The Friday nights that start when work ends at 5pm and someone mentions that everyone is going over the road to the pub because someone else is leaving for another, better, more well paid job, are the best Friday nights when you’re just 18 years old and coincidently you’re going on holiday for seven days, right now in fact.
That was me, August 1974, “Come and have a pint with us” someone had said, I should have known better, “But I’m going on holiday tonight” I probably replied but not very convincingly, “Well just have the one then” they probably replied, and that was me sold, for what could possibly go wrong ?
Some hours later and the leaving party is still going string and I’m well into my holiday spending money and by complete coincidence also well pissed and someone asks where I’m going on my holiday and when and I reply “Great Yarmouth” and “I’m going tonight, at 7pm actually” and the other person looks at me a bit funny and says , “What, like 7pm , now ?” and I look at the clock and laugh and say “Yes, like now” and then do a double take and follow up with “Oh shit”.
It was a lads holiday, 8 or 10 of us on the Wallace Arnold overnight coach to Great Yarmouth, that fabled holiday resort on the East coast of England that doesn’t look very far on the map but which is in fact almost as far away as Mongolia when you go with Wallace Arnold for Wallace Arnold seemed to employ only the very slowest driving of drivers who like to stop in every small town and village on the way, our coach left from the centre of Leeds at midnight but the lads were all meeting with our suitcases in Headingley at 7pm for a night on the lash before getting on the coach, and there is me pissed and half-skint still in the pub opposite work and Andrew Purdy waiting at our house with his holiday suitcase, and its at least a half hour walk home even when you’re sober.
So I turn up at home half an hour later and there is Andrew Purdy sitting on our settee with his holiday suitcase in our hallway and he’s not very happy for one, neither is my dad although god knows what its got to do with him, he’s probably annoyed because now he’s had to promise to give us a lift to Headingley.
“Hell-oooo every-body” I laugh as I lean on the door frame for moral support.
“You’re drunk” shouts my father.
“You’ve not packed a suitcase yet” says my mother, god bless her, always the practical one.
“Bin to a leaving do-oo” I explain in four words, I can’t let go of the door frame yet though.
“I’ve packed your suitcase for you love” says my mother, god bless her, god bless mothers everywhere, “and your dad’s taking you to Headingley right now, you’re a bit late dear”
“Am I ?” I feign all innocence, “I went to a leaving do-oo, I say mother dear, you couldn’t lend me twenty quid for my holiday spending money could you ?”
And she did, as all mothers would, god bless everyone’s mother, they are most wonderful you know.
And so the rest of the night continues in pretty much the same vein as it had since I finished work at 5pm, I drink beer and I get terribly drunk and the others aren’t far behind either and by midnight we’re an absolute disgrace falling over our suitcases in Wallace Arnolds coach station and dying to get on the bus for some kip before waking up in glorious Great Yarmouth sometime the next morning.
Never slept a wink all night, it might be possible to sleep on a Wallace Arnold overnight coach to Great Yarmouth but none of us found the secret, it was the most uncomfortable seven hour journey I have ever had the mis-pleasure to spend and only broken by the fact that the driver seemed to want to go to the toilet as often as we did and so stopped the bus every ten minutes or so, but eventually at 7am we arrived in that holiday resort in the back of beyond, Great Yarmouth, seven days of hot sun (yes, it was THAT week in 1974, you know the sunny one), and lashings and lashings of beer and lads holiday lunacy.
“My mother is such a stupid cow” I blurted out as I stood in the room that I was sharing with Andrew Purdy and Dave Maud, “she hasn’t packed me any underpants, the daft cow”.
And indeed she hadn’t, not that I had any grounds to complain for if it had been left to me I wouldn’t even have brought any luggage with me let alone no underpants, but still, you’d think if your mother was going to the trouble of packing your suitcase with all the clothes you’d need for a seven day holiday then she’d at least remember to pack your underpants, in fact I don’t like to be overly critical here but if it was me that was packing my own suitcase for a seven day holiday, and yes, we’ve already established that I was too drunk to do that originally, but if I was, then underpants would be the first thing I’d pack, definitely, I think.
Not that it should have been a problem anyway of course, for you’d think that all a lad with no underpants would have to do would be to wander into the shopping district of a town like Great Yarmouth and buy some underpants for himself but no, for some still unknown reason I didn’t think of that option at all, in fact if I had I would have probably rejected it for my spending money was severely curtailed by the fact that it had to buy my beer for a week and wasn’t for squandering on fripperies like a fresh pair of trolleys every morning.
So I did what any drunkard would do under the circumstances, every night when the drinking in the pubs was finally done, when we lads were at our very drunken-ist, I’d retire to our room with Purdy and Maud, drop my kecks, wash my underpants out in the sink and hang them out on the window cill to dry overnight, let me tell you, that room was in sheer chaos every night for it was only a small room with three beds and a small sink in it, a sink that doubled up as a toilet for through the night and the three of us would be trying to undress for bed while under the influence of lots of beer, hopping around on one leg while trying to get pants off, one or the other of them trying to clean their teeth in the same sink that I was trying to wash my trolleys in, I wish we’d had cctv in those halcyon days, it would be an instant Youtube hit.