Reminder to my regulars and information for new readers – this article is a part of a series that I have been doing for some months now, listing those pieces of music that trigger the opening of detailed “memory boxes” concerning events in my life. It also works the other way in that if something else triggers that memory the song in question pops up as integral part of it. This is, I think, “Track 7”.
This one is related, as you will see, directly to one major event in my life and indirectly to TWO other less exciting but still significant ones. All three were, from my wife’s point of view, distressingly close together!
About six months after I started work earning the grand sum of £6.88 per week I got fed up with being tied to the buses for my journey to work and to the worn out, 1940s bicycle that I plodded to Boys Brigade meetings and football matches on. So with my father acting as guarantor I entered into a credit agreement and bought myself a Honda 90 motorcycle which set me back £6.00 per month for the next year and a half. Quite a significant percentage of my salary at the point of purchase in April 1970 but by the time that 18 months was up my earnings had risen to £11.50 per week plus overtime. You will be pleased to know that it had a one gallon (4.454 litres if you insist) petrol tank which cost the monumental sum of FIFTY PENCE to fill from empty!
I used that bike until it finally packed up in the autumn of 1975 which was probably just as well as I would have been well over the drink/drive alcohol limit for a lot of 1976 and 1977! Somewhere in the intervening years, however, I passed my motorcycle driving test (at the second attempt) and am, indeed, still entitled to ride them to this day.
I bought another motorcycle in the spring of 1979 for daily travel from Ipswich to my new office in Norwich and for weekend trips to see Faith in Chelmsford. This was a Suzuki TS250 – a single cylinder machine that I could ride in a comfortable upright position. I’m not constructed for the “laying along the fuel tank” type of vehicle!
This is the bike that got a mention in my account of the 24 hours before our March 1980 wedding (https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/poolside-jottings-part-1) and I eventually sold it to help pay for car driving lessons in the spring of 1982, taking a heavily subsidised (and therefore cheap) bus for the 10 mile trip from Long Stratton to Norwich for work every day.
The stories relating to my driving lessons belong in a post of their own but suffice it to say that I passed my test (at the second attempt) on 23rd March 1983. This was just as well because Faith was heavily pregnant and insisted that there was no way that she was going to drive herself to the maternity hospital!
I never dared make the comment that occurred to me at that point:
“We shouldn’t have got rid of the motorbike then!”
That would have gone down REALLY well!
There was a further complication in our lives at that point because in January 1983 I got promoted and transferred back to Chelmsford again. Somehow we managed to make the house move coincide with the expected date of arrival of our first born!
The stress of having a baby AND planning the house move with me working in Essex and staying with my in-laws raised my good lady’s blood pressure quite substantially and on visiting her parents’ doctor after being fetched by her Mum to be with me over the Easter weekend (1st to 4th April) she was admitted into the Chelmsford maternity hospital immediately as a precaution.
I had taken a week off work for the move and returned home alone on the train on Easter Monday to finalise the packing – with the timely aid of my parents who drove up from Ipswich to help!
On Wednesday 6th April the removal van arrived, my parents left ahead of it to prepare to receive it at the new place along with Faith’s mum and dad; while I was left to see the van off, check nothing had been left behind, get the electric meter read and deliver the keys to the Estate Agent in the village. I then got to do my first “solo” since passing the test – 80 miles along the A140 and A12 in our little Vauxhall Chevette to our new home. That was fun!
On arrival I checked that the collective parents were coping with unpacking our belongings (it was to be months before we found where they’d put some of it!) then rushed off to the hospital to visit Faith who was still “waiting” although she had been told that the delivery would be induced the next day.
So I came back the next morning and waited. And waited. And waited! I don’t know how things are now but in 1983 expectant fathers were regarded by the hospital staff as something that had to be endured – they certainly didn’t want to encourage them to stay by giving them anything to eat or drink!
I sat or stood by Faith’s bed from about 9 am until the baby arrived at just after 4.30 pm and for a couple of hours after that and the only sustenance I got was an occasional crafty swig from the glass of Complan that was kept filled to enable Faith to keep her strength up. Still it meant I was there right through the birth and a fantastic experience it was too!
Painful as well – I was wearing a jacket with padded sleeves and my dear wife still managed to leave long-lasting finger marks on my forearm as the “moment” approached! Don’t let anyone tell you childbirth doesn’t hurt – it REALLY does for all concerned!
Once I’d been to the public telephone box (no mobiles at that period of history!) and informed everyone concerned of my daughter’s entrance in to the world (with all relevant statistics, of course) I reluctantly left to allow her and her mum to sleep. I did not go home immediately though; I walked around the corner from the hospital to a Fish & chip shop and treated myself to a large portion of chips and a couple of saveloys! Then I went home and slept for some considerable time.
And when I drove home, I found that I wanted to sing out loud! So I put the car radio on and tunelessly bellowed along to the first song played – which was the track named in the title of this article. The lyrics aren’t particularly cheery but that didn’t matter – I just sang it loudly and happily anyway!
Faith stayed in hospital for 10 days, which was normal practice then for first time mothers so I had a week and a half to get really used to unaccompanied driving and the redoubtable Mr Reginald Dwight’s track was played (and sung along to) quite a lot during that time.
To this day I have to forcibly stop myself from singing loudly along to it!
Here is the link to it:
Regrettably there was no equivalent “sing-along song” around when my other daughter was born two years and six weeks later. She arrived very quickly (we had only been at the hospital for an hour) at about 6.15 am and was home around 48 hours later so nothing had the chance to burn its way into my memory.
Just so she doesn’t feel left out here, as an added bonus, is the track that was number 1 in the UK on her birthday:
Don’t say I never give you anything!