I moved to London in September 1986 to start my career as a Chiropodist in the heart of the city. I was living around the corner from Kings Cross train station in Mecklenberg Square and working around the corner from there at Great Ormond Street as well as Camden Town, Covent Garden and underneath Trafalgar Square (at a homeless day centre.but thats another story). A wonderful time as until then, Id always lived at home in Little Hulton so had missed out on a lot of Student life. Another guy, Scott from Gourock, had started teaching at the London Foot Hospital at the same time and we were put in the same nursing accommodation. Together we explored central London and with our forged student passes, got into all the cheap student union drinking venues.
After a year of cheap accommodation, we were encouraged to leave. We got to hear of a 2 -bed flat above a Chiropody clinic in Finchley, North London. We made the living room into another bedroom and my cousin Digger (also a Podiatrist) moved in too. My happiest times in London were all during that time in Finchley. London has a reputation for being unfriendly and uncaring, but for someone whod grown up in a place where everyone knew who you were and what you were up to to suddenly be somewhere where no one knew you and frankly didnt care, was quite exhilarating.
Our local pub was The Joiners Arms which we started frequenting on a regular basis, just keeping ourselves to ourselves and not particularly interacting with the locals.
One night, Scott and Dig came home from the pub laughing their heads off Weve just met this looney woman down the Joiners!. There they were having a quiet chat when this woman heard Digs accent Where the fuckin ell are you from! she says in a broad northern accent ErrrManchester Im from Bolton. And with that she launched into a long conversation with them for the rest of the night. And so it was that Darlene entered our lives..perhaps the sweariest/loveliest woman on the planet.
Over the weeks, her conversations with Scott in particular got fruitier and fruitier. One night she said Thats my boyfriend Dave at the bar We looked and saw this very tall very well built beast of a man and thought Oh my god..if she tells him what Scotties been saying hell kill him!. Dave and the Joiner gang didnt have much time for us and who can blame them. Theyre all local lads whod known each other since school days. Folks like us were always passing through so why make the effort.
One night he did come and sit with us and we got onto talking about films. Dave says Id love to see Clockwork Orange but you cant get a copy anywhere Ive got one Pipes up Digger Ill do you a copy and that was it we were in!
Darlene soon became know as Our Mam as shed always be inviting you round Youre looking thin come over for your tea and generally looking out for us. Wed meet up at her house when Twin Peaks was first on the TV and take it in turns to cook then sit in stone silence (not easy for our mam!) as the weirdness unfolded.
Being a regular in a local is a great thing that I sorely miss now. The Joiners was our own little social club. Anytime on any day thered be someone in there to have a drink with, play pool or have a chat to.
We went on football tour with them one Easter You have to go abroad at Easter cos you cant get a proper drink in this country on Bank Holidays, went on a Golf trip to Thurso in Scotland…….
……a 70s week-ender at a Pontins holiday camp where Suzi Quatro, Sweet and Alvin Stardust were playing (on seeing the chalets Darlenes Dutch pal likened them to a concentration camp!). I went to see U2 with Bernie at Wembley Stadium and got a lift home with Trevor – Baby Spices dad! One year, during the Finchley Carnival, Ivan + co played on the roof of the Joiners in a Beatles-esk tribute.
The landlady of the Joiners bore an uncanny resemblance to the queen of hearts in Disneys Alice in Wonderland. Every so often when she was on the warpath, a low chant of Were painting the roses red, were painting the roses red. Would go around the lounge.
Darlenes son Oliver was a cutie (theres also Jack and Marley now) who coped with the constant comings and goings admirably. I couldnt believe how big hed got when they came up for my 40th. More unbelievable was his North London patois that made him sound like he was from Kingston Jamaica. All types of music were played at D+Ds (with Dave most excited about Mott The Hooples forthcoming gigs in London) Of course mused Dave he plays the only type of music I dont like rap!
Well Olivers been making music under the name Row D Beats for a while now and has his new promo vid on YouTube. Check it out ARE YOU MAD!
Bob the Chiropodist