Friday, 1 April 2011

Growing up in Kenilworth

I have been thinking a lot these past few days about growing up in Kenilworth. I generally look back on it pretty well - it certainly wasn't the worst place to grow up. But like perhaps all people looking back on their teenage years, there are plenty of moments of some embarrassment. For instance, the other day, I heard a recording of a song I sang in the 1977 gang show - now it would be pretty awful to see a video of that!

But I do look back with some regrets about things. Mostly this is the common teenage sense of bewilderment about social things, the lack of confidence, etc. I am pretty sure I was quite an odd teenager, even in comparison with the general view of odd teenagers.

One area that I feel excruciating embarrassment about relates to girls. I was such an idiot in this respect! I seemed to feel that it was always going to be an uphill battle to persuade a girl to go out with me. It is only in the last ten years or so - as my own daughter has passed through her teenage years - that I have realised that girls probably put far more effort into trying to get a boy than boys do, a girl.

So I think back now to Alison Griffith's efforts to hook me up with Rachel Sharman in the summer of 1978. I was reminded of this last weekend by having driven past the outward bound centre near Lakeside in the Lake District where we all went that July. I had little idea what was going on through that period and am really embarrassed to this day by the thought of what Rachel went through to attract my attention!

But I suspect most people have some regrets about this sort of thing looking back 30 years later!

One other area that I look back rather fondly on is the time I worked at the Bear and Ragged Staff Pub / restaurant. This came about quite by accident. At our first physics lesson of the lower sixth, I happened to sit next to Kevin Bornstein. Our teacher was late (indeed he didn't arrive at all) and Kevin and I talked about music for much of the lesson. This continued as we finished school and set off home, during which Kevin said that he worked at the Bear as a kitchen assistant, but wanted to move to bar work. He had been told to find a replacement and would I like to be it. I would only need to stay a few weeks so Kevin was established behind the bar, but I then stayed 16 months. Kevin left after a few months as he was under 18 and too young to serve behind the bar.

here were some great people working at the Bear. The old chef, George, who made the delicious pate we served and who died of a heart attack one day at work. The two younger chefs, Dean and Rob. I became really good friends with Dean before he left to join the RAF. I knew Rob from scouts already - he was only a couple of years older than me and we had both starred in this one routine in the Gang Show when I dressed as a jockey and he was a football referee. He was a typical "bad boy", referred to several of the waitresses as "piss flaps", which resulted in them all thinking he was wonderful.

Then, of course, there were the waitresses. Several younger than me - Debbie, Heather, Jane and Cheryl - one or two of my age and slightly older - Sarah, Sue - and one or two older ones - who, for some reason, their names have now slipped my mind.

Of the younger ones, I thought Heather Mouselle was totally gorgeous, but sadly she was one of the girls who was totally captivated by Rob. I also liked Jane Woodward a lot, but she seemed to be teased by the others the whole time. I had two "romantic evenings" with Sarah Buchan, who seemed to like me more than perhaps I liked her, and I was rather mean to her. And then there was Sue Steven - possibly the most gorgeous girl I have ever been friends with. She stared in the film I made one Easter and is still the person with whom I have had the longest telephone conversation - 3 3/4 hours. She went off to study at RADA with the aim of becoming an actress and I have no idea what happened to her after that.

And so many amazing times there. The night the restaurant burnt down while I was working (!), the two Christmas parties, the night we were nearly snowed in, Royal Show week, when average weekday numbers shot up from 15-20 to 150 a night and we were paid double time. And I was so rich as a six former earning £20 a week from my 3 shifts (the equivalent of around £100 a week now).

Finally about Kenilworth, I have been reading Barry Miles' book Hippies recently and have been reminded of Kenilworth's very own hippy, the extraordinarily-named Humphrey Omashire. He and I were in the scouts together (he was a couple of years older than me) and he is the person who first introduced me to drugs - an evening of LSD and way-out music at his house So Kenilworth was quite an interesting place after all!
Kenilworth Castle - our town's main cultural feature. In 1975, I dressed up as a Yoeman of the Guard to commemorate Elizabeth I's visit, 400 years earlier (as noted in the Walter Scott novel) The Bear and Ragged Staff - where I worked for 15 months in 1979 to 1981. Scene of many of my happiest memories of growing up

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