Monday, 5 April 2010

a road not taken

Notice the indefinite article.

A comment made on the last blog prompted me to easyclick.com (NOT Google, notice.  Easyclick allows you to give money to charity every time you use it) The Longship - a long lost but obviously not forgotten (hardly sorely-missed) pub in Stevenage.  Even then - in the 1970s - it was always considered a dive.

However, I made a few enquiries and the place has long-since disappeared. But the point here is that I ended up on a beer drinkers' website. The site (zythophile.wordpress.com) is run by an old acquaintance, one Martyn Cornell.  Evidently he is a bit of a beer guru having written books on beer - a real journalist too, it seems. The Telegraph etc. Amazon seem to rate him.  I remember him well - a few years older than me at school.  I got to know him a year or two later when he ran the local CAMRA group.  I won't tell scurrilous stories of his driving me and friends to beer festivals, however (my most over-used word) I was surprised at his name appearing on my search engine.  This sort of thing happens all the time. Old acquaintances come and go - should they be forgot?

Yet knowing that way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

16 comments:

Mike C. said...

Dive? The Longship was our local for many happy years, matey! A short walk from the St. George's Undercroft youth club for the active underage drinker and seeker of "quid deals". The beer was crap, though (it was in all the New Town pubs).

I remember Martyn, too. A man who has a beergut at 18 is clearly one whose calling has been established early in life. I'll check him out immediately.

Mike

Dave Leeke said...

The Undercroft! Duncan's lists!!

The term "dive" should not necessarily be taken as pejorative! I still have many fond memories of the place. It still allows me to wisely explain to youngsters that one should "never sneeze into a glass of Southern Comfort".

The past is a different country indeed . . .

Mike C. said...

Duncan is a subject I choose to walk around. I thought he was creepy then, and have never had cause to change my mind.

The Undercroft was something else, though, wasn't it... I met my first serious girlfriend in there. Hearing Free's "Alright Now" always takes me straight back there. Sigh. I believe it's the town museum now.

Mike

Dave Leeke said...

I got on very well with Duncan but he always seemed a bit like Uncle Monty from "Withnail and I" - I'm probably doing him a disservice. Actually, I'm probably not. He used to ask me every week for my top ten albums - he must have got fed up as Richard and Linda Thompson's "Bright Lights" was always number one. The other nine changed depending on what I'd been listening to that week. He was always at The Roundhouse on Sundays. Great times.

For some reason Joni Mitchell's "Court and Spark" reminds me of it - I'm sure that may have been No 2 for a while. He was like a shifty Nick Hornby for the 1970s.

Mike C. said...

"Court and Spark" and the Undercroft? Hard to construct that association...

Did you ever get caught up in the bizarre obsession with Stray? May have been before your time. Bands like Hawkwind and Stray used to play in a tiny concrete room in Bowes Lyons -- my ears would be ringing for days. You used to be able to see Stray logos sprayed all over town (their album had a stencil cutout on the front). One lasted for years on the wooden fence of the alleyway that runs between Sish Lane and KGV playing field.

Mike

Dave Leeke said...

I think the Stray logo is still there! Actually, I bought "Time Machine 1970-1977" a Stray Anthology. It's rather good in places - a bit like I was saying in today's blog about discovering new stuff. I believe they are still gigging.

I once drew the album cover of a blown up record player for homework of a household object in Art. Cliff King thought it was wonderful and put it up in the Art room - that was rather embarrassing. Lots of knowing older kids telling him it wasn't original!

They never played "Court and Spark" at the Undergrowth - but it was around that time that I saw JM and the LA Express at Victoria. For some reason the sound of that album takes me right back there.

Mike C. said...

That logo must be heading for listed status -- they'll have to cover it with a glass plaque. "Authentic 1970s grafitti".

Bizarrely, I will always associate the Undercroft with Clacton, simply because we all went on an Undercroft coach trip there once. Despite feeling like a darkened den of iniquity, I suppose it must really have been a church youth club! I've no idea who ran it. Hey, Duncan wasn't secretly a vicar, was he? That would explain a lot...

Mike

Brendini said...

Ah, the Longship! remember Aubrey? The Longship, the biggest ashtray in Stevenage. Everybody strewn about on the floor, stubbing their cigarettes out on the nearest bit of uncovered carpet. As for the Undercroft... I went there once. It was exactly like the Longship but damper and with added Captain Beefheart. I really wasn't ready for it.
I still have my vinyl copy, gatefold sleeved, Saturday Morning Pictures.

Dave Leeke said...

I certainly remember Aubrey - a betting man I believe.

I once walked into the Undergrowth with Jym Green and we questioned women about their breasts - one of them lifted her T-shirt to show me - I was at a bit lost for words at the time. It was that sort of place. Still, it was nice of the CofE to care so much about the local teenagers.

It was an after-hours version of the Longship. They ran coach trips??

Clacton and me (and Andy) meant the Weeley Festival. I don't think Stray played there, though (he said, attempting to bring it all together).

Andy - who was the vicar with the beard? Do you remember the fat bloke who kept rabbits?

What a great life we had . . .

Brendini said...

Stray played at the Red Lion not so very long ago. I say Stray when I mean the one remaining member (lead guitar - name forgotten - curse this encroaching feeble memory - can't be arsed to dig the record out - he was bloody good, though - Played Sister Mary an' all) and two youngsters. It was a really entertaining evening. And all arranged by one Mr. Keeling.

Dave Leeke said...

Del Bromham.

Brendini said...

That's him. I was arsed enough to dig out the album and check after all.

Mike C. said...

I'm going to have to turn on my retro-rockets to escape the Stevenage force field I can feel dragging me down into a black hole of nostalgia...

That would be Trevor Keeling, no doubt? Kink (as he used to be known) and I go back as far as infants school... He was a regular at the Undercroft.

I'm outta here... Wooosh. "You ain't seen me, right?"

Dave Leeke said...

Yes, you're right - it's getting boring now. Nostalgia was so much better when we were younger.

Peter Gill said...

Hello Dave, you may not remember me but I remember you, at least by name. I also remember The Longship and Aubrey, "Come along now PLEASE boys and girls" and his braces. He worked for the development corporation as I recall. Duncan was a librarian and still lives, as far as I know, in the same house in Woolmer Green. I spot him in Knebworth from time to time. The Undercroft was run by Stevenage Social Services and in 1974 they borrowed one of their mini buses to run a trip up the Rhine Valley. It was organized by two of the social workers, I cannot remember their names but it will probably come back. I was on that trip as was Duncan, Roger who played records in The Undercroft, Tony Stanton,and several others. It was that trip that caused me to miss the very first Knebworth (The Allman Brothers and The Doobie Brothers). Trevor Keeling still runs the blues nights every Sunday at The Red Lion but The Longship is now a car park and the mural on the front wall ended up in a skip.

Dave Leeke said...

Hello Peter,

I certainly remember your name too. Can't quite place the face as it were but then they were certainly heady times!

Thanks for the info - I had heard that Duncan died years ago so that's nice to know that he's still very much alive. Blimey, he was one of the two characters you always saw wherever you went - Hyde Park, the Roundhouse, Reading etc. The other one was a guy called Jesus.

Trevor lives next door to my friend Brendini so I see him occasionally. Very less than sober at the Cambridge Folk Festival a year or so back waiting for the Mavericks to come on.

The first Knebworth was an absolute cracker - I have the poster on the wall here next to the computer as I write. I worked there on the day with Richard Goddard and we got paid a fiver each and free entry.

Lovely to hear from you.

Dave