The CD of my life: Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

25 Dec

Oft repeated message (that you can ignore if you’re a regular reader): this article is one of a series listing songs that trigger a particularly strong or significant memory of some event in my life. These jottings provide what amount to the sleeve notes of the as yet uncompiled “CD of my life”.

In November 1977 I had been working in the Barclays Bank Trust Company office in Chelmsford for just over a year and, while I was still commuting to and from Ipswich every day I did my utmost to throw myself into the social life of the office which in that day and age meant particularly the inter-branch tenpin bowling and darts competitions.

As a train commuter I naturally had to scrounge lifts to these events and would always try to pick someone who would have to travel back from the venue past the railway station in time for a late train home. Remember that I had a 15 minute cycle ride to do in the pitch dark at the other end PLUS I had to be back at Ipswich station for the 8.12am train next morning and you will see that I had to be quite keen on the activity concerned in order to be bothered!

Sometimes, however, the draw for a darts match would pit us against one of the Chelmsford city centre branches and the match would take place at a pub not too far removed from the railway station.  And on one occasion we were drawn against a team from our near-neighbours (the Trust Company Taxation office was a portacabin in their car park!) at the main High Street branch and arranged the event for a pub (The Wheatsheaf?) just down the road opposite the Police Station and a few minutes stroll from my train home. I know we won the match but it was mostly memorable for my realising that I rather fancied one of the young ladies we had been playing against!

I endeavoured to visit her at her till in the branch as often as possible and managed at the Chelmsford District disco, held in Zhivago’s night club in Southend-on-sea  a week or two later, not only a few dances with her but (better still) the promise of future “dates”.

We were still seeing each other as the summer of 1978 approached and decided to go to Somerset and Devon for a couple of weeks together. As I was more than a little bit skint at the time we did this the cheap way – borrowing some camping gear and driving down in her car, an old style (i.e. TINY) Mini! Actually I should point out that SHE drove the entire way there and back– if you’ve read some of the earlier items in this series you will recall that I only had a motorcycle licence and had never been able to afford car driving lessons.

Remember also if you will that I am about 6’ 4” (no, I’m NOT going to convert it to metric for you!), that we were taking full camping gear, clothes etc. for 2 weeks in what was, for all practical purposes a two-seat car and it shouldn’t be too hard to see that I had to get in the car and have the gear packed around me with little chance of moving until a scheduled “pit stop”!

In all we spent our first week at a campsite on the Bristol Channel coast of north Somerset near the little fishing port of Watchet and the second just outside Totnes in south Devon – a stones throw from the seaside towns of Brixham, Torquay and Paignton, the so-called “English Riviera”. And a really fantastic holiday it was too – a whole 2 weeks away from work, lovely weather (I got sunstroke on the last day!) and a pretty young girl on my arm!

We spent a great deal of time that fortnight with either the car radio on as we drove around or my battery powered radio/cassette player going while in the tent and the track that I recall hearing the most (to the extent that hearing it now brings back memories of that whole holiday really strongly – which is the very point of this series) is the Dire Straits track referred to in the title above.

I seem to recall that either it had been re-released having failed to “take off” the first time or was possibly just a slow starter because it was not a new song to me in June 1978 – it just didn’t have any special meaning to me until then.

Anyway here, as usual, is a link to a YouTube recording of the song in question:

And what, you may well ask, happened to the young lady I went on that holiday with? Well to slightly misquote Charlotte Bronte in “Jane Eyre” I can happily say “Reader, I married her!”  And remain married to her to this day – so I owe it all to a darts match, a Disco and a tent!



Posted by on December 25, 2011 in CD of my Life


2 responses to “The CD of my life: Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

  1. Cy Quick

    December 29, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Delightful story. Sultans of Swing is a very fine song; all-time-top-hit, atmospheric, saga material.

  2. Alfie

    January 23, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    If anyone is even remotely interested, I have just found my old copy of the “Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums” (17th Edition 2004) and looked up “Dire Straits” in it. I was right about the single being a slow starter but not not quite in the way I thought!
    “Sultans…” did not, in fact, do ANYTHING in the singles chart until a year later – what I was hearing was the track being played a lot because the ALBUM with it on was riding high in its own charts.
    I’m ashamed to say that I was probably listening to it on Radio 1 at the time and for some reason just writing “Radio 1” calls to mind (as it always does) Marty Feldman’s jingle from his Christmas song which went: “Radio 1’s a load of fun, like migraine headaches!”


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