This cute little autobiographical event in Gerry Conways' life
was given to me by Keith Balaam a few years ago. For some
reason, I never asked Keith from where this article appeared. I am assuming it was written
for Pentangle or perhaps one of the many other groups he may have appeared with after the
break up of Cat Stevens. The drawing below of Gerry, is a life size face drawing and
was meant to be cut out and used as a mask.
GERRY CONWAY - EMBARRASSING MOMENTS
Ive had a few but then again, not too few to mention. My most memorable happened
when I was seventeen years old. I was living in a bed-sit above the Wimpy Bar in Queensway
of Bayswater desperately looking for a gig with a pro band but seeking a day job to keep
myself going. I noticed an ad in the daily paper driver wanted for a Florist
in Hendon Central. "Not particularly local" I thought, but I went along for the
interview. I had exaggerated my experience of driving a panel van a little, having just
passed my test and I couldnt see the van because it was being used, but I accepted
and started the following morning.
I made the train at Queensway to arrive in
good time for the 8:30am start in Hendon
Central but fell asleep
unfortunately on the long journey there. (Did a gig the night before). I was woken up by a
ticket inspector shaking me on the shoulder saying, "Wake up mate, end of the
line". I looked out the window and saw Edgeware written on the platform, a quick
glance at my watch revealed 8:30 am PANIC, I gathered my senses ran across the station and
got the fare back to Hendon Central.
When I arrived at Flower
Vogue, I was greeted with glares from the staff and my new boss and after much groveling,
was ushered out the back door to where a van stood parked in the alley. When I saw it my
legs turned to jelly, it was much larger than I had imagined, immaculately painted in
white at the top with and pale blue at the bottom with a Flower Vogue sign set in pink
oval edged with roses. I had only driven my dads Triumph Herald before and this was
a daring prospect.
I stood waiting while the
staff carefully loaded the van with an assortment of bouquets, plants arrangements in
china dishes and wreaths etc., then I was given the addresses and dispatches. I managed to
start the vehicle and gingerly set off in the behemoth down the alley, turned left and
onto the dual carriageway, which was the Hendon Way. As I accelerated to change to second
gear, the traffic light in front of me changed to red. I put my foot on the break and
heard my delicate cargo slide very quickly across the floor of the van and crash against
the wall of the cab. My heart sank. I deemed it best to continue on my journey to the
first stop and sort it out there.
My first port of call was a
semi-detached house in Hendon, I opened the back door and looked at the full extent of the
horror. Bouquets, wreaths and plant arrangements all huddled together up the far end of
the van like frightened sheep. The people at this house had ordered a plant arrangement in
a big oval dish. I carefully peeled off the bits of bark and turf which had been
catapulted onto the walls and ceiling of the van, put them back on the dish did my own
arrangement so to speak and set off up the path to deliver it. Unfortunately, I
didnt notice the gate stop because of the big dish I was carrying. I tripped on it
and was set a flying. The dish of plants was now airborne and finally came to rest with a
mighty crash against the front door. On which the remains of the dish and its contents
were slowly sliding down like molten lava. I stood up and with bleeding knees, told the
house owner how very sorry I was and would return with a replacement immediately. Now here
is the matter of my embarrassments. I hobbled back into the van, reversed out and collided
with a driver taking his test. Where upon I received heated and somewhat unkind words from
the examiner. Upon my return to the shop I was subjected to further down market examples
of the English language from my boss.
Miraculously, I was not
dismissed for this Norman Wisdom impression, first day nerves I guess and continued as
driver for Flower Vogue for a while longer. Enough time anyway to completely wreck the van
on numerous other ill-fated journeys. Eventually the poor thing was sent off for complete
restoration and it was returned about 2 weeks later looking just like new again. With
smiles and waves from the staff at Flower Vogue. I set off happily on my delivery again.
There was light rain falling as I headed up the Finchley Road whistling a happy tune to
myself. The traffic lights turned amber to red and I gently applied the brakes. They
LOCKED and I sailed into the park of an Austin Westminster. CRUNCH.
It was on this inauspicious
day when the front of the van caved in and the bumper on the Westminister pointing up to
the stars, that I returned to the shop and announced my resignation. I think I heard the
boss say youre fired at the same time, but I was louder.
Yes, I did it my way. PS. I
am reliably informed that my driving skills have improved.