Michael Fitzalan Stair Shot

;Seveny Seven by Michael Fitzalan A Punk Era Memoir

1977 was a momentous year. We called it seventy-seven; the DJ on Capital called it Seveny-Seven. If you did not listen to Capital Radio, you were not worth knowing. To listen to ‘Radio One’ was heresy, even if it was the weekend top forty, both radio stations aired their singles chart on the same day at the same time.

‘Radio One’ did not have adverts but we still listened to London’s radio station because we could pick it up even west of Reading and, for us, London was the centre of the universe.

We tried to listen to Radio Caroline and other pirate stations broadcasting from the North Sea but most of them sunk in storms or the reception was so poor that even the coolest people would not put up with the annoying static hiss just to listen to a trendy station. We would not go that far.

Some years contain defining moments in history.

the Christmas on the Western Front, Kristal-Nacht, VE-Day, Kennedy’s assassination, the first man on the moon, the assassination of Martin Luther King, the abolition of apartheid, famine in Ethiopia, Live Aid, the atomization of the twin towers and the devastation of the Asian tsunami or the China earthquake.

Seventy-seven was a cause of great celebration, it was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and you can still see plaques and go on a Jubilee walk to commemorate her twenty fifth year on the throne.

Great Britain

Nineteen fifty-two saw the first commercial passenger jet airliner entering service and the completion of the first atomic bomb, it saw Great Britain struggling to recover from war, rationing was still in place, my mother was sent bacon in the post from the farm her family had bought off the Duke of Wellington’s family.

A packet of rashers, wrapped in greaseproof paper would be sent in the regular post from Bromley House, Kilpeddar; it would be put aboard the Dublin Liverpool steamer and arrive the next morning for breakfast.

Nineteen seventy-seven was a street party to celebrate the achievements of Elizabeth’s reign, full stop. I cannot think of any other milestone except of course my first novel being written but that was not nationally publicised.

Allegedly, Punks were disaffected, unemployed modern teddy boys; society had turned its back on them and they had reacted by preaching anarchy. The Punks that I met were all in jobs and played in bands at night.

The people at the venues or at parties all seemed to be studying or working, perhaps I only met privileged Punks. To these ‘Middle Class’,

‘I want to be in a band’ Punks, anarchy was another word for rebellion, not the destruction of modern society.

However anarchists and their reputation conjured up terrible pictures for the establishment. Why rebel when you can become and anarchist and sound that bit more threatening?

 Personally, seventy-seven defined me.

Born in 1962, I finally considered myself an adult. Sadly the adults and the many other people did not agree. I took my first public examinations and wrote my first novel at fifteen. Only 1980 bettered 1977 and that was because I was promoted to Head Boy, which made me very popular with the girls and I co-starred, co-wrote and directed the winning play in the Inter-House Drama competition.


Also, 1977 was brilliant because of the three ‘O’ level passes and the production of my book. I thought these were the pinnacles of my school life. The echo of that one-year still resonates audibly in my attitude and approach to life; work hard, play hard, get nowhere fast. It can be summed-up in a conversation in summer seventy-seven.

“Where’s the party, Mike?”

“It’s all around you, Mark!”

Enough details of dates, you want the grubby details, I am sure.

Not too grubby, I am afraid I was only fifteen at the time and pre-Thatcherism Britain encouraged only drunken snogging and groping with clothes firmly tucked in; bare flesh was out of bounds. Our appetites, sexual or otherwise, had not developed to the egomania of the eighties.

We were fed on Cadbury ‘Smash’, a reconstituted potato mix, and frozen fish fingers and frozen peas. Freeze dried or frigid food kept our passions at bay or cryogenically suspended. Our sexual experiences were mostly reconstituted stories of other people’s exploits, or stories of frigid girlfriends with locked together knees, and thighs frozen together like our beans and peas.

It was rare for the raconteur to find the defrost button.

Even our most experienced hunters were unable to supply us with the necessary key to success. You could have girls interested in you and you could snog girls endlessly but you could not ‘have’ girls.

One prime source of information could have been my middle brother. He was two years older than me and his resemblance to Bob Geldof meant that he had no shortage of girlfriends. However, we never discussed details of his relationship, he was the embodiment of discretion, he would never kiss and tell and I dared not challenge that noble sentiment,.

Custom Car

He had supplied me with a magazine called ‘Custom Car’ which had topless girls inside and that was the extent of my sexual education from him. Otherwise, we had ink drawings of a cutaway section of female genitalia and reproductive organs, hardly a Michelin Guide to women and their bodies. We were hopelessly lost and the girls were equally confused or unwilling to help us find the key to their desires.

If I had been a teenager in the eighties, nouvelle cuisine and kiss and tell would have been the norm and oral sex would have been obligatory for all. It was when I was in my twenties. As far as I knew, in seventy-seven, female genitals had yet to be invented, much to my chagrin and the annoyance of my friends as well. They were dying to discover what they were for and how they functioned.

Curiosity killed the cat but that particular pussy was keeping itself covered.

Young women were looking for respect and friendship. They were not searching for the multiple orgasms; they were trying to avoid spotty, ropey, groping organisms – teenage boys; trying to divest them of their clothes, their dignity and their virginity.

Frankly, no one could blame them; boys only wanted one thing. They did not want a wife, children or a companion, a soul mate or a shoulder to cry on, they wanted sex. Boys saw women as sexual playthings; the talking and charm offensives were a means to and end.

I did not smoke or take drug.

I drank copious quantities of anything alcoholic that was going: tequila on night exercise in the CCF, port with cobnuts with my mother at home, Madeira in Richmond Park with a seventy-year old who was trying to seduce my twenty-two-year-old sister and anything else I was offered.

At fifteen, in those days, being grown up had to include having a drink of some sort.

We were on night exercise at fourteen and a friend had smuggled miniatures of Jose Cuervo tequila for his squad in order to keep out the cold. We’ve sat in a barn and sucked the last drops from the receptacles. We were cold but our insides glowed with warmth.

The following term, we walked confidently into a saloon bar in full ‘disruptive pattern’ camouflage combat jackets and trousers and highly polished army boots before the landlord showed us into the public bar where we drank pints of local Brakspear Oxfordshire bitter.

The beer being brewed at Henley of Thames.

Even ‘squaddies’ might make the same mistake, going into the carpeted saloon bar instead of going into the wooden floored, spit and sawdust public bar. We looked like well shaven soldiers, it was about ten at night and we had smeared our faces with brown camouflage cream.

We’re treated with respect, left to our beers; we were to the customers on exercise. We’re the Home Front, the last defence should the Russians launch a non-nuclear invasion on Europe, and we were not schoolboys dying to get drunk.

My mother had a continental attitude to wines and spirits.

You had a brandy albeit a small one. She believed in flying with a nip of brandy to bring down the blood pressure and I still order a brandy and ginger ale on every flight, it works.

When a family friend wanted to seduce my middle sister, he tried to commit the deed with the aid of Madeira.

He drove us to Richmond Park, my sister insisting she had me along as her chaperone. Then, he plied us with good food, freshly made dressed crab sandwiches, which he had prepared before we left.

He encouraged us to drink copious quantities of the amber fortified wine.

The Madeira knocked me out, it was very strong, and I came around to find the aged Casanova lying very close to my sister on a rug and whispering in her ear. Her laughter had kept him at bay until I had re-awoken.

Alcohol needed to be treated with respect. I was very rarely sick with any libation but I would often curl up in the corner from having taken too much. Alcohol was a depressant, a little left me amusing and uninhibited, a lot made me curl up and sleep; he must have known that, the cunning lothario who had designs on my sister.

Alcohol was a depressant

Cider was a stunning libation, made all the more effective by drinking it through a straw. This was science at work, the carbon dioxide in the cider meant that absorption of alcohol was almost immediate, the alcohol by-passed the stomach and went straight to the brain, or that was what we believed, we certainly got very drunk very quickly with that method.

Maybe the vapour from the alcohol was absorbed more easily than in liquid form but this is not a science lesson. It was wonderfully effective though, psychosomatically so perhaps. I can remember collapsing in a corner after only two cans, revived only by the horror that a platonic female friend had imbibed a similar amount in the same fashion and decided that she wanted to experiment with the one person in the room who she knew.

10 minutes

I could not face her the next day if I allowed her to find out things about me that only a wife should know, nor allow her to allow me to find out about her things that only a husband should know.

We snogged drunkenly for ten minutes and then started to undress each other. I came to my senses as I undid her bra strap. Luckily, there was an episode of ‘MASH’ on the television and I led her from the dark room to the comforting safety of the cathode ray tube and comedy from the Korean War. It was a close run thing; we could have gone too far.

After ‘MASH’, we were sober enough to re-join the party and dance the night away as friends.

It was strange dancing with three other couples pretending nothing had happened.

The party was awful; the large rooms of the Kensington flat were occupied by only a handful of people when most parties had crowds sandwiched into all the rooms. It was easy to leave.

There was no hope of anyone interesting turning up later, so we left and I walked her home, gave her a chaste kiss in Cadogan Gardens and walked from there to Clapham. I often walked home down Lower Sloane Street, past the barracks, over Chelsea Bridge and up Queenstown Road.

Punk was fading

I would never walk over the common but around it. It only took an hour if I walked fast. It was the worst party I had been to, one of the last of the year. There were very few people present and few girls, everyone had gone off on holidays, Punk was fading.

It was made worse by: ‘a’, grappling on the floor with the one girl with whom I had managed to have a mature non-sexual relationship and ‘b’, seeing Nick the Punk squeeze his way through a whole tube of glue. His brain must have been frazzled by such massive intake.

Punk was a flash in the pan in London and its star was waning, Nick and his ilk were fast losing favour towards the end of the summer. By the winter, everyone was looking forward to ski-ing or getting out of London to relatives abroad or in the country.

The Punks

The Punks were off most people’s party lists by the following spring, 1978 was a Punk-less Easter. We public school boys were immensely relieved. We did not need more competition; it was bad enough coming from the Lycee and international schools around Kensington. We did not mourn the disappearance of the Punks.

Nick most probably reinvented himself in Brighton and lived the Punk life for another decade or more. Even in nineteen eighty-seven, you could find Punks in the provinces. They had missed the party by ten years but they dressed as Nick had. He and people like him, might well have remained a mentor for fledgling Punks and punkettes.

It was surprisingly enduring in middle class areas where rebellion was customary and rivalled the ‘Mods’ for the wannabes it created.

The post Punk neo-Punks caused less violence and clogged up the high street not the roads and therefore they were tolerated.

The ‘Vespa’ riding ‘Mods’ upset everyone by clogging up the roads with their convoys of scooters. That could not be tolerated. Cider and beer caused problems but it kept us off glue and we were very firmly kept away from vodka and whiskey.

Whiskey or the other whisky makes you frisky and brandy makes you randy, there is no such thing as a Virgin Mary when vodka is around.

Party Seven

Beer was always on offer, those were the days of ‘Party Seven’, and an enormous can that looked like it had been left behind by the Jolly Green Giant and was impossible to get into or pour without spilling.

The canned beer market was not very mature; there was Carling from Canada and Skol from Denmark or Sweden or Mackeson and Guinness, the ‘Party Seven’ promised to be a winner.

Ring pulls were only just coming in and as this can had the circumference of a side plate, it needed careful handling. Can openers had a triangular end, which you dug into the top.

A corresponding tear had to be made in the opposite side to allow air to circulate to facilitate pouring.

Sorry about including even more science, perhaps you would like to revise vacuums, capillary action and air and water pressure after you have finished this book.

I am sure you know all about pouring fluids so I will curtail your revision session. The ‘PS’ can, or Party-Seven tin was twelve inches high and it was heavy, it needed two people to handle it properly and frequently there was just a lone pourer, leaving everyone poorer in the beer quantity department if not the beer quality department.

The big can was a challenge especially when it was shaken in transit, or in the process of piercing.

Most of the contents would foam up over the paper tablecloth on the drinks-table or miss the glass completely as the gargantuan tin was tilted towards the dwarfed receptacle, a pint glass.

Pouring from that height into a glass when you cannot lift the can is not easy and resulted in lots of further spillage. That and the dubious quality of the contents saw the demise of this quirky drinks dispenser.

A nostalgic tear might well be in the eye of some seventies partygoers, mourning the demise of the bravest attempt to introduce a beer barrel to the home.

Sorry, that should be reintroduce a beer barrel to the home

Elizabethan households were paid in beer and Victorian larders, of the wealthier families, might well contain a wooden pin of almost four and a half gallons, about thirty six pints. From the Tudors to the Victorians, people were paid in beer and not just pints, barrels of the stuff.

Presumably, it was to keep them so drunk that they could not complain about their poor wages, too sozzled to write a letter if they could write a letter or too pie-eyed to find a scribe who would listen to their incoherent ranting.

Imagine a scribe charging per word and people drunkenly rambling as much as they do in the average pub. A thousand words could well be the average length of a letter; drunks could not afford to write a letter at even the cheapest rates, surely.

People actually drank more in the old days to help them cope with the drudgery of their lives; I’ve seen records that support this.

We were teetotallers in comparison by seventy-seven.

That reminds me that seventy-seven was the year that real ale reared its non-chemical head.

A relation of mine, my maverick elder brother, opened the first brewery in London in the twentieth century in seventy-seven, Godsons. Its slogans included ‘Some Beers hail from God knows where, Godson’s ales from Bow’; the product was called Anchor Beer that later was strengthened to become Godson’s Black Horse, a dark, malt beer.


The name was destined to become abbreviated to GBH, an acronym on police charge sheets for grievous bodily harm. Through that association, it was deemed to be ultra strong when it was in fact 4.8 per cent alcohol. 5 per cent alcohol is the starting point for strong ale, 4.2 per cent is medium strength and 3.6 per cent is weak.

This would allow the sediment to settle, it was a live product. The barrel would have to sit on the kitchen table or the sideboard, racked by two or more wooden chocks to stop it rolling away.

When the barrel arrived, it would have a small cork bung in the top and a larger cork on the side.

The barrel would be rolled in and stood on its end, then it would be tipped over, the small cork bung on the bottom and the large cork bung on the top, the bottom one for the tap, the top one for the spile.

The tap would be hammered into the cork bung with a rubberised mallet while the barrel stood upright on the floor. The cork would be knocked into the barrel and the tap would seal the hole. That process was the tapping.

Once the barrel had been raised, to its resting place, and stopped by the chocks; it was time to attack the larger bung. That cork had a little plastic stopper, or ‘plug’, in the centre. The plastic plug would be tapped into the barrel using a hard spile, a small rounded wedge of wood.

That was the first part of spilling.

This hard spile would be replaced by a soft spile, a smaller cone of porous wood, so that the beer would settle for drinking the next day.

We cannot get away from science here. The hard spile was used as a stopper in the top when the beer was not being poured to keep the air out and keep the contents fresh.

It was a huge effort for a live product.

At the time, it seemed less of an effort than struggling with an over size tin and the quality of the beer made up for the struggle. It was like drinking beer in a proper country pub and how cool was that in London? What a palaver it all was. Now we can drink draught beer from a can, it all seems faintly ridiculous.

Although, I still maintain beer out of a barrel tastes better than beer out of a can and I buy expensive screw cap wine; I am not a traditionalist who needs to have a cork in my bottle but a live product tastes better.

No wonder the Party Seven disappeared; a firkin was nine gallons, which is seventy-two pints of beer.

After spillage when the can was opened, foaming onto the tablecloth or floor and then further loss when pouring from the can to the glass. Beer was messy; it was due to the consumers’ respect of the beverage that it survived at all outside a pub.

Later, the arrival of the ‘Polypin’ a plastic cube, which collapsed like the synthetic wine box bladders do now, revolutionised beer drinking at parties. They had plastic taps and the sediment sat under the dispenser, they were brilliant. Beer drinking had finally become clean and simple. A pin contained thirty-six pints, more than enough to keep beer drinkers happy.

We never had the pleasure of a small brewery like Godson’s, Young’s or Fuller’s delivering their products to our parties.

We were teenagers, and you had to be earning good money to set up your own bar; that was the preserve of the sophisticated older brothers and sisters.

Some things never change. Rather, my contemporaries never had that; I did because a decade separated my eldest sister and I; then I went to these older people’s parties.

I was the spotty teen in the corner drinking in the twenty-something scene. I did see firkins and I might have seen merkins if I had known more dancers ;and I had not been afraid of the older women who insisted on chatting me up but that is another story.

Kept my mouth shut

I needed to lose my virginity to have confidence with older women and I needed to have older women to boost my confidence. Once I had lost my virginity, I could tear through my address book. I was convinced that girls that I had bluffed about my experience would no longer be out of reach. I’ve just kept my mouth shut while they discussed everything.

By keeping quiet, I allowed them to assume whatever they wanted. It is an axiomatic truth that if you act confidently, people believe the world of you even if you are jelly underneath the façade.

We are all familiar with the infuriating way life works, you need experience to get a job and you need a job to get experience, the whole thing is ghastly but we cope. We had to cope in seventy-seven; a stiff upper lip was required as was the ability to wade though inches of spilt booze in the kitchen. The film of beer in the kitchen was all part of the party experience.


Even as teenagers who could not afford a firkin; we knew that it was better to buy four cans and drink most of them than to buy a ‘Party Seven’ and only drink half of it. Smaller cans kept the kitchen floor drier too. One of the best parties I went to in the eighties was in Chiswick High Road at a Cambridge graduates’ basement flat.

It was in another decade; I was older but there was a film of booze on the floor and some of the most beautiful girls that I had ever seen slumped on the floor; oblivious to their damp clothes. Fortunately, dancing later dried out their dresses but a few of the guests skidded across the floor.

As Punk had swept through the city, footwear became important again.

Not since platforms had resulted in short people strutting around as if they were the archetypal tall, alpha males or long limbed models, had footwear become such a key element of people’s wardrobe.

Doc Martens

Suede and leather needed to be preserved, beer and ‘Doc Martens’ did not go together and even the hippies’ cowboy boots could slip on a wet surface. Brand new ‘winkle-picker’, black suede shoes needed a kitchen floor clear of flotsam and jetsam, froth and slop. Only the welted soles of oil, fat, acid, petrol and alkali resistant Doc Martens were capable of surviving such terrain.

It was no longer acceptable to pass through party kitchens with your favourite Adidas or Puma trainers stained with red wine and old beer. Anarchy was in, but it was tidy not sloppy, dry and not wet.

The Punk era produced the famous line: “Your clothes are antiseptic, your deodorant smells nice”. (Was that Souxsie and the Banshees?) If you were a young Punk, your clothes were always clean, mummy made sure of that.

Tucked up kids

We hated these ‘tucked up kids’ who feigned anger and wanted to rebel, they were frauds. Tucked up kids were mummy’s boys, who saw their mothers on a daily basis and enjoyed it; you could not get much wetter than that in our book.

Most of the Punks we knew attended day school; spiky hair and green dye did not go down well at public schools.  If they did work out what it was, they would not return it.

Part of their anarchistic rebellion against team sports would prevent them from playing.

It would probably also be through the fear of getting their knees muddy or even worse hurting themselves. We knew these Punks were pathetic, puny and not manly.

Pathetic or not, they got all the girls thronging around them and being popular they could take the pick of the crop.  You would not find a Punk’s girlfriend standing on the touchline freezing to death while her man played rugby in the depths of winter.

Nor, would you be dragged off to watch a football game, or sentenced to sit in front of the Saturday football, on the television. We would not have considered these zits on the face of humanity but for the fact that they were stealing our girls.

Our girls wanted to be wanton and rebellious, naughty and frivolous but not with us.

We were marriage material and they wanted fun before we bored them to death.

All my friends could dance impressively well and smooch superbly. We had come as close as you could to fighting a war in peacetime; joining the CCF, the Combined Cadet Force.

What more heroic deeds could we perform, how many bruises on the rugby pitch did we need to amass before women would swoon at our feet? We were manlier as teenagers than most international rugby players in their prime. We knew we were getting it wrong but how could we make amends?


We had tapped our feet to Eric Clapton; then we had listened to ‘The Eagles’ using big, black plastic, airline pilot’s headphones; and a guitar pick as the only aids to enjoyment. We had played air guitar to ‘Black Sabbath’ and other heavy metal bands.

Then, we had abandoned both our ‘cans’ (headphones); and the plectrum ‘to get on down’ to ‘Hot Chocolate’, ‘Showaddy Waddy’ and a plethora of Motown stars.

We had learnt all our dance moves from carefully studying recordings aired on television; watching Top of the Pops and practising in our studies. We’d do all the arm and footwork for the ‘Tiger Feet’ dance and ‘The Locomotion’.

We had done the digging actions for the song ‘I’m working my way back to you.’ Plus we had learnt all the Slade songs, even if Noddy or Nobby Holder’s accent was difficult to decipher, and still it was not good enough.

Despite being as cool as Errol Brown, we could not make progress.

We desperately wanted to know why these weeds got the girls. It was annoying and mortifying. but did not make sense to us; it was not normal.

Suddenly, we had to change our spots, we had to talk to girls and genuinely listen; we had to be up on bands and know their sounds and we had to dress to impress. Having lyrics was not enough..

It was necessary to know the difference between Gucci and Fiorucci; the favoured jean of the ‘RAS’ gals, and to know which was the coolest out of Brutus, Lee, Levi, Lois and Wrangler jeans for the men.


There was a new way to wear clothes, skinny for the weedy framed. We were rugby players; there was no chance of us changing. Having been brought up to be tough and self-reliant; we could not recognise the fact that we had a sensitive side.

Sensitivity, as far as we were concerned was stroking a dog rather than kicking it; holding open a door rather than letting it slam in someone’s face. We had been groomed in polite conversation with a smattering of sarcasm.

We might show a faux adoration for a girl in the hope that, believing we were in love with her; she might succumb more speedily to our charms but beyond that there was little that you could call sensitive in our treatment of the opposite sex.

Public school arrogance

We were downhearted and our public school arrogance was replaced with lack of confidence and defeatist attitudes. We would never be the same again. All we had been taught by characters like; James Bond in Goldfinger, Simon Templar in The Saint and Steed in The Avengers was of no import. In the past the right clothes labels; a gleaming smile and a modicum of charm was all a young man needed to make the girls swoon with desire.

The world was changing, girls were demanding to be treated like people not possessions to be devoured and discarded. This alien situation sent many of us into a complete panic. Months of smouldering practice had been wasted.

A disguise was needed; we would have to camouflage ourselves and watch the enemy carefully to see how they obtained their successes.

God Save The Queen

We had to wear black drainpipes instead of sensible Levi jeans and abandon our dark blue; capped t-shirts for white or black t-shirts with faces or slogans such as ‘God Save The Queen’.

The ‘capped-T-shirts’ showed our pectorals to perfection, it provided a second skin and exposed the biceps. In those days; tight tops like that were not the uniforms that they are now and ours were worn impressively throughout the winter.

We were hard and we wanted it known; we made it obvious. The sensible t-shirts did not quite show off our manly attributes, as we wanted. Not only that but we had to be mumsy, ‘tucked up kids’, by wearing a jumper.

Not just a jumper, but also a jumper in a girly material, a mohair jumper in a pastel colour! These anarchists swore, spat and jeered but they wore girly clothes in girly way.

As guys who were men’s men, we found the whole situation sinister and frightening; there had to be an explanation, illogical or logical.

Were the girls we desired really lesbians, as we had long suspected, (there had to be an explanation for their resistance to us); and these effeminate, skinny, weedy Punks the closest they could get without censure?

There had to be a reason for these beautiful girls sloping off with the Punks for snogging sessions and ‘who knows what else’?

We could not work out what it was; maybe the girls wanted the better-looking pretty-boys with weedy bodies. Were they trying to make us jealous, were they teasing us, were they making us pay for our predecessors’ bad behaviour? Were they trying to teach us a lesson? Was their behaviour a cry for help?

All these questions we could not answer.

These were not the years of ‘glasnost’ between the sexes, there was not the candid communication that exists now; openness was the last thing on any of our minds.

We played our cards close to our chests, both male and female players. Maybe being with Punks allowed them to go further than they could with peers looking on; or maybe it was a rebellion against the predetermined path we were all set upon: school, university, career, marriage and children.

Whatever the situation, it did not increase our ability to get the girls and lose our virginities.

These Punks were nice people, they were relatively friendly in a party atmosphere and they would introduce us to drinking cider through a straw. They even offered around their UHU and other glues.

We actually liked them at first; their extraordinary dress and their cutting-edge coolness might see them surrounded by a group of people, male and female, questioning them about the great Punk revolution.

It was the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

We knew that the queen had arrived on the throne in 1952 and 1977 was twenty-five years later. We knew that in those twenty-five years very little had changed except the establishment of Rock and Roll as the most popular form of music; many more people were taking foreign holidays and owning cars; and there was more swearing on the telly. The young had moved from cigarettes to marijuana and the older generation had moved from beer and spirits to wine.

From fifty-two to the seventy-two, Britain had gone from colonial power to Commonwealth power; divesting itself of all its dominions as the country’s manufacturing base shrank as it faced tougher international competition.

The collapse of leading industries had caused problems but we were young, not angry.

Like every young generation, we were going to make things better if we could. The Punks were angry for their older siblings or their father’s, they were not angry for themselves. Their music was raw and energetic.

It started as a vulgar but peaceful movement, striped bare. It ended up trying to be the antithesis of seventies loves and flower power. I never saw violence perpetrated by Punks; but I did see groups of them given a hiding by ‘Mods’ or ‘Rockers’.

We always considered them to be too weedy to fight.

Punks were generally thin and short, rockers were tall or tubby, that was the way it went.

Diminutive and dressed in mohair and tight jeans, they were like the old fops and dandies. They were a distraction but their lack of contribution to the social gene pool meant they disappeared off the scene.


A well respected author

Michael Fitzalan was born in Clapham, South London; where his mother had established a doctor’s surgery in a house which she filled with children.

With three sisters, two brothers and a library full of books; a love of literature was imbued in him from an early age.

Michael Fitzalan comes from Irish parents were doctors; and they settled on the West Side of Clapham Common and had six children in quick succession.

A story by Michael Fitzalan

Michael Fitzalan’s first novel gained cult status and here are some others: Waterwitch was a hit with those who have ever sailed; two brothers battle storms and Spanish support for the Malvinas in an attempt to meet up with their girlfriends in Ibiza. They have to get from The Algarve to Ibiza, all very straightforward until engine failure and storms threaten to sink all their plans. The Taint Gallery tells the story of a modern Romeo and Juliet; the story is set in Cheslea and Fulham, not Verona, nevertheless, it is a doomed relationship. The book was shunned by big publishers for its highly charged and graphic sexual content and the small publisher who produced the book folded, copies are rare. A reprint is planned for its twentieth anniversary next year; it is still as pertinent and shocking today as it was back in 1996. Switch is an amazing mixture of Franz Kafka realism yet it reads like a Raymond Chandler thriller. Joe Ederer falls for a French girl but he is recovering from being dumped by his English girlfriend. A fish out of water in London, he chases her home only to be rejected. He hooks up with a suffocating drug addict and that is when his nightmares begin. Major Bruton’s Safari is the story of innocents abroad; a family invited to celebrate the coronation of the Kabaka of Buganda become indoctrinated into the ways of Africa. With an acerbic observer on hand, the family experience the warmth and ways of Uganda that help them to understand themselves a little better. IPG – Innocent Proven Guilty is about a teacher, Philip Hayward whose brother sold their shared flat and ran off to America with the proceeds. Philip bumps into his brother’s ex-girlfriend and she tells him his brother is back. Racing to the address she gave him, he arrives to find his brother with a knife in his back. As he leaves, his shoes leave bloody footprints and the police come looking for him. Carom – Finn McHugh and his team take on a swindler and smuggler, Didier, who is depraved in so many ways. They know he is smuggling art and drugs; he must be stopped before others take him out. The Cubans, want him dead, Finn wants to break the smuggling ring. Who will win? Remember the Fifth November – Guy Fawkes was innocent, Catesby was a broken man who brought his children up in the Anglican faith, yet Robert Cecil arranged for them to be portrayed as terrible villains. With a spy service second to none and with moles everywhere how could someone hatch a plot like this and fail to be discovered? The answer, they could not. Read the truth! One – Bullying does not go on anymore in schools. I would not bet on it. Weep as you read the terrible story of a school bully and the misery he dispenses to all the boys. Then, cheer as one of his victims takes revenge. Take a trip to a prep school in a time when kids built tree houses, danced and swung on Tarzan ropes!

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