Dear Diary Some Days In My Life Keeping It Pure And Simple
Dear Diary, I want to look back at the Summer of 1976, what a Summer that was, even hotter than 1975...which was saying something, the heat seemed to go on forever, got a feeling it lasted from May till the end of September with no rain at all, in fact it was off the richter scale and the grass remained tinder dry for months.
I was working at a restaurant that Summer, it was in such beautiful country surroundings, I couldn't have wished for a better job. The couple who owned the place were Italians, they had a little girl, though I don't recall much about her, as I mainly worked in the kitchen preparing salads and helping out in anyway I could. There was also their accommodation to clean, plus any silver or brass to buff and polish, which I really enjoyed doing, as it was one of those sit down jobs which suited me fine. There were a lot of brass hangings and silver cutlery, she had a lot of silver around their home. I also loved the old wooden staircase that led up to their accommodation, with it's shelves of old books that needed cleaning once a month, I never could remember what the books were, or who wrote them, but I do recall their old bindings. The dark wood tables and the wooden beams in the restaurant, made the place feel so homely I could have lived there myself.
I'd managed to purchase a second-hand nurse's bike whilst at Chris's, which came in very handy, it had a basket on the front for any shopping I needed which was bought daily. It was a pleasure to ride to work, as the area I was living in was not only flat, but also out in the countryside surrounded by fields and woods.
My hours of work were from 6 am till 2 pm, with a half hour break, which I was very grateful for, as I never stopped all day. Leaving the brother's bungalow, I would cycle up their road, which would then take me along a main road, then half way along, I'd turn off down a country lane and through a wood, then across a small bridge, down another lane, which would eventually lead me out onto another road where the restaurant was. It was on those bike rides, that I thought I was the luckiest person in the world.
Sometimes if I'd overslept, Chris would give me a lift in his van with the bike, which meant I'd only have to cycle to the shops then home. I do look back and wonder where I found all the energy to work, do shopping, clean and cook for the brothers, but I suppose back then I had a lot more stamina; now my mind says one thing, but my body says something completely different, which is why I'm having fun reflecting on past experiences.
The lady who owned the restaurant was so nice and very kind to me, I never met her husband as I think he travelled a lot, but I remember her very well. As soon as I got to work, I'd put a kitchen hairnet on with a hat, wash my hands, then start preparing the salads and vegetable side dishes to go with the main courses, whilst she made a lot of pastry and fillings to go in, she also made her own pasta and sauces...the aromas were out of this world, with the heat of the kitchen and the cooking too. Once I'd done the salads, I'd start washing up pots and pans and any dishes we used, this would go on for much of the morning. Before people started arriving to eat.
I would then go upstairs and clean their accommodation. But then the real hard work started. Back down in the kitchen there would be more washing up, more pots and pans, making sure there were clean plates and dishes, spoons, knives and forks, all ready to be used again...they never had dishwashers back in those days, well at least not in this restaurant.
This would go on for the rest of the afternoon until 2 pm. When I'd finished I would cycle back up the lane and across the bridge through the wood and onto the main road, turning right, which would then take me to the shops to get food for the evening meal. I only worked Monday to Thursday, as they had other help on the weekend, so Thursday was a day I looked forward too.
It was August and I'd been with Chris a little over a year, we were plodding along fine. I'd persuaded Chris to go to Bristol zoo a lot, in fact almost every other weekend. I had this thing at the time about caring for the animals and thought the more time I spent there, I'd get to know the people and maybe I'd get a job, I wasn't bothered about which animals I worked with, just so long as it was at the zoo, which I thought would be a challenge. But very soon my life was going to change once again.
We'd planned to go to Knebworth Festival, some great bands were playing, including one of my all time favourites, Lynyrd Skynyrd, who I wouldn't have missed for the world and glad I didn't, especially as it was just after Knebworth, that some of them died in the plane crash, now every time I hear Free Bird, I think of that Festival and how they left us their legacy of brilliant music. Also Mick Jagger was there and 10 CC, but more about that later.
It was the Thursday before the festival and I'd got home from work. I was really excited, because Chris had got the Friday off work too. That Thursday evening we were heading to the forest for a party, organised by Jake...what a brilliant pre festival idea that was.
As soon as Chris got home, he had a bath and we were ready to hit the road on the bikes. I stupidly decided to wear a denim skirt and a vest top with flip flops, Chris told me I should wear something more suitable, but I was so hot, it felt like a hundred degrees to me even at night. Completely ignoring his words, I climbed on the back and we were off, driving along at a fast speed, waving to other bikers who were travelling in the opposite direction. My legs were hard up against the exhaust, I had no idea how hot the exhaust could get, never having worn a skirt on the back before and because of the heat in general. But by the time we arrived at the forest, I went to get off the bike and ouch! I left quite a bit of skin from my inside lower leg, attached to the exhaust, the pain was excruciating, but I managed to get hold of some cream and a bandage, while hobbling around, I did however still manage to have a good time though.
The previous weekend, we'd picked up Chris's brother from Uni, he had a kawasaki which went so fast he'd race it at Brands Hatch when he was back at home. I'd been out a couple of times with him on the back, it was a great experience, because he would take me out on the main roads where there were a lot of bends and also when there wasn't much traffic...which in those days was most of the time, and it was a pleasure to ride a bike. He would take those bends leaning so far over, our knees would almost be touching the ground, it was scary, but exhilarating at the same time, I always trusted him because he was such a good rider and never doubted his expertise.
Anyway, here we were in the forest surrounded by nature, just the way it should be. When we parked up some of the mentally-handicapped patients came out of their homes to see what all the fuss was about. They became fascinated by all the motorbikes; I don't think they'd seen so many in one place before. They came up to us wanting to touch the shiny chrome, fascinated at their reflection and how their faces distorted. It was like something out of that film 2001 Space Odyssey, when the apes try and touch the stone with one finger, but are hesitant because they're afraid...it was quite surreal.
It was Thursday evening and although the sun was starting to go down, as usual there was little chance of it cooling. Much of the forest was tinder dry, and although fires weren't allowed, Jake got permission as long as it was kept under control. So; here we all were chatting amongst ourselves with cans of beer in hand. Most of the other bikers including Chris's brother arrived later as it started to get dark. People were starting to wander around exploring or just hanging out chatting.
Me and Chris went down to see Jake's parents, as I'd grown quite fond of them throughout my time with Chris, I also wanted his Mum to check out my leg. They were both hippy types from the 1960s and she would tell me of the things she got up to back then. Her husband was a forester, while she took care of the mentally handicapped that lived in the forest cabins, they seemed to have a good life and I enjoyed hanging out there.
Jake had set up a sound system from his caravan, so we had music, but although there were no houses around, we had to keep the sound down, though there was many times during the night the music was turned up, especially if someone heard a track they liked. A few of the patients kept coming out to investigate, but other than that there wasn't a problem.
The fire was lit and everyone was in high spirits and having a good time, drinking, dancing, kissing and cuddling. As it got later and later and the fire started to die out, people either just lay down where they had been sitting, or got into sleeping bags they'd brought with them. I on the other hand found myself wandering alone, finding a comfortable spot under a tree, I fell asleep almost instantly while gazing up at the night sky.
Next morning I awoke very early, it could have been about 4am or 5am, but it was still hot and sticky, without any dew whatsoever on the ground. The birds were singing their dawn chorus, which was what woke me up and I had no idea where Chris or the others were. As I went to get up, the pain in my leg hit me and I could hardly walk...but walk I must! So finding a strong, sturdy stick, I hobbled down to the cabins.
As I was approaching, a sight stopped me in my tracks, one of the patients was delivering milk, as he took a couple of bottles to one of the front doors, I was shocked to see another patient sneaking up on his crate and taking two bottles without asking, creeping back into his home and shutting the door. I felt so sorry for the milk boy when he came back to his crate, he looked so confused, scratching his head, wondering what had happened to the other bottles.
When I saw Jake, I told him about the incident, but he just laughed, proclaiming that it happened all the time. “They're all very mischievous and like to see if they can get away with it. It happens every day.” He said rolling a joint.
By now my leg was in real pain, Jake's Mum put some cream on and a clean bandage, but said I needed to go to the doctors or hospital and get it looked at properly. Being the stubborn so and so I still am to this day, I wouldn't hear of it, having visions of not being allowed to go to Knebworth was more than I could bear...so that was that, I would suffer in silence.