Sitting here on a sunny Wednesday morning with sunlight streaming in to our cosy front room, I decided to blog about something nice. Something drawn from the past.
It's the evening of Monday August 31st 1970. I am standing outside a fish and chip shop with my friend Lee in the small Hampshire city of Winchester. In order to eat our bags of chips we have removed our burdensome rucksacks and rolled sleeping bags from our shoulders.
We should have set off earlier - from The Isle of Wight I mean. Midday ferry across to Lymington and then thumbs out hitching north. But the fish weren't biting that day. It took all afternoon to travel forty miles up to Winchester.
Less than twenty four hours before, we were watching Jimi Hendrix's last gig in England. Carving out a slow and distorted version of "God Save The Queen" and then my favourite number, Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower". Before too long Leonard Cohen greeted the dawn at the very end of August... "And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind/ And you know that she will trust you/ For you've touched her perfect body with your mind"
The entire festival was pure magic. Sometimes you live life intensely with total relish, eating up every moment. That was one of those times. Far more people attended The Isle of Wight Festival of Music in 1970 than attended Woodstock in 1969. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
So there we are eating our chips and darkness has fallen. With good fortune we would have been back in East Yorkshire by now. But there we were stuck in Winchester, wondering where we were going to sleep. At eighteen, Lee was two years older than me.
Then a thirty something fellow in a white shirt comes out of the fish and chip shop.
"Have you lads been to the festival?"
"Yeah. Yes we have."
"Have you got somewhere to sleep tonight?"
"No. No we haven't."
"You can come and sleep at my place if you want."
We accompany him to some Victorian villas down a leafy side street. He takes us up to his first floor flat. There was nothing sinister - quite the opposite in fact.
It turns out that he is a junior doctor at the local hospital and he shares the flat with his girlfriend who is "away at the moment" . He tells us that he will be on an early shift in the morning then he points out where the bathroom is and invites us to make our own breakfast and then push the spare keys through the letter box as we depart. Such trust. Such kindness.
We leave him a thank you note on the old pine table and then trudge out of the city to point our thumbs at the sky. It is the first day of September.
We have three hundred miles to go.
Again the hitch-hiking isn't the best I have ever known and it takes us all day to get to Hull. The last bus out into the countryside has gone and it is thirteen miles back to our village. We are trudging along Holderness Road like emigres from Oklahoma in "The Grapes of Wrath" or like hobos in a song by Johnny Cash.
We bump into two young men returning from a pub. They are brothers and they work on fishing trawlers. They ask us if we have been to The Isle of Wight and we say yes. Then they invite us back to their parents' house where they make us tea and toast and we unfurl our sleeping bags and sleep on their living room floor.
They are still upstairs in bed when we leave after scribbling a thank you note and leaving it on the old pine table.
We are almost home. The bus weaves around the bends from Ganstead to Coniston then on to Skirlaugh and Long Riston before we pass White Cross to the south of our village. The music called and we went. We were with our tribe and life was never quite the same after that.
There are heroes in the seaweed, there are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds her mirror
What a simply wonderful memory post! Times were so different then. I was often the one offering kindness because that's what we all did. We trusted one another. We were, indeed a tribe. I'm so glad you got to have the whole amazing experience!ReplyDelete
Back then 68 to 72 an electric current connected the young all over the western world. The music was ours. I saw "Woodstock" at the ABC cinema in Hull and that's what spurred me on to go to The Isle of Wight - though I was only sixteen.Delete
Great memories for you! I wonder whether the two men who showed you and your friend such kindness still think of you sometimes, maybe wondering what had become of you young lads in later years.ReplyDelete
The huge and dense crowd at the festival (I assume that's it in the picture) would be too much for me and rather scary, but that's another story.
I never wondered about that but now you have said it I do. Maybe they were the kind of people who were always being kind.Delete
Lovely story, as I lived in Wiltshire at the time we had the Glastonbury Festival, and could get free tickets through the Green Party, though cooking was involved. Never went, sensitive hearing, but in a way it still goes on. At Stonehenge for solstices, etc but never for music. The great Stonehenge raves are a thing of the past, the 'Bean field incident' by the police put paid to that.ReplyDelete
You have been to Stonehenge for solstices? I am suitably impressed Thelma. The "powers that be" did try to spoil it all didn't they?Delete
Things were different back then. It could be potentially more dangerous to accept, or give, such offers these days.ReplyDelete
Back in the early 1980s I came home from work one evening to find that my other half had picked up a young Yugoslav lad who had been standing at the roadside in the pouring rain trying to thumb a lift. He was on his way from Brighton to Portsmouth but had been waiting for over 2 hours for somebody to stop. It was dark and he was soaked through. We fed him and let him sleep in our spare room that night, gave him breakfast the next morning then dropped him off at the coast road to hopefully get a lift further on. I am not sure we would feel safe doing that nowadays.
What a lovely thing for Peregrine to do. Sometimes being kind can include an element of risk.Delete
Wow! What a story! I am SO JEALOUS you got to witness such a historic musical event first-hand. I'd have loved to have been there. (Then again, I was 3. Ha!)ReplyDelete
Three? I could have changed your diapers (English: nappies).Delete
What a great post. Reminds me of my teenage years growing up in the 70's.I did not get to Woodstock and had to watch the movie when it came out.ReplyDelete
I watched the Woodstock movie when it first came out. It showed me and the others at The Isle of Wight the way to go. Thanks for calling by Brenda. Peace and love!Delete
I've never been that adventurous so I've never had such a set of incidents to give me a memory like that. It was a truly wonderful memory on which to look back. That's not to say that I haven't encountered memorable acts of kindness. It's just that they are not woven into a story and thus made memorable.ReplyDelete
I just felt like telling a nice true story this morning - pained as we are by the threat of the coronavirus.Delete
Wanted to go but was on study leave about to take some accountancy exams - one of the few sets I passed.ReplyDelete
Accountancy students and nuns were not allowed in anyway.Delete
How wonderful! Definitely the concert of a lifetime. I'm happy you were able to experience this special time!ReplyDelete
...and there was Joni Mitchell and Tiny Tim and Chicago and Donovan and Joan Baez and The Doors and Richie Havens...Yes, wonderful!Delete
A great Rock festival memoir from your youth YP. Would love to have seen Mr Hendrix play. Thanks for sharing,ReplyDelete
We weren't to know that Hendrix would be dead just a few days later.Delete
That's amazing. I can't help thinking that would not happen nowadays. You've now got me humming Suzanne (takes you down to the river).ReplyDelete
I agree ADDY. For a start, nobody hitchhikes any more do they?Delete
Ahhh....how's it go? "Suzanne takes you down, to a place by the water, you can hear the ???, you could stay that way forever......" Can't be bothered to look up the lyrics after reading your wonderful memory that just washed my mind with music/hippie/freedom/love/another time memories of my own. What a life we had then, eh, my brother? I'm going to read your post again before going upstairs to make our evening meal.....all the time humming and remembering. Ahhhh!ReplyDelete
Glad that post has set you off Mama Thyme - into the land of sweet memories from long ago.Delete
Its like 'Jackanory' revisited...lolReplyDelete
Thanks for another pleasant response...lol.Delete
That's a really nice memory for you. And you got to see Jimi Hendrix? Wow!ReplyDelete
A few days later he was dead.Delete
And he waited a few days for Janice to join him.Delete
The oil of living
Where would be without it?Delete
You were of the time. It was a recognizable aura. It was a passport. Memories won't be like that again, and new memories will be as fine.ReplyDelete
I just glanced up and saw "a few days later he was dead."
I'm glad I was young then. I understood it better.
Dylan sang "The Times They Are A Changin'" and they were and they did change.Delete
You experienced some very beneficial kindness. I did lots of hitch hiking but never got stuck on the road or invited to stay at someone's house. I do remember the fun of hitch hiking.ReplyDelete
I hope no women drivers tried to accost you Red!Delete
No such luck!Delete
Great story. I once offered to accomodate a young couple who were travelling through France on a shoestring. I gave them a nice comfortable double bed, but was later informed that they weren't boyfriend/girlfriend; just friends. Maybe they became better friends after staying the night.... who knows!ReplyDelete
Ho-Ho! Now that is what I call matchmaking Cro!Delete
OMG.....you saw Leonard Cohen !!! How jealous am I ? One of my favourite all time singers. Strange to think that Steve ( I have met the delightful Steve and Olga) was only 3......I was somewhat older! I never went to any music festivals, though a few years ago we went to the Isle of Wight for a holiday, and didn't realise it was the festival weekend!ReplyDelete
I loved his songs and his singing from the first night I heard "The Songs of Leonard Cohen". Pure poetry.Delete