SES­SION shenani­gans

The stu­dio gui­tarist’s guide to hap­pi­ness and per­sonal ful­fil­ment, as told by ses­sion ace Mitch Dalton. This month: Night­mare On New Street!

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - For more on Mitch and his mu­si­cal ex­ploits with the Stu­dio Kings, go to: www.mitch­dal­ton.co.uk

We may talk of sweep pick­ing. Of tri­tone sub­sti­tu­tion. We may even dis­cuss two-handed tap­ping. We may also find our­selves at the busi­ness end of what life can hurl at us with the force of a Roy Keane tackle. With sim­i­larly ter­ri­fy­ing con­se­quences.

Not so long ago in the land of Birm­ing­ham, the cit­i­zens of that com­mune re­opened their stun­ning Town Hall af­ter years of restora­tion. And what bet­ter way to launch the in­au­gu­ral con­cert than by book­ing me? Okay, I will con­cede that I was joined on stage by Grammy award win­ning, Down­beat Crit­ics Poll win­ner and Blue Note record­ing artist Kurt Elling. And The BBC Big Band.

‘Twas a lovely day. The na­tional mo­tor­way net­work de­cided to cel­e­brate the event by very nearly func­tion­ing ad­e­quately. And the hat-trick was com­pleted by my drop­ping off in­stru­ments and park­ing with ease in the ad­ja­cent multi-storey car park.

So, what’s not to like? I donned my tuxedo, es­sen­tial at­tire for any ra­dio broad­cast, and emerged at around 10.30 pm, as close to happy as we jazz mor­tals ever are. A short stroll to the cus­tom­ary ma­chine to make pay­ment and I would soon be on my...er...what’s this?

“This ma­chine does not ac­cept credit cards”. In­ter­est­ing. In the third mil­len­nium, in a semi­civilised, con­nec­tiv­ity ob­sessed so­ci­ety. Per­haps they do things dif­fer­ently here in Brum. At this point I could not help but ob­serve a gen­tle­man sport­ing the oblig­a­tory hi-vis jacket. Doubt­less a highly val­ued em­ployee, he ex­uded both an in­do­lent air and an amused ex­pres­sion as he reg­is­tered my dis­ap­point­ment. It was clear from his leer that he liked to de­rive his en­ter­tain­ment from this read­ily avail­able source and had done so on many pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions.

Right. £15.60. No prob­lemo. I ex­tracted a pris­tine ex­am­ple of a £20 note from my wal­let and... hang on... “This ma­chine does not ac­cept £20 notes.” I turned my head in­stinc­tively to see Hi-Vis Man star­ing at me. There was no mis­tak­ing that mock­ing grin. This was not about to turn out well.

“Ex­cuse me. Would you be in a po­si­tion to ex­change this fine ban­knote for two £10 spec­i­mens?” “No!”“Righto. So how do I pay, re­trieve my ve­hi­cle and exit your ex­cel­lent estab­lish­ment?” “You bet­ter get some ten­ners.” “A co­gent anal­y­sis, if I may say so. And would you know the lo­ca­tion of the near­est dis­penser of such notes?” “Might be one in The Mail­box.”

“Ah. I know it well. A high-class shop­ping mall; a five-minute stroll and I shall re­turn with the read­ies.” “Well, you bet­ter be quick. This car park closes at 11 sharp.”

“It is now 10.46. I cal­cu­late that I have a mere 14 min­utes to ef­fect our en­tire trans­ac­tion.” “Couldn’t care less, mate. I’m lock­ing up at 11.” And with that he was gone, leav­ing only his smirk be­hind. At this point, I per­formed my crit­i­cally ac­claimed Usain Bolt im­pres­sion. I hur­tled through Har­vey Nichols in the fastest UK time in­doors that year. Sadly, I dis­cov­ered that the mall was mid­way through a ma­jor re­furb and that the ATM was im­pris­oned be­hind sturdy wooden fences. De­spite a cas­cade of per­spi­ra­tion that made The Mis­sis­sippi look like an in­con­ve­nient pud­dle, I en­quired po­litely in an ad­ja­cent shop mas­querad­ing as a tem­po­rary se­cu­rity of­fice. “Yeah. There’s an­other one fur­ther down mate, by Tesco.” At this point I should tell you that the next morn­ing I was due back at Lon­don’s BBC TV Cen­tre at 10, there to take part in a light en­ter­tain­ment record­ing in­volv­ing weather girls, soap opera folk and ex-boy band mem­bers as they dis­ported them­selves around a dance floor in strict time. You may even have seen it. My par­tic­i­pa­tion was be­gin­ning to look de­bat­able. As was my ca­reer.

Eight min­utes to go. I legged it in ac­cor­dance with the di­rec­tions pro­vided and within 90 sec­onds found my­self at my po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial oa­sis. At the back of a queue of Fri­day night rev­ellers. Al­ready half drunk. Noth­ing for it. “Ex­cuse me. This is an emer­gency.” I barged in, whacked in the card and...“This ma­chine does not dis­pense £10 notes. We apol­o­gise for any in­con­ve­nience.”

Fear, panic and des­per­a­tion are im­por­tant emo­tions. And I was in pos­ses­sion of a life­time’s sup­ply.

Last throw of the dice. I dived into Tesco. Hur­dled the shop­ping trol­leys. El­bowed all be­fore me. Rushed to the front of the check-out. “Hello. Here is a £20 note. Give me two 10s. Don’t think about it. Just do it. Oh, and ‘please’. NOW!” And that, to my as­ton­ish­ment, is pre­cisely what the be­mused young lady did. If you hap­pen to be read­ing this, the of­fer of mar­riage still stands.

My sweat soaked body ar­rived back at multi-storey Hell in time to see my new best friend in the act of swing­ing the gate shut. With one bound I jammed my foot in the way, rammed money in his hand and greeted him with a com­radely “Don’t even think of lock­ing up or I won’t be re­spon­si­ble for what hap­pens next. I mean it - MATE!”

That was the night I dis­cov­ered I make a very pass­able psy­chopath when roused. My help­ful hostage de­cided that it wasn’t worth tak­ing the chance. I drove out of New Street NCP. I re-parked. I sat in my ve­hi­cle for half an hour, a gib­ber­ing wreck. A husk. A bro­ken man. I started the car. I drove home slowly. Very slowly.

I gotta be hon­est. I am miffed that it didn’t make the Silly Sea­son head­lines. ‘Man Nearly Gets Locked In Birm­ing­ham Car Park’. Well, have you seen what ac­tu­ally makes the news in Au­gust?

the mo­tor­way net­work de­cided to cel­e­brate the event by very nearly func­tion­ing ad­e­quately

Mitch be­comes ex­as­per­ated by the frus­tra­tions of the mod­ern world

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