Saturday, 12 October 2013

On Cloud Nine

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos This painting is on the wall in our house. My wife bought it for me for our 10th wedding anniversary. It shows the 3rd and 4th men to walk on the Moon, Pete Conrad on the left, and Alan Bean on the right. It depicts a moment of reflection. The artist wrote, "As I touched Pete's shoulder I thought, can all the people we know, all the people we love, who we've seen on TV or read about in newspapers, all be up there on that tiny blue and white marble? Earth is small but so lovely. It is easily the most beautiful object we could see from the Moon. It was a wondrous moment." So, as you've guessed, the picture was painted by Alan Bean. I recently found out that Alan was coming to the UK for a short lecture tour and that there was to be a dinner in his honour. So, yesterday, I set off for a hotel in Yorkshire, to go and have dinner with a man who walked on the Moon. In the back of the car, carefully packed up, was my painting. Before dinner there was a chance to have your picture taken with Alan. I queued up and, when it was my turn, walked forward, holding up the painting. His 81 year old eyes sparkled and he grinned. "Oh, I love that you brought that. Let me look at it. It's one of my best. I love those spots of sunlight, and it makes me think of my closest friend, Pete." All this in his lovely, Texas drawl. We held the picture between us and smiled for the camera. He shook my hand. "Thank you so much for bringing it." I put the painting back in my room and went down for dinner. Alan talked for 10 minutes before the meal. He was bright and gracious and modest. After dinner we queued again, to get our pictures signed, all 150 of us. When I put mine down in front him he looked up and smiled again. "Hey, that came out great!" he said. I told him I would frame and hang it beside the painting. He nodded and signed the photo. "I so enjoy painting," he said. I told him he was as much a painter as an astronaut. "Thank you, son." We shook hands again. I thought a lot about my Dad, last night. He'd have been 87 by now. He worked on the Blue Streak rocket in 1964. I remember him going to Woomera, Australia for 6 weeks to see the launch. I wished I'd asked him more about it when he was alive. 32 years too late, now. I had a wonderful time, last night. I met some lovely people, including a man who stood on another world. But most of all, I made an old artist very happy to see one of his paintings, and greet it, and it's subject, like an old friend. Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos Now I know why this track has been part of my DNA for the last few weeks. Gentle Moon by Sun Kil Moon.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

I Know What Makes Me Happy

I know what makes me happy. The whistle of the Red Kites in the tree behind my house. Fenway Park, Boston, on a warm, June evening as the Red Sox snatch victory from the yawning jaws of defeat. A glass of Amarone. The Hand & Flowers Pub in Marlow. A tiny hotel in Kerry, Ireland, with it's lake and Magic Mountain. A pint of Tribute Ale in the Custom House, Padstow. All of these things, and a handful more, make me very happy. The thing that makes me happiest though, is music. Live music. Especially when I can share it with the person who makes me happiest, my wife. The other night, at the beautiful Union Chapel in London, we saw one of our very favourite bands, Dawes, from Los Angeles. Part-way through the gig there was a power-cut. After a few moments of confusion the band went off and came back with an acoustic guitar. Taylor, his brother Griffin and keyboard player, Tay Strathairn sat on the edge of the stage and sang, the delicate sound reaching up into the church roof for amplification. So, I count myself very lucky that I know what makes me happy. Not everyone does. They waste their short lives looking for something just out of reach, something that will make them happier than they think they are. When actually, quite often, it is right there, in front of them. They just can't see it. They just don't hear it.
Three nervous Americans sitting on the stage of a London Chapel and singing because it makes them happy made me and my wife very, very happy indeed.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

No Way To Be.

I have a Black Dog. It's not a canine. It's a bastard. The last few weeks have been tough. Some of it documented on here, some of it not. I've been good for a few years, now. Some great help, a loving wife and lots of resolute determination have helped me through. But the Dog came back whilst we were helping my friend. I'm not blaming my friend but.... Then, almost imperceptibly, this weekend felt like a turning point in the current overcast conditions. We had just the best day, yesterday. Separately, during the day, then together, last night. Some wonderful food, the best bottle of wine I've ever drunk and some epic Calvados to finish off. During the day I went to a great little exhibition by Morgan Howell, in London. He paints 3D recreations of classic 7” singles. I loved it. It lifted my spirits. I told Morgan on Twitter that it was thrilling, and it really was. After that it was off to The Intercontinental Hotel on Park Lane to meet up with Jan. she was at a Cookery Masterclass with Theo Randall at his gorgeous restaurant in the hotel. It overran so I nursed a £9 glass of wine for an hour and a half. She had a wonderful time and I couldn't have been more pleased. Then it was a cab back to our hotel, shower and change for dinner and a cab back for dinner in Theo's restaurant. It was fantastic, as usual. The bottle of wine, recommended by Jan as one of the ones they had tasted during the day, was sensational. After the main course, Theo came out of the kitchen and headed straight for Jan. He stayed chatting for 10 minutes and it completely made her day. This morning I saw her off on the train to Newport for a couple of days at one of our fave hotels with her oldest friend. I drove home, tired but happy. A lazy afternoon with the Test Match on the tv, the Sunday papers over the floor and copious mugs of tea made for a peaceful, restful day. So? What does it all mean? I have no idea. I've had this Black Dog, sniffing round my ankles, all my life. I'm terrified of dogs and I'm sure there is some deep-rooted significance in that link. So all I can say is that, tonight, I feel a million dollars. I feel on top of the world. Tomorrow? It's another day. There's a fantastic song by The Blue Nile called Everybody Else. It's singer and writer, Paul Buchanan has famously had his own Black Dog. The opening lines are " I woke up good this morning. And nothin' in my way." Sometimes, that's what it feels like. If you 'wake up good' it's fantastic. This song by Teddy Thompson has been my companion during the latest episode. I adore it. It was born out of a divorce but it speaks to my Black Dog and makes him a bit less terrifying.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

A journey, in more ways than one.

What a day! I've taken my mate's stuff over to his new digs, in Guildford. You'll remember that he's not been too good, lately (understatement of the century). Anyway, Mrs. B was in London for the day so I borrowed her car and loaded his worldly possessions in the back. We've had them for a couple of months. They've been on our spare bed. I suppose it says a lot when you're 56 years old and your worldly possessions fit on a bed. Someone else's bed, at that. That says just as much. He's lodging with a lady in Merrow, a few miles east of Guildford. It's where I grew up, where he and I met and where he has been the happiest in his life. To him, going back has been like finding a harbour in a storm. A sanctuary. My journey to Guildford from Twyford, Berks, should take an hour. No. 2 1/4 hours, thanks. I had cut across country, to avoid the motorways. So, Ascot, Sunningdale Chobham, past Fairoaks Airport, into Addlestone, Byfleet and then pick up the A3 to Guildford. As I crossed over the M25 at Addlestone it was static and I had a smug smile to myself. 5 minutes later I was stationery and didn't get out of first or second gear for nearly an hour. Finally, crossed over the A3 before getting on it....and it was static. Back round the roundabout, through West Byfleet, Old Woking and Send before picking the A3 back up. Having arranged to be there for 11.30am it was actually 12.45pm when I pulled up. We hugged, unloaded his stuff, had a quick chat, and I had to go. He says he's happier than he was, is looking for work and is settled. I'm pleased. I got back in the car, headed off (a different route, I might add,) and stopped near where I used to live. And sobbed. I need a break from everything that has gone on for the last 3 months. I thought I'd lost him. I realise that I'm exhausted from helping him, from holding it all together when I'm actually falling apart as much as he is. As I drove home, something struck me. Addlestone, West Byfleet, Merrow and Twyford. That's 4 out of the 5 places I've ever lived. Throw in Twickenham, where I was born, and lived until I was 6, and you'd have a full set. I realsied that I'd been yards from almost every front door I've ever lived behind. I don't know why but the realisation cheered me up. I'm pleased my friend is better, however fleeting it may be. But I need a break. I need some time not thinking about Social Services, Council Offices, Mental Health Centres, the Samaritans and the police. I need some time for me. If that sounds selfish, I won't apologise. I know what I need. This wonderful, gorgeous song came on the ipod on the way home. It's Paul Brady's Hawana Way, the story of a trip to Cuba with his friend, Bonnie Raitt. It makes me smile. I turned it way up to 11 and sang my head off.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Playing in the shadows.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos The guitarist in the picture, with Bonnie Raitt, is George Marinelli. He has been Bonnie's gunslinger for 20 years. A veteran session player and producer, he is one of my favourite guitar players. Spare, uncomplicated, unflashy and bluesy down to his toes, he's also great to watch. He wanders around his side of the stage, in the shadows, always thinking about making the song better, always looking for a note, a chord that will enhance the song and punctuate what Bonnie is singing. This makes him one of a special breed which the music biz calls 'sideman.' The hugely talented instrumentalist who is happy to let the star take the limelight, as long as he can make the musical experience richer for both of them. George has his own band, records and life in Nashville but he knows that life in Bonnie's band is going to mean bigger audiences, bigger fun and, let's face it, bigger pay-checks. The other night, at The Albert Hall, George was fantastic. The whole band are wonderfully seasoned pros, supporting the best female blues singer in the business. But it's George that calls the shots, the nods of appreciation, the grins of encouragement. Sometimes, not being the centre of attention makes for a better life. The spotlight doesn't suit everyone. Some of us like the shadows, thinking about the right note, the gorgeous chord that will enhance everyone's experience. Some of us like being a sideman.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Home from home.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos When Twitter alerted us to an explosion at the Boston Marathon we turned on CNN and sat in silence as bars and restaurants we love kept coming into shot. My wife and I were due to fly into our favourite City, staying at a hotel not 500 yards from the Finish line, in just 40 days. After half an hour of speculation and rumour, bombs were confirmed by the police. We looked at each other and said, together, "We're going." Boston has been our favourite place since we first went 14 years ago. My love of baseball, more specifically, the Boston Red Sox, had been absorbed by my wife when we met and so a trip with our baseball loving best friends was arranged. We fell in love. The city, the parks, the T (their underground rail system), The Sox, the bars, it was all of that. Most of all, though, it was the people. Polite, happy, funny, pleased to see us, they were kindness to a fault, every single one. So we have kept going back, every few years, for a few ball-games, great seafood and lovely hotels. And the people. A few days ago, we got back from our latest trip. We didn't do anything we hadn't done before but we met more wonderful people. At the makeshift memorial to those killed and injured on April 15th we tied a flag we had brought over from home. It's a 6ft flag of the Stars & Stripes and the Union Jack stitched together. We tied it among the running shoes and photos and Red Sox shirts and Bruins caps that cover the barriers that had blocked off Boylston Street in the days after the atrocity. In conversation with a bar man, next day, we told him the story. With tears in his eyes, he thanked us. I feel at home in Boston. I could live in Boston. More importantly, I could live with Boston people.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall....

When you get to your mid-fifties you start to think about all sorts of things that, over the years, you may have taken for granted. Good health. The ability to get out of bed, pain-free. The meaning of life. The joy of a good pint. And friends. I have 2 good friends. One is married, one is not. There is a third couple who would be there if I was in trouble but, in terms of history, scrapes, holidays, gigs and laughs, it is 2 close, male friends. Friend B I've known for 22 years. Friend A, for nearly 40. Incredibly, they have only met once, at my second wedding, 13 years ago. Friend B is 9 years older than me. Friend A, the same age as me. In the last 10 days the wheels fell off one of them. I won't go into any detail. It's private. My wife and I have hardly slept, had phone calls, long chats, lots and lots of tears, both with him, and on our own. We simply cannot imagine life without him. So this blog is a warning to all. Take a look at your closest friends, the ones you have laughed with, cried with, poured beer over, avoided the police with, played in bands with, bunked into gigs with, sat outside pubs all day with.....held so close you can feel their heart beat and hear their sobs and tell them you love them. Fuck embarrassment. Fuck British reserve. Tell them you love them. Do it now.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

I love that dirty water.......

The Standells were a band from L.A in the early 60's, who'd had no success, when they were signed to a new contract by Capitol Records. They were put to work with Producer Ed Cobb. Cobb had recently been to Boston and been mugged on the Charles River Bridge. He wrote a song celebrating the famously polluted river and the City of Boston and presented it to The Standells. None of the group had ever been to Boston but they liked the song. The recording was exactly what Cobb wanted from the band. The Stonesish riff, the spoken intro and the lean, sinuous sound were more of the 'garage' tone he wanted, rather than the poppier sound they had been known for. Dirty Water reached no.11 in the Top 100 and was a huge radio hit. The Standells never troubled the charts again. The story might have ended there if it hadn't been for the sports-mad City of Boston. The Patriots football team started playing it over the p.a in the 80's, the Bruins ice-hockey team followd suit but it was when the Red Sox baseball team started using it after every home victory that Boston fans took the song as their own. With 81 home games in every season, there was plenty of chance for Red Sox Nation to sing the line that ends the chorus, "Boston, you're my home."
This week, after the terrible events at Monday's marathon, the City was waiting for the Sox to come home from a very successful road trip. They were due back at Fenway Park on Friday night but the curfew and lockdown of the entire City meant that the return was delayed until Saturday when, with the suspects caught or killed, Boston could relax a bit. Fenway Park became the focal point for an outpouring of emotion and remembrance that the Americans do so well. The hard fought Red Sox victory was met with a roar from 40,000 fans that said more about the City and the week's tragic events than any words could. Then, almost unnoticed, that guitar riff rang out over the p.a and fans hugged and sang and cried. When the little song got to the last line of that first chorus, 40,000 tired, emotional, happy voices yelled out "Boston, you're my home." And, for the first time in 5 days, It really did feel like home. Bostonians are a famously gritty, hard-working, hard-playing bunch. On several trips from the U.K we've spent many happy hours at Fenway and in the bars and restaurants along Boylston Street. We love the place, the people and the Red Sox. 5 weeks from today, we'll be back at Fenway. Can't wait. In a way, Boston feels like our home, too.

Monday, 1 April 2013

You know they say...

you should never meet your heroes? I have loved Steve Lukather for 35 years, since his band, Toto, burst onto the American charts with Hold The Line. My wife & I have seen the band umpteen times and followed the careers and lives of the various members, through tragedy, crippling illness and some wonderful music. Luke was the session player of choice for every producer going in the 80's. I guarantee you have an album that he is on. Thriller? It's all Toto. So 'Luke' is out on the road in Europe, where he and Toto are still a big draw, promoting his 6th solo album, Transition. There are only 2 UK dates so I splashed out on the VIP package for the 2nd one, at The Robin 2, Bilston. The package was for a meet & greet and the sound check. We arrived at the venue in plenty of time and were shown through to the stage area, given a laminate each, a t-shirt and poster. Within a few minutes, Luke arrived. He looks fit & healthy, after years of burning the candle at both ends, snorting it up his nose and writing the book on rock excess. We're almost the same age but he looks a WHOLE lot better than I do. He is instantly jokey and funny, putting all of our nerves at ease. There are 25 of these VIP tickets at each show so it is intimate enough. When it is our turn to have stuff signed he is lovely, engaged and interested. He carefully signs Jan's t-shirt that she's wearing, making sure I'm watching, then signs my rare Toto 25 shirt from their 25th anniversary tour. He comments that you don't see many of them. I get him to sign my poster to my brother, Phil. He lives in Perth, Oz and is a stunning guitarist himself. Luke is his hero and inspiration. We tell Luke that Phil missed the recent show in Perth by Ringo's All Starr Band, which Luke was in, because he was in South Africa on business. "Oh, bummer, man. Tell him I said 'hi.'" was the reply. We get our picture taken and he moves on to the next person. Everyone gets a hug, a firm handshake and questions about how far they've come. He is constantly thanking people for coming. Finally he gathers us round and answers questions for what seems like ages. Then it is sound check time. His band consists of Steve Weingart on keyboards, Mrs Weingart, Renee Jones on bass, and Eric Valentine on drums. They are tight, well drilled but relaxed. They are all unbelieveable musicians. Luke laughs and jokes his way through the whole thing, taking off other guitarists, Sammy Davis Jnr and generally acting the clown. After an hour and a half, he says farewell and thanks us all, again. The gig is stunning and he is genuinely stunned by the wall of noise that greets the end of the first song. The band are so good and he is really enjoying himself. Remember, this is the guy that Jeff Beck calls the Best On The Planet. After 2 hours, he's gone and we're hot, sweaty and happy. It has been a fantastic experience and we're both floating as we leave. So, they say you should never meet your heroes. Well, sometimes, 'they' have no idea what they're talking about. Apart from the photo with him, the other photos are by Jan, from our vantage point right at the front. Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos Sound check Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Friday, 29 March 2013

So many memories.....

I grew up in Guildford. We moved out of Twickenham when I was 6 years old and I left home at 22, so all of my early memories are in the comfortable, middle class, Surrey town. The Civic Hall was, by the time I was 14, the Holy Grail. It was where I saw my first live band (Peace, with Paul Rodgers, supporting Mott The Hoople, 1970.) It was where I spent so many happy, sad, fantastic, memorable and funny nights. We went to anything and everything. I saw big acts, bands I'd never heard of, bands I didn't like, bands I have now loved for over 40 years and bands, so many bands, I don't remember. Last weekend, I went to my first gig at the new venue, built on the site of The Civic. It was lovely. Great sound, intimate, much more leg-room, loads of bar staff, friendly, wonderful. I have absolutely no problem with G Live (except the name). But it ain't The Civic. The windows above the entrance, on the right of the picture below were in the upstairs bar. Famously, a couple of us created a diversion one night while a mate was let in through those windows. How he'd climbed up, I have no clue. I can't ask him as he was killed in a mugging in South Africa, a few years ago. He was the bass player in our band in the early 70's and, somehow, I stole his girlfriend. See? It was that kind of world, and The Civic was the centre of it. I threw up in The Civic. I kissed in The Civic. I cried laughing in The Civic and I fell head over heels, arse over tit in love with the best music I've ever heard in The Civic. I will probably never do any of these things in G Live. That's okay. I will probably never be 17 again. So, I raised a glass to The Guildford Civic Hall. I love you, like an old, old friend. Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Keep your friends close...*

40 years ago I taught myself to play drums and joined my brother's band. For 4 or 5 years we rehearsed, played some local gigs, changed a few members and had the time of our lives. Over the years we've spread to the 4 corners but have kept in touch, with a couple of reunions for a long, drunken meal and much laughter. My brother is still an incredibly talented guitarist and lives in Perth, Oz. Chris, the second guitarist, lives in California, collects guitars and has sons who are both semi-pro players. His brother, bassist Steve, was killed in a mugging in South Africa and my keyboard-playing other brother, Marty, is a professional composer and songwriter. He has had multiple number one records here and in Europe, as well as a top ten single in the U.S. Last week, Chris got in touch, saying that he and his wife would be in the U.K for a 3 day flying visit and could I organise a beer. So, at almost no notice last night, a hotel in Sussex played host to dinner for 8 of us, including wives. 7 of us had met up over the years but the 8th, the wife of our good friend Mark Bader, a fantastic pro-photographer, was a bit overwhelmed by the speed and volume of the stories and tales from the 70's. My wife marvels at how it appears that conversations from 40 years ago just get picked up where they left off. I have no voice left from laughing. I got to bed around 2 this morning. Phil couldn't make it from Perth and he was gutted that he was missing out. Likewise, guitarist Des was double-booked but was there in spirit. Greetings and goodbyes were bound together by huge hugs and genuine claims of how much we miss each other. The point of the story is that I am as guilty as most of not paying enough attention to good friendships. Hold your friends close to you. You might be surprised at how much they value your friendship. *Bollocks to the second half of the quote. Here is the evidence. It was 1.30am. Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Signpost Days.

There are days in your life that you mark as important events. Some are weddings, some are funerals. Some are first dates, some are divorces. And some come out of left field and whack you around the head. Such was a day in the Summer of 2002. We were having a weekend in London and had had a long, convivial lunch before getting into separate taxis. Mrs B, to shop, me, to mooch round HMV Oxford Street. Having done the Ground Floor I made my way down the escalator to the World, Folk & Country section. As my slightly wine-addled brain registered the music playing, I began to stalk the racks. My methodical search was constantly distracted by the music drifting trough the speakers. I couldn't place the voice, or the music, which means....I'm fucked. Finally, I give in. I do the unthinkable and approach the counter to admit my stupidity, my lack of study, my ignorance. "What's this?" The black-shirted beardy-bloke hands me a black CD cover, the none more black cover peppered with stars. The title is "Under Cold Blue Stars." The artist is Josh Rouse. I spin the memory-wheels in the music section of my brain (by far the biggest of the brain sections as you can prob...sod it, it's the ONLY section that works properly,)but, no, I've never heard of him. All 3 of the tracks I've heard so far have been wonderful. So wonderful that I hand over the £12 asking price without question. So begins a decade of discovery. I now own everything Josh Rouse has ever recorded, the 10 albums, 5 mini-albums and various downloads. I've never seen him live but, for now, that doesn't matter. The point of this, the whole point is that Josh Rouse's songs have given me so much joy and pleasure. I adore his sense of a good melody, his musicality, his various bands of musicians and his slightly mournful voice. But, most of all, I adore the fact that I didn't get in the cab with my wife but went off for 'a mooch' and discovered the musical love of the last 10 years of my life, completely by accident. He's not well known, he's not on mainstream radio so there is a good chance I might never had heard him. My life would be all the poorer. This is "My Love Has Gone."

Sunday, 24 February 2013

When good things happen to nice people.

Our best friends live half an hour from us. We see each other a lot, holiday together and we make each other laugh. A lot. Tony & I have been mates for 23 years and, when my wife came into my life, 17 years ago, they embraced her completely (whilst being initially careful that I wasn't going to get hurt.) You see, something happened to me in '94 that nearly derailed my whole life. These 2 people almost adopted me, taking me under their wing and cooking me Sunday meals in their warm old house. Over the last couple of years they have retired from their Care business and decided to transform their house. It has taken almost a year, through the wettest Summer, and the builder has done a great job. We've not seen the progress because they didn't want people round while it was such a mess. Yesterday, we went for lunch. Lunch turned into the rugby, 2 films and a bed for the night. Their 2 grandchildren helped cook breakfast and pancakes and we left around midday. The house? Stunning. Wooden floors, minimal, clean lines, just gorgeous. I have always said that, after what happened to me, I 'got better' in that house. A tiny part of me was dreading seeing it changed. I should have had more faith in our two wonderful friends. Their hard work and dedication over many years has allowed them to reward themselves with a house and garden that will give them true happiness for the rest of their days.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Thank feck that's over.

So, the calendar finally says February. Is it just me or was that January longer than normal? What with the snow and the unrelenting cold, my normal January blues were much worse than usual. So it was lovely to end the month with a few days away for Janet's birthday. I won't go into too much detail about the trip. We are very lucky that JB works in the travel business and has friends in nice hotels, so our traditional birthday jaunt is an excuse to live like people that have more money than sense, when we don't have much of either! All I'll say is that, at 5pm on her birthday, we sat on a bench, effectively on the roof of our hotel. Bundled up in coats and scarves, the last of the day's sunshine was fast disappearing behind a mountain. Medical history means we can't be in the sun for long so the feel of a warm, Mediterranean sun on our faces, on January 28th, is a rare victory. We hugged, knowing that this fleeting pleasure brings both of us so much joy.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Two lives, fully lived.

Elizabeth Ellen Spencer was born in the 1930's in Ealing, West London, and was evacuated to North Devon, during the War. She had an older sister who worked at Bletchley Park, on the Enigma codebreaking machines, although Elizabeth never told anyone. After she left school she became a Children's Nurse and met a man from Northern Ireland, newly out of the Navy. They and their friends would meet up, on International Saturdays, at The Rugby Tavern before walking on to Twickenham to watch England play. She and the Irishman were married at the same time as Hillary & Tensing were scaling the summit of Everest, in 1953. Their first child, a boy, was born in '54, then more boys in '56, then '58, then 1960. Finally a girl came along in 1963, then the 5th boy, in '67. Betty, for that was how she was known, dedicated herself to bringing up her large family. The Irishman had moved her and the family out to Surrey where life was untroubled until the IRA blew up 2 pubs in the town where the family lived. For a while, being from Northern Ireland, and having a very Irish name, made life difficult in the schools in the town. A few years later, the Irishman became ill and then died, aged 55, in 1981. The 4 older children were grown and had left home but Betty brought the two younger ones up until they were ready to leave, too. She sold the family home and moved to a 'chocolate box' cottage with a beautiful garden. She did voluntary work, delivered Meals On Wheels, worked on Hospital Radio and then got her own show on local radio. She travelled extensively, spending 6 months with son number 3 at his home in Sydney, Australia, driving across Canada, New Zealand, hot-air ballooning in the Australian mountains and, in her late 60's, belly-boarding down a sand dune near Perth, Australia, to show a van-load of student backpackers how it was done. She died 6 years ago, today, in her bed in her chocolate - box cottage. Betty Spencer was my Mum. She told me about this song, knowing that I'd love it. She said it reminded her of The Irishman.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

22 years ago today,

I had one of the best days of my life. Today is F.A Cup 3rd round day. To the prawn sandwich brigade in the Prem, it's a day for stomping on the little people. For the rest of us, it's the best football day of the year. So, 22 years ago? I worked the Saturday morning, locked the warehouse up at 12.30, got my mate and the boy in the car and started off. Kick-off was 135 minutes away. We were in Woking. It was in West Bromwich. It was pelting it down. Got to the ground 10 minutes late, Got up into the main stand, asked a steward where our seats were and, while he checked the tickets, asked the bloke sitting on the back row what the score was. "You're losing one nil, bruv." said, Kevin, my brother. I had no idea he was going. If you're any kind of football fan, you'll know what happened next. Tiny Woking, from the Isthmian League, hammered West Brom, 4-2. It was no accident. We battered them. Their fans applauded our players off the park, then applauded us as we left. I had driven miles following this team. In the next few years, as success after non-league success came, I regularly drove the length of the country to watch them. I don't anymore. I realised that that passion was filling a gap that was missing from somewhere else in my life. When the gap was filled by something (someone, actually) else, the need to 'be there' went away. They are still the result I look for on a Saturday, still the name that will stir a thousand memories. I gave them my undying love, about 9 sets of tyres, thousands in fuel and tickets and hours and hours of precious time. They gave me one of the best days of my life. I got a bargain, I'd say. The video is the wonderful Saw Doctors with To Win Just Once.