13 January 2019

Lawrence Jones MBE and Craig Charles at Farinet Hotel Verbier

Meeting an old friend Craig Charles in Verbier

Throughout my life there have been moments when it became clear I had to adapt. The world is continually changing and, if you don’t evolve, you get left behind.

One of the moments when this was most noticeable in my life was when I hit 30.

I’d done a stint working in Granada after they bought my very small music business. I knew that whilst music and writing was my passion, I had to put down my manuscript paper and close the piano lid to focus my attentions in an entirely different direction.

It’s not easy turning your back on something you love, something you have dedicated your life to, but 30 is an interesting age. It is one of those landmark ages where you are reminded by so many people that it’s time to knuckle down.

Catch 22

I’d done a similar thing five years earlier when I was playing the piano in hotels and restaurants. My favourite of these was the Midland Hotel. So many relationships I forged back then shaped me and I still have life-long friends from the time I worked there.

It was a catch 22 situation and I’d probably be there to this day, if it hadn’t been for a chance meeting with the cast of Red Dwarf.

When you play the piano in the lobby of a hotel, you get to watch the world go by. Pilots and airline staff checking in and out, business people, rockstars and celebs of every type. I learned pretty early on that creative people gravitate towards each other. It was clear. I struck up conversations with so many people and built some good friendships with the most unlikely people who you’d only ever expect to see on the television.

Craig Charles, Danny who played the Cat, and Norman who played the computer screen along with the rest of the cast of RedDwarf used to check in every week when they were filming in Manchester. I used to look forward to their arrival. Like clockwork on the Wednesday night, they arrive and their energy stood out in what was rather a formal environment.

Fate

One time they had made a remote control suitcase and left it in the middle of the lobby. Sat in the corner by the piano they’d have great fun making people jump out of their skin as the suitcase shot across the room.

I got to know Craig really well and he was a good friend albeit for a short era of my life. He was four years older than me and hugely successful; he was someone I looked up to.

Manchester has always been an amazing city, just like it’s making a name for itself in tech these days, back then, it was the centre of the world for music. The most notorious club, the Hacienda, was somewhere where we’d go every week without fail.

One such time, on my birthday, in the bar downstairs in the Haç called the Gay Traitor, Craig ordered a ridiculous amount of shots. He then turned to the barman when he’d finished pouring them saying, and the same for my friend too.

Change

It was a long night with an even longer walk back to the Midland where Craig was staying. Heading across the lobby I caught the eye of the general manager Shaun McCarthy. He was sitting with Sir Alex Ferguson and a lady from Coronation Street. He looked suitably unimpressed and I knew I was in trouble.

Fate has a funny way of working things out for you.

At the time I thought my world had ended. I received a letter in the post from the Food and Beverage Manager saying it was time for a fresh new look for the Octagon. My stint at the Midland was over.

Businesses just like people have to reform, as I learned the hard way and it was a costly but very valuable lesson.

A few days later I received bad news from another hotel. I’d lost that job too.

It was time to reform.

Shake upVerbier ski slopes

It was this shake up that sent me in the direction of building the agency called The Music Design Company. This was the business that Granada went on to buy off me a few years later.

After Granada, I took Gail the first night I met her in Albert Square to a bar ironically called Reform.

It was time to reinvent myself again.

Roll on the clock 20 years and my statement that creative people continue to gravitate towards each other is still firmly ingrained in my mind.

Booked in to play at our Hotel Le Farinet in Verbier, Switzerland, on Friday night was none other than Craig Charles.

That time again

After the Midland I’d knuckled down to build my first business. Partying was replaced by quiet nights with friends. And, with not playing at the Midland where Craig stayed, I stopped seeing the cast of Red Dwarf.

Sitting next to Craig and saying hello for the first time in 25 years was surreal. His success doesn’t need any announcing. He is an extraordinarily talented, intelligent and hardworking chap, so it’s no surprise that he’s continued in the same vein and become incredibly successful.

It was a lovely moment, stood in the corner of the Le Farinet with friends, with Craig on the decks. Yet, whilst so much has happened in those 25 years, it was as if time had stopped dead in its tracks.

Stood outside in the freezing cold at the end of the night Craig recited a few poems to me. With his arm tight around my neck, he spoke in his unmistakable accent. His style of speaking fast and slow. He shared the most moving poem about his mum who died some years earlier.

If we live for the special moments in life, that was one just there. A lesson somehow that I have to decipher. To pause for thought to work out my next direction and plan of attack.

It is without doubt one of those moments again, time to reform. Time chase some of my dreams that may have been sidelined for one reason or another, time to help others chase theirs.

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