Back in 77/78, the New Regent was Brighton's main punk venue - a long, narrow, cramped bar smelling of leather and beer. (It features in this evocative piece by Gwyneth Jones.) Me and some other underage mates would go every week, seeing acts like X-Ray Spex, Penetration, Slaughter and the Dogs... one week we went to see Adam and the Ants who weren't allowed to play because one of them was underage. But the most memorable act was a local band called Psycho Normal and his Stiff Victims. They were flamboyant, entertaining, surprising and simply exploding with energy. With hindsight I can see their cocktail of pre-punk influences - early Who, the Bonzos, Alex Harvey - a richer brew than that served by many of the three-chord merchants of the time. The set included songs about Aleister Crowley and the Marquis de Sade, standard punky stuff about the delights of low-paid work, and absurd humour. We later discovered that they were even more local than we thought - not just a Brighton band, like the Depressions or the Piranhas, but a band with Portslade connections - as their leader Graeme Hobbs aka P. Normal lived in Abinger Road and worked by day at the Southdown coachworks.
A bunch of us took to hanging round at Graeme's house, listening to records and songs in progress, sometimes to the annoyance of his family and neighbours. We would put up posters and generally act as a sort of Baker Street Irregulars.
All of this was a scarily long time ago. Recently I decided to see if I could track Graeme down on the interweb, reasoning that he may have left some cyber spoor, and thinking if he was still around Portslade I might be able to lure him out for a drink. I had heard that he had been in another band, Tricks Upon Travellers, who have a MySpace page. Unfortunately I never saw this group, for who could resist a 'cross between Fairport Convention and Iggy Pop'. The comments mentioned Graeme's departure for Spain, and referred to 'Casa Zalama', which I assumed to be a village, but which turned out to be a 'casa rural' (sort of b&b/hotel in the countryside) owned by Mari-Cruz Totorico and... Graeme!
Fascinated by the possibility of staying in an establishment run by Psycho Normal (who if memory serves once beheaded a teddy bear filled with stage blood sacs, and would regularly bound around wearing sheep's head codpiece (or was it a cod's head sheeppiece)) I researched the possibilities. Cunningly I showed Jennie the gorgeous pictures and ecstatic reviews, and let her suggest that perhaps we could go there. At that point I whipped out the (surprisingly reasonable) tariff that Mari-Cruz had emailed over, and mused aloud that yes, perhaps Jennie's idea of going there was in fact feasible.
And so, thanks to punk rock and the Internet, our 2007 holiday was planned. We had many odd conversations in he run-up to the trip: 'I expect Psycho will give us tourist information'; 'I'm sure Psycho will provide towels'; 'I wish Pscyho had drawn a clearer map'.
The reality proved to be delightful. Graeme's philosophy of rock n role mayhem hasn't influenced his approach to hospitality - in terms of food, comfort, and attractiveness Casa Zalama is quite simply one of the best places we have been.
There were of course reminiscences. Graeme produced a comic I drew 30 years ago, satirising his verbal mannerisms, hairstyle and penchant for fearsomely strong tea. I had completely forgotten this work (produced as a pre-Facebook distraction from homework.) My ability to write and draw has evaporated since then - I'll try and get a scan of it to prove that I once had these skills.