It has been a long time since I played as many gigs during the summer months as I am doing this summer. Although every gig is quite different there is a common thread that runs throughout and it is quality people. I am beginning to think that my hosts and their assembled guests would all get on well together if they were all in the same place and I am wondering how I might get that together in the future. One thing is certain. I have learned a lot about this England and the people who live in it. It is so easy to lose touch with what is going on in the land and I am enjoying the opportunity to meet with folk and to find out how it is for them. What their dreams, interests and priorities are, for a good life.
So, I was off again on the Virgin train to Burton on Trent via Birmingham. There I was met by Peter, my host, and Karen who drove us to Burton on Trent. I’ve played there a few times before but it had been a while. I once rode out there, pretending to be a Tour De France rider, when I was about fifteen and I remember suffering very badly on the way home.
The gig was in Noel and Natalie’s garden. When I arrived a small pa system was all fired up to go and my sound check took about fifteen minutes. The rest of the afternoon was pleasantly taken up chatting and exchanging stories with the crew ( Peter’s family and friends). As time went on the makings of a barbecue, and curry and chilli arrived and the stage was set.
Before I played Peter gave me a beautiful gift of a locally made crystal goblet engraved with my name, the date and Burton on Trent. I shall treasure this as a memento of a great night in the midlands. Darkness fell with a little breeze that threatened to lift the gazebo covering the decking stage. A few table lights were strategically placed on the stage. The garden filled up with around forty guests and we were off. Peter introduced me with a touching reference to former times and I began. A dog barked immediately and we all had a little smile as we heard the owner next door ushering it inside. Peter had texted me the night before to ask if I was planning to play Poppy. I replied – No. But I am now. I did and worked my way through the set for the evening. My audience was very warm and attentive. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I think they did.
The après gig party was a hoot with people playing Twister and drinking quite a lot. The conversation and atmosphere was great. Later some of us stayed up chatting until quite late or early, depending on your internal clock. There was the odd inebriated and very surreal, impromptu performance on the piano and guitar by one or two folk that had us all falling about.
Next day a spot on bacon and egg breakfast in the garden and a little sunburn for yours truly. Lots of tea and it was time to leave for the station. Pete arrived with partner Karen. Pete is a dead ringer for Spadge the EBB roadie. Peter and I got in the car with them. Peter crashed out and Pete drove us to New St Station in Birmingham. It had been a long time since I had been in the Bull Ring area. Like all inner city areas the changes are enormous and not all good. The individual retailer or service provider has been pushed out by the well known names that occupy every town centre and high streets. I remember when Birmingham was grimy and warm. Now it seems worn and bleak. Not much wrong with Brummies though nor their near neighbours.
There was the familiar little sad thing inside as I said goodbye to lovely people. Every one had been so nice to me. Big thanks to Peter Greening for the invite and all the goodies. I must say special thanks to Noel and Natalie for putting me up and taking care of me. So, another happy and memorable outing into this England is completed. Next stop Oxfordshire at the week end. I am spoiled you know!