1977, time to leave school.
As luck would have it I kept a dairy for the first few months of 1977 and so I can pinpoint the exact
date. On 27th June I wrote,
‘Had my last two exams, History-special subject and Physics -Practical. With tears in my eyes I stumbled out into the big wide world’
I can only assume I was being sarcastic, school and me were drifting apart rapidly. Largely to get
them off my back I had applied to do an environmental sciences course at Plymouth Polytechnic.
There were a couple of flaws in my plan, Plymouth was on the other side of the country, just getting
there took a whole day and multiple modes of transport. The other issue was I didn’t really have any
interest in science.
Despite my obvious uselessness I was interviewed and offered a place as long as I could obtain
three grade D’s at A level. It was clear at school that I was disengaging, there just seemed a lot more
interesting things to be doing. The school really didn’t like the idea of its students not achieving, they were no more interested in me than I was in them but they had standards to maintain so eventually the deputy head summoned me for a talk. he expressed concern at my academic decline and drew attention to the fact that I needed to get three grade Es in order to go to polytechnic, I pointed out that I actually had an offer reliant on grade D’s. ‘Oh my God it’s worse than I thought’ he replied..
I was sent away to try harder and I noticed from my diary that on the night before my last exam I
did do some revision.
And so I was free from school, I had no plan beyond the obvious which was signing on. Getting
paid for not working was a given right in the 70’s. Again from my diary I note that my mates Phil and Robbo both came along with me to register together, there were the inevitable forms to fill but before we knew it we were officially unemployed. One of the pleasures of being young is an ability to live in the moment, somewhere on the horizon
was the prospect of going on a course I wasn’t really interested in but that was three months away and in the meantime I literally ‘hung out’
And as I wandered the streets of Norwich with no fixed purpose I had a soundtrack in my head.
Eddie and the Hot Rods had been the next big thing only 12 months ago but now they had been almost trampled to death in the gold rush that was punk. Similarly the Kursall Flyers whose comedy
country pub rock had marked them out for greatness were now has beens. Grumpy guitarist Graham Douglas has seen the writing on the wall and jumped ship and joined the Hot Rods who in turn had had a re brand and were now The Rods. Douglas being a song writer had brought some decent songs and a musical maturity to the band and this was evidenced by the Springsteen influenced ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’
Gonna break out of this city,
Leave the people here behind,
Searching for adventure, It’s the type of life to find,
Tired of doing day jobs, with no thanks for what I do,
I’m sure I must be someone, now I’m gonna find out who
Do anything you wanna do,
Do anything you wanna do
Don’t need no politician, tell me things I shouldn’t know,
Neither no optician, telling me what I ought to see,
No-one tells you nothing, even when you know they know,
But when they tell you what you should do,
They don’t like to see you grow
Why don’t you ask them what they expect from you,
Why don’t you tell them, what you are gonna do,
You’ll get so lonely, maybe it’s better that way,
It ain’t you only, you got something to say
Its all too easy to poor scorn on on the ‘hey man leave the kids alone’ lyrics of the song (actually
written by the band’s manager) but as an 18 year old who might never have to revise about ox bow lakes again the song spoke to me directly. I was free, thanks to my long suffering parents I had a place to live and food in my belly, I had friends and money in my pocket. So much money, in fact, that according to my diary I actually bought the record on 12th September along with a copy of the magazine Zig Zag.
England was mine and it owed me a living.