I’ve never been cutting edge, even when my profile was less rounded. I’ve been a little bit different to the norm, but not excessively so. It’s not that I wanted to conform but my four children, spread over 16 years, and a mortgage tended to ensure I didn’t put my head above the parapet.
I was once being told off by my immediate and ineffectual boss for something another inspector had done. I tried to interrupt but, it seems, this showed I was unwilling to accept blame. In this case spot on for once. Full details are in my A Tour of Forces book so I won’t explain here but I was tempted to leave the room after telling him to talk to my chair. But responsibilities made me bottle out. Marriage and kids emasculate a man. I should have told him to STFU and sod my job.
Even when I was a kid I was conformity itself. There was this chap in our class at college, let’s call him Duncan. He came from a rich family and was thus the only student with a vehicle that had four wheels. The rest of us went by bicycle, motor bike or three-wheeler. Or, of course, like me, they went on foot.
He was a wild one, different in many other ways. For a start he dressed differently and his clothes were expensive. He wore a silk shirt on occasion. It was the first one I’d seen and could barely take my eyes from it. It looked exactly what it was; worth a small fortune.
This was in the middle to late 60s and fashion changed almost from day to day. It was a brilliant time to be poor as it didn’t matter what you wore as someone would consider it just the thing. However, he took it a stage further.
He didn’t care about fashion. He did his own thing. Sometimes it didn’t quite come off, like the time he wore white leather boots with green trousers. For some reason I can’t put my finger on, it sort of clashed. The red shirt was just the clincher.
A visit to the USA generated alligator boots with stainless steel toecaps, polished so that they gleamed. He wore linen trousers with it, a sort of cream. They stopped just short of the top of the boots.
Against such extravagance my second hand military style jacket didn’t stand a chance. Being 6’3” and just 12 stone (<80kg) didn’t help much though.
Money gave Duncan access to delights denied to us paupers. He threw parties and seemed happy to invite his classmates, as long as we brought bottles. That was a problem for some of us but I had a couple of uncles who had access to the London Docks where a type of naval rum was available. A plea to them generated an occasional bottle. But this was the hard stuff and almost, but not quite, a solid that you had to spoon out of the bottle and dilute with water. The bonus of this was that I often left the party with almost the same amount of alcohol as I took to it.
There were other means of intoxication. One room would be put by for the consumption of weed, as we called it then, cannabis nowadays. I visited it a few times in the hope that someone would sub me a drag but it turned out I didn’t need one. Secondary smoking provided a high.
So sober but just a little high on someone else’s cannabis, I was let loose on the female contingent. It was a good time despite having no money.
There was another room, one I blundered into once when looking for the loo. Why do posh houses hide the toilets? You’d think that with all the rooms, some sort of help would be necessary. It was obvious to the meanest intelligence that this room was not a place for evacuation, rather ingestion. I was once given a pill which I think was an amphetamine. It certainly made me feel a bit weird, and I ensured that was the last bit of hard stuff I ever had.
The same could not be said of Duncan. He liked amphets and was often high before the party started. Others brought white powder with them, but the runts of the litter were excluded from their tight group. He began experimenting.
LSD was just starting then and it was, I was told, expensive. This was before the mass production and distribution by the two rings that were broken by Operation Julie. In those days it was a cheap alternative to the poppy derivatives.
Duncan got hooked. His behaviour became erratic and he would occasionally fall asleep in class, at least when he bothered to attend. Sometimes he was so hyped up that I felt there might be an explosion from the back of the class where he habitually loitered.
He was at his most popular in those days. He was cool and acknowledged as such.
So dressing to suit himself and taking drugs on a regular basis made him cool. I mean, this is me now I get a free bus pass. I take a cocktail of various concoctions just to keep alive. I dress regardless of fashion.
So why ain’t I cool?