Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dartford, Romford, Isle of Wight. Doo dah. Doo dah.

We started yesterday with a walk up to the site of an ancient roundhouse and fortification on the headland at Porth Beach, in Cornwall. The views in every direction were spectacular, from the Victorian seaside town of Newquay to the wild, untouched Atlantic coast with cliffs and rolling breakers to the north.

We tottered and plunged in the stiff breeze along with the swirling gulls and rooks, back to the beach, and up to our budget room. Deciding to forgo the breakfast there, we packed up and returned to a lovely Newquay cafe, which we found yesterday.

Cafe Irie, at 38 Fore Street, Newquay,, has a yummy menu, and for Maleny people, is like a tiny 

combined version of the Club and the Co-op. Ecover bulk refills and calendula deodorant deck the shelves, handmade jewellery and felt seagulls hang decoratively, and there are comfy old couches and a piano. The menu includes the Canadian Deluxe: Cornish bacon, pancakes, maple syrup, blueberries and scrambled eggs (£5.95). Great idea, yummy, although the pancakes were, surprisingly, a little tough! Other choices include Organic Porridge: organic oat flakes and warm milk served with a blob of cornish clotted cream and a dollop of honey (£2.65), or eggs benedict, including thick granary bread, thick cut grilled ham, two poached eggs and home made hollandaise (£5.95).

So what jewels and excitement have filled the past week?

On Sunday we played at "A Shed Full of Folk" in Bedford. Organised by our friend Andy Miller, it was a mini-festival, a whole afternoon of acts, with Cloudstreet finishing the evening. Andy's Morris side, Hemlock Morris, gave us some mighty sticking and viciously self-deprecating humour in the true tradition of Morris. Their dance with one long stick and one short stick each was breath-taking, the likelihood of finger removal, while palpable, was never realised.

After this tantalising taste, we spent our night off with Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan, rewatching that cult film classic, "Morris - A Life With Bells On". We first saw it with all the Dance Up the Sun crew in Brisbane last May, and it was worth another viewing just to see the improvised French morris dancing fueled by Wookie Hole cider, the American Morris spectacle, and to see Derecq offered a second chance to complete a Threeple Hammer Damson. Enough!

We played in Dartford on Tuesday. Staying in Thurrock, we discovered a kind of shopping suburb, just beside the Dartford Bridge, with food venues, cinema, huge retail complexes, and roads joining them all up. The times I've driven past here and had no idea all that was going on.

My cousin-once-removed (we decided in the end that must be the title as she's my gran's niece), Sadie, and her husband Frank came to the Dartford gig. It is always a great pleasure to talk with Sadie. Frank had a sad story - the model engineering society to which he belongs has closed because the power station, whose land they used, wanted the land back after many years.  When I first visited Frank and Sadie, I was immensely impressed with Frank's steam engines, miniature, working locomotives, which he had built from scratch in his shed. They were exquisite.

From Dartford, it was a short hop to our next show in Romford. Because it was all in the London area, I took the opportunity to have an art excursion. I went by train to Whitechapel Gallery, and saw the Alice Neel retrospective. I was introduced to the work of Alice Neel, an unflinching portrait painter from New York, only a few months ago. Seeing it 'in the flesh' was a feast. I saw the whole exhibition just to get to know her subjects first, and only later went through again studying her expressive technique. She seemed to capture spontaneity in her subjects by drawing them quite quickly to begin with, then working up the painting from there, combining areas of i

mpasto and blending with areas of totally blank canvas. Google Alice Neel images to see what I mean.

Our Romford show was in a 15th century pub. It was a pleasure to play to such an appreciative crowd who hadn't seen us before. Our friend John Hare attended unexpectedly, and did a floor spot too. He saved the day when our van was stolen all those years ago.

The next part of the journey was all new to us. We took the ferry to the Isle of Wight. Everything about it was fascinating, beautiful, and lovely in the sunshine. We were accommodated at a comfy old hotel in Ventnor, which is a pretty town with an enticing beach. We played in St Mary's Church, refurbished and light, a stunning backdrop to a concert. And the show was filmed for UK Entertainment channel by the local film crew. We did costume changes, we changed pace and instruments. It was a bit nerve-wracking. But everyone in the audience was into it, and we had quite a long chat with people at interval over cups of tea. After our second set, and packing up, we met quite a few of the same people at the evocative Spyglass Inn, right down on the beach. 

We saw a little bit of the footage, and it looks pre

tty good, so we'll let you know where you can find it as soon as its available.

Next day (after the obligatory paddle down the beach in the sparkling sun), we did an interview to complement the concert. Then Rodney, the producer/cameraman/organiser, suggested we perform a few more songs outdoors, to get a completely different feel, and possibly create content for another show. We did seven songs in the end, and really had to rush to catch the ferry.

The whole experience was way too quick, and told me I'd like to get back to the Isle of Wight and explore it. One small experience that I loved happened over breakfast at the Eversley Hotel. As soon as I entered the dining room I was aware of the wonderful paintings on the walls. I wasn't expecting quality art in a hotel dining room, and these were spectacular. The largest was a painting of a sky, with a view of Ventnor from the beach. The feathered clouds 

and blue sky was the dramatic focus of the work. And then I met the artist, Kerrie Stritton! She was working in the hotel. Trained at the Royal Academy, she seems to be getting established, and her work was an inspiration. You can contact her at kerriestritton[at]

1 comment:

Andy Roberts said...

Hiya Nicole and John, it's been a few weeks ago now but I still wanted to let you know how much your gig at Havering Folk Club, Romford was appreciated. Thanks for giving it your all and making a special evening. Hope to see you back again one day. Best wishes, Andy Roberts