Thursday 30th November
With the selfishness and impulsiveness of youth I ran away from home. Barely eighteen at the time I had no idea how hard it would be, or how much pain it would cause my parents. The reasons are complex, and maybe mostly used as self-justification. Maybe the answer is that I simply wanted to get away, to run away, to re-invent myself – as I have done so many times.
I hitched a ride just outside Stowmarket towards Ipswich, The van driver dropped me at a truckers café where many lorries bound for London would stop. I got another lift to London itself. Both drivers knew that I was a runaway, they didn’t seem to care.. Strange that my life has been highlighted and inspired by songs. I was incredibly affected by the Beatles singing “She’s leaving Home” – I am not saying it made me leave, but maybe it planted the seed. Del Shannon singing “Runaway” may have had something to do with it. Who knows? My mother’s mother – Vera – lived in London, and we had visited a few times. There was an allure about London; Carnaby Street, Swinging London, Abbey Road and all. I had no hesitation – London was the place I would head for. And of course, this would change my life completely. I had five pounds and a tiny suitcase with a handful of clothes and a copy of ‘Under Milk Wood’, and maybe the optimism of Micawber that something would turn up.
I won’t describe what I did to survive the first few days, that will be for a later piece of writing – needless to say, I did survive and with no scars either. Pretty soon I got a job as a ‘busboy’ in the Great Eastern Hotel and a tiny room in Stoke Newington. I can barely remember those days now, but there was a sense of freedom and I had kept in touch with a couple of friends, so my parents knew I was okay. They came to visit me in my tiny bedsit, I could see the disappointment in their eyes as I had to move the only chair and they all had to sit on the single bed. But crap as it was, it was mine and wild horses would not have dragged me back. I had made the move and I would survive, there was no going back. I had somewhere to live, I was earning money and I was free. I had done it. I had re-invented myself. Nobody knew me as the school clown anymore, in fact I could be anyone I wanted to be.
Then I met Carol…