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Summer the First Time
by Dave Wiggins
It was a hot afternoon, the last day of June ‘79, and the pavements were steamin’. Liverpool had won the league, Arsenal the cup, and Forest reigned supreme in Europe. Oh, and Everton, having threatened at one stage to have made a decent fist of the championship race, had finished empty-handed for the 9th season on the trot. Ho hum.
Me and the lad Ready (not ‘Reidy’) were on the dole (or, to be precise, supplementary benefit), and spent most of our time sitting off listening to The Bay City Rollers (‘Once Upon a Star’), Pink Floyd (‘Dark Side of the Moon’), and The Boomtown Rats (‘A Tonic for the Troops’) amongst others. Failing that, we would wander around town, pretending to be content not to have a girlfriend.
The summer stretched out ahead of us, and, without any particular discussion that I recall, we decided that we should take a mini-break, and check out the action in, er, Llandudno. That North Wales bastion, retirement home for old people with a few bob. Our original idea was Rhyl, but we’d already spent a week there - at the fabled ‘Robin Hood’ caravan park - with his ma and da, so we thought that we’d broaden our horizons to further along the coast.
So, without much ado, it was the ‘National’ coach station, at Skelhorne Street, and the three-hour journey to the North Wales Riviera (obligatory bottle-neck at Capel Curig). Our Le Coq Sportif tee-shirts, ‘Pod’, and baggy ‘Ritzy’ being de rigeur for the times, we alighted on Mostyn Street, and trudged around looking for accommodation. Eventually, we found a rather minty ‘holiday flatlet’, over a shop, and handed over £10 each for the week.
Despite being racked with homesickness, we changed in Fred Perry’s, Lois, and Dunlop Green Flash, and headed off into town. We were seduced into the County Hotel by the remarkable sound of Stiff Little Fingers seminal ‘Alternative Ulster’ booming out down the street. Inside, the dance floor was heaving with plazzy punks, pogoing around the small room for all they were worth. Bizarrely, as soon as the track finished, the DJ segued straight into ‘Lost in Music’, by Sister Sledge, and the phoney anarchists were replaced by the Llandudno honeys with their Farah Fawcett Majors heads, and spangly boob tubes.
This set the pattern for the evening. A punk track, followed by something for the sweats, and then back to the chart-type disco stuff. All forms of life present, and all catered for. Being the sociable types, we got to talking to one of the Punx, a lad called Michael. He seemed an okay sort, and said he was in a band called ‘Premature Burial’. We had a drink with him, and arranged to meet up again, in the County, the following night.
This set the pattern for the week. We would hang out on the beach, or around the Great Orme, during the day, and go to the nightly disco, with our new best friend and his mates, following a chippy tea. All too soon, the end of the week loomed large, and the thought of going back to Breck Road, was just too much to bear. Michael said that they were desperate for staff in the ‘Ritz’, on Mostyn Street, where he worked as a kitchen porter, so, to cut a long story short, we ended up stayin’, and workin’ the season
Well, we lasted about two months. The place was a goldmine, and you worked a 10am til 8pm shift six days a week (Monday off). Reidy was shoved in the kitchen with mad Ivan, a veteran of some Russian war or other, whilst I was under the tutelage of Ivan’s partner Lil, Head Waitress (who described our customers as ‘twat-arses’). It was a slog, but we still made it to the County most nights, letting off steam to ‘Holidays in the Sun’, ‘White Riot’, ‘Masquerade’, and ‘Love Song’. Ready did okay with the ladies, as he wasn’t too fussed, whereas I was smitten with the untouchable Sarah, niece of the Ritz’s proprietor. She slowied with me, once, to ‘Love is the Answer’, by England Dan and John Ford Coley, and the occasion - now 27 years on - still remains one of the great moments in my life. I was crushed when she started seeing some big biker from Rhos-on-Sea.
But the summer drew to a close, the nights started to draw in, and Buggles released ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’. It was time to go home. With heavy hearts, Ready and I handed in our notice, and headed back to the Pool of Life. Ready stayed on the dole, and I went on a Youth Opportunities Scheme, earning the princely sum of £9.25 to hang curtains at Fazakerley Hospital, and we gradually lost touch.
Over the years, a lot has happened (hell, I got a proper job, a wife and a kid!), but I’ve never forgotten that first holiday with a mate. I only have to hear a particular track - maybe ‘Dance Away’, or ‘Ring my Bell’ - and I get to wondering, all those people, all those lives, where are the Llandudno ‘79 mob now? Ready, Bobby the asthmatic chef, Dawn and Carol from Skem, Charlie from The Jester, Lil, Ivan, Steve Hughes the squaddie and his lovely sister Sarah?
As David M Smith says in The Morality of Place, ‘places have an effect, for good or bad’. Llandudno, you are all good, and I shall never forget you, or that fabled summer of 1979.
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