THE OSTERLEY PARK INCIDENT

In the summer of 1971, Bram Stoker (Pete Ballam, John Bavin, Tony Bronsdon and Rob Haines) performed at The Temple – the basement venue at Ronnie Scott’s nightclub in Soho, London. The American rock band May Blitz were on first, but took hours to get their act together because they were too busy smoking copious amounts of dope in long clay pipes.

Eventually, they were helped onto the stage, so they could get on with the job of being ‘rock gods’ – but the delay meant that, by the time we’d performed and packed down the gear, the sun was coming up.

Bram Stoker’s transport was an old removal van, painted shit brown and orange (a queasy but popular colour combination at that time) and driven by our leprechaun roadie- affectionately known as The Imp – a short, stocky, bearded creature, with a short memory.

We were all exhausted, not least the Imp, who spotted a suitable place to park up, where, as his head hit the steering wheel (with the engine still running), he promptly fell asleep.

By then, what with all the second-hand smell of dope smoke, emanating from all the gear, the belching, farting and snoring from five guys in a confined space, I came to the conclusion that the notion of sleeping under the stars seemed eminently more civilised.

I switched off the engine and found an elegant tree, under-which I could get some well earned shut-eye.

“Allo allo allo, what have we here then? We’ll have no vagrants in Osterley Park!”

Suddenly, I was awoken by a dutiful policeman, eyeing my silver boots, suspiciously.

Scrambling to gather my wits, I explained the situation, and found myself being marched to the dodgy van, in order to justify my story.

When said dutiful policeman banged on the door of the van, he was met with grunts, groans, insults and comments to the tune of “F***k off”, which, of course, he wasn’t willing to tolerate.

He threw open the door, whereupon the Imp fell onto the copper, and, when he’d recovered consciousness, denied all knowledge of ever having known me.

Stirling wits that they were, the rest of the band members all declared,

“No officer – never seen him before in our lives!” The bastards.

Things were getting desperate and I grabbed my guitar from the van, where the guitar case contained relevant evidence, including a picture of my girlfriend.

Bored, by now, the copper explained that the Park Warden would be soon be doing his rounds and would ‘do us’ for illegal parking if we didn’t get a move on.

So we moved on, not before I sacked the band, in a fit of pique, and they demanded their severance pay.

Eagle sculpture on the staircase on the east front at Osterley, Middlesex, looking over the park towards the lake. The tree in the background is the tree that Pete Ballam slept under.