There must have been 20 houses in that cul-de-sac, and they all had kids of my age, so there was a gang, and everyone had to do this test to see if you were eligible to join. There was a fast-flowing river nearby with four irons from an old bridge running across, each an inch wide. You had to walk over these, into the field on the other side which had a bull in, and you had to get to the gate. I did it and I was in, and it was great.
We had woods out the back, a cricket field and a football field within three minutes' walk. We had bows and arrows, which we cut ourselves and sharpened; we all had knives and catapults. We were out till all hours, playing football, commandos, playing with trolleys you'd steer with ropes, playing with roller-skates with metal wheels . . . I challenge anyone to say he had a better childhood than mine.
My dad used to take me down to Woking Working Man's Club and encourage me to take that guitar, because in those days people just used to get up and give a song. I'd sing Baby Face and old Country and Western numbers. It used to frighten the life out of me, I'd never really had this feeling before, except in school football matches just before kick-off - but that was a team and this was just me. It was a fascinating feeling, I liked it, it was a challenge, I suppose my first. By the time I was 12, dad was taking me round London at the weekends, playing the pubs and clubs. It must have looked funny, this lad standing up there in short trousers with this huge guitar, being able to belt out these songs . . .
I'll never forget those days. I re-visit them all the while. I go over to that cul-de-sac at least once a month when I'm not working or away. My parents aren't there any more - my father died seven years ago and my mother now lives on another estate - but if it's a nice sunny day, I take the Aston Martin down there and park, and I'm straight in the alley at the far end and out into the field beyond, or down by the river.
Sometimes I sit in the spot where we had a camp - there was a hole in the ground, and it's still there. I take my sons over there and explain to them that this is what dad used to do when he was your age, this was our lookout tree - I get such a kick out of that.
I go back to the river, and I think of all the dodgy rafts we used to build with old oil drums strapped together with string - how we didn't drown, I don't know. I can look at a piece of pavement where I cut my chin open, and look at the bar under the bridge that I smashed my head on. I stare at them and I go into another land. We all need to get away sometimes, and I just lose myself in my childhood. It makes me peaceful, happy. I shall go back there for the rest of my life. It was such a wonderful time. It was always sunny, it seems.
Status Quo began a 21-date tour last Sunday. The band's autobiography, 'Just for the Record', is published by Bantam Press, pounds 14.99.
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