The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Thursday Nights – It’s Reunion Time

After the recent death of a musical hero of mine, John Martyn the singer-songwriter it left me contemplating life a little. I had explained in my tribute to John how I came to first attend one of his concerts back in the late seventies with a friend from Nottingham Trent Polytechnic as it was in those days.  His enthusiasm for John Martyn’s music convinced me that I should give this man a good hearing and I became a great admirer of him  then, and over the years.

Jeff Reynolds was that good fiend of mine amongst a host of good friends of the day, others being Rue Randall and Gary Tarlton-Weatherall who also studied at Trent Polytechnic in the same small class as myself. We were all apprentice compositors – typesetters basically, for those not familiar with the now-defunct word. We were all industry-based with full-time jobs in print shops but came along to study for a year full-time at ‘the Poly’, thereafter followed by one-week-per-month appearances at the same learning institution.

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They were wonderful, exciting times in some respects but also very difficult ones too. We four were a pretty tight-knit bunch in most respects.  It’s difficult to forget the pressure we were placed under in learning that very complex and skilled trade. In those days a failure in our exams basically meant no City & Guilds qualification and therefore no status as a craftsman. To fail would have been unthinkable and quite possibly the route into a potentially humdrum unskilled job with few prospects. It was against that backdrop that we studied together but one would never have thought so in observing us.

Even though it was a Polytechnic there was definitely a hierarchy operating within the college. I, and I think I may speak for my former college friends here, felt like we were treated as boys from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ in other areas of the college. We were certainly ordinary enough working-class (as we used to call ourselves in those days) lads but here was a certain snobbery I always felt from the students in the white coats on the ‘posher’ courses in the towering nearby Newton Building.

Of course being in our teens and this being the late seventies, rock music was very much the thing along with football and these were often the main subjects of our conversation. We all had our favourites of course and these matters seemed of grave concern in those days. We would debate incessantly about who was the best lead guitar player or songwriter of the day. (the former was Alvin Lee of Ten Years After if you’re reading this boys!) 😉

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Thursday Nights – 8pm

Our Thursday nights out became almost legendary. They began inauspiciously with just Jeff and myself turning up at the appointed place, The Bell Inn just off Nottingham’s Old Market Square. As the weeks passed however this soon changed with more and more friends and friends of friends coming along for drinks and a great night out full of laughs and fun. The route was invariably the same with a few modifications – The Bell Inn, The Old Salutation and Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalalem, three pubs ‘old enough to be out on their own’. We were young and daft and sure we did some silly things. Games of hide-and-seek in and around the famous old Trip To Jerusalem pub and wild games of street football played in the Maid Marion Way subway with a small block of wood come to mind. I know that I will never have more enjoyable nights out than those – ever.

The years passed with many a Thursday night and many an indelible memory.

And now the history book has been blown wide open…

The passing of John Martyn motivated me to begin searching for my old friends on the Internet. I’d done this before but given up without success. This time it was different however and I located Jeff through his and Rue’s common interest – their band, The Smiling Strangers who still play together. Eureka! An email or two and we were back in touch – almost thirty years since leaving Nottingham Trent Polytechnic. Further investigation and information from Jeff  and I’m now in touch with Rue and Gary. How good does this feel!

The outcome of this story (very much a story so far) is that the four of us old pals and fellow students plan a reunion – guess where? In the Bell Inn of course – at the traditional meeting time of 8pm on a Thursday evening, the 8th of October 2009 to be precise. To facilitate this Jeff will travel from his home in Stafford, Gary from a little closer to home in Beeston, Notts and Rue from further afield in Denmark where he now lives and works as a landscape gardener with his wife Wendy-Jane.

It’s such a tremendous feeling being in contact after all these years. I’m sure we’re going to have to find somewhere pretty late to accommodate us that night as we catch up on the past three decades, the ups, the downs and the adventures that have entered and passed through our lives during those years. I can barely wait!

What’s that you say? Yes of course I’ll report back here and tell you how it went!

Dedicated to Jeff Reynolds, Rue Randall and Gary Tarlton-Weatherall.

September 4, 2009 - Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. Hi Stu,

    Fantastic piece, my friend. Can`t wait until the 8th, I have a feeling that it will stretch into the 9th too!!

    See you soon, Jeff

    PS Still in to Alvin Lee, I see! It`s good to know that in a changing world, some things remain constant!

    Comment by Jeff Reynolds | September 4, 2009

  2. Hi Stu

    I remember my first conversation with you all those years ago in the Graphic Repro Dept. I said Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash was the best guitarist. Your very first words to me was ‘rubbish! It’s Alvin Lee’.

    Can’t wait for the 8th Oct.

    Cheers Rue

    Comment by Rue | September 6, 2009

  3. I remember that conversation in the darkroom in Graphic Repro very well Rue! Like I say, these things seemed of such importance in those days. 🙂 You and Jeff will be relieved to know that my fascination with Ten Years After no longer burns although it’s been interesting to see their name mentioned around recently due to Woodstock’s 40th Anniversary!

    Yes, the 8th can’t come soon enough. Gary and I swapped emails a little while back and I can’t wait to see you all again. The last ?? years were just a mere break between Thursday nights..

    Comment by Stuart | September 7, 2009

  4. Good piece Stu, hi guys, ‘tittering little school girl’ checking in.

    I particularly remember feeling out of my depth in those early days at college. When I left school my musical tastes hadn’t ventured beyond the ‘Top Twenty’. You’ll remember I was ‘stretching it’ by appreciating Elton John (before his sujourn into razmataz and Liberace impersonations that is).

    You three widened my appreciation considerably here. I also remember you, Stu, making a case for Brian May in the top guitarist debate.

    ‘Thursday Nights’ were well cemented before I made my first appearance. But once bitten I was hooked. For me it was the combination of hilarity and philosophy (strange bed-fellows) that made for the potency of the institution. As Rue said in the song he wrote about TNs: ‘We put it all right’ (on Thursday Nights).

    Like the rest of you, it seems, I can’t wait till 8/10. I fear that I’m going to burst out laughing as soon as I enter The Bell. I’ll just have to hope I’m not the first of us there.

    See you all soon, Gaz

    Comment by Gaz | September 11, 2009

  5. Hi Gary!

    You must remember that’s it’s traditionally my job to turn up last! I think the world may spin of its axis if it were otherwise! Not this time though…

    I think we were all out of our depth in one way or another. I’d perhaps had a year in employment before you guys but even so felt a bit lost when I started at the Poly. I soon didn’t want to return to work though!

    It was all such a contrast in the classes. From the hilarity of Mr. Dales ‘classes’ to the austerity of learning under our friend Mr. Ingram’s beady eye. I do remember being reported to my boss at work by the latter, for lateness and having to report there and explain myself like a naughty schoolboy. Perhaps that’s what we all were basically!

    Rue’s song is just brilliant. When I heard it I played two or three times over and felt a little choked, I don’t mind admitting. A fine testament to some happy times. I’m sure we’re all about to have another one to add to the collection…

    Yes, like you, it just can’t come soon enough for me. Till then mate.

    Stu

    Comment by Stuart | September 11, 2009

  6. I don’t know If I said it already but …Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read..Tony Brown

    Comment by Tony Brown | September 24, 2009

  7. Hi stuart, I note in one of your blogs you worked for Barns and Humby. I have been trying to
    locate Hugh Barnes for a long time as we use to be friends, but lost contact. do you have any way of contacting him.
    John

    Comment by John Ronald | October 2, 2016

  8. Hello John. I wish I could help but I haven’t seen or heard of Hugh since all those years ago when I worked for him. He would always sign himself as ‘C. Hugh Barnes’ in those days, using his first name, Charles. In those days he lived in Papplewick, Nottinghamshire as you’ll probably know.

    Wish you luck with your search. Hugh was a nice man and I enjoyed working for him.

    Comment by Stuart | October 2, 2016


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