Picture the scene, if you will. A trio of long-haired muso types are crouched in a cellar, soldering irons in hand, as they make lead after lead after lead, threading together the great looms of cable which will form the nervous system of the studio into which this cellar is slowly metamorphosing. Every lead has to be numbered at each end, and tested thoroughly before being encased in the various tubes designed to ferry them from control room to vocal booth and isolation booth. They’re a real pain to take out and fix once in place, so you tend to install a few more than needed, just in case.
The studio is analogue (this is the early 90s, after all), and at its heart is a strange 12-track desk-cum-recorder, which takes cassettes a little similar to the old Betamax. Sounds great, the desk is very clever, but it’s odd, so cheap. Each rack has an input, output, fx in and out, XLR in-out, and phono in-out. All of these must be connected. That’s an awful lot of 1/4 inch jack plugs. Each of the fx units in the rack also has a bundle of inputs, and then there are patch cables to hook everything up to everything else. The three guys are soldering for a long time.
At the end of each evening, the beers come out, and cigarettes of various hues. The taller of the three, when inebriate, plays with Boz, the house cat (or, to give him his full title, Boris Beelzepuss), leaving his forearms streaked with blood. Within weeks the recording has begun. The first track made there sounds like this. A lot of hours were spent. Sometimes cables needed replacing.
Fast-forward twenty years, and one of the muso-types walks into a studio in the west end and holds out his hand. The producer takes it as the ex-muso, now older, officially wiser, and a little more kempt, is introduced as Pete. The studio control room is primarily populated with macbooks. No tapes in sight, and only a tiny desk.
There’s a tall man, early forties, shorts and tee shirt, leaning against the doorway. He looks quizzically at the visitor.
‘Yes.’ Like, I just said that.
The man pauses.
‘You used to teach me guitar.’
Now, this exchange happens relatively regularly, though mostly virtually. The problem is, I can never remember who they are. This man does look familiar, however.
‘I’m sorry, I sort of recognise you, but can’t remember your name.’ I cringe inside.
‘It’s Si, Si White.’
Oh, fuck. I’m back in the cellar, in the garden watching Boz shred his forearms. How embarrassing.
We’re both taken aback. We last saw each other some eighteen years ago. I was rock guitar supremo at the then Musician’s Institute in Wapping; he a student.
Today we meet again, both guests on Test Match Sofa, an alternative to TMS broadcast on the great interweb. What are the odds? Really. What are they? Neither of us was aware of the other’s love of cricket. Si is the author of The effing c-word, while I’m writing The Country House Cricketer. So. Odds, anyone?
Frankly, we were both somewhat freaked by the whole thing. But we were quite chuffed, too.
Si’s inscription on my copy of his book reads as follows:
Pete Langman, as I live and breathe. Extraordinary to see you on the sofa. Desperate to hear of your plight, but great to see you again. Anyway.
I’m reading it. It’s actually pretty good. He writes stuff about cricket that makes you, the reader, continually intone ‘oh, yes, that reminds me if the time when …’ – he articulates what we all feel. I don’t think he’s trying to do that, he just does.
We pinged a few e-mails about and then I realised there was possibly a slot in my National Trust game at Stourhead. So he fills it, and the next thing I know is that I’m in Wiltshire, talking about those days. They were good times. This is the game.
Now he’s a copywriter, living in a small village with better half and two kids, two minutes from the pub behind which is his cricket team’s ‘ground’. And he’s loving it. We eat at the pub before I drive the two hours back to Brighton, my bijou lifestyle (Bijou on a Budget – why’s no-one written that?), and my recalcitrant cat.
It’s funny how things sometimes turn full circle.