I have separated this Chapter into two parts. The first, my life in 1976. The next what was going on with Roy at the same time.
I think for all of us there is one year in our lives that stands out from any other. That year for me was 1976. I was just 18.
It was the year that I passed my Butchery exams. I passed with honours and was now a fully fledged Master Butcher.
It was the year that I passed my Driving Test. I paid my Driving instructor with meat instead of cash of course, and twice a week he would drive away with a leg of Lamb, some chops and mince. Roy said it was his treat!
I started to save a bit of money every week with a local Building Society. Some weeks I was putting away up to £300 depending on how much skulduggery Roy had been up to.
It was the year that I had my first Holiday abroad, 2 weeks in Benidorm with my best mate Stuart. I met Stuart a year before. He was very much like me and had a few things going on the side. He worked at a local Paint factory and helped load the Lorries. Of course he managed to put on a few “extras” for his favourite drivers and they would square him up at the end of the week. To be honest a fair amount of this “extra” paint ended up in a certain Butchers shop in East Ham! Like me he very rarely touched his wages and he was always up for a laugh. So the two of us would go out every night until silly o’clock but would always be at work by seven the next morning. There were days when we both decided it was too late to go home so just went straight to work. You can do that when you’re 18!
I had my suits hand made at a Jewish Tailors in Rathbone Market in Canning Town,,the same Tailors that the cousins used. It was also the Tailor that Billy Walker ( the ex British Heavyweight Champion) used. I had a full length leather coat made as well. I must have looked like a man from the Gestapo! I spent £50-£60 on Italian leather shoes. Money was no problem.
It was also the first year that I started having regular sex ( not just occasional bits and pieces). I started to notice a lot of attention from woman, not girls, but woman in their late twenties, thirties and even forties. As you can imagine it’s mainly woman who come into a Butchers shop, they take their kids to school and then do their shopping. One such lady was a regular customer called Elaine who came into the shop everyday to get her meat ( no pun intended). She was 32, had a couple of kids and lived about 5 minutes from the shop. She had long dark hair, a lovely figure and was overall very attractive. She came in one Monday morning and bought some bits and pieces and then with a smile asked if I could deliver it that afternoon. She also said that i'd I came round about 2pm she would make me a nice cup of tea. I smiled and said “ Anything for you Elaine”.
I got to her house at around 1.45pm, she opened the door wearing her dressing gown. “You’re a bit early, I’ve just got out of the shower” she then grabbed me and we started kissing. We ended upstairs in her bedroom and had sex. I saw Elaine about twice a week for most of 1976. There were many other episodes like that, but that’s a whole different book altogether!
I was a fit, strong, blond haired blue eyed young man with plenty of money. I oozed confidence and had the gift of the gab. I was a mini Roy alright!
In the rest of the world, James Callaghan became Prime Minister, Nadia Comaneci won 3 gold medals at the Montreal Olympics, Princess Margaret announced her separation, Castro becomes President of Cuba, Howard Hughes dies at 70 and the UK has a hose pipe ban for the first time as the worst drought on record begins and it’s a scorching hot summer.
Films of the year were, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, The Omen, Taxi Driver and my favourite Rocky.
Rag Trade wins the Grand National beating a very worthy Red Rum, I remember it well cos Roy had £200 to win on Red Rum!. Southampton beat Manchester United to win the FA Cup.
Something called a VHS recorder was first seen to compete with Sony,s Beta Max system.
For me the most important thing about 1976 was the music. Soul and Funk was being played in the clubs and this became “our” music. We were into Brass Construction, The Fatback Band, Ohio Players, Parliament, Heatwave and Stevie Wonder came up with Songs In The Key of Life! It was also the year that something called “Punk” came on the scene.
Now Punk, I loved the clothes and fashion, but not a great lover of the music. The club DJ’s tried it, but the Soul / Funk crowd just didn’t get it, so they stopped playing it. DJ’s at the time were, Chris Hill, Robbie Vincent, Big Tom Holland, Robbie Vincent and the late great Froggy.
Stuart and I travelled everywhere to see these guys play their sounds. Lacey Lady was THE place to be on a Friday, but there was also Room at The Top, Circus Tavern, Lively Lady in Stratford and The Green Gate in Newbury Park. But the ultimate was The Goldmine on Canvey Island.
We went everywhere by cab, cost was no problem, public transport just didn’t come into it. We wore the most fashionable clothes, had our ears pierced ( left of course, didn’t want to give the wrong impression).
Swing was being played at the Lacey and the Goldmine, and we all dressed up in 1940,s clothes as American GI’s and danced to the sounds of Glen Miller and Benny Goodman. We thought we were the nuts!
I remember being at the Goldmine when a film crew came to do a bit for local TV, about this new wave of music and fashion. It was also on a double spread in the Sun Newspaper.
I was also spending a lot of time with Roy and the Cousins at the local Dog track or Horse Racing. I remember overhearing them one day, when they were discussing a night out at the famous Venus Steak House restaurant. “ Don’t forget to bring the boy with you” This meant a lot to me as it confirmed that I was part of the “firm".
I had, over the past couple of years become friendly with most of Roy,s family. I would often go for a drink or a game of snooker with Roys older brother Ronny on a Monday or Thursday afternoon, when we closed early. Or I would have a beer with Stanley, his younger brother. Sometimes the whole family would go out and of course I was invited.
I now felt I had two families, my own of course, but also I was now part of Roy,s family, the Marshall,s.
Roy and I were like brothers.