Let It Be

Chapter 22

1972 – 22 Two of Us

Two of us riding nowhere

Spending someone’s;

Hard earned pay

That sound’s wrong!

What?

Can’t you hear it, sort of a booming sound?

Not used to a minivan, just sounds noisy. I’ll stop the tape.

Terry picked up our Philips tape recorder, which we were using to play our only music tape now that we had finished the interviews, and switched it off. We both listened to the noise of the car.

Yeah, there’s definitely something, I can hear something unusual above the engine and the wind noise.

Like what? This tin can of yours is so noisy it drives me nuts! That’s why I’ve been playing the tape.

And I thought it was because you liked the Beatles!

Look, If you think there is a problem let’s get it sorted; what is that you can hear?

Well, the engine noise is in front; listen

Yeah…

Then there is the usual wind noise

Around the body?

Yeah, that’s right. Then there’s the wheel noise which sort of blends in with the wind.

Yeah, yeah, if you say so. But that sounds just like the bloody noise we had to put up with all the way to Wales.

I know! But it sounds louder to me now.

Well it’s loud, I can tell you that! You should stop and check it.

You and me Sunday driving

Not arriving

I pulled the car over to the hard shoulder on the M4. We weren’t that far from London, maybe 30 miles to the end of the motorway, but it was best to be on the safe side. I got out, looked under the car, kicked the tiny car tires which felt properly inflated, and rocked the car slightly. I didn’t think it was an engine problem but I looked under the bonnet anyway. The best you can hope for with a Minivan is that it doesn’t overheat and, this time, the radiator was fine.

On our way back home

We’re on our way home

Seems okay, I can’t see anything obvious.

Good, then get this thing home, it’s already 8 o’clock. We’ve got to be in the Union offices first thing tomorrow, Colin will want to hear what we’ve found out too.

I’ll just take it easy whilst I move out into the slow lane. Let me get going then you can put Let It Be back on.

We’re on our way home

We’re going home

Ah! So you do like it then? I knew you would!

Been great accompaniment to the rattles of the miners delegation official tin can! Hang on a minute whilst I get up to speed. I need to listen if I can spot anything as we speed up.

Two of us sending postcards

Writing letters; On my wall

What do think then Fred?

Bout the miners?

Yeah, how do you think we should write it up?

Well we’ve got to make the case clearly. What I heard was that they’ve worked themselves into the ground to fuel the post-war economy and they haven’t asked for more in wages because they felt they were contributing to building the egalitarian, meritocratic society they were promised by Attlee. The wages are pitiful for the work they do. Others have benefitted from them, like you and I and most students, and they haven’t. They want some reward for building this Britain. What do you think was that about right?

You and me burning matches

Lifting latches

And the pit was filthy wasn’t it Terry?

An utter disgrace, shows the complete lack of investment by the NCB. They just use the miners’ labour as the primary resource in making the pits work. Typical management!

But I was glad they took us down there, it really makes the story for us. I hope my pictures come out, the light was pretty murky in the valley.

Yeah it was. Don’t forget their hospitality; that’s the metaphor you should work with. Their hospitality and their humanity. Wasn’t it great that the rugby was on telly? Gave us a really powerful insight to what their everyday life would be like when they are not on strike. Passionate about work, passionate about rugby, passionate about Wales.

And a roasting fire to thaw us out, after freezing in that valley!

On our way back home

We’re on our way home

What about the album, then Fred?

It’s got a nice feeling to it.

Got a nice feeling? What kind of comment is that? It’s The Beatles for heaven’s sake!

Yeah Terry, but it’s their last album and it’s not as good as ZoSo.

Well, even I don’t think that it is as good as Led Zep four, that’s my favourite album.

You always have to measure the Beatles against the highwater mark and that’s Zep now.

Let it Be is a good album, it keeps you company. I find I can think and write when it is on. It’s an old friend to me.

Like a dog?

You’re not catching me with that one. Like a warm cardigan.

Terry was a great cardigan man. A great Celtic man of letters when in his cardigan and pipe was Terry.

We’re on our way home

We’re going home

What do you reckon? Is it much further now?

Look up ahead, isn’t that the flyover at end of the M4, so we’ll be on the A4 in a minute or two. We’ll be at yours in about thirty minutes,

Great! I told Eli to have something ready for 9 o’clock. I’m starving. And it was bloody cold in Maerdy.

You and I have memories

Longer than the road that stretches out ahead

And then it happened with a sudden KABOOM! The booming sound I had heard was caused by a blister on the inside of the right rear tyre and it exploded just as we reached the apex of the flyover where the M4 becomes the A4. We lost the tyre and the car suddenly dragged and pulled to the right as the road curved to the left. Fortunately we were only doing about forty and I pulled the van over pretty quickly whilst fighting the cars desire to park right itself right out in the middle of the fast lane.

Two of us wearing raincoats

Standing so low; In the sun

Christ! That could not have happened in a worse place. We could have gone over the edge there!

Blind bend; just about the worst. Good job there is not much traffic. I’ll have to change the tyre, you’ll have to get out and direct traffic.

Direct traffic?

Yeah! So they don’t come round that bend and drive straight into the back of me whilst I’m changing the tyre; no choice, sorry Terry.

You and me chasing paper

Getting nowhere

On our way back home

Fortunately Terry was imposing. Five years older than me, he was the Student Union President and a fine, full-bodied, pipe-smoking figure of a man of the world. He’d been on the streets of Paris in May 68 pulling up cobblestones so it only took him a couple of seconds to assess the situation and stand at the point on the M4 where he could most effectively direct traffic around me. He was at his imposing presidential best. I changed the tyre frantically whilst I listened to each car as it approached us, before veering away just before I would have needed to leap clear. Terry just stood tall, smiled calmly and controlled the whole situation as though it was his regular late evening second job…

We’re on our way home

We’re on our way home

We’re going home

Bloody hell, policing a blind bend! Not a job I’d choose to do.

That’s two in one weekend,

What do you mean?

Traffic policeman and miner, you wouldn’t want to be either.

Not exactly, I wouldn’t mind being the Branch Secretary of the NUM. They would be a great bunch of men to represent; but I definitely wouldn’t go down to the coalface.

You and I have memories

Longer than the road that stretches out ahead

We should be with Eli soon, we only lost about fifteen minutes. Just London to cross, pretty empty at this time on a Sunday.

Well you’re a whizz on London roads. Will you want to stay and have some dinner with us? Well it will be supper now.

No better get home and park this thing up safely before I blow another tyre. I’m feeling knackered, been a long weekend. Good job we had the Beatles to keep us awake.

Two of us wearing raincoats

Standing solo

In the sun

We went silent. Terry lit his pipe and calmed himself. Probably working out the right line for the story I would have to write tomorrow. He’d write I’d type and edit.

I listened to the car. It was quieter. The usual wind noise meant it was never a quiet ride, but the booming sound had gone. Now that the spare tyre was on the car was running smoother. If we hadn’t had the music on so much I might have spotted what was wrong.

You and me chasing paper

Getting nowhere

Put’s it all in perspective doesn’t it?

What does?

The pit, Maerdy, the miners, nearly dying in the car.

It wasn’t as dramatic as that Terry….

Maerdy was! Those miners are heroic and deserve our support one hundred bloody percent

Yeah Maerdy was dramatic; the car was just an inconvenience.

Nah! It’s more than that, it’s definitely symbolic. The Miners are suffering. We did the right thing by visiting them and presenting them with the fraternal greetings from our Union.

And they did call us brothers. I think they were impressed that a Student’s Union had bothered with a solidarity visit.

Exactly! Well if Renault can do it we can return the compliment. And even the car breaks down just to remind us that everything hangs by a thread.

By a cord…

On our way back home

We’re on our way home

One last time?

I’ll have to change the battery, but we’ve earn’t it. Get Back!

We’re on our way home

We’re going home

The warm opening chords kicked in one last time as we headed up the Euston Road and, this time, returning from a solidarity visit and survivors of our own minor tragedy, we sang along with the opening track; Two of Us. It was a song for friends and Terry and I were friends and colleagues, returning from visiting our brothers in South Wales. A lot wiser and very much relieved.

We’re going home

Better believe it

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2 Comments

  1. September 28, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    […] didn’t get to hear Let It Be as an album until two years later as my story explains. I was visiting South Wales miners in Maerdy, to report on the 1972 miners strike, and my […]

  2. September 29, 2009 at 9:57 am

    […] Home Let It Be […]


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