Perennial reminder – this is a series about songs that remind me of specific events (and vice versa). While they may not be either important events or necessarily songs that I like, the two are inextricably linked in my head.
About 23 years ago my wife, children and I relocated our lives to the outer edges of Peterborough – specifically to the area known as Orton Wistow. Unlike some Peterborough estates blessed with the “Orton” prefix, this is quite a respectable part of town, despite ME living there and the houses being a bit closer together than I would really have liked.
What it lacks in “personal land” it makes up for in that the vast expanse of the Ferry Meadows Country Park is about a 5 minute walk away. Here are woods, fields, lakes and the River Nene – and I frequently refer to it as “my other back garden”.
When we first moved here my children, then aged 10 and 8 respectively) were allowed to play in the more open parts but we, as with most parents of that time, had been scared by the plethora of child abuse (and worse) stories into ensuring that they were never, EVER unsupervised.
And exactly when, I hear you ask, is this going to turn into one of Alfie’s musical memories?
When I was but a wee, skinny lad (which indeed I was until about age 13 or 14 when I became a TALL skinny lad or until about 40 when I turned into a tall FAT lad) I lived on the outskirts of Ipswich just off the road leading eastwards out of town along the southern bank of the River Orwell.
Our cul-de-sac was the last residential turning off that road and was where the Ipswich Borough Transport bus route 1a used to turn around, presumably on the grounds that that if it went 200 yards or so further it would be outside the Town boundary whereupon the Driver, Conductor and diesel engine would all have stopped working!
The actual boundary for the end of the Borough of Ipswich was the bridge over a small spur of the Orwell fed by Belstead Brook and just before THAT was the long driveway leading under the railway bridge to Bourne Park – maybe 5 minutes’ walk from my home.
So, at the same age as my younger daughter was when we moved to Peterborough I also had a massive park to play in.
The big difference was that I didn’t want, need or get supervision.
The far side of that park from where I went in was bordered by the Maidenhall council estate where most of my school friends lived so, having made arrangements at school during the week, we would all meet up at the swings on a Saturday morning (no we didn’t text each other – most of us didn’t have phones in our houses at that time!) rain or shine.
We would, with the exception of a break for lunch involving running home, remain there all day.
As far as I can recall, the most warning I got from my parents was “Don’t talk to any strange men”! No hints about what a “strange man” would look like or why they would be considered “strange” were ever forthcoming.
Incidentally, I note that we never warned about “strange women”. This is obviously sexist as I’m certain that women are, and always have been, just as capable of being deranged child abusers and murderous psychopaths as men are. Just doing my bit for equality, you understand ladies – please don’t hurt me!
In any event I was never spoken to by, or indeed ever saw, anyone on that park that even came close to meeting that description and the only real worries were physical injuries sustained in the course of our normal activities.
Grazed knees from falling off swings and the like were commonplace and I did get clobbered by cricket balls on the head and other more tender places on a couple of occasions!
The particular connection for the song mentioned arose from a Sunday afternoon in August 1963 which I spent on the park flying elastic band powered balsawood model aeroplanes with my friend Peter Burch who lived on the aforementioned Maidenhall Estate.
Peter was the only person I knew at that time who possessed what was then known as “a transistor radio”. That is to say – a long/Medium Wave radio that ran on batteries instead of mains electricity and which could be popped in your pocket rather than requiring a strong man to move it from one side of the room to the other.
He had this expensive and marvellous piece of modern technology with him on the park that day and my most particular memory is of us sitting – the only people in acres of grass – on that hot August Sunday afternoon listening to the BBC Light Programme (1500 metres in the Long Wave), specifically Alan Freeman doing his chart countdown show “Pick of the Pops”.
There are actually two tracks that flip the catch on that particular “memory box”, both of which I may have been hearing for the first time that day – “Bad to Me” by Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas is the first one I think of if I reverse the normal process by thinking of the situation first but I get the same memories when I hear “I’ll Never Get Over You” by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates.
As is customary here are links to YouTube offerings for both in the order I just mentioned them.
About 5 months after that day in the park my family and I moved to a new development in another part of town – I then had acres of heathland to play on instead of carefully tended grass but it was never quite the same!