That was really it for my career in music for the next 25 years. Simon and I left London for Northamptonshire. I went back to library work and he began a small cassette duplicating business, which began to grow and grow. We moved to a small village in Oxfordshire and the tape company really started to take off. We had two children and just kept working. Oh, and I did make a cassette single called ‘Satisfied Mind’ with two guitarists that had come to record in our basement in Northants. We were called Septic Tank (no, I don’t know why – stupid name).
I did briefly come out of retirement twice to guest at the Cropredy festival, in 1981, at Broughton Castle, and again in 1982. I was scared stiff both times and I’m sure it was noticeable. I also appeared in two village pantomimes and that was that.
In 1994 Simon died, and I spent the next few years in a state of numbness. The children grew up and went to University. In 1997, Fairport asked me if I would sing at the 30th Anniversary Cropredy. I said yes, without thinking, and spent the next few months chewing my fingernails and trying to think of a way of getting out of it. The first rehearsal at Woodworm felt very awkward. Remember I hadn’t seen any of them for 20 years, and although they were all still playing and had never stopped, I had really not sung a note. I was completely out of practice and felt very shy of all these now famous musicians. I could barely string two words together and I really felt that it had been a mistake to ask me. I was then told that I was playing at the warm-up gig at the Mill as well. ‘What?’ I thought, ‘I’ve got to do this twice? Oh heck!’
But a peculiar thing happened at the Mill. I came on stage to start singing at the rehearsal and suddenly the years fell away. I remembered where to stand and how to sing. I think the others were a bit surprised. I know I was really startled, but happy, and when it came to the evening performance it went really well. The audience was so friendly and positive and all at once it was wonderful to be singing with Richard, Simon and Ashley again. Just like the old days (and I shall always be grateful for the little puffs of cold air coming from Dave Mattacks’ drum kit – that was a very hot weekend). Cropredy itself was a total joy. It was early evening when I played and all I could see was a sea of welcoming faces. Mojo’s review said I had ‘gracefully aged’ (thank you, Colin Harper).
In 2002 Fairport again asked me to sing at the 35th Anniversary Cropredy. And I said yes again. I still couldn’t think of a good reason not to, so there we were. This time Iain was with us as well in the early years’ line-up, or, as I like to think of them – the Fairport Playgroup. Once again the first rehearsals were rather strained. Don’t forget, I hadn’t seen Iain for more than 30 years. But the same thing happened as before. Warm-up at the Mill and everything fell into place and by the actual Cropredy performance I was very relaxed (except that it had poured with rain during Richard’s solo set (what’s new?) and I was pretty frozen waiting backstage (and it was way past my bedtime). But it was even more fun and I wished my Simon had been there to hear me singing. My children had by now, both left home and I had learnt to live with elderly greyhounds instead.
As usual, after the Cropredy performance there was a huge sense of anti-climax and it was back to work at the library as a casual assistant on Monday as normal. The only reminder was when someone would bring their books back and I’d realise they were wearing a Fairport T-shirt with my name on their back. I never had the nerve to mention this, however. Just used to grin as they went out.