Jive Stalking

Okay. This story is utterly true but is one of those weird, “you couldn’t write it” style affairs.

I recently had some information that connected a whole heap of things from my childhood together.

I have to take you back to when I was a young blues guru, about 9 years old, growing up on the community playground plantations, then called “The Ozzy” in affectionate memory of the old hospital that used to reside there, in Pontefract, in the heart of deep West Yorkshire. Back then your mum used to ask you when you were getting in, and would holler your name from the door at incredible volumes to announce “Tea’s Ready!”

In those days I have memories of a dark and rather unsettling time. Our house phone used to ring, I used to answer, and on the end would either be nobody… or somebody who was breathing very slowly and yet would not answer to “Hello”. I remember Dad telling us how if we answered the phone, we were to write down the time and how long the call lasted. A month or two later, he explained the phone was being “monitored” and that if the weird phone calls ever happened, that the police would track them and that we were to wait for the person on the other end of the line to hang up.

We followed instructions to the letter. I never found out if the police got an actual hit.

A woman started appearing. Where we lived, there was a supermarket across the road, and yet every now and again, a car would drive slowly past our house before pulling up at the supermarket, and then a woman used to get out, do her shopping, load her car unusually slowly, and then slowly drive away, staring all the time at our house. I noticed this woman anyway, as a matter of course, as she had done her utmost to resemble my mum in appearance.

To my memory the sightings and phone calls lasted over around a 5 year period. Occasionally, dad would come into my bedroom and look at his watch whilst peeking through my venetian blinds as they looked out onto the supermarket across the road.

Dad used to go out into Pontefract town centre every now and again to have a *mooch* and grab a pint or research the family history at the library. The peak of the trouble occurred whilst out on one of his mooches.

As dad walked down Ropergate in Pontefract, he attempted to cross over to get to the Post Office (when there used to be a post office there!), only to realise, as he crossed, that a car with the stalker at the wheel, deliberately accelerated towards him, nearly mowing him down in the road. He jumped clear and tried taking the number plate. I still don’t know whether any action was taken. I was very young and rather sensibly, we were protected from the worst of the information and told only “need-to-know” stuff regarding it.

The phone calls stopped soon after and I barely ever gave thought of it again until the other day.

The fact is that my dad was a very good looking guy, but that doesn’t even matter when it comes to someone stalking you or someone you love. The unease and the fear that the woman put us through as a family is something I will never truly forget, and it is only through happy chance that nothing more sinister did happen in the end. The woman, needless to say, was one chip short of a barm cake.

So what brought it back to the fore of my mind all of a sudden? A silly conversation in the car with my mum on the way to my first hospital appointment the other day. We were talking about Facebook and mutual friends, and mum pointed out she’d spotted someone who was a friend of a friend, being the son of the lady who stalked my dad. That person, who obviously shall remain nameless, as it turns out, is an ex-student of mine. I know him relatively well as I taught him for a year. He is a DUDE. He also happens to be a fabulous musician, and even weirder, until recently he was playing in a good friend of mine’s band. The very second my mum said his first name the penny dropped. I remembered. He was named after the son of someone famous, just because my dad looked a bit like them. I don’t even think the poor lad has ANY idea what-so-ever.

The bigger picture is that people get stalked. It really can happen to anyone. Male or female. All it takes is for something to switch in someone’s head, and then not one person’s, but a whole family’s lives, can be put through utter hell. Sadly there are many worse cases of stalking than my fathers too. That in itself is utterly frightening. The link below is a good place to start if you are being stalked.


So there you go. It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it. The lad is off chasing a career in music somewhere across the world now. He deserves every success. A true gentleman. Whatever mistakes his mother made, she raised a great kid.

For what it’s worth…

Blog time again. This offering recounts the conversation between me and a guy looking to make a booking for a solo gig in his little bar.

I must be poorly. This poor chap has contacted me in good faith, and I have taken the liberty not only of blogging about it, but of totally over-reacting and going to town with my responses to him. I’m blaming the tablets, and the timing of hospital appointments.

Here is the email conversation in full. Maybe you can see what I was trying to do? I’ve yet to receive a final response from John. I’ve changed the names to protect the cheeky.


Hi mate what’s your fee and availability for a gig in a small bar in B*******.

Thanks John


Hi John,

Lovely to hear from you! I am currently taking gigs on for June onwards. I have one booking in June so far which is Thursday 13th, so I am not available for that date. I also run an open-mic night every other Monday so Mondays tend to be a no go for me. Other than that I’m pretty much easy for any dates you have in mind.

I charge £80 for a gig. I can provide my own PA if necessary (I often prefer to use my own anyway) and I’m pretty self-contained as I don’t take a great deal of room and can get myself and the PA to the gig and back easily. I normally do 2 (x 45 minute) sets but the second set usually stretches to an hour. If you have different set times/ideas we can work with that too. I’m easy going and can tailor things very easily to your preferences.

If that sounds agreeable to you then I shall look forward to hearing from you, maybe with a couple of suggested dates you’d like to fill?

Hope that’s ok for you…

Thanks again for getting in touch and all the best

Ryan Mitchell-Smith


Hi mate sounds good to me can you do the first gig for 50 pound as we are just starting the acoustic night ,we’re are you based as were also interested in a open mike night Regards John


Hi John,

I’m based in Wakefield. If you need someone to run an open-mic night for you I might know some suitable people a bit closer to you. Let me know if you want me to ask around for you.

Regarding the gig, my fee is £80. I wouldn’t dream of coming into your lovely pub, ordering a pint, you asking me for £3.50 for that pint, for me to reply with, would you take £1.85 as I’ve only just started drinking? Asking me to do a gig for less is ridiculous if you think about it. The fact that you’re only just starting acoustic night’s is nothing to do with me. Why should I take a pay cut? I don’t even know you. (no offence!)

£80 is the going rate for professional musicians (hence why it is my fee) who are doing solo gigs in this area at the moment. If you are only just starting to put acoustic music on, it might be an idea to approach less established acts who would consider playing for less. I am a professional musician and I get offered gigs all the time, so I couldn’t accept a £50 one if I wanted to – because I’d be turning a gig down that pays £80 to be able to do it! If I say no to you, the date I would have done for you will get filled with a gig that pays me £80. It’s a no brainer. Apart from that, The Musicians Union won’t allow its members to perform for less than a statutory fee anyway, and I don’t want to forfeit my membership. When you are prepared to pay the going rate I’ll gladly come and gig in your lovely pub!!

I’m afraid I don’t know anyone who gigs for that little, so I’m not sure I can offer any suggestions for other people to approach…

I do wish you the best of luck, and I hope you do manage to get it off the ground. I also hope you don’t take my response as terse or arrogant – I mean no offence to you personally, and if I can assist you in any other way then I will do my best.

Just remember…

You get what you pay for.

All the best.

Ryan Mitchell-Smith


Ok ryan you must be good when are you available for a Sunday spot by the way you have a lot to live up to by your response hope you bring the crowds in we have availability in may if you have. Cheers John


Hi John,

Hehehe I am good, but I’m not famous, sadly.

The few that do follow me tend to be Wakefield based like I am. Gigs at new venues that I’ve never been to are a different kettle of fish. It’s not about how many people I can bring. People occasionally travel to see an artist they like, sure, but in reality crowds don’t follow people to gigs unless they are famous.

For one I don’t know anybody in B*******… I’m hardly going to get a decent audience because no one knows who I am over there. With booking me, you are booking a great quality act who will seriously entertain whoever *YOU* manage to get there, by telling everyone (hopefully) that you have booked a dynamite guitarist and they’d be daft to miss it!

Sure I sort some posters for you, but YOU USE them to refer people to… “This is who we have on next month!”… etc – as sadly I don’t live in your bar, so I can’t very well stand there singing my own praises! lol The poster will have some info that will hopefully intrigue people into taking a chance on coming along. I also promote the gig online, all over facebook and twitter, but in reality, that might bring in an extra ten people. Any act that you book, will only actually bring about that amount of people into your bar… or less. It’s just not how it works.

It is not my job to bring people into your bar for you. It is your job to do that.

It IS my job to keep them in your bar ONCE they’re in!!

The whole point being that YOU build the reputation for YOUR bar by putting on QUALITY music that people will slowly start to rely on, talk to each other about, and before long, more people are coming to your bar, gladly, because even if they DON’T know who is on, they trust it’s always brilliant so they will go down anyway.

It’s about being patient and playing the longer game.

People who have the attitude that their bar will magically fill up because they simply booked someone are sadly too many in number and are doomed to failure because it simply doesn’t happen. It takes a lot of hard work and patience from the landlady/landlord. I know of many acoustic nights that have failed after merely 6 months or less, simply because the landlady/landlord thought just booking the act was enough. The extra customers that you are looking for, is more of the people who are local to you, not the occasional stragglers that might have followed an act to your bar who may never even return afterwards. “You get out what you put in” could not be more true in this case.

I have responded to you in an effort to try and give you a fighting chance at making a proper go of it. Like I said… I want you to succeed and I was genuine when I said I would help if I could.

Believe it or not, I am writing this to you after returning from the hospital. I’ve just found out I have to have an operation in May. Because of this  I am going to have to delay accepting any gigs whatsoever from anyone for the time being.

I am being genuine and I would not have spent so long on my reply if I wasn’t really trying to help.

I wouldn’t blame you for just thinking I was crazy. You didn’t even ask for my advice, yet I decided to give it anyway and have gone to town with my responses under the disguise of *helping*.

I have run my open-mic night at the same pub for 4 years. It succeeds because me and the landlord work together, and are patient with each other. Before that I ran one at a different bar with a best friend for 3 years. On our busiest night we made £1350 over the bar. It was a Monday night… in a small Wakefield bar.. in November!

I’m just going to leave that with you. You caught me at a bad time admittedly. I’m not kidding about the hospital. I wish I was.

Maybe once you’ve got up and running you’d consider giving me a whirl. Maybe later in the summer. I’d also understand totally if you’d *rather not* but I hope you do.

All the best & Good luck

Ryan Mitchell-Smith


And there endeth the lesson. Just another example of what can happen when a pinch of cheekiness, gets together with some “special” grammar, and how a teachery technician with pet peeves on a bad day can really go to town for no reason whatsoever. Yes. I know. I wasted my time. But I got a blog out of it, and now someone, somewhere, thinks I’m a right weirdo. Go me. ;)