Monday, 21 August 2017

from Volce to Caterham


My trip to Volce in Slovenia was a delight. I had not been to Slovenia before so I was particularly keen to play this FDPFAFDW gig. Some time ago I was asked to play at what was to be a celebration of the life of the poet Ivan Volaric FEO. My invite came from my new friend Julija Ursic who was Feo's girlfriend in the past. Feo was a poet, artist, musician / vocalist and he was an Edgar Broughton Band fan.  He was a powerfully creative being who tackled every thing with dedication and passion. With the exception of a translation of a poet he admired, Feo preceded all his published writings with a verse from one of my songs and in one book a verse written by Steve. Later when I heard recordings of him singing I couldn't help noticing the similarity between my style and his. I was told he did try to emulate some of my my singing. I would have liked to have met him very much. I feel sure we would have had much in common.


Julija met me at the airport in Venice on a sweltering, humid night. It was 25 degrees at midnight. The drive to Volce took around two and a half hours which gave us time to get to know each other a little bit and for me to get background information to this event for Feo. We shared stories and the kilometres passed pleasantly and quite quickly. I began to get a picture of the artists, writers and musicians and other creative souls who would be my hosts and my audience.  I arrived in Volce at the summer house of Zdravko in the early hours. 


I stayed that night in a small roadside hotel. i soon discovered the air conditioning unit and turned it on to Turbo. I woke up in a cold dark room. It was wonderful. I ventured outside. It was like walking into a furnace room. Soon I was picked up and we headed to a very nice restaurant where we had a leisurely lunch in the shade. It was 35 degrees. The scenery in the area is magnificent. In every direction great snow capped mountains loomed up out of the forests and from the banks of the great river Soca with its crystal clear blue waters rushing and falling through deep canyons.

the river socha

I spent some time preparing for the gig in my hotel room and soon it was time to head for the venue which was the garden of Zdravko's summer house. People were busy setting up a small movie screen for a showing of some Feo footage. The stage was set up and soon a small PA system was playing some tunes. 

Soon after I began my sound check. In the garden the vocal sound seemed to die at the front of the stage so I asked for some reverb. It required changing a mixing desk for another but the people showing the film didn't need reverb and so we were all happy. I was very quickly pleased with the sound check. Much conversation followed and meeting and greeting the friends of Feo. There was much said about Feo from the stage. There was both humour and sadness. He was clearly very well thought of by everyone attending. As further testament to this there was a locally brewed pale ale called Feo available at the outdoor bar.

willy the gardener dj

Willy the DJ who was a great friend of Feo's played Feo’s musical collaborations before and after the gig. Willy grows amazing vegetables with out any chemicals and makes salami sausage to die for. 

One of the high lights of the evening was the unveiling of two busts of Feo. The sculptor made a speech about the works before unveiling the statues. Unfortunately it was one of those times when I could only feel the atmosphere but not understand the language. I missed seeing the film footage of Feo as I was tuning up but I could hear the soundtrack in the room I was in. Later I did a small TV interview and then it was time to play. 

The atmosphere was special. After the first song I knew I was in for a treat. After the second song a woman brought a small bunch of flowers she had picked from the garden to the stage and gave them to me. It was a spacial gig from my own perspective. I felt the muses and wallowed in it. Every thing was clear to me and easy. Behind where I sat on the stage, a small creek ran down hill. It gurgled and bubbled lyrically. 

I was explaining where the jolk in the song Speak down the wires came from and why I am fascinated by the Sami vocalising. I decided to make a joik for the stream and it was at that moment that I really felt a powerful thing in me. 
You can see part of the joik in the video The Good Old days via the link here 

After the joik I was all set to push the envelope and in my opinion, played the best performance of this year. People were very kind to me and paid me nice compliments all through and after the show. I was very content. I wanted to be really on song for Feo and all of "his people".
It was still stiflingly warm as I arrived back at my hotel with the wonderful air conditioning. I was soon asleep.

outside my hotel room door

Next day a storm blew up while a bunch of us were having ice cream. It ripped sunshades down and glasses crashed all over the floor. Trees bent in every direction and all of the cafe customers were trapped inside while we waited for the wind and hail to abate. After around thirty minutes we were on our way back to Volce in driving rain. Small trees were blown down in the road and the atmosphere was electric. We were glad to be sheltered in Zdravko’s house as we watched the sky grow black and the lightning began to crash around the surrounding mountain tops. 

I had now moved into Zdravko's house for my remaining time in Volce. Previously Zdravko had been hosting a young theatre group from Italy. He shares his space with visiting artists of all kinds providing accommodation and a venue.
Later, after spaghetti at a local restaurant I sat chatting with Zdravko and Walter and Eva about local history. An old black and white photo, on a wall, showed the hotel in ruins from artillery fire during the second world war. It was a telling image of the level of destruction in this area.

Walter and Eva were the people who put the Volce people in contact with me. They know an old friend of mine Tony Smith who I did a Fair days pay gig for some years ago. The storm crashed around us as we chatted. I spent the night chatting with Eva and Walter until around 5am. They have both had many years working in the music business and it was very interesting and some times hilarious swopping tales from the road. 

Next day any plans for fishing were suspended indefinitely as the flooded river would inevitably mean the fish would not be feeding. I was happy to loaf around and spend some time with Zdravko. We went for a drive along perfect Italian built roads. You can clearly see the influence left by invaders and dictators. Much of the area of Tolmin was devastated by wars over the past century. Austria, Germany, Italy and Yugoslavia ruled this country until  Slovenia became independent in 1991. Most people in Slovenia have lived under three different flags.

It was still very warm but the storm had cleaned the air. After a delicious ice cream in a lake side cafe, Zdravko drove me through pleasant meadows that were once bloody battlefields. His local historical knowledge was extremely interesting. I learned a lot in a very short time. I remember we both agreed that we should try very hard to never take the peace we have for granted. This is clearly easily forgotten if we look back through recent history.

I thought how the EU has contributed massively to keeping peace in Europe and how the Brexiteers might have inadvertently undermined that. I spoke at length with people over Brexit. Most people wanted to know what I thought. Well, if you read these posts you will already know what I think. I will say the prospects arising from this momentous decision are looking increasingly grim.

My last day was spent on a leisurely journey from Volce to Venice. Zdravko drove me so far to where I met up with Julija and Walter and Eva. We all went for a cold drink by an emerald river where fit youngsters in kayaks were fighting white water. By now I was almost permanently connected to a bottle of ice cold sparkling wager. Zdravko and Julija left us to head home. I had enjoyed being their guest immensely and was sad to see them go. I set off with Walter and Eva for Venice.

The journey passed quickly and I was sad to see the last of my new friends. However I do feel we might all meet up again one day. I hope so. Special thanks to all who made my trip special. 
The flight was late but I was so happy I didn’t care. I arrived at Gatwick at around midnight. The last train had long gone but my local taxi company had a cab nearby so that was a blessing. 

Happy days in Slovenia. It was special.


the McPartlands minus little jimmy who was sleeping

From Slovenia to Caterham in Surrey. A Fair Days Pay For A Fair Days Work gig in Phil Mcpartlands back garden. I arrived at East Croydon where Phil picked me up. We were soon chatting and getting to know each other before we arrived at the house. I had been forewarned that I had a five year old fan who had Evening over rooftops and Hotel Room on her playlist and she would seek my attention at the earliest opportunity.  She appeared like a little cheerful spirit out of no where, the moment I stepped out of Phil’s van. She clearly wanted to sing Evening Over Rooftops with me and she knew most of the words. What a delightful little kid! 

After setting up the small PA for the gig little Hannah and I had a small rehearsal where I showed her the rests between the lyrics. It didn’t take long and we were ready to go. There was a splendid barbecue to come and I was impressed by Hannah’s patience. She just wanted to sing. Instead, while we sat chatting, she gave a performance on a trampoline.

The weather held out for the evening and though there was a little breeze it was a very nice occasion, especially meeting Phil’s friends and family. Little Jimmy is one year old and he is a proper nice little boy. Two happy kids, always a delight.
After eating some fine barbecue and sampling some of Phil’s home made gin it was time to play. It sounded nice to me in the garden as the sounds rang of the houses all around. My little audience were very appreciative and even some of the neighbours, in their gardens, were clapping.

It was so pleasant and such a contrast from the next gig I am playing at The New Day Festival in Faversham next saturday and the last gig in Volce. I love the contrast and how the music changes slightly according to the environment and audience.

Every one was very kind to me and I enjoyed playing for them and the intimacy of it all. The high light for me, was my duet with 5 year old Hannah. She had such a serious expression as she stood next to me singing Evening Over Rooftops. I will never forget it.

After a few drinks and more convivial chat it was time to leave. It seemed to have flown by. It was a delightful day for me and all went very well. I love these private gigs and as I have said before, I think it was one of my best ideas. I have played a lot of FDPFAFDW gigs now and look forward to more. I always enjoy the company, the hospitality and the opportunity to be a minstrel for the day. My thanks to the McPartlands for making me so welcome.