‘THE past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’ How true that opening line is of L.P. Hartley’s classic novel, The Go-Between.
With age, the past grows into a continent still more amazing and alien.
The other day I was thinking of an old friend from my Manchester upbringing. He has recently recovered from a terrible road accident, after being knocked down while walking by his country home.
Grahame was a little older but we both trained as quantity surveyors and were tennis partners at a club in Urmston.
“Steady, Roy!” He would counsel at vital match points. But Grahame was not always a steadying influence.
He took me to dance halls in search of girls. It was in the late 1960s – a different world you might care to visit.
Grahame wore his brown hair combed forward into a boyish fringe down to his eyes, accompanied by long sideburns. He had an M.G. Midget and we drove Saturday evenings to Bolton Palais – his favourite hunting ground for “talent”.
It’s hard to believe now but we would have a few pints locally before setting off. Once on the old Bolton road the bright lights glittered before us. We sang along to Radio Luxembourg on the way. I particularly remember Herb Alpert’s ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’ and The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’.
Next stop was a pub on Bolton’s outskirts, where Grahame fancied the landlady’s daughter.
Once at the Palais it was straight upstairs to a bar overlooking the dance floor, and more beer until the last waltz was announced.
“I fancy that one over there!” He’d suddenly point. “You chat up her mate.”
Then we would be hurrying down, pushing past dancers on a sprung floor rising and dipping like a lifeboat – with several pints swimming about inside us. We were both puffing away on fags all the time, too.
No wonder we never picked up anyone!
“Thank you!” the girls would mutter politely, then be on their way.
Today, neither of us smokes, nor drinks and drives. We keep in touch with Christmas cards. Grahame, also retired, is married to a charming former headmistress whose pupils would be astonished by our past larks.
But I’ve only got to hear notes from those 60s hits to be back on that Saturday night jaunt – to the Palais and Bolton’s bright lights!
Yes, the past is a different place, but also a measure of how far we’ve travelled. I like to think, as those old lyrics proclaim, we took a sad song and made it better.
n Roy’s novels and humorous memoirs are available through bookstores or online, with signed copies locally. Visit royedmonds-blackpool.com for full details.