Strollin’ down the Highway – –

It’s funny the dreams we have. One of my more colorful ones concerns hitch-hiking.

Back when I was a carefree and somewhat trusting teenager hitch-hiking was much more common than it is now and I did a lot of it.

My older sister was living in Yorkshire in the 1960s and I frequently thumbed a ride down there for a visit. Truck drivers were very accommodating and wanted company so I rarely had any problem getting rides.

There was the time I hitched to Lanark racecourse in the west of Scotland for a model plane competition, though. A truck stopped to pick me up and could take me all the way to my destination. I climbed aboard and slammed the door shut – on my thumb! There’s a good Scots word – beelin’ – (throbbing) which is what my thumb did all day long. I remember going to the family doctor a few days later when he drilled a hole in my thumbnail to relieve the pressure!

But the most memorable journey was all the way from my hometown of Dunfermline to the exotica of Paris. Yes – Paris, France. I traveled with a friend and my guitar, because we were determined to busk on the Champs Elysees. A very illustrious Scottish folksinger called Alex Campbell gave me a slip of paper with a name and phone number (which I found many years later to be completely false) that sealed the deal. He had blazed a trail all around Europe before anyone else did and was my hero!

My friend and I got down to the midlands of England fairly easily but then got stuck. As it was getting dark we pitched our wee tent beside a hedge in a field and settled down for the night. We were wakened early next morning by sounds of machinery and found we were in the middle of roadworks. We packed up, started thumbing and were picked up by a very elderly truck. It had no air-conditioning, the sun was bright and the engine was under our feet. Every time I dozed off the driver elbowed me in the ribs and demanded I talk to keep him awake, but somehow we got to Dover and the ferry to France.

When we arrived in Calais we got a ride from an English salesman heading to Paris in his ‘Deux Chevaux’ Citreon which almost rolled over on every corner. He finally got to the infamous roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe and we went round it in ever decreasing circles until he found a way out and dropped us off. From there we headed to the Boise de Boulogne and pitched our trusty tent again.

deux chevaux

Un Deux Chevaux avec deux chevaux! Quatre chevaux?

Next morning we walked to the Champs Elysees with my guitar and prepared to live our dream. Before I could hit the first chord a hand descended on my shoulder. “You can’t start here” our assailant said, “you start in the suburbs and work your way in to here”. So I never ever busked in Paris, although we did eat well and I learned a lot!

I have a friend who has lived all his life in a mining village in Fife and who restores motorbikes as well as writing hilarious poetry. One of his most famous poems is entitled ‘What’s a Laddie frae Kelty daein in a place like St Tropez?’, which is all about his memorable journey by motorbike to his particular dream.

Ah – dreams. Which takes me to the Everly Brothers, but that’s another story – – –

 

6 Comments

Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Strollin’ down the Highway – –

  1. Janice Brooks-Headrick

    Everly Brothers are favorites!! Tell me the story. They were raised in Knoxville, Cuz went to school with Phil. Or some institution.

    • Jack Beck

      I first encountered the Everlys on the last family vacation when I was about 14 years old. We went to the seaside town of Morecambe and there was a funfair with music playing. This would have been around 1956 and that’s where I first heard them and Buddy Holly. I also fell in love for the first time – but that’s yet another story – – –

  2. priscillaking

    You know Bert Jansch! Cool! I may still have some old cassette copies of Pentangle LP’s. Right–fangirl noises stop here…I *really* just wanted to sing like Jacqui McShee. But the guys had a great sound going!

    • Jack Beck

      I only knew him slightly – he came to the folksong club in Dunfermline in the early 60s before he was famous. He sat at the back and then came up and played after almost everyone had gone home.

  3. Rachel Eggleston

    I’ve been following you for a long time and am wondering how I might purchase books from you via the internet. If I lived nearby I frequent you often, but Arizona is a little far to drop in. Did so enjoy your book. Thank you 😊
    Rachel Eggleston

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