“During a weekend in July, the majority of my friends went to the Phoenix Festival, but the tickets were too expensive, so I decided to go to a party on Appledore cliffs. Like every self-respecting 19-year-old I wanted to be a rock star. I’d started working on a sound crew—I was carrying gear and twiddling knobs and I was getting quite good. I kept thinking; this might be the thing I could do.
“I’d spent the day busking and drinking beer as I played. I packed up my guitar and skipped along across the Westward Ho! to Appledore cliff tops. I made it to the party, but to be honest I don’t remember getting there. When I got there I noticed that they had built a bonfire on the edge of the precipice—its flames flared against the night sky.
“My friend Electric Russell found me at the bottom of the cliff. When I came to, I was in hospital. I’d broken my shoulder and severed the nerves on the left side of my head; damaging all the little bones in my ear. First thing I did was to try to light up a cigarette. I smiled, but the nurses weren’t very happy.
“For a while I kept trying to be a sound engineer until one day I was working for a band and the lead guitarist saw me go to the middle of the room and stick a finger in my ear. He turned to his band mates and asked, ‘What’s he doing that for?’ When he found out that I was partially deaf that didn’t go down too well,” says Dave, his wicker hat dipping forward and back as he laughs.
“I still played music despite the hearing and I was the lead guitarist in several bands. One day my friend, and the drummer in my band, Andy, turned up at a gig with this girl called Netty. A couple of months later I met her again and I thought, ‘Gosh she’s nice, it’s a shame she’s taken.’
“A few years later I was at a party and there she was again. Her relationship with Andy had come to an end. I gave her my number. I checked with Andy, as one should, and we started dating. During our first date we kissed in a graveyard and the relationship came to life.
“I ended up moving in with her, and emptied her garage to fit all my music gear. I was 27 at the time and she had two children. So, now I had children, a dog and cats. We didn’t have much money and we struggled to pay the rent. I realised that I needed a steady source of income to help support the kids so I got a full time job and did extra hours.
“If we had any sort of argument, we worked through it. If I had a moment of crises, she had me talk—and it’s been like that for 20 years now,” says Dave.
“Without Netty I’d be a gibbering idiot shouting at strangers on the street while I dribbled cider over their feet. She makes me the civilised person I was supposed to be.
“Before I met Netty I didn’t even drive. She pushes me to do things that I wouldn’t do otherwise. We go to art galleries together; we take spontaneous trips. During the lockdown we set up a makeshift pub in our car port. We sit in it and talk about everything. We have friends come over and we have a laugh. When it gets dark she goes in and I stay outside for a little longer. Then I start to miss her, so I gather my things, turn off the lights, and walk into the house.”