1967 was one of those milestone years for me. After living in Patcham since the age of 5¾, things were about to change. I’d just turned 18 and was about to leave home, or to be more accurate home was about to leave me, as Mum and Dad were at last to realise their long held dream of retiring to Exmoor, and rather than leave my beloved Brighton I’d opted for the spare bedroom at my great Aunt Dorothy’s rambling house in Hove. More significantly though, and I put the blame fair and square on the likes of Sonny Bono, Scott McKenzie and to some extent, the Small Faces, by the simple expedient of cutting the sleeves off my sheepskin leather biker jacket and wearing it inside out, I morphed almost overnight from a Day Go Café frequenting motorcycle riding Rocker, into a chilled out, laid back, sandal wearing Hippie and to be honest without really breaking my stride.
The purchase of a pair of square edged green lens rectangular, John Sebastian style, sunglasses from a shop in Sidney Street and one of my Aunt’s cast off floral blouses completed the look. But, moving from Rocker to Hippie also required a number of other adjustments.
Hippie speak, a new language to me, needed to be learnt and mastered although dropping ‘hey man’ and ‘cool’ into most sentence, went a long way towards conquering any initial shortcomings until I became fluent. Wearing beads was pretty vital too but adopting the head band was, for me, always going to be step too far. On the other hand a bell on a cord round the neck was fine and I quite enjoyed the accompanying tinkling when running for a bus or similar. But perhaps one of the most difficult transitions of all was the requirement to change ones personality.
A carefully cultivated air of latent menace and barely concealed aggression was de rigueur for any 60s Rocker in Brighton and particularly when travelling anywhere seawards of the King and Queen or in the vicinity of the Clock Tower where Mods outnumbered leather boys by about 500 to 1. My new Hippie persona, however, now required me to embrace, peace, love and even serenity …. a big ask and it took me a while to make the adjustment. Thankfully, the head butting incident was a one off but I did warn those two Purley Mods about passing less than complimentary comments on my attire. However, all these things paled into insignificance when it came to my biggest change of all and which, in fact is the reason for this post.
Rocker or Mod, scooter or motorbike, the times inevitably comes when the pleasure of the wind in your hair, flies in your teeth transport starts to diminish and a wheel at each corner and a roof had far more street cred for a budding hippie than the 500cc Triumph twin with high handlebars and loud exhausts sitting in my Dad’s garage
Two problems existed that limited my capacity to move forward on this front. Firstly, I still only had a motorcycle license and secondly and more importantly, I was almost skint. Given this, my dream of a Volkswagen Camper Van with flowers painted on the side was a very long way off. So what was I to do?
A couple of mates had managed to solve the problem of moving from one wheel at the front and another at the back to one at each corner, but in a novel way. What they discovered was that a car existed you could drive on a motor cycle license and it had a wheel at each corner, in fact it had a wheel at all three of them. So a three wheeler it would be, and what better town than Brighton for such a thing as since 1957 Isetta bubble cars were being built in the Southern Locomotive work in New England Street.
Unfortunately I couldn’t afford a new Isetta, and actually, I couldn’t even afford a second hand one either, so I had to cast my net further afield. The Reliant range, on paper, looked perfect, but even then its flat cap image simply wouldn’t do. A Morgan would have been ideal apart from being collector’s items and costing a small fortune. One car I really fancied was a Berkeley T60 but rarity and economics, again meant it was out of my league, so in the end I went for a £35/19/6 Bond from a Garage in Kemptown, although to be fair it was a Mk G estate.
Basically the vehicle was a motor bike with 3 wheels and a roof but it did the job and while there was almost no room for my kaftan at least it get me down to Somerset for the occasional weekend with Mum and Dad.