Chris Whitehouse (Weed)
Subject: There is an Island...
Date: Febuary 10th, 2002
some of my musical memories from the hotel are "Island" by Renaissance and Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (from the group trips), Pink Floyd's "Saucerful of Secrets" and "Maya" by the Incredible String Band (from innumerable playings and chantings), Peter Green joining in a laid back outdoor jam session on a lazy sunday afternoon, and Magic Michael bursting forth with unrestrained enthusiasm at every opportunity -- then there were the groups who played in the dancehall, especially Stray, Hawkwind Zoo and the Edgar Broughton Band
one morning i went up to Leeds with Sher who was fighting a custody case over the 2nd of her eventual 5 sons -- we got a lift part of the way with Brennan, who had a temporary lorry driving job -- we'd planned to attend the court hearing and then return to Twickenham the same day -- but there were complications, the court case being adjourned a couple of times, and we never got back down to Eel Pie -- by the time it was all sorted out Sher had given birth to Sol (conceived while we were on the Island) and we'd bought a terraced house for 400 quid -- i had a couple of crap jobs, restlessness set in, and the relationship broke up (Sher later moved to Lancaster -- we got back in touch about 15 years ago, and remained in close contact till her death in December '04 -- i first met her when she was living in Leeds, early 1967 -- she was my first love)
returned to London in Autumn '72 (a 200 mile walk) and bumped into Seamus -- he and Scratch were in the process of opening up a squat in Grosvenor Road, behind Twickenham police station -- the squat grew -- among those who moved in were several from the hotel including Dominic, Gary (Little Brother), Hilton, Jeremy, OJ, Australian Martin & Inger, Simon and some others who'd arrived at Eel Pie after i'd left
the squat eventually took over half the street and housed 100 people -- while there i got heavily involved in The Warehouse, a big free space for gigs and other events -- spent the last summer there in my treehouse, built in back garden of house i'd been squatting which the developers had bulldozed -- i kept in touch with Cliff and Jonathan via the All London Squatters meetings which were held in Central London -- the squat lasted 4 yrs, tho for a year of that i was in the States, initially working at the Brooklyn Children's Museum, followed by lots of travelling all over North America, then back to NYC for a spell, spending some time hanging out at Come!Unity Press, which provided free printing facilities for movement groups
after Grosvenor Road i went to Dooey, in Donegal, the NW coast of Ireland, with a few others from the squat, following my heart -- dome, caravans, chickens, lots of wind & rain -- did a trip down to the South West with Dominic and his then partner Jan who'd been visiting, and saw Brennan and Anna -- Brennan was doing restoration work down Waterford way -- and Anna was with a new partner and had several children and a herd of wild horses free-ranging over 150 acres of steep hillside in Kerry(?)
returned to England in '77, to Canterbury, where i started playing Go (far-eastern board game), then back to SW London for another few years squatting... and that sort of took me into the 80s, which alternated between working and living in vehicles & squats -- got heavily into computer games for a few years... even helped write a couple (but the company selling them went bust) -- did lots of filing for Partizans ("People Against Rio TInto Zinc ANd Subsidiaries"), an anti-multinationals group -- ended up in East London, and while working at a telecomms company in the Docklands got the temporary use of a flat just outside Basildon, but the owner never came back, so i stayed on -- in between occasional periods of work i learned some juggling, wrote a bit of music, started collecting rave flyers, found myself entranced by fractals, and became a net slave -- last busted in '99, for cultivation
went to a party held by Scratch in Brighton in 2001(?), and met up again with Seamus and Dominic -- in April '03, i went to the opening of an exhibition by Cliff held in the Guardian Newsroom and managed to have a brief chat with him despite all the goings on (the drawings were great, many of them from illustrations published in various newspapers and books and magazines during the last ten years); and in July '04 we met up in Richmond on a gorgeous summer day for a leisurely stroll along the Surrey Bank of the Thames as far as Ham House, reminiscing about Eel Pie days and discussing the ways of the world -- there was a Grosvenor Road Reunion in September 2007, and there i was, in Twickenham, sitting round an open fire again with Australian Martin, Dominic, LB, Jeremy, Scratch and Seamus!
so many things happened on the Island, both good and bad -- it's easy to forget the latter... the selling of cut drugs, homophobic bullying, the gang-rape of a sixteen year old girl, an elderly alcoholic getting badly beaten up (i can still see his battered face, bruised and bleeding and confused at the unprovoked attack), people with nowhere to go being thrown out on a cold snowy day...
but of course there were also lots of happier memories, some of which i might one day add to my '60s stories before they fade forever from my mind -- the tale of how i arrived on the Island is told in "Met OJ on Eel Pie '69"
started reusing my school nickname "Weed" in the early 90s, and made it legal in '96
there's a pic of me (probably out-of date) + lists of my favourite things + some more history on my 'about' page