The Friday was spent on the Horseshoe, that classic circuit of Yr Wyddfa that takes in Crib Goch, Y Garnedd Ugain, the top of “Snowdon”, and Y Lliwedd before returning to the Pen y Pass car park.
I won’t bother you with details, but with the traverse of a knife-edge on Crib Goch and the 1,000 foot cliff that forms Lliwedd I felt we were continuing the work of laying Tony’s spirit to rest. One day, I hoped to find Geoff in a state of mind that would allow us to visit Beachy Head and pay our respects to the poor dead boy, but for now it was all about the delight of moving across huge drops on good holds, even though Geoff did quail a bit at the start of Crib Goch, and the step across to last pinnacle had him a little twitchy. We broke for the obligatory sandwich and cuppa in the station café at the top. Late snow still covered the track above the Halfway House, and only a few of the more hardy train passengers were walking the last bit. Mind you, more sensible footwear might have helped some of them
We drove down past Dinas Y Cromlech to the road across behind the slate quarries (no, Steph, that would REALLY freak him out) and into Bethesda to look for live music . Before we even saw a paper shop we spotted the sign outside the Spotted Cow, “Live music Ffolk club tonight” and with a carload of family due, we had our evening planned.
They duly arrived with their portable hangar, the first I knew of it being a squeal of “Aunty Steffie!” and a violent tackle and hug. I do love that girl, but I will have to get rid of the “Aunty Steffie” bit, even if I have to feed her to the new lambs running everywhere. Bill was straight to the point.
“Live music tonight, in Bethesda, according to the web. Who’s driving?”
Jan volunteered n the basis that it was my birthday treat, Groff had to sleep with someone beer-snoring/farting….and Bill would complain if he didn’t get a pint.
I am writing this looking back over the years, and I can see every blade of grass, every smile and gesture as if t were yesterday. My love for this family is boundless, but every so often it surges up and takes me by surprise. I know your demons, Woodruffs, as you know mine, and I love you none the less.
Once the Edifice was up we headed off for Bethesda, dining on a Chinese takeaway from Dwr y Mynydd before finding some seats n the Cow. It was the usual set up for a folk club, as I have described before, and we ended up getting a floor spot before the paid act came on for their set.
Geoff went to the bar for a couple of pints, and an obese local leant forward, smiled and said “Cnycha ffwrdd i Lloegr’”
Geoff smiled back and waited for his beer. I stepped forward as the barman brought the beer and asked “Faint yw’nna?”
“Pedair tri hugain”
I paid and turned to the fat turd who had spoken, Smiled and said “Ie, dwi’n Cymres a dwi’n siarad Gymraeg. A ti, cnycha bant yn nawr, na?”
There was a real look of shock on the lard bucket’s face, but the barman nodded at me and said, for Geoff’s benefit, “You heard her. You’re barred”
All this with a wink to me.
I had no idea of who was booked to play, but we had a superb family set before they were due on, Geoff on the beautiful bouzouki, Bill on melodeon and the girls on bodhran and whistle. Oh, yes, I played as well. We sat down, and the presenter stood up.
“Thanks for some excellent floor spots, but now we move on to the paid guest. Put your hands together for Jimmy Kerr!”
The whole family was grinning, and I realised this was my birthday present. On came the little Geordie maestro, and I spent half an hour ghost-fingering to his playing while simultaneously trying to work out what exactly it was he did to make it so good. So I missed it when he said
“There’s a lass in the audience that can play aaalmerst as well as me. Aalmerst, ah’m still better of course. How, Steph, howay up here and let’s hear thee.”
As I rose, he started to play “Happy Birthday”. What a set-up!
He murmured “’Ah’ll stay with stuff thoo knaas for a bit, hinny” and we were off into the “Hesleyside Reel”, and as that wound down he shouted “Cock up thy Beaver”
You at the back should really wash out your minds, you know. The fact that he followed it with “Fairly Shot on Her” will just make you worse.
I thought that though I do love the Northumbrian tunes with their quirky leaps and jumps, it was time for some local stuff, so took Jimmy through “Bachgen Bach o Dincer” which he played Shetland style, all double stops and sharp attack with the bow, and then “Marwnad yr Ehedydd”. I was in the zone again; all I could register was the fiddle under my chin, the flick of the bow and the bite of the strings on my left fingertips. Jimmy had moved closer, and once again, as at the festival, we were in a private world of hair, sweat and music.
Jimmy shouted “Out!” and we swept to a finish. I came back to Bethesda with a roar of applause, and a hug from Jimmy. “How’s aboot a sang, then?” he called, and then started out on “A Miner’s Life” with its chorus “Keep your hand upon your wages, and your eye upon the scales”.
In an old mining town such as this, the choice was inspired and the volume impressive. I took my seat again, passing through a sea of people who all seemed to want to shake my hand or pat my back, and collared the crew.
“How the hell did you set this up?”
Bill grinned. “Well, you know he gave you his card? We let him know where you would be, and that it was your birthday, and he said...I think…that he fancied returning to the local scene and playing somewhere small”
There was a smell of cigarettes. “Aye, lass, so Ah rings them and sez, can ye fit us in, and they sez oh yes please, so Happy Birthday, lass! Why, it’s a canny place here in the hills like. Ah, here he comes”
The landlord was heading towards us with, of all things, a cake with candles on it. The icing read “Penblwydd Hapus Steff”
I couldn’t help it. I began to cry. Geoff kissed me.
“Happy birthday, my love”
Fuck off to England
How much is that?
There you are
Yes, I am a Welsh girl and I speak Welsh. And you, you fuck off now, OK?
There are North/South and courtesy subtleties in it I won’t go into.
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