Video Saturday and living without luxuries, like electricity

In 1976 Paul McCartney released the triple album of his band “Wings” tour of the world, entitled “Wings over the World” it was basically a tour of America and Australia, I suppose they did cover a lot of ground but playing gigs like this one in, for example, Tibet or the jungles of Papua New Guinea may have validated the rather grand title somewhat, still, ’twas a fine album.

There is a chapter in Denny Laines biography of the time that he spent with McCartney in the early years of Wings when he describes The McCartney’s (plural) obsession with the simple life after the mayhem of The Beatles break-up and of the farm they bought on the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, a remote peninsula that was probably as far away from London as it is possible to reach in one day and a farm without any basic amenities, like electricity for example.

Denny Laine speaks of the time that the whole band spent several weeks there in a “team bonding” exercise with a view to writing some smashing songs to rival The Beatles, the McCartneys had the derelict farmhouse to stay in, the band had a barn, some straw and sleeping bags, for London-based musicians used to the high life they weren’t all that impressed. On one evening they didn’t appear at the house for their evening meal as was the custom and so the McCartneys walked across the yard to the barn to find out what was the problem to find the band members all sat on the floor staring at a blank stone wall on which they had drawn a picture of a television set complete with news reader, they sat enthralled while the McCartneys stood at the door and realised that perhaps the simple life wasn’t for these particular band members after all.

A very similar thing happened to Burty and me once, Charlie Smith was one for the wilderness, a proper Grizzly Adams he was a member of the Territorial Army and enjoyed nothing better than sleeping underneath a truck in a field in some godforsaken area of the North york Moors every weekend then rising at stupid o’clock to cook a boil-in-the-bag breakfast over an open fire while picking the creepy crawlies out of your underpants from where they had gathered during the night.

His idea of a good weekend certainly didn’t match ours and so with hindsight you may have thought that we’d tell him where to get off in no uncertain terms when during the Christmas/New Year holiday one year he suggested that we go camping in the Pennines but like innocent idiots we agreed for he promised us that no tents would be involved, we were to stay in a camping barn at a place called Blake Dean which, he assured us, was a step up from camping in a tent as the barn had proper stone walls and even a roof and all that stuff too, we were sold and off we went in my company Ford Escort van ready for two nights (including New Years Eve) living in a barn on top of the wildest of moors around these parts.

I have to say that first impressions weren’t all that good for while it had stone walls and a roof and all that stuff, Blake Dean camping barn didn’t had any windows, or rather it had holes where windows had once been, but had no glass in them, effectively it would be very much like sleeping out in the open, and the temperature was falling well below freezing, the sun went down at about 3pm and then the temperature dropped a lot more and it started to snow.

The barn did however have electricity, or at least it should have had electricity had the Yorkshire Electricity Board not removed the main fuse from their incoming supply presumably on the assumption that a derelict barn with no windows in couldn’t possibly be used by humans any longer and the cows that took shelter here now wouldn’t have use for electricity.

Fortunately I was employed by an electrical contractor at the time and in my van were all sorts of things to do with electricity and by the last light of a very weak torch I managed to locate a spare fuse that looked like it would fit the YEB’s fuseholder, carefully unfastened their seal on the incoming supply like the electricians who were known to be a bit dodgy in Newcastle had shown me, and bingo, we had power again, albeit illegal power.

Not that it made much of a difference mind, there was one light bulb in what was jokingly refered to as a kitchen (a room with two open spaces in the walls where windows had been and another where a door was supposed to be) and the only nod towards some sort of heat was an old electric cooker which we hardly dare switch on but did thus allowing one person at a time to hold their hands above a single electric ring that didn’t get hot enough to glow but instead gave off a few meagre watts of warmth, the sort of warmth you’d get from standing ten yards away from a light bulb for instance.

Having brought a spare change of clothes for the two night trip I dressed in all of them for the nights sleep, wrapped myself in a blanket and then zipped myself into my sleeping bag and thus, clad in six or seven layers of clothing, wrapping in a blanket and sealed tightly into a sleeping bag I managed to get a few hours sleep on a wooden shelf that served as bunk beds while snow blew into the room all night long from a hole in the wall where a window had been – Burty and I had already agreed to escape this Charlie-Smith-idea-of-a-good-time first thing in the morning.

I have been colder than on that night because I have stood on the terracing at Odsal in January, but it was a close thing and Charlie was most disappointed with the two of us when, at first light we started up the van and told him that he had three minutes to throw his stuff in the back or stay there for the rest of his life, history recalls that he reluctantly came back home with us and I still don;t think he has ever forgiven the pair of us for being such wimps but at least I know what Denny Laine felt like now.




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