I was reminded of an earlier post by something I read in the paper today. This true story is funny now, but bad news indeed when it happened.
Some years ago my wife Alison and I had gone to visit my sister, Heather, and her then boyfriend. Heather lived/lives in a small town called Linthwaite, not far from Huddersfield. It’s about halfway up the Pennines, and the weather lets you know this.
We’d had dinner and decided it would be a good idea to go to the pub. It wasn’t that good an idea to be frank. There was a gale-force wind blowing needles of snow into our faces as we made the trek to the hostelry. No street lighting either, so we were flying blind apart from that eerie glow you get off snow at night even when there’s no moon. We persisted, however, and finally reached sanctuary.
Roaring log fire, gentle lighting, beer brewed on the premises. Looking good, well worth the effort. The pub is miles from anywhere important, so it was no real surprise that apart from us there was only one other group of four people round a table in one corner. We politely sat a little way away, having made the usual comments about the weather.
There was a jukebox, but it was loud enough to hear, and not loud enough to be intrusive. A good selection of oldies, too. Motown, Moody Blues (you had to be around in the late 60s or early 70s to get that), Stones, Beatles… Not bad at all. Then I began to get a bit restive, and I couldn’t decide why. I expect you’ve had those uncertain ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ moments. This was one of those. Good beer, a good fire, great company, but something was nagging at the back of my brain. What’s going on? Search me.
Then I got it. I recognised all the tracks being put on. Not just recognised them, but associated them with someone. An ex girlfriend. Someone with whom I’d listened to all these tracks for hours on end while snogging in her parents’ front room. Someone whom I’d treated as well as I could when we split up, but had treated her a bit badly, quite a lot badly, all the same. I hadn’t been unfaithful; it was worse than that. She’d been very cut up about it, and there was nothing I could say to make it any easier.
Dreadful realisation dawned. I turned in my seat. Looked at the other group of four people. And there she was, instantly recognisable even after 20 odd years. She caught my eye.
‘Well?’ she snapped, ‘Aren’t you even go to say hello?’
‘Errm, hello. Errm, how are you?’
‘I’m fine. Now.’
I mean how unlucky was that? Not seen her for over twenty years, and run into her in a pub I’d never been to before, miles from anywhere, on a filthy night when most of the world had its head under the duvet, and with all ‘our’ songs on the jukebox. Then to find she was still mad at me.
What a great revenge with the music, though. Fair play to her on that. The track that finally made me go ‘Oh shit, now I know what’s going on?’ I may as well complete my humiliation and tell you. It was this one.
Aaarrrrggghhh. Beam me up, Scotty.