Welcome back! At last the sunshine has returned and people greet you in the street with a smile rather than scurry past you without a word, their heads bowed against the wind and rain!

This latest chapter is another farewell I’m afraid; rather like a few others I have written for you lately. My late mother used to say that ‘things come in threes’ and regularly I could have proved her totally wrong, but two weeks ago there was news of a third friend/colleague who had left us. I told you about my old deputy head Mr. Gibson, who had died at 102 in my last offering and a month or so before that it was Frank Knee who had reached his 80th year the previous summer.

On February 19th Philip Keith Wheeler died suddenly. He was a much loved husband, father, grandfather, friend and bass guitarist who left us far too soon. He was just sixty four.

It has been well documented in my book of memories ‘We’d Like To Do A Number Now’ that Phil and myself first met at school. He was a few years below me and we both travelled to Trowbridge Boys High School each weekday on the school bus from Melksham. How we discovered a love for the same brand of music I can’t for the life of me remember now fifty years later. Slowly but surely though we set about finding those special people that had both the musical talent and the ‘itch’ that needed to be scratched and persuaded them to join with us in making the type of music that we loved.

The next decade is covered in detail in the book and so I’ll leave you to remember what you read in 2011 or pause while you take this opportunity to catch up…. Okay, everybody on the same page? In the mid 70s Phil and wife Jane upped sticks from the West Country and moved their family to southern Ireland. It was only in August 2011 after the book had been published that Phil and his family got back in touch. Dave our guitarist for several years summed it up brilliantly ‘That book of yours was like throwing a pebble in a pond; the ripples just kept spreading wider and wider.’

More and more faces from the past appeared and old friendships were renewed; some hatchets were buried. We had all moved on, but we found time to gather together and reminisce from time to time. One notable occasion was on August 30th 2011 when Phil, Dave, Paul the drummer and I met up for the first time in almost 40 years. It was an emotional afternoon.

When a second book was suggested we all considered what input we might provide; that first meeting threw up all sorts of possibilities! In the end we decided enough was enough as far as ‘war stories’ were concerned. A reunion gig was planned for Ralph our roadie’s 65th and Phil was keen, but business and distance won out in the end. The gig went ahead and we three ‘originals’ enjoyed the experience, but sadly it was a one-off.

Phil and I kept in touch over the next two and a half years; his wife and young daughter Rosie have been friends on Facebook throughout. Phil and I discussed the possibility of a trip over to Tralee to meet up again when time allowed. That opportunity has now gone.

Life is short; we must enjoy it while we can. The lesson I’ve learned this past few days is that those things I have on my list of things ‘to do when time allows’ will need to be done as soon as humanly possible; tomorrow may already be too late.

Goodbye old friend. Thanks for helping me make such splendid memories.

That’s all for now; I’ll be back soon. Thanks for dropping by.

Categories: The Long Hard Road