A REPLY TO A FOUND LETTER

Dear Nige,

We last met at your Grandmothers house over two decades ago, you asked me why I was driving a Golf and not riding a Harley Davidson, a good question and in retrospect I guess I should have been riding something, a Triumph Bonneville perhaps.

I was in full time musician mode at that point, silly haircut and too pre occupied with the quest to make a decent record whilst the opportunity was there.

I have to admit I was happy to go home after crashing on the sofa at Doe’s house. There is something about the locality that I always found slightly disconcerting, the emptiness that compresses your soul, that makes you want to escape, to find some excitement and life.

In your letter you recall your scrape with the law, I am sure this would be the only time you spent in Police custody, your attitude to the Police was quite apt, they were at that point in time a brutish establishment that fuelled so much social discontent and your sentiments echo this situation.
You never had any criminal tendencies and neither did I, I know Policemen and have the upmost respect for them and their work and I am sure you now have a different opinion regards law and order.

Hunting of the type you described is as we both know is no longer acceptable and rarely practiced but the times back then were different.
I felt like a born again Buddhist , when I went on a shooting party I always missed and never killed anything fearing some kind of karmic revenge if I did, but others were happy to go out shooting, lamping or with ferrets , it was a way of life and a tradition which has now gone.

You mention ‘Yowie,’ briefly , He was like me, grew up inside a dysfunctional relationship.
Tony his father was an alcoholic and a messy one, he destroyed his family, they left and relocated in Stockton.
It was during the latter years in High School he showed signs of being a troubled kid. I liked his mother and his sister a lot , they were good people.

One day I was in a car approaching Barby Village ,Tony came past flat out on a Honda 90 chicken chaser, his grey mac billowing about him, he looked like he was being chased by the Devil.
Tony passed the village and headed towards Rugby, somehow he negotiated the steep hill and sharp right hand bend, when he got to the bridge he was probably going flat out, the bike and Tony became airborne, I guess he landed front wheel first, the shocks bottoming out and ended up in the ditch.
He lived but not for too long. Yowie showed me a newspaper with the headline ‘Crash Riddle Man,’ he thought it was funny and we both laughed.
His old man robbed him of his childhood, checked out and passed the baton of dysfunctionality on to him.

I was on my way to London with the band, we stopped at Watford Gap for gas and was pulling away, it was an abysmal day, a myopic world of grey drizzle. I noticed a line of dejected looking men standing by the side of the motorway waiting to be picked up for work detail, we passed quite close, close enough for me to recognise Yowie , he looked straight at me, I knew he recognised me but showed no sign and I made no attempt at communication either, we drove off, I saw his face disappear into the murk.
It was the first time I thought ‘I am so fucking lucky to be in a band’ and not like him. Maybe it all worked out for him but I got a feeling it didn’t , the kid never stood a chance.

You can blame me for bringing Punk Rock into your life, your parents probably marked me out as trouble for that but I couldn’t see you carry on listening to Thin Lizzy and the Grease soundtrack for the rest of your life!

Yowie and me were the first kids into Punk in our school, we scrimped and saved and made pilgrimages to Vicky’s in Rugby and Virgin in Coventry to buy 45’s. Adverts, X Ray Spex, Buzzcock’s, those were the halcyon days of Punk when it was fun.

By the early 80’s Punk had evolved into something different. A conformity of extremism, in the music and the dress code.
Punk was an anachronism as soon as Joy Division released Unknown Pleasures, at least that is what I thought , it was called progression.
So I never took up the offer of the metal studs instead I got into playing in bands and eventually became a part of a musical movement that successfully rendered contemporary Punk irrelevant ,no more angry voices , post card punks , mohican’s , peroxide or studded leather jackets.

Becoming a musician and immersed in the music industry proved to be unpredictable, a non stop anxiety generator, a zone that could tear you apart from the inside out. That perhaps changed me whilst you Aid and Doe remained the same.
I was a kid from suburbia, all the countryside meant to me was a red neck mentality, isolation and the not too distant smell of animal shit. TV, Punk ,skateboards and motorcycles providing the only life line to survival.

The locality appears smaller somehow and quieter , new developments seem to have made the area more benign and affluent, it is just not as barren as I remembered it as a kid.
It also feels connected to the outside world where as in our day it was always a semi feral environment.

Southam town is now avoidable thanks to the bypass, a road that also took out that charming blip on the map Ladbroke, it was like changing the course of a river, all the flotsam and jetsum that flowed with it and sometimes stopped off would now float on by oblivious to the existence of the near by localities allowing them to quietly sleep and be forgotten.

It is where our childhood memories reside and like any trip to a graveyard you tend not to want to dwell there too long.
I still have a fair amount of loathing for the locality and could happily condemn it as a place of uncouth ,parochial, red necks which I am sure still exist as well as that backwater atmosphere that places like Southam contain, but I would also admit that there was something different about living out in the sticks, something almost idyllic especially during a long bone dry summer, and it was a lot safer compared to Rugby which was infested with teenage malcontents and suburban misfits.

But I ain’t ever gonna forget the dark times but neither will I forget the times we spent skating around, just a tiny little group with no adversaries or other like minded kinds to socialise with, we were like shipwrecked survivors floating on a small raft in a vast empty ocean of rural tedium.
It’s why we loved motorcycles, it’s why we wanted to escape.

It was so nice to read your letter after all these years, beautiful writing, at a time when our lives were pregnant with possibilities, when we were still naïve and foolish in our ways.

This isn’t really a reply to your letter which I replied to back in the day, we kept up correspondence until I was constantly gigging with the band ,until the complexities of adulthood invaded my life and we lost touch, this is an opportunity for me to muse on the past and pay tribute to you and Aidan, and to Doe, the man who still has a complete aversion to anything that resembles civilisation and still retains a permanent feral attitude , and to Cookie, the guy who gave me my love of motorcycles, I thank you all for being good people and friends.

So any of you want to come and ride the back roads again?

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