Strange bedfellows

I first met Chris Redgewell (above, right) in 1983, when visiting Maidenhead, where Nortel was based (I was contracting to them at the time). For some reason, an overnight stay was necessary and my Boss had something on, so rather than spend the night in the Bar or watching TV, I rang a friend to look up the contact details for the local 18 Plus Group and ended up giving Chris a call. There wasn’t anything on, but he offered to drop down and have a chat.

It turned out he had a slight ulterior motive- he was the Chairman of the Group which had some “challenging” members and was keen to use me as a sounding board based on him working out I had previous experience. We had a pleasant evening and he struck me as likeable, sincere & a good egg, if a little inexperienced in some of life’s ups and downs. (He worked in the City at Williams & Glynns Bank, still lived at home and probably hadn’t had a girlfriend).

When I finished in Saudi, Nortel offered me a job in Maidenhead so I set about moving there. It wasn’t long before I contacted Chris again and he told me that the previous week, there had been a major bust-up in the Group and all the good people had stormed off (The Twyford Rebels) , leaving the awkward squad behind (The gang of six, I’ve mentioned some of them before).

To cut a long story short, Chris, myself and a third lad called Alan White struck up a slightly unusual friendship, our only common bond being a love of good Pubs and good beer. We used to go out on Friday nights, Alan generally driving (as he lived in Hayes). Chris and Alan had been on the odd Narrowboat holiday and we somehow ended up planning a week together on the Langollen Canal. Alan tended to do the meticulous planning (armed with his Collins Canal Network Map & good beer guide) and we all took it in turns to tiller the boat and work the locks. We had Pub lunches and Pub evening meals, quaffing lots of beer which helped us sleep on the hard, narrow bunks.

Alan looked a bit like Ken Livingstone and could do a good impression of him but I mostly remember him for telling dreadful puns. He worked for Ladbrokes as an accountant and also lived at home with a rather overbearing mother who had a Dialasis Cabin in her garden. (She died a year or two later and he said they took the cabin away within two days, so in demand were the machines). He was rather serious and had risen to regional Chairman within the Eighteen Plus heirarchy but I don’t think Alan had had a girlfriend either.

Individually, they were both a bit dull, but when the three of us were together we were never short of conversation and laughs. I had been a bit anxious that I would be bored silly during the week but I didn’t appreciate that the Canal system is a very long, thin, industrial archeology lesson.

The following year, we had a two week cruise around the midlands (taking in Coventry and Market Harborough branches) and I’m not entirely certain, but we may well have taken a third fortnight as well the year after.

(I must have taken to the Canals like a duck to water, I even persuaded my Mum and Dad to spend a week doing Coventry to Worcester with me one year and I still hanker for it occasionally).

All good things come to an end and the three of us grew more distant. I spent a long time working away abroad (including two stints in Canada) so the Friday night Pub Crawl had to carry on without me a lot of the time. I moved down to Camberley which was a bit too far for Alan to divert to and besides that I knocked about with the Wokingham & Bracknell mob, many of who are still friends to this day).

I bumped into Alan in recent times, possibly at the 18 Plus Diamond Jubilee, or one of the Annual Conferences that I used to do the sound for. We chatted for a few minutes while he told me what had happened to people but we no longer had very much in common (not that we ever had). I do wonder how Chris got on though.

In case you are wondering why I posted this strange bedfellows, it isn’t a sexual reference. The three of us often shared bedrooms though on 18+ holidays at Caister & Bournemouth, as well as those Narrowboats. It sticks in my mind that they both wore stripy jimmy-jammys, whilst I prefer to go commando!