When Geoff Missed Bob #growing up

It was just six months after the Summer of Love and I was on the cusp of awakening as a teenager. So what happened to my chance to become a hippy?

My family moved house in 1969 when I was turning 13. Not just a street or two away but 100 plus miles. My parents called it an adventure; I called it cruel. What about my friends, why did I have to leave my home turf?

Because of the distance and the complications of the English conveyancing system, meaning moving out of one house and into another in one day was more than a challenge, we were to be treated to a night in a local hotel – the Angel Inn in Lymington. This was, is, an old coaching inn with archway to the coach-yard off the High Street and small pokey rooms. It also had a restaurant, of some small repute back then and we were to dine there.

05 BOX-001

Dressed for a big night out, circa 1969

My first meal out, ever. I mean it’s not like we had lunch out. Even if we went to the pub, the Archaeologist and I sat in the garden or the car while Mum and Dad went inside. Ok, that’s not quite true. My uncle Les – something of the family black sheep back then and consequently something of a glamorous lure to this inhibited twelve year old – took the Archaeologist and me to the fun park, Dreamland I think, at Margate, in a sidecar, a year or two before this. He treated us to lunch in a Wimpey Bar. This was the rather sad precursor to MacDonald’s. When my grandmother heard where Les had taken us, she was mortified – not because  Wimpey was inherently dangerous or likely to poison us (though that might in fact have been true) but because my snob of a mother wouldn’t want her darlings to be exposed to anything so lacking in class as  a Wimpey – I mean they sold chip sandwiches, for heaven’s sake.

So here I am on the threshold of teenager-ship – as hippies roamed wild and free twenty miles south on the Isle of Wight shedding clothes and inhibitions and ingesting anything with a  super-complex chemical structure – about to be inducted into the mysterious world of adulthood. Avant-garde? Daring? Alternative? Hardly. We are in the epicentre of the G&T encrusted, old boyish, polished brass, prudish, Tory heartlands where the teenager has yet to be invented: a case of neither seen, nor heard.

I’m a child dressed as an adult; a sort of generational cross-dressing as I pretend to be something I’m not, something I want to be but can’t access. I want to come out as an adult but am fearful of the ridicule.

There’s a code of behaviour here that I don’t understand. ‘Behave’ was a reasonably constant parental requirement back then but how? I’m dressed as a twenty-something in tweedy jacket and cast off tie but what do I do?

We are shown to our seats by a black uniformed waiter and given a menu. It gives me something to do with my hands, at least. Maybe there is a special, a question or two from my parents. Dad has a beer and the rest of us soft drinks – Mum can’t drink alcohol. A treat is bottled Britvic pineapple juice, the nearest I get to sophistication. The Archaeologist, always the contrarian, insists on ginger beer and sulks if they don’t have it. I envy his outward confidence to do it his way. Me, I conform in the same way others breathe. I’m the hassle free one, terrified of making a scene, being noticed. I prefer to be watching and absorbing how others conduct themselves.

The menu is explained. A starter choice of Prawns Marie Rose or melon with a glacé cherry. I don’t know what melon tastes like but I love a cherry and chose that. I will regret the melon later. For the main course I chose a steak because Dad does. I have no clue what I’m getting never having seen a steak before. How do I want it cooked? In my head I answer ‘In a pan, please.’ Mum answers for me; I expect it is well done. Do I want a knob of garlic butter with it? The Archaeologist gags to my right; even the smell of garlic will cause such a fuss and lead to a stand off with Dad of Kennedy-Khrushchev proportions so I’m encouraged to avoid escalation and have it plain. It comes with chips – at last something familiar. Peas too. Good though tricky to eat as we’ve been taught you must use the back of the fork and not scoop them up – someone tell me why?

Guests at other tables actually talk. We sit silent, allowing Dad to conduct a monologue to fill the gaps between being served. Pudding, apparently called dessert but having nothing to do with sand, arrives in the guise of ice cream. A post meal coffee and Silk Cut for dad – cue Olympic class whining from the Archaeologist about the dangers of smoking – he was always ahead of his time and just as irritating as all the rest who’ve been similarly prescient. We go and sit in the lounge. Dad has an Irish coffee and we marvel at the cream floated on the top.

Freed from starchy white table clothes and be-penguined flunkies we all relax and joke. Dad, having drunk a bit too much begins to tell when he was propositioned in a  Manchester hotel and rang mum from his room phone for help, but Mum shushes him before we can have the concept of ‘being propositioned’ explained.

We’ve ‘behaved’ apparently so all’s right with the world.

Meanwhile, across the water Bob Dylan plays a set that will go into history. I don’t know this for ten years and a little part of my dies when I realise how close I was to genius. Still I learnt what a steak knife was so that’s a compensation of sorts.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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22 Responses to When Geoff Missed Bob #growing up

  1. Mary Smith says:

    Didn’t you like the melon? I have memories of similar family occasions – the miniscule glass of orange juice served as a starter, which I’d drained before my mother’s whispered, ‘You’re supposed to sip it.’ She always whispered, Dad didn’t, which caused her anguish as other diners might hear him. And the utter tedium of waiting for them to finish their coffees.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. tidalscribe says:

    The Angel Inn is still there , we have coffee there sometimes when we venture into Hampshire for a coastal walk. I can remember our first ever family lunch out, how impressed I was with the sophistication of crinkle cut chips.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      There was an excellent bookshop next door. I suppose that’s gone. My first ever steak was in a Berni Inn. I had no idea what to do with something that seemed to me to be uncooked…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. trifflepudling says:

    Very similar to many of my experiences growing up! I was just too young for hippiedom but I must confess they were too namby pamby for me anyway. I too was a conformist, probably still am.
    I felt myself back in a similar sort of be-gabled hotel dining room of the 60s/70s just reading your piece. Mummy always had plaice and Daddy, steak.
    What was it like when you and the Textiliste took your two for their first meal out??

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds so familiar to me to. When I went out it wasn’t a jacket it was brown tie and brown cardigan

    Like

  5. We were also taught not to scoop peas, Geoff. I have suffered through many similar meals in my time.

    Like

  6. Darlene says:

    LOL. You both look adorable all dressed up. I remember taking my son out to a nice restaurant when he was little, maybe 3 or 4 years old. It was a steak house. He wore a little Nehru jacket his grandmother made for him. So cute. When the waiter came to take our orders and asked him what he would like. He looked at the menu and very seriously said. “Could I have Mackies please?” (His favorite dish was macaroni and cheese which he called Mackies) We couldn’t look at each other in case we burst out laughing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. josypheen says:

    This sounds like a strange experience! Did you regret the lack of garlic on your steak?

    We are all really spoiled for trying new things and eat out these days aren’t we!!

    Like

  8. Ritu says:

    I remember the times, trying to be grown up and sophisticated… but I have to admit we were introduced to dining out as children, because there were so many blinking visitors, and functions due to the large family, and entertaining was not only at home!

    Like

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Great vivid description of the meal back when going out was indeed a rare event for a kid.

    Like

  10. JT Twissel says:

    It’s never to late – surrender to your inner hippy, I say!

    Like

  11. willowdot21 says:

    I loved Wimpy Bars, cutlery and table service! Peas God only knows why… Parents and older brothers ARRRRRRRGH!
    Bob Dylan… Missed by a few miles… Get over it , it’s past .. for goodness sake you saw snow petrole the other week… I didn’t…
    🤐🤐🤐🤐🤐🤐🤐🤐🤐🤐🤐🤐🤐

    Like

  12. Widdershins says:

    I was a wee bit too young for the 60’s too, but I sure made up for it once I discovered the music as an adult. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Eileen says:

    I was a wee bit too old for the hippies, having five children by then. As a child we simply never ate out. I do remember taking our own two year old to a business man’s restaurant when we were moving and while we were looking at real estate brochures we finally noticed that he was throwing french fries (chips) at the business men in their suits.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Charli Mills says:

    Your comparison of a major event from childhood to what was happening with history nearby makes a compelling story. It must be so intimidating to be let out of the normal confines into society and expected to pick up on all the social cues. We ate steak all the time with family raising beef — BBQ-chared on the outside, bloody on the inside!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Charli Mills says:

    Ah, that makes sense. I never really made that connection before.

    Liked by 1 person

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