Have I ever told you about my early career as a DJ, way back in ’66 ? Ah, 1966, the year of the World Cup, Carnaby Street, mini-skirts and Radio Caroline.
I had listened to that pirate radio station since its very first days in 1964 and had thought how wonderfully romantic it must be to sail the seas, playing music and having the odd ‘run in’ with the Law !
Well, when I was lucky enough to land my ‘dream job’ and join the crew, the reality was very different. The ship was a rather scruffy, former Danish passenger ferry. It was moored off the Essex coast and far uglier than I had ever imagined. But to my young, impressionable eyes it was still very exciting and glamourous. I felt as though as was the most fortunate girl in the World.
My parents did not share my enthusiasm and had been very dubious about my new employment. I can still picture them, standing on the doorstep; Dad in his plaid golfing trousers and Mum in her gardening sweater. the one with the raggedy bit round the neck; the pulled thread that had unravelled after being caught on the trellis. Bless her ……… she had never got round to mending it ! They reluctantly waved me off and I’m sure they were thinking that I would be drowned …… or worse …… within 24 hours.
Two days later, I found myself, slightly green around the gills, in the height of a storm, playing records and trying to chat merrily while the ship rocked to and fro and everyone held on for dear life ! Oh boy, that ship rocked …… and not just in a storm. We played the latest records, flouting the broadcasting laws and ‘cocking a snoot’ at old ‘Aunty Beeb’. I loved it ; positively lapped it up and you couldn’t knock me down with a stick ! I’ve always been a workaholic, but in those early days I never stopped. When I wasn’t ‘spinning discs’, I was compiling new playlists and writing scripts., Or I would be thinking up the ‘hippest’ catch phrases and the perfect jingles. Anything that would make my shows the most ‘talked about’ , the most popular. I was ambitious, ruthless even . My motto was “Fame and fortune, here I come ”
DJs came and went, not everyone could take to life on the ocean wave ! One day a new guy was due to start. I think it was the day Simon D– went on leave. I remember that I had laughingly saluted him, he was such a famous DJ by then, so I performed a sort of mock bow as he climbed down the ladder. Then, as I raised my head, there was the new recruit; a familiar face; my old flame Joe. I must admit my heart skipped a beat and my stomach did a huge cartwheel. It had been months since we split and, as I gazed at his tanned, smiling face, I wondered why I had given him the push. He was bloody gorgeous !! Joe looked at me in that way he had and my knees turned to jelly. I knew that life on board had just got a whole lot more exciting. That night, when I finished my show, Joe was waiting in my cabin with wine and his ‘come to bed’ eyes and , of course, I did. The sea was as calm as a mill-pond but I think we made that old ship rock from side to side and the atmosphere in my cabin was steamy, to say the least. The sex was much better than I remembered and we didn’t fall asleep until dawn.
During the next couple of weeks I was blissfully happy and so glad that we had renewed our relationship. I was much more mature now, both sexually and emotionally and I even began dreaming of Biba wedding dresses. We spent most of our time together and I would often sit with him as he did his programme. He was still learning the ropes and I was happy to help. Everyone said I was a natural, with an instinct for spotting a ‘hit’, so he encouraged me to assist him with record selection and join in his show with witty quips and anecdotes. This was so well received that we were given a joint slot, in addition to our own shows. We were the golden couple; the ‘next big thing’. We were heading for the top ! Life would have gone on like this and I would probably have ended up presenting “Top of The Pops” or “Ready Steady Go ” if I had not had a little bit of trouble.
One night the weather suddenly turned very stormy. Waves lashed over the decks and the ship tossed about in gale force winds. I had been about to go on air when we lost all power and so we were unable to transmit. I stumbled back to Joe’s cabin, to tell him of our predicament and to make sure he had his life-jacket , just in case. Joe was in bed …………no surprise there. But the sight of Manuel, the ship’s cook and Brian, one of the electricians, both piled in the bunk too ……………………. and all of them totally naked was a surprise.
The storm continued all night, it was one of the worst on record. In fact it was so bad that we, sadly, lost a member of the crew. The poor guy must have hit his head or something; been dazed and fallen overboard. The howling gale would certainly have muffled any cries for help. As I told the police later, when we were all questioned, sadly Joe was never confidant in water ……………..and it is a long swim to Felixstowe !
The above story is a piece of fiction. Any resemblance to persons alive or dead is purely coincidental. Though I am almost old enough to have worked on Radio Caroline !!