Thursday, 24 June 2010

Post-Punk, Parenthood and Promise

I have to thank Kat Mortensen for inviting me back to the 80s.

For me, like many of my generation living in the UK at the time, that decade will always be defined by the huge social and economic upheaval that came about, courtesy of the Thatcher government. I was one of the 4 million unemployed, an experience that continues to shape my thinking today.

On 17th January, 1981, this young family took a leap into the unknown and moved a couple of hundred miles to the west of everything they were familiar with.

We didn't have any connection with Cornwall, yet we were convinced it was the perfect place to build a life and raise a child. After three months of trailing around, looking for work, I landed a job in an entertainment complex, where I would keep the bars stocked with booze. That was the first of many turning points for us. I recall, we had just enough money for the fare to get me to the interview. It was a long walk back.

So, it's that summer of 1981 that I'm writing about here. A long, hot, busy season by the sea, earning a little over £1 an hour. With chart-topping bands playing most nights at the Cornwall Coliseum, I didn't finish my shifts until the small hours. You can do the arithmetic. Fourteen hours earned me something in the region of £15.

There are lots of stories to tell, though not all suitable for this blog as, inevitably, some of the rock 'n' roll left its mark. For instance, a colleague had his car dumped into the olympic size swimming pool by an over exuberant Rainbow road crew. Another time, I was roped in, along with every other able bodied male, one exceptionally humid evening, to carry out Adam Ant fans who had collapsed in the stifling heat. I'm only sorry I don't have a picture of the line of semi-conscious partygoers laid outside in the fading light, with only a heavy drizzle to bring them round.

It fell to me to put up the drinks orders for the likes of The Tubes, Dr Hook, The Jam, UB40, Ultravox and countless others. Great blue bins of alcohol were delivered to the dressing rooms. Even now, I find it hard to see how so much could be consumed by the average band, but consume it they did.

It wasn't all sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll though. Arguably, one of the real highlights was running into town for a jar of honey and some fresh lemons. Why? Well, to ease the sore throat of one Ray Davies, of course! The Kinks' legend was suffering, and I was despatched to pick up the remedy. I actually handed the goods over to him myself. Then, in a somewhat surreal postscript, I found myself standing on the same stage, during a soundcheck, watching him singing Waterloo Sunset.

The job lasted for 18 months before redundancy struck. There followed almost four years of more lows than highs, but I eventually got a break with my writing. Another major turning point.

Perhaps more posts from this era sometime. For now, I have to thank Kat for the idea of harking back 30 years or so.

© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges


  1. My 80s looked very different from yours.
    I love your family photo (?) and the story of your wild years, at one remove.
    Thatcher's years were stressful years for most of us, only the rich lived as they always had - and still always will, now and forever, A..n.

    Seems there's more to MartinH than meets this blogger's rheumy eye.

  2. I am sure I knew you back in the 80s. Mind you we all probably looked like that.

  3. Another fabulous photo and post. You have a lovely writing style.

  4. Friko - For the most part, I'm one of those annoying people who would tell you, honestly, I'd do it all again. Although an uncomfortable path to tread, at times, it's led us to where we are now and, at the moment, that's a nice place to be.

    Yes, there's more to all of us than meets the all powerful eye of the blogger.

    Alan - Yes, although the 70s were more my 'fun' years. Hence, the big hair, beard and so on.

    This photo is a favourite of our daughter. I should try to replicate the pose nowadays, with three small granddaughters clambering about all over me!

  5. Wow! yes,yes,more memories please! You also gain extra Brownie Points for curing the throat of the Mighty Ray Davies!

  6. Moptop - Glad you like the photo and post, and I really appreciate your kind comments about my writing style. Thank you.

  7. Tony - I'll see what I can dig up. I have wondered if Ray Davies would recall that moment himself. I doubt it. It was a big thing for me but, I imagine, fairly forgettable for him. They played a great set that evening. It would be nice to think that the honey and lemons played some small part.

  8. wonderful - some parts sound/look so familiar...

    in 1981 me, my f and wee daughter (18 mos) old also moved several hundred miles (well 1600 to be exact and east) to an unfamiliar place for a job.

    as in the 1970s we enjoyed lots of good loud music

    f sported pretty much the same hair (ah, how i miss that full beard and long hair) as you.

    wonderful writing as usual!!

    ah, forgot about the 80s subtheme as i was pulling my tt post together.... hm, maybe the song i selected was done in the 1980s.

  9. Wonderful post, Martin! I agree with the earlier comment about your writing style. I love how you can be pure poetry in one post, and then descriptive prose in the next, without losing any of the engaging flow.

    Amazing how time can soften the view of things. In '81 I was 10, so my own '80's were the fraught teenage years with very little prospect once we left school. But just recently I am beginning to be able to look back with some fondness!

    Thanks for sharing the photo and the memories! More please!

  10. Great post, Martin and a very enjoyable read as always. Look forward to reading more from this era. Love the photo too!

  11. (Just getting up here,)but your pic woke me up, Martin. Of course I've never seen you before, but my imagination had you as the polar opposite of this fellow.

    What a lovely treasure of a picture! Your wife is a peach and that must be your daughter - fabulous photo!

    While I was dancing to the vinyl that played Adam Ant, Ultravox and the like, you were living the reality - and what a reality!

    I'm so glad you participated in this and I hope you make it a series!



  12. The summer of 1981 I lived with WT, our 18 month old first born son, just south of the plaza in Kansas City in a comfortable old Sears bungalow, we bought as a fixer-upper. The rest of the 80s were a blur of bottles and diapers and a move to Ohio.

    Wonderful photo and post. You've inspired me. I might have to post one, as well.

  13. This is such a great one, Martin. That is truly one of the best family portraits I've ever seen. And your memories are so much fun, so vividly told!

    And omigosh, you reminded me of Dr. Hook! I met them once, when I was little. We knew their manager. They were very nice to me!

    I will have to send Sarge over to read this; he'll love it.

  14. mouse - Thank you. Our daughter was also 18 months old when we moved. Alas, the passage of time has taken its toll on the long hair, but the beard is still going strong!

    Ciara and Teresa - Thanks so much for such lovely comments. They are very much appreciated. Looks as though I'm going have to write some more of the same.

    Kat - I'm now wondering what my polar opposite actually looks like. Hope the real thing wasn't too startling!

    You're right about the photo. It is a treasure, and Mags is certainly a 'peach'. Perhaps more later.

    willow - Great to hear that you've been inspired. I look forward to reading an 80s post, as and when. Your posts are always an inspiration.

  15. Leah - Glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun to write. I only encountered Dr Hook fleetingly, but it's good to hear nice things about them. So many negative tales circulate about bands. I speak as I find and, on the whole, the bands I had any association with, in my extremely small way (remember, I was only one of the guys taking drinks to the dressing rooms) were okay.

  16. What fun to read about your past! And what a terrific picture -- my brother used to look very much like that.

  17. Vicki - Thanks. I also used to look very much like that! As I mentioned to 'mouse' earlier, the beard is still intact, although a different colour. How did that happen?

  18. Hi Martin

    what a fun read and also one that made us all go back in time and wonder just where we were and what we were up to...I love the hippie bohemian look...and could those pants be cords. My beloved has a thing about cords...always looking for cord shorts which are as scarce as hen's teeth these days...but he did score some last week at Walmart!

    Like you we made a big move into the unknown, for us it was from NZ to AU in 1978 and then the 80's were consumed with children, 'building the empire' as I like to call getting a business up and going...being a bit of a hippie, you know the hairy leg and armpit look - not at all attractive...

    Thanks for the time warp...

    Happy days

  19. Did you see where the last three decades went? I didn't. 1981 was my move to France, just in time to see a socialist President elected and to meet the man of my dreams. Major moves do represent tangible forks in the road, moments to wonder at the "What ifs" of different choices of direction.

  20. Delwyn - Well spotted! Yes, they are cords. Glad you enjoyed the time warp.

    English Rider - No I didn't. What's worse, I didn't see where the last four decades went.

    It's only natural to wonder at the 'what ifs', but I try not to dwell on them. Someone once advised me to keep that list as short as possible. Not always an easy task, I grant you.

  21. I would also like to hear more. This was fascinating.

  22. Wow. I was broke in 1981 as well and living far from home in Cleveland Ohio. Long story. You looked almost exactly like one of my friends from there! I am so in awe of your Ray Davies encounter! Adam Ant! That is a name I'd forgotten about! Thanks for the memories.

  23. Another great post Martin, I love the photo. I came to London a few years after that in 1985 for a student working summer, so I do remember that things were bad.


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