Since Tom has been on my mind since yesterday’s rugby story, I walked down to Hartfield Crescent (see 17th July). On Maycross Avenue, from the shelter of a fir tree above, some birds had produced an action painting. I wondered what would happen if I were to dig it up and put it on the art market. You never know, Mr. Saatchi may be tempted. More likely, I would face a criminal damage charge, so I thought better of it.
In Mostyn Road a tree surgeon proffered his card. I said I didn’t have a garden. As he looked rather disappointed, I said ‘Unless you want to come to Southampton where I tend my sister’s garden’. When he brightened at this, looked thoughful, and informed me he used to live in Portsmouth, I realised my quip had backfired. I told him she already had a tree surgeon and we went our separate ways.
I was unable to pass the secondhand bookshop next to the Mica cafe around the corner from my goal. Inside, on the top of a pile of books, I found a 1946 edition of Walter de la Mare’s Peacock Pie, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. This could not be resisted. Into the shop came a young woman with two small boys. She wondered if they would like a donation of three black bin bags of books. Of course they would. One of her sons gleefully spotted a Harry Potter book. I told him he was like my son who hardly ever left the municipal dump with less than he brought there. I didn’t mention that Elizabeth was the same.
Firm friends at St. Mary’s, Russell Road primary school, Tom and I went up to Wimbledon College together and gradually drifted apart because our interests were so different. We spent many happy hours in each other’s homes, often swapping gruesome American horror comics. We made forbidden trips such as the one described on 10th. July. We swam in the public swimming baths mentioned in passing on 3rd. July. In many ways we were inseparable.
On my birthday last year a small party gathered for a meal at the home of Andy and Keith at Saint Aubin de Cadaleche, not far from Sigoules. I think they knew I could not manage 69 on my own. We had a spontaneous U tube game. Each, in turn would choose a song or piece of music. Keith would then bring it up on U tube and we would all listen or sing along. One of my selections was a Manfred Mann number. Up it came, and there he was, Tom in all his ’60s black and white glory, complete with Hank Marvin specs. This reminded me of my discovery that my old friend, so soon after leaving school, had become a pop star. Turning on the television one day in 1964, that very same number was playing. Tom McGuinness was a member of the group. His own website and that of The Blues Band can tell you far more about him than I can. I will confine myself to my own memories.
It was thirty year before we were, thanks to Jessica, to meet again. He was now playing in The Blues Band. This was a group got together by Paul Jones for a one-off blues gig. At least thirty years on, they are still going strong. On stage Paul and Tom look as youthful as they ever did. This group made an annual trip to the Newark Palace Theatre. Jessica got in touch with their agent, told him I lived in Newark, and Tom came up early and spent the day with us, providing tickets for the show. As Paul thought Tom rather skittish during the performance, he told the audience that they would have to excuse him because he had just met up with an old friend after many years. On another occasion, reminiscing on stage about his time at Wimbledon College, looking straight up at me in Malcolm Anderton’s box, Tom said: ‘Where else can you get an A level in guilt?’.
A talented guitarist, lyricist, and composer, Tom is also the author of a book, still regarded as essential reading for would-be popular musicians, entitled: ‘So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star’, a copy of which he gave me.
This evening Jackie and I dined with Becky and Ian at the Wimbledon Tandoori in Ridgway, Wimbledon Village. Although we had frequented this restaurant during the year we lived in Ridgway, before moving to Links Avenue in April last year, we had not been there since. This was why we were most impressed that they remembered us, where we lived, what I ate, and what we drank. None of the staff here today would, of course, have remembered our last period of visiting there. They were not even born when Jackie and I were first married, and she would save ten shillings (50p) from the housekeeping to take us out for a curry. If she had done really well we could have a bottle of wine for nine shillings. This vast sum took some time to amass, so our visits were special events. I really can’t remember enough to rate their meals in the old days, but they are top notch now.