I was only a teenager, but always made to feel welcome. It was a bit of a thrill, really. All sorts of people used to be in and out of the place. Writers. Artists. Poets. Some local. Some, sort of, well, international if you like. Martin Henty, who owned the shop and the press, he seemed to know everyone who was worth knowing.
Everyone used to go on about London and all that, but it wasn’t the only place where things were happening. In fact, Martin used to say it was easier to get things done in Brighton as there weren’t all the wasters and hangers on. People who wanted to be part of the scene but had nothing to contribute. Some he didn’t mind, but there were always those who were on the make, sponging off people. That’s what was good about Octopus, cos Martin always got rid of those types.
One of the real reasons I kept going back was cos I fell in love. [laughs]. It was a real teenage crush. Daft really. She was, well, I don’t know, thinking about it, she must have been close on forty. But she was beautiful. Elegant. Had this amazing hair. A pale, rosy gold colour. Cut really short. And a face that… er… well, it’s like she’d seen so much, good and bad, yet found some sort of peace. Nearly. There was always something. [laughs] Woman of mystery.
I really did just hang around the place in the hope of seeing her, doing odd jobs for her. She ran one of the magazines that Octopus published. I’ve still got all my copies. I’d help with anything really. Learned a lot. Course, it’s all done by computer now. Shame really, cos it might make life easier but the finished product is always a bit too perfect. I like those old magazines and papers cos they had a raw edge to them. Not just the content, but the look of them as well.
Everything she did was done properly. Do you know what I mean? She took great care with it all. I used to watch her work. Sounds a bit creepy now, I suppose, but I really was… I even bunked off school sometimes.
Nobody knew much about her. You’d hear stories. There was one about her being a motorcycle rider of some sort. Never understood that. Some daft pillock said she was a thief. I got into real trouble over that. My one and only fight. Went a bit mad. [laughs] A bit mixed up. It took a few years to sort my head out. Didn’t help when she just vanished.
Sorry? Her name? Oh. Er. Charlie. Charlie Cornelius.
She’d be about seventy now. I often wonder what happened to her. Nobody knew where she’d gone. It’s funny. I was walking through that part of town just a few days ago, looking at the places, all changed now. And you know, I’ll swear I saw her. Couldn’t have been her, of course. Didn’t look any older. [laughs] I actually ran after this woman. Lost her in the crowds along Kensington Gardens. Just as well I suppose. What would I have said? Sorry. Thought you were someone I’m, er, was in love with. Thirty years ago.
Local Oral History Project
John Charles Woodman
Extract from transcript of session 47 (22 May 2000)