CATHY CARROW
November 1st 1951 - October 31st 2001

I remember the first time I met Cathy Carrow. It was August 1975. I was hanging around Clustcwyr trying to pick up whatever studio down time I could get, in order to record my first solo album. At this point she was the label's big star; not that Clustcwyr have ever had anybody particularly famous on their books in the grand scheme of things... Cathy Carrow and the Cookie Crumbs were actually capable of selling records, and had managed several local TV slots. The Welsh music scene was, and to a certain extend still is, a world unto itself; much divorced from the UK Hit Parade and what have you. And in this microcosmos, Carrow and her Crumbs were about third on the bill, which was good going. They were Tapioca Records' star signing, and when they went under, Clustcwyr had managed to grab the contract.

So there I was, sat in the office at Clustcwyr, drinking a mug of oxo, and scrawling chords on the back of a moulding copy of the Guardian that was lying on the desk. In a rucksack between my feet were two reels of drum loops sent to me by Ike - they kept getting tripped over and one of the cases had already cracked, so now I cradled them on my feet, juggling them ineffectually. Enough of that... I looked through the window to the studio, desperately hoping that whoever was in there might be packing away by now. They weren't.

I'd never been a fan of the Cookie Crumbs. They were played a lot on local radio. Their happy-go-lucky, painfully infectious brand of bubble-gum pop drove me constantly up the wall. In a fit of masochism, I decided to listen to what they were doing in the studio, so I flicked on the speaker. I promptly flicked it off again. It was really bad. The band seemed to think it was quite bad too, except Cathy. I guess it was her song they were recording. It was a bad song.

After a few minutes of biro chewing, and a flick through the tattered and seemingly weeks old paper, I decided to have a kip - only to be woken, some unclear time later, by some majestic goddess in extreme close-up. To my horror, as my eyes focused, I realised that this ethereal beauty was Cathy Carrow. I jumped up with a start, headbutting her in the process. She stumbled backwards and knocked off half of the stuff on the desk. Both of us had somewhat pained heads. I stood up, crushing Ike's drum loops under foot, and then cursed loudly before falling to my knees and burying desperately into the rucksack in an attempt to survey the damage.

"Are you alright?" she asked, in one of those painfully attractive Welsh accents. I responded nonchalantly before hitting my head on the desk and going "awooo". Both spools were very broken indeed. One of them might play with a bit of card sellotaped over the side, but the other would require about half an hour of tedious manual tape transfer... I was somewhat pissed off with myself.

As I clambered up into the light, the tape from the first spool slithered off and dripped prettily to the floor. I growled before hurling the tangled and broken reel across the room in a fit of rage. "It won't do that again in a hurry", the Welsh accent said. I felt compelled to agree.

Impasse: five seconds. Then I scooped up the tape and commenced ramming it into my rucksack. Cathy helped, passing me one or two small handfulls. Cliched initial physical contact over, I buckled up the bag, and then casually sipped at my mug of oxo. It was cold and tasted foul.

"The studio's free."

"It's not much use to me now." I explained before suggesting a trip to the pub in time for last orders. Whereupon her Crumbs entered from the studio. The Crumbs were not so keen on a trip to the pub with some scraggly and unkempt English rocker, and so sloped off in their van, leaving just me and Cathy. That was fine by me. Attractive younger woman agreeing to go to the pub with me, and unhindered by her friends... my chances were looking somewhat on the good side.

And so she grabbed her bag, and put on her coat, which was a big suede patchwork thing, and then we set out along the lane to the pub. It was windy and slightly muddy. Grey mud that cakes up your boots. The studio floor was always covered in grey dust. Still is. I like that dust.

I introduced myself, and she did the same. I explained to her that I hated her music, and she replied that she was not massively keen on mine either, which seemed fair enough.

The pub was two miles down the lane, in a little village. Still is. But it's not as good now. Quite good, but not as good as it was then. She wanted a pint of cider which I thought was rather fun, and I got a porter and a packet of crisps. We followed up with a double scotch apiece, by which time she was mildly tipsy.

"I don't drink that often" she said. I suggested that we might soon change that and she giggled a mildly inebriated Welsh giggle. Then it was kicking out time and we wandered back to the studio, where I'd left my bike.

At that time she was living in a flat in Carmarthern, just under twenty miles away. I was living there too, but in a boat on the Tywi. So I rode her there and got invited in for coffee. I don't like coffee, so we shared a bottle of red wine she found in a cupboard. We drank the wine by candle-light because she was the bohemian type, and listened to some Curved Air because it was the only thing she had that I thought was remotely palatable. She had a deck of playing cards and I taught her poker, though after a couple of glasses, the cards were too much for her and I showed her some tricks instead. Most of the tricks were bollocks but she either didn't care or was just too drunk to realise. By four o'clock she was comatosed, and so I dumped her on her bed, and kipped on the rug in front of the electric fire.

Four or five hours later, I poked through her kitchen and found some moulding bread for breakfast before settling down on the rug again and playing patience.

Cathy woke up at about ten, and wandered in wearing absolutely nothing. "Good morning" she said. I sat agog before replying "yes..." and then she went through to the bathroom.

In 1975, Cathy had a fine body. She returned from the bathroom, still completely naked, and laid out on the settee. "Sleep well?" I enquired. She told me that she had had a lovely sleep, and had woken none the worse for her drinking. I finished off my game of patience, and span round to face her. I figured she was a better view than the electric fire. "Fancy a game of cards?" I asked.

We played an assortment of cardgames all morning, without her getting dressed. Eventually I suggested we go out for some food, and she agreed. Then she went off to her bedroom to grab some clothes, while I nipped to the bog. When I returned, she was stood there wearing about three sheeps' worth of wool. She looked like a knitting pattern book might if all the photos had misprinted and had just been superimposed onto one page. That said, it should perhaps be pointed out that the overall effect was, in a strange way, rather sexy.

As we left the house she explained to me that she was a vegetarian. This was seventies Wales, and vegetarianism and going out for a bite to eat were quite separate entities back then. So we nipped to a local pub and had some cheese on toast, which is never in short supply in this part of the world. It was there, while struggling with some particularly stringy melted cheese, that the two of us officially started "going out".

It lasted two and a half years.

We split up by mutual agreement after I admitted to a one night stand with Kirsten May.

I admit a certain degree of responsibility for fucking up Cathy. Not _full_ responsibility, cos others had their hands to play, but a big chunk of it was me.

Being signed to Clustcwyr we couldn't help but regularly meet each other. In the end she stopped attending the end of year bashes. Maybe we ought to've done something _then_. We had plenty of chances.

We did fuck all.

I was going to end this "Sorry, Cathy" only it's a bit late for apologies now.

John Craven,
Sheffield,
December 2001.