It was late in the 1960’s that I met John Park and his merry group. I was around 16 years of age, John was a couple of years older. My parents owned a small Pub in a small village some 15 miles from Oxford. As I recall John and his cohorts all attended Oxford Universities, primarily the most certainly red brick Oxford Poly.

The group rented a palatial house in the village, in retrospect I have no clue how they could have afforded it, but it certainly was a wonderful house complete with walled garden.

John and his friends came to my parents pub on a reasonably regular basis and somehow we struck up a friendship. What I loved was that they treated me as an equal, even though they were a little older than I was. When you are a teenager age is everything, if you are 16 only 16 year olds will do! This rule did not apply to Park!

We remained good friends for several years and shared a number of adventures, some probably best remaining not being documented. Such minor issues as being Oxfords first official streaker and escaping in a VW bug with a large papier mache Penis on the roof is hardly something that you want on your resume, but it was funny.

In the mid 70’s We had both moved on in our careers, Park and I had moved to London, he had taken up residence in an apartment above a brothel. Only Park could find a residence like that.

I left England in the late 70’s and of course this was way before the internet was available. So we lost touch.

A couple of years ago I decided to see if I could locate my long lost friend. I didn’t have much to go on. A name, the fact that he went to Oxford Poly, had a degree in Architecture and hated the idea of designing boxes on a hillside for people to live in. Oh I also had vague recollections that he had rebelled and become a long distance truck driver.

There was one thing that I was sure of, John had probably reinvented himself and headed off into completely different directions over the 30 plus years since we had last talked. The name John Park is a common one and a google search revealed a staggering 400 million hits! Perseverance and sheer bloody mindlessness paid off! I tracked down my long lost friend.

Recently I asked him about a story he told many years ago about being locked in a bar and ending up in hospital by jumping out of a window and getting skewered in an iron fence. In his own words:

It’s quite near but lacking in the important skewering detail, fortunately.  We went to the Royal Institute of British Architects conference which that year was in Bristol in the summer of 1971, John Sleep and I, at that time we were both studying architecture at Oxford Poly. 

One night we got very drunk in the Bristol University architectural students’ union bar which was an unusually tall Georgian building in George Street, with a double basement.  We managed to get locked in or at least the front door was locked, so we went up to the first floor and John climbed out on to a ledge with the idea of climbing down and – we weren’t clear what would then happen, being very drunk.  There was a spiked iron fence. 

John fell outwards onto the road, which was 20 feet down and ended up with concussion lying on the road with his head on the pavement.  I thought I’d better climb down to see what I could do and fell down into the double basement, 40 feet.  However there was a porch or something over the front door and halfway down.  I broke my fall on that and ended up on the concrete well of the basement with smashed ribs which had punctured one of my lungs.  John was in hospital for quite a while with concussion and I was with the lungs for a couple of weeks from memory.  Anyhow, no particular ill effects on either of us all these years later.  And we did miss being skewered.

Oh the joys of youth!

Simon Barrett

 

 

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