I don’t quite know why my parents sent me to Sunday School. They weren’t particularly religious and they never got around to christening me. That’s how my Dad put it when I asked him why I wasn’t christened: “We never got round to it.” It seems a bit of a strange answer. My sister was christened. My lack of initiation into the Church Of England meant that I could never be a godfather to my sister’s two children. This was disappointing in one respect but at least it meant that I would never have to lie about ensuring that they were brought up in the Christian faith. Anyway, my parents sent me to Sunday School until I was seven years old at which point we moved from Bush Hill Park to Winchmore Hill. The new house was literally directly opposite a very grand church, St. Paul’s and I only ever went into it once, with the school. However, whilst we were living in Bush Hill Park, they made me go St Stephen’s Church in Park Avenue every Sunday. I made sure I had my thruppeny bit to put in the collection box every time I went. Apart from once. I got inside the Church Hall, realised I had forgotten my money and ran as fast as I could back to my parents who were still in the car. I’m not sure why they were still in their car but I can picture the scene very clearly now as I told them, through tears, that I didn’t have the money. Why were they still in the car? I’m pretty sure they weren’t going to church themselves. I was so upset, I refused to go back that day. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t really my fault that my parents had forgotten to give me the thruppence. The next week, I went again, making sure I had my money with me and an elderly lady saw me and said that she had seen me running out of the Church Hall the previous week. Had I come back? I lied. I told her I had when in fact I hadn’t. Over sixty years later, I still remember that lie with shame.
Six years later, we had moved twice and were now living in Kent. I normally looked forward to Games lessons but at certain times of the year we were missold a lesson. Running aimlessly round a road for an hour or so wasn’t my idea of a game. It was torture. Luckily, Andy and I felt the same way about it and so we ran as we left the school, walked for forty five minutes and ran back into school at the end. One day, as we were having a good chat about The Beatles, cricket and Fat Gut Tucker, a woman walked towards us, holding the hand of a young child. She pointed at me and said, very loudly, to the child “Oh! Isn’t he tubby?” I had just revealed to Andy that my nickname in Winchmore Hill was “muckers”. Luckily, Andy was (as he still is) not the type to ridicule someone or repeat a story that shows someone up in a poor light. Oh hang on, that’s exactly what he loves doing. From that point on, everyone knew me as Tubby Muckers. Thanks a lot Bog Brush.
Despite having half a nickname which drew attention to my being overweight, I still enjoyed running, if I could see a purpose to it. Running between the wickets, running to cut off a four or running to receive a through pass and score a magnificent goal had a positive outcome and I was happy to run as fast as I could in those circumstances. Playing full back was slightly different. The key was to run really fast at the end when everybody was looking to see if I could make a last ditch tackle, putting my life in danger. So I had to be running really fast at the end to make it look as if I wasn’t scared. The trick was to start slowly when nobody was looking at me and in that way it didn’t look that bad when I just failed to get to the six foot eighteen stone Jonah Lomu lookalike in time.
A few times, leaving school at the end of the day, Keith Rose and I ran to catch a bus from Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells and I normally beat him to it even though he was destined to become Head Boy. He repeated this to Mr. Knott, the sadistic Head of P.E. who then made me run round the running track to see if I was really as fast as he had been told. I sort of tried hard but couldn’t really see any benefit to this. Presumably, if I was any good, I would be condemned to doing this instead of playing a game.
Fifteen years later I was playing cricket for Tye Green. My parents liked to drive up from Orpington to watch me play a couple of times a year and one year someone, possibly me, had the bright idea of inviting my Dad’s three sisters along to watch a game. We batted first and I went out to bat with one of my team mates called Colin having made sure that Mum, Dad, Connie, Charlotte and Joyce all had seats on the boundary edge. At that point, their ages would have ranged from early sixties to early eighties. Colin was an excellent bat and we had a good understanding, trusting each other’s running between the wickets implicitly. Besides, I was pretty fast. After I had compiled a slow but steady two runs, Colin called me for a ridiculous single, I lumbered ungraciously as fast as I could and I was run out by about four yards. I may be changing the story here to paint myself in the best possible light after suffering the indignity of hearing a collective groan from the boundary edge as the umpire’s finger went up but at least none of my family ever spoke to Colin again, blaming him one hundred percent for my misfortune.
Twenty five years later I had just started playing cricket for Hassocks third team. One day I was pleased to ask to open the batting with someone called Neil who had a brilliant eye but not much technique. Whilst he scored 150, I scored 60. Our running between the wickets was memorable. He was in his early twenties and fit as a butcher’s dog. I was in my fifties and probably weighed about seventeen stone. When we finally declared, my new team mates confessed that they had been expressing concern about which one of them would have to give me the kiss of life.
Long may I run.
Neil Young’s relationship with Steven Stills, Graham Nash and David Crosby is very complex. Neil Young and Steven Stills were in Buffalo Springfield but Neil Young walked out on them twice. Crosby, Stills and Nash asked Neil Young to join them, they played at Woodstock but Neil Young refused to be on the film. When they all convened to record the follow up to “Deja Vu”, Neil Young vanished after a couple of days. In 1976, Neil Young suggested to Steven Stills that the two of them record some songs together. When they had finished, they invited David Crosby and Graham Nash to listen. They all agreed that the songs needed all four of them singing so David Crosby and Graham Nash added harmonies. Later, when David Crosby and Graham Nash had left to mix their own album, Neil Young wiped all their vocals off. What was left is this album, “Long May You Run”.
The album is, in my opinion, unfairly criticised. It features the excellent title track, an homage to Neil Young’s first car. The final verse is utterly charming. “Maybe The Beach Boys have got you now with those waves singing “Caroline No”. Rolling down that empty ocean road, getting to the surf on time.” It’s a ridiculously lovely catchy Neil Young song. The live performance below would suggest that even after fifteen years Graham Nash and Steven Stills haven’t forgiven Neil Young, who doesn’t give a damn. Good to see the four close friends/musicians practising social distancing though.
“Fontainebleau” is also lovely and has some excellent Neil Young electric guitar. The harmonies are good and I guess we are just left to imagine what they could have sounded like if Graham Nash and David Crosby’s voices had been left on.
The other songs are good. “Let It Shine” sounds like it could have fitted easily onto “Zuma”, “Ocean Girl” has a particularly excellent guitar, piano and whiny vocal from Neil Young, “Midnight On the Bay” reminds me of “Love Is A Rose” and the four Steven Stills songs are competent seventies rock songs – I particularly like “Make Love To You” which seems like a companion piece to “Love The One You’re With”.
The album is not a highlight of either Neil Young’s or Steven Stills’ career but there are some good songs and the title track is excellent. My running days are long gone but Neil Young’s career seems to show no signs of slowing down. He has the following releases scheduled: “The Times” (September 2020), “Return To Greendale” (November 2020), a mammoth boxset called “Archives Volume 2” (November 2020), “Way Down In The Rust Bucket” (December 2020), “Young Shakespeare” (January 2021) and “Eldorado” (possibly a release of the Japan/Australia only release from 1989) (March 2021). Long may he run.