On my first day as a teacher, at Netteswell School in 1976, I wore a blue tie with a cartoon of a cricketer and the words “Cricket’s A Big Hit.” Ron was my Head of Department for the first term and, on meeting me and seeing my tie, he asked me whether I would like a game of cricket for Tye Green the following Saturday. Thus a 44 year friendship was started. Playing cricket for Tye Green and teaching at Netteswell was very chummy. Chris, Kash, Ron and I all taught and played cricket together. In 1979 Ron arranged a Summer sightseeing holiday to Switzerland and we all went together along with wives and girlfriends. Oh yes, and 40 children. We did this about ten times in all over the next few years, even organising a joint trip between two schools after Netteswell had closed.
Those holidays were sublime. On most occasions we stayed at the Hotel Schonbuhl in Wilderswil, near Interlaken. In later years, the hotel was owned by Urs Raber (who had won the 1984 world downhill skiing championship) having taken over from his father. The first night of the first trip was brilliant. Having travelled by coach for two days to arrive, all the adults went into the village for a few bottles of Rugenbrau. When we returned, slightly worse for wear, we were asked which member of staff had been on duty as the children had been running riot around the hotel. “Duty?”
The beauty of that part of Switzerland is unsurpassed anywhere in the world. Well, clearly that’s not true as I haven’t been everywhere in the world but the combination of lakes, mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, alpine meadows and Rugenbrau made the holidays just wonderful. For the first few years we travelled by coach but later we upgraded to flying and used the fantastic trains in Switzerland. I know it’s a cliché that Swiss trains run on time but I can confirm that it’s true. On one occasion we used the timetables to get a train from Kandersteg (having been to the world’s most beautiful spot: Lake Oeschinensee) to Spiez. When the train arrived, the whole of one carriage had a reserved sign on it and we all piled in. When we got out at Spiez, we got a bus to take us to the shores of Lake Thun, the bus having arrived exactly on time. At the shores of the lake we got onto the boat that would take us across the lake to Interlaken – again the boat left exactly on time. There was no hanging around wondering if the train, bus or boat would turn up or whether our reservation would have been forgotten.
When I started working at Chancellor’s School, Ron and I organised some joint trips with children from both schools and the first time we did this, 70 children signed up. On one baking hot day, we gave the students an option of what they wanted to do. Most chose ice skating with Ron and five members of staff but about six of them didn’t want to go so I took them on a boat trip. (By myself! Safeguarding? Health and Safety?). We got back to the Hotel Schonbuhl about 2:00 pm and we all went into the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool. When I got out, I sat on a lounger by the pool, finished an ice cream, opened my Thomas Hardy novel and put on my personal stereo. It was beautifully sunny, the mountains round the hotel looked majestic and then, to cap it all, one of the guys working at the hotel bought be a beer. After about 10 minutes I saw Ron struggling up the steep hill to the hotel followed by a very hot looking coterie of children and adults. I felt as happy, content, relaxed and, shamefully, smug as I ever have done. It was a glorious moment. The song playing on my headphones was “Melt Away” by Brian Wilson and I had a feeling that Ron was about to do just that.
The background to Brian Wilson’s first solo record is deeply complex. It’s told very well in “Love And Mercy”, a 2014 film. Brian Wilson had been suffering mentally and physically for about 20 years. A therapist called Eugene Landy worked with him and restored his health but at the expense of his independence. There was a dispute about the writing credits with Eugene Landy originally co-credited as a writer on five of the songs but in a reissue of the album in 2000, his name was removed from the credits.
The record is quite good and makes it abundantly clear how important Brian Wilson was to The Beach Boys sound. Although none of the other members of the group are on the record, it could easily be a Beach Boys record and is vastly superior to “Still Cruisin'”, released by the group in the following year. The song “One For The Boys” is a little bit like “Our Prayer” from “20/20” insofar as it’s sung acapella with beautiful harmonies – all by Brian Wilson. There are three other standout tracks. “Love And Mercy” (“the most spiritual song I’ve written” according to Brian), “There’s So Many” and “Melt Away”. All the classic Beach Boys trademarks are there: strong lead vocals, beautiful soaring harmonies and brilliant arrangements.
Going on a holiday with my friends spoilt me a little because I always wanted every subsequent holiday to include amazing scenery, lots of laughs and nights spent drinking beer and talking rubbish. It was only when I started taking road trips across the USA that I came anywhere near a perfect holiday again.