicians and even
television super-stars had a hand in it, Comedian Bill Cosby, himself a jazz aficionado, helped
promote his people's vernacular all around the world, “Everything became cool, man, ya dig?”
So, in common with the other bands, the Roy Pellet organisation had it's own private argot and I
found it fascinating. It was peculiar to the West of England and never leaked into the London scene,
(the musical language blender). However it coloured my own vocabulary for some years, indeed I
still quote some of it from time to time.
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
My predecessor, (who's name I never knew. I had no reason to ask, what did I care who he was?)
contributed a remarkable way of expressing disapproval. On being left to solo on stage, he would
shout after his disappearing colleagues, “I don't care, Meeeeeeee! I don't give a shit Meeeeeeee! You
go into the bar and enjoy yerselves, ya selfish cunts! You have a nice drink while I slaves me guts
out on a ten minute drum-solo! Rotten bastards! But I'll be okay, don't you worry about me, Oil be
After he'd left and I had taken his place, a ghostly echo of him remained, the guys had caught the
virus and spoke in the same manner, though not just when they were angry. For instance, if you
offered someone a lift he might reply, “I'm alright Meeeeeeee! I'll walk, Oi loikes walking,
Meeeeeeee!!” Alternatively in a bar, if you offered to buy someone a drink you might hear, “I'm
alroight Meeeeeeeee! I've got one coming!”
My favourite though, was a really beautiful quote which when I first heard it, I had not the faintest
clue what it meant. If offered a drink and I turned it down, my refusal was met with an enigmatic,
“It's your Dad's bike, mush!” and the round was then purchased, leaving me out. If pushed for time
when setting up my drums, some kindly soul might call to me from the bar, “Shall I bring you a beer
before the show starts?” and if I called back, “No thanks mate!” back would come the reply, “Please
yer-bloody-self! It's your dad's bike!” Finally I heard it quoted in full and discovered it was really a
two line couplet, one evening they were discussing our coming night off, which they planned to
spend in the pub and Bobby Fox asked, “I'm taking my missus to the boozer tomorrow night, Ken,
do you want me to pick you up?” “No thanks,” I replied, “I need and early night, Bob. I wanna stay
home and write some letters.” “Do what you like, it's your Dad's bike!” he replied huffily and turned
away. By this time I knew what it meant but was curious about it's origins and asked them to
explain. Realising I'd never really understood it, they laughed and Roy Pellett explained. “It comes
from your childhood,” he began, “the wealthiest kid on the street always had the best selection of
toys, right?” I nodded, “Well,” he went on, “it was considered very unwise to upset him, 'cos if you
did he wouldn't let you play with 'em, right? Remember that?” again I nodded my agreement and
again he continued, “So! In order to keep the peace that kid was allowed to do entirely as he
pleased, it was his dad's bike so the other kid's allowed him complete freedom otherwise he
wouldn't let them ride it. See? “Do what you like, it's your dad's bike!”
I loved it! The phrase epitomised this train of thought for them and had become part of their
everyday speech. What it actually meant was, “You do whatever you please, mate, no matter how
stupid it may seem!”
I believe he had a dark side, but on the whole in my experience Bobby Fox was the most ebullient
man I ever met in my life, before during or since my time spent in Roy Pellet's band. He was always
laughing, always cheerful and I know you must think I was a pain in the arse most of the time, but
not with Bobby around. He cheered me and those surrounding him, he raised people's spirits,
nobody could remain depressed for long in Bobby Fox's company.
After I'd been there for a while, he arranged to show me around and one morning picked me up from
home and drove across the border into Cornwall. We were driving along the narrow country lanes,
Bob pointing out things of interest as we passed, showing off the Cornish countryside in general,
then to my surprise he took me to meet the witch herself in her coven, which turned out to be a very
pretty cottage. Not surprisingly she turned out to be a beautiful natural blonde, who, when Bobby
introduced me, greeted me with a big smile and a kiss on the cheek. When we arrived she was
working in what appeared to be a wild, untamed garden, the greetings over she insisted on showing
me around, explaining each plant and it's medicinal properties as we went. She even showed me
some poisonous varieties and laughed at my consternation. “Don't worry, Ken. I leave the use of
those to the evil ones.” she sniggered and I grinned, “The 'black pointed hat riding on a broomstick'
variety, you mean?” I joked and she laughed, “Them's the ones!” she giggled. We walked for a
while among the wild lush greenery surrounding her home and without invitation she explained that
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
she was indeed a witch. A white one she insisted and in no way to be confused with the wicked
I smiled and made no comment, I had not solicited the information and on the face of it there
seemed to be nothing evil about this very pretty lady. However, by this time I had learned to reserve
my judgement on such matters. I'd been sucked in before by pretty words from pretty mouths and in
the fullness of time had learned that evil is often hidden beneath great beauty. No one, least of all a
wicked witch, would warn a man that she was evil.
She took us inside the cottage and made tea and sandwiches, after what seemed to me a judicious
length of time in her company, I made noises to Bobby about getting under way. She kissed us
goodbye and we said our fond farewells, driving away to look at less dangerous beauty spots.
We drove again through the narrow leafy lanes and as we progressed Bob told me how much he
adored living in the west. He believed Cornwall to be a heavenly place and as far as I could see,
there was no reason to argue the point.
Emerging from the maze of narrow lanes, we were driving along a main road when suddenly he
exclaimed, “Whoops look at the bloody water gauge! The engine's over-heating mush, I'd better fill
her up. Don't worry, it does this sometimes, I keep a jerry can full of water in the back.”
He stopped the vehicle and hopped out, quite by chance we had stopped beside a group of labourers
working on a hole in the road and as we pulled up they stopped working, leaned on their shovels
and surveyed us with curiosity.
Bobby started walking towards the back of the bus and as he passed, he smiled broadly and said,
“Morning gentlemen, Lovely day! What a beautiful part of the world this is to be sure.” “It was
alroight 'till you Lundun buggers come down 'ere, an' fucked it all up!” snarled one. His colleague's
nodded and murmuring their agreement picked up their shovels and cradled them in their arms in
the unmistakable threatening attitude. Bob hopped back inside the bus, “Whoops!” he said, “Bad
place to fill up mush, I think we'll do it a few yards along the road.” I couldn't have agreed more,
“Lovely friendly place, Cornwall,” I sneered, “little bit of Heaven on Earth eh?” “Well, you can't
blame 'em really.” he replied and I bristled, “Of course you can fuckin' blame 'em!” I snorted,
“They're arse-holes Bob! Guys like that are dangerous parasites, people have been moving around
the surface of this planet for thousands of years, Millions of years! It's happening all the time. They
just don't like us mate, they're xenophobes, they don't like anybody who wasn't born in their own
neck of the woods. Well fuck 'em!”
He glanced sideways at me, “Underneath your veneer, you're a nasty 'ard little bastard aincha?”
suddenly he was serious, “No I'm not!” I exclaimed angrily, “They are the hard bastards, Bob! They
were the ones who threatened us not the other way round. You're a bloody softy, why are you
defending 'em? I'll bet you a hundred quid there are more Cornish people working in London than
there are Londoners working in Cornwall, but nobody ever says a fuckin' dickie bird about that, do
they? Nobody in London says, “It was alright until you Cornish bastards came here and fucked it
up!” When did you ever hear anything like that in London?” He didn't reply, it was the only time I
saw him not laughing.
I had only been with the band a few weeks when Roy announced we were off on a tour of Germany
and Switzerland. “Oh shit man!” I exclaimed, “I've just come back from Germany!” “Well you're
going back again!” he replied, “Sorry man, but we derive the major part of our income from
Germany and Switzerland. They are our most lucrative markets, but don't worry, it won't be as bad
as you think, you'll be playing jazz concerts for the German people not background crap for the
American troops. The krauts love us, you'll have a great time. I promise!”
He was right and put like that it sounded more attractive, It was remarkable, in spite of spending a
large percentage of my professional life living in Germany, I'd never actually played to a German
audience (apart from one wonderful drunken night in a riverside hotel near Neu Ulm). “Yeah, you're
right, mate,” I said, “I've never played to a German audience so it'll be nice.” “You better warn all
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
your mates,” he advised, “we'll be away for quite a while so remember to say goodbye to your
family and friends.” “Yeah, thanks for reminding me.” I replied, “Bloody Hell, 'ere we go again!” I
groaned to myself. I was not entirely unhappy at the prospect, playing to Deustchlanders would be
different. But leaving entailed the same old ritual, I did the rounds visiting all my usual haunts, my
parents, the Dolphin, the Concorde, the Great Harry, (where they has the jazz an' that) Hugh Collyns,
Bob and Andy Champion, Jan & Brenda, Frank Butler and of course, my ex-wife and kids.
regrettably and consistently in character, she had dispensed with Pete Miles and he was sadly
missed by the boys. So much so that they became more and more difficult to handle.
The kids, growing older and getting crankier.
Pete had been replaced by a mystery man and they were not accepting him readily, in fact they were
refusing to accept him at all. To add fuel to the fire, Heather would not allow me to meet him or to
even know his name, referring to the situation as: “Ol' Green-Eyes would never approve.” I took this
to mean he was a jealous man and she encouraged me in this belief by arranging to meet me as if
every liaison was a cloak-and -dagger affair. I merely wished to visit my children and why that
should concern him or upset him I failed to understand. One supposes she enjoyed simultaneously
stoking the fires of our jealousy. She told me he owned a service station in the wilds of Sussex and
was going to make her a present of the restaurant adjacent to it, He would service the vehicles while
she catered to the drivers and passers by. I wasn't remotely interested in his service station or the
restaurant and besides, I no longer believed a word she uttered and it no longer mattered whether
anything she said was true or false.
The boy's were really missing Pete Miles very much and were not taking kindly to their new father,
indeed they were giving him a hard time, by all accounts. They themselves admitted to me that they
hated him, I told them he was probably doing his best and they should give him a fair go, but they
That evening I put the took the kids up to bed and read them a story and I was about to leave when
Heather, still up to her old tricks informed me that, 'Ol' Green Eyes' was spending the night with his
'other woman' and she invited me into her bed. Without a thought, as usual I jumped on the shovel
and was going great guns until I discovered I was part of a plan to further inflame his green-eyed
passions, At the the height of our athletic antics, she whispered that she wanted to try for a baby girl,
“Very nice dear,” I said, “and the best of luck to both of you.” “Oh no,” she cried, “I want you to be
the father!” I recoiled, “Piss off, Heather, you're even crazier than I thought!” I exclaimed and
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
hopping out of bed I grabbed my clothes and fled. “This game's too rich for me,” I muttered as I ran
into the lounge room, “I'm not in their league at all!” I felt like an amateur card player sitting down
with professional poker players, it was too dangerous for my tastes. I recalled four angry young men
gathering around her front door while she stood naked, peering down at them hand in hand with her
ex-husband. I remembered her battered body in a hospital bed in Somerset. “Life has taught her fuck
all!” I mourned as I pulled on my pants, “Nothing, nowt, zero, zilch! Experience has been wasted on
her!” Dressing quickly I left and that was the last time I ever met her in anything other than a brief
The boys, Karle and Mark, growing older and by the look of things roped in by Dave to help with the gardening.
I found myself in a cleft stick, to my relief the band left immediately for Germany and as we
travelled along the auto-bahn in the bandwagon, I stared glumly out of the window at the passing
scenery. Tired and bored to tears yet again, I was reminded of the many times I had done just this
very same thing and it brought home yet again the full force of my open heart wounds. Forty years
of age and still without a home of my own, not a bloody stick of furniture. I was also desperately
missing Elizabeth to the point of physical pain. Oh god... It was all so bloody depressing.
Over the past few weeks I had received letters describing her epic voyage across the Sahara and an
even more unfortunate adventure in Zaire, but her words only heightened my desire to see her again
and I became even more depressed.
There was one small silver lining to my cloud though, Up until this moment I had travelled the
length and breadth of Germany and only ever played to Americans. This time however I would be
playing to German audiences and was actually looking forward to it. I was not to be disappointed.
I don't remember the exact running order of the cities we visited on the tour, neither do I recall in
which town each outrageous event took place, but I will never forget the events themselves.
Whenever possible, Bobby Fox and I shared a room and on this particular occasion we were in
Dusseldorf, performing in a tiny jazz keller in the basement of the hotel we were staying in.
Bored to tears, with nothing better to do but wait until it was time to walk down and play, we lay on
our beds and smoked a joint. As the dope kicked in I was taken with a fancy to buy a yellow shirt to
match the garish blue red and yellow striped jeans I'd purchased before leaving the UK. In fact I was
wearing them at that precise moment and leaping off my bed I explained my desire to Bob, “and I'm
going right now!” I declared, “This is the perfect time to find the perfect match!” “It's your dad's
bike, mush! he replied rolling from his bed, “hang on I'll come with you!” and he followed me down
the stairs and into the city.
By a remarkable coincidence one of the first shops we came to specialised in men's shirts, I'm
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
serious, that's what it sold,men's shirts! There were a few other things, socks, a few hats, some
boxes of handkerchiefs, ties, cuff-links, things like that, but basically it was a shirt shop. Hanging in
the doorway to attract passers by, were two beautiful hand made French shirts both pure silk and
one of them, again by an amazing coincidence was bright yellow. The other was scarlet, but I wasn't
interested in that. “Hey look man!” I exclaimed, “A yellow shirt! That must be an omen!” “Nah,
look's more like a Pierre Cardin to me!” replied Bob.
We entered the mahogany precincts, the inside walls of which were covered with highly polished
racks filled with shirts, behind three counters stood three women, two pretty girls on either side and
an attractive stylish older woman, whom I took to be the proprietor in the middle. All three were
laughing, they'd actually overheard, caught and understood Bobby's joke and were still laughing as
By this time the dope had taken over and we were firing on all cylinders, well into our daft patter.
Walking arm in arm around the shop, we remarked on the things we saw and began trying on the
silliest of the hats, posing theatrically.
We looked utterly ridiculous of course, two tiny Englishmen, one fat, one thin, one with long hair
and a beard and the other fat with a mop of frizzy hair, both wearing daggy tee-shirts and brightly
coloured flares and now topped off with very formal head-wear.
All three women were giggling at our antics but I concentrated on the older one as she was closer to
my own age. I tried on a Bavarian hunting hat with a huge feather in it and asked her if suited me?
She shook her head from side to side, unable to reply, we'd got off to a good start, all three were
laughing uncontrollably at our silly nonsense, not to mention our terribly mangled German.
Finally the proprietor composed herself and got down to business, “can I show you anything, sir?”
she asked. “No no no,” I exclaimed, “Don't take your clothes off! We haven't got that much time!”
and she crumbled again so taking her arm and linking it through my own, I said, “Komst du mit,”
Looking alarmed now, she tried to extricate her arm, “No! I don't mean that!” I laughed, “Been
there, done that! I don't want your body What I really want is your shirt, and the one I would really
like is the yellow one you have on display outside. Come, I'll show you.” Giggling at my outrageous
suggestions she accompanied us to the door. The two younger women could not believe what they
had just heard, nobody had ever said things like that to their boss before and they were wobbly at
the knees. The older woman had recovered and was not phased. “The yellow one, sir? The French
one you mean?” “Certainly!” I replied, “Sir!” she said, regaining her powers and disentangling
herself. Lifting it from the hanger she brought it inside and without further ado proceeded to fold
and wrap the shirt in tissue paper. “How much is it?” I asked, broaching the important bit for the
first time. “Two hundred and fifty five marks sir.” she smiled. It was a heart stopping price and for a
second or two I think mine actually stopped, but before I could change my mind, Bobby Fox
interjected, “How much if he buys both of 'em?” he said, “The red one as well?”
At this effrontery, the two younger women, already helpless with laughter, almost collapsed onto the
floor, “They are two hundred and fifty five marks each, sir,” said the proprietor, also laughing at his
crazy suggestion, “this is Germany sir, we don't make bargains, the price you see is the price you
pay sir!” Well I had smoked some waccy-baccy only fifteen minutes before, and I didn't care, I
caught Bobby's mood and went for the jackpot!
“Ah, But we aren't Deutschlanders, madam! We are Englanders, Mad Englanders!” I said, “and
we've made you laugh! Look, you see, you're doing it again! You're laughing now! We have made
you feel wonderful! We have lifted your spirits, brought a little heaven into your hum-drum lives.
We have been in your shop for only five minutes and already see how much happier you are? That
must be worth something surely? I'll tell you what I'll do with you, I will make you laugh again by
offering you three hundred and fifty deutschmarks for both shirts, take it or leave it!”
The two youngsters were screaming aloud at the silliness of this outrageous suggestion and they
were right on all counts. It was outrageous and extremely silly, I didn't need two shirts, I hadn't set
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
out with the intention of buying two shirts, however knowing Germany as I did I knew I was safe,
she would never agree to haggling over the price. “Okay!” she said, “Three hundred and fifty
Deutschmarks it is, sir!” and instructing one of the giggling girls to fetch the red one from outside
she unfolded the tissue paper to make room for the extra shirt.
I was bloody transfixed, gobsmacked wasn't in it! I'd set out from the hotel intent on buying a nice
yellow shirt, a bright yellow one, I would have been quite happy to go to the Neckermann
supermarket and get one for fifteen marks, but we had set a precedent and now I had two French
shirts, a red one and a yellow one and they had cost me a bloody fortune into the bargain! I'd just
done three weeks wages! “Holy Jesus Christ, Bobby!” I groaned, my brain reeling. I was not
unhappy though, apart from unexpectedly acquiring two shirts, I was amazed we had actually
succeeded in negotiating a price with a German shop-keeper. To haggle over the price in a German
shop and actually get a deal was a first for me, I was very impressed. I was still gobsmacked though!
The woman was still laughing as she took the banknotes from me. Placing the carefully folded shirts
inside a monogrammed box she put the box in a shiny designer paper carrier bag and handed it to
me. As she did so I received the impression she knew I was as stunned as she was. However we'd all
had a lovely time, it had been great fun. “Danke sehr, mein herren. Auf Wiedersehen!” she called, as
we danced arm in arm from the shop, “Danke viel mal, mein schnuggyputz,” I called back, “Aber
Ich denk nicht, not at your bleedin' prices!”
Later when describing this event to some German friends they were amused and astonished, “Aber
das ist unmöglich, Kenny! That shop is the most exclusive shirt store in the whole of Germany, it is
very famous,” they exclaimed, “you must be the only people in the world to get such a deal from
As matter of fact we often played in the city of Dusseldorf, mostly in a restaurant called 'Der Weiss
Bar' which means 'The White Bear' not 'The White Bar' although inside, the decor was indeed totally
white. White walls, white tiled floor, a white counter, white espresso coffee machine, white tables,
even the cutlery had white handles. Total whiteness! I guessed the name was a pun, or the nearest
the German owner could get to one, the language does not easily lend itself to double meanings, so a
pun is a rarity. This guy had manage it though.
the cafe was one of those fashionable day and night hang-outs where teenagers congregate like bees
around honey. Every generation has them and as usual this one was a great place for groupies. After
playing there and discovering the side benefits, we began spending our daylight hours there too,
arriving for morning coffee and staying for lunch. often dallying until it was time for us to play
again in the evening. The food and drinks were excellent and inexpensive, plus there were always
beautiful women to keep us amused. We in turn kept them amused, we were an attraction and
needless to say the owner was delighted, we were good for business. That after all was why he'd
After the gig one evening one very pretty girl invited Bobby home for a coffee and on entering the
spacious two roomed apartment he discovered a pet rabbit hopping about the place. Noticing his
surprise she said in delightfully broken English, “I hope you like rabbits, Bobbee?” “Oh yeah!
Replied Bob, “I love rabbits!” She was surprised, “You really like zem very much?” she asked, “Oh
yes! I really really love rabbits, I like them very very much indeed!” he insisted, “Es ist viel schoen,
I am so pleased!” she exclaimed, switching on the electric kettle in preparation for the coffee, then
instead of waiting for it to boil she disappeared into the bedroom to slip into something more
comfortable. When she returned Bob was still in the kitchen and he had the rabbit on a dish, in the
oven. The poor girl freaked, frantically tearing open the oven door she grabbed her pet and
snuggling it to her breast, she murmured sweet nothings to calm it's and her own shattered nerves.
It was she herself who told me this story, sitting in 'The Weiss Bar' the very next morning, her
emotions welling so that she could hardly speak. “Oh Kennel,” she sighed, “At Bobbee Fox, he is a
terrible man.” I smiled and patted her arm, “Foxes love rabbits, my darling, you should know that!”
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
I said, “Ate, you English! You are all zed same! Always you make jokes!” she laughed and dug me
painfully in the ribs with her elbow. Well at least she was laughing.
Apropos this point, we were playing a concert in a huge dance hall, somewhere on route and at
interval time the only way to the bar was through the tables surrounding the dance floor. I set off,
touching hands and laughing with the customers as I went, it is quite unavoidable, they reach out to
you as you pass and in order to get where you're going you keep walking and brush their fingers as
you pass. If you stop, you'll never escape!
At one table as we touched hands and I made the joke, an older woman burst into tears, Okay, so
this time I stopped, I couldn't help it! I placed an arm around her shoulders, “Was list loch? Wahrum
weinen Sie?” I asked feeling concerned, she was really very upset. “Hitler told us the English were
beasts, yet vhen ve meet you, you are so lovely!” she burst into a paroxysm of sobbing. I was taken
aback but recovered quickly. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I cried, “Hitler was a politician, mein liebling!
We can never believe anything they say, they are not people, they are the world's most dangerous
animals, lunatics! and we must always be on our guard for fear another like him comes again, nicht
She fingered away her tears and nodded and I rubbed her neck gently, “Aber jezt, alles ist fertig, es
macht nicht!” (but now it's all over, water under the bridge, it doesn't matter) I said, “It matters to
me!” she snapped angrily “Everything that man told us was a lie, we should have known! It is very
difficult to come to terms with that now.” Removing my hand from her neck she squeezed it tightly,
“Everything we ever believed in was wrong!” “Well, my darling,” I said, “there's nothing we can do
about that now. But we can enjoy the fact that we are the lucky ones. Ja? We are the survivors.” she
nodded, but looked unconvinced, “I'm afraid it's the only way, dear,” I continued, “we must pick
ourself up, dust off the pieces of our broken lives and live happily ever after.” I burst into a smile
and swept my arm around the room, “And here we all are, doing exactly that, gathered here together
having fun!” She broke into tears again, “But so many died, and so unnecessarily!” she argued,
“Quite so,” I agreed, “but neither you nor I can weep forever! We can never forget what happened,
however we must get on with our lives.” I handed her my handkerchief, “Come, stop crying now
and enjoy a lovely evening, stop dwelling in the past. Everything is alright now, tomorrow we will
remember the dead, today we celebrate the living!”
Wiping her eyes, she rose from her chair and hugged me, “I am so very sorry,” she sniffed, “You are
wonderful, we are so pleased that you can come to Germany and play for us.” “And we are very
pleased to be able to come here.” I spoke with an honestly she would never quite understand and
extricating my hand from hers, I hugged her and pulled myself away.
I moved into the bar, bought myself a large scotch and took it back-stage to ruminate. Her outburst
had sobered me considerably, I was flattered and saddened at the same time. The mixture of elation
and sadness was too rich for me, I needed to sit down quietly. Alone.
With the singular exception of a major concert appearance at a theatre, we played exclusively in
cafes and dance halls, where we were traditionally bombarded with glasses full of flaming schnapps.
That is to say, our performance would be interrupted from time to time by a waiter bearing a tray
containing six liqueur glasses, each filled to the brim with the refined spirit, it's meniscus capped
with an almost invisible blue flame. Tradition and the audience demanded we each pick up a glass,
raise it in a toast and swallow the burning liquor in one gulp. (without first extinguishing the flame
mark you). If you managed it successfully you received a rousing cheer of approval, if however, you
blew the flame out before swallowing it, you were booed relentlessly.
Well, sod that for a game of soldiers! I had a full beard and a heavy moustache and by the end of the
evening we were pissed out of our brains and my whiskers were singed to buggery. The smell of
burnt hair was awful and my nose was stinging. One evening of this horror and I'd had enough, there
was only one thing to do, blow the fuckin' flame out! So from the second night onward I made a
comic point of walking to the front of the stage clutching my drink and then openly defying them, I
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
blew out the flame then explained why I'd done so. The audience accepted it in good fun, although
as tradition demanded, they booed me off. I in turn booed back at them and they fell about with
laughter, both at me booing at them and at the mental picture of my whiskers aflame burning my
Not surprisingly we were rebooked to play a return gig at the Luftwaffe Base, the one wherein Tony
Baggott had distinguished himself. The scenario was identical, everything occurred just as it had
been described to me in the story, an afternoon concert in the canteen, for the enlisted men followed
by a dinner dance in the Officer's Mess for the senior ranks. New members, Trumpeter Andy
Laurence, bassist Alan Harris and myself were introduced to the Major and his two Uber-
Lieutenants and of course they asked after Tony Baggott, who, we assured them was well but unable
to be with us this time. “Ach so, das ist sehr traurig, ve were all so looking forward to seeing him
again!” they cried, cracking up, giggling and nudging each other in the ribs.
From that moment on everything went according to the recipe, the Major even telling me not to
bother to pack my drums, “Leave those!” he said, “Do not conzerne yourself, Ken, We haf hundreds
of men here to look after zese sings! They vill take care of it, kom sei mit, we vill to za offizer's
mess go for some refreshments.”
Again they escorted us across the deserted camp, however this time of course nothing untoward
happened. Our hosts could not resist reminding us of the comedy which had taken place on the
band's earlier visit, Tony had become an extremely fond memory, a legend even and we were very
much aware that he'd been a major factor in us being booked for a return visit.
Canapés were served and while nibbling on them between drinks we related tales of where we'd
been and what had occurred since we had last played for them. The break passed quickly and soon it
was time to regroup and play again.
We emerged from the bar to find the club jammed-packed, NCOs, Officers and their wives filled the
place, obviously it was going to be a great night. As usual we'd been drinking steadily since our
arrival and during one tune, after his trombone solo, Bobby slipped off-stage and dashed into the
toilet. Normally he would have been back before we reached the last ensemble chorus, but this time
he was nowhere to be seen. We finished the tune without him and Roy turned to me, “Where the
hell's Bobby?” he asked, “How the fuck would I know?” I exclaimed, “I thought he went for a piss!”
“Jesus bloody Christ,” snapped Pellet irritably, “what the hell's he playing at?” “Why fuckin' ask
me?” I retorted, “Bugger him, start without him!” and we did.
We were well into the next tune when Bob reappeared. He was dressed immaculately in a German
officer's uniform. He'd pasted a Hitler under his nose and goose-stepping across the stage he halted,
left turned and snapping himself to attention he shouldered his trombone and gave the Nazi salute.
I felt a chill and was close to shitting myself as he right turned and goose-stepping back across the
front of the band-stand, he made very loud very rude oom pa-pa farting noises on his trombone.
In spite of this outrageous interruption, we had continued playing as if nothing was happening and
comedy reigned supreme. The art of great comedy is to appear sober while madness prevails all
around you and without meaning to we were adding fuel to his fire, the straighter and more normal
we looked and played, the dafter Bobby's Nazi antics seemed to be
The crazy bastard had gone into the Gent's toilet for a pee and when he saw the the uniform hanging
on the changing room wall, he'd quickly put it on and scarpered. I suppose the owner was still in the
shower or exercising in the gym. Who knows?
My thoughts were running along the lines of, “Holy shit, Bob, you've really overstepped the mark
this time. What the hell happens now?” Roy Pellet also looked panic-stricken but we continued to
play as Bobby, still in time with the music produced fruity farting noises on his trombone and
goose-stepped around the stage with his right arm held aloft.
At first the audience were dumbfounded, they sat transfixed, staring in disbelief at the madman, they
like us were unable to believe their eyes. Then suddenly, they burst into uncontrollable laughter.
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
Men were actually rolling about on the floor. The Fox had struck again and the Roy Pellett Band
had scored another goal.
Chaos reigned, we tried to play through it, but it was impossible, they crowd were cheering and
stamping now and playing became not only impossible but unnecessary, the people didn't want to
listen to us, they wanted to talk to us. We struggled manfully to the end of the tune then Roy
signalled for us to take an interval and we trooped off stage.
As we descended we were surrounded by people and plied with drinks. Bob reappeared, this time
wearing his band uniform and as he walked into the bar, women kissed him and men shook his
hand. Then pushing trays filled with beer and glasses of schnapps towards us, the major ecstatically
claimed full credit, “You see!” he exclaimed triumphantly, “I told you they would be worth the
After the gig was over we retired to the bar and 'bed-time story-time' began in earnest. Germans may
not possess our finely tuned sense of humour, but they enjoy a good laugh the same as everybody
else. Basically, their humour is closely akin to the English Comic Postcard variety, They love big
bums, enormous tits and fat ladies slipping on banana skins, As our stories were either grievously
painful, horribly stressful or nightmarishly embarrassing, they were right up their street so we
related our worst and our best, every single one an embarrassing nightmare. They adored them, even
the wives fell about on hearing of me collapsing on top of a woman in the exclusive 'Females Only'
Amelia Erhardt Hotel.
Eventually I was asked to tell about the time I reversed a Mercedes bus into a mini-car outside Frau
Ettienne's apartment. Initially I demurred, feeling apprehensive about telling a story which involved
their endemic national frailty, that of insisting on Teutonic military precision to a room full of
German military. “Ah what the hell!” I thought, “Tony Baggott and Bobby Fox got away with far
worse, and besides, I'm leaving in a short while, in all probability never to return!” So I told it
I told how after crushing a car I'd offered the owner cash to have it repaired, but he'd refused and
instead insisted on calling the police. The officers and wives nodded their agreement, “Ja wohl!
Bestimmt, Genau! Richtig! Das ist ganz recht! Alles in Ordnung, es ist der correct thing to do!” they
affirmed and I agreed with them, continued with my story feeling even more nervous than before.
When I reached the part where the police charged him ten times more money than me for parking on
a yellow line, they collapsed once more into screams of laughter.
I'd thrown the cat among the pigeons though and they began to argue the situation, “Ja ja ja,
bestimmt, aber those are the rules, that is how things are.” observed someone, “Sure, but he could
have taken the money!”Nobody would have known!” said another, “But he was German!” cried a
woman “he could not cheat the law!” “So!” exclaimed a fourth, “Catch 22, No matter what he did
he couldn't win!” Having led with my chin and having remained unscathed, I threw my cap into the
ring again, “He could have won! If he'd been brave enough!” I said, “If he had let me pay for the
repairs he would have been okay. Nothing would have happened.” The major joined in here, “Ja ja
ja! bestimmt, das ist so, aber in this country we are brought up from birth in this manner und so it is
difficult for us to accept anything that is... er... well... shall we say... different!” he ended, the tears
still rolling down his cheeks.
Finally, regretfully it was time to leave. We said goodnight, shook hands with the men, kissed the
ladies and filed out of the building.
Everyone followed us, eager to savour every last second along with the crazy Englishmen. They
even accompanied us through the parked cars to our bus, repeating their farewells and thanking us
again for a wonderful evening.
Laughing with them we scrambled inside, wobbling groggily, Roy Pellett dragged himself into the
driving seat and as he reversed out of the parking space, there was a loud Kerrrumph and the bus
stopped dead. We sat there stunned, instantly sober! The fool had reversed into a parked car. And
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
that wasn't all, on climbing out to survey the damage we discovered to our dismay that it was the
Major's brand new Mercedes! Of all the cars in the bloody car park, Roy had to reverse into our
employer's brand new Merc! Weaving visibly, he put his hand into his pocket and pulling out his
wallet, he mumbled, “I'm really terribly sorry! Please forgive me! Truly, I don't know what to say?”
But the Major and his friends were sinking to their knees helpless with laughter. It was too
incredible for words, too hilarious to contemplate, it was the perfect 'deja vu'.
I glanced at Bobby, “Catch 22, mush.” I muttered, “Wadaya reckon? Will he take the money or call
The major did neither, staggering around and holding on to a colleague for support he waved Roy
away, “Nein nein nein, nein! Please go! Go, go, go! It is all too much! I will have my mechanics
repair it in the morning, it is nothing, please go!” he gasped. Embarrassed beyond measure and as
sober as a bench full of judges, we climbed back in the bus. Heaving himself behind the wheel for
the second time, Roy started the engine and drove away while behind us people were still staggering
about, laughing and waving to us as we disappeared.
We had a brief resident gig at the 'Bad-Wanne' a restaurant directly across the square from 'The
Weiss Bar'. Translated the name Bad-Wanne means 'The Bath-Tub' and although I was aware of
that, I'd given no thought as to the implications until one evening I came off the band-stand to find
myself being teased very explicitly by two pretty girls. Descending from the stage and walking
towards the bar, I passed by a table they were sharing with a very drunken man He may have been
pissed but he was still firing on all cylinders, as I was to learn to my cost.
As I passed, the two women stood up and draping themselves around me cradled and gently
kneaded my genitals in their hands. I was taken by surprise, but as usual played it cool, acting as if
this kind of thing happened to me everyday. Strangely enough, at this point I had still not twigged.
Fondling me overtly, laughing, teasing and making a fuss of what they called, “Unser klug kleine
Englische schlagzeuger.” (Our cute little English drummer) it was only then that I noticed they were
virtually naked, dressed only in the flimsiest of transparent negligees and I mean seriously
transparent, nothing,absolutely nothing at all was left to the imagination, the negligee was it! No
panties, no bras, nothing!
I was amused, I was enjoying their attention and fondling until I was lifted off my feet by my lapels
by the now murderous drunk. Ramming me violently against the wall he leered into my face, “So,
mein klug kleine Englische schlagzeuger! Und jezt?” he sneered. I tried to remove his hands, “Nein
nein nein!” I cried, “Was ist los mit ihnen? Was ist los?” “Was ist los?” he exclaimed, “I paid a lot
of gelt for the exclusive rights to these women tonight! Das ist was ist los! Und jezt, mein cute little
Englische drummer boy, I'm going to translate for you exactly what is meant by the words 'Exklusiv'
und 'Allesnacht'! I'm going to beat it into your cute little fucking head so that you will never forget
what it means!”
Only then did the penny drop, suddenly it dawned on me that we were playing in a Bordello. “Hey!
Whoa! Hold on a minute! Ein moment, bitte!” I cried, “I'm the bloody drummer in the house band, I
work here, I don't want your girls, they're my workmates, we are friends!” Pulling back his arm, he
balled his fist ready to strike, “Bullshit!” he snarled. Ducking under his arm I shot out of the
building and legged across the square to The Weiss Bar, where I collapsed into a seat, my heart
thumping in my throat. He was too pissed to understand what I was talking about and there was no
way I was taking a punch in the mouth from a drunk over a couple of whores, no matter how
friendly they might be!
He was also too preoccupied to bother with chasing me, so I was safe for the moment. Sheltering in
the shining white virginal haven of the Weiss Bar, I spent fifteen minutes with the comparatively
overdressed, though far less dangerous ladies, taking my interval chatting peacefully and quietly
Later of course, when making my way back across the square I wondered fearfully if the guy was
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
still feeling murderous, but figured with two pretty girls to divert his attention, even a drunk could
be persuaded to forget his animosity. Well, hopefully anyway.
In spite of the trauma I could not help grinning to myself, The name 'Bad-Wanne' now made a
whole lot more sense. I suppose that if one desired it would be possible to pay for and be provided
with a whole Jacuzzi full of girls, should the necessity arise and the kind of money required for such
a service be available.
Morally speaking I had no problem with that, Nor did I mind working in a brothel, that was okay
with me, traditionally speaking it is generally mooted that jazz music began in the bordellos of New
Orleans and while I did not entirely agree with the hypotheses, I had no problems with it.
We (The Roy Pellett Jazz band) were supposedly on a country-wide tour however it seemed to me
that we were constantly returning to Dusseldorf and mainly to appear at the Weiss Bar, I might add.
However, one morning the proprietor informed us that the following day we were to drive to
Stuttgart to appear at his great friend's bar there called the 'The London Tower'. “London Tower?”
echoed Roy, “In Stuttgart? I've never heard of it! It's not on my itinerary!” “Ney ney ney, you do not
understand, Roy,” said the guy, “I have arranged it! I have fixed for you to play zere. Ja? Za owner
is an old friend of mine und in his bar tomorrow you will play.” Roy nodded and we all looked
resigned. “Zo! Why you look so bad?” he cried, “It is called the 'London Tower' und it vill be very
good for you! It is good for an Englische jazz band to play in an Englische Pub! Nicht wahr? And
for my friend also it is good to have an Englische band playing in his Englische Bar. Ja?” Roy
grinned and nodded his head, “It is also very good for me!” added the German, smiling, “It will help
also for me to pay your wages, you are very expensive for me to have you play here every night.
You understand?” “Yeah, of course! Right! Gotcher, me old son, we understand perfectly.” replied
Roy, “So how far is fuckin' Stuttgart then, for God's sake?” interjected someone, “I sink you must
leave maybe just before lunchtime to be comfortable,” replied our employer, “Der London Tower
Bar is in ein beaudiful old street in der altstadt. I vill write for you the address and don't vorry, you
vill find it okay, kein problem!”
Taking his advice, we set off just before lunchtime the following morning and of course had 'kein
problem' finding the bar, it was just as he'd described in a very narrow street in the altstadt. And
when I say narrow, I mean narrow, the bedroom windows of the overhanging Tudor style buildings
were so close together the occupants could have leaned across and shaken hands!
Roy halted the bus directly beneath a great hand-painted English pub sign proudly announcing:
'LONDON TOWER' but erroneously the painter had produce a picture of 'Tower Bridge'.
It was the usual mistake most foreigners make, except for the yanks that is, Americans get the
Tower bit right, but invariably they believe that Tower Bridge is called London Bridge. Indeed when
London Bridge went up for sale, they grabbed it and were very disappointed to find it was not what
they thought. However, they kept their part of the bargain and re-erected it somewhere in the USA.
Clambering out of the bus we gathered around as Roy banged on the door. It was opened by a burly
long haired heavily bearded man who took one look at us and said tersely “Wir sind geslosen! Was
wohlen Sie? (We are closed, what is it you want?) “We're the Roy Pellet Band!” declared Roy
triumphantly, “So what?” replied the guy in English, “I told you already! Tonight I am closed, vhat
do you vant?” “Oops! And there's bin an almighty fuck-up then!” murmured Bobby Fox, nudging
me in the ribs. Roy looked distraught, “But we've been sent here by the owner of The Weiss Bar in
Dusseldorf, he gave us to understand that you and he had arranged for us to play here this evening!”
“Sheiße!” The German stared at us in amazement and for a second I thought he was going to tell us
to piss off. Instead he burst into raucous laughter, “Vell,” he exclaimed, “if I'm going to lose money,
I may as well hef a good time losing it! Kom my friends, vhat can I get you?” and walking straight
behind the bar he held a bottle above his head, “Is okay!” he laughed, “Alles is on der house, ve may
as well enjoy ourselves eh? Ven you all have a drink I will telephone my friends und ve will have a
party. Ja?” And that is exactly what we did.
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
As soon as we were all sat down sipping our beers, he picked up the telephone, dialled a number
and exclaimed, “Come to my bar now, Ja, as quickly, as soon as you can!... Ja!... An Englische
Jazzband has turned up out of the blue... Ja ja ja! I had no idea they were coming either! The Bar
was closed, so now we are sitting here getting pissed and you are invited to help us do it. Okay?
Just bring a partner and some food!”
In less than an hour the place was full of people several of whom were carrying trays of grub. A
monumental disaster had been miraculously transformed into a roaring success. Naturally we related
our favourite stories and told them our best jokes and everyone was having a whale of a time until
Roy suddenly said, “Well come on lads, fetch your horns, we'll play a few tunes for these lovely
people, seeing as how they've all been so generous.”
He was right of course, however I couldn't be bothered to set up the entire bloody drum kit, instead I
used just a snare drum, my hi-hat pedal and a ride cymbal. It was okay, it's possible to manage with
that. We played for about an hour, perhaps half a dozen tunes, then abandoning our instruments we
rejoined the crowd. They didn't care, after all we were more entertaining off-stage than on.
Somewhere along the way somebody slipped me a joint and nudging Bobby, he and I ducked
outside and smoked it. Ten minutes later back inside the bar, we got the giggles and raved about the
place in a frenzy of comic banter, most of it relating to having driven all the way to Stuttgart to do a
non-existent gig, then get pissed and stoned AND get paid for the privilege! “And to think,”
moaned Bobby, “we could have stayed in Dusseldorf with all those lovely girls!” “Ja, I mean, this is
a hell of a long way to come!” I groaned ambiguously, “Get hold of yourself, Arro!” advised Bobby,
equally ambiguous. The Germans were falling about, they thought we were too wonderful for
It was two thirty in the morning before the party broke up and we filed out of the bar. Naturally
things were a little noisy and the people living nearby opened their bedroom windows and began
shouting, “Sweigen! Stumm! Gott im himmel was ist los mit ihnen? Sind sie verrukt, es ist two
thirty in the morning for God's sake!” “Whoops, Sorry darlings, sorry about the trouble!” we called
back to them, “Ach so, Englanders! We might have guessed! That explains everything!” they said in
exasperation. Bobby and I smiled benignly at them and waved our hands, and this did nothing to
endear us to them, indeed it fanned their passions to an even greater heat and they began throwing
eggs at us. Seriously! I mean it! Eggs! Real eggs!
Well that did it for Bobby and me, we staggered around holding our sides laughing helplessly, we
fell down and rolled about in the street with eggs bursting around us like tiny squishy bombs. “I
can't believe this is happening, Arro” gasped Bobby, “They're throwing bloody eggs at us, mush!”
“Eggzactly,” I replied, “it's the blitz all over again, nip!” These remarks brought us even further
undone and we rolled in the gutter covered in raw egg and screaming with laughter.
Someone managed to get us to our feet and they manhandled us inside the bus, where still heaving
with laughter we collapsed onto a seat. The rest of the band climbed in after us and as usual Roy
Pellett lurched into the driving seat. But, as he was firing up the engine, a police car screamed
around the corner halting in front of us, barring our way. Three burly policemen hopped out and
walking to the driver's door one of them knocked on the window, signalling for Roy to wind down
the glass. He fumbled, but I'll admit he did his best, when he finally got it under control, he smiled,
“Good morning Offishers! What on earth'sh the matter? Where'sh the emergency? Has there been an
accident?” he asked. “Not yet.” murmured Bobby sardonically and he and I were off again. “Guten
Abend,” replied the cop, Please to switch off your engine, sir.” “But why? Was ist los, Herr
Offisher?” asked Roy again. “Someone called us from zis street und explained zere vas a bus full of
drunken Englanders here und she felt strongly zat perhaps you vere not fit to drive away your bus.
Nicht vahr? She also vurried that you were to yourselves a danger, as well as to za ozzer peebles.
High on dope, upon hearing the wonderfully bent English, Bobby and I came apart at the seams, we
fell about, it adorable, hilarious! Waved to the cops, we stuck out our tongues, pulling horrible faces
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
and pressing our noses to the window we inflated our mouths against the glass.
The cops began laughing and nudging each other, “Und it is quite easy to understand vhy der lady
should sink zis way, sir!” added one of his colleagues, nodding in agreement. Pellett was undaunted,
“My dear chap, I quite understan', slurred Roy, “an' we shinsherly 'ppreciate her concern for our
welfare,. However, I can ashure you, there is absholutely no caush for alarm. None what-sho-ever!”
Even the cops were cracking up by this time, “I sink perhaps, ist besser you kom out from zer bus,
sir.” grinned the third and opening the door he grabbed Roy's elbow and attempted to help him
Bobby looked at me and began to sing: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha hah, Ho ho ho ho ho.” It was from the a
very old 'Music Hall' song entitled, 'The Laughing Policeman' a distant memory from our childhood
which resulted in us both collapsing completely. We were beside ourselves, it was all too much,
what with the egg bombs, Roy's drunken mumblings plus our own idiotic behaviour and now
surrounded by '”Laughing Policemen' (who by this time were staggering about the sidewalk as
amused by the unfolding drama as we ourselves) I had the distinct impression that back at the
station, they'd been fairly heavily into the schnapps themselves. But Roy Pellett hadn't finished,
disengaging his arm he said, “No no no! Don-choo worry Offisher, everything is going to be
At this point, Alan Harris, (who offstage dressed immaculately in an an English gentlemen's
business suit, complete with bowler hat and rolled umbrella - the ensemble giving him a
distinguished and sober appearance, hopped out of the front passenger seat and walking briskly
around to the driver's side, said, “It's quite alright Officer, leave everything to me I'll take over
here.” and grabbing Roy's arm, said, “Come along dear chap, out you get!” and removing our
glorious leader, Alan steered him past the policemen, round the front of the bus and into the empty
seat he'd just vacated. Then marching briskly back and nodding to the three officers he jumped into
the driver's seat, “Don't worry Officer, everything is under control.” he said imperiously and starting
the engine he reversed the bus, drove it around their car and away down the street. The policemen
were still laughing and waving as we disappeared.
Of course, unless the sneaky sod had been pouring his booze down the loo, Harris was as pissed as
the rest of us, “You cheeky bastard!” we chorused as he headed for the autobahn, “You've gotta
fuckin' nerve, you 'ave!” and giggling madly, mainly at his own effrontery, he drove us safely to our
hotel in Dusseldorf.
It was dawn when we fell gratefully and bleary eyed into bed and we had some very unkind words
for the owner of the Weiss Bar that afternoon. He already knew about it of course, his friend had
phoned him and told him the story. As we entered the bar he raised his hands in mock horror, then
laughed at the sight of our visible hangovers. “Gott im Himmel! Look at you, I hope you can for us
play properly zis evening?” he added, concern suddenly appearing on his face. “It'll be your fuckin'
fault if we can't!” wailed Roy miserably. We played very well of course, after a few beers by eight
o'clock that evening we were ready for a repeat performance.
We were hired to perform a Sunday Concert at a theatre in... I can't recall the name of the town or
city, it was in Siegerland, I remember that and that is all I can recall, I've tried looking it up on the
map, but either it doesn't exist or it's too small. Never mind, it's not important. The theatre had a
play running six nights a week, sop it was closed on the seventh and we had been engaged to play
on the seventh, the night it was closed so to speak. Well it so happens that the 'famous' leading lady
was a jazz fan and she decided to come and see our show. Apparently she was an extremely famous
actor, a German superstar no less.
Her name meant nothing to me and indeed it still doesn't because without knowing it in the first
place, I could not commit it to memory. I don't follow that field of artistic endeavour in my own
country, never mind Germany, or anywhere else for that matter. I had a different set of heroes, my
youth was spent worshipping jazz musicians and my adult life was spent performing with them,
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
therefore I had but a passing interest in the acting profession. In fact I rarely pay any attention to it at
all, not even now. Back then I knew nothing about English actors and even less about German
actors, or indeed Thespians of any nationality for that matter. However I can tell you all you'll ever
need to know about the great German jazz musicians, people like Peter Trunk, Hans Koller and
Apart from the classic performances of the great comedians, I've never taken much interest in either
the Cinema, Theatre or Television. I am not denigrating the craft. I acknowledge and respect the
talent and the skill they is involved. I realise that effectively pretending to be someone else on cue,
to order, is not easy, it is an art form and I mean that sincerely, I'm not being facetious here. I also
hold the firm opinion that British actors, with their Shakespearian training and (Stratford-on-Avon)
experience, are the best in the world at doing it. Some Americans, people like Robert De Niro,
Dustin Hoffman, Marlon Brando are in that class and there are a few others. However, and more to
the point, it is my contention that to powerfully be yourself, while making beautiful music is an
even greater art, but I'll also agree that it is merely my personal opinion.
For instance, it is possible to hire an actor to play someone like me in a movie, but I believe it is
more important to actually be me! People like me are too busy being themselves to play at being
someone else! As it happens I do a lot of work as a film-extra, but would never claim to be an actor,
nor do I want to be one. It is something I do to earn extra money when I'm not gigging, but I would
never accept a part which involved speaking, learning lines or turning on the required emotions on
cue. Not my scene, I'm great as face in a crowd, meeeeeeee!
Oscar Lavant carved a Hollywood career out playing himself, so I guess you could say he did both
at the same time. Dudley Moore also made it work in both professions, Dexter Gordon did very well
in the movie, 'Round Midnight' and Miles Davis managed beautifully in a cult Australian movie
entitled, 'Dingo' but I'm digressing now. Back to the story:
So the famous German actor showed up at our concert and I may say it was well worth her effort, it
was a wonderful evening and she, plus everyone else had a glorious time. A great audience
contributes as much to a performance as the performers and this audience was truly wonderful, they
fired us up to meltdown point and then kept us up there. At the end of the show they wouldn't let us
go, applauding and screaming for more and more and more. After the final coda of the final encore,
when my name had been announced and I had dutifully tossed and dropped my stick and stumbled
around the stage pretending to find it, we finally said goodnight and the curtain closed.
As usual I began to dismantle my kit, Alan Harris put the cover on his bass and the rest of the guys
packed away their instruments in preparation for departure. Tonight however, things went a little
differently, the theatre manager suddenly appeared on stage, “Gentlemens,” he announced, “when
you have finished packing your instruments away, please come to the bar, our generous leading lady
is throwing a party for everyone, the entire staff and yourselves, as her guests of course.” he added,
quickly. “That's extremely generous of her.” we said, “we will certainly accept the invitation.” I
glanced up from my task, “Tell her thank you very much from me too,” I said, “but I really must
pack these things away. Tell the lady I will be along in about fifteen to twenty minutes?” I
beseeched him, “Alles klar, Ken.” he replied and smiling he disappeared.
Twenty minutes later I loaded the drums into the back of the bus locked the doors and made my way
back inside the theatre. Walking across the darkened stage and through the deserted auditorium I
headed for the light spilling from the arches leading into the long-bar. By this time the party was in
full swing, the whole entourage were seated around a very large coffee table on which was arrayed
a generous supply of food and champagne.
As I walked through the nearest archway onto the highly polished parquet floor, standing in front of
me was a tubular steel chair and instant whimsy gripped my soul. I broke into a run, leapt onto the
chair in the kneeling position and just as I'd hoped, it took off like a rocket. Smiling broadly I flew
past the quietly munching crowd, waving theatrically as I passed. They watched incredulously as I
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
whizzed by, their busy jaws dropping in amazement.
Exhilarated on reaching the other end of the bar, I thought, “That was great, I think I'll do it again!”
and I repeated the performance, once again waving as I went by, this time however, my audience
actually waved back!
I was having a whale of a time, turning the chair around, I shot past them for a third time, smiling
and waving and of course they too were laughing and waving frantically at me. Man, I was really
getting into it now!
However, the manager rose from his chair and walking into my path he stopped the chair and taking
me by the arm said, “Come Kenny, have some Champagne before your friend's drink it all!” I
laughed, “Yeah! Bloody good point, mate! Sound advice. Goin' a bit, are they?” I grinned, “Ja,” he
replied laughing, “I sink they are very thirsty, perhaps from too much the playing. Ja?” “Nein!” I
scoffed, laughing, My friends they are always too much thirsty!” and we joined the crowd at the
As we approached the table, the actress patted the seat next to her, “Kom, Kenny, sit beside me,”
she said, “I can see you are as amusing off-stage as you are on.” Bowing deeply, I boomed, “One
does one's best, modom!” I was using my gruffest theatrical 'English Butler' voice although in actual
fact it was Woof-Woof's of course, but only I could have known that.
Her laughter tinkled delightfully. “I think perhaps you are wasted behind the drums Ken, you should
be an actor, or perhaps a comedian.” “Certainly not,” I smiled as I sat down, “I should be doing
exactly what I'm doing, madam! I would be wasted doing anything else! The drums are my metier,
my forte you might say.” she took my point and apologised, “Of course, my Darlink, I'm sorry,
please forgive me, that was a silly thing to say.” I stood up and kissed her hand, “Of course you're
forgiven! I forgive you entirely!” I boomed and bowing again, pressed her hand to my forehead.
Again she burst into laughter and patted the chair, Please sit down. Come and tell me some of your
wonderful stories, I understand you have quite a collection.” and so I settled down and the party
proceeded. she was a delightful lady, I really wish I'd made a note of her name.
Picking up a glass of bubbly from the table, I glanced around me. Apart from ourselves and the
theatre staff, there were the usual gaggle of journalists, some with their notebooks already in hand.
One of them, a young lady, came over and sat on the floor beside my chair and looking up at me
began to ask the usual journo's questions. I replied with my usual answers, joking with her, rarely
giving a straight answer. Others of her ilk approached and popped in a question or two from time to
time and of course they received the same reaction.
One of the young women present was also a primary school teacher and she asked if the band would
be willing go along to the school the following morning and devote a few hours to entertaining the
children? Everyone was very enthusiastic and I agreed to show them how to play the school
percussion instruments properly . Her conversation turned to other things and losing interest plus
being a late starter, I got stuck into the refreshments, it was a super party, the supply of food and
champagne seemed unending and I had a good crack at both and on the whole it was a very pleasant
end to a really lovely evening.
The following morning the local newspaper reviewed our concert, plus, to my surprise, there was a
review of the party. The reviewer described the musical performances in detail, remarking on the
individual playing of each musician and noting their American influences. Edmond Hall, Louis
Armstrong, Trummy Young, etcetera. when it got to me, I read: “Drummer Ken Harrison, was like
something out of Don Martin's 'MAD' magazine!' and it then went on to describe in fine detail, my
crazy antics throughout the entire evening on stage and off. I adored it! It was my all time favourite
newspaper review although in my own opinion it made me appear a lot funnier than I really was.
I cut it out of the newspaper, put it in my wallet and sent it to Elizabeth, but later when I asked her
to return it, or at least allow me to make a copy of it for my scrap book, she informed me she had
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
So my favourite review suffered the same fate as the photograph of the tiny monkey peering inside
her mouth and again I was mortified by her gross philistine disregard for things that I considered a
As promised I turned up at the school the following morning to play for the children and was
surprised to find I was the only member of the band to do so. Not to be undone, I repaired all the
broken bits of the school drum-kit and tuning it properly, (these are things that are always in need of
attention) I then spent an amusing couple of hours showing them how to play them, plus shake,
rattle, bang or blow the various percussion instruments which the school had provided: Triangle,
tambourine, maracas, claves, bongoes, a Samba whistle and a Swannee whistle, etc etc. I then
encouraged them to ask questions and showed them as much as was possible in the short time at my
To top it off, I played the drum kit and had them join in along with me. Needless to say, it was truly
lovely, we all had a wonderful time banging blowing and rattling the living shit out of everything to
hand. The din was horrific, only a drummer and a room full of children could have enjoyed it!
Time ran out and after saying goodbye, I was led by the teachers into their staff-room and given the
customary mug of coffee and some biscuits.
Sitting down I smiled, picked up my mug and could not believe my ears as they gathered around me,
all gabbling at once. One young lady, presumably nominated by the others, shushed them and began
talking seriously to me and I mean very seriously, very seriously indeed.
“We would all like to thank you very much for coming here this morning Ken. However we do
realise that you are a very sick man and we want you to know that we are always here for you if you
ever need our help.” she began, Well! I was absolutely gobsmacked! I stared at her bemused, “We
cannot offer you financial help,” she hastened to add, “We cannot give you money, but if you ever
need spiritual support of any kind we are always here for you, all you need do is call us and
someone will be at your side.”
I couldn't speak, I think for very the first time in my life I was truly struck dumb. The same young
lady then handed me a gift, saying “Take this, we want you to have it, keep it by you and whenever
your affliction is too hard to bear, we urge you to play it.” Still speechless, I accepted it, glancing in
astonishment at the title, it was a long playing record entitled, 'Der Weg Zur Freiheit. Die Christus-
Sanger.' (The Way To Freedom. The Festival Of Christ)
I was thunderstruck, I translated the words in a sort of daze, It was certainly one of the few times in
my life when I have really been rendered totally unable to speak. I sipped my coffee as I tried to
gather my wits, I was aware that these young people were trying to be nice and in spite of my
ruthless verbal denigration of ninety-niners I did not want to hurt their feelings and so searched my
mind frantically to find something nice to say.
Finally I found my tongue, “This is very kind of you and I thank you very much, I will treasure this
record for ever and I thank you again. However I really don't think you will be hearing from me, we
have some very busy tours scheduled and when I finish my contract with Herr Pellet I intend to fly
to Australia to buy a home and settle down. It is most unlikely that I will call you from so far away.”
I smiled, hoping for a smile in return but no such luck “We all want you to know that we do
understand your illness, Kenny, we know what you are going through and we feel a great concern
for you.” Here another, slightly older woman interjected,.”We know how terrible your affliction
must be and how difficult it must be for you to continue working. We would like to think that you
can find it in your heart to trust us. The telephone is always here and we are always here for you.”
By now my brain was screaming silently at ten thousand decibels, inside my head the din was worse
than our earlier percussion session. “I gotta get out of here!” it was screaming, “What is the matter
with these people? The way to freedom? They are a million miles from freedom! They don't know
what freedom is! I'm closer to freedom than they'll ever be! Dear God they think my jokes and
laughter is a sickness! Christ knows why? And if he does, why doesn't he put them straight?” I
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
replaced my coffee cup on the table and stood up, my mouth interrupting my horror stricken brain.
“Thank you, You've been very kind and now I really must be on my way.” it said. Ridiculously I
was reminded of the textbook description of a reflex action: “A motor response to a sensory
stimulus, without the intervention of the brain.” My mouth was reacting in exactly that way and
ignoring my swirling thoughts it spoke again, “You have been very generous and I want you to
know that it has given me a great deal of pleasure coming here this morning to entertain and teach
the children, but now I must say goodbye!”
Walking out of the staff room I set off across the grass towards the road beyond, but they followed
me, grouped themselves around me, walking beside me smiling and pouring more of the same inane
drivel into my tormented ears. Now I was really traumatised. It was too weird for even my bizarre
taste. I knew what they were trying to do, in their collective mind they were trying to comfort
someone they believed to be mentally ill, or perhaps more likely addicted to heroine. However I was
extremely uncomfortable with their kindly effort, never mind from which philanthropic source it
might have sprung from. I was angry too, “How dare they?” I thought, “I am an entertainer, making
people happy is my job, my raison d'etre! Had I been a plumber, a lawyer, or a German primary
school teacher, and had behaved in this crazy manner I could have understood their attitude and
perhaps might even have agreed with it, but I was a professional entertainer! It was my job to spread
joy, laughter and happiness, and I did it very successfully, I may add, “I spread more joy and
happiness in one week than those people will in their entire fuckin' lives!” I snarled.
I found their attitude frustrating, as far as I was concerned they were travelling down the wrong
road. People who regard laughter and fun as madness, or worse, as wicked, have taken the wrong
path entirely and indeed are a long way down that wrong path. Laughter and music are two of
nature's most effective medicines, they are very important and the people who enrich the lives of
others by passing on these precious gifts are important too.
Returning to my hotel room and still feeling very angry, I flung the LP onto the bed and as I did so,
the vinyl disc slipped from the cover and with it, a letter. I picked it up and began reading. Basically
it was a written reiteration of what had been said to me in person only minutes before and which I
have tried to describe above. I was still unable to think straight and screwing it up I threw into the
waste bin, However, after I'd calmed down a little, I retrieved it, straightened it out placed it in my
A few days later, in the relative calm of another hotel room in another city, I dug the letter out and
penned a reply, reiterating the words I have written above. Before sealing the envelope, hoping to
learn more about them I picked up the LP and read the liner notes. It explained they were part of a
choir from many churches who get together to have fun with music in praise of the Lord:
'Christ sein heißt fur sie, die moeglichkeit eines neuen lebens,' and translated that reads: “Christ is
hot for you and makes possible a new way of life.”
“Oh is that so?” I sneered, “Well okay, if that's what you believe ladies, that's fine with me!
However, personally I believe it is you he's hot for, not me!”
And that was okay too, I believe in their right to believe in whatever they need to believe in, but I
also believe that people like them should keep their beliefs to themselves. “Think things through
before you go shouting your mouth off to others. It so happens I prefer my way, I am content, I don't
need a new way of life! My belief and my way of life suits me just fine!
I did not add my bitter sneers to the reply, I was merely letting off steam and I'm using the present
tense here because although these women are now much older and I hope wiser, if they ever read
this book it might help them to understand. There are still people like them around, The cheeky
bastards even knock on my front door to inform me they can help me find God and true happiness!
What a fuckin' nerve! I'll tell you how I deal with them, smiling broadly I explain, “Thank you, but I
am at peace with myself, I am at peace with God and with my existence. Totally at one with the
cosmos!” And it's true, I am all of those things. However, on hearing it my visitors melt visibly and
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
then ask, “What is your secret, how did you do it?”
Now think about that for a moment! Why are they banging on doors, claiming they can bring me
happiness and peace, if they don't know how to achieve it themselves? It's because they are not
happy at all, they are merely scared shitless and they think that perhaps this knocking on doors and
helping others is going to help God to forgive them. Forgive what? Maybe there is no God and no
sins to forgive. Maybe they've done nothing for their god to forgive. I truly doubt very much
whether most people have ever done much harm, yet they are terrified.
I'm pretty sure that pictured on the front cover of the record sleeve, in the top left hand photograph,
are two of the young ladies involve in my lecture. The one about to toot her flute and her near
neighbour, the one wearing the medallion around her neck, were two of the schoolteachers involved.
I think so, their faces ring a lot of bells whenever I look at the picture.
I don't wish to appear uncharitable, I know they meant well at the time and I enjoyed the wonderful
tour of 'civilian' Germany, it was the best adventure I ever had in their lovely country. I really mean
that, playing for German audiences was one of the personal highlights of my career and as I say, I
have kept the record album, it is of great sentimental value and indeed I do value the sentiment
behind their foolishness. Oh by the way, I have never once listened to the record! Never even
removed it from it's protective plastic sleeve. However I promised those ladies that I would keep it
for ever and I will. I have written elsewhere in this book that if you do not intend to keep a promise
don't make it in the first place, simply keep your fuckin' mouth shut!
We finished our tour of Germany and crossed into Switzerland where we were scheduled to tour the
major cities ending with a month in Zurich at the Casa Bar.
I confess the tour of Switzerland's country town's was fairly forgettable, although I shall never forget
playing in a very modern hotel somewhere along the way where they provided us each with a free
room of our own as part of the deal. It was a great new hotel, everything was super-fantastic, except
for my free accommodation that is. Well even that may have been okay for someone else, not for me
though I'm afraid. You see, my room was a fur-lined orange box. Perfectly square it had been
covered with thick fluffy orange carpet. “So?” I hear you cry, “It's only carpet!!” True, but in this
case it wasn't just the floor. The entire four walls, ceiling and even the bloody door had been
covered with the same thick fluffy crap (Like the stuff those little hairy 'trol dolls' are made from).
I mean it was ghastly! I couldn't sleep! Not a single wink! Not even with the light switched off and a
pillow over my head! I felt as though the orange room enveloped me, as if I were housed in a fluffy
I lay on the bed perspiring, rigid with acute fur-lined claustrophobia, then to add to my misery I
broke out in a dust related allergic reaction. At last I knew how it felt to be a sweaty foot inside an
orange 'Ugh' boot. and 'Ugh' was the right name for them. Boy was I glad to get out of there!
For some reason at the next hotel, I found myself separated from Bobby Fox and instead sharing a
room with Roy Pellet. Perhaps somewhere along the way he'd decided Bobby and I were bad for
each other and should be policed. However his plan backfired, well on me anyway. He distinguished
himself magnificently by coming in at three o'clock the following morning, switching on all the
lights and calling out my name as he teetered beside his bed, trying unsuccessfully to undo the
buckle on his belt.
Naturally, at first I pretended to be asleep, however he was not to be discouraged, “Ken? Ken! Are
you awake mate? Ken, Ken, KENNY!” he shouted, until finally I sat up, “For God's sake, Roy!” I
cried, “What's the matter with you?” “Matter? With me?” he exclaimed, “There's nothing the matter
with meeeeeeee! Nothing whatsoever! Asha matter of fact, I have just rid myshelf of all my worldly
problemsh!” “Oh really,” I replied wearily, “and how did you manage that?” “I shot them out of the
end of my dick, mate!” he said triumphantly and falling flat on his face onto his bed he passed out. I
never heard another peep out of him.
I fell asleep laughing, well, ya gotta pay that one, that was almost worth being woken up for!
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
Actually I have to say here that Roy Pellet was a great drunk. I don't mean he was a lush, he wasn't
an alcoholic or continuously inebriated, not by any stretch of the imagination, but when in the grip
of the demon alcohol he was a great drunk, a classic drunk in fact. For instance; there are people in
Hollywood who are actually hired solely for their ability to play people like Roy Pellet. You're
familiar with them. Picture a deserted street in New York: 'In the background a sensuous alto
saxophone plays the blues, nightfall blankets the city as the rain falls polishing the scene, the tiny
splashes reflected in the lamp-light. A drunk lurches from a doorway, collides with the lamp post
and disappears into another doorway.' Inside, Humphrey Bogart turns to the lady beside him...
Got it? Well that's Roy Pellet! An actor gets paid thousands of dollars for doing that, Give Roy
Pellett a few scotches and a beer or two and he'll do it for nothing!
The perfect example occurred immediately after we'd finished a gig in a venue only five hundred
yards from our hotel. This was very unusual for us and we had agreed on an early set up and to pick
our gear up the following morning and therefore, as he didn't have to drive anywhere that evening,
Roy Pellett got into the piss something ruthless and a couple of hours, plus a few drinks later, the
manager asked us very politely to leave. On our way to our hotel, we passed a still brightly lit
restaurant and although the rest of us could see it was closed, Roy was not convinced. I mean the
table linen had been removed, chairs had been up-ended on the bare tabletops and the head waiter,
alone at last, was about to lock up and go home.
Roy's bleary eyes recorded only the bright lights, the bar and the waiter's uniform, “Ah-hah!” he
breathed, “Just the place we're looking for!” and opening the door he stepped inside. As he did so
the man held the door and barred his way, “My dear Chap!” exclaimed Roy, “How kind! I'll have a
glass of your very fines...” Turning him around, the waiter gently propelled him back into the street,
where Roy, lurching towards us finished his sentence, “'nest ale, my dear fellow!” he concluded and
continued walking towards the hotel as though nothing had happened.
I fell about.
Finally we arrived in Zurich. It was wonderful, four glorious weeks working in the same bar, the
mere thought of it was too good to be true until we discovered the stupid bastards had booked us
into a hotel way across town. Dumping our gear Roy drove us to the Casa-Bar, basically to establish
our presence and on the way he got really angry, “No fucking way!” he cried after several laborious
kilometres, “I'm not putting up with this every fuckin' night! No, fuck this for a game of soldiers, I
can find us something a lot closer than this!” and the following day he booked us in to a pension
situated in the same street, almost directly opposite The Casa-bar itself. Admittedly it was no luxury
hotel, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it meant we had only to walk across the street to get
to work and better still on the return trip we merely had to stagger the same distance.
I remember it well, we arrived the day before we were due to start work and as I say, we made our
way to the Casa bar in order to let them know we'd arrived. Roy could have phoned of course, but
we were excited and at a loose end. Besides, we wanted to see the band we were replacing and say
hello to the guys. Plus the grub at the Casa bar was cheap and not to be sniffed at
Anyway, the band turned out to be Bob Wallis and the Storyville Jazz band, with another old mate
Laurie Chescoe on drums. I hadn't seen any of them for donkey's years, not since Doug Richford had
left Wallace to form his 'London Jazzmen, so it was a very fond reunion. As soon as we walked in
the door they stopped playing and jumping off the stage, they fell about, yelling raucous greetings
and hugging us.
Needless to say, the evening turned into a bacchanalia of gigantic proportions and I'm sure it was
this that finally cemented Roy's decision to move us to a hotel closer to the bar. He realised that
driving the bus across the city after an evening in the Casa-Bar was not something to be taken too
It so happened that Alan Harris was married to a Swiss girl who's sister lived in a very nice
apartment right in the centre of Zurich. Naturally it was a perfect opportunity for a family get
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
together and indeed the perfect place for it so Alan's wife flew over from England to spend some
time with both her husband and her sister and it follows that we ended up there after our first
A number of Swiss musicians plus wives and friends were present and a very tiny, very beautiful
Swiss girl took a fancy to me and made it very obvious. Liz's absence was hurting real bad, I needed
her very much, and in her absence I needed the attention of this beautiful young woman too,
however in spite of my deprivation I was flattered and interested but trapped in my own private
dilemma. I must make a point here, I'm not trying to give the impression I am, or ever was some
kind of prude, Having some years before this overcome my fear of extra-marital sex, I was not a
prude nor am I now. Indeed whenever I was not emotionally attached to someone nothing in my
path was safe. “If it moves fuck it, if it don't move, paint it!” was my credo. I'm also not posing a
query as to whether this was a good or bad way to be, but it's how I was then and possibly would
still be now, were I a free agent.
However, at this particular time I was awash with my own particular brand of peculiarity which
was: when deeply in love with someone, nobody else was of any importance to me whatsoever.
True I fell off the wagon from time to time, for instance, when away at sea, and for some years
Heather had been an exception, I had never been unfaithful to her, and later, she could entice me to
break my rule at the click of her fingers and it was her fingers that she used, more often than not, but
now I even shied away from her, the truth is, I was interested only in Elizabeth Cornish and nobody
else would do.
The tiny Swiss girl did her very best, but as much as I needed to be held and caressed, as much as I
needed to hold and caress in return, even when love was offered to me on a plate, it simply didn't
turn me on. She displayed her lovely little body very provocatively, leaving nothing to my
imagination, even taking me to her bed, she wined and dined me and while cooking the food, gave
me a book of pornographic cartoons to look at, every few minutes poking her head around the door
to ask if I like it. Of course I liked it! You bet your arse I liked it! It was a great little book, full of
wonderful cartoons depicting cunnilingus in a hundred different ways, My favourite being: A huge
wheel, rotating between a reclining woman's legs, it's surface composed of thousands of salivating
tongues. In the cartoon, it was moving slowly and inexorably towards her clitoris like the giant
circular-saw in early cinematic melodramas. However in this instance the expression on the girl's
face was not one of fear, but of wondrous anticipation.
Thus the young lady informed me of her predilections, or so I supposed, and as it happens I was
overtly fond of it and everything else she and her book were suggesting. However, she was the
wrong person and she's chosen the wrong person I could do nothing about that, the right person was
now at the Groote Schuur Hospital, working alongside Christian Barnard, Liz had finally made it, in
character she had indeed driven to and secured the gig she'd been aiming at when first I'd met her.
Later, in front of my face the Swiss girl told Alan's wife of my impotence and described my bizarre
lack of arousal at her efforts to ignite my passions. They were falling about, presumably unaware
that I understood most of what they were saying. It did little to boost my self esteem, but I smiled
and nodded affably, allowing them to believe I didn't understand a word. What alternative was there
without making an even greater fool of myself and losing face to an even greater degree?
I became deeply depressed by what was happening and it began to affect not only my relationships
with women but also my work. Roy Pellet took me aside at one point and asked, “What's the matter
Ken? You're playing is fuckin' terrible! You're a mile behind the beat, mate! it's dragging us down,
you'll have to lift your game, son, try and push us along a bit.”
This only served to distress me more, on stage I began worrying about my playing, off stage, my
sexual embarrassment was being discussed, openly, at least by some, not to mention open heart
surgery and it's not Christian Barnard's open heart surgery that I'm discussing either. It was my
longing for his recently acquired theatre sister that was ripping my heart open and it was affecting
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
everything I did, everything I was involved in, I was even having trouble laughing at Bobby Fox's
Life proceeds unhindered throughout our worst trials and tribulations and fortunately for the young
lady, Dicky Bishop moved in on the scene, or rather, she changed lanes when she realised I was a
dead end, not to put too fine a point upon it. Dick was actually embarrassed and asked me if I had
any objection to his taking over? I had no feelings on the matter whatsoever, literally in fact. I didn't
care one way or the other, all I really wanted to do was fly to Australia to meet up with my beloved
and seeing as how she wasn't even there yet, there seemed little point in me hurrying.
As you know, in those days I dissipated my frustration by taking long walks and on the way back to
the hotel one afternoon, as I crossed the bridge spanning the lake that divides the the city, I observed
some interesting mayhem which was occurring on the surface of the water. It was horrible, and
fascinating and perching myself on a parapet, I sat and watched it. Ironically I had a bird's eye view.
The focal point were some small round predatory diving birds, they looked like moor-hens or
dabchicks, something of that kind anyway. Like all predatory diving birds they disappeared beneath
the surface, caught a small fish then surfaced to swallow it. However, in this instance, as soon as
they broke the surface, seagulls swooped down and robbed them of their catch, before they could
swallow it. If they were very lucky sometimes one managed to get a fish down before it was
plundered, but on the whole, the seagulls were getting the best of the deal. I was observing a fine
example of 'Nature red in tooth and claw'.
It was very beautiful in it's macabre way, the water was crystal clear so I had an unimpaired view of
the entire performance, even the tiny diver's underwater prowess was visible from where I was
I was simultaneously fascinated and appalled, fascinated by the spectacle and appalled by the
unfairness of it all. The dabchicks were doing all the bloody work and the gulls were getting fat on
the proceeds. And there was nothing the poor little buggers could do about it, it had been this way
for millions of years and not only that, it was always gonna be this way!
“Well ain't that life in a nutshell,” I muttered bitterly as I jumped down from the parapet, “Just when
you are feeling sorry for the dabchicks, you realise the real losers are the fish!”
I was really pissed off now. and for the second time in a fairly short space of time, apart from
playing my beloved jazz, it was Naples all over again, I really wanted to bugger off out of it and for
some time, ever since entering Switzerland in fact, and again taking my cue from Elizabeth, I'd been
depositing all my spare cash in a deposit box. I need hardly explain in which bank need I? I was in
Switzerland for fuck sake! It was the only infallible way to save money when on tour.
Remember her advice? She had instilled it into me early in our relationship: “Bank your wages, then
you pretend you're broke, okay? Don't go out with the guys on your nights off. Don't drink with
them in the bar during your intervals or you'll end up having to buy a round, Don't buy anything you
don't absolutely need desperately and every pay-day put your money in the bank and pretend you're
broke. “Pretend your are broke.” and she repeated it ad infinitum it as if it were a mantra.
I had a fatalistic approach to 'having' and 'not having' money, indeed you may recall I had once
snarled, “Stop panicking, Liz!” while filling the old Zephyr's gas tank with our last penny. However,
her system was sound and I adopted it, indeed you'll recall I had used it very effectively to liberate
myself from the squalor of Naples.
The banking system of the two countries were quite different and I found the Swiss version totally
fascinating. My deposit-box had two keys, I kept one the bank retaining the other. On entering the
building I identified myself and a man escorted me below ground, to a huge vault, Entering via a
thick steel doorway, inside, the vault was divided into several small barred cages. Ushering me into
a cage and leaving me briefly, he returned seconds later carrying my double-locked strong-box.
Placing it on the small table in the centre of the cage he undid one lock and withdrew, locking me
inside the cage along with my box. Unfastening the other lock, I threw open the lid, counted the
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contents and added my money to it, (or removed some, whichever was the case). neither he, nor
anybody else, knew what I had in there, or what in fact I did with it. I glanced surreptitiously
through the bars into the other cages and saw people inspecting their treasures. It was utterly
fascinating, some like myself, were counting money, one guy was looking at or studying some
books, causing me to wonder what kind of book you would keep in a vault? Others were holding
jewellery up to the light to see them twinkle and this time I wondered, “Do they ever wear them?”
I liked the bank, it was a marvellous system, very good, infallible in fact!
It would be quite useless to enquire of a swiss banker what his clients had in their account. and it
would impossible to coerce him, or engender any kind of blackmail, legal or otherwise. The fact is,
he simply didn't know. The banker has no idea what is in any of the boxes and better, he has no way
of finding out, not without the depositor's presence and his key. Unless the bank holds duplicates of
course? Possibly they do, who can say?
I didn't care, my little cache was safe, as the weeks dragged by the money for my air-fare to Sydney
was accruing, lots of little Swiss Francs, warm and snug in their cosy little strong box.
There was an English pub in Zurich called, The Red Lion. However, unlike real English pubs at the
time, this one was a late night drinking venue. Musicians working in the city would repair to it after
finishing work, to meet and drink with other musicians.
One evening, after a personal appearance at a concert staged at the city's major theatre, a great
British jazz flautist, who's name regrettably escapes me for the moment, was standing alone near the
bar having a quiet tankard of beer when a Swiss fan recognised him and striding across the bar
exclaimed, “Congratulations! I enjoyed your conzert very much zis evening, you are truly a superb
player. Prosit!” and he clashed his stein against the flautist's glass. To the Englishman's amazement
he bottom fell out, the contents pouring down the front of his clothes. He stood transfixed, staring
through the hole in the bottom of his glass as the beer dribbled down his trouser legs and into his
I can't describe it, the expression on his face was worth a thousand words, none of which I can find.
The Swiss fan was mortally embarrassed of course and quickly bought the flautist another beer.
Meanwhile I was collapsing, slowly sinking down the wall.
My dented pride was saved slightly when Alan Harris informed his family of my culinary prowess
and his sister-in-law asked if I would cook a curry? “We vill invite everyvun!” she chortled, “Can
you handle real chilli heat?” I asked warily, “and if so, where do I buy it and where will I cook it?”
then still cranky I glanced at Alan, “Just so's I knew what I'm in for, mush,” I growled, “I've no
fuckin' intention of going through this entire paraphernalia, only to have everyone crying out in pain
and pushing their fuckin' plates away!” “Oh no! It vill quite alright, Kenny.” cried the woman
grabbing me, “Ve are avare of chilli und zo forth, but ve have no Indian cuisine here in Zurich, In
fact zo far as I know, ve have no Indian restaurant in the whole of Switzerland! So please, you must
cook for us!” She hugged and cuddled me, “Please, please, please, Kenny!” she wheedled, “Use my
kitchen, we will invite all the musicians here, to my home!” She sounded really distressed.
I recalled the two women and their taunting laughter and began to feel better and relaxing a little I
grinned, “Well okay, put like that, I suppose I'll have to.” “Wunderbar!” she exclaimed
triumphantly, “How about this Saturday afternoon? Vhen you are between your jigs? It vould be
more convenient for us, Ja?” I looked sceptical, “Some of our Swiss musician's have proper jobs
you know!” she added quickly, with a twinkle in her eye. Her sister was married to a professional
muso, they knew the old joke. “Okay, a great idea!” I said, “it's a date then!” and the deal was
Well, that was the easy part, she had no idea where to buy Indian spices so the following morning I
wandered around the city shops, enquiring about the ingredients, Catch 22! “Indian spices sir? Here
in Zurich? You must be joking sir!”
I found them eventually, in a supermarket of all places! Rice, coriander, cumin, ginger, saffron,
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chilli, garlic and yoghurt, it was no trouble at all, they were on the spice rack, just like anywhere
else in the world. However creamed coconut was completely out of the question, the Swiss had
never heard of it and as for pappadams, well, there was not a snowball's chance in hell of finding
those. They thought I was really joking this time, “Popadom, Popadom, Popadom Pom Pom,.
Popadom, Popadom, Popadom Pom Pom.” sang one grocer, conducting and waving his arms as he
sang the famous old march.
I was not over concerned about the coconut, I bought a fresh one, thinking the pulped flesh and milk
from that would do just as well, “Besides, would the Swiss know the difference?” I asked myself, I
was really pissed off about the pappadam's though, I hadn't expected to find any in the first place,
but having found everything else, now I was disappointed, they were not essential but it would have
been wonderful to serve them as part of the meal, right? And I could not make the myself, I didn't
Laden with the goodies and wandering back across the lake to my hotel, I strolled off the bridge and
glancing to my right spied what looked like an Indian souvenir shop. “Hey!” I thought, my heart
lifting, “Is that a Indian shop, or am I seeing things? Probably bloody ersartz!” Just on the off-
chance though, I turned into the street, walked along to the shop and peered in through the window.
Displayed were several items of Indian jewellery, a Sari, a few bales of silk and brocade, some
ornate brassware, a Hookah, various touristy curios, plus the inevitable Air India poster depicting
the Taj Mahal. Moving to my left I peered through the glass entrance and was cheered to see a
plump little Indian man standing behind the counter, he waved at me and grinned toothily. “This
guy must eat.” I thought and pushing open the door entered the shop.
“Good morning sir,” he smiled, “Vot can I doing for you?” Placing my collection of spices on the
counter in front of him, I said “Oh that's great, you speak a little English?” he laughed, “But of
course, sir, it is my mother's tongue!” he exclaimed, I laughed with him, “I'm terribly sorry! Of
course it is and I'm very relieved to hear it.” I said, “Look, this is a little embarrassing. You see I'm
not actually buying anything at the moment, but I think you may be able to help me?”
Leaning forward, he placed his elbows on the counter. “I am a visitor to Zurich,” I went on, “and
I've been asked to cook an Indian meal for my Swiss friends, but I am having trouble finding the
ingredients, I am looking for creamed coconut, mango chutney and pappadams?”
He laughed out loud this time, “And you saw my shop and thought I would have them eh? Vell you
vill not be lucky in the Swiss shops, sir, it's true, you vill not find them dere. However you are very
lucky here, sir, because I vill let you have some of mine.” and without waiting for a reply he ducked
through some curtains into a small back room and came back with all three items. “Oh that's really
lovely of you,” I chortled, “I can't thank you enough, but where do you buy them?” “I don't.” he
replied, “It is quite impossible sir, my friends and family send them to me from India, I can let you
have only one packet of each.” I was overjoyed to get any at all, I could have kissed him. “Oh this
is more than enough,” I cried gratefully, “you are very kind, how much do I owe you?” “Oh no, sir,
he said, “you must not pay, these are a gift!” I was astonished, “But why? You are a shopkeeper,
you are here to sell things?” “Not these things, sir.” he replied, “These item's are not for sale, they
are my food, I give them to you. If you vill pardon me, sir, it is not often in Zurich I meet a... ah... a
European who knows about Indian cuisine.” Narrowly avoided saying the words 'white man' he
peered into my shopping bag, “And look! You are even cooking it yourself, this is most unusual
sir.” I laughed aloud myself this time, “In England I have many close friends from Bombay,” I
explained, “and they taught me how. Now look here, let's be sensible, I don't need all this creamed
coconut, I need only two ounces! Cut me off a piece large enough for one pot of vindaloo and put
the rest back in your fridge. He raised his hands to refuse, but I forestalled the interruption, “When I
leave Zurich, my Swiss friends will never know what to do with it.” I implored and he smiled, “Of
course, sir, you are quite right, a good idea!” he said. He did as I'd asked and again I offered him
money but he was adamant, “No no no no no! Please, I insist! I am not in the business of selling
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food, sir, you are most velcome.” he insisted, “I want you to have it! Bon appetite, sir!” I couldn't
thank him enough and left his shop feeling elated.
The Saturday morning in question arrived and I made my way to the woman's apartment, on arrival
she led me straight to the kitchen and showed me where everything was kept. Pots, pans, knives,
etcetera. Then her sister and she spent the entire time I was preparing the food watching me and
killing themselves with laughter as they nudged each other in the ribs.
I knew why, I couldn't entirely understand the voluble Swiss/German chatter, interspersed with
sniggers and giggles as it was, however they were glancing covertly in my direction and nudging
each other and I wasn't bloody stupid. I had enough German to understand a large part of it and
again I learned my reputation for cooking up a storm in the kitchen was matched only by my lack of
ability to do so in the bedroom. apparently my impotence was becoming legendary, or that was my
I was stung to the core, my embarrassment increasing a hundred-fold with every giggle. For a
second I felt like up-ending the saucepans and storming out of the building, but I dispatched the idea
immediately and got on with the job in hand. Fretting over something is only useful if it goads you
into changing the situation. Well, there was no way I could change it, and besides, I didn't want to.
I sauteed the Onion's added the spices and creamed coconut, then the can of tomatoes, I simmered
this, stirring it gently and when it began to look like a gravy I added the diced beef and some stock
and turned up the heat. It was just a matter of waiting until the water boiled away and the
constituents reduced to a thick curry and when it all bubbling away nicely I made a start on the rest.
Frankly I would have preferred to have cooked it the day before, but that had not been possible
under these circumstances. While it was reducing, I washed the rice and placed it over the heat. The
two giggling women laid the table, while I sliced a couple of bananas, sprinkling the small pieces
with desiccated fresh coconut. I diced an onion really small and mixed it with chilled yogurt to
make Raita, adding a pinch of coriander and the same amount of ground paprika, which I sprinkled
over the top, for effect as well as for it's flavour. Some folks prefer cucumber Raita because of the
more cooling effect, but I prefer the tastier onion variety, They both work well and sometimes I
even make both! Why not? Pouring the chutney into a glass dish I placed the three dishes side by
side on the table, things were beginning to look really good.
The guest's had arrived so I deep fried the pappadams, (only for a few seconds each mind) and when
they were ready placed them on a large platter in the centre of the table. Then telling everyone to sit
down I returned to the kitchen, dished the rice and the curry, picked up the tray containing both and
walked back into the dining room.
Every single bloody pappadam had been wolfed! Gone! The fuckin' lot of 'em! An empty plate sat in
the centre of the table! “You rotten bastards!” I exclaimed “You didn't even leave one for me!”
“Vhat are dey? How do you make dem? Vhere did you buy de ingredients?” they clamoured, “Dey
are fantasteek! Make us some more! I was bloody furious, You greedy bastards!” I moaned, “I can't
make any more! You've eaten the whole fuckin' packet! That's it! Those were all I could find!”
Everybody was embarrassed, “We are really sorry, Kennee,” the hostess had rushed to my side and
laughing she flung her arms around me, “We thought you could just make some more! Oh my poor
darlink!” she cried remorsefully.
I was laughing too by this time, I felt much better, I figured she owed me an apology anyway. “Well
there aren't gonna be anymore, owevaire, I'll tell you where I got them, I think the little Indian
shopkeeper who gave me the ones you've scoffed will import some more if you want them really
badly enough, and you all promise to buy some. He'd be silly not to wouldn't he!” I added, “I'll write
all the recipes out and leave them here, then you will always be able to cook yourselves a curry after
“After you've gone, there'll be no vurries, After you've gone, we'll cook some curries,” sang one of
the crowd, everybody laughed and joined in.
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
It was a very successful meal, everybody tucked in and had no problem with the 'chilli heat' at all, in
fact they adored it. I explained to them that the most effective way to eat this dish, was to put a little
rice, curry, chutney, and raita all on the same spoon and pop it into your mouth at the same time.
They looked sceptical but after I had demonstrated with the first mouthful they followed suit and
there was an audible murmur of approval. They cleared the table of every scrap of food, I think they
might even have even licked their plates!
I have no idea whether my culinary effort had any lasting effect on Swiss eating habits though I like
to think it may have done. I learned very recently from some Swiss students here in Sydney that
there are now Indian restaurants in their country and perhaps my friends had insisted on it. either
way I sincerely hope it increased the very generous little Indian shopkeeper's Trade.
It take all kinds to make the world and only yards from the Casa Bar was a very contemporary
restaurant wherein they claimed the dried wood-chip flavoured cardboard breakfast cereal 'Muesli'
had been invented. Well, that was their claim to fame and I believe it implicitly. Though I still can't
make my mind up whether it is a cause for celebration or grief. However that they invented it is
without question. It was served at breakfast of course and out of curiosity, early one morning I went
inside and tried some. It was okay, but I have to confess I think it is very Swiss, it is the most
neutral, most Swiss food I have ever tasted in my life.
I have always enjoyed contemporary design, back in the fifties I was an early fan of the then very
'modern' G-Plan furniture and now approaching my fortieth birthday I was still at an age where I
was impressed by, 'newness' or 'modern contemporary design' if you prefer.
Well this cafe certainly represented modern contemporary design. Everything about it was white,
with pale grey trapezoid shapes superimposed on the walls. Even the furnishing were trapezoid,
giving the room an airy, spacey feel. I almost wrote ambience there but that would have been a mis-
nomer, ambience had been programmed out. The shiny metal chairs plus pale grey trapezoid table-
tops looked very modern, artful in fact. However, perching on one while balancing a plate of food
precariously on a quirky shaped table seemed almost an impossibility and to actually eat from one
seemed to me a almost philistine act! I ate very carefully, terrified I might spill a crumb onto the
pristine surfaces. A plaque on the wall explained the origin and history of the restaurant and the man
who founded it, creating or inventing and marketing the sawdust textured food. Hanging beside it
was a menu listing the dishes served at lunch and dinner. It looked okay, the prices were reasonable
and I decided to eat there on a regular basis. I never tried Muesli again, once was a mistake, twice
would have been stupidity.
Walking from the restaurant to my Pension after lunch one afternoon, I felt a tap on my left shoulder
and glancing round was confronted by young man with very long hair and a beard. Smiling
confidently he handed me a flower, “God bless you,” he said sanctimoniously and I noted an
American accent, “I wanna help you, sir, I can show you the path to true happiness.” “How kind.” I
replied sardonically, but kept walking. He fell into step beside me, “No man, I can really help you!”
he insisted, “You can find happiness here on earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” “But I've
already found it!” I exclaimed, But I can help you find real true peace through God!” he revealed
triumphantly. I smiled at him, “You don't seem to understand,” I said, “I have already found true
happiness! I am at peace with God, myself, mankind and with the universe. I am at one with the
cosmos!” I added brilliantly.
He stopped walking and I continued on my way leaving him standing there. A few seconds later I
felt another tap on my shoulder, it was the same young man, “How did you do it, man?” he pleaded,
“Please tell me how you did it!” he was begging now, beseeching me, his expression abject. His
beatification had sagged under the weight of the unanswered questions still tormenting his soul.
“I don't have time to tell you all there is to tell,” I said, but I can tell you this, It is absolutely
wonderful!” and laughing happily I skipped joyfully away, leaving him stranded, ahoist on his own
petard. Bugger him! I despise people who impose their religious problems onto others almost as
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much as I dislike those who impose their beliefs.
as it happens I had not lied, every word I had imparted was true, I was and am still at one with
myself, God, our universe and the cosmos. I arrived at this apparent enviable state by the simple
expedient of realising that life is extremely harsh, it's a very dangerous, painful, arduous, unfair,
unpredictable frightening experience. Once you've got that under your belt and firmly instilled in
your subconscious, the rest merely becomes difficult. Happiness is only a tiny part of our existence
and it comes in very small infrequent bursts. I figured this young man would have to find out the
same way I did, by travelling the same arduous road. We all have to do that whether we like it or
not. Nobody escapes. Up until the day he met me he'd believed he'd found the answer, namely by
appearing to help others find the way and he'd just discovered it hadn't worked.
Blues Shouter and Washboard Player Beryl Bryden walked into the Casa Bar one evening. I say
'walked into', but 'exploded into' would have been a better description. Her arrival would have been
a surprise, but in those days you could hear Beryl coming from three blocks away.
I'd played for her on numerous of occasions during my years with Richford and Gonella, but I had
never actually met her in person, off-stage I mean. As a matter of fact some weeks earlier, upon
hearing Beryl had arrived in Zurich both Dickie Bishop and Bobby Fox asked me if I knew her and I
had to admit that I didn't. Both men issued a warning, “No matter where you are, mush, if you hear
the phrase, “Hello Dear!” warbled in that unmistakable mellifluous voice, run for it, 'cos it means
she's spotted you and if you don't duck into a shop or hop onto a passing tram she'll have you
carrying her fuckin' shopping bags for miles!” I thanked them for their advice but never had
occasion to use it.
On this particular evening we were in mid-performance when she sailed through the entrance like a
tall-ship under full canvas. In those days she was a very large lady and it was a very narrow room,
the long, narrow stage took up one all of one end right opposite the doorway, with the drummer
facing the entrance, so on entering, the first thing you came face to face with was the drummer (a
nasty shock in some cases). However, the sight of me didn't phase Beryl, “Hallo dears!” she warbled
and casting her eyes up at me she cried, “I've just come from the bloody hospital, I've had me
gallstone's removed! Look at this mess!” and pulling up her blouse and pushing down her skirt and
knickers she revealed an enormous livid scar. “Bloody hell! Surgery in cinema-scope!” I exclaimed.
It got a laugh and ending the tune the band hopped off the stage for a chat.
Personally I'd never dug her act, I hate washboards with a vengeful spite, however she was a great
lady and a trouper through and through. While holidaying here in Sydney recently she stayed at the
home of pianist Dave Stevens. Dave lives less that a kilometre from my own home and one morning
he phoned to say he was very busy and wondered if I was free to take Beryl for a drive up the
Peninsula, to view Sydney's spectacular northern beaches. “She's dying to go, mate and I just haven't
the time!” he wailed. I said I was available, agreed to take her and we arranged a day and a time.
Meanwhile Australian singer Kate Dunbar laid a book on her which told the intimate story of the
time Beryl Bryden and Billy Holiday spent living together in Paris. Well, Beryl, (who was an
extreme egotist, may I add), had no idea such a book even existed and was naturally she was beside
herself. Delighted with the gift, as she got into my car she waved it under my nose, “Look!” she
cried, “Isn't this just hysterical, dear?” I set off for Manly and she buried her nose in the new find,
reading the appropriate texts aloud to me as I drove.
I was taking the scenic route of course, Northwards along the Stayne, through Freshwater and
around Harbord, Curl-Curl, Dee-Why, Long-Reef, over Narabeen Lake and north towards Palm
Beach. After we'd passed unseen, several of the most spectacular views in the world I lost my cool
and screamed, “Beryl! Fer fuck sake put the book away! Concentrate on our purpose here! You can
read yer fuckin' book to me any time but these views are for now! This is your only chance and
they're the reason you asked me to drive you up here!” “Ooh! Sorry dear!” she chuckled, “You're
quite right.” and tossing the book onto the back seat said, “Of course I can! Right! Stop at the next
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beach, I want to have a peep underneath.” “That's bloody better.” I grumbled grumpily then grinned
at her. Well, it was hilarious really.
Actually The Peninsula is exactly that, a peninsula and as we had to come back via the same road, I
kept going until we reached the northern-most tip at Palm Beach, whereupon she hopped out,
donned her flippers, mask and snorkel and disappeared under the water. She was seventy three years
of age at the time and still a very large lady and the sight of a broadly grinning Beryl Bryden
surfacing in a shower of watery sparks will stay with me for ever. “Hello dear!” she cried, “It's
wonderful under here, why don't you come in?”
She died last week in England and a few days before she left us she got word to me that she was
going and asked if I could call the hospital for a chat. I phoned several times but got an ansafone
which informed me: “The person you are trying to contact is not picking up her phone.” and that
was all! No facility for leaving a message, no way of saying “Hello Darling, it's only 'Arro!” No way
of even saying I'd called. To say I was pissed off is an understatement and after one more attempt I
abandoned the project. I mean making futile phone calls are okay when they're local calls, but it's
not a viable proposition when one is calling from the other side of the world.
Later I learned that she became very unhappy and was sinking into a deep depression, not at all
ready for death. She was saved from this by dropping into a coma from which she never recovered.
Never mind Beryl, my final memory of you is a very happy one.
The Casa Bar gig came to an end and we returned to England, as soon as we arrived I gave in my
notice and again was surprised when the guys tried to talk me out of leaving. I was still smarting
over Roy's criticism of my playing and had not even noticed my recovery from dragging the time. I
was under the impression I was still playing badly and was expecting them to say goodbye with
some relief. but again I had forgotten Richard Hill's timely homily: “You may not like the way you
play but other people like it!”
I went to Southampton of course and saw Hugh Collyns and my parents, I told them I was going to
settle in Australia, “and this time I really mean it!” I smiled. They accepted the news calmly, Well
after all, it was the second time I had told them this so the surprise element was gone, plus I'd been
away from 'home' since 1954, when I'd joined the Royal Air Force and then again when I joined Nat
Gonella in 1959, so I'd been away for most of their lives. Well, most of my life anyway.
Next I visited my children, I hugged and kissed them and said some more tearful goodbyes, By this
time Heather was no problem, she was powerless now. I stayed with Brenda for a few days then
made my way to Jan's place. She open the door flung her arms around me and we kissed, I held her
at arms length and looked her up and down, “Heavens!” I exclaimed, “How slim you look, for
someone eight years pregnant!” “It's my frock, dear,” she replied, “I have a wonderful dressmaker,
it's the way they do the fall, you know? He's very good at creating just the right fall.”
Among other snippets of useful information was that Frank Butler's girl friend, Helen, had returned
to Australia, Canberra to be precise, “and apparently the poor dear has been poorly ever since.” she
added, “In fact, even as we speak, he lies in a hospital bed in some far flung corner of the outer
reaches of darkest British East Grinstead! I was astonished, “Frank Butler? Ill?” I exclaimed “I can't
imagine it, where is this noble hospice? I shall take myself hence immediatmont!” “I'll cook us a
meal while you talk to him!” she said, handing me the number and and address of a dermatology
clinic. She was almost right, it was indeed situated somewhere in deepest Surrey.
I got him on the line, “What the hell's going on, cock?” I exclaimed, “Fucked if I know, son!” he
replied, “Even the quacks here don't know! I'm covered with a rash and me fuckin' finger nails are
falling out!” I laughed, “No! I'm deadly serious!” he insisted, “they turn into claws and then fall
off!” “Christ!” I cried, “I wanna see you, where are you? I mean how do I get there?” I was really
upset and far more than I would ever have imagined.
“Ave you got the address?” he asked, “Jan just gave it me.” “Good, well go to my place and get my
car, you've still got a front door key, haven't you?” “Yeah.” I said, “Right! he said, “Well, my car
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
keys are in a ashtray on the sideboard.” “Oh and keep the car, then you can drive dahn here for a
chat whenever I feel like one!” he added and I laughed, “Yeah, right! Okay, I'll do that right now,
see you when I get there!” “Better make it sooner than that,” he said urgently, “I'm goin' fuckin'
potty dahn 'ere, mush!”
I replaced the receiver and glanced at Jan, “I gotta go, I wanna see him! Now!” She stared at me
aghast, “Holy-beJesus-bloody-Christ-'Arrison!” she exclaimed, “Wassamatter?” I cried anxiously,
Your water has just broke, right?” “Nah!” she said scornfully, “If I know me, I've probably just
pissed meself! More to the point, I've just put some grub in the oven for you, ya bloody moron!”
“Well turn it off then!” I barked, “I'll be gone for about three or four hours.” and I walked out.
I took a bus to Kennington Oval, let myself into the flat, retrieved the car-keys from the ash-tray
(there was ash in it too, though only surface ash of course) and then drove to the clinic to investigate
whatever was bothering my old cricket loving drinking partner.
He was in bed in a private ward and he'd not been exaggerating he was indeed a sorry sight. His skin
had flaked into a kind of angry psoriasis, even becoming horny and flaking off, there were scales
everywhere and even more bizarre, his finger and toenails were indeed thickening into claw-like
talons and dropping from the ends of his fingers and toes...
“Bloody hell, mush!” I exclaimed as I examined him, “What the blazes is it?” He giggled
mirthlessly, “I dunno,” he replied, “I bin stuck wiv it ever since Helen left. An' 'they' dunno what it
is niver.” he nodded sourly in the direction of the staff-quarters. “First off I was treated as an out
patient, then they asked me to come in for some tests and they put me in here for observation, an'
that's it, I've bin 'ere ever since! Nobody seems to know what t' do wiv me! I dunno what the fuck's
I did though, I recognised it, “Its psychosomatic mush, all to do with you losing Helen.” I said. He
looked up at me and harumphed sceptically, “No, I'm serious, mate!” I said, “I really mean it! I've
been down this path me ol' son. I know it well. When Heather first dumped me I went totally
doolally, but I also came out in a terrible rash, not as bad as your's mark you, but bloody awful
nonetheless, Sort of like Shingles and just as with this, my Doctors couldn't cure it either.” He
glared at me, still sceptical, “You can scoff, mate, but recently, when Liz Cornish took off for South
Africa, I became the victim of some very weird mental and physical disorders. No, don't scoff,
honestly, Frank! Another rash and worse, I couldn't play properly, Roy Pellet had to take me aside
and bollock me for it. Don't be sceptical. I'm serious. I mean it's worth a mention when your doctor
comes to examine you again, isn't it! What can you lose? You have told them about her leaving you,
I suppose?” His normally smiling eyes clouded over and for a moment he was saddened, “No,” he
answered softly, “as a matter of fact I 'aven't. Never entered me 'ead, cock. Yeah, I do miss her of
course. I miss her sunnink bloody 'orrible as a matter of fact.” Then he brightened, “But I don't
believe in all that mental gobbledegook, son. I'm not a flakey sort of bloke.” he glanced at his claws
and the skin peeling from his arms, “Well, apart from this.” he grinned, “I mean I'm not the type to
get off me bike over life's little disappointments y' know. I've had a hard life, son, I was a Borstal-
boy as a kid y' know. Then I caught the guy who raped my sister and I spent six munfs in Brixton
nick for GBH. I mean, life ain't been easy. Know wot I mean?” he was musing now as if talking to
himself, “Still, you could be right, like you say, it's werf a try... Shit! I'm willing to try anyfink, me!”
I laughed, “Well tell yer bleedin doctor what I've just said then!” I exclaimed, “Can't do you any
bleedin' 'arm can it?”
At this point his brother walked into the ward, closely followed by a young woman named Jenny, a
friend of Alex Anderson whom I'd met briefly at Frank's place when Alex was still living there.
Apart from that brief meeting I didn't know her at all. So, with someone else for him to talk to, plus
their need for some time and space alone with him, I took a back seat so's they could get a word in.
Later when it was time for us to leave I offered them a lift back to town, the brother said “Thanks
but no thanks,” explaining that he had his own car and the girl, accepting my offer climbed in.
Chapter 31 Jobsworth P lymouth Rock
I've no idea why or even what triggered it, but before we'd even reached the borders of South
Croydon, she was suddenly gripped in some kind of weird black mood and began a vicious verbal
attack on me. At first, not thinking she was serious, I tried laughing it off, but this was met with a
scornful, “Oh, so you think it's amusing do you?” Taken completely by surprise I tried ignoring it,
but she wouldn't wear that either, “You're not getting out of it that easy, mate!” she snarled. Now I
was stymied, the woman was arguing vociferously about nothing. It was like a husband and wife
argument, or a lover's tiff, except that I hardly knew the woman, not even casually, it was bizarre.
After a while I rose to the bait and began defending my corner, but it was too weird and eventually I
said, “Look Jen, I don't want to argue with you. I only offered you a lift because you are a friend of
Franks.” At this she became even angrier and snorted loudly, “Well that's bloody typical of a man
isn't it. So, you don't want to argue, eh? Well let me tell you a thing or two, you arrogant little
bastard...” Stamping on the brakes, I leaned across the front of her and opened the passenger door,
“Fuck off!” I snapped, Yes! Go on! Get out!” and she got out, slamming the door behind her.
I recall we were somewhere near the top of Streatham Common, near some traffic lights and some
shops. I don't think she had much further to walk to her home but I didn't care anyway, I'd had
enough, I hardly knew the woman!
I was very badly needled and for god knows what reason and drove the rest of the way to my bed at
Heather's place in high dudgeon. I tried to get some sleep but without success, I was on the trusty
old bed-settee of course, so there was only me to suffer my angry tossing and turning...
Hugh Collyns had consigned my 'new' drum kit to the cargo hold of yet another ship, so the next
morning, still feeling a little worse for a sleepless night and cursing the unknown woman who'd
caused it, I returned Frank's car to his home, left his keys in his 'still full' ash-tray and took a bus to
Heathrow Airport where I bought another air ticket to Sydney and this time I boarded the plane.
Settling into my seat I buckled myself in and relaxed, “Stop the world, I wanna get off!” I crooned
to myself with a grin. It was a sixties colloquialism, a successful stage-show had even grown out of
it, Well I don't know which came first, the saying or the show, but right at that moment I certainly
empathised with it. Better still was the Charles Shultz' 'Peanuts' cartoon, wherein Charlie Brown
was telling Lucy that people once believed the world was flat, “They thought you sailed to the edge
and fell off!” he explained. Lucy looked alarmed, “However,” continued Charlie, “it has since been
proved that the world is round, you sail round to Australia and then you fall off!”
I adored that, I enjoyed the child-like notion of sailing around the globe and falling off, basically
because unlike flies and geckos, we are unable to hang on upside down.
I smiled at the memory. Oh Christ I had wanted for so long to get off this fucking merry-go-round.
And perhaps, with a little bit of luck I could have a nice rest and then maybe, just maybe, I might
get back on.