Sunday, 28 August 2011

Holiday, Part 1: Cambridge Folk Festival.

I love live music of all kinds, but I have a special little place for folk. It somehow makes me react in a happy way, every time. Thats what its all about, surely. I studied folk as often as possible during my degree and A Level, when there was free rein to prepare your own projects, and even where there wasn't but the essay title could be interpreted towards it! I soon became obsessed with the collection of it, by classical composers, (Vaughan Williams and Bela Bartok are the main ones) and how these 'songs of the people' (a middle class observation if ever I heard one... but true enough) spoke for the land from which they came, and became integral to their physical work (think sailors and shanties, and spirituals in America). Fascinating, rich stuff.
Events and day tickets to folk festivals were one of the highlights of my holidays when I was little. My Uncle is an avid fan, and he always seemed to be just back from, or just off-to somewhere. I used to love the names: Chippenham, Cropredy, Sidmouth (I remember going to this one with him). His bedroom at my Grandparent's house was full of LPs and tapes, and he would get in trouble for playing it all too loudly. I loved the diversity, and the energy of it all, and I really liked the atmosphere to the gigs I went to. It was time, this year, to return to the scene!

You know the wonderful thing about folk lovers, is that they are friendly, and laid back, and smiley. One of the performers remarked in a Sky Arts interview that I saw, that this was possibly the only festival where the crowd maintained their manners enough to stay within the white lines. So that transfers to the kinda people you end up striking up a conversation with, or camping next to. All of the staff were lovely too, and the main site was fab- there was a main stage, and two secondary ones (one for local bands and workshops) and just a 5 minute walk from all the billed stuff was a beautiful huge pond, and in a smallish tent was a little intimate venue where you could feel part of amazing busking-type stuff that you'd never come across. I was called The Den, and it was a lovely teepee, complete with living room features on stage, and rugs and cushions on the floor.

The Den

 Stage 2- Fiddle Workshop. This was early on in the festival- most people 
didn't arrive till the weekend. None of the site was this empty again!

 The Spooky Men's Chorale. As bizarre as it their name, but quite entertaining.

And the program was brilliant. I watched, amazed, as new acts were announced on the website, having conversations with said Uncle about all the things that he wanted me to see on his behalf, and looking everybody up on youtube. Traditional folky stuff galore, with some mainstream greats too, and acts you've probably heard of, on Jools Holland, and thought you might come across again, and recent successes in the folk arena who have managed to get mainstream recognition. Just a small taster:

The Secret Sisters,
Chris Wood,
Bellowhead, (Spiers and Boden also performed as a duo- fantastic!)
Kate Rusby,
Richard Thompson,
Peatbog Faeries,
Mary Chapin Carpenter,
Laura Marling,
Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends.

Whoa! I think I saw all of those, or remained nearby with a Greek salad and an Old Rosie, so that I could diligently say to my Uncle that I'd 'heard them', even if it wasn't something that could drag me away from a well deserved and well-queued-for meal. So this is an interesting thing- the elements of traditional 'folk' up against more household names. The hardcore folkies who have been going for years (and they all tell me that this is something I will really want to return to), have quite a bit to choose from, and those who just want it all (um, like me) have all of the above, and the new unsigned or newly signed performers to dip into.

 lovely flags at our colourful campsite

The performance tent at our site- open mics each evening. We camped away from 
the main festival and took a short bus ride in each day. It was nice to be able to retreat a little from it all, but the idea of staying on the main site is very appealing.

Then there were the announcements on the bill that made me jump up and down. So inspirational and wonderful was their music on CD and on Radio 1s Live Lounge (an avid fan here, of that programme), that I couldn't wait to get there. I also felt the need to get to these gigs 90 minutes early or so, so that I could find a space near the stage: Frank Turner and Newton Faulkner were the headliners.

Folk? Actually, not strictly... but there is something about this type of singer-songwriter, and story teller, that has firm roots in a folky idea- strong rhythms, personal feelings and stories, stuff that communicates so well, and is original sounding. Frank Turner (who is flibbing fantastic), has a new (beautiful) album out to promote, and is described as more of a punk-folk performer, but he was there for all of the above reasons, and he looked humbled by our reception. He was almost apologetic in interview, concerned about the reaction he might get from people who had come to see folk, and he sang his unaccompanied song to try and get some votes, and even had a guy on a recorder for us, but he was great. We went to the festival with my fella's sister, and two of her work colleagues, one of whom was in his 60s, and 'here for the banjos and Morris Dancers'. He thought Frank was superb.

Newton Faulkner is a feat of multi-tasking, and every single part of him is about the music-making. He has mastered a particular style of rhythmic guitar playing which includes drumming on the side of the instrument, with hammer-ons, harmonics and regular melodic and chordal playing. Its much funner to listen to than the clnical description sounds! His hit single 'Dream Catch Me'  may be familiar, and it is hauntingly beautiful, but its only half of what he can do. I haven't included links so far- I highly reccomend you check Mr Frank, Laura Marling, and the Fishermen out, but you must listen to this:

I'm a bit of a fan, and there was a signing tent where I got my programme, and my Fella got his 
guitar signed. Other musicians were there too, but the queues were long, and you ended up missing 
great music standing there, so Newton's was the only one we collected. 

We were lucky enough to go to a guitar workshop with him, which was  informal and relaxed, and not heaving to begin with, so we had the pleasure of being able to sit near the stage. A big part of this festival is giving people a chance to see or become involved. (Its a fantastic place for children- willow weaving, flower garland making, traditional story telling, and so it goes on...) We stumbled upon a fiddle workshop too, but I was too much of a chicken to take my violin. I will next year... I think! Anywhoo, we all sat there, struck a little dum by all that we were seeing. Its not the sort of skills you can grab in a day or a few weeks, but its just really interesting to be given a tour of his guitar and set-up, and shown what happens where and how to put it together. He tunes his strings very differently to the traditional way, which is an interesting idea, and gives an insight into just how much thought and prep goes into his style. And he's hillarious! So at ease with a crowd, and spontaneous and fun. What a nice guy.

We went to a vocal workshop with the Fishermen too- fantastic! You may have come across this traditional Cornish singing group- the BBC did a programme recently, with that Gareth chap from The Choir, investigating shanties, and they were featured. I think they have commercials and bits in the offing too. Good on them. They're highly entertaining- fantastic banter, wonderful accents, ofcourse (made me miss my Cornish relatives, although I do still see my dad regularly... but you know what I mean...) and beautiful harmonies and performances. Their album is good, Little Guy loves it, but you lose a little tiny 10% of something in the recorded article- they're just superb live, with minimal accompaniament , and if you ever get a chance to go to Port Isaac, I do believe they have carried on their tradition of singing by the sea on a Friday evening, for the locals. I know of a lovely fellow blogger who may have been to one of their performances on their home turf recently- we'll have to see what she says about it!

Port Isaac's Fishermen's Friends.

Oh, its been so lovely to sit and reminisce, and go through my photos once more. It really is the type of festival you'd want to return to, especially if there is somebody on the bill you need to see, (Stornaway and Joan Armatrading have previously played) because its a great venue.

Willow-sculptures: chinese lanterns decorating the camp.

Street artists. We saw a few of these- you couldn't escape. Best to move along 
otherwise they approached you! A beautiful fox in the background.

Returning to my little ones and their cousin, who they were staying with. I came bearing gifts! 
Little Miss L is modelling her new watch, Little Guy has his bumblebee sun hat, and Pickle Missy, as she is the eldest,  is sporting the folk festival essential- a flower garland.

And the camping? I survived- hurrah!  The weather was very kind to us, and the camp-showers have been updated from the ones I was told about- no solar power for us! Just regular over-used get-them-while-they're-hot ones that can sustain a lovely temperature when they are largely un-used in the mid-afternoon. Oh I must just post these links, if you get a chance, and you like your traditional folk,  The Willows and Feis Rois Musicians were my favourite little discoveries of the weekend.


Saturday, 27 August 2011

Considering the reactions.

This evening, something occured which now seems a little stupid, but at the time seemed wholly upsetting. Isn't it odd how our reactions to things can be so diverse? Mine were- all in the space of a few hours. I've gone from one to the other tonight, having literally 'cooled down' in the process. Some will laugh when they read, (you can, don't feel guilty- I had a smile!) others will empathise, maybe somebody will be as outraged as I was initially. The interesting juxtaposition here is my initial reaction, with how I would have reacted a second and a third time- each different.

Imagine the scene if you will. This is like Poirot, but without the violence, happily, but also without the beautful period costumes, sadly.. I am at a loss for things to do, and I am avoiding paperwork, and okay its Friday night, which might be a friendly-kinda-rowdy in parts, but I might just go for a run... until I remember that I'm in my PJs. So instead, I'm in my garage, doing that thing I do, gently attacking something like this,

at about half speed, obviously.... (I'm still in the completely learning stage, and also, honestly, it says 'Allegro Molto', not 'Prestissississimo' or something. Whats the rush?)

And I can hear something, to my far right, outside. Although it has been raining lightly on and off since the afternoon, this isn't that kind of watery sound. It is another, unmistakable sound, and it is being sounded against my up-and-over door. I had heard people walk past already, probably between pubs, but hadn't realised that their convo had stopped, and somebody had paused just outside my property. What do I do? This is a bit like a sliding doors scenario- there is a small moment where my London 'walk-away' upbringing (where you don't even look partially intimidating people in the eye, let alone approach them), flickers up inside me, and then it goes. The more overwhelming urge is to go out there, interrupt him, and move them on, and probably, I envisage, they will run away fast, perhaps laughing.

So I go out there, catch him literally in the act, and shout 'What the hell are you doing?' His reaction? He chuckled, continued, and said 'I'm having a piss'. I retaliate: 'Stop it- *** off!' He says 'No'.

Now what? That wasn't what I was hoping would happen. I never expected him to carry on. This is the bit I have replayed in my head. In my updated version, I run in, dash into the back garden where a bucket of rainwater has been gathering, dash back out, and water him, liberally.
Then and there though, I really wanted to wipe the cheesy grin off his face- I was absolutely enraged. And he would hardly have expected it of me to retaliate physically, and it would have been so easy to do. Oh and I was angry- so upset and cross and shocked at the blatentness of it all.

Please note, I did *not* do this. I never touched him, guv.

So what I actually do, is look towards his two laughing mates, themselves the same sort of age and reasonable build, and quickly close the door. I hold the door shut, pushing myself up against it, trying to remember how to lock it without the key, because all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I felt incredibly vulnerable. There was nobody else outside to help me- none of the usual taxi drivers, who have been so supportive before, no neighbours, no other pub-goers.. and nobody else inside.

I did my good citizen thing, and made a very likely useless call to a local police switchboard. She diligently took down the description and the particulars, and on a positive note, it was a pleasure to deal with somebody who was totally efficient, and who put me at ease. Our taxes are going somewhere useful in their training I feel.

So the other oddity of situations like this, enraging ones, vulnerable ones,  bloody-good-shock ones, is that you can never get hold of anybody to chat too, to calm down about it. Nobody answered their phones when I came home from a routine abdo scan, with the news that I was unexpectedly a tiny bit pregnant 6 years ago, and nobody answered their phones (initially- bless the lovely friend that did come to my aid though,) when I had a bad shock and ran from someone and hurt my hand a while back- I just wanted to talk too fast for a loved one to understand, and cry down the phone for a bit. Similarly, nobody responded to texts this evening (I knew the parents were in, but didn't fancy worrying them).

I mentioned about the scale of anger- and my reactions if I had have dealt with it a second time that evening. It happened around 8.30, and around 9.00 I'd have done the bucket thing... in fact I sploshed some floor cleaner and water around the outside of the garage after my visitor, as you do... and left some water in the bucket by the front door just in case. He didn't show. Good- maybe the strong arm of the Friday Night Law did catch up with him before he hopped on his bus. Saddo.
By 10, I was beginning to smile about it. And I was a little taken aback by the actions of this feisty girl, all alone, protecting her property, and her Faure induced peace. Maybe she did the right thing, but at 10pm, I would have popped upstairs, closed the curtains and made myself a cuppa. Yes-the garage is where I escape from the world, into my own one, and to have somebody insult it like that was upsetting, but I was daft to confront them. Its also a pretty ridiculous thing to happen, that could probably only happen to me... hence the slight grin, its just my luck- and it is stupid!

I'm not sure what the end of the story is. I'm going to bed, and I'm going to stop mulling it over- maybe thats the conclusion. I feel lighter about it, by a bit, but my lovely evening was rudely broken. Its odd- I was abroad when the 'London' Riots, as they were referred to then, were going on. When it started spreading to other areas, I thought that that kind of behaviour was for cities, and that those sorts of thugs, with their beligerance and rulebreaking, and lawlessness, could never 'belong' where I live, with its rural charm and villagey-pride. They never did reach us, but now I realise that there isn't much of a boundary. People are people. Nobody rioted and put lives and livelihoods in danger outside my house tonight, but they weren't country mice either. I guess I've just realised that you only get away for so long, with living in peace, before somethng like this happens... even if I never thought that it was at all possible, in my beautiful Here.


PS- sorry for the subject matter, but I do like to share! ;) Thank you for reading my little blog, nice posts and sad ones. I mentioned my disappointment in my last post, at not being able to sit down yet,  and catch up here, and write those 'Dear Diary, I had a fab holiday' entries. But my weekend plans have changed, so I'm a little more likely to be able to catch up with my Bloggy World than I thought, give or take some paperwork. I'll be back soon, I hope, with happy tales from my Summer, plans for September, and maybe even a cake recipe too.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Just a Holiday note...

Hello! Its been such a long time, but I've been away, and at home with family since we last spoke, pretty much constantly. You could say, I've been busy being Home and Away. I want nothing better than a long sit down and a cuppa, and a large helping or some homemade blackberry cake, so that I can catch up on all that has been going on while I have been absent, presumed missing, from my little blog.
I'm looking forward to escaping for a while, from the housework and into some lovely posts, and finding some time to sit down and write a bit about my adventures too. It feels like much more than three weeks or so since I was here last.
I promised to fill you in on the festival, which I must do, and then of course there was the week abroad, and the return home to gather the beautiful small people up into my arms and squeeze tightly. I've been doing lots of that. Our camping trip this week has been postponed due to the rain, so I'll be thinking up more local things to do, (squeezing the last out of our holiday... as we seem to only have a tiny amount left), but whether it could top the day trips we took last week with my parents, and the makey-fun we got up to, I have yet to discover. I'll let you know.
We're back to London next week for a Duck Tour, then I guess we all go back to school... but lets not think about that yet. If I don't make it back, its because flying homemade kites took presidence!

Catch you soon.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Off we go again!

I came back yesterday from Cambridge Folk Festival, and it was awesome. I'll post about it when I get a chance. I have had a bit of work today, in amongst the organising and panicking... which will continue, with, hopefully, a little rest before we leave here at 3am in the morning for Santa Eulalia, Ibiza. I am so excited its actually hard to think. But theres lots to do. Life is all or nothing around here!

Have I remembered everything? Absolutely not.

See you soon!