Hey, Xmas have been an gorn. Hope yours was a happy one, and while we are about it, a very happy and peaceful 2011 to you an yours, my ducks.
We had our Jack to dinner on Christmas Eve, went over to Amy and Dave’s for dinner on Christmas day, and had Marion, Jane, Graham and Katy over for drinks an stuff on Boxing Day. Oh the lovely yuletide mulled wine warmth of it all.
My Christmas poetry gig with the Congleton Choral Society was cancelled ‘due to bad weather’. Ironically, they forgot to let me know and I found out when I arrived smoothly and on time at the venue for the afternoon rehearsal. Wha? Bad weather? But, I’ve got here all right. How do you explain that then? They graciously gave me my fee, but missing the gig gave me a, ‘Now where have I put that drink I was half-way through?’ feeling that I couldn’t shake off for days.
On Christmas Day we had our jolly seasonal telephone call from Cyril Lawton, The mighty bearded one of the golden days of the Bridge Street Arts Centre.
Cyril and I have a chequered history – we had a fight soon after we first met. My fault really. Cyril is a sly mover and after a sophisticated ‘play dead’ ploy by him, I came a rapid second best (I’m crap at the noble art anyway) and had to have a gash over my left eye stitched up at Hartshill A&E.
That Friday night at the A&E unit was a vision of hell: lads by the score with broken limbs, slashed faces, some with axes and bottles sticking out of their heads, and all with Madam Alcohol to thank for it. My newly-humbled self included. Ah, the sad sad wreckage of that woman's followers.
The nurse reckoned I was at least the 500th person that night to have sustained their injuries ‘falling down the stairs’.
As I say, I’m useless at fighting, to which my blacked eyes, split lips and six stitches clearly bore testimony. But, strangely, those injuries gained me something of a reputation for being a hard nut. Huh? Thankfully this reputation was short-lived for I’d be completely unable to live up to it.
Since those misguided drunken fisticuffs, and in the course of hundreds of gigs, Cyril and my family became firm friends. It was great to hear from him on Christmas Day. Cyril asked me if I had seen Robbie Williams on TV recently when the ol’ Stokie songbird mentioned Bridge Street?
Robbie reckoned, in his teens, Bridge Street was a source of top and inspirational music for him. This cleared up a small mystery for me: Lynda was chatting to Robbie in the Mill Hill Tavern one night and Heymaker came up in the conversation. ‘I used to go and see you at Bridge Street,‘ Robbie told her.
‘Gerroff,’ Lynda said. ‘You’d have only been about 14!’
‘Yeah, that’s right,’ said Robert cheerfully.
There seemed to be a ring of truth about it: he knew exactly what the Heymaker line-up was and the sort of stuff we played then, but it was hard to credit that he was down Bridge Street at such a young age. I suspected a wind-up. In Robbie's parlance: you're joking me.
‘He was a good kid,’ Cyril told me. ‘I used to let him sit in a corner and watch the bands. Heymaker was number one band there and he saw you a lot.’
We didn’t become mates with Robbie until the early days of Take That. Our Amy was in their target age group and was totally captivated by them as were her mates.
In the dim and smoky past, I had worked in bands on the same bill as Robbie’s comedian dad, Pete (aka Pete Conway), in various working mens clubs and later had been hired by him to play gigs for his staff when he was at the Valiant’s Social Club.
Lynda’s memories of Pete are of when he was in the same short-hand and typing class as her, both studying for their future careers – Lynda’s as a secretary and Pete’s as a policeman. Yes, a policeman. Lynda said Pete cracked jokes the whole time and had them all falling about laughing. He never did wear the blue helmet. That is to say, he never became a policeman.
We did the pub quiz at the Tavern with Robbie one night. There were a dozen or so teams and we came second – second from last, that is. Rob knew more about 60s music than I did and I was there at the time. Then, again, that’s what they say about the 60s, ain’t it?
You have to give your quiz team a name. Robbie chose ‘The Nomads’. He’d just come back from a social trip to Glastonbury with M People and was full of inspiration for the gypsy life. He was to storm Glastonbury with his own gig not long after. And then he stormed in the wilderness for a bit, and now he’s gone full circle, singing with Take That again. Amy’s over you now Robbie. Sorry dood.
We’re off to play the Stoke Hornpipe with Greg and Kate’s team at the Glebe tonight.
Be of good cheer,