• Written by Henry Normal
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During lockdown I’ve been thinking about various stages of my life which now seem so long ago and so different. Here’s some thoughts about a time when I frequented Nottingham pubs.  I thought these reminiscences might stir some memories for others.

Age 18 I was living in Bilborough. It was 1974 and the local pub was The Pelican on Bracebridge Drive. Out in the car park greboes sat drinking by their bikes. Think pound shop Hells Angels. Across the road at the chip shop the young skinheads taunted them. Occasionally it would spill over into a fight. I’d walk through the middle of both groups wearing cheap flares (purple to the knee and then black), a rainbow t-shirt, long hair with a centre parting and plimsoles. I was never accosted. I was told by one skinhead I wasn’t worth punching.

We had a few skinheads in Bilborough. On our street mams would shave kids’ heads to get rid of nits then give them a few bob for bovver boots (which were long lasting footwear).

It would make me laugh when greboes and skinheads would fight, then at the end of the night some of them would walk home together as they were brothers.

On Bonfire Night as a kid we’d dress up a small kid as a guy and sit him outside The Pelican to ask exiting customers for ‘penny for the guy’. I remember once asking a bloke and the said ‘where’s your guy’? I looked round, realised and conceded ‘he’s gone home for his tea’.

My first ‘regular’ pub was The Admiral Rodney in Wollaton. Having gone from William Sharp to Bilborough Grammar to do A levels this was where my new classmates gathered. There’s a room off the main lounge where twenty or so of us would congregate every weekend, almost like a student common room.

I’m not sure if it was Home Ales or Shipstones at the time. At that age I wasn’t a discerning drinker, I even drank pints of cider on occasion. There was no draft lager on sale back then, only bitter or mild. I always loved the fact that Shipstones was an anagram of ‘honest piss’.

Occasionally I’d go to Moor Farm where I remember seeing UFO (the band not the phenomenon) although ‘Phenomenon’ was the name of their album in 1974.

The Boat Club on the side of the Trent Embankment was really the place to see bands regularly. The first band I saw there was Juicy Lucy who’d had a hit with ‘Who do you love’ the first line of which I’ve always loved ‘I walked 47 miles on barbed wire, Cobra-snake for a neck tie’.

Our end-of-year school party was held at The Chateau, Wilford. I love the fact they couldn’t be arsed with ‘Le’  as in Le Chateau and I love the juxtaposition of the posh sounding french ‘The Chateau’ and more down-to-earth Wilford.  All the 70’s glamour of a Berni Inn. prawn cocktail, sirloin steak medium rare, a choice of French or English mustard, chips, watercress, button mushrooms, onion rings, roll and butter, Blackforest gateau, rounded off with an Irish coffee. I felt so suave, like Simon bloody Templar.

I got a job as an insurance broker on Slab Square at £15 per week and decided to supplement my income with bar work at The Early Bird. It was situated right next to a bus depot and my fresh faced looks earned me the affectionate nickname of ‘gay boy’. I used this term later in the Royle Family.

My first ever poetry performance was in The Black Boy. I read one poem as part of the Christmas party for the Nottingham Worker Writers group from Angel Row Library. It was a comic poem and people laughed. I was 19 and hooked. In the next few years I performed in Thurland Arms, The Playhouse bar, and for my first paid gig, Spotz Cabaret (£30 fee) at the Southern Hotel. I only did 20 minutes at Spotz so I figured this was a better rate per hour than being an insurance broker’s clerk.

I’d occasionally drink in some of the city centre pubs like The Flying Horse that had ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on the jukebox. The Salutation and the Trip both of which were haunts for fellow rock music lovers. Occasionally The Bell or Yates Wine Lodge if I was feeling brave.

It was the custom in the seventies for large groups of young men and large groups of young women to pub crawl round the city centre on a Friday and Saturday night. I found myself in one of these groups once and was amazed that it seemed the two groups didn’t really interact. I was more interested in love than getting drunk so I couldn’t see the logic in that.

Space Invader machines seemed to pop up in a lot of pubs almost like an invasion itself. Some pubs had tables with the machines embedded. Also Pac-man machines were popular. Pool tables started cropping up as if suddenly people had lost the art of conversation and needed diversion.  It was at this point I decided I’d had enough of the seventies and opted to drop out completely. I took my Party Seven and moved to Chesterfield to welcome in the 80’s as a goth.

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