(First published BASCA member of the month Sept 2014)
Ok, if I’m honest my first attempt at playing a musical instrument didn’t leave me covered in glory as it were. On starting at secondary school it was suggested that we take up an instrument as part of our all round development, so yours truly had a look in the music cupboard and plumped for the trumpet…. shiny thing with valves on it.
The school provided lessons during class time, which meant avoiding one period of English a week, a good thing as the teacher, a bit of a nutter, had taken an instant dislike to me. So off I’d trot with three other budding horn players and amidst the giggles at the magnificent fart noises a trumpet can produce, all seemed to be going relatively well. A few weeks in however the tutor asked me to wait behind at the end of the lesson, not an uncommon occurrence for me but on this occasion I could think of nothing I had done that would warrant it. Perhaps he was going to say “Pritchard you’re far to good for this class I’m going to move you up a group, and by the way would you mind terribly doing a solo in the end of term concert?” Alas no what he actually said was, “You’re going to have to give up the trumpet, you go a funny colour when you blow it”
In an educational career littered with requests to leave resulting from some comment or misdemeanor this stands alone as the only time I was singled out for “Going a funny colour”
Around this time my parents decided to take my sister and I on holiday to Majorca…in August. It should be said at this point that I was a proper red head, with fair skin and a million freckles and in those days sun bloc didn’t exist only sun tan oil in which to cook yourself. Thus the holiday followed a tortuous, but unfortunately familiar path.
Day 1 Burn to a cinder, some degree of sunstroke.
Day 2 Stay in the shade, cover up the entirety of my body in clothing, melt.
Day 3 Shed skin like some mutant Salamander and then repeat as per day 1
Whilst this was a process I had grown accustomed to on our annual holiday in Swanage I was not prepared for the evil twist that accompanied all early package holidays to Spain…Spanish Tummy
I therefore found myself unable to leave the hotel room, writhing around with stomach cramps on a bed of my own skin, in sweltering heat with half hourly trips to the stench ridden bathroom from hell. Spanish plumbing in those days left a lot to be desired. To add insult to injury our balcony had attached to it a loudspeaker from which blared “Guantanamera” a thousand times a day…
But every cloud has a silver lining, and my parents, in an effort to allay their guilt, bought me a guitar. It cost 850 pesetas, which at the time was about a fiver and I instantly fell in love with it.
On my return to school, a stone lighter, I enrolled myself for some Spanish guitar lessons with a strange man with very long fingernails. All was going well on the surface but underneath there had been a stirring in the force. When I came back from half term with my guitar now strung with steel strings and covered with stickers, I was once again asked to leave. But the dye had been cast and a journey started….
Not a journey like the ones apparently obligatory to X Factor contestants, this one is full of worn out ale houses and crumbling stages with one plug socket hanging insolently off the wall. Decibel meters that taunt you flicking to red just as you hit the chorus and the unique smell of weed, beer and bodily fluids that is, it seems the signature of each rehearsal room in the capital. Dodgy management figures that promise the earth drift in and out and deliver nothing leaving naught but the scent of the ever elusive deal lingering like cheap aftershave.
But there are some nights….some nights when the band is so tight and the audience so desperate to enjoy themselves that an other worldly vibrance seems to descend and a life lived mostly out of focus, becomes for a blessed couple of hours, sharp and defined.
Brothers in arms, caught in the moment, snatch a second to give you that glance. The glance that says everything, yes it’s all been worth it, no there’s no other place I’d rather be, yes of course we’ll stay together forever and if something defines me then can it be this, this… moment.