This is a true story.
When I turned thirty, which seems like a long time ago now…mainly because it was a long time ago, I went back to university to undertake a post graduate course that would qualify me as a school teacher. At that moment in time it seemed like a brilliant idea. Today it seems like one of the worst ideas any human has ever had. Regrets, I’ve had a few.
Going back to university meant giving up a fairly well paid job which meant I had to find some other way of making a contribution to the household bills. I applied for a job at the Disney Store where someone called “Tor” interviewed me…that was the only time I was ever offered a job and didn’t take it. I couldn’t work with a “Tor” or be surrounded by the dead eyed Princesses of the Disney universe all day. Fortunately I also had an interview at Topman which also went well and so I was now working in the fashion industry.
I was now working in a clothes shop.
After a few months of shuffling rails of cheap denim and even cheaper t-shirts my manager came to tell me that he and I would be attending some sort of awards ceremony for the company. He had submitted my name as an example of outstanding customer service or something and the two of us had been selected to attend this “do”. I didn’t really give outstanding customer service, my boss knew that what would happen with his submission was that it would be placed in a big top hat along with all the other nominations and a few schmucks would be drawn out of it as “winners”. He wanted to go to London and this was his chance.
The event took place at some venue in Camden…maybe the Roundhouse?
There were lots of clothes and models.
There was also a performance by the Sugababes.
In fact the mistresses of pop were still on stage as I was brought up to receive a gold star for outstanding customer service. I even got a congratulations and a hug from Heidi Range. That, as far as I was concerned, made the whole day a success.
For some reason I had to fly home alone after the event. The reasons for that are now lost to me. Maybe my boss had managed to arrange a dinner date with Heidi Range? He was tall and handsome, quite charming too. I on the other hand was awkward, a bit funny looking and short. Unless the women in the Sugababes had a thing for that it was unlikely I was ever going to get a date with any of them. It was either that or he was going out on the piss with other Topmen and I unilaterally made the decision to head for Heathrow and a flight home.
I got on the train for Heathrow and stood at the very end of the carriage.
After a couple of stops a man boarded the train and stood opposite me.
He looked a bit like Ronnie Wood.
Hair of a crow.
Lines on his face that told more stories than Audible could ever provide you with.
He was wearing a white shirt unbuttoned in a way that would make Simon Cowell blush, a pair of jeans, boots and he was carrying a guitar case.
The train rumbled on for a few minutes before I thought I would strike up a conversation with this chap.
Just wait until you hear my opening line.
Think about what you know about this man.
Ronnie Wood haircut.
A look that could only be described as disheveled chic.
“Alright mate, do you play guitar?”
Yes I did.
I’m not proud of these things.
I only tell you because I want you to feel better about the times when you have made a fool of yourself.
“Yeah” replied my carriage companion.
“My mate plays guitar for Morrissey. Alain Whyte? You heard of him?” I asked.
“Nah.” he said.
“Are you in a band or is it just a hobby?” I carried on, ignoring the fact that he clearly didn’t want to speak with me.
“I play in a band.”
“What sort of stuff?” I enquired, happy that I had managed to shift his responses from one word to five.
“Rock and roll.” he said with, what I felt to be, an air of both indignation and resignation.
He really did look like Ronnie Wood.
“Are you Ronnie Wood?” I said.
“Yeah, but don’t make a big thing out it.” said Ronnie Wood as he turned to look over his shoulder at the rest of the people in the carriage. Clearly he wasn’t keen on being hassled. That made his decision to board a train to Heathrow slightly baffling.
“What are you doing on a train? Shouldn’t you be in a limo?” I said.
“I was” said my new best friend Ronnie Wood “Well, not a limo, a cab but we got stuck in traffic and I’ve got to get on a flight to Budapest and the driver said this would probably be quicker. It’s my fault really, I had a bit of a large one last night…” he drifted out feeling sure that I would understand what a Ronnie Wood “large one” would involve.
I had no idea.
I hadn’t ever had a large anything.
I usually ordered a medium cola at McDonald’s.
I told Ronnie Wood about my mum and dad being Mods, about my own musical interests, asked him about being in the Rolling Stones and, over the course of the journey to Heathrow, I gradually found myself having a conversation with a rock and roll legend.
Ronnie was running very late for his flight.
The Stones had a gig that night.
A lot of people were very unhappy with him.
Evidence of this arrived when he took a call from someone;
“I know, I know. It’ll be fine. I’m on my way now. I know Mick, but what can I do about it now?”
“I know Mick.”
I was listening to the Ronnie Wood end of a conversation between Ronnie Wood and Mick Jagger.
I don’t actually like The Rolling Stones but this was just about the coolest thing that had ever happened to me.
When we arrived at Heathrow Ronnie asked me to help him get to his departure gate.
I know how unlikely that sounds but that’s what happened.
I had no working knowledge of Heathrow but I somehow managed to guide a legendary guitarist from one part of an international airport to another where he thanked me before turning to a very cross looking woman who, I assume, was a tour manager or some other member of the Stones entourage.
I didn’t have a mobile ‘phone and even if I did this was before they had cameras.
I didn’t have a camera with me either.
This was a time before selfies.
I didn’t ask for an autograph.
There is no proof that any of this happened.
I totally understand why you might not believe it.
Memory is a very unreliable thing and there may be parts of this story that I have missed out or that I have added in or that I have embellished in some way but the core of it is true…I stood with Ronnie Wood on a train and asked him if he played guitar, I heard him talking with “Mick” and I led him to his flight and thus ensured that the thousands of people who were going to see The Rolling Stones that night were not disappointed.
People of Budapest…you are welcome.