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 friend of mine among 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.
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!) 😉
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.