Off the Harrow Road, Summer, 1975

January 25, 2009

London. 1975.

Sunlight blazed in to the carpeted front room of the Bravingdon Road squat off the Harrow Road in Paddington, making it even more squalid perceptively than it may well have been. Someone was wrapping a whole Tai stick. Dropping acid in Jarrow and then this. An air of self induced paranoid angst, stoked up by a boiling summer, and 24-hour reggae, pervaded the district. A door led directly through to the next flat through which a dizzy Greek girl in excessively high heels often appeared, and led upstairs to the only bathroom and far too boiling hot water. The prevalence of acid had a lot to do with the state of everyone. This would mean I would be wondering round college in a daze.
“Well, take a plane to München and drop a lounge suite on Germany” It had come to me in a dream in Jarrow and a Morris Oxford was also dropped from a B52. And all this time Hawkwind had lived a few doors up from the other sqat in Westbourne Grove. John Organ and Arri Up served in That Tearoom over the canal bridge.
And Spa was keeping his girlfriend under wraps.
“May I move into your girlfriends fanny?” As if it was a flat, like. Intimate screams were heard nightly from the adjacent loft bedroom.
Late that summer Jan and I take a bus from Istanbul to Teheran, ignoring the polite rules of travelling abroad by virtue of not knowing much about them. The month holiday illustrated clearly Jan’s character good and bad. He had been so beastly to Rick, our travelling companion that the ostracised pal went off on his own.
Getting back to Athens from a march from the Gorge of Samaria to Chora Svakia on Crete, we resolved to tramp stop to Istanbul and split up. Having to walk through the polluted suburbs of Thesalonika I crossed in to Turkey in a white Mercedes and stayed in a hotel with some Iraqis and Germans on their way to Baghdad. Waiting for Jan to arrive (we arranged to meet at the British embassy) I took a trip along the Bospherous from the Gallata bridge on a very pleasant day on a Ferry built in Hebburn-on-Tyne in 1911. Little Turkish boys boarded to dive off. It was obvious to see the walled Roman city. Piled up filth lined the streets up to the Blue Mosque.
I religiously visited the place where we were to meet at eleven a.m. up the incline of the pontoon Gallata bridge. Evidence of burgeoning suburbs loomed on the south east horizon towards Kogelispor and future earthquakes. Jan arrived and that afternoon we admired Russian cruisers passing under vast legs of the Europa Bridge. Heading back we flagged down a Cadillac Dolmus communal taxi already occupied by a well to do light suited Turk, leaning on his cane in the corner, cool aside the net curtain.
And presently we boarded a bus to Tehran. At Erzurum white painted stones marked out the army airfield. Fields of armour faced across a vast plain in to Kurdistan.
The terrain of Iran (dry gold and silver valleys) hugely different. Oil trucks queued up on the other side of the border to a country about to block the two rivers.
In Teheran the welcome 0f army suits in the window for foreigners being 10x overpriced. Droves of men entered brothels and others charged around in Rootes BMC cars. A sheep is slaughtered openly and blood bled into the front drain. Images of the Shah of Persia abound but insincerity from young officer regarding their fondness for him. One dressed in fatigues shows us a more conventional courtyard lifestyle. I slug the 6 foot bearded Iranian at the only place allowed to take foreigners and a biblical figure by night across the road lets us sleep on a hard floor. Next morning a Kurd stands magnificent in his dress at the main square. The leaving bus was held up for another hour due to an Iranian head butting a German woman for not giving up her husbands seat. The German returned and punched the man so hard he flew the length of the vehicle.
Back in London I returned to sleeping on Jan’s floor. I tipped a ladder to the sunroof from the half landing, and it landed on me as I climbed the last flight to the bedroom. Jan found me lying there. It seemed to sum up my London life. Inept and not coping. I had not flourished in the biggest of cities.


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