Ah, the 1970’s. An age of innocence. We didn’t have kiddy-diddling coppers back in those days, and Gary Glitter was still a laughable pop star. You could stilll leave your front door unlocked, and it was safe for kids to play in the street without ending up a red smear across the tarmac. And your parents never got divorced.
Geoff’s parents did. He lived in the house at the end of our street, and one day, after a lot of shouting and banging, his father finally had enough of his mother and went to live in the flat above his furniture shop with someone a little less ugly. It was a bit of a tragedy for Geoff who worshipped his dad, but this was more or less bought off with the number of “guilt presents” his dad would send. He had the biggest and best Action Man collection in the street, including the Holy Grail - Sky Diver Action Man.
The trouble was, he hated living with his mum. We understood. We hated his mum too. She hated us playing football in the street, and would often come running out of her house to try to steal our ball. She looked like the battleaxe’s battleaxe Mary Whitehouse, only with a vindictive streak a mile wide. Geoff decided he had to get away. The poor bastard, we were 100% behind him.
He decided to run away and try out life on the road as a hobo. He reckoned he could get a job in a shop and make enough money to buy food and a roof for the night, and who knows, he might make a bit of a success of it. Pretty grown up thinking for an eight-year-old. Failing that, he could always try his luck in showbusiness.
We all got together - me, Nige, John, Matt and Squagg - and raided our parents’ kitechens for stuff he might need. We got matches, tins, a couple of cigars and a torch which he stuffed into his school bag. He slung it over his shoulder and hit the road.
Being the nice guys that we were, we decided to go with him on the first day, just to see that he’d be alright. We were all heart. And besides, those cheroots were too good to miss out on.
We got as far as the local park, a whole two minute’s walk away. We all ducked behind the hedges and made a camp between the undergrowth and the wall. This was to be Geoff’s first base for the night.
First things first. Fire.
You can’t be a proper hobo without a decent camp fire.
We got together some twigs and paper and lit a fire. Within thirty seconds, footsteps could be heard coming down the path, so the fire was stamped out. And relit. And stamped out. In the end, we’d used up nearly all the matches becuase we couldn’t light a fire in the park without someone noticing. This was going to be a bit of an inconvenience when it came to cooking.
And that was when we noticed a rather small, yet vital detail. Geoff had the best part of our kitchen larders in his bag. But no tin opener. The ring-pull was still two decades away. I was sent home to “borrow” one.
By the time I got back, the lads had had one more go at lighting the camp fire. And how. They’d got it lit all right, but the flames had got hold of an overhanging branch, and had refused to let go. The whole hedge was ablaze, and they were running for their lives for the safety of the coal bunker in John’s garden. I was trampled in the rush, but regained my senses enough to join them.
We hung around a bit trying not to look at the pall of smoke rising over the park. Then we went to watch the fire brigade sorting the whole thing out for us while planning where Geoff should stay the night. We settled for the railway arches, even though no-one thought that he should have packed blankets. Or spare clothes. Or a coat.
It was all pretty academic, anyway.
At four o’clock Geoff went home. His mum was cooking his tea, and she’d kill him if he was late.
He kept the cigars as well. The bloody ingrate.
Our tribute to the work of Graham Rawle. Let's face it, I don't think The Guardian would print this one. I'm only posting it because it had enough hummus to get me a multiple "Woo! Yay!" on b3ta. The easily offended had better look away now.
"The crowds would flock to sunny Weymouth to marvel at the Jubilee Cock on the seafront, a magnificent erection built to honour Queen Victoria."
I'll get me coat.