Friday, 4 January 2019

Unusual Friends - #16 From the seventies in London

Continuing the Unusual friends series, this is #16 about the curious bunch of people from 70s London.

When I got to London in October of 1971, for the first time I had to fend for myself. One of my father's friends had got me a place to stay and I called him from Heathrow to get the address, which was in Sinclair Road. Fortunately for me this friend of my father has passed away and I can now reveal that the address to which I made my way turned out to be a thinly disguised brothel.
I was a naive young man and at night the girls would come and show you their catalogue of photos, and I realised that I had to find somewhere else to live.
After a week or so I moved out to a place up the same road at number 109, and there I spent the next five years, during which time I came across some interesting people.
Sinclair Road - London
In no particular order, let me first name Mr Jesus Christ who lived in the same building, a young man who dressed in flowing robes and long hair and called himself JC. He firmly believed that he was the reincarnation of JC himself and was to be seen often on TV or in public places handing out dry fruits and 'preaching' his philosophy. At home he often tried to engage me in conversation, but more often than not would depart in a fit of rage when I remained unconvinced or offered alternative theological arguments. What made me a sceptic had something to do with the way he treated women and how he tried to harass them in those very pre #metoo days.
Also in the same building lived several Philippine boys and they were a breed apart, because I don't think I ever saw them speak English, which is not to say that they could not, but it is possible. They were often to be seen shouting a word which sounded like 'seppo' from an upstairs window to all passers in the street, and I have yet to figure out what that might have meant after all these years. They were also pranksters and would play with the lights in the stairway at night by switching them off if anyone happened to turn them on while leaving or entering.
Another curiosity was the landlord, who came to collect the weekly rent, and I am pretty sure he accepted sexual favours from young girls in lieu of the money owed, since the walls in that building were pretty thin and you could pretty much hear everything that went on in about five of the adjoining rooms.
Jerry Garcia II (AKA Gerardo)
Then there is the story of three Spanish boys from Laredo, who showed up one day looking for a place to stay (one of them a spitting image of Jerry Garcia), and famously flushed Marisol out of her shower, when they sang 'Las chicas de Laredo' in her street, not knowing the number of the house where she lived. My 'room' measured about three square meters. I will be forever indebted to them because they brought Marisol with them (that makes five in case you are wondering) and we spent two months strolling the streets of 1973 London together.
Moving further, a young lady moved in next door who was from Barcelona, and we met her by pure coincidence when some friends of her came to visit and she was not at home. Someone told these folks that there was Spanish girl living next door, so we met the friends and entertained them while our neighbour returned. I wont name this lady because she knows who I mean and she is a very good friend of ours. She was (is) unusual in many respects. She introduced us to a young man who lived in the neighbourhood, who went by the name of Joaquin Sabina. The year was 1974 and Gen Franco still ruled Spain with an Iron fist. Joaquin and our friend worked in a Spanish bar where Joaquin also played guitar and sang. No one had heard of either of these two.
Came the wind of change in Spain in 1975 when Spain finally emerged from Franco's rule and these two returned to Spain to glittering careers. Joaquin became a rock star and our friend became a much sought after figure in Spanish cinema winning several Goyas (Spanish Oscars) in the process. Over the years we met our lady friend many times to visit film studios and special screenings, while we occasionally met Joaquin Sabina in Madrid while he was still trying to establish his music career.
Sometime around 1995, when we came to Spain on an annual visit in the summer, we were told that Sabina was going to do a concert in Laredo. We obtained tickets and at the entrance sent a message to Sabina. Suffice to say that he was spectacular, and at the end of his concert announced that the final song was dedicated to friends from London in the audience. Afterwards we spent some time with him back stage where a journalist from El Pais was feverishly taking notes. A couple of days later, we were woken early in the morning with phone calls to say that we had been mentioned in an article about Sabina's tour in the El Pais newspaper.
70s London - Portobello Road
There are two other groups of people who I can mention from the 70s London who were very unusual and the first of these were a bunch of men from the same University where I studied (London), of middle eastern origin, all with Masters and PhDs who introduced me to the curious world of Jazz and Poker. One of them made a hit with our Spanish friends (the second group) because his name was Khoder, which is awfully close to the Spanish word for F##k. The Spanish friends introduced me to a hazy smokey world full of marijuana and cigarettes (Gauloises, Gitanes and Ducados), and although I never smoked, I am convinced that my lungs suffered terribly by keeping their company, even if it was curiously liberating and enjoyable.
I arrived late in London and the 70s were for me what 60s were for many a Londoner.

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