August 28, 2016
In a B&B near Corfe Castle, Dorset
Listening to: Ivor Cutler – Jammy Smears (thanks to Tim Dalling)
Greetings from the Jurassic Coast! (I know, you thought it would be this, but alas). We're having a bit of a lie in, as they say, after a super fun first night of music and general carousing at the Purbeck Folk Festival. It wasn’t too many hours ago that Ben, Jake, and I were sitting crisscross applesauce on the floor of a well appointed teepee, singing blues-y and old time songs with our new pals in Screamin’ Ms. Jackson & The Slap Yo Mama Big Band. We hit some great classics from a variety of jug bands, and I love hearing them sung with an English accent. Here’s to us having more fun with them in the future.
We’re here for another night, and then one more gig in Devizes before we head out. I’ll not go through every moment of every gig since my last post, but I would like to hit some highlights. Please forgive me if you witnessed something that I don’t include. The brain is a fickle beast, and I, unlike the constantly journal-ing Jake, don’t write any reminders. If you’d like a daily mini accounting, might I suggest our Instagram feed. It’s mostly pictures of food, gastropods, and sleeping, but it does fill in the gaps.
When last I wrote, we were headed to Birnam. It was our 3rd or 4th time at this spot, and they always treat us well. We walked to see the Birnam Oak, I reminisced about my childhood Peter Rabbit paraphernalia (including a sweet soft boiled egg holder, don’t you know?), and we played a fun show. It was especially nice to see our friends Colin and Lorna, who have been seeing us yearly since our first time over in 2008. We played their fave – Silver Bells Polka.
Here’s a Tweet-style breakdown of the rest of the gigs . . .
Eastgate Theatre – Peebles: Whiskey shop times, always great to work with Richard the soundman (one more gig together and I believe we’ll be common-law married), solid show with inappropriate songs being requested by teenaged girls.
Otley Courthouse – The M1 is really a great road, especially when you can enjoy it at 0 mph. Large and enthusiastic crowd, twisty late night drive to our digs.
Reeth – beautiful countryside, small room packed with avid listeners. Learned a lot about the various Richmonds of the world.
Saltburn By The Sea – we rode a water powered funicular cliff lift! Fish N Chips by the ocean. Beautiful hall with appreciative crowd.
Darlington Quakerhouse – last minute pickup gig, rowdy fabulous pub crowd, lots and lots of real ale!
Newcastle – finally get to meet Rob Heron, face to face. The man, the legend. Speaking of legends, we got to catch up with Tim Dalling, of New Rope fame. Small room, packed out. Lebanese meat fest for dinner.
Martletwy – what a spot! Tiny Calvinist chapel down single track roads. Stunning surroundings, acoustic performances, thanks to Keith and Jackie!
Llanfyrnach – just try to pronounce it! (hint: none of those are correct). Beautiful skies at sunset, nice to play in new spot where there is a burgeoning gig scene.
Camden Town – our best gig at the Green Note yet! We love being a big band on a small stage – it really lets us enjoy our musk. Great to meet new people and see some familiar faces.
Phew! Ok, I know that was a bit light on detail so let me elaborate in a few areas:
1) I have often gone on about the virtues of adopted patrons in far flung places. You’ve read about Bill and Sue and their generosity. I will double down on that sentiment, and also add our new friends Jane and Paul into the mix. The allowed us to invade their house and environs for 6 days on this trip. We were fed, watered (aka provided alcohol), and generally looked after in ways far beyond what we deserve.
It’s one of the best parts of traveling and playing music – meeting new excellent and interesting people and getting to glimpse into their lives. Jane even set me up with a running club to train with on one of the days. Good luck to Shelly & the rest on their 1st Half Marathon!
2) Speaking of good people, in Martletwy, we were introduced to our new best pal, Jackie (all of us but Ben, who was already acquainted). Jackie is a fiddler and booker in her part of Wales with connections to the old time scene in the UK. She also lives and works at a place called the Stackpole Estate, the former huge property of the Campbells of Scotland. It’s a now kind of a nature reserve with marshes, woodlands, and sandy beaches surrounded by limestone cliffs. She took us on a nice walk through the wilderness. A few of us even went swimming. I’ve experienced colder water, but not much! We’re a hardy bunch, and when we see a beach, we get in that water! Apologies to any beach goers who were horrified by our tour bodies.
3) After leaving Jackie’s, we were invited to visit another new friend, Liam, who runs a small chocolate empire called Nomnom, based in Llanboidy (note: to make the “Ll” sound, stick your tongue on the top of your mouth at the front of your palette, and make a C sound, allowing air and spit to escape out the side of your mouth). Liam and his associate Lili gave us a tour of their facilities and we tasted many chocolatey things, including a bar that they are rolling out in preparation of Cardiff’s City of the Unexpected celebration of Roald Dahl’s centenary. The bar had four different flavors – Vomit, Snot, Burnt Toast, and Moldy Tea – all in one bar. Nomnom is pretty deliberate in their sourcing of chocolate and the care with which they make each bar. Get you one.
Before we left Llanboidy, Liam took us across the way from the cowshed where they are currently making chocaolate to an abandoned cholate farm. What’s a chocolate farm? Well, they aren’t growing cocoa there, but it’s way more than a factory. It was a series of whimsical buildings that used to house a boutique chocolatier who only made candy to be consumed on the premises. It was all decommissioned and had a very palpable Shining meets scary clown feel, including a room full of scary clown dolls, the many many plastic molds of rabbits, pigs, bears, and other things you might want in chocolate form, and multi colored walls. Nomnom is going to be moving into the space and creating essentially a giant maker-space for bakers, candymakers, and other things that sound far too story-book to be real except when you are in the depth of the Welsh countryside, surrounded by pixie-dust (which smells a lot like cowshit, it turns out).
4) Bank holidays. Why exactly do we celebrate bankers getting a holiday? Shouldn’t a bank holiday have some component of men in suits with their heads in the stocks, receiving tomatoes to the face? Apparently, a bank holiday is a chance for the entirely of Britain to meet one another while sitting on the motorway. We were tempted at points to get out of our small van and climb into other vehicles around us, just to have different people with whom to speak.
OK, I think that’s enough. There may be a final wrap up or maybe this will be my last UK missive. We’ll see how Heathrow feels on Tuesday, I imagine. Time for a walk to the Jurassic Coast! TB and I are hunting for velociraptors! Think they’ll be let through customs?
Until the next time I type words!
PF Hotseats, Out.