31/3/90

HAMPSTEAD HEATH AND RIOTS After a late and drunken night, we slept away a good part of the morning, then had a big breakfast of bacon eggs and sausages.

We decided to go out to Hampstead Heath to get some fresh air so we caught the Underground over to Oxford Circus then caught a bus out to the Heath. It was a bright sunny day but there was a cool breeze blowing by the time we got off the bus.  We bought some pastries and fruit then walked up into the park, which covers a couple of hundred acres of rolling hills. We lay in the sun talking and watching the many different varieties of dogs going by with their owners.

After an hour or so we wandered on through the park and eventually ended up amongst the posh, uppercrust houses of Hampstead Heath. We had a drink in a local pub full of rich kids comparing their allowances, then walked back into another corner of the park and lay in the long grass beside a small Lake. Finally we walked up the main street of Hampstead, a ghetto of flash cars and flashier people, and sat on the steps of a building watching the efforts of a hectored traffic warden to stop an unending stream of Yuppies and tossers from parking their convertibles on the No Parking line.

We caught a bus back to Kings Cross Station and from there another to Victoria. Finally, we caught another bus to Piccadilly Circus where the bus conductor informed us a riot over the Poll Tax¹ was in progress. The bus became jammed in traffic about halfway up Piccadilly Circus, so we got off and walked up to the fountain [Eros] in time to see the tail end of the mob as it moved on it’s path of destruction up Regent Street.  A black swarm of police keep the crowd of sightseers and tourists at bay, while the sounds of the mob, left unchecked, could be clearly heard as it smashed it’s way up Regent Street, above the roar of people chanting “NO POLL TAX” and the screams of sirens.

We walked down Haymarket where every window was smashed in by uprooted rubbish tins and pieces of asphalt dug out of the street. Horatio Nelson looked down on the scene of the battle. Trafalgar Square was a mess of broken wood, scaffolding, bricks, cardboard, and 100 other forms of rubble. The portacabins on a building site next to the South African Embassy had been set on fire and their burned-out shells still smoldered as groups of punks skinheads and other dropouts who hadn’t gone off on the rampage, milled around the square heavily outnumbered by grim-faced police.

We walked up Whitehall past number 10 Downing Street where it appeared that the fighting had started, then over Westminster Bridge and back to the pub. For the rest of the day, and long into the night, the scream of sirens echoed through the city. 

¹For a description of the cause and result of the Poll Tax Riot, check out this entry on Wikipedia.

30/3/90

I.L.E.A ABOLITION DAY (Explanatory note: The Inner London Education Authority was a monolithic bureaucracy that oversaw all of the schools in London. It’s offices were near The Red Lion and many of our regulars were I.L.E.A “workers”) On March 30th, 1990, I.L.E.A was closed down, having been replaced with a less centralised organisation. Many of its staff were made redundant and were paid out large sums in redundancy money. They came and spent a great deal of it in The Red Lion that day!) 

The pub was a heaving chaotic mass from 12:30pm till 2am next morning as all the people from the defunct Inner London Education Authority had their final blow out.

8/3/90

THE ROAD TO HELL Linda and I went to see Chris Rea at Wembley Arena.

We had arranged for Scotty¹ to meet us at the pub [The Red Lion, where we worked] beforehand for drinks but when he didn’t arrive, we headed out to Wembley without him.

A Road to Hell concert sticker is still on the back of my 1990 diary.

The concert was brilliant. The sound was spot on and he had an amazing light show complete with a live backdrop and a huge satellite that moved around the stage. He played many of his old songs such as Josephine, Passing Through, Stainsbury Girls and Ace of Hearts but the songs that came across the best were those from The Road To Hell [his latest album] as that was what most of the light show was designed for.

The guy is a brilliant guitarist but he hardly says anything on stage. Most of the songs came over very close to the originals. It was a really good evening.

¹John “Scotty” Rattagen, the driver of our African Overland truck the previous year.

4/3/90

SUNDAY Chopper came in for lunch at about 2:30. He helped us clean up the bar after the lunch-time session then we went upstairs for the huge feed of chicken and veges that Linda had cooked up. We pigged out on heaps of food then Chopper left to go out to Reading where he is working on a pheasant farm.

The evening session was pretty quiet.

3/3/90

SATURDAY We had a late get-up and mucked around upstairs for a while then walked up to Waterloo and caught the tube out to Camden Lock Market. It was quite busy out there and the crowds only added to the atmosphere of the place. The market consists of about 20 acres of tiny shops, lean-to stalls and narrow alleyways, with Camden Canal running through the middle. It is a haven for punks, buskers, tramps and all sorts of arty-crafty and ethnic people. We wandered around amongst the rows of stalls and I bought a nice chunky jersey for ten quid.

After we’d had a cup of hot chocolate at a cafe, we wandered round some more and Linda bought a hand-knitted jersey from Nepal for £27.

Camden Lock.

When we got back to Waterloo, lo and behold, we ran into Chopper!¹ He was waiting for a train down to Portsmouth where Ali Reid² is working on a farm but he flagged that away and came back to the pub with us where we spent most of the afternoon talking about old times.

In the evening, linda and I went to see “Return to the Forbidden Planet”³ at the Cambridge Theatre. Billed as Shakespeare’s forgotten rock and roll masterpiece, it was a hilarious send-up of Shakespeare and 1950s Sci Fi horror films. After the show we went for a curry then went back to the pub.

¹ John “Chopper” Darling was a shepherd from New Zealand that I had worked with during my days as a shepherd. I had no idea he was in the UK, yet here he was, shuffling across the concourse at Waterloo Station looking like a cross between a tramp and a farmer. Chops (as we called him) was something of a piss-head and was renowned for being one of the most untidy, dishevelled and easy-going people you would ever meet.

²Linda’s cousin and another high country shepherd currently in the UK. Ali was working on a sheep farm near Plymouth.

³Combining comedy, shlock science fiction and slapstick, this hilarious show ran until 2014. I wore the t-shirt I bought that evening for years afterward!  

28/2/90

WEDNESDAY I was down to work and extra shift and I was upstairs looking at some slides from our Africa trip when the intercom went. Mike Dyke was downstairs. I went down and he was there with his Kumuka co-driver Ox (appropriately named). They had been on their way down to Plymouth with their new overland truck to begin their next southbound expedition when Mike had gone to sleep at the wheel. The truck went off the road and hit a tree root which tore the front axle clean off, then it rolled over! Neither of them was hurt but the truck was written off. So, they are taking the Silver Fox [the truck we’d made our expedition in] back down instead.

We had a good yarn for a couple of hours, then they left and I worked behind the bar for the rest of the evening.

26/2/90

MONDAY At 4:00 when I finished my shift I went for a walk over to the river to take some photos. It was a stormy afternoon with a strong wind blowing heavy, dark clouds past the sun. I photographed the Houses of Parliament from a spot on top of some steps leading down to the water in front of County Hall¹ with filters and it looked quite good. I was using Agfa Tri-X Pan ASA 400 black and white film, a grainy film stock perfect for a moody London afternoon.

My London, February 26th, 1990.

Then, I walked along the Albert Embankment to Lambeth Bridge, round through Jubilee Gardens and back to the pub.

The Embankment, Waterloo, London.

¹ The imposing Country Hall building on the South Bank of the Thames was the headquarters of the London City Council. It is now a hotel.