Thursday, 28 May 2009

Mods, Rockers and Sea Shantys

I loaded most of the PA system , my guitar amplifier, a couple of tents and a heap of other stuff into Althea and headed off to Watford to pick up Ocelot's guitars and amps and my drums. Thanks to bank holiday traffic on the M25 it took 4 hours to do a 1.5 hour journey. I set off back down the M25 and into the traffic again and got to Mersea Island 8 hours after leaving home. Althea is heavy and sluggish at the best of times but when she's carrying an extra ton and a half of gear she's understandably a lot slower and harder to handle. She did extremely well and though slow at times she was great.

While there was still light I set up the PA in the entertainments tent and the separate PA for announcements. My friend Bev who organized the whole thing said there was a wedding reception that evening so I popped over to the other side of the island and by about 9 0' clock we hit the party.

I stood in the entrance watching the scene, aware that my mouth was trying to smile and be agog at the same time. This had to be the funniest, weirdest party I had ever seen. The best thing about it was how naturaly silly it was and not a bit forced or pretentious.

Because it was held on a muddy beach and half the guests had arrived by boat, a lot of the guests were in wellies or waders. The bride wore hotpants and the groom wore a DJ with wellies. The food was a table piled high with french bread, cheese and sausages. Another table was piled high with strawberries and cream and empty champagne bottles.

The band were a Liverpuddlian Irish band who were all a bit drunk too. Milo (the local Jack Russel who lives in everyone's house) made an appearance. I offered him a sausage which he politely took and then discarded.

There were people in tweed suits playing concertinas, a couple of teenagers drunk on vodka. A woman dressed in a sari was chatting to a pirate. It was bizarre and lovely. All I could find to drink was gin and tonic and a pint glass to drink it from....Bad idea.

I woke up safe in my ambulance with a french stick in the bed and a box of strawberries teetering. I also discovered I had a sore head and a craving for bacon and eggs which Bev supplied shortly afterward.

The festival was a huge success. We had hoped for maybe 3000 people over the weekend and got more than that on the first day. My day started with small local children's song and dance groups then onto singers and bands in the evening to finish. The PA performed well, the spice girls comedy act was a huge hit. Ocelot (the band I play drums in) wasn't that big a hit (laughs).
After Ocelot had finished a guy who had been taking phpotos came up and introduced himself and I, thinking he was a musician performing later, wasn't very surprised or impressed. When he looked dissapointed I was confused and had to ask why.
It turned out that he wasn't a musician at all but a friend from Second Life who had driven hundreds of miles to meet us. Oops. He was OK when I explained.

In the evening we planned to have a barbecue on the beach but it turned out to be a mass of concrete and mud where we were so opted for a whip round to buy tickets to the Rock and Soul festival next door. After a few jibes with security about Mods and Rockers sharing a festival and a short wait for bev and jilly to fetch food and portable barbecue we set up camp. It turned out to have been a great move. The festival was fantastic, the food was great, we saw bands we loved , we all fell in love with the girl who played keyboards in The Staggers and when the tide came in it was so close I fell asleep to the sound of waves a few feet away. Toby and the band stayed up all night dancing to Northern Soul.

Next day they all zombied around waiting for Kris with their lift home while I managed to run the entertainments tent for another day.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Bass bins, birds, babies, boats, bikes, bubbles and buddies

I've known Ed for about 33 years now. We have one of those enduring friendships that can quite safely take a few years off and there not be a problem. We have a lot of really crucial things in common and a few really crucial differences too. He lives in one of a row of three houses in the middle of nowhere in Norfolk with his four delightful children and their mum Henrietta. At the end of his huge garden lives Graham in a couple of old caravans and next door lives John with his wife and their two kids. In the field opposite, this year, is barley and to the side are some rare sheep and their newborn lambs. A few hundred yards down the lane is a house with dozens of cats and a sign that says "slow cats in road"

I loaded the whole sound system into Althea and chucked my bicycle on the top on Friday night. We took about 4 hours to do a 2 hour journey but it was fun. By avoiding delays we went through the Dartford Tunnel where the man on the toll gate let us through for the price of a bike saying "go on seeing as it's such a nice old vehicle".

On the way we stopped for fuel and a bloke driving a huge 4x4 with a huge boat on a trailer (worth about £250,000 all together I reckon) stopped me in the service station and asked "is that yours?"


"it's brilliant! absolutely brilliant!"

I said "yes she is isn't she."

She was struggling a little here and there with the weight of the PA and generator but on the whole we had a good journey. The best part was the last few miles along the narrow and winding lanes. She seemed to love the challenge and being brushed by trees as she navigated her way along them.

In the morning I unloaded the PA, set it up and did the tests I needed to do. Xander (Alexander) the 2.5 year old who holds the Guinness world record for question asking and is in training to break that! I counted 120 questions a minute at one time. "What's that? What does that do? Who's that? Is that yours? What's it called? Where does it go? etc etc ...fell in love with Althea first and in no time had worked out how to open her doors and that the big red button I had told him not to press was well worth pressing (yes I know....)

This bit could go on for ever but suffice it to say that all the kids and their parents soon fell for with my old green van. The photos tell the story better than I ever will.

I really enjoyed sleeping and waking up in her. The local wildlife comes really close and in the early morning it's such a delight to wake up that way.

On the Monday I drove to Sandringham to join Hen and her sister and cousin with the kids and Denzil the huge Labradoodle. Noah(9) and Eleanor (11) rode in the back with their bikes. We didn't get lost but there were a couple of times when they asked where we were. " I don't know but the sat-nav says we are OK" was the reply.

On the way a couple of doves flew in front of us for a few hundred yards then along side us for about 2 miles as we drove along narrow lanes between fields of bright yellow rape seed flowers. It was stunning.

Eleanor said there were three of them at first but one hit a tree ....

Monday came and I headed home via Soham where I had arranged to pick up a couple of original front seats from an ad I'd found on eBay.

Claire's dad who met me told me she'd not only got an LD ambulance called...wait for it...Alfie...but had just come back from Ghana (where I was born folks) but that the MX5 in the drive was hers too... What a world... I bagged the seats and a couple of sun visors and after a lovely LD chat with her dad headed home.