........please, come into the kitchen and pull up a chair........

'I am not interested where you come from. I am not interested in the colour of your skin. I am not interested in the value or reputation of what you wear. I am only interested in your value as a person, your inner worth.'

- Alexander the Great 356 - 323BCE Macedonian Ruler.

 

Being brought up in Liverpool, my childhood and schooling was fun - I even gained some GCEs - then around the age of sixteen, I found myself in the Cavern club where the enthusiasm and bare-faced cheek of our local pop groups, (they weren't bands until the mid-seventies), gave me a confidence I could never gain in school. 

As a teenager, after saying goodnight to my girlfriend, I used to wait at the bus stop for the last bus home. She lived next door to her best friend and that girl's boyfriend would be waiting there too. I only ever saw him at the bus stop and although we never spoke, we developed a sort of nodding acquaintanceship, as you do. On the bus, he always nodded off and I`d nudge him awake when we got to our stop where we'd part company. Then one lunchtime down in the Cavern, I saw him on the stage playing lead guitar with the Beatles. George nodded to me and I nodded to him (that's him - next to John). So if you're listening somewhere George, even though we never spoke to each other, I`d recognise your nod anywhere. Incidentally, my girl friend`s surname was Cavanagh (Caverner??).

  For an odd mixture of office workers and sixth-formers in early sixties Liverpool, weekday winter lunchtimes meant dashing through the windswept streets to the Cavern Club just to catch an hour of live Rock and Roll from the Beatles. It was an obsessive ritual not to be denied. But one bitterly cold November luchtime will always stay crisp and fresh in my memory because as I descended the narrow steps into the depths, I realised something was missing that day. Instead of the thumping bass and chugging power of the Beatles` sound, I could hear fits of giggles and roars of laughter where there should have been 'Johnny Be Good'. I soon discovered via the DJ Bob Wooler that George and Paul hadn't turned up because they had the 'flu' and in place of the music, a comedian and his dog would entertain us. For at least another twenty minutes John Lennon stood on the stage in his overcoat making up funny stories that had the thirty or so of us in the audience aching from fits of laughter. Every now and then, John would bark out of the corner of his mouth, then mutter, "BE QUIET! Get down boy, get down!" I remember Pete Best slouched against the wall behind his drums helplessly laughing and shaking his head in disbelief.

    By the early sixties, I joined a few close friends, formed our own group and we became,

THE PIKKINS

    Ged Walsh played ace drums, Wally Walmsley ace lead guitar/ace vocals, Jim Dempsey played ace rhythm/ace vocals, Pip Donaldson played ace bass guitar/vocals and I sort of sang and generally showed off (that's me on the right - pikkin'). Eventually Ged left the group and was replaced by ace drummer John Gee and when Jim left we remained as a four piece for quite some time until dear chum, Charlie Dunn joined the group as ace Pikkin for quite a while too.

We played several times a week under the close scrutiny of 350+ other rival Merseyside groups in clubs throughout Liverpool, the Northwest, Wales and even as far south as Solihull Ice Rink. Then one day, we passed an audition to cross the channel and tour the US bases in France and Germany. We did it purely for fun without egotism or expectation and simply had the time of our lives.

Upon our return, chatting with our friend and solicitor, casually he asked, 'I suppose you've organised your tax payments?' We exchanged glances as the colour ran from our faces. He told us to immediately buy bow-ties and suits, increase our fees and join the night-club circuit without delay. Very soon we were playing most nights and even played at the holy of holies, the Liverpool Cavern, and that's when my writing began in earnest. From a selection of school exercise books detailing our experiences in the band, I submitted a piece to a local newspaper about the Liverpool music scene and to my surprise it was accepted.                

 

But deep down I never really felt at home in the city and inevitably the time came when I left the group and moved to Cornwall and found work wherever I could - Insurance Salesman; Barman; Waiter; DJ; Bistro Chef; Diving Boat's Cook; several Restaurant Chefs; Local Council Courier; Manager of Art College Bar; Teaching Assistant, Census Agent and even Mobile Library Assistant.

Then something happened that started me travelling again.

It was an invitation from a long-time friend I'd made a dozen years earlier while playing on the US bases. He suggested I visit him in Southern California. The name of this chum is John Nippolt. He's a husband, father, surfer, painter, writer, teacher and fellow time-traveller who shares the same curiosity about life as I do. Naively, I bought a one-way ticket to the US then spent several months backpacking through California and Hawaii and subsequently fell in love with travelling.

But it was Greece that had my eye. From my first visit, years before, I had became so enthralled by all things Hellenic I knew it as my true destination. I had to be there...in that place...that very place.

Then, one frozen winter's night just before my fiftieth birthday, hunched over a couple of beers with a bezzie mate, Norman Sayle, he suggested we take a year off and go travelling in Europe. And so, one bright morning the following spring, after a sacrifice to the gods, we boarded my 'Villa Zorbus' campervan and, the wind being favourable, set off intending to start our adventure with a visit to friends in Hungary. From the stern of a channel ferry, we watched the isles of Britain fade into the distance and so turned to get some rest, unaware the gods had other ideas. From distant Greece the Sirens song pulled us from Cornwall, through France and Italy, from Brindisi across the Adriatic to Igoumenitsa over the Pindos and up to Thessaloniki, then by ferry down to Crete where we landed just after midnight. Somehow we found ourselves parked outside the legendary Villa Ariadne, and once the engine was still, we soundly slept in the resin-scented car park. And all at once I felt that I could breathe again.

It was during our Cretan adventure that Norman, after several drinks, kindly offered my services to a desperate restaurant ownerand so, the following year I returned to the island and worked the season until I could stay no longer. I just had to leave. Cooking in a Cretan kitchen can induce madness, as anyone will tell you. But they have a saying in Greece, 'Just when things are at their worst, suddenly you are consoled from an unexpected direction.'

 

One morning, out of the blue, came an invitation to join our friend in Hungary working with underprivileged kids. I could hardly believe it. That same day I sold my beloved camper and flew off for what was to become one of the most positive and enlivening three months of my life. Even when it was time to come home and I discovered I'd lost my return ticket, those gods were still watching and helped me hitch a ride back on the pillion of a Yamaha 1200 through Austria, Germany, Luxembourg until eventually reaching Oostende on the coast of Belgium. Then across the Channel to Brighton and finally, the coach back down to Cornwall.

Once back in Falmouth, I began running the local Arts College Student Union bar. I met Sandra, my wife to be, working in the college library. We started going for walks, exploring Cornwall and falling in love. We were married the following year and spent our honeymoon on the island of Karpathos. That winter, I painted the picture of two musicians we had met on our travels.

 

It became the cover illustration for the first draught of my book, The Idiot & The Oddity,  although in its final form it is renamed and is now known as, 'Pani's Island'.

Eventually Sandy and I moved into our daffy 300 year-old cottage on the Lizard Peninsular, the most southerly point in Britain, and in between visits to Greece, we grow vegetables and fruit in our garden, although sometimes we just sit there and listen to it hum and buzz. It's like listening to music.

The other day I asked her, 'What time is it?' and she said, 'When?'

We like being married. We've both been married twice before - but that was just research. I'm from the north of England and she's from the south and we often misunderstand each other...

Me to Sandy: Remember when we crossed that field full of bulls and climbed that stile?

Sandy: Not really. I don't think you were with me that day.

*** 

To date, I think I have enough jottings and scribblings in my backpack for at least half a dozen other novels and I'll probably start work on them tomorrow, er...maybe after lunch.

 


As Socrates said to me once, 'The unexamined life is not worth living,'

 

 

 ...and, 'Life's far too important to take seriously.'

 

so ALWAYS remember...

 Have fun!

  

 


 
www.grecofilia.co.uk

©2016 - PERMISSION TO COPY. The content of this website is the Copyright of Tony Brown and is protected by international copyright law. You are welcome to copy it for personal or non profit, or educational purposes only and you have my permission to do so, provided it is copied and re-published in it's entirety complete with copyright notice and website address. If you wish to copy it for electronic publication on an intranet, website, blog or Newsletter you may do so provided the article is copied and re-published in it's entirety with all html, copyright information and hyperlinks intact and unaltered in any way with no redirects. If you wish to copy it for any other purpose please contact me for permission first.