The days of living in the van extended into weeks and then months. Winter would be approaching and we had to think of an alternative to living in the van. The seclusion of our mountain retreat was fine in summer. The bathing stream and the skinny-dipping rock pool would soon become cherished memories. The cold and damp of a Welsh winter were on the horizon. The daily routine carried on for a while yet.
The van was incomplete without the presence of Eric’s chainsaw stowed in the back. Through Blue’s introductions we had two side-lines. Both of these gigs involved receiving cash or a gift in kind as reward for our services. Eric could use a chainsaw with skill, confidence and ease. We, or rather Eric, pruned and cleared overgrown trees on two or three occasions. I watched, kind of supervised really.
We also moved furniture or personal effects for various people in the hippie community on many occasions. Sometimes Blue was with us and helped. Other times it was just the two of us moving stuff from one secluded house to another. Many of these ‘customers’ were hippies. The reward was usually a fiver (£5 note). In 1976, it was reasonable payment for a couple of hours’ work. Occasionally, the reward would be a small gift of weed.
The most memorable day moving stuff in the van was the day we did Blue a favour. No money or other reward was either offered or asked for. It was one of the funniest days in my life. Blue had asked us to pick up a piano from a house several miles away. He had bought it and now had to find a way of getting it back to Silian. We went with him one morning to collect the piano. It was one of those upright pianos and it was damn heavy.
The four of us managed to load it into the back of the van to a backdrop of much grunting, groaning, sweat and some colourful language. It overhung outside the back of the van so we lashed the van doors open to their fullest extent. The piano was also secured on the inside of the van to keep it upright on its journey. An upright piano should always remain upright.
There was no room in the back for the piano stool and a couple of occasional chairs. The hippie seller had thrown them in to the bargain. We lashed the extra furniture on top of the van, but with great difficulty as the roof had neither a roof rack nor anywhere else to tie down the ends of the ropes. We improvised by knotting the rope ends to the door handles of the van to the rear and the door hinges of the front doors. This was better than nothing but it meant that we were unable to fully close the front doors of the van. The rope prevented the doors from closing shut.
We set off Silian bound with our cargo in the back and on the roof. Eric was driving, Blue sat in the middle. He had the gear stick between his legs. I cramped up next to the passenger door. Both front windows on the van were wound down all the way. It was yet another hot day of the summer of 1976. Our travails in loading the van and securing it were exhausting. A call for refreshment now in order.
Blue knew a pub halfway back to his home at Silian. We walked out of there about three hours later. Blue, Smiles, Mac and even Happy were all seasoned consumers of drugs. They were also seasoned drinkers of beer and liquor. Jack Daniels, Bacardi, vodka, whiskey -Scotch, Irish or bourbon, did not matter. They did not discriminate. I was always fond of beer but I was now drinking all the above in increasing quantities. I had also gotten used to smoking both weed and hash. When offered, I would oblige and inhale two or three times and pass the joint on in time-honoured custom. All three of us had drunk plenty and smoked enough weed in the pub that day to make me feel stoned. The landlords of that area never objected to pot smoking in their premises. If they did, then they would have had few customers left.
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