I hear this song and instantly I’m in the back of my dads Vauxhall Viva, the dark green one, its the August Bank Holiday, the one at the beginning of August like it used to be, its a hot August morning and we’re in a long queue waiting to get into the car park at RAF Church Fenton for the annual air show, me and Ned are in the back of the car but someone else is sat in the middle of us and its crammed in there, hot and sticky and the Vauxhall Viva doesn’t have windows that open fully, it just has those daft hinged windows that open about one inch on a clamp sort of thing that makes you wonder why there weren’t more car thieves back then.
Music does that, you hear the opening bars of a piece of music and it takes you back to a place and time that you have no control over, I’d like to say that the 11 year old me was doing something a lot cooler in the Summer of Love when that music starts up but no, I’m squashed in the back of a dark green Vauxhall Viva trying to listen to the beauty of the Hammond organ while my dad is singing along in the front for he sang all the time and the worst thing that could happen to him during a car journey would be for the transistor radio to lose its signal for cars did not have built-in radios in 1967 and so he hung a transistor radio from the rear view mirror on a leather strap and as it swung from side to side during a journey it would lose its signal on every bend and he would curse it and slap it from side to side until it picked up the music again.
The summer of ’67 was the so-called “summer of love”, in the museum of recollections it was a hot summer and it resounded to the soundtrack of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, the cool and trendy took to wearing Edwardian military uniform jackets with jeans and tie-dye t-shirts, they grew their hair long and wore long droopy mustaches and sometimes the menfolk did the same too, it was the summer of the hippy movement and aided by a Scott McKenzie song we all believed that if you went to San Fransico you had to wear flowers in your hair for it was the law – we went to Newquay for our holiday that year and Newquay was populated almost entirely by hippies, teenagers not much older than myself who resided in squats and hung out on the beach all day wishing everyone “love and peace man”, my father was not impressed by hippies and took every opportunity to remind his two sons just how terrible it would be if they were to join the movement, “Bloody scruffy hippy” became his phrase of choice when describing any one with hair that even promised to drop over their collar, much to his dismay it would only be another twelve months or so before my hair started to transgress into bloody scruffy hippy territory.
At around the same time I bought an LP and for those of tender years “an LP” was something like your CD’s, but of better audio quality, stick around for they are making a comeback, because they were always better but we allowed ourselves to be sold a myth – anyway, at around the same time I bought an LP, which was unusual for the time for I had to sell a lot of programmes at Leeds Rugby League Club to pay for an LP, but I bought Procol Harum’s “A Salty Dog” album which didn’t have A Whiter Shade of Pale on it but it had some very cool laid back tracks on it of which the title track was particularly mellow…
Something else has just popped to mind, trawled from the museum of recollections by some random data gathering exercise triggered by Procol Harum muses, we go back to that summer of 1967 and the era of the hippy movement and in particular their mode of dress and the desire to wear swiss cow bells around their neck, I don’t know why, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time so that one hippy could recognise another one approaching from around the corner by the sound of a cow bell ringing, or something like that.
Anyway when August drifted into September we started our last year at Junior school, this was the year that would decide the course that the rest of our lives would take for this was the school year of our 11-plus exams, pass the 11-plus and off you went to Grammar School, an elite college of education for fine gentlemen which produced the country’s finest bankers, insurance salesmen and other white collar fodder, fail the 11-plus exam and you were banished to Secondary education, yes it really was called “Secondary” just so that its inhabitants were in no doubt that they had failed at 11 years of age, you were in secondary quality education and you were destined to sweep the streets or clean the houses of those who had passed the 11-plus.
In this most important year of our lives, ever, we were inducted into Mrs Moultons class.
Mrs Moulton, or “Mouldy Moulton” as we knew her, was a cow, in fact given the gist of this little story here she would have been most at home wearing the cowbell herself, she was what our parents called “strict” and in that manner of all strict teachers she seemed to hate the kids in her charge, a strange state of mind for a teacher but there you are, Mouldy Moulton was a bitch and she knew it – but worse than this she was a snob of the highest order.
Physically she so resembled Margaret Thatcher that she could have been the woman herself, we were taught at 11 years old by Margaret Thatcher and she hated all of us, and we reciprocated , but it was her snobbishness that took the biscuit – you see our Junior school was at the top of the hill in this suburb, in fact I live not 100 yards away from it now, and on this side of the hill all is pleasant, homeowners with life-long mortgages cut their front lawns every Sunday and smile and wave at passers-by, the paper boy whistles a jaunty tune each morning and we welcome racial integration as demonstrated by the Hindu chap who runs the off licence, we speak to him pleasantly and not at all in a colonial way and he serves us, and life goes on as it should, this was our suburb in the 1960s and Mouldy Moulton lived on this side of the hill.
However, on the other side of the hill was “The Council Estate” where poor people lived, homes built by “The Corporation” for working classes to rent, their streets were gloomy and their hopes and aspirations constantly dashed by the fact that their father did manual work and could not even be considered for a mortgage to buy his own property for who on earth would ever think of such a thing., Mouldy Moulton hated the kids who came from this side of the hill.
If you were a complete stranger and you walked into our classroom in 1967 and for whatever reason was your own you had decided to pick out which kids came from the Corporation houses and which kids lived on the nice side of the hill then all you had to do was hang around for five minutes for within five minutes you’d easily have picked out the Corporation kids, for it was the Corporation kids that Mouldy Moulton saved the worst of her ire for, as demonstrated one day in September when one of the 11 year old girls from the Corporation side of the hill went home for lunch and came back to school with her older sister’s cow bell hung around her neck, her older sister clearly having fully bought into the hippy culture thing that summer.
It was the perfect storm, a kid from the Corporation side of the hill and a hippy to boot, Mouldy Moulton didn’t know where to start with her scorn and snobby pronouncements, the girl was subjected to a barrage of insults for the whole afternoon, the cow bell was confiscated and sent to Mr Holmes the headmaster who arrived at our classroom door clutching it as though someone had just deposited a dog turd in his hand, still warm and steaming, and his ire too was directed at the unfortunate girl for Holmesy was a snob as well, worse he was a snob of the old school who frequently told us all that Britain still had an empire that we could be proud of and all that was required to control the fuzzy-wuzzy’s in foreign lands was to send a gun boat up river and give them both barrels, never has one simple swiss cow bell provoked such anger and angst in an older generation and the fact that I still recall it perfectly 47 years later gives you an indication of how highlighted it has become in the museum of recollections – most of our Junior school teachers were twats.
ANYWAY, back to something more pleasant, chilled music of a time and place that were much simpler, when the sun shone all day long and all you had to do was make sure your shoes were clean before you went to school or one of the twats would hit you around the back of your head,,,