You should all know the premise behind this series by now (even though I haven’t done one for a while) but for those who don’t – some memories call to mind certain songs or, as is more likely, hearing a particular song opens a box in my memory containing details of a specific event. These songs make up the eponymous “CD of My Life” and these articles are the “sleeve notes”.
I have passed swiftly over some bits of this story in an earlier chapter of this series (https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/) which was really about a holiday in 1978, so if any bits are similar, that will be why.
To recap then, in 1977 I was young, free and (except for legal technicalities) single and commuting daily between my house in Ipswich and the Barclays Bank Trust Company office in Chelmsford – 40 miles away and about an hour’s travel by bicycle and train.
The men in the Tax team at Chelmsford were a sociable bunch and I was very soon “one of the lads”. They were often to be found in the main Chelmsford banking branch (our office was a large portacabin in their car park) flirting with the female cashiers!
They also spent a lot of time in our small staff room in that portacabin playing darts in practice for the inter-branch knockout competition (in which they were usually quite successful while never actually winning it) and would work late if there was a match on rather than going home first.
When I joined the team this arrangement obviously suited me provided someone could guarantee getting me back to Chelmsford railway station for the late train. It also suited them as they had been playing a man short and had been having to ask the Manager to turn out. He wasn’t a bad player but there were always conflicts with various Managers’ Club events and when that happened it was always “career prospects first” to the detriment of the rest of the team.
As the darts competitions in the Chelmsford District covered nearly all of Essex the early rounds were all “zoned” to minimise travelling and this meant that more often than not we would get drawn against one or other of the many teams of our neighbours in the 2 High Street, Chelmsford banking branch.
This made life a lot easier for me as those matches tended to take place in city centre pubs and were always in easy walking distance of the station.
In the opening round of the 1977 inter-branch competition my team was drawn against one of the High Street branch teams and the match was arranged in The Wheatsheaf, a pub roughly halfway between the office and the Railway station. Our opponents turned out to be a group of young lady cashiers (some of the ones the rest of the team used to flirt with) and it wasn’t taken terribly seriously.
I think we won but I remember it being a happy, pleasant evening and being rather attracted to one of the girls.
I didn’t do anything about this but did tend to use her till more frequently than before when cashing my cheques.
And then, in September or October of 1977 my colleagues asked if I was interested in attending the Barclays Chelmsford Social Club disco in Southend-on-Sea at the beginning of November.
Now Southend was out of the range of my British Rail season ticket (and a pretty gruelling trip home in the small hours of the morning anyway) so I said that while I would love to go it was rather impractical.
I think that my colleagues in the office were anxious to expand my social life for me so one of them (Ian, who lived in Rayleigh near Southend) offered me his spare room for the night – an offer I gladly accepted.
So, after work on the first Wednesday of November, instead of rushing off to the railway station I took the overnight bag I had brought with me and went home with Ian. I assume that they fed me but food didn’t figure highly in my life or my memories of that time – as “The Who” so beautifully put it “There was nothing in my life bigger than beer”!
Then Ian, who didn’t touch alcohol (he was, frankly, manic enough without it) drove Linda (his wife) and I to the dubious delights of “Zhivagos” night club underneath a typical 1960s shopping precinct. I doubt I’d be able to find it today.
I don’t recall the internal layout in detail but there were booths of varying sizes around an under-lit glass dance floor – an innovation that I don’t believe “Traceys”, the nightclub I sometimes went to in Ipswich, had thought of yet.
I sat with my colleagues Ian and Errol and their respective spouses but as the evening went on these gentlemen were taking longer and longer to return from trips to the bar or the toilets and could clearly be seen continuing their flirting with the High Street cashiers. This earned them increasingly frosty receptions from their wives and it began to seem to me that war was about to break out!
Being the only unattached person at the table during this was becoming uncomfortable and I thought to myself “Sod this for a lark! I’m going to dance with someone!”
So I took my pint of bitter and went for a wander. There were, of course, people there from all over the Chelmsford District but I eventually recognised (and was recognised by) the young ladies from that darts team including the one I had been chatting to at her till.
I asked her to dance and we spent the rest of the evening together.
As usual, the impending end of the evening was heralded by a number of slow dances, which I took maximum enjoyment from. I’m sure there were quite a few but the one that sticks forever in my mind is the 10 c.c. song mentioned in the title of this piece. Here is a YouTube link to it:
At midnight or just after we all got turfed out of the place and Ian and Linda took me back to Rayleigh to sleep very happily in their spare room.
And the rest is history!
Faith and I started going out regularly after that; got married in March 1980 and are still together now, 2 children and 2 grandchildren later!
It will not have escaped your calculating minds that the first Wednesday in November 1977 was the 2nd which is why this article has been scheduled to appear today.
Happy 40th Anniversary, Faith!
David (not my usual sign-off but it wasn’t “Alfie” who danced with her and fell in love!)