Something to Declare 11

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 A Fiddle]


by Cyclist

 Violin Bow]

Chapter 13

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”

“Er…in English?”

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!”


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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It seems ...

... you've changed onto the big ring and the business end of the cassette and getting the tyres humming on the Tarmac. Episodes seem to be coming thick and fast. I'm not objecting to that.

The way the romance between Steph and Geoff is blossoming I can see a tandem in the offing as well as new instruments and sweet music of all sorts. I hadn't realised carbon had found its way into musical instruments as well as bicycles.



Yep. I'm a bass-axe bitch and we still see carbon from time to time. Of course, the purist would say it should be wood but, if it makes the right sound, then who cares?

The folk references ring true but, not having been my thing, I couldn't say for sure. Sounds authentic, refreshing too.

Nice and gentle story, which may not last when Steph gets back to work. 'Course, we don't yet know what Geoff does for a living, do we?


cyclist's picture

Geoff's work

Might ba as an axe murderer, might not.....


That was a beautiful chapter.

Thank you Cyclist!


Age is an issue of mind over matter.
If you don't mind, it doesn't matter!
(Mark Twain)



As a sometime musicienne, I believe I recognized the reference to AABB as meaning the tunes are played there the same as they are here for square dances: every tune has two parts, two tunes or melodies, if you like, and the custom is to play one twice through (the 'A' part) and then play the other one twice through (the 'B' part) and back again to the A part until the dancers are all done or fingers start falling off, whichever comes first.

But it had never sunk in that this was an old country custom brought over though it makes sense. The pattern is used in the southern United States and even the French Canadians use it having learned a lot of their tunes and styles from Scottish and Irish immigrants.

Yours from the Great White North,

Jenny Grier (Mrs.)


Yours from the Great White North,

Jenny Grier (Mrs.)


Any chance of a translation into English from whatever that language was? (Yorkish?)

Yours from the Great White North,

Jenny Grier (Mrs.)


Yours from the Great White North,

Jenny Grier (Mrs.)

cyclist's picture


It's Geordie/Northumbrian,a remnant of another version of Old English (Saxon) mixed with chunks of Norwegian and odd bits of Welsh. I'm a linguist, and could go on about the Great Vowel Shift, Bernicia, Dalriada....

A sort of translation without the rhythm:
Badly fallen apart now, my dear
Sorely failing now
Since I have known thee

I was young and fit, I was fair-haired and healthy
I was young and fit, for many a long year

When I was young and fir I could leap across a ditch
But now I'm old and stiff i can harely step over a gutter

When I was 25 I was brave and bold
Now at 65 I'm both stiff and cold

Thus said the old man to the oak tree
I am fallen apart badly
Since I have known thee


"Oh woe is me, for I am undone" and all that crap. From what I remember of the country I used to play umpteen years ago, it was "My dead dog fell over a cowboy again." Probably unfair, that. Still, it did pay for the booze.


cyclist's picture


...but the tune is the thing there as well. It's a good one, slow for the chorus and accelerating little circular bits for the verses. Only really works on an instrument with "sustain" like a fiddle or smallpipes, not really on the mandolin.

Something to Declare 11

Two guys after her? She has it made.

May Your Light Forever Shine
May Your Light Forever Shine

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