Saturday 11 November 2017

The Saturday List #154 - 10 situations where I should have known better

"I should have known better". How many times in your life have you said this? I haven't kept a list, but I would guess that it would be at least one hundred and fifty four times. You may wonder why I have chosen this subject today. Well today is the 154th in this series. 154 is also the name of the third album by Wire, who are one of my favourite bands. The opening song is "I should have known better". So what better day to cover the subject.  I have never really paid much attention to song lyrics. I am a guitarist  in a rock and roll band, so tend to let them wash over me. However over the last few weeks, we've seen plenty of situations where we can imagine politicians, actors and public figures saying to themselves "I should have known better". I read the lyrics of the song and chuckled

In an act of contrition

I lay down by your side

It's not your place to comment

On my state of distress
For this is for real
I've tears in my eyes
Am I laughing or crying?
I suggest I'm not lying

I haven't found a measure yet to

Calibrate my displeasure yet so

To ignore my warning

Could be your folly

The judgement is harsh
I offer no plea

Valuing the vengeance which you treasure

I've redefined the meaning of vendetta

The procession's disordered

You protect your possessions

In light of your actions
I question your love

May I make an observation

Your bite is worse than my aggression

Copyright 1979 - Graham Lewis

So that's why I chose this particular list. Hopefully you'll be pleased to know I don't have a list of situations where I've abused my power as a politician, a film maker or an employer. But I have plenty of situations where "I should have known better". I suppose I could produce a long list of Saturday mornings, where I've awoken with a hangover, however that would be rather dull. So I thought I'd set a few parameters. In all situations, I probably realised before I embarked on the activity that it was folly, but I did it anyway, with scant regard for common sense. Enjoy.

London in the Snow (Pic
1. Going out for dinner with a snowstorm predicted. 
We arranged to meet friends for dinner on a Saturday night in January in Mayfair a few years ago. For several days before, the weather forecast was predicting snow. My view was "Oh they never get that right and the trains are always OK". My arrogant assumption seemed to be born out as we made our way into town. We tucked into a lovely meal at The Pollen Street Social, washed down with several bottles of wine.  When we emerged, I realised the error of my ways. London was caked in snow. Nothing at all was moving. It took five and a half hours to get home, for reasons I can't quite fathom, even the Victoria line wasn't running. We ended up getting a bus to West Hampstead and eventually a Thameslink train came. I won't make that mistake again.

2. Getting a lift home from a stranger when drunk.
When I was sixteen, I used to go out to gigs all the time, with little money. Back in the 1970's clubs would shut after tubes and buses finished. Somehow, I always managed to get home. Often I'd hitch. The last time I did this was on the A41 at Finchley Road, a nice chap pulled up and asked where I was going. I said Mill Hill and he said "I'm passing through there". So in I hopped. At Brent Cross, I was a bit surprised, when he turned onto the North Circular. Then he turned up the M1. I said "Hang on, this doesn't stop in Mill Hill". He replied "We are going back to Watford for some fun". I realised that his plans were not at all aligned with mine. I'd had quite a lot to drink and felt very uncomfortable. Then I came up with a cunning plan. As we passed through Mill Hill, I announced that I felt ill and was going to be sick. At this, he screeched to a halt. I jumped out. If you know the M1, I was stuck between the railway and the M1. I sprinted across the M1, jumped the fence and was in my back garden. It scared the living daylights out of me.

3. Taking a train to Stockholm when the clocks change.
In 1981 I moved to Stockholm for six months, to be with a young lady I'd met. I decided to go by train. I bought tickets to Stockholm from Mill Hill Broadway. This involved a train from Liverpool St to Harwich, a ferry to Ostend, a train to Copenhagen, another traon to Helsingborg, a ferry to Helsingforth and a train to Stockhom. We didn't have mobile phones, so all communications were by letter. I said I'd be arriving on train X. When the ferry arrived in Ostend, I realised the plan had gone wrong. The clocks changed in Europe two weeks before the UK. The ferry did not connect with the train. To cut a long story short, I was completely stuffed. I had to get a train to Germany, another train to Copenhagen and in the end I arrived 24 hours late. To make matters worse I couldn't get in touch with said young lady, so I had to get a room in a youth hostel. I decided after that, that whenever I travelled, I'd make damn sure all the connections were valid.

4. Getting drunk in foreign hotels.
By far the most embarrassing experience of my life, the one we all have nightmares about, happened to me in New York in 1991. I'd arrived on a flight from London, checked into the Washington Square Hotel, then gone for a drink. I'd ended up having eight pints of Guinness. I went back to the hotel, stripped off and passed out. At some point in the night, I awoke needing to use the bathroom. I stumbled around in the dark, completely disorientated. I walked into what I thought was the bathroom and clunk, the door shut. Only then did I realise I was in the corridor of the hotel, naked and without key. I had to go to reception and get them to let me back in. I have never made that mistake again. 

5. Babysitting the child from hell.
When I was a teenager, I used to earn a few quid babysitting for family and friends. One such couple had a daughter who was a tad willful. She was a lovely toddler, but didn't like mummy not being around. I was informed that the plan was that she'd be put down. Apparently she slept like a log. Once she was asleep, mummy and daddy would sneak out. I was studying for A-levels, so could do revision for a few hours. All went swimmingly. As I arrived, the door was silently opened. I crept in and was informed said child was fast asleep. I sat down, made a cup of tea and got my books out. The parents departed (no mobile phone then). They told me they'd be back at 11pm. After half an hour, all seemed well when a little voice announced "Where's mummy". The little darling had woken up. I said "Don't worry, mummy has just gone out to the shops". That was met with "WAAAAHHHHHHH!". The little darling started screaming. She didn't stop. The parents left at 8.15pm. The screaming started at 8.45pm. The parents had a lovely night. They got back home at 1am. The little love made so much noise that the old lady next door came around. She tried to console the little love, also to no avail. Nothing worked. I didn't realise it was possible to scream for four hours continually. And guess what. When mummy and Daddy came home, all signs of the tantrum abated as the car pulled up. It was the worst night of my life. 

6. "You can't polish a turd!"
It's an old saying in music. If someone is talentless, there really is nothing much you can do. When I first started recording bands, a very rich chap approached me. He wanted to make his daughter a star. She wasn't particularly attractive. She couldn't sing and she was the type of obnoxious you could only be, if your parents are stinking rich and no one has ever said "NO!" to you. Daddy had hired a team to make her a star. Money was no object. We all went out for a dinner and I realised that all was not going to be easy. The said young lady was incredibly rude to the waiters. I actually said to one "Look, I'm just the staff, I don't like her either". The next day, I phoned the PR Lady. She suggested that we go for a drink to discuss the situation. I said "Look, I can't work with her". She said "Her Dad is loaded, just look at it as a payday". They'd sourced a song from a top songwriter. We recorded it. I had got a friend to sing the guide vocals and it sounded great. I thought "how could it possibly not work", all she had to do was sing vaguely in tune and in time and it would be a half decent pop song. You can do stuff in the studio to mend even the worst singer, so I didn't envisage too many problems. Sadly Daddy had a cunning plan. He thought it would be a good idea to film the recording for posterity. He'd paid a professional crew to record it. From the word go, it all started to go wrong. The young lady couldn't come in on time or in key. However it wasn't her fault. Nothing was. Eventually she threw a tantrum and walked out. I'd paid the session musicians and Daddy refused to pick up the tab, he said "they were out of tune". Not only was it the most horrible session ever, but I ended up out of pocket. My only solace was that he tried it again at one of our competitors, who later called me and told me that his session was even worse.

7.  Being pleasant to Brian Coleman at Watling Festival.
My company used to sponsor the sadly missed Watling Festival. I also used to organise a childrens five a side football competition for the event. The organiser was the formidable Patty Skeats. She was friends with disgraced ex councillor Brian Coleman, who was actually rather supportive of the festival. This was before I'd taken him to the Council Standards committee  him or his assault conviction. He turned up with Patty for  a tour. To my horror, I found myself in a room with him and Patty. As I was helping her, I tried to be polite, but Coleman blanked me. I wasn't too upset, I'd simply been getting some orange juice for the referee. When I took Coleman to the standards committee, he claimed that I'd "harassed him at the Watling Festival". It was a complete lie and there were several witnesses. However, I do wish I'd just blanked him. A lesson worth learning is that if someone is a pathological liar, you will always get problems.

8. Playing football with a groin tear
We've all done something like this. We've got a small injury and we think "Oh it's nothing, I'll be fine" and made it ten times worse. To cut a long story short, I had a pain in my groin following football. I saw my physio, who said "rest it for four weeks". After two, it felt OK. I played and the damage saw me having an operation.

9. Going for a beer with Pete Conway on my Ex's Birthday
Pete Conway used to be the singer and bass player in The False Dots. We fell out. I hadn't seen him for a few years, when I bumped into him on the way home. It was my ex's Birthday and we were meant to be going out. Pete suggested we had a quick pint and a chat. I said "just the one". At 10pm, he suggested we went to a club, as it was probably too late to retrieve the evening. We stayed their till 4pm, then went to Smithfields for breakfast and more beer. I rolled in at 11am. An alarm clock was thrown and I needed 17 stitches in my head. 

10. Working for a mate.
Never take a job working for a close friend. You can have friends, you can have a boss. It is very hard to have both, especially when you are working in a large organisation. You can find yourself in a situation where you need to say things, but you have to choose between your friendship or career. My advice is don't.

Have a great Saturday, enjoy the inspiration for this blog!

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