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The 57 year old Punk from The Stingrays makes my day on a train journey of two halves

Tom Winnifrith
Friday 13 March 2015

Gone are the days when I could start my working day at 3.30 AM on Monday, down two bottles of wine during the day, work through the night and a full day Tuesday, stay up all night fretting about a Court case, suffer a High Court ordeal, down a pint of champagne and feel totally on top form on the Wednesday evening. I guess I am getting old. And so by the time I arrived at Paddington for the 7 PM to Bristol Temple Meads I felt like death warmed up and just wanted to get home to the cats and my bed. The Mrs is still with her mother.

I sat in my seat, wrapped up warm and tried to sleep. But life is not always easy and the first part of my journey just made me feel like even more of a grumpy old man who wants to leave this rotten country and sit on my Greek mountain away from everything that is ghastly abut Britain today.

Being the first off peak train it was crammed and the vague smell of cheap fast food wafted through the corridors since many of my fellow passengers had grabbed some junk to gorge upon as they rushed to get home.

In the seats behind me a kid was doing maths with his mum. 19 + 19 is 28 he insisted. The generation that will look after mine in retirement is not only thick as two short planks but also shows no deference or respect to its parents. The mother was simply wrong, the kid insisted as his voice rose. But I guess like all the other morons he will grow up to be a wannebee celeb so his stupidity won’t be an issue.

A drunk gave me a long gaze as our eyes met. I’m a nice drunk. He was not a nice drunk. I shifted my eyes rather glad that there was an older gentleman sitting between me and the drunk who promptly collapsed and spent most of the time between London and Swindon lying prostrate in the aisle or trying to do the sort of pointless exercises that only the totally inebriated consider demonstrate that they are half sober.  I and the other passengers exchanged embarrassed smiles at his antics.

First Great Western apologised in a blundering, we really do not give a fuck, but pretend we care way as the fast train turned out to be a very slow train indeed, all the way to Reading. As we crawled into the City where Wilde was jailed I thought lovingly of life at the Greek Hovel and my friends in Kambos and contemplated booking a flight next week and just not coming back.

Pulling into Didcot I saw that the older gentleman next to me was interested in shares. His mobile thingy device had messages from Hargreaves Lansdowne and so I piped up “I see you are interested in shares”. We started talking. We will gloss over his ownership of Afren which I warned him was not perhaps the wisest investment, something 100% vindicated today. He has a very prudent and sensible approach to creating a balanced portfolio weighted towards collectives. He knew his onions.

The chap is a social worker but not, I think, the sort that steals your kids if you vote UKIP, but what was truly fascinating is that he was and is a real punk rocker.  He was the lead singer with the Stingrays, a band once described as the Bristol equivalent of the Ramones.  I had not heard of them but just as we could talk a common language in shares music was also a common language.



The Stingrays never made it big although John Peel loved them. But perhaps we should not really talk about everything Pee loved back in the 1970s these days as this is a family website. Not. But they played support to the Pretenders. I once bumped into Chrissie Hynde in an upmarket kitchen equipment shop in Swiss Cottage but that’s not really sex, drugs and rock n roll is it?  The Stingrays were also support on the first UK tour of U2. “They were rubbish” back then I was told. I guess Saint Bono of Smugness is therefore getting back to his roots these days.

One member of the band went on to play with Jo Boxer and made real dosh (remember The Boxer beat?). Was my new friend jealous? He smiled and said “of course” but admitted that the fellow was far more talented than he was and seemed really quite happy for him.

What is amazingly is that the band is still touring but just for fun. Rarely do they play in the UK although they did a couple of years ago on a SLF reunion bash. What would I have given to have heard this SLF number live  back in the days? Music is a common language, my friend says SLF and I say “alternative Ulster” – I know what he is talking about.


The Stingrays tour only in Japan. Apparently the kids there know all their songs. My friends says the band can’t actually remember the numbers themselves so have to re-learn them each year before touring, something they will be doing this April and – “according to our business plan” every April until 2017 when they turn 60.

I’ll say this for the UK. It throws up some real characters. Meeting this chap made my day and really reminded me why I sometimes like living here. Next time he gigs in Bristol he can drop me a note and I’ll be there.

As an aside, I shared with him that the best gig I ever attended was on the Lower East Side. in New York in the early eighties. Not the Bristol Ramones but the real Ramones. Continuing the video theme, I share with my pal, if he is reading, a gig that I'd also have given anything to attend: The Go Go's playing a Ramones classic from a set in Central Park in 2001. I wanna be sedated. That Belinda Carlisle: sex drugs and rock n'roll ( especually the drugs) - she knew how to party.


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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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