A small warm thing had settled in my tent again and I kicked it awake to take its turn at the morning brew duties. I needed to dispose of some second hand beer. It was odd how my attitude to alcohol had changed; I always loved a good ale, but I had been using things like wine boxes as off-switches for my dreams.
The drinking had been a functional, industrial thing. I went through phases where I deliberately left my wallet in my locker so as to be unable to buy alcohol on the way home, and counting days when I didn’t drink. I wasn’t an alcoholic–yet---but I was using rather than enjoying it.
I wondered if the rebirth I felt had released me from that need. I was actually looking forward to a pint last night, a pint as a tasty drink and not so many units of alcohol. One more curse lifted.
As I sat in the cubicle I smiled as I realised how much deeper Dave’s waters ran than I had known. He seemed to take Steph in his stride, and I was stunned by his fierce protectiveness. That was a very, very direct threat to Geoff, but I had no issue with that; I knew exactly where he was coming from. I felt very hopeful about work, and I was already making plans. I knew how I would let the team know, and I was ticking off the list of managers to work out which one would best repay a quiet approach.
Kelly had obeyed her mistress and the tea was ready. I realised she had moved several of her bags over.
“You decided to move in then?”
“Well, it’s better than listening to the olds getting frisky…or would you prefer Geoff?”
“You little strumpet, I am going to get you for that one”
“Yeah, yeah, when you stop blushing. Just do me a big favour, and do your goodnight snogs away from the tent in future so I can get to bed, OK?”
Kelly squeals when she is tickled, I am sure well into the ultrasonic. Dogs all around were going “Pardon? You what?” to their masters in their new-found deafness.
There was another Full English planned, but Geoff insisted on dragging me out for a twenty —mile livener before we indulged. A Dawes Galaxy is not a racing bike, but we did OK, heading out on the road to Y Trallwng and the hills by Middletown before pulling a mini chain gang back to the site. I insisted at taking my own turns at the front. I might be a woman, but I’m fitter than most men.
Another fragment of the late Steve Jones died with that thought.
Breakfast was a pleasant interlude, and I noticed Bill and Jan exchanging glances and little touches. It seemed the olds had indeed been getting frisky, or might be doing so later…
“Bill, Jan, do you mind if we leave you to clear up? I want to do some shopping, and I need Kelly’s eye for the clothes stalls and Geoff’s for the music place”
I dropped a slow wink to Bill and he nudged Jan. It seems mums can blush too.
As we walked off, having collected our instruments, Geoff whispered “What was all that unspoken stuff?”
“They fancy some quality time”
“They need a shag….”
Festival clothes stalls are always the same, a mixture of old hippy, modern Oz and cod-Native-American. I found a nice baggy pair of patchwork trousers, and Kelly a truly daft floppy hat, but it was the instruments I wanted to see. This was the place I had bought a mandolin at years before, and they sometimes had special offers. Failing that there was always sheet music.
Violin bows. Carbon fibre, and £200 each. Nope. I was tempted by an octave mandolin in a lovely maple with a really bright tone, which would chime with Geoff’s bouzouki, and smiled to myself at the casual assumptions there. Kelly was trying out a small clarsach (harp) and it was clear the music genes were embedded in this family. Geoff tried out the octave mando, and loved the action as much as I did, but I couldn’t really justify the cost. He looked hard at me..
“We’re going halves on it.”
Before I could argue, his credit card was gone and the instrument, in a simple gig bag, was ours. What a simple and lovely word.
I tried it out at one of the tune sessions, and had to concentrate a little on my left hand, but it went well and the action really suited my attack. I got pointed to a few times, but it was obviously of the ginger-fiddler-with-JK bit rather than spot-the-pervert.
When we got back to the Edifice, Bill had his T-shirt on inside out, and Jan had a very warm and fuzzy look in her eyes. Kelly rolled hers. It seemed that while she found the idea of her uncle courting, the same activity for her parents was incomprehensible. How it is to be young.
Monday came along at last, the end of the festivities, the professional stuff finishing at six before we all repaired to the Long Bar for a mammoth beer-fuelled session. We had just finished a barbie cooked on a couple of disposables from the supermarket when a Geordie voice shouted “How, Ginger!”
It was Jim Kerr.
“How, lass, ah’ve spent aal day looking for yees lot. Just kept asking ferks if they’d seen a geet taal ginger bord wi’ a fiddle, and finally fund thee. Yez are gannin te the session? Ah’d like to play a bit wi’ thi family, if ye divvent mind”
He grinned and took his cigarette from his mouth, and in an exaggeratedly slow voice said
“Ah cum heor for the playin’ and it’s like at the dance, when ye spot a canny group o’ dancers ye hang onte them. Thy young man theor, he plays smashin’ and the rest are aalmerst as canny”
We had a gig. Jimmy would keep a space for us, conveniently near to the bar, and we would no doubt be worked hard. I looked round, all nodded, and we set the wheels in motion. Green dress and leggings day….”Zip me up, Kell?”
I was zipped up, my hair eased to one side, and the nape of my neck kissed. I reached behind me to stroke his cheek, and he wrapped me in a hug.
This was life as it should be.
Jimmy was true to his word, and had even marked off a space for Kelly’s little platform. From somewhere, god knows where, he had found a side table for his pint and was tuning as we arrived. God bless electronic tuners! I was laden with mando and fiddle, Geoff and Bill had their axes and a cool bag of soft drinks so we wouldn’t get too stocious on beer. The girls had a bag of various whistles and some basic percussion pieces. From experience, there would be many people without instruments who would be glad of a chance to join in, any way they could.
And off we went. I switched from fiddle to mandolin and back through lots of old favourites beginning with “Because He Was a Bonny Lad”, and delighting with the ease the old master brought to it. A nod, a lift of an eyebrow, and we would switch keys and tunes, and those I didn’t know I felt happy improvising to on the mandolin. I can’t play many chords, as I learnt fiddle rather than guitar, but I think it worked.
Jan and Kelly played a lot of whistle, and that let me borrow the bodhran and get into that auburn-hazed zone again, just driving the rhythm and feeling the music in every part of me, legs wide apart and hands working together to find the subtle changes in tone.
I was brought out of it at about nine o’clock by an almighty clanging. The barman was banging a tin tray and shouting for quiet.
“Right, you lot, this is my fourth straight night feeding you miserable buggers with ale and I CANNOT BE ARSED ANY MORE!!! I am going to play. Help yourselves to the beer. It’s now free, and when it’s gone that’s it. And if there are any lager drinkers here who think tipping the barrel will get more out, DO NOT BE SO THICK!”
He grabbed a fiddle and launched into a very basic rendition of “Nellie the Elephant” to a chorus of cheers
That was our evening. It gradually wound down, till Jimmy said it was time for some slow ones. Did I know “Wild Hills o’ Wannie” or “Sair Fyel’d Hinny”?
“The first one yes, but I try to play it like Billy Pigg, so the rhythm and time change a lot”
“Ye start then, and ah’ll follow. Keep it AABB till ah tells yer te change then foller me in the other tune”
I did as he said, wailing slowly through parts and swooping others, Jimmy joining in once he had the feel for my timing. Suddenly, he was playing it as a round, and we made a couple of runs through before he joined me on the final long A of the B-part. He started straight into the other tune, and once I had it he stopped playing and started to sing. It turned out to be an old man’s lament for lost youth and abilities, and I realised that the room was silent but for some very quiet and gentle harmony playing. Jan was crying gently as she blew her accompaniment on a low whistle, and I wondered how I had ever missed such a great song.
“Reet me bonny lads and lasses, that’s yer lot! See yez aal next year!”
“SAIR FYEL'D HINNY
Chorus;- Sair fyel'd hinny,
Sair fyel'd noo;
Sair fyel'd hinny,
Sin' Aa ken'd thoo.
Aa wes young and lusty, Aa wes fair and clear,
Aa wes young and lusty, mony a lang year.
When Aa wes young and lusty, Aa could lowp a dyke,
But noo Aa'm aad and stiff, Aa can hardly step a syke.
When Aa wes five and twenty, Aa wes brave and bowld,
Noo at five and sixty, Aa'm baith stiff and cowld,
Thus said the owld man te the oak tree,
"Sair fyel'd is Aa, sin' Aa kenned thee".
Thanks to Puddin' for help with the pictures. That's MY fiddle there....
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