SATURDAY 24/11 THAMES PAR-TAY. I had arranged with Jenny and Lydia to come up for Avril’s birthday party on a boat on the Thames so about 11 o’clock I left Corton and headed up the A303. It was a fine cold day and the early winter views were clear and pastel.
It took me about three hours to reach London and find my way round to Greyhound Road. Jenny and Lydia were out but Ross and Brendan [their flatmates] let me in as they were going out and I sat down to watch TV and wait for the girls to get back. They arrived after about half an hour and we sat down talking over cups of tea. Juliet arrived home from work and Jenny, her and I set off in Joycie [Jennie’s car was named Joyce; our car was called Eric Escort] to go to the supermarket. When we got there we bought some booze and nibbles then I hooned Joycie back round to the flat.
We spent the rest of the afternoon getting slowly sloshed, talking and laughing while we watched a trashy 70s American TV movie. About 5 pm we all showered and changed. I put on the black suit that I borrowed from Alan, complete with bow tie, and Lydia and Jenny look pretty in their Laura Ashley dresses.
Two other girls turned up, Juliet Schikker ( “Shaker”) and Australian girl called Karen, and the five of us set off to Barons Court tube station. While we were waiting for the train we got our photos with a couple of platform guards. On the train, slightly pissed, Jenny and I recited poem poem that Tom Gilroy taught us:
TWO ARMS, TWO LEGS, TWO EYES TO SEE;
THE SOUTHERN CROSS IN MY HAND,
THE SILVER FERN; SYMBOL OF MY NATIVE LAND.
IN THE DISTANCE, A FAR OFF VOICE CALLS:
KIWI…YOU FUCKIN’ BEAUTY!
We attracted a lot of stares but we didn’t care. We got off at Embankment Station and walked up to The Griffin and inside I met up with Thomas and… Lo and behold, Andrew Watts [a school friend I hadn’t seen since 1980], dressed up like a proper yuppie in a tailored coat and a yellow scarf! We had a few beers and talked about old times then Jenny grabbed me and we all trooped down to Westminster Pier. On the way we met Boxer (Ola’s man), Jonno Trolove and, when we reached the pier, Ali Reid [Linda’s cousin] and Sam Mattingly [a shepherd that I’d worked with back home]. Ali and I yarned as we queued to go aboard and then, at 8 pm sharp we left the pier and headed downstream.
Remembering last year’s Marchioness disaster, when 43 yuppies drowned when a party boat exactly like this one hit a bridge pier and sank, I stayed upstairs where there was a lot of action anyway. I met blokes who knew blokes who I knew then Jen grabbed me again to dance. The rest of the evening was taken up by a frenzy of dancing and conversation. The boat cruised downstream as far as Canary Wharf and as far upstream as Chelsea Harbour.
What an atmosphere! Standing on the afterdeck talking to Lydia, Jenny and Karen as we cruised slowly past Tower Bridge, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and all the other wonders of Thames-side London. The evening was cool but not unpleasantly so and the fresh cold air of the open deck made a nice change from the sweating, heaving crowd inside.
And precisely 1AM the boat eased back into Westminster Pier and the hopelessly under-powered speakers wheezed out the last song: Frank Sinatra’s classic NEW YORK, NEW YORK. We disembarked and stood round on the pier talking for a while then the five of us along with Tom set off to walk up to Trafalgar Square to catch the night bus over to Johno Corbett‘s [another friend from home] to a party.
Arm in arm, Jenny, Lydia and I sang “I want to be a part of it New York New York” all the way up Whitehall while Shaker stumbled along pissed and, ahead of us, Thomas tried to chat up Karen. At Trafalgar Square, Lydia and Karen left us to go home and Jenny and I took photos of each other at the foot of Nelson’s Column.
After half an hour of trying to find the Night Bus we left Tom and Shaker and walked up Haymarket to Hungry Jacks on Piccadilly and got burgers. While we were waiting to be served, two guys put on a show outside on the pavement, attracting a small crowd as they beat the shit out of each other.
We walked over to Piccadilly Circus and raced to catch the Night Bus which took us out to Fulham and we had a 10 minute walk back to the flat. I slept the night on the floor in the living room.