I will now take you back in time to the summer of 1969. I was an aircraft mechanic on the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle and my ship docked at Norfolk, Virginia in the USA.
To go ashore we had to wear our uniforms and my friend and I were not impressed with Norfolk as it was just another naval town and so we made up our minds to go ashore and take civvies with us. We got out of our uniforms and changed into jeans and T-shirts at the local bus station; we left our uniforms in a bag in a locker at the bus station and took the bus out to Virginia Beach.
This was a complete revelation to us as previously the only sites we’d seen of America were either of New York; Los Angeles or San Francisco all of which had been on the TV.
As we rode out to the beach we saw what could only be described as shanty towns because the houses we passed were wooden and there were certainly no skyscrapers or any brick built houses. At the beach we were chatted up and ended up being taken to a drive in movie by two girls.
After a while the ship sailed to Boston Massachusetts and from there we sailed back to England where I came home on leave and deserted and after my leave had expired I caught a train to Gothenberg in Sweden. It was the time of the Vietnam War and many Americans went to Sweden for political asylum. I never got it but I did hitch down to Amsterdam in Holland and got a job as a dishwasher.
Okay it wasn’t much, and I was sleeping in a tent but I came across posters of a guy wearing a leather jacket with the American flag on his back and the words on the poster said, ‘This guy came looking for America but left never finding it.”
It was advertising a film and I dearly wanted to see it and luckily I met some students who told me where I could see the film which was called Easy Rider. I sat there mesmerised and when the track, ‘If six was nine’, by the Jimi Hendrix Experience came on Captain America and Billy were riding their motorcycles through shanty towns similar to what I’d seen in Virginia. Then the music stopped and all I could hear was Jimi Hendrix saying, “I’m the one who’s got to die when it’s time for me to die. So let me live my life the way I want to.”
That did it for me it reflected exactly how I felt and why I had left the royal navy.


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