Way back in the past, in the late 1970's, I lived near Richmond, a Thameside town just outside of London. It was a bleak period in my life, marked by the struggle to overcome the depression that had derailed my teenage years. I was undergoing some pretty intensive psychotherapy at the time, the net effect of which was to magnify any emotional upset into epic proportions that, hopefully, could be talked through and analyzed.
Considering how I had clamped down all my feelings to almost absolute zero as my illness took over, this was a desirable if often extremely painful process.
Naturally, though, I was left exhausted and drained much of the time. I would seek refuge in the evening in the Richmond pubs, sitting alone with a couple of pints of ale and seeking to make sense of what happened, or, more often, simply drinking to soothe the pain away.
A favorite haunt was a small, rather run-down, hole-in-the-wall type pub called the Guv'nors Bar. Barely the size of a living room, it was underlit to a crimson near-darkness and was often almost empty. The beer was good and strong – Ruddle's bitter – and the seats were a plush and spongy red velvet, such as you often find in older cinemas. I would sink into one of these and listen to the muffled sounds coming from the adjacent club disco, or, sometimes, put a 10p piece into the jukebox. The selection was all over the place, some country, some pop. I usually ended up playing the old Rolling Stones' B-side "Play With Fire".
That song, with its jaded vocal and cruel lyric, fitted the mood of both the bar and myself. Its intensity was magnified by the circumstances, and hearing it once was often enough to cause me to drink up and head out.
At the time I had no inkling of what future lay ahead of me, and never remotely dreamed that I would end up here in America. It really was a 'one day at a time' period for me. Very hard for me to empathize with now after all the years. But there's a crack in the shutter over those days that the mournful melody of that old song can drift through, bringing with it smokey air and faded red velvet.