Saturday, 20 August 2016

You sap.

   ​It was raining. Not heavily, just that light rain that can fall on an English summer, that makes everything glisten and the air smell of cut grass. I was looking out of my bedroom window at the little cul-de-sac that we lived in. It was a weekday, early summer, 1977 and I had a lieu-day off work. It was 10am, and a day off stretched out before me. And it was raining. Which was perfect. It matched my mood, bringing it's grey clouds into my world and, potentially, turning them black. And it was own fault, which just added to the heap of misery. Of all the things I could be doing on my day off, I had agreed to drive two people to Hampton Court for a day out, and then pick them up later. 'What a nice thing to do,' you might be thinking. Wrong. The two people were a bloke I had never met and his new girlfriend, the same girlfriend who had dumped me just ten days earlier. After two and a half years together. 


"What the fuck are you doing, agreeing to drive her about?" My brother knew exactly how to get right to the point but, as we co-owned the car, I had to tell him why I needed it on Thursday.

"Oh, I don't know. She asked me," was my weak, stupid reply.

"You sap." Kev knew how to end a conversation. At least he was grinning. I'm just not sure if it was in sympathy or enjoyment at my tortured plight.


So, here I was, gazing out of my bedroom windowat the rain, and wishing I was dead.


A few minutes before 10.30am I could see Herfamiliar shape turning the corner from Epsom Road, and starting up the hill. She was under an umbrella, held aloft by a tall bloke, flared jeans, black leather bomber jacket. I couldn't see either of their faces, but I could hear Her laughter. They turned into the driveway and I bolted down the stairs, desperate to reach the front door before my mother, desperate to avoid the raised eyebrow and the disappointed voice.

The doorbell rang.

"Got it," I shouted, counting to three before opening the door. She was facing me, glowing, radiant, smiling. He had his back to me, shaking the rain drops off the umbrella. He had blonde hair, same as hers. I didn't. I stood back and She stepped into the hallway, just as she had done a hundred times before. He turned, propping the umbrella in the porch, and stepped inside. Into my house. He glanced at me.

"Alright, mate?" he said. 




I closed the door. Mum came out of the kitchen, spotted Her and looked at me, eyebrow raised, atop a face of thunder. Only a mother could convey so much in that one look, so much unsaid but I understood every word. I nodded at her, smiled my weak, stupid smile, and she turned and went back into the kitchen, banging saucepans into the cupboard with a noise like Keith Moon demolishing a particularly troublesome drum kit.


"How are you?" She asked.

"How the fuck do you think I am? I'm the most miserable I have ever been in my short, sad life, since you ask." Except, none of that came out of my mouth. I just shrugged. She turned to Blondie.

"This is ....." Do you know what? I really cannot remember his name, I really can't. I've tried, but it just won't come. Which is surprising seeing as, for about six months, he was almost all I thought about.


I looked at him. He was younger than me, but then so was She. He smiled at me, nodded, and said,

"Thanks for doing this." I shrugged again. 

She started talking about what they had planned for the day but I was looking at the album that Blondie had under his left arm. The cover was mostly white but, as he moved his arm and turned to look at Her, I could see two black and white figures on the front.The white cover had a slight shine to it. He caught me looking.

"You got this?" He held it out. The two figures were clearer now. One was a black guy, wearing a fantastic black hat, leather trousers and playing a saxophone. Behind him, leaning on his shoulder, was a white guy with scruffy, curly hair and a torn vest, beneath a black leather jacket. He was smiling at the black guy, and was wearing a guitar, his left hand around the neck. A Tele. At least that was my uneducated guess, back in the early summer of 1977, when I could identify about 8 guitars, when I was 20 years old, living in middle class Guildford, just six months short of meeting the 30 year old woman with two kids who I would be married to for 15 years, a marriage ended only when I tried to kill myself over her infidelity.


I shook my head. I knew what it was. I had heard the title track on the radio, all through the previous year's hot summerI had read all of the hype in the NME and Melody Maker, especially about the Hammersmith gig, eighteen months earlierThe song sounded like a freight train, a cacophony of noise, a huge row. But it also sounded like I was listening through mud. It sounded terrible on a cheap car radio. I couldn't make out the words, I couldn't make out what all the fuss was about. So it had passed me by.


"Wanna play it?" He asked.

"It's our favourite album." I was suddenly aware that She had stopped talking about Hampton Bloody Court and had referred to the album in front of me as 'our favourite.'  My head screamed 'What? In ten days, you've got a favourite album together? Or perhaps, as all my friends keep telling me, it's been a tad longer than ten days, eh?'

"No time. We need to get going." I picked up my jacket.

In this whole sorry, dreadful, turgid encounter, they were the first words I had spoken.


I remember nothing about the day, other than feeling utterly miserable. She sat in the front seat, Blondie in the back. He had the album propped up on the back seat next to him. I could see it every time I looked in the rear view mirror. She chatted and laughed with him, the peels of her gorgeous laughter pouring over me like the most refreshing waterfall. I wanted to die.


I had to wait the six months until She dumped Him for a new model before I could buy the album. Once I had come to my senses, it just didn't seem right to have Their favourite album in the house. Over the next year, the album became my favourite and started me on a voyage of discovery, of live gigs, of books and magazines, of heroes and heroines, of parking lots and screen doors, of love and honour. It is my Desert Island Disc album, the one I would save from the raging sea. As I write this, I am sitting beneath a huge lithograph of the album cover, that I paid a small fortune to have shipped over from the States.


So I suppose I have something to thank Him for.



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