Sultans revisited

Nov 13th, 2010 | By | Category: Personal Columns

Driving down the M9 after watching Ireland beat Samoa, a moment’s evocation on 4FM.  Supposedly playing hits from the 80s, the DJ seemed to slip up, for the distinctive opening notes of ‘Sultans of Swing’ began just before Junction 3.

‘Tessa and economics’, I thought.

Tessa’s dad drove an Alfa Romeo in the days when the rest of the world was in Austin Allegros and Morris Marinas. They lived in a big old seventeenth century house, which was kind of what you would have expected if you had known her. There would never have been any prospect of romantic involvement, when you were eighteen and on a pushbike you wouldn’t have matched Tessa’s usual boyfriends, who were older and driving their own cars.

Because there was never any prospect of anything romantic, Tessa was great fun. She would wrinkle her nose at the economics teacher if he was giving us a hard time and laugh at your jokes, even if they weren’t funny. Economics brings back memories of Tessa.

There was a party we went to one Thursday evening in May 1979, which went on into the small hours, and was rounded off when someone suggested going to the beach. I was never part of her gang, but somehow ended up in a car heading westwards. At Taunton Deane services, Tessa decided we should really go to college instead, the A levels being only three weeks away.

Without sleep and with the head pounding from the effects of too many vodka and lime juices, we arrived for our 9.00 am economics class, to be greeted with a test paper. I remember the lines on the paper running into each other and pointing out to the tutor that some of us weren’t feeling the best. He was entirely unsympathetic and must have been furious when I scored 90%. (I was furious because for the first time I might have scored 100%, if my head had not hurt so much).

‘Sultans of Swing’ transported me back to a pub in Glastonbury one lunchtime. Four of us sat around a table, probably without even knowing what had brought us there. Tessa drank Tequila Sunrises, which I am glad she was paying for, because I probably wouldn’t have had enough money to buy even one.

“Tessa, we should be back in class”.

“Be quiet,” she said, “it’s only economics. Let’s have some music,” and she put ‘Sultans of Swing’ on the jukebox.

Reformed, much older, and much, much wiser, I marvel at the power of music to evoke the past (just as the smell of lime juice goes with supply and demand curves).

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  1. Ian, I couldn’t agree more……There was some great music around …..and some good memories!!!!

  2. The Sultans was always ironic – a song about a band that played for the sake of it by a band that was incredibly commercial!

  3. I was expecting that story to go a slightly different way – Tessa and the Alfa Romeo and the Sultans of Swing playing – but I could be just projecting, or – er – remembering.
    Either way that song will always have a particular significance.

  4. BW,

    Nothing exotic has ever happened in my life!

    I once used Tessa’s full name in a post and got an email from her from France where she lives, pleased that she was happily remembered. I replied but never heard anything more.

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