Express & Star

Andy Richardson: Eyes firmly on the road while the stars swap stories

I work once I’ve finished working. It’s a peculiar affliction, though I’m not complaining. I define it with the hashtag #DoTheThingsYouLove and feel so enamoured with writing, entertainment and books that when others are doing sensible stuff, like relaxing and spending time with family, I spend my time with an HP Envy, knocking out another 93,000 words or putting on a show. Funny, how life turns out.

Roll up for the magical mystery tour...

And it’s funnier, still, when you find yourself in improbable situations with household names who’ve suddenly become your mates and on-the-road colleagues.

So on an otherwise humdrum day, I found myself parked outside Birmingham New Street Station, ready to pick up an award-winning indie band who count Oasis and Arctic Monkeys among their mates and who know what it’s like to be number one in the charts and have their own platinum discs hanging on the wall.

There may have been a time when they were used to swanning around in limos. And at festivals this summer, punters were paying the price of a Kwasi Kwarteng tax cut to see them headline. They had no such luxury in store when we met.

“Afternoon, lads,” I said, as I loaded their suitcases into the back of a 2011 Ford Transit that was last washed in March. “Roll up for the magical mystery tour.”

It’s not the first time a celebrity has found themselves being ferried to a place of work in the lack-of-luxury that they really don’t want to become accustomed to. A guy who's sold tens of millions of records and remains a household name found himself being driven around Leeds in a Renault Clio, swapping stories of an actor who used to be in Neighbours. He found the experience so amusing that he made up a song about it, right there and then. Modesty forbids me from sharing it with you and, in truth, it was sufficiently salacious to put you off whatever you’re eating or drinking later this afternoon.

Super builder Nick Knowles was probably more at home when he found himself on the same front row of the Ford Transit that the reasonably-surprised indie band occupied on a cool, crisp autumnal morning.

We chatted about this and that. Though mostly, the job of the driver is to drive and shut up. And so I focused on the road and delivered us to our destination. My phone, positioned without breaking any laws in a nice dashboard gizmo, sprang into life, somewhere near the A14.

It was another rock star – like I said, funny how life turns out – who remains a household name and wanted to check on something to do with a book, I think.

The faces of the indie warriors lit up. “Is that THE such and such?”

It was, the very same, yes.

“Oh man. I grew up listening to him.”

A trip from Birmingham to Bury St Edmunds with White Van Man had turned into a game of Celebrity Top Trumps.

While they did their thing, I did mine. The crowds were entertained, and I became King of the Book Selling Stand, in the foyer.

A woman approached. She had a complaint. The website for their book, she told me, wasn’t accurate. It didn’t include the information she needed about a particular CD. Which was funny, because the website belonged to me and I’d uploaded the very information she’d requested a few days earlier.

Another woman approached. She ummed and aahed. Should I buy the book, shouldn’t I buy the book? It’s at moments when you can see £40 slipping through your fingers that your inner salesman kicks in. If Gavin Williamson can win Fireplace Salesman Of The Year, then I can damn well sell a book.

“Is it any good?” she asked.

“I wrote it, so I’d better not say,” I demurred.

She was hooked. False modesty wins every time and within 60 seconds we were new best friends, swapping family stories and smiling happily as she parted with £40 that I stuck straight in the band’s kitty.

They didn’t ride back with me to the hotel that night. Another guy had arrived with a battered old car. Funnily enough, they preferred that to my dirty, 2011 Transit.

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