July 4, 2022
One End of The Tunnel

Monday the 4th of July 2022

Dear Members of The Seventeen,

As the 9:15 train to Corby is pulling out of Saint Pancras…

I am once again confronted with the oh so entitled London-centric world that I am part of. The billions of pounds that have been spent on this less than square mile that Saint Pancras and King’s Cross are part of. But in moments we are clear of Granary Square world and into the Somers Town world you might know via Shane Meadows’ depiction, and I cannot stop myself celebrating the work of fellow vandalisers of walls with crude and less crude tags and scrawls. And then of course are the Buddleia growing out of the cracks in man’s crumbling dominion. Can’t be long now before Her work is done. 

But before She does, and it is done, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, the members of The Seventeen, for taking the risk and your outstanding inaugural performance of the tribute version of the score SURROUND.

And the suburbs give way to Duncan Sandys’ pleasant fields of the Green Belt.

And in minutes, as the train is rolling into Luton… 

I can see the home ground of the first English football team I ever followed – Kenilworth Road. My Uncle Bill had moved down from Scotland after the war. He set up home in Luton. I couldn’t understand a word my Cousin Kathleen said, and she couldn’t understand a word I said.  My Uncle Bill was a regular at Kenilworth Road. This was decades before Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon got his season ticket. And I imagine The Seventeen chanting “Come on You Hatters” on the terraces of Kenilworth Road in some sort of rage at everything Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon might stand for.

And as the train pulls out of Luton, I am thinking about The Luton Girls’ Choir (1936 – 1977) and I am wondering if they ever had a tribute version of themselves. They were always one of my favourite choirs. Far better than the Vienna Boys.

I will grab the next passing moments of this Monday morning and attempt not to be distracted by the vanishing world outside the carriage window, so I can list all your names, as in the names of those who of were passing members of The Seventeen this vanished Saturday evening…

1: Gordon
2: Sam
3: Andy Gell
4: Simone Stokes
5: Paul Locker
6: Tim Widdows
7: Liz Widdows
8: Ailsa Charter
9: Lon McCall
10: Stephen Dorphin
12: 11: Richard Groves
13: Philip G Paterson
14: Lizzie Paterson
15: Kay McGinley
17: Sam Lunnon
19: Karen Rust
23: Charlie Davies
26: El Clayton
30: Annie Tappenden
31: Agris Krumins
32: Dinah Kazakoff
37: Donna Canale
38: Ade Cartwright
39: Amanda Cartwright
40: Bill Drummond

Due to the latest wave in the Global Pandemic, not all forty of those who had booked a place to be a member of The Seventeen made it to Corby. Other names are missing from this list that should not be. If your name is one of the missing names, please let me know in whatever way you can, and your name will be added. Thank you and sorry for the oversight on my part.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Lizzie & Philip Paterson for baking and bringing the bread to have with the soup. I had some that was left over toasted with Marmite on it this morning.

I had planned to take a photograph of all these Day One members of The Seventeen in front of the WE LOVE YOU WALL, but I forgot. My mind by then was too concerned about the possibility of soup burning in the pan. So instead, I have used a photograph of the cover of The Luton Girls Choir’s ground-breaking album A LIGHT SHINING BRIGHT IN THOSE DARK WAR YEARS.

A Light Shining Bright In Those Dark War Years

And as the train rolls into Bedford… 

My mind shifts back to almost four hundred years. And I am thinking about The Ranters across the land, unfocused, unorganised, chaos meets crusty, but challenging those whose hands were on the levers of power back in the days. And then that tinker by trade but revolutionary by nature, John Bunyan imprisoned here in the town jail for twelve years (1660 – 1672) for being part of the Nonconformists spreading The Ranters words across the land… 

And him in there behind the bars writing his Pilgrim’s Progress, and the influence those words have had on several centuries of life, but I guess that was before your time. John Bunyan makes Johnny Rotten seem like the pampered son of the more equal than others, that he may have been.

John Bunyan
Dark clouds bring waters, when the bright bring none

And as the train pulls out of Bedford…

I can hear in my head The Bedford Messiah Choir performing Handel as the Rose Bay Willow Herb are bursting into bloom all along these rail embankments.

And as the train rolls into Wellingborough… 

I think about the rise and fall of The Doughboys and less than a stone’s throw away The Nag’s Head, Woolaston. It was there after climbing the single file and ramshackle wrought iron staircase on the outside, John Peel would stamp our tickets as we entered, before he manned the decks. It was there we witnessed The Liverpool Scene sometime in 1970, with Adrian Henri performing The Entry of Christ into Liverpool – which was enough for me to think if Liverpool is good enough for Christ to enter, then it is good enough for me to apply to do painting at the Liverpool School of Art (yeah, that and input from The Plastic Ono Band).

City morning dandelion seeds blowing in from wastelands

And then its Kettering. And if you come from Corby, it is always difficult being in Kettering as soon as they hear your accent. 

And again, as the train is now pulling out of Kettering, where the home of The Poppies once was, I can almost see The Tin Hat, where all the greatest R&B bands of land and beyond played during my teenage years.

And on over the River Ise, where in a hedge row by its’ banks I first discovered one of the most beautiful things in all of Creation – the nest of a Wren with thirteen tiny eggs waiting to hatch. Those that might know how a Wren’s nest is constructed might doubt how I knew there were thirteen eggs in the nest. I embrace your doubt, and I feel shamed in letting you know that I pushed my middle finger into the entry hole and touched and counted each-and-every-one of those thirteen eggs. 

And on as the train pulls into Corby Station where I caught my last steam strain in the January of ’66. That was just before Beeching closed the station down on the 18th of April that same most swinging of years. The very month that Somebody Help Me by The Spencer Davis Group was at number one in the singles charts. 

And I step down from the train…

And I begin my walk from Corby Station to the Rooftop Arts Centre, maybe for the last time ever. There is always a last time. And I don’t just mean maybe the last time, I don’t know… But a Green, green grass sort of last time.

I stand looking through the tunnel under the rail tracks – l love this tunnel. Don’t we all love a tunnel. The second time I walked through this tunnel back in March or April, I sort of imagined The 25 Paintings being exhibited in there. And as people walked through this tunneI into town, they would have had to squeeze past all 25 of them. 


This morning I am not thinking about what a missed opportunity that was. What I am thinking is, what a missed opportunity that I did not do a different score with The Seventeen and whatever that score was should have been performed down here in this tunnel, with its concrete reverb and unwanted smells and unseen threats and “What the fuck are those people doing in the tunnel making all that noise?” of it.

So, instead, I just take out my phone and take a photograph looking down the tunnel that I might never walk through again. And while I do so I imagine a future version of The Seventeen doing a performance here. You got to imagine these things, or maybe nobody else will ever do it. It is what imagining is for.

And when I get through to the other end of the tunnel, I take another photograph looking the other way. Then I celebrate by picking some of the Feral Raspberries that are growing there in the unkept hedge. This is where the Elder Trees had been in bloom only two weeks ago, willing me to pick their fronds for my Corby’s Finest Elderflower Cordial (blended from five different Corby Elder Trees).

I would also like to take this further opportunity to thank The Corby Latvian Choral Society for their influence on me in my early choral years in the mid-to-late-sixties. 

Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou.

Yours Sincerely,

The Elderly Gentleman

Post Script:

The station in Corby re-opened in April 1987, and closed again in June 1990, and re-opened again in February 2009.

The Other End of The Tunnel
The Other End of The Tunnel