…..also known as – “Treasure 4 – the Caister taster”.
Regular readers will know that I rather like articles that can be grouped into “series” – I have done quite a few in the more than 6 years since I started this blog.
Of these, the longest by far is the “CD of My Life “series which records the “memory boxes” that open for me on hearing certain songs or pieces of music. This is one of those.
It is also, however, the final episode of the much smaller “Treasure” series which I began several years ago when I located, after many years, the key to a locked deed box and decided that there were stories to tell about some of the items I found in it.
For some reason the piece I intended for the remaining item got started, abandoned, scrapped then restarted so many times that I more or less gave up on it. I just couldn’t get the right angle to make it GO anywhere! And then……
I heard the song that opened the same store of memories that the deed box item did and for some reason that made all the difference.
So, after what must be the most long-winded introduction I have ever done I will get on with the story – some of which has been cannibalised from the one remaining earlier version.
And just so that you know that this is indeed a series “crossover” I will tell you that song is, as recorded in the title 10cc’s “I’m Mandy, Fly Me!” and the “Treasure” item is an A5 sized booklet entitled “The Caister Taster 1976”.
The year 1976 (and most of 1977 until November when I started going out with Faith and she began the lengthy, and still ongoing, process of civilising me) was a strange and rather wild interregnum in my life – rather like a long gap year.
I had, by the start of that year, escaped (in every way except the legal technicalities) from an extremely unpleasant but fortunately short lived mistake of a first marriage and felt that I deserved a little – no, let’s be honest, a LOT of – fun!
And, despite most of my earnings going on servicing a crippling £6000 mortgage, I did indeed manage to have a LOT of fun!
While a great deal of that fun was had with my lodger, Andy, and his circle of friends an awful lot came from the other friends I had been in the process of making when my life changed for the better in October 1975.
These were the members of the Ipswich branch of an organisation glorying in the title of “The National Federation of 18 Plus Clubs”, usually just shortened to “18 Plus”. This was a social organisation for young people between the ages of 18 and 30 and while I don’t know how it works now, in THOSE days there was one in nearly every town.
I should at this point stress very strongly that we were in NO WAY connected with “Club 18-30” a holiday company for people of that age group with a terrible reputation for foreign holidays in the sun involving excessive imbibing of alcohol and sexual depravity!
OUR activities were nothing like THAT – we didn’t go abroad!
Where we did go, however, was to a couple of nationally organised “gatherings” in the UK each year.
The first of these was the Easter Gathering taking place over the long weekend at what was then called (and may indeed still be called) Ladbrokes’ Holiday Camp at Caister-on-Sea, just North of Great Yarmouth.
After hearing stories from the tired and rather dissipated looking survivors of the 1975 event, a group of about a dozen of the Ipswich club members, myself included, decided that we’d like to try it out and achieve that same dissipated look!
By some feat of timely organisation that cannot possibly have had anything to do with me, a swift application for 3 four-person chalets was made and sent in at the earliest possible opportunity – so swift, in fact, that only the organisers (who, of course, had advance knowledge) got accommodation nearer to the bars, discos and restaurants than us. This was good as it was a large site anyway and late bookers had an extra walk because they actually wound up on an adjoining caravan site and had to come and go via a perimeter gate that was locked between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. each day.
Incidentally, for those readers worried about the moral welfare of this group of impressionable young people, I should point out here that the three chalets mentioned each had one double and one twin bedded room. Our group of twelve comprised 6 of each gender and included 2 couples and 2 sisters – those three pairs had the “doubles” so that no-one had to sleep in the same bed as a comparative stranger of the opposite sex! I’m sure you are all really pleased to know that!
What really puzzles me is that I have hardly any recollection of the layout of that chalet or of being in it except for going to bed and getting up but I do recall all of the inconsequential stuff in the previous paragraph!
Among the things I DO remember, however, are that it was quite a warm Easter weekend (possibly because Google tells me that Easter was quite late that year, 16th to 19th April) and, as the bars in those days did not do 24 hour opening, I recall “sunbathing” on the grass outside the chalet between the lunchtime and evening sessions. I had with me my recently purchased Radio\cassette player and the track that inspires these memories was being played at quite regular intervals by BBC Radio 1. That is really the only way I could have heard it so often – “I’m Mandy….” is not the sort of song that would have fitted in either the fast or slow dance categories in the noisy, hot, sweaty, alcohol ridden nightspots on the site.
Strangely, given the fuzzy, drunken state that I spent much of that weekend in, I can remember those late-night dances quite well, particularly dancing quite energetically in a circle with the other males of our party and probably some people we knew from the Colchester, Braintree and Sudbury groups. If that doesn’t sound very masculine to you I should explain the Ipswich 18 Plus “variation” whereby each of those male lunatics leaping around to Status Quo and the like was doing so with a girl sitting on his shoulders! We were dancing around their handbags while they joined hands and sang along with the lyrics about eight or nine feet off the ground. The Health & Safety police would probably stop that were anyone to try it in a club nowadays.
I have to say, though, that while my diet of beer and beef burgers (I THINK we must have eaten at some point) was not ideal it didn’t half make you STRONG!
I have mentioned our proximity to the facilities – the only down side to this was on Monday morning when the Radio 1 Roadshow crew arrived early to put up their stage in the nearby carpark with much loud hammering and sound system checks. It was quite entertaining to open the chalet window and listen to the angrily hung-over loudly expressing their displeasure to the crew
I learned quite few new words from that but the most entertaining remark was a loud female voice shouting “Would you mind not banging while we’re banging?!” That got a big cheer from the “Roadies”.
The little book that I found in my deed box was intended as a guide to the facilities but it does contain a record of the alcohol consumption for the equivalent 1975 event (which I am fairly sure we exceeded) and which I list below. This was for around 1500 people over four days (or perhaps only 2-and-a-bit due to travelling on Friday and Monday).
12800 pints Draught Beer
7680 bottles Beer
800 pints Cider
960 bottles Cider
100 Party 4 cans (remember them? – 4 pints of beer in a tin)
100 Party 7 cans (the 7 pint equivalent)
100 12oz (normal size) cans Beer
5376 measures of spirits
11 Cases (not bottles) of assorted wine
After thinking about my share of that lot I’m surprised I can remember ANYTHING of it but here is your traditional link to the song that still brings it all back to me: