The last night of the tour is upon us!!
This Cloudstreet tour has had a bit of everything, long drives, sightseeing, friends, festivals, teaching, sessions, art galleries, three countries so far, shopping, and of course, long drives bear another mention. But two things have been missing so far: narrow boats, and respiratory illness. We normally encounter both on a tour. And while we still haven't been on any narrow boats, Nic has managed to develop a cold in the last few days. Her vocals are still ok, but not perfect, so we've taken her solo pieces out of the set for the last two nights, as her harmonies are still fine, and she can still play the flute, whistle, fiddle and percussion. It happened as the weather turned colder, and autumn really took hold, about four days ago.
Its been a whirlwind end to the tour, with lots of gigs end to end and lots of people to catch up with. In the last news we were about to do Maidenhead Folk Club, which is held in the beautifully resonant skittle alley at the Seven Stars. One of the highlights of the floorspots that night was Terry, a regular, playing The Entertainer on the tin whistle, a creditable interpretation on a single melody line instrument of a piece written for ten fingers.
We were in Southampton next night for the Fo'c'sle Folk Club, a wonderful night in a very, very warm room. For Nic this is bliss and her flute loves the warmth too. For John this is a chance to visibly melt. Before the show we visited the pleasant village of Hamble-le-Rice for a glass of wine, and on the way to the show we could see the new Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth, which was named that day by the Queen. She (the ship, not the monarch) was lit up like a city.
Our day off was spent driving to Essex and getting the washing done, very rock n roll. We stayed once again with good friends Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, and Vicki and Nic spent the evening having a nyckelharpa session. Vicki tuned one of her nyckelharpas to viola tuning, and taught Nic two Swedish tunes. Google nyckelharpa to see pictures of this beautiful keyed Swedish fiddle with sympathetic strings, its a wonder of cabinet-making.
Next night we played at the Hoy at Anchor Folk Club at Leigh on Sea. From previous visits we knew there wasn't much dinner available right near the pub, so we employed the Magic iPhone, solver of problems and oracle, and discovered a website called Sarfend which told us Hamlet Court Road in Westcliff, about a mile away, was the source of many restaurants. We parked the car, and practically the first restaurant we found was a soup noodle house, which was like a dream come true. Westcliff Noodle House. Try it, you'll like it.
The Hoy has just celebrated its 40th anniversary as a folk club and have a bright new backdrop declaring this milestone. Its a fascinating club with posters of amazing gigs from over the years framed and hung all up the stairs and in the anteroom.
That night Nic's cold really hit, and we spent the next day resting and taking every cold remedy - vitamin c, salt gargles, hot bath, sleep, panadol. And Dad, you'll be pleased to know, Throaties!
That afternoon we packed up and drove to Ely, where Ruth and Robert looked after us with an onion-free vegetarian dinner involving yummy lentils. Its so rare to have lentils that haven't been paired with onion, Nic almost never gets to eat them.
We drove across the fens to the club, under the shadow of Ely Cathedral, for a lovely show, supported by Winter Wilson, a Lincolnshire duo (www.winterwilson.com), who sounded great. John took on some extra lead singing at this gig, and we put in a little more instrumental stuff to rest Nic's voice.
It was exciting to have Hemlock Morris attending the gig from Bedford, and some of Nic's relatives too.
The next drive took us to Dungeness. This remote shingle spit at the bottom southeast corner of England overlooks the cliffs of Dover, and on a relatively clear day reveals the coast of France on the horizon too. At the end of the spit is the eerie sight of a nuclear power station, and the stark shingle environment is home to rare lichens, a steam railway, a couple of pubs, a lighthouse and the former home of filmmaker Derek Jarman.
A.S.Byatt's novel, The Children's Book, is set in this area of Romney Marsh and Dungeness, and it's fascinating to place the action in the wild landscape.
The Drum club at Folkestone was a delight, with many friends coming out and everyone having a sing!
And now its the last night, in Guildford. See you after the show!