THE PARK AND THE WILDLIFE.

Do you let your wife go out in the evenings? I don't remember my answer to this remarkable question, but I hope it was something like "No, of course not, she is manacled in the kitchen area just as soon as she comes home from work." 

The query came from one of the office staff at my new employer, Marconi Radar Systems, Leicester. I had told my new colleagues, some of whom could be fabulously snooty, that we lived in Winston, an area of the city that was populated by working class whites, a large number of people of Asian descent, together with a colourful smattering of Rastafarians. In the three years that we lived in Winston, we did not hear of any violence, though there was always an undercurrent of defiant naughtiness. We heard all of our subculture news from the probation officer next door, and it was from this source that we received information about the house a bit down the road.

This establishment, which was described as high class, opened in the evenings, until the early hours, and payment could be effected by luncheon voucher, with special rates for O.A.P.s.

This interesting nugget of information, whilst being of no practical use to a recently married man, did cause a shift in my attention as I went about my normal business. What colour was their front door, and what about the curtains, and what did happen to the telephone man?

Someone was always doing something noteworthy to, or with someone else, but it was a bit of a surprise, as we approached our house on an easy flowing summer afternoon, to find a police van outside and several officers engaged in a search. A student cohabitee had been adopting the ways of the neighbourhood hippies, with predictable results. Our confident and querulous entrance identified us as either innocent or eager for a spin round to the local nick, so we were left alone.

Our landlords had run our rather stylish Victorian house, right opposite a lovely park, as a Sufi study centre and, whilst we probably did not live up to their standards of rectitude, we were still plain living (boring) bystanders in the unending Winston carnival. The place was furnished with mattresses and Indian throws, three kitchen chairs and a table, cold tea mugs and muddles.

I have lost touch with the lifestyle choices of the average   student but, back in the 70s, there were several of our acquaintance who also lived in a less than genteel manner.  There was the bunch that had equipped their main room with a telly and a black plastic sofa, no curtains, carpets, not even a light bulb distracted from purity of purpose.   

A more practical approach and, to my mind a wholly sensible one, was adopted by my mate who lived just around the corner in the remains of a hairdressing salon. Although there was a large window at the front, the salon habitué was afforded a great deal of privacy on account of the fact that it was so thick with dirt from the main road traffic, that it probably supported its own micro organisms. The determined visitor could enter through a battered door, but would then be halted in puzzlement about how to proceed. The entire space was crammed with ancient motorbikes, bits of motorbikes, sub-bits of motorbikes, right down to obsolete  nuts and bygone bolts, all glistening with the oleaginous dregs from dismantled sumps. If you successfully negotiated through without serious injury, you would enter the living quarters, furnished with a table top cooker and a wash basin, both of which had quite obviously played their part in motorcycle maintenance.

It had not been totally unknown for a large number of engine parts to find their way into our own house, and crankcases in the oven being readied for bearings from the fridge were, of course, quite normal.

The engineering student that lived in this curiosity shop of primitive designs was a thoroughly good chap, who would have been my best man had my brother not turned up from his adventure-filled foreign wanderings.

Most of the Winston people just seemed to live behind doors but, in the summer time, large groups of Asians would gather in the park for picnics. We also enjoyed the convenience offered by an authentic Mr. Patel, of the corner shop variety, who would satisfy your need for a pair of wooden clogs at 2 a.m. - almost.

CARW.

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