89. Cucumbers and canals



My memory of the late summer 1977 barge trip with the Geordie lads is frustratingly poor.

I arrived back in Birmingham without a place to stay. Although the milk bottle incident was never officially pinned on me, I was told unofficially that it prevented my return to Maple Bank in year three.

Nonetheless that was where I hung out, for a couple of weeks, in Andy’s bedroom, while looking for accommodation. Finally, I bought the long, black leather coat long promised to self, using the Ford leftovers. And, amazingly, played squash one lunchtime with Bernie, the Stoke psychopath whose boot had teased my scrotum, before partaking of a pint with him. An OK sort of bloke until the lust for combat overcame him. It was rumoured that fighting gave him a hard-on. I stayed flaccid in his company.

Shaun persuaded me that it would be worth a couple of days with his Newcastle mates on a longboat trip planned along the Oxford Union Canal, from somewhere near Rugby.

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Couldn’t afford a full week so jumped at the offer. Steve Smith, who was studying forestry at Aberdeen University, was the general pilot and plotter, whose common sense ensured that reason prevailed sufficiently for nobody to drown or drink themselves to death. The minute we set off, beers were inevitably broken open. The canal was beautiful. The landscape, alcohol and the company smashed me open with utter joy as the boat pottered along through the quiet Warwickshire countryside.

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I have a vague recollection of lads jumping pissed into the water.

There was something very special about this group. I’m not sure that a group of males has ever made me feel so relaxed and welcome. Shaun, Steve, Gav, Mac, Ken and Sel were there, and possibly Michael. Maybe others. We enjoyed a wonderful drinking session on the first night, after mooring just across a small field from the pub in question. These fine males were kind enough to listen to, and laugh at, a shed load of my jokes, most of which might now be classified as non-PC. Mac regaled us with a tale of a sexual encounter where he was “magnificent”.

The phantasmagorical recollection later that night is of being woken up because the lad nicknamed ‘Maggot’ was inserting a cucumber into his anus. Who knows why? I have a feeling that the item was soft, and partially disintegrated on its entry. Maggot loved Debbie Harry of Blondie fame. Maybe he was thinking of her as he self-fruited?


The next night we sat in another pub. It was related that I had eyed a girl at the bar so persistently across the evening that she left her boyfriend and sat with me. Wish I remembered, and apologies to the bloke concerned.

I am guessing that we set off on a Saturday and I jumped board, sadly, on the Monday morning, at Banbury. Then a train back to Birmingham, where the search for new digs accelerated. Martin Dyer was also back early, on a similar quest. So we looked together.





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