Friday, November 17, 2006

Bombed culture

Where the serious daytime drinkers used to meet. Not only the smallest pub in Norwich but quite possibly the darkest as well.

When I first used to visit there it was as a school boy and amazingly it had two bar rooms in the space not one. As underage drinkers we would be sent to the back 'snug' bar and have to sit on the single narrow bench squeezed in between old women with warts on their faces who never spoke without first giving a high pitched single laugh (or was it a sneeze). HA!! How are you love? or HA!! What have you been doing? The landlady would never let us drink more than two pints of bitter or mild. I wish I could remember her name.

Latterly a succession of landlords and ladies managed to move the daytime drinkers out. First their was a failed attempt to turn it into a lesbian pub (whatever that is) and then they stopped serving draught Stella Artois. The final straw was when they made it non - smoking which as any fool knows sounds the death knell for city centre pubs. (Weatherspoons, the MacDonalds of the licensed victuallers trade, attempt to turn all their pubs non-smoking before the ban comes into place lasted just two weeks because the drinkers - smokers and non smokers alike stayed away in droves.)

It also for a long while after his death contained the last piece of writing that Tim Sillence ever committed: regulars jealously guarded the biroed scribble above the gents urinal St Ignatius Loyola Rules Ok. Not I feel one of his better poems.

In the 1960s Tim had run with his friend Giles Bristow Norwich's only alternative bookshop in Bridewell Alley called Bristows. It was here we got our copies of Oz, IT and Friendz. I remember him at this time giving a poetry recital/having a poetry duel with Jeff Nuttall (of Bomb Culture fame) at Studio 5. For the last years of his life Tim drank regularly in the Vine. It was in the Vine that he was last seen alive.

So its goodbye Tim (he died in 2002) and its goodbye The Vine (It died in 2006 but went into a coma some years before)

Postscript: I received a request for more information about Tim so here goes: He was to be honest a minor poet. The local library used to have his complete works which were about two small press volumes and some photocopied and stapled things as well as inclusion in some anthologies.

He was always going to be the next best thing and then suddenly one morning he became someone who missed his opportunities. Drink and drugs did for his "art".

Hugely influential in the Norwich Arts Scene though. He was well loved and the crematorium was too small to hold all the people who came to his funeral.

A search using Google would have found the following three liner which proves really like everything else connected with the Sixties and Seventies it was the singer not the song.
Norfolk is a flat land
within easy reach
of the Himalayas
and a reminiscence by someone called Shaggsy written before Tim's death.
".......I like old Tim but he is one strange boy and he introduced me to the seamier side of Norwich.

I met him in FREEWHEEL next to the Plough in St Benedicts in 1979. Or was that the Brown Derby? He kept refering to every one as his "brother." Being a bit naive I thought, "he must have a big family." He was using it as a Romany address.... As in George Borrow's book. Mmmm The Romany Rye.

"Thank you my brother."

Well we went home to his flat in St Clements Road and I got pissed for the first time on vodka and became quite unecessary. An....he shew me his photo album which appeared to consist of him dressed up in women's clothes standing on a stage somewhere. Probably UEA where he used to perform. Well...I stood up after further madness - Jesus - and was violently sick in the toilet. I lay there for some time too blocking all other traffic to the bog which caused some consternation.. God I was bad. I eventually made it back home with my girlfriend and...thats it really.

Tim boozed in the following main Norwich hostelries: The Shrub house, (Gone). the Plasterers, the Wildman, the Plough, the Derby, (Now the Potty) The Red Lion at the fart Skool.The Dial, (Gone). The Ten Bells Whites near the Royal Bank numerous others but those were his faves and he ended up in the Vine, happy.

I never went to the Shrub house (Exchange Street?) but have heard that it was pretty wild in there. The Dial (Dereham Road) was weird too and kind of dodgy..

All I can say after that lot Tim, is Vodka after Directors bitter doesn't mix at all..

Tim and his mate Giles had the Bristows underground bookshop in the Bridewell Alley but that too is before my time. mid late 70's probably. Giles was normal then but he just went noo nah, quite suddenly in the 1990's

I think what really screwed Tim up the most was Giles. Herein lies a tale.

Giles burnt all Tim's limited edition signed underground books. Irreplaceable, experimental poetry by 60's and 70's "heads." Sorry - alternative types.

His clothes,burnt, sold, worn by Giles. He attempted to fry eggs in White Spirit, burnt/destroyed all Tim's floorboards and woodwork, Poured pound coins down a drain outside the Nuts 'n' Bolts and tried to sell complete strangers old string vests, flip flops and total rubbish he found in the street for silly money. Just being a complete loony. This was consistent behaviour. Not just after a skinfull serious bad craziness. Some of this seems tame but I wouldn't want to be around it.

Tim was in despair with that one. And Giles was his landlord too.

They found Giles dead in the house. After Tim had got the **** out. He'd given up on Giles ever having a normal mind again. I think the inquest returned a verdict of self neglect. The usual high smell had been noted by neighbours. The man died of egg poisoning cos that was all he ate. And onions - his guts must have been in a terrible state. He smoked Gauloise rollups but not once, twice, three times yeah four times - till what he was smoking was more like I don't know what than tobacco. He'd been stiff about ten days.

Sad really, Yes once were Gods! Giles was a qualified lawyer and a nicer, kinder person you couldn't meet but...he burnt out and just went to the devil really. Pore bugger.

These - in the main- were the topics me and Tim jawed on. So don't mention his friend Giles when you see him. I think Tim will write again after he gets his own place once more and is away from the alkies and dopers. Here's hoping. He's a part of Norwich and when I get back the first thing I will do is hit the market for the peas and then go check him out. "

Shaggsy's account is fairly incoherent. It was Giles who tried to sell the the string vests, destroyed the flat etc not Tim. He also fails to mention the "woman in the case".

Tim's longer work The Norwich Speed Wars is not without merit and worth seeking out.

Did I mention that in one period of his life Tim took to wearing a crash helmet because he was tired of hurting his head when he fell over drunk?


Anonymous said...

But you have to admit that bar your own recollections mine is the only other one of any merit. Thus in his blue bash hat was Tim attired when I first met him. An old friend of his from Argyle Street and the Albion fairs, one Simon Seward has since passed on this year too.

The woman of the piece - well now I wonder who that might have been.

And anyway JH where are you drinking nowadays?

Best to you from the old poster of local.east.anglia

Shagg system

Colonel Blink said...

Hi Shaggsy. It is good to discover that you are still alive. I find it sad that the last time I looked mine is the only account of Tim I could find on Google and to be honest I never knew him well enough to do him justice.

There is a novel to be written by someone (and definitely not by me) about that milieu of provincial life in the sixties and seventies. Maybe you could write it if you are not doing anything over the weekend?

Thanks for your comment Shaggsy and keep living will you? Please.

Anonymous said...

So not the FAT CAT then...

If you were to leave a message with Leather Andy on ye Market John-Henry we could all reminisce over a seasonal jar.

I'll endeavour to stay alive for one more year...

I miss Norwich daily and I look forward to being once more in her bosom.

Very nice pictures.


Anonymous said...

thats alot of bollocks

mdm said...

Well to the last comment "thats alot of bollocks" you are taking bollocks!

Tim and Simon Seward We're Very Good Friends of mine from Argyle Street Squat, Freewheel Anarchist Bookshop and The Sun in The East Norfolk and Suffolk Fairs.

Sadly both no longer with us RIP

From th script: The Plough was next to FREEWHEELS

Check my group related stuff on Tim and Simon and the photo of Tim in the The Vine

FREEWHEEL Anarchist Bookshop

Thank you my brother :)

Anonymous said...

I agree ...Special Brew and Love are not mentioned once.....I Love You My Brother...You ARE My Brother And You Can't Take that Away From ME>>
Stop Badgering ME......

Chris was Anon said...

You can't expect me to remember everything anonymous, I mean this was bombed culture. My good friend mdm knows too. Along with the Special Brew, there was Merry up cider flying chopsticks. Seasonal greets JH! Now have you any old photographs of Freewheel Anarchist bookshop/Argyle Street Squat that you could donate to arsebooks I mean facebook groups?

Hydriotaphia said...

I have many memories of timothy Sillence and have a copy of his 'The Great Speed Wars' with illustrations by Jeff Nuttall if anyone out there is interested, contact me !

Gill said...

I became good friends at school in Bury St Eds with Claudia Mieville who later took up with Giles and had a baby --I presume his--and I presume that baby is the writer China Mieville. Can anyone verify this? I have tried to find /find out about/ Claudia but with no success. My em is

Anonymous said...

I came across Tim at The Vine in his later years when he was living at Carrow House (run by St Martins). He had the Brew habit bad and Mike the landlord would get crates of the bottles for him and would bring out a cushion for him to sit on. Tim rarely talked about the old days but would (what I thought then) rant enigmaticly on occasion. He also did a good impression of the Karate Kid Crane Kick!