VT Coughtrey

home chapters galleries topics editlog contact blog
Chapter 58: Fireworks
Chapter written 2004 & last revised 2013

There are no notes for this chapter yet.  Some of the notes on other pages are based on info YOU send me.
You may remember that the reason given by Mike Taylor for urging me to get a job (I doubt that he had the gasworks in mind) was that, when the time came for the public meeting about 105 Islingword Road, the residents could be assured that the warden-to-be of the proposed 'Brighton Hostel' was a good honest toiler, just like them.  In Chapter 56 I described the circumstances of the setting-up of the meeting, and what it was expected to achieve.  It took place just before I quit the gasworks.
On the night, I had no time to go home or even to shower at work before rushing round to the meeting-hall.  I presumably made some attempt to wipe the worst of the coke dust off my face, but my clothes must have looked even worse than the ones I wore when not at the gasworks.  When I arrived, slightly late, I was surprised to find that the hall was packed solid, with many people having to stand.  The Vicar of Hove, chairing the meeting, was already on the platform, as were several members of the committee, but there was no Mike Taylor.
Sensing a certain restlessness in the audience, we decided to start the proceedings without Mike.  The vicar embarked upon his speech about the worthiness of the cause, Christian duty, etc, but began to be interrupted by questions from the floor, along the lines of "What's the Church ever done for us?" He cut his speech very short and introduced me as the prospective warden.  "What, 'im?!" someone yelled in amazement.
I took advantage of the few seconds of astonished, gawping silence that followed to launch into my speech.  I could already sense that it was going to be necessary to depart from the script.  "I must apologize for my appearance" I began, "but I've had to rush here straight from the gasworks".  Out of the corner of my eye I saw the vicar very slightly shake his head.  "I've come here to allay your fears and . . ."
I don't think I got much further before someone yelled "We ain't 'avin' them rotten tramps round 'ere!"
"What I say," added another, is "BURN THE BASTARDS!".
After this everyone began shouting out simultaneously their own ideas about what should be done with the prospective residents of Brighton Hostel, and putting more and more energy into it.  Soon no-one was left seated.  Suddenly the scarlet, terrified face of Mike Taylor appeared at the side-door, next to the platform, just for an instant, then was gone.  The female members of the committee sloped off.  The vicar made a few pathetic appeals for order before turning to me and asking "Can't you do something?"  What I in fact did was to screech, at a volume unprecedented for me, "SHUT UP!!".
As the mob - for that was what it now was - slowly advanced on the platform, the vicar and remaining committee members bolted through the side door and I soon followed.  The others all escaped in their cars.  I hotfooted it round a few back streets until I was certain I wasn't being followed, then probably dived into a hair-friendly pub.
I've mentioned a couple of times before the sympathy and support of the Brighton Evening Argus for the Brighton Hostel project.  It was due to the Argus, of course, that we had the offer of 105 Islingword Road, after their rave review of Geoffrey's terrible film.  They now did their best once again to make the best of a bad job on our behalf.  They reported the worst comments of the 'audience' in shock-horror style, but failed to mention my outburst or appearance.  In fact the vicar and I were portrayed as decent, intelligent and wholly reasonable folk up against appalling ignorance and dreadful behaviour.  The truth is that we were victims of Mike Taylor's ignorance of working-class aspirations in the 1960s.  The last thing you wanted when you were at last achieving a reasonable standard of living and a clean and peaceful environment, was a load of dossers and junkies in your street, especially when the case for them was presented by irrelevant vicars and coke-dusted hippies.  I remained in a hot rage about that night for a while, but I have to confess that these days I'm a fairly dedicated nimbyist myself.
You may find photos relevant to this chapter in the INDEX OF PHOTOS.
index to all chapters
Homehot aircontact me