Digital Tavern: A Summer to Remember

A Summer to Remember

 

It was 1964. I was fifteen that summer and my mate Fos was sixteen and leaving school. He wanted to do something special. He suggested we hitch-hiked round France for the summer. I was up for it. A minor stumbling block was that we had no money. I put it to my parents and they agree, as my birthday present, to match any money I earnt.

 

Fos got us work delivering leaflets. For weeks we’d be rushing off down roads cramming leaflets through letter boxes, jumping hedges and running down roads. We must have done a million of them. Somehow we got the money together.

 

We set off with our huge rucksacks hitching to Dover. I had just bought the Rolling Stones first album and couldn’t bear to leave it behind so that came with me. Heaven knows what I was thinking to play it on. But we had a plan. We were going to hitch-hike around France. Fos even had some vague idea of direction. We were heading South.

 

We got to Dover OK. A lorry stopped and picked us up. The Ferry was exciting. Then, at last, we were in France. For some reason Fos had selected Le Havre as our starting point. I remember walking through the streets. The French kids still had short hair and wore leather Jackets and jeans. We made quite an impact. They stepped off the pavement to let us pass and shouted ‘Hey – Les Beatles’ as we went by. We were quite the celebrities.

 

That night we put the tent up in the back of the youth hostel, that being our plan, to camp at youth hostels for cheapness. Fos’s tent didn’t have a front to it. But we’d figured that was alright because it was hot.

We spent the evening taking on the local lads at table football with no spinning. By the end of the summer I was deadly at it.

 

Blithely we set off first thing in the morning heading for Rouen. We figured that as it was only 60 miles away we’d be there by mid-morning.

 

Well our huge rucksacks were heavy and for some reason nobody seemed inclined to pick up two long-haired lads with a mountain of luggage. We did more walking that hitching that day. By evening we had decided to modify our plans. The South of France was maybe beyond our reach. Indeed we’d found a lovely little village with a great youth hostel and decided to stay. We put up our tent, bathed our sore feet and were ensconced for the summer.

 

It was one hell of an eye-opener for me. Back home we had bread, either a bloomer or sliced white, or a brown Hovis if you felt adventurous, and we had cheese – cheddar, cheshire or, if you felt particularly exotic gorgonzola. My mouth gaped open walking round the market. They had whole stalls of bread and cheese. There was black bread, bread with all manner of stuff in, flat bread, round bread and baguettes. Likewise with the cheese -  there was cheese of all colours, shapes, smells and textures. There was goats’ cheese and even sheep’s cheese. There were even cheeses with big holes in and I had an epiphany. I realised that this was the cheese they’d used to portray the moon! That market was a revelation.

 

Shopping was an experience. Somehow the French appeared not to understand their own language and some of them seemed a bit unhelpful, but most were friendly.

 

On our first night we were going to cook spaghetti. I went out to buy the ingredients. One of the ingredients was onions. I went in the greengrocers and found some fine looking onions. They were quite large and I had no shopping bag so I decided that one would be sufficient for the two of us. They were as cheap as dirt – just 13 centimes a kilo. My onion did not weigh anywhere near a kilo so I attempted to negotiate a price with the bemused shop keeper. He found this extremely amusing. From that day on every time he caught sight of me he rushed out holding an onion in the air and shouting ‘Monsieur votre onion’.

I discovered yoghourt. I’d never had yoghourt before. And we found we had no problem buying wine or beer. We were sorted.

 

Our life was rather pleasant. We ate, drank and had a great time. The local youth played table football with us, plied us with booze and taught us a whole lexicon of rude words in French. The local girls found us very exotic, which was fun. I hitched up for a while with a Scottish girl who was staying in the Youth Hostel. We’d go for walks and got quite a romance going. A couple of older Romanian girls took it into their heads that we were not having a balanced diet and were far too skinny. They decided we needed feeding up and took to mothering us. They’d cook up these great meals the like of which I had never tasted before, with garlic and aubergines and all manner of other strange spices and ingredients, and feed us up. They were delicious – and so was the food.

 

We had it sorted.

 

The Youth Hostel had an old record player and I was able to play my Rolling Stones album. This caused a bit of a ruction. There were two Austrian girls who liked playing Strauss and tended to monopolise the machine. But there was this huge German guy who fell in love with the Stones. He was a man mountain and used to have a whole loaf of bread for lunch. He’d simply cut it in half, stuff it with cheese and meats, and eat it as a sandwich. When he walked in the floor shook. He’d walk over to the table which housed the record player, at which the two shy girls were sitting intently listening to their music, bash his fist down on the table so the stylus skidded right across and simply say ‘Rolling Stones’ in his thunderous voice. Nobody was arguing with that. So I got to play it quite a lot. It always reminds me of that fabulous summer.

 

One slight downside was the rats. At night the rats would come out and as our tent had no front they came in to visit. We soon learnt that you couldn’t store any food in the tent. They’d be straight in and at it. At first we found it a bit scary. Fos got his big knife out, with its razor-sharp edges, (this was back in the days when all campers had big knives and nobody thought of stabbing each other) and we lay as still as possible waiting for our huge hairy visitors to arrive. Rats are pretty clever. They didn’t come - at least not while we were awake. Fos woke up to find the knife in his sleeping bag. So we didn’t try that again and soon stopped worrying about the rats. Live and let live. That was our motto.

 

I remember a travelling circus coming to the market square. They had fire-eaters and strong men and acrobats. The whole town turned out and they went round with a can at the end collecting contributions. It was so different, so exciting.

 

Our whole summer passed far too quickly and I’m not sure I got round to sending any postcards back home. Life was too busy.

 

All too soon we were packing up, saying goodbye to the guys and kissing all the girls.

 

That was a summer to remember.

Comments

opher goodwin Added Sep 12, 2018 - 7:35am
Hey Burger - not sure if this is really what you wanted for our digital tavern - but I sure had fun reminiscing.
Stone-Eater Added Sep 12, 2018 - 11:55am
It IS fun, Oph :)
The Burghal Hidage Added Sep 12, 2018 - 11:58am
Sure it is. You and Stone had talked about the "tales with ales". This certainly fits. Tough life you've had then, eh? Summer of 16 spent in France? Don't run across any fellas around here who can claim this. You have indeed enjoyed the Chinese wish upon one that they "should live in interesting times".
 
Who else is signed on for this?
opher goodwin Added Sep 12, 2018 - 12:24pm
Cheers Stone - I had fun thinking about it and writing it. I've lost contact with Fos but I wonder what he remembers of it?
opher goodwin Added Sep 12, 2018 - 12:26pm
Burger - I can't imagine being much more interesting - apart from if Halle Berry was to give me a bell this evening.
opher goodwin Added Sep 12, 2018 - 12:26pm
What's the plan then Burger?
The Burghal Hidage Added Sep 12, 2018 - 1:18pm
Well youre on, Stone has said he has something to contribute to this. Who else is on board? I wouldn't have anything for a couple of days.
Stone-Eater Added Sep 12, 2018 - 1:26pm
Should I write a new article ? This will be quite long :)
The Burghal Hidage Added Sep 12, 2018 - 1:35pm
Mehr ist besser :)
opher goodwin Added Sep 12, 2018 - 1:44pm
Sure Stone - let's keep the ball rolling! I'd like to read it!
opher goodwin Added Sep 12, 2018 - 1:46pm
Burger - I bet you've got a few tales to tell. I await with interest!
Who else is going to join the digital tavern? Pull up a chair. Pull a pint or two. Warm your feet by the fire and tell us your tales.
opher goodwin Added Sep 12, 2018 - 3:31pm
Where's Neil and Robin? FJ and Ric? Jeff and Bill? Come on guys. I bet you've got a few tales for the digital tavern! Where's Tub, Jeffry and Tex? Dino and Jeanne? This is your chance to put tribalism to one side and tell a tale.
William, Tom, EABC, Blue, rycK, Leroy, Prof and Doc ……………???? Everyone apart from the annoying child. I couldn't stand a tale of how he was chained up and forced to read 5 biogs and recite the bible.
Stone-Eater Added Sep 12, 2018 - 3:42pm
Ok. My story is up ;-)
Mustafa Kemal Added Sep 12, 2018 - 4:27pm
Opher, what a lovely tale. We do seem to have some things in common.
 
In 69 when we were moving from Pennsylvania to Heidelberg Germany we stopped  over and spent a few days in New  York City.  There was this building with the huge painting of Grand Funk Railroad on it.  At one of the record stores I saw a Band of Gypsies album on sale and I had to have it. Can you imagine, carrying that record around while on international travel? It was to be 3 months before I had a turntable to play it on. 
 
OK, Stone Eater's story is next

Mustafa
opher goodwin Added Sep 12, 2018 - 4:54pm
Thanks Mustafa. Yes we do seem to have a lot in common. I too have been consumed by such passion.
The Burghal Hidage Added Sep 12, 2018 - 5:34pm
I'll have one under the digital tavern heading on Friday morning
opher goodwin Added Sep 12, 2018 - 6:03pm
Can't wait. I've already written another. It'll be out on Friday too! I'm enjoying this. The tavern needs a few more in the gathering though!
wsucram15 Added Sep 12, 2018 - 6:08pm
I had too many summers out and around...as long as I can remember. Most of them were spent in some part of NY and usually a visit to Canada.  It took me awhile to get my mother to go to actually see Some of Canada...she liked to gamble.
 
 
Later I spent almost a year out on the road and maybe a few months prior to that just with the band.  But you know, you were supposed to be glad to come home and my sister often came to see me, so with the exception of my Grandmother..I rarely was.
Never slept in my tent, oddly enough, but did sleep in my car a few times which had a hatchback and plenty of room.
I didnt like hotels after the band stuff, (and found I still dont after the fire) but I had a little radio that was pretty cool.  But when I drove I had my cassette player for things I liked or if the local stations were dull. 
I knew a lot of people and met lots more along the way..so places werent difficult and I could call my grandparents from time to time as promised.
I got to go to Mexico that year along with some other really cool stuff, there were still a lot of record stores back then and some of them with their spontaneous shows were great. But it was the people by far that made that year.  I did bring back this clay dog statue from Mexico that was called a "feathered coyote"..that I carried with me for over 20 years.
Jeff Michka Added Sep 12, 2018 - 6:43pm
Hmmm.  Good show, opher.  Not quite sure where to start in this format, so off to read SEFa's contribution and take it from there. 
opher goodwin Added Sep 12, 2018 - 7:14pm
Whoa Jeanne - that sounds quite an experience. Pull up a chair. Grab a beer. How about a digital tavern post or two expanding on those experiences on the road?
Mustafa Kemal Added Sep 12, 2018 - 7:14pm
Tell us  a tale Jeff
opher goodwin Added Sep 12, 2018 - 7:17pm
Jeff - I'm sure you've got a few tales up your sleeve that you'd like to share in our digital tavern. Burger has set up the joint why don't mozzie on in and join the throng sitting round the fire?
Mustafa Kemal Added Sep 12, 2018 - 7:45pm
Yes wsucram15, please do tell us a tale
wsucram15 Added Sep 12, 2018 - 8:29pm
Mustafa..you and people like you are why I dont.  Those are my memories of my life that I decided how to live.  I fought a my family so I could delay college in order to travel the way I did.  I had a scholarship to college for pre-law and decided not to go. 
 
I dont fight people anymore. Especially on things I dont need to...I dont lie.   I dont allow people like you to desegregate my memories of people and things..especially my family , friends or people I met along the way. 
 
Opher...
 I didnt get the backpacking across Europe, like some of my friends and even a cousin or two, did.  I got what my family would allow distance wise and of course some things they just didnt know.   So I traversed the US in order to get to my Aunt's house on the West Coast, paid for by my Grandparents.   My Aunt however, was very cool and took me to some very unusual places so I got to stay a little longer than expected. It was fun.
But prior to that I toured with my BF band some and in a band I toured with in a tri-state area.
But it really was the people I met at shows along the way that were a blast and very memorable to me. 
 
Like one time I got lost and ended up in a place called Terre haute, Indiana. I ended up meeting some people in collett park (sp) and hung out. It was an industrial town but nice people like where I was from..they smoked weed a lot.  But they took me to a cemetery that was haunted by witches, and an old haunted house.  We had a lot of laughs and they got me back on the road.
 
 
wsucram15 Added Sep 12, 2018 - 8:37pm
But I mean..to this day I do stuff like that. I was staying in the Blue Ridge mountains in these fancy cabins (they are really nice btw) and I was hanging with my maid. I met her family and found out all the cool places to go in the area when I was done with my photography. There is Sooo much tourists dont see.  Plus the people are really cool. she even went out with me one day and showed me places for pictures you would have had to live there to know and photograph. 
 
Mustafa Kemal Added Sep 12, 2018 - 10:28pm
wsucram15, I am quite shocked at what you say. I dont know what it is that I did say but 
 
Please accept my sincere apologies,
Mustafa
 
Michael B. Added Sep 12, 2018 - 10:40pm
Opher, I gotta give credit where credit is due! Excellent piece, and I'm going to piggy-back on this theme, lol!
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 2:03am
Jeanne I'd sure like to read a post about your days with the band and life on the road. Why don't you join the digital tavern and pull up a seat. Tell us a tale.
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 2:05am
Hey Jeanne why the blow back at Mustafa? He's cool. I don't think he meant anything.
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 2:06am
Michael - welcome to the Digital Tavern. Pull up a seat and grab a beer. I look forward to hearing your tales.
Ric Wells Added Sep 13, 2018 - 2:29am
Opher what is it about 15 and 16. That's when I spent time hitching up and down the east coast. Going to concerts doing a days work maybe chopping wood or helping with a farmers chores for a meal a shower and sometimes would be given money and extra clothes. Different times then. 
Flying Junior Added Sep 13, 2018 - 3:37am
Opher,
 
I would gladly share some of my exploits from the day.  I started to work on one this evening for about an hour.  It will take some time just to rattle off all of the recollections.  And I guess probably just a few minutes to edit it into something readable.
 
I enjoyed your tale.  To let two boys take off on their own at the age of fifteen would be unheard of in my culture.  I guess it didn't bother your host country very much either.  When I was fourteen years of age and probably just about every year thereafter that I wasn't stuck working my ass off, the place we spent our summers was on the beach and in the water.  But flirting with French girls does sound pretty good to me.
Stone-Eater Added Sep 13, 2018 - 4:11am
Ooh...French Girls. And Italian ones. Yep. Nice to look at but very bitchy, although not as terrible as Russian or Polish ones. Sorry, ladies, no discrimination. If you think it is, start about men :-)
Flying Junior Added Sep 13, 2018 - 4:41am
This is the dream, right...
 
Je t'aime.  Oui je t'aime.  Mon amour...
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3Fa4lOQfbA
 
This song written by Serge Gainsbourgh for his girlfriend Brigitte Bardot in 1969 was banned in several countries for explicitly sexual content.
Stone-Eater Added Sep 13, 2018 - 7:44am
FJ
 
I prefered "Love to love you Baby" by Donna Summer ;-)
 
But Bardot was cool back then. That song was no. 1 in Switzerland. Those times weren't as prude as today is. Now, we got Ryboys all over the place trying to fuck up all our little pleasures !
The Burghal Hidage Added Sep 13, 2018 - 10:43am
My initial share for the tavern is done, should post around midnight tonight
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 11:08am
Ric - I think it is the stirring of hormones, the empowerment and added freedom. It is the time to stretch your wings - like fledglings standing on the edge of the nest yearning to fly but not quite daring to completely let go.
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 11:10am
FJ - I greatly look forward to hearing your tales. 
I can assure you that flirting with French girls was pretty good. If I could only have that time again!
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 11:11am
Stone - never bitchy at that age! Girls - aaah.
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 11:12am
FJ - I remember it well. I fell in love with Jane Birkin. The sexiest girl on the planet.
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 11:13am
Stone - I like them both but I prefer Jane. She was so sexy.
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 11:13am
Can't wait Burger.
Stone-Eater Added Sep 13, 2018 - 12:41pm
Jane was neat. And Jeanne Moreau. Bardot was like Monroe - a puppy. I don't like blondes anyway :)
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 12:50pm
I don't mind blondes Stone. I went out with a few. But I fell for a raven dark beauty.
Stone-Eater Added Sep 13, 2018 - 1:20pm
My first wife was a very blonde at 21. Rubens figure and nice face. By 40 her hair turned dirty brown and the Rubens sagged due to gravity while I lost hair and got a slight hunchback LOL
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 1:50pm
Inside I look out unchanged through eyes that avoid mirrors. 
Flying Junior Added Sep 13, 2018 - 4:32pm
Stone,
 
It takes some self-assurance to confess to loving 1970s disco.  I loved Donna Summer.
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 5:43pm
If she'd played her cards right she could have borrowed me!
Stone-Eater Added Sep 13, 2018 - 5:49pm
FJ
 
I started to like old disco when I first heard US R'n'B (NOT Rhythm and Blues) and related cut'n'paste stuff like
 
Whitneygagabeyoncecareyspearsrihannaminajlopezminogue
 
etcetcetc.
 
Chic was chic :)
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 5:58pm
Disco rarely appealed to me - apart from the odd song - Love To Love You Baby stood out for me. I like heavier stuff.
opher goodwin Added Sep 13, 2018 - 5:58pm
I never got into all those in your paste job. 
Mustafa Kemal Added Sep 13, 2018 - 7:38pm
My brother was a disco dancer in San Francisco with platform heals, huge bellbottoms. a really big  lavender shirt and collar, a fro  and earrings.  He could move too.
Katharine Otto Added Sep 13, 2018 - 10:32pm
Opher,
Nice story.  You have a good memory for details, like all the varieties of cheese.  Looking forward to reading others' experiences and am pondering my own.  
Flying Junior Added Sep 14, 2018 - 4:29am
In San Diego, the disco scene exploded in 1979 when everybody had nice roller skates with Cadillac wheels.  It was a wild year.  Balboa Park was overrun with skaters.  Boom boxes were big.  Like Spike Jones Doin' the Right Thing big.  Unknown quantities of D-cells.  Six-inch woofers.  African briefcase.
 
All these kids were skating around the park listening to We Are Family, You Can Ring My Bell, Roller Coaster, Shake Your Bootie...   K.C. and the Sunshine Band.  The Commodores.  Thelma Houston.  It was actually a great time.  At the end of the year the City of San Diego banned roller skates in the park.
opher goodwin Added Sep 14, 2018 - 5:15am
Mustafa - what a la Joh Travolta?
opher goodwin Added Sep 14, 2018 - 5:15am
Thanks Katharine. I think that summer is imprinted in my memory. Looking forward to yours.
opher goodwin Added Sep 14, 2018 - 5:16am
FJ - sounds great fun! What killjoys they were!
Stone-Eater Added Sep 14, 2018 - 8:17am
Oph
 
Pure disco - no. Even today. But FUNKY disco is okay. Since I'm a Zappelphilipp (google that) and a very rhythm-oriented person I simply HAVE TO like that stuff. But if there's heavy guitar in it, like the band Extreme did at some point, the better ! Defunkt, The Time, 24-spyz - try those.
Mustafa Kemal Added Sep 14, 2018 - 2:34pm
Opher, 
re:"la Joh Travolta?"
Exactly, and he just killed the ladies.
 
I was really pissed. One minute we were at the bars with Dylan and Scarlet Rivera rockin and the next minute they disappeared and it was
Stayin Alive and Bee Gees, Uggh.
 
Stone-Eater Added Sep 14, 2018 - 3:05pm
Mustafa
 
Bee Gees....wrong example.
Douglas Proudfoot Added Sep 14, 2018 - 8:05pm
In August of 1972, my brother and I bought British Rail passes and toured around England and Scotland for two or three weeks.   We both had fairly short hair. me because I was about to go into the US Air Force, my brother because he preferred it that way.  We bought First Class because it wasn't that much more money and you were more likely to get a seat.  We got into one compartment with a guy about 45 or 50.  "German, are you?" he said.  "Oh no man, we're Americans," I replied.  His whole face changed.  He was fooled by our short hair.  He really didn't like Britain being overrun by Germans.  They lost the war and should know their place.
 
I found that I liked English hard cider quite a lot.  I was used to home made hard cider when I lived in Montana in grade school, but the commercial stuff in the US in 1972 was awful, Boone's Farm Apple Wine?!  So I ordered hard cider everywhere at bars.  The bar tenders gave me strange looks, so I finally asked one why.  The guy told me it was considered REALLY lower class to be drinking hard cider.  The bar tenders couldn't figure out why young Yanks were drinking really lower class crap.  I told him that the US stuff tasted awful.  He was still baffled.
 
One time a guy tried to hustle me at darts.  I told him I wanted to play with American, sloppy rules.  He said OK.  I said I didn't want to play for money.  He said OK.  I beat him, because one of my friends at college had an English dart board in his room and I had played with it all the time.  His friends in the bar gave him a hard time the rest of the evening.  He lost to some Yank kid!
Mustafa Kemal Added Sep 14, 2018 - 8:12pm
Douglas, tell us a tale at the Digital Tavern!
 
Stone Eater.
How about disco balls?
Stone-Eater Added Sep 15, 2018 - 1:19pm
Mustafa
 
I'm NOT a disco fan, but compared to today's charts crap it is quite good. And I'm not a fan of most old 70's stuff anymore because I've heard it tooooo often !
 
I like 1995 to now. PROGRESSIVE METAL and Indie, Britpop and and and :-)
Leroy Added Sep 15, 2018 - 2:42pm
Sounds like a great adventure, Opher.  I didn't do my tour of Europe until my early thirties.  I was living in France at the time.  I knew France was famous for its wines.  I had no idea it had so many wonderful kinds of cheese.  St. Nectaire was the rage where I lived.  I believe that it is the Emmental cheese to which you were referring to as the moon's composition  We call it Swiss cheese, although there might be a slight difference.  It was one of my favorites.
Stone-Eater Added Sep 15, 2018 - 4:17pm
Leroy
 
Yep. Emmentaler cheese. The one with big holes. My family originates from Emmental, a valley in the Canton of Bern.
 
I hate cheese LOL
Leroy Added Sep 15, 2018 - 6:43pm
Stoney, that's like being Chinese and hating noodles...lol.
Mustafa Kemal Added Sep 15, 2018 - 9:49pm
Stone Eater,
I'm NOT a disco fan"
just having fun. Maybe you can post a photo of you in you John Travolta outfit!
 
I wanna see you do 
The one that i want
 
Come on, please?
Mustafa
 
 
opher goodwin Added Sep 17, 2018 - 4:38am
Stone - I can sure imagine you as a fidgety child who can't keep still!
I just never got into Disco.
opher goodwin Added Sep 17, 2018 - 4:38am
Mustafa - I'm sure it was popular with the ladies. They love to dance.
opher goodwin Added Sep 17, 2018 - 4:41am
Douglas - glad you liked Britain.
Pull up a chair and tell us a story. The Digital Tavern waits.
opher goodwin Added Sep 17, 2018 - 4:46am
Leroy - yes it was an eye-opener. I think Britain was still suffering from the effects of the war and rationing. Food was very boring in England at that time. We've caught up now but it was a real eye-opened back then.