The 2013 Tour

by Stuart on June 11, 2013

June 7, 2013
Well, it’s their language, and they can do with it as they damned well please, I suppose. Lymington is “Limmington.” Combe-Martin is “Cum-Martin.” (sic) Keswick is “Kessick.” Who am I to try to straighten them out at this point? Just a dumb Texas Yank. (Wait! -Is that an oxymoron?)
I decided that driving on the left was more than I cared to handle, especially in London motorway traffic, so everywhere I go will be by train and bus. The UK has a great public transportation system, once you get the hang of it. I’ve got three weeks’ worth of clothing ~ assuming frequent nighttime rinse-outs ~ the computer, and miscellaneous electronics in my shoulder bag, and the TRIC guitar case, the one that’s made of hard foam covered with fabric, with shoulder straps, like a backpack. Made for long-distance troubadoring, even for an older fella.
By the time I got to Lymington at two on Wednesday, I was exhausted, having left Austin at 8 AM on Tuesday. I don’t sleep well on planes. The Lymington station is WTF across town from the Thomas Tripp Pub [ol’ Tom’s claim to fame was that he was one of the last people hanged in Christchurch, up the road a way, in the century before last,) and the home of Tony and Mary. Their phone number was in an email, but of course I couldn’t access the internet to get it. It occurred to me that there is a solution to that problem, a device called a “pencil,” but my timing was off, and consequently I walked the three miles or so, mostly uphill, to the pub, got Tony’s number from the bartender, and called him. He was there in minutes.
The show that night was packed with talent, and I was just a little concerned to see that the great David Massingill would appear. If you’ve never heard David, he’s a real treat. Plays the Dulcimer and writes these beautifully understated little songs about fairies and pie-stealing hobos.
But YT was the big star of the evening, the featured guest, the folkslinger from Texas. I opened with Darlene, and they loved her. They don’t talk to one another during a song, they listen to every word, and if they like it they cheer wildly when it’s done. If they don’t like it, they applaud politely. I’m standing up there thinking, “Oh shit! They’re listening! Now what do I do?”
The next day, Thursday, Tony dropped me at the Auplands B&B, where I put down my stuff and then took a walk back down High Street through Lymington to the waterfront. Little old medieval streets there, cobbles, no vehicular traffic, just pedestrians enjoying a sunny day. On the way down, through the town itself, I noticed how many people there were just out and about. I don’t know what they were doing, shopping mostly, but there were just lots of folks out enjoying their town. Very few cars and trucks. On the waterfront I had an ice cream cone and watched some kids learning to sail there in the little harbor. I got back to the B&B and fell asleep, and by the time I awoke the market across the street was closed, so I went without supper. Poor me.
Friday morning it rained. Graham, at the Auplands, kindly gave me a ride to the Laundromat, where I did a load and then braved the rain for the walk to the station. Train to Brokenhurst, another to Reading, another to Barnstaple, and a bus to Ilfracombe, far northern Devon, on the Bristol Channel. Ilfracombe is an old pirating area; the “combe” is as in “catacomb,” caves along the rocky shore of the Bristol Channel. They found a mass grave of bones traced to African origin; a slaver had disposed of his criminal cargo in one of the caves. That was a while back, they say.

Seven hours in all, and finally a taxi up the hill to the Sherborne Lodge. Sweet, slightly run-down, a little threadbare, all Formica and make-do. The room is too small for the double bed and I stumble on my own stuff as I try to get around, but somehow I don’t mind. The people are sweet, the vibe is good. Having gone without the night before, I spent too much on a nice dinner in a restaurant and then fell asleep like a rock. This afternoon Tom will pick me up here and take me to Combe-Martin and the gig at Shammick Music. Wish me luck and CD sales!

June 9, 2013
Mary Brown said, “Stuart, now I remember why I booked you! I wondered why in the world I’d invite someone to come ‘way out here to North Devon to play for one of our gatherings, much less pay him to come, but now I remember what it was I heard on the website. That was fantastic!” Like balm to Gilead, after my previous hostess’ reference to “Emmylou Harris’ ‘Pancho and Lefty.”’
Sweet-talkin’ ol’ lady. It was midnight and we were in the bar of the Pack of Cards pub in Combe-Martin, with her husband Tom and two friends. It hadn’t really been a show, just my spot in a sing–around. I was expected to take a double, two songs, every time my turn came up. The first time they got Darlene and Isaiah 40:4, the song that used to be called Bee Cave. The second round, they got Alvin and Billie, followed by Erica. The third round it was Barrett’s Privateers, a foolish choice inspired by all the a capella sea songs with the long participation choruses that some of the others had done. I mangled it, blew the words, looked to Tom for help without finding any (he clearly knew the song!) and made a muscular finish after a hideous 15-second silence. Not only did they forgive me, but they warmed quite a bit. It took some of that out-of-town-hotshot stink off me. Then Another Ol’ Road Song. Of course they knew who Kerouac was, but afterward I had to explain about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and One Flew ~
Anyway, that was the deal. From Lymington, three trains and a bus, a night in Ilfracombe, three thousand miles and more from Texas, to do six songs. I sure am glad they liked ‘em!
Here’s the Shammick quilt and then John, a good singer. I hope that they’ll make it past the email filters:

Most of the rest of the attendees at the Shammick Folk Club sang without instruments, some with big clear voices, and some with wispy attempts. Some just read poetry. Although many were grey-haired, there were enough with color left to give encouragement to those of us who’d like to think that the art isn’t dying altogether.
It was a very warm gathering and I was clearly the only stranger, for Combe-Martin is a small seaside town about the size of Rockport. Pretty rolling hills, then cliffs down to the water, which in this case is the mouth of the Severn River or the opening of the Bristol Channel, depending on which you happen to be facing.
Today it’s a train to London Paddington for some R&R, mostly R, then off the Keswick, hell-and-gone up north in the Lake District. Like travelling Houston to Dallas and back to play Uncle Calvin’s. Without a car.
June 10, 2013
This part of London is growing on me. At first I was horrifies, even scared, arriving here past suppertime, the few boarded storefronts, the deferred maintenance on the buildings, the dark faces.
June 11, 2013
Raining in London. One thing that we don’t worry about here in the Kingdom is water. Leave the water running, wash the car, water the lawn (as if you had to!) no one will look at you askance. There’s water and water and water. It shows in the roses. The unit next door here on Sigdon Road has got a Peace rose growing from an unkempt bit of trash in the few square feet of “garden” between the house and the sidewalk.. A few beer cans, a bread loaf wrapper, some uncut grass, weeds. The rose is fifteen feet tall and has, easily, fifty enormous roses on it in glorious bloom. I mentioned it to Heath (no, I don’t think that it’s short for Heathcliff, but it might be!) and he looked puzzled that I’d find it worth mentioning. “That rose? Oh, well, yes, I guess it’s always like that.” Unfed, un-watered, untrimmed, neglected, un-fussed-over, glorious.
Zipper likes being in the doorway, and you can pick him up if you like, a dead, floppy weight like the pussycat he reminds me of, Bob. He’s nearly all black, with just enough white on his paws and chin to identify him as a B&W shorthair. A little soft in the belly. When you pick him up he grunts, and then will stay for ten or fifteen seconds and accept an ear scratching before he decides that’s enough and begins to squirm. Put him down and he shakes the wrinkles out if his glossy fur and then plops down where he was, right smack in the doorway.
I take back most of what I thought about this neighborhood. It’s just a sort of crummy ol’ big city neighborhood. This Brooklyn boy has forgotten what big cities are like. Like Bensonhurst or Flatbush. I walked to Kingsland Road yesterday afternoon, past the beautiful St. Marks church, got a little lost and asked directions from a very helpful Afro-British gent who tried manfully to find what I was looking for on his Blackberry. He finally gave up at my insistence, but he was very friendly and earnest, and if I hadn’t turned him loose he’d be looking still. I’m sure that I passed a thousand people on my walk and not one of them was the same shade as another. Languages that I couldn’t place. Short shorts and tats (it was cold!) and head coverings and costumes of every possible variety, including the full chador. A string of store-front religious buildings, all in same block as if zoned: a Mosque, a Synagogue, a Baptist church, a Hindu temple. A couple of Christian one-offs. At the Oxfam charity shop I bought a padded vest that, although I didn’t much like it, would keep me warmer when I get Scotland. Then I went into the St Vincent de Paul half a block down and found a very nice North Coast insulated armless jacket that I really do like though at XXL it’s just a little roomy. Five pounds. I took the first one back to Oxfam and they kindly gave me my three pounds back. Hey, nothin’s too good for the kid.
Rather than explore greater London in my remaining day, I believe tht I’ll lay low and let my body recover. My throat is scratchy and I hope that it will improve before I’ve got to perform again.
~SMB

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