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Location: New South Wales, Australia

Born in Yorkshire, raised in Australia. I love Poetry, Guitar (especially Spanish classical & Delta Blues), Tudor, Jacobean and Stuart England, Archaeology & good Ale. I edit The Flea & The Chimaera (with Peter Bloxsom), and Shit Creek Review

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tales of English Paul

Peter Granger (pictured right at Mission Beach around the time he visited the Frank's Cafe bus at Kuranda) contacted me through the email address on the side-bar after reading about English Paul on this site. Here is his letter with reminiscences of Paul, which he has kindly agreed to share on this blog. I will post it on the Frank's Cafe site as well.

Peter provides an interesting view from the outside of Frank's Cafe and its workshop. I guess the shop he refers to was the Challis Avenue, Potts Point shop. The workshop would have been the Glenmore Road Paddington one where I was one of the "incomphrensible, prostate, mutified leather workers... residing in various parallel universes."

The story of the origin of Frank's Cafe as a leathershop name is typical English Paul. I suspect that the name "Frank's Cafe" owed something to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" which was popular among this group at that time. Then there was Frank Hammond, junkie dogman (he used to work as a dogman on cranes swinging on loads 12 stories up stoned out of his brain) who became a leather worker at the start and was known as Frank of Frank's Cafe. Paul was very creative in his explanations of this that and the other, and would often make up stories on a whim.

Here is Peter Granger's account:

Paul Adams/Clarke was an extroadinary person in more ways than one. Here it is in 2006, and this is the first I have learnt that Paul and Vyda had died long ago in quite extraordinary circumstances. It is quite a shock, but then again not so totally unexpected.

I was in Sydney about 1966 - having been unwillingly conscripted for the Vietnam conflict - when I first set eyes on his Frank's Cafe in Sydney. It totally blew me away, and is still burnt in my brain as if yesterday. I was delerious over the leatherwork - like nothing I could have dreamt up in my wildest imagination. It sure was a long way removed from the prevailing plastic, spit polish and patent leather of my world. I was convinced THAT 'look, feel and lifestyle ('hippy') was going to completely change the world - and I wanted to be part of it. I couldnt wait to get out of the Army and set up something similar back home in Melbourne. Paul subsequently came down to Melbourne by train, and helped me set up Stuff Leathery in a small shop in Caledonian Lane, Melbourne. We were up and away - and with the later arrival of Ron Collins, Ivor Udris (are you guys still with us?) and later again Andy White, we relocated to the big shop in Swanston St, cnr Little Lonsdale - near the RMIT and museum. It lasted almost a decade, with three shops in Greville St Prahran (pre-bastardisation days) one in Oxford St Paddington, and a wholesale business. By the time I had set up the Oxford St shop 6 years later Frank's Cafe was gone... but I would walk down to where his shop was located and reminisce on that day I first looked in his shop window and was completely transfixed.

"Frank's Cafe" - what a brilliant name for a leather shop. "What was the inspiration?" I asked Paul. "Nothing at all - the previous tenant was Frank and it was a cafe... we just didnt bother changing the name." But as was his way, it was a name more by design than mere accident. He would chuckle when telling the story of trying to register the shop name with the State Business Names Registation Office. The official refused, saying he couldn't allow him to call a leather shop a cafe. I don't think Paul thought "Frank's (or Paul's) Leather Shop" had the same cachet, and of course, he was completely right.

A visit to Frank's Cafe Paddington workshop was quite an experience - subject to the time of day. Not uncommonly there were incomphrensible, prostate, mutified leather workers and hangers on residing in various parallel universes. Communication was not always the most productive experience.

Paul finally decided to move up to Kuranda with the double decker bus/home - another brilliant idea - with the intention of becoming a crocodile hunter/shooter. That sure came out of left field - but nothing seemed beyond the reach of that man - except perhaps merchant banker. I believe he did the croc shooting for some time until it was banned. My late (now deceased) partner and myself visited the bus in 1972. There it was in the middle of an otherwise uninhabited rainforest, wide open, like Thomas the tank engine - waiting to depart for the next station - but where? It looked like it had been plonked there by a helicopter. But sadly, there was no sign of Paul and Vyda. With mobile phones not yet invented, and a rather large back yard to search, we regretfully abandoned the bus.

I never saw Paul again, but have never forgotten him. He was a creative genuius/visionary at the forefront of change. How hippies evolved out of the stultifying conservatism that prevailed at the time is difficult to comprehend, but at the time, people like Paul were not an incremental generational change, they were a totally radical departure. He was the manifestation in one artistic individual of the extreme changes society was about to undergo. He detected those winds of change long before most others, and had the courage, talent, charisma and wit to live by them.

I would love to hear of any other news/stories about Paul.


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