What's new with Janey
16 February 2008

Something’s Are More Important than eating

The year was 1978. I was standing in the blazing sunshine on a beach in Redcar, in Yorkshire. Wearing a woolly jumper wasn’t a good thing, but I didn’t own a tee shirt or any semblance of summer wear.

Redcar was the place I ran to when I left my home in Glasgow; I was 17 years old and constantly hungry. My mate Maggie and I were starving most of the time as all our cash went on paying our bed and breakfast. We were literally left with £5 a week each to pay for laundry, shampoo and food for each day. We lived on slices of cold meat and things that could be eaten by a plastic spoon as we were not allowed to use anything from the kitchen of the B&B.

Totally unprepared for hot weather and homelessness, we stuck together and did our best to keep each other’s spirits up.

We couldn’t get a job as the woman who owned the small family run guest house made us clean the rooms of the B&B daily. If we didn’t do her menial tasks she threatened to evict us. She knew we were vulnerable and immature. She was a clever and cunning woman.

We were too young and naïve to work round her bully tactics. So every morning we ate the breakfast she was legally obliged to provide and we filled up on toast to see us through the whole day. Sometimes we would sneak toast into a bag, but she would catch us and make us either eat it then or give it up. She had issues!

We never had the cash to eat an evening meal and the smells from her kitchen at tea time was unbearable at times. We survived on a cooked breakfast at 9am for almost a year.

Once we stole food from a self service café. We walked in grabbed scones and ran right out of the door, hysterical with excitement, stuffing big dry scones into our mouths as we ran like the clappers down a cobbled back lane. Hunger makes people do things.

But that sunny day, Maggie and I sat on the hot beach and watched families sit around having picnics. We jealously stared at big cuts of meat being draped onto thick slices of bread, flasks pouring out hot sweet tea into big plastic mugs. How we really wanted some of that food!

Then I found 50 pence in the hot sand. It was warm in my hand and Maggie and I giggled and I ran up the beach clutching it hard in my palm.

We walked up to the Bar-B-Queue grill, it was a local seaside café and the tables had little jukeboxes fitted into each table in the booths.

Maggie and I slid into the seat; we could afford a cup of tea between us. The woman knew us and simply smiled as we sat down and said “One big mug of tea?”

We both nodded in unison. We got 10 pence change. I could have bought a biscuit to share, but I knew what I really wanted. I wanted a song.

I dropped the coin into the metal box and flicked through the screens on the top with my index finger, I found the song I wanted and sat back with my eyes closed, anticipation simmering through me.

The box clicked and the speakers above the door hummed as the record spun.

‘Take the long way home’ by Supertramp came blasting through. I loved the song and Maggie and I sat in peaceful harmony, ignoring all the other noises around us.

Sipping hot tea and sharing our love for music was wonderful.

Food is unimportant when good music is on offer.

Redcar is a long way off in my memory now, but I recall the music of 1978 more than anything._