My father had always dreamed of owning a pub in the country, having a variety of cheeses on the counter and serving a nice drop of ale to a customer. Suddenly without much warning, we were moving to Ashton-under-lyne to a pub on the corner of a dirty street, opposite a cinema, with another pub on the opposite corner. Hardly what you would call countryside.
Only upside was a motorcycle shop on the other corner, selling Japanese bikes which were a new innovation. I could look into the showroom from my upstairs bedroom window and dream of owning a Honda. I asked my father to buy me one, but money was very short and we weren’t making any.
There was a Chinese restaurant next door called the Golden Dragon. They were the first Chinese peope I had ever seen. They were very polite and friendly but spoke very little English. Everyone joked about what kind of meat was in the food. Were they dogs or rats?
I was a poor student and homework wasn’t appealing to me, so the 12 month course took me two and a half years. There was elementary, intermediate and advanced and I took two attempts at each section, eventually passing my exam in 1964 much to the delight of my parents.
I was really keen to get to sea and see the world, but after applying for jobs at all the various shipping companies and radio organisations, I was put on the waiting list.
In the meantime, my father got me a job in a foundry where he worked. The company made nuts and bolts and my father was a fitter and turner and made the tools for the machines that made the nuts and bolts.
My job was working at the furnaces, putting the long rods of steel into the fire and heating them until they were white hot, then putting them into the machines which molded the heads and cut them at the required length. It didn’t pay very much but kept me in cigarettes and beer.
I would still travel by train to Glossop and see my mates at Pete’s Cafe in Hadfield and hang out with people I knew.
The pub life was very tiring and stressful for my parents who were not young. Engineering was all my father knew, so it took time to learn the tricks of the trade. What was a hogs head, a firkin? How to tap a barrel of beer? It was all new.
They tried to get me to work as a waiter but I hated the smell of booze and cigarettes, even though I smoked and had the odd drink, the atmosphere was not my scene.
There would be people knocking at the door after closing time wanting to come in or be served after hours. They would tap on the window at all hours. We would just ignore them.
Upstairs there was a large function room with a mini grand piano which was out of tune. There was another mini grand piano downstairs. I would practice a bit and could just about play chopsticks and a couple of other little songs.
My father wanted some music piped into the bar, so he bought a Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder. I recorded hours of music on it and wired up some speakers. The recorder was set up on a shelf under the bar so they could just hit play and let it run.
Later on they had me go out and buy all the latest LP and singles records and I recorded them onto tape so they didn’t have to keep changing records and the songs were all random. It worked very well and the customers liked it.
But after two years our family was pretty much tired of living in Ashton and the pub life was just so depressing