Having played cricket for Tye Green for over twenty five years, I was very pleased when a fellow Head of Department called Burton asked me some time in the 2000s whether I would like to play cricket for his team, Hassocks Third XI. I had a very enjoyable season, not scoring many runs and never bowling but it was a nice way to finish my playing “career”. I enjoyed playing with Burton and I found that we had a lot in common. We both loved sport and we went to some cricket matches at Hove together. He was a regular golfer and encouraged me to start playing. I was hopeless most of the time but once, just once, when Burton was having an off day, I managed to beat him. We played on the public courses at Waterhall, near The Devils Dyke and at the stunningly beautiful setting of Seaford golf course. We both loved Harvey’s beer and he introduced me to the delightful pub that is The Lord Nelson, near Brighton station. We were both Heads of Department so we shared a passionate hatred of Senior Management. We loved music and we went to a few gigs together. He loved Richard Thompson. We both liked walking our dogs and we often roamed around Stanmer Park together. Through a family connection, I found out that there was a vacancy at BHASVIC and it was because of a conversation with Burton one Sunday night that I applied (and subsequently got) the job there. After I left Oakmeeds we kept in touch and we met at The Lord Nelson every Sunday night for many years. I really enjoyed his company and he was a good friend to me who helped me out in many ways.
After I first met him, Burton moved from Hassocks and re married. He lived in rented accommodation and moved every few months or so. One year, just before Christmas, he phoned me up and sounded shaky as if something terrible had happened. Now I realise that he was nervous for the lies he was about to tell me. He told me that something complex had happened at his wife’s work which meant that their bank account was frozen. In some way his wife’s work as an accountant for the small company she worked for was tied in with her own personal account. Could I lend him £2000? I had no hesitation in helping a friend out but checked with Roo first. She very wisely said that she didn’t mind as long as we accepted that we were unlikely to get the money back. I returned his call and said yes; he said could I make it £3000? To my shame, I said yes without speaking to Roo first. I transferred the money, only ever saw Burton once more and never saw the money again.
It’s annoying that Roo and I just gave away £3000 but what hurts even more is the loss of a friend. Someone who I considered a good friend. I have lost contact with him completely. Email, text message, phone calls, communication with family members – none of these have worked. Have I forgiven him? I think I could forgive him if he were to apologise and explain what his thinking was. I seriously think that he had some form of depression as a result of the breakdown of his first marriage so I do have a lot of sympathy. However, the whole story hurts. (I haven’t gone into the full detail here but I do know how much he lied to his family and friends.) I thought this was someone with whom I had a lot in common, who I could trust, who I could talk to about anything, whose advice I could follow. I like to think that these things were true and our friendship wasn’t a pretence.
“How many days does a man think he has that he can spend his whole time dreaming. How many schemes is one man thinking of and does he think he’s the only one scheming.” I didn’t love Burton and he’s not broken my heart but these lyrics from “Don’t Let A Thief Steal Into Your Heart” seem quite appropriate. It’s the third track on “First Light” and it’s an interesting song which I like a lot. The melody is pretty much on one note with Linda Thompson singing lead vocal with Richard Thompson’s harmonies deep in the mix. His guitar playing is typically amazing with an extended solo at the end.
“First Light” was Richard And Linda Thompson’s first album for three years after “Pour Down Like Silver” and their subsequent time in Sufi communities in London and Norfolk. It is not considered to be a great album but I love it. Richard Thompson is quoted as saying that he felt he was making “indifferent ” records at this time. Listen again, Richard!
The last track on Side One is a medley of “The Choice Wife” (which is a two minute instrumental with more outstanding guitar playing from Richard Thompson) and “Died For Love” which is nearly seven minutes long. It tells the story of John Dunblane and Annie Painter, two lovers who were parted one summer. John Dunblane “took the road to every city, he sailed to every port of call” in search of his love. One day, many years later, as he was dying, he heard the voice of Annie Painter in his head – he went running to the nearest city to find her, also dying, but desperate to tell him that it was her “cruel father” who had prevented her returning. They declared their love for each other and declared that “this is our wedding day”. “Only lovers die for love“. The accordion work of John Kirkpatrick is astounding and Linda Thompson’s haunting vocals tell the story beautifully.
One of my favourite ever songs, by anybody, is “Strange Affair” which opens Side Two. It’s not exactly clear what is happening but it seems that it’s time for the singer to move on after much unhappiness. She has lost everyone that she cares for. “Where are my companions? My mother, father, love, friend and enemy? Where are my companions? They’re prisoners of death now and taken far from me. Where are the dreams I dreamed in the days of my youth? They took me to illusion and they promised me the truth. And what do sleepers need to make them listen. Why do they need more proof? This is a strange, this is a strange affair.” I love this verse – it’s sung beautifully, of course and the instrumentation is sympathetic. June Tabor has sung the song and introduced it by saying that the song is based on a Sufi poem which says “When you’ve given up. When you think you are alone and will be alone for the rest of your life, look again. God is waiting.” A few years ago, I was thrilled to find this clip on YouTube which has an extra verse and mentions “the man with the answer”, thus making the meaning of the song a little clearer. Without the third verse, it sounds like it could be about a failed relationship. I wonder why they released the version without the third verse? It is an exceptional song.
There are other amazing songs on the album. “First Light” and “Sweet Surrender” are typical Richard and Linda Thompson songs: great melodies, sublime playing and strong, emotional singing from Linda Thompson. “House Of Cards” has call and response singing which reminds me of “Lay Me Low” on “Rise Up Like The Sun”.
Richard Thompson is quoted as saying that when he found God in the early 1970s, he learned to “stop using my brain for thinking and to start using it for reflecting”. Sounds like good advice.