MANY years ago, when Boris Johnson was merely an up-and-coming haircut, I took a walk across the Staffordshire Roaches. I found the rugged profile of the landscape and the way it almost scraped the clouds to be a balm against the moping emos of Hanley. 

I began to climb higher along the ridge and saw a silhouette at its peak, a solitary figure stood with one foot raised on a gritstone outcrop. Cast solely in black as the morning light was behind him, save for a quick glint of sunshine playing across a bald pate. He seemed to look out, proud yet contemplative, towards Back Forest. Perhaps pondering the etymology of Lud’s Church or what muse might lie dormant in its verdant reaches.

As I drew nearer, I heard a rich baritone voice drifting on the wind. Something about a knight who had passed this way; a chess player on a crusade to find God. The figure continued to sing, rapt in his own melody, as I came up to him.

“What are you singing, pal?” I asked.

The man turned to me and as he did so the clouds above us parted, a shaft of sunlight cascading down upon him. Silently he took my hand, his eyes searching mine as if for a lost ancient truth.

“The rain will wash away the tears from their faces.” He sang to me. “And as the thunder cracked, they were gone.”

I thought I saw a tear in his eye as he released my hand and walked away, the sound of jazz scat and something about the Neo-Stalinist regime following him, fainter now, into the distance.

I look down as he melted once again into a black silhouette and noticed he had left a CD in my hand. It had only the legend ‘Scott 4’ on the front, above what appeared to be a picture of the man I had just met in more hirsute times.

It has been my favourite record ever since.

THE HERMITTS: Tables Turned | The Hermitts (

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