Theme for a Summer Place
“Plod,” a quietly-spoken but urgently-conveyed warning by the eldest of the trio of near-permanent barstool occupants, turning to catch the eye of one of the lads – his grandson as it happened – who was sat with the noisier-than-usual group of laughing youngsters in the public bar of the ‘Crown’.
And in a move so smooth it might have been choreographed (it hadn’t, but the interruption occurred sufficiently frequently to make it appear so) all the under-age drinkers rose silently and left through a black-painted wooden door labelled ‘Toilets’ at the far end of the bar, leaving their glasses on the small ‘off sales’ counter in the lobby, from where the barmaid collected and buried them in a sink of sudsy water. As they piled out into a narrow back lane, the remaining drinkers redistributed stools and formed a convincing, long-settled quintet.
At that time every village had its live-in bobby, and the most effective used their local knowledge and common sense at least as much as their official powers to maintain law and order – they did, after all, have to live there. ‘Plod’ Patterson was one such, hence it was known that if he entered the saloon bar of the Crown with his helmet on it was a signal that he was on duty, the rest of the time he happily drank alongside all and sundry in the public bar, as well able as the landlord to turn a blind eye to minor infringements (although he made sure never to outstay his welcome).
He also had, in those days, the backing of most of the parents who, when told (as they invariably were, sooner or later) that he had given their cheeky or otherwise miscreant son or daughter a clip round the ear, were inclined to repeat his action for good measure - not that this deterred some from playing tricks on him: the night a few unnamed but knowledgeable lads loosened the spokes on his LE Velocette, and watched, with delighted anticipation, as he rode a short way up the road until the front wheel collapsed was long-remembered.
The Panda car, forewarning of which had been received by phone from a colleague in the next village to the north (rather too close for comfort, they usually came from the other direction, allowing more time to respond) passed the end of the road as the gaggle of young teens made for the sparsely-wooded wasteland at the back of the rectory, no intention yet of ending this particular evening – a celebration of the last day of term and the prospect of a whole six empty weeks to fill.
And for the girls, this six weeks – this summer of 1961, when Henry Mancini’s ‘Theme for a Summer Place’ persistently played along the telegraph wires, exhaling hauntingly into the ether – promised to be one of the most exciting ever, thanks to a recent influx into the village of no fewer than eight new males: some only boys, but others, at least four, if not five, undoubtedly men. On their behalf an informal challenge had been mounted, the rules drawn up during bus journeys to and from school, the winner to be whoever got off with the greatest number of them before the beginning of September, by which time they’d all be sixteen, and all be singing along to Helen Shapiro’s ‘Don’t treat me like a child’, to Billy Fury’s ‘Halfway to Paradise’ and to Presley’s ‘Surrender.’
© Sandra Davies 2010
Sandra Davies is an artist and printmaker and recently-emerged writer of fiction, with a long-established interest in family history. Born on the Essex coast, she now lives in Teesside in the north east of England, both places having the flat landscapes and sea-edged horizons considered essential for a sense of well-being. More writing can be found at www.sandra-linesofcommunication.blogspot.com and prints at http://printuniverse.ning.com/profile/SandraDavies