Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections: Mathew Clayton

Mathew Clayton | 2nd January 2019

Shadows and Reflections: the annual collection of postings in which our contributors and friends look back on the events that’ve shaped the past twelve months. From Mathew Clayton:

Earlier this year, I chaired an event at Waterstone’s in Brighton for some lovely authors. Towards the end, I asked for questions from the audience and a guy in a cool t-shirt with a shaved head and a fluffy blonde beard stood up. I was trying to concentrate on what he was saying but something was niggling me; the voice was very familiar. ‘Bloody hell – is that Michael Shreeve?’ And sure enough, it was. We had been friends as teenagers but had lost touch at some point in our early twenties, probably when I moved to London and he, very sensibly, decided to stay put in Brighton. He was a brilliant guitarist. One of those people that you could tell was in a different league from the moment he hit the first note. Now, he informed me, he just played the bass.

And so, a few weeks later, I pitched up at his house one Sunday night. He had agreed to add a little bit of low end magic to a track I was making. It was appropriate that this was taking place on Sunday as I see myself as the musical equivalent of a Sunday league footballer. Dreams of Old Trafford faded long ago but I still thoroughly enjoy putting my boots on and having a run round the park. There have been periods in my life when I have stopped making music but I always come back to it. It is part hobby, part habit.

I grew up in a musical house where my five brothers and sisters all played instruments and I was lucky enough to have guitar lessons as a teenager. I enjoyed them but I haven’t got any better since they stopped when I left school. My dad played the concertina and, likewise, in all the years he played, I don’t think he ever improved. He always played the same set of tunes but his playing tailed off as he got older, stopping altogether about ten years ago when his duties caring for my mother increased. She died in January and my family were worried about how he would cope in the months that followed. On the way over to Shreeve’s I popped into his house. I was overjoyed to hear a familiar tune creaking out from the dining room. My dad was playing the concertina again.