Oliff’s life

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It was Friday, September 18, 1970...

I’m 15 years old and in my bedroom getting ready for another day in my final year at school, when I heard the telephone ring downstairs in the hallway.

The next thing I heard was a rather annoyed mum shouting from the bottom of the stairs.

“It’s Roy for you… and you might want to remind him just how early it is.”

I ran down hurriedly skipping two stairs at once and picked up the receiver.

“What are you doing? Do you know how early it is?”

“Rich… you’re not going to believe this… Jimi Hendrix is dead”.

What a phone that was: a two-tone green analogue machine!

This same scenario between two 15-year-old boys would be quite different today. The telephone wouldn’t ring in the hallway and mum and dad would be none the wiser of our communication.

Later in the 70s at another Corby address we had what was then called a ‘party line’, a gruesome state of affairs in which two households shared the same connection using two separate numbers.

I’d sometimes pick up the receiver only to hear a neighbour’s conversation taking place.

One felt immediately guilty, a little like going through the green channel at customs, you know you’ve done nothing wrong yet it left one feeling a bit like a ‘snoop’ even if one had immediately hung up.

One just had to wait until the other party had finished their conversation. It really was a grim situation.

When I eventually married and had a home of my own I have to confess I actually harboured a little pride at seeing our name in the phone book for the first time.

In 1990 I remember hearing the telephone ringing downstairs in the kitchen. “Richard… it’s Roy’s brother Geoff on the phone”.

“Hi Geoff… this is pleasant surprise”.

I was riveted to the spot by some of the saddest news I’d ever heard. Poor Roy had been unwell for a long time.