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Travel n Ravel post: In continent weather…

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For the second of my posts for Ian Cochrane and his Travel n Ravel blog, I have decided to use an old story that I published on Diary of an Internet Nobody when I first started writing, one that many of you probably haven’t seen before.

Now that I have (I hope) a little more skill at writing, I’ve tidied up some of the clunky prose and re-edited the rather long original into two separate posts, the first of which you can read at the link below, with part two to follow next week.

So as the summer holidays of 2015 drizzle to a somewhat disappointing end, let’s go back and relive an equally damp but far more exciting summer, spent battling the elements on the other side of the channel, or as I like to call it;

In continent weather.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Guest spots., Humour, Personal anecdote, Travel

 

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All aboard – mini breaks (short tales from the coach)…

Since the story of my time living briefly on the road in a coach called The Wizard elicited such a positive response, I thought I’d tie up that episode with some other recollections. So, in no particular chronological order, here are just a few examples of life in and around that magic bus…

Camp fire.
At one point during our stay on the farm in Goudhurst, we had a good few fellow travellers camping with us, most in vehicles of some sort, but some hardy souls opted for tents or Benders

One of the more eccentric of these folks was called Bible John, and as you can imagine from his name, he was somewhat evangelical in his outlook and had the Moses-like facial hair to go with it.
Not that his zealotry has any bearing on the story, it just gives a more complete mental picture of the victim character.

Now, John was more than a little strange in general, and tended to pretty much keep to himself a lot of the time, especially in the evenings. He spent the time alone in his small hike tent, muttering to himself by the light of a gas lantern, and occasionally shouting stuff I never understood.

The events of the night in question had to pieced together from the testimony of John himself, and one other person who happened to be passing at the crucial moment, but from what we could ascertain, what happened was this;

John had a small, basic gas lamp and stove, both of which were the popular blue CampingGaz™ type, which required you to screw the lamp/stove fitting directly into the top of the cylinder, puncturing the thin metal skin with the spiked fitting as you tightened it up.
The best time to do this is obviously in daylight, that way you are reminded, should that really be a necessary, that this operation should not be attempted in the vicinity of naked flames.

Although it was still gloriously warm and sunny at the time, you forgot that it was actually mid-September – lulled by the power of that Indian “second summer of love” – and it got dark much earlier than you expected, and more quickly too.
John got caught out. Unprepared, he hadn’t changed the empty cylinder in his lantern before it became to dark to see what he was doing. He managed to detach the previous cylinder from the lamp fitting, but was having trouble locating the new one onto the threaded pin.
His solution to this problem was to light a candle to provide some illumination, (not considered safe for use in tents, candles were only kept for emergencies) which he stood on a box.
He then had both hands free to tackle the difficult task of assembling a gas lamp, lying down, in a small tent, by the light of a flickering, and above all else, very close candle flame.

I’m fairly sure that, as intelligent people, you’re way ahead of me by now, but I shall continue nevertheless.

As the point of the fitting’s spike went through the skin of the cylinder, expelling that telltale ppfffttt of escaping gas, everything happened rather quickly.
A snake of fire shot from candle to lamp in a fraction of a second, engulfing John in a rapidly expanding fireball that continued past him, through the tent, and up into the dark of the orchard.
From the outside, apparently the tent suddenly lit up, expanded imperceptibly and then…vanished.

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Being made of super-flammable nylon, the cloud of burning gas had virtually vaporized the tent in a split second, the only part remaining being the groundsheet, protected as it was by John.
As for John himself, he escaped remarkably unscathed, although he would probably argue with that analysis.
His beard, normally a cross between biblical prophet and unkempt hedge, was more or less gone, reduced to frazzled stubble. No eyebrows remained, giving him a permanently surprised look, and a large part of his unruly hair, especially the front, had been removed too.
He looked like a cartoon character who has been given a big ball with TNT written on it, a sizzling fuse on top, and not got rid of it quickly enough.

When we left the farm not long after, John had already gone elsewhere with some other travellers, so I don’t know what became of him.

I hope his eyebrows grew back.

Sausage dog.
If you’re particularly squeamish, you may want to prepare yourself for this one. It’s nothing terrible but, well, you’ll see…

There were, as I mentioned in my earlier post, several dogs around the camp at any given time, and they were generally well behaved, but dogs will be dogs, and occasionally things went missing.
One of these incidents involved the disappearance of a whole salami from someone’s truck, and since nobody was owning up to sausage rustling, we all assumed it was a canine perpetrator.
There was no way of proving which animal was responsible though, so it was written off to experience and people made sure cupboards were secured and van doors kept shut.

That was, until a few days later…

I forget the dog’s name, he was a mongrel, probably a German shepherd cross of some sort, and he came to his owner looking sheepish and uncomfortable, and doing the “worm bottom shuffle” that any dog owner would recognise.

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Doing the necessary inspection, the owner straight away saw that there was a thin length of something extruding from his dog’s rear end.

Now, I shall spare you the details, but it was swiftly established, through a process of deduction and the observation of physical evidence, that this animal was indeed our nefarious canine sausage thief and he was now paying the price of his terrible crime.
The spiral-cut wax coating on the salami was duly dispensed in a continuous strip over the space of about a fortnight, and had to be snipped off with scissors in 3-4 inch lengths by his unimpressed owner.

This was considered to be sufficient punishment for his misdemeanour.

continues…

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Personal anecdote, Travel

 

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The great outdoors…

Now that the “summer” is over, all we have to keep us warm are  fading recollections of two weeks of packaged sunshine in some Costa-del-Chav, or the (possibly false) memories of a highly successful bbq.

Maybe because of this, I’ve been casting my mind back to the days when summer went on forever, it hardly ever rained when you were on holiday, and going back to school or work seemed like the remotest possibility you could contemplate.

Back when we were kids, my sister and I were lucky enough to be taken on foreign holidays almost every summer. We went to France, Denmark, Luxemburg, and Holland, amongst others, and most of the time we were camping.

Like a lot of people who we met over the years, we would often revisit the same campsites, and one of the sites we went to more than once, on the French coast, was Fecamp, a steeply-terraced site that was a useful stop-over after the drive from home and ferry journey, with two (admittedly annoying) kids in the car.

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In 1979, we turned up there just in time for the weather to deteriorate into driving rain and strong winds.
This didn’t overly trouble us as, even then, we’d perfected the art of sprung frame tent erection in most conditions, (ie; Dad did most of the actual construction, whilst we all stood, waiting to be told what to lift/pull/push, etc) but this seemed to be getting somewhat extreme.
We had barely started to put up the large, multi-room, family tent, when a huge gust of wind nearly picked the whole thing up off the ground.
As often happens on campsites in these situations, other families rallied round to help, and after a dozen or so were hanging on the guy-ropes, we all managed to haul the flapping, billowing canvas back to earth and secure it to the increasingly soggy ground.

Now, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and in this case, what it tells us is this; That was the day of the famously disastrous Fastnet sailing race.
Anyone who remembers that tragic event, will also recall how utterly appalling the weather was, and by late that night we were fighting a serious battle with the elements.

I awoke at sometime around midnight, the noise of the storm outside now risen to staggering proportions, the tent rocking and creaking in the roaring gale.
My sister and I could also hear a lot of shouting and swearing coming from the main body of the tent.
Peering out of the sleeping compartment, we saw my Dad, on his hands and knees on the muddy, saturated ground, using a saucepan and a varying assortment of kitchen implements to dig what became known as the “Suez canal” through the centre of the tent.

The extraordinary amount of rain, falling in such a short space of time, was now flowing down the steep incline of the site’s terraces like a series of waterfalls or rapids.

Our tent was in the way of one of these torrents, and the water was coming under one side and surging straight across the living area and out the other side.
Dad’s canal was directing it into a more manageable, narrower channel which didn’t flood the whole tent.

From what I remember, the rain stopped almost as quickly as it had arrived, although the wind kept up until morning, and the scene outside when we emerged into the muddy dawn was quite unbelievable. Some tents hadn’t been so lucky, and had just gone.

It was one of those things we laughed about later, and as kids, we obviously thought it was terribly exciting, but at the time I just remember Dad furiously digging his canal while indulging in olympic standard swearing.

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One of my favourite French holiday memories comes from when we stayed at one of the many “chateaux sites” (the camping was in the grounds of a turreted country house) that we visited over the years.
This large, sprawling site had the tent pitches arranged amongst the trees of a plum orchard, and we were staying there in August.

What do you get in August, in orchards?

Wasps, that’s what.
Hundreds and hundreds of bloody furious French wasps.

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They terrorised the little neighbourhood of tents in our particular avenue of trees, and it wasn’t long before we discovered why.
Their nest was about twenty feet from the front of our tent.

The orchard was, as far as I can remember, not actually in use, and the trees didn’t seem to give much fruit, but plenty to keep a battalion of flying sadists interested enough to set up home there.
It had been irrigated by a clever grid of slightly raised, buried clay pipes that ran in lines along each avenue, and branching off to water individual trees. When the campsite had been established, sections of these pipes had been dug up to allow cars access to the space between trees, where the tents were pitched.

The result of this were long, open ended sections of pipe, left buried under small humps in the grass.
And it was in one of these lengths of pipe that the enemy had taken up residence.

We were camped next to another English family with children our age, and our respective fathers had a council of war, which produced an audacious plan to vanquish the foe and bring sting-free peace back to the camp.

It had been observed that the wasps returned to their tubular homestead around sundown, so the two intrepid warriors lay in wait until they had seen a great many of the stripy little bastards dive into the hole in the grass.
When the returning hoard had dried to a trickle, they pounced.

Their weapons? A can of petrol and a manhole cover.

As our neighbour placed the heavy iron disc over one end of the buried pipe, Dad poured the contents of the can down the escape hatch.
After a dramatic pause, a match arced into the mouth of the tunnel  and…

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…is the only word to describe the resulting sound, accompanied by a blast of flame, smoke, and charred wasp corpses which shot out of the ground at a 45° angle, while the now lethal manhole cover took off straight up, rising to a height of about ten feet before coming back to earth with a clang.

Followed by silence.

Certainly no buzzing.

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Something which we, as kids, experienced on these holidays, was an activity known on many of the sites as “Nightwalk”. I’ve still never really understood where it originated, but we encountered it in several places, considerable distances apart.

Our family had now grown, and there were four of us in the kids’ tent, making the logistics more complicated, but we got it down to a fine art.
After the children of the families camping on site were sent off to their separate tents at bedtime, they waited quietly until they were sure their parents had either retired to their own beds, or were otherwise occupied.

Then the escape would swing into operation.

Crawling silently under the flap of the tent, to avoid the noisy zip, we would steal away into the dark, to meet up with other escapees of various nationalities from all over the site, and go roaming around the outer reaches of the grounds.

On one particular site, built on very sandy soil, the clubhouse’s “cellar” was on the back of the bar and had a rough plank door that barely reached the ground. With a bit of gentle scraping under the door, enough of a hollow was excavated to allow a slim 15 year old, who shall remain anonymous, to wiggle through and pass out a few bottles of vin de paintstripper to his waiting accomplices.

I very clearly recall, sitting on a stone wall, pleasantly pissed on cheap free plonk, chatting to my recently acquired step-brother, thinking This is what going on holiday should be like.

I also clearly recall my first wine hangover the next morning.

But when you’re kids, you just don’t have the time to be hungover. The sun is shining, the pool is open, and that cute Dutch girl you flirted with last night is going to be there…

..and summer went on forever
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For Ann, Martin, and Anthony.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Personal anecdote, Travel

 

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Barging in…

There’s a pub I know in Wiltshire with an interesting history. It has recently started a new phase in it’s existence, thanks to some lottery funding and community involvement, but my first encounter with it was in the summer of ’96.

A friend and I had been to a party in London one weekend, had the rest of the week off too, and were at a bit of a loose end. Then I had a brilliant idea.

One of the people that I was sharing a flat with at the time had once told us that his Mum ran a pub in Wiltshire somewhere, so I rang him before we left London, to find out exactly where it was. He gave us directions, and we set off to find the quaintly named Honeystreet, and the Barge Inn.

Arriving at the extremely rural, picturesque village, we managed to find the pub, tucked away down a lane, behind a lumber yard.

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The landlady – our friend’s Mum – was out when we arrived, so we put our tent up in the camping field and went in to sample their wares.
Our hosts, June and Adrian, arrived some time later, returning from a local Vintner’s Association outing on the Avon and Kennett canal, on which the pub stands.
After establishing that I shared a flat with her son, June made us very welcome, and laid on a massive feast for us, apologising that she couldn’t spend more time with us that evening.

The following day we met up with June at lunchtime, and she told us a little about the pub and its history.
The two main things that the Barge was known for back then, were the fact that an episode of intellectual TV detective series, Inspector Morse was filmed there, and that it is a Mecca for Cereaologists. (crop circle enthusiasts)

People flocked to the pub from all over the world, to study the wealth of information about the crop circle phenomenon which is so prevalent in the area around Wiltshire. The pub had a room devoted to the subject, with astonishing numbers of photographs, maps, and leaflets about all manner of strange theories. There were also various carvings and an amazing mural that covered the ceiling in the back room.

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In short, it was a truly unique place, with a great atmosphere and I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

Over the years, I have returned many times, for family camping holidays, and to meet up with friends, because it is almost exactly half way between where we live now and where we used to live, so makes a useful meeting point. We always have a great time there, whether it’s going up to one of their regular summer music festivals, accidentally turning up during a (hilarious) Ufologists convention, exploring nearby Avebury and Silbury hill, or just walking the dog in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside.
June and Adrian have since retired, but the pub is once more going strong

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Possibly my favourite story concerning the Barge however, occurred ten years on from that first visit, in 2007.

In July of that year a holidaying German policeman called Josef stopped at the pub in his hire car, having heard of it’s reputation as a centre for crop circle activity. He parked at the side of the barn attached to the main building and went inside.
By all accounts, he spent a pleasant evening chatting to the locals and studying the “Croppie” literature and photographs of recently formed circles.

At the end of the evening, Josef said his goodbyes and went out into the rainy night (this was England in July) to find his car.
Now, the only access to the pub is up the narrow lane beside the lumber yard, which is on the right as you leave. Starting his fiat punto, Josef pulled out and carefully turned left…

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           Josef’s route, in red.

Driving slowly up the path in front of the pub, passing astonished customers, he stopped at the very edge of the towpath.

Then, indicating, and looking left and right with obvious concentration, he pulled smartly forward. And drove straight into the middle of the canal.
At this point the car was almost completely submerged, the canal being 4-5 feet deep at it’s deepest, although the windscreen wipers were still comically sloshing back and forth.
Obviously panicking, Josef forced open the door, only to have the pressure of the water push it shut on him as he tried to climb out, trapping him against the side of the car.
By this time, customers and staff from the pub had rushed to the scene, and someone dived in to free the terrified German. After some considerable effort, the car was manhandled, with the aid of ropes, back to the bank and secured, awaiting rescue the next day.

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“Bloody students”.  Josef, the morning after the nightmare before.

By the time the rescuers did arrive of course, in the shape of a crane, the media had got hold of the story, and Josef and his punto were, if only briefly, famous.
His explanation of the accident was that the canal, in the dark, looked very like wet tarmac, and the streetlight on the bridge further upstream made him think that this was the road.

I’m told that when he returned to his Berlin police station following his holiday, an enlarged press  photo of his car, streaming water, being craned from the canal was prominently on display.

To find out more about the newly invigorated Barge Inn at Honeystreet, and there’s a lot more to find out, go here.

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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Personal anecdote, Travel

 

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Blogstock part 3…

Clad in my lovely new Chagstock merchandise, I awaited the arrival on the Main Stage of the New Crisis band, the group formed by the heroic organizer of the whole weekend, Mr Simon Ford.

His entrance being marred ever-so-slightly by a trip over the top step of the stage, he strode out to the microphone wearing a regal red cape and magnificent crown, in keeping with the Arthurian fancy dress theme of this year.
The band were on top form, running through a family friendly, across the board selection of covers including the Beatles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and many more.
The end of their set drew a massive ovation from the assembled crowds, and rightly so, this being the man who had brought us all together in the first place, and therefore a folk hero of some proportion.

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A suitably attired punter. Suits you, Sir knight.

This is probably the point at which I should confess to not really being much of a Seth Lakeman fan, but there is clearly no accounting for popular taste, as his set would have brought the house down, had we been indoors. Here’s some of his music anyway, so you can judge for yourself.
I even bumped into Alun, our landlord from the B+B, who had come in just to see his performance.
(The locals that live within a certain radius of the site get free tickets)

I elected to spend the time getting another drinks-run in, and scoping out a place from which to watch the next band on the Acoustic Stage.

There’s not three of them, they’re not from Alabama, they’re from Brixton, ladies and gentleman, the Alabama 3!

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An all acoustic, unplugged set was an unusual prospect from a band that, up until recently, I had heard only more electronic/dance influenced stuff from. If you haven’t heard this side of them before either check out this video of them performing Woke Up This Morning or, better still, do what I did a couple of weeks ago, go out and get Last Train to Mashville volumes one and two.
Long after the echoes of “Whoop whoop! It’s the sound of the police!” had died away, their set, and it’s protest tinged tone – several mentions of Ian Tomlinson‘s police attacker being acquitted were crowbarred into songs – images of the set stayed with me.
A real eye-opener.

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All four – and at one point, five – of the Alabama 3 in full flow.

And now it was time for the big finale.

There was barely enough time to march back outside, voices already hoarse, hands smarting from applause, and retake our seemingly magically protected spot in the arena – no groundsheets there now – for the arrival on the Main Stage of the headliners of the whole weekend.

Anticipation had hardly had a chance to take hold however, when they came onstage to the strains of the A-team theme tune.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, knights and damsels, dragons and wizards, for the final time this year put your hands together for FUN LOVIN’ CRIMINALS!

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Huey and Co giving it some NYC attitude.

Of course they were amazing. Of course they were funky. Of course they were slick. And loud, very loud.

And they did apologise for using the MF word in front of children, but then as frontman Huey Morgan pointed out; “…it’s a motherfuckin’ festival, what the fuck ya gonna do?”

Quite.

They thundered through the fabulous Scooby Snacks, schmoozed their way through the smooth croon of Barry White, and finished the night off with an unavoidable encore, bringing us all back down on a dreamy version of Louis Armstrong’s We Have All The Time In The World.

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Up close (ish) and personal with Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

And that, pretty much, was that.

We went back to tent for a nightcap, then back to the B+B and a well-needed rest, (we still had another day of holiday planned on Sunday)

Without a doubt, the highlight of the summer so far, and it’ll need some beating too. Book your Chagstock tickets for next year as soon as they’re on sale.
You won’t regret it.

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As a footnote, I should say that on Sunday night, when we were out for a meal in the Post Inn, a pub recommended to us by our hosts at the B+B, we were informed by the landlord that Simon, and the other Chagstock organizers were having a private celebratory meal in the restaurant.

Never one to be backward in coming forward, I asked if he thought they’d mind if I went and expressed my gratitude for a wonderful weekend. He said to go on round, so I did.

I took in the tanned faces and satisfied smiles round the table and felt genuinely chuffed for them. That they had managed to keep the faith, through all the crappy weather over the last few weeks, and all the problems that brings with it, and pulled off one of the best festivals that I remember attending, shows how dedicated they are.

(And it should be pointed out that the whole Chagstock operation is a non-profit organisation, nobody is getting rich off this)

Interrupting as tactfully as I could -not very, I’d had quite a few Thatcher’s Gold’s by then – I told them I’d been to, and greatly enjoyed their festival, and would like to thank them on behalf of all attendees, that it had been a fantastic weekend and that we’d keep coming back as long as they kept doing it.

Oh, and next year could we have two beer tents please.

Having delivered this diplomatic communique, I bid them farewell, turned, and tripped over the restaurant steps behind me.

The last thing I heard as I walked back to the bar was laughter,and someone said; “That was about as good as your entrance onstage last night Simon.” More laughter.

Because it’s that sort of festival, it brings out your inner smile.

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See you next year.

 

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Blogstock part 2…

After the amazing start to the festival on Friday, the only thing that could have spoilt this year’s Chagstock was the weather.

(Spoiler alert, it didn’t)

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The view from the campsite.

We rose from our luxury bed, availed ourselves of our luxury bathroom, and made our way down to our luxury guest breakfast room. We were met by our luxury genial hosts, Alun and Gaynor, who served up our now customary, fantastic three course breakfast – fresh fruit, cereal and toast, and a full English with eggs from their own chickens.

Should you wish to pay Southcott B+B a visit, go here, but I wouldn’t bother trying for next Chagstock weekend, I think you’ll find it booked.

Suitably fortified, we arrived in the arena in time to be welcomed back by our esteemed MC for the weekend, Mr Tony King, and to see the first band of the day on the now-open Main Stage, These Reigning Days, or rather I heard most of their set from the nearby beer tent. They were very good indeed. Imagine a more cheerful, more melodic Editors, very tight, punchy Indie rock. A fine way to start the day.

By the time we had made ourselves comfortable in our own little piece of arena space – with several drinks apiece – it was time for the next band.
Big Boy Bloater has apparently been described by Jules Holland, no less, as “One of the greatest blues guitarists of our time” and he, and his band, the Limits, certainly put in a pretty convincing claim to that title. Highlight of the set being a storming guitar workout called Rocket Surgery.

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Big Boy Bloater and the Limits.

Time to go in the shade next, for a chance to see someone who I’d been looking forward to seeing, ever since hearing the fabulous Gay Pirates a couple of weeks ago, the extraordinarily talented Cosmo Jarvis.
According to the intro, Cosmo is not only a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer, but also an actor/director/filmmaker. The man has more slashes to his name than your average IP address.

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Cosmo Jarvis. Fame had made him turn his back on his bassist.

He came onto the acoustic stage with just a guitar and sat at a stool in front of a bass drum and pedal. He was joined by a bass player, and that appeared to be it.
The tent was already filling up, and as he is a bit of a local hero, many people had been looking forward to seeing him in particular since yesterday. The crowd were in for a treat.

I’ll say one thing for Mr Jarvis, onstage he really does give it his all. His voice, already on the husky side when he began, must have been positively shredded by the end of the set. He and his bassist – whose name I did write down but subsequently lost, apologies – played a really great collection of songs which ranged from pure folk to sea shanties and all ports in between. By the time he finished with a triumphant Gay Pirates, I doubt there was anyone in the tent not singing along.

Back out into the blazing sunshine again, and it was another trip to the bar, which was surprisingly empty. So, pints and Pimms in hand, I made my way back to our nomadic arena camp.

At this point, I would like to mention “arena psychology”.
This is practiced by almost everyone who goes to a festival, whether they know it or not.

You get to a nice clear patch of grass, with a good view of the stage, and you dump all the crap you’ve been carrying around with you – half a curry, a pint of warm cider, a rucksack, too many clothes, a massive great flag on a twelve foot pole that seemed like a good idea at the time until you want to sit in the chillout tent, chairs, etc – and you lay out your groundsheet.
Now, at this point, you have set up an invisible forcefield around your belongings, effective on all but the most intoxicated or terminally dickheaded, which people will automatically skirt around, even if you are standing up at the time.
A useful play on folks’ natural inclination to be polite, or the “festival effect”, turning us all into a big, happy family for the weekend? You decide.

As we’d been on walkabout, we had been able to hear The Martin Harley Band playing the main stage, and we drifted back that way to see the wonderful Mad Dog McRea. Having seen them before I knew what to expect, and they certainly didn’t fail to deliver.

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Down the front with Mad Dog.

They played a blistering set, which included my personal favourite Am I Drinking Enough?, and Raggle Taggle Gypsy which left the crowd going wild.

Our intention had been to wander back to the Acoustic Stage to see The Monkey Gland Blues Band, The Travelling Band, and Juan Zelada in between each of the Main Stage acts, and although we could hear quite well enough to know that they were all going down a storm, I frankly couldn’t be bothered with all the moving back and forth, Elaine and the others were going back to the tent for a while, so I guarded – unsuccessfully, as it turned out – the remaining arena paraphernalia and soaked up the sun and the music coming from the tent behind me.

I got hungry after a while, having not eaten since breakfast, so left my rucksack – containing my shirt, my prized hoodie from last year’s Chagstock, camera, tobacco, socks and groundsheet – and my pint, with some friends of Inge’s, with whom we had been sitting.

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Yours truly. Rucksack just visible, for now, bottom right.

I got held up in a food queue, the site being now sold out to capacity, and when I got back to it, neither my stuff, nor the people I left it with, were anywhere to be seen.

Bugger.

Now, I’m quite a positive person when it comes to people in general, so I naturally assumed that they would be back soon, finished my meal, and waited.
And waited.

Ok, maybe they’re not coming back then.

At this point – it was about 6pm by now – it was beginning to get a little chilly to be wearing just a T-shirt. And since my clothes, hoodie, and denim jacket were all AWOL I had to take drastic action. I went and bought another hoodie.
They are very nice hoodies.

Ten minutes later, I got a call from Ho, telling me that Inge’s friends had my stuff and were bringing it back to the arena with them.

Like I said, the Festival Effect.

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The united colours of Chagstock.

Concludes in part three…

 

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Blogstock part 1…

Well, it finally arrived. The much anticipated Chagstock Festival was last weekend. And what a weekend it was.

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Chagstock is one of those rare things, a truly family orientated, proper music fan’s festival, and boy did they go out of their way to spoil us this year.

Elaine and I travelled down from Barnstaple on Friday morning in unfeasibly good weather, the past few weeks having given very little reason to expect anything but an extremely soggy weekend.
The plan was the same as last year; stay in the fabulous Southcott B+B (from which you can quite literally see the arena field), take our large tent, to use for a daytime base on site, and in which a friend of ours, Ho, was staying for the weekend, and also to meet up with a couple that we had first met at the festival last year. We were joined by a mutual friend, Inge, that we’d not seen for many years, who came over from Holland with her young son.

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The gang’s all here. (I appear to be strangely faceless)

Having arrived on the campsite in glorious sunshine, the possibility that we might be about to have a proper English summer festival began to sink in and I’ve got to say it felt good. We set up the tent with the casual efficiency of festival veterans (whatever you’re thinking about that sentence, you’re probably right), and made our way off to get some lunch and check in with out genial B+B hosts.

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For two days, this was our world.

We realized one of our objectives almost immediately after re-entering the site, meeting up with Mick and Jane, a couple that we’d got on well with the year before, and we went in search of a festival.
Straight away we headed for the food tents, got ourselves a drink, sat in the sunshine, and just soaked up the atmosphere.
There were already a few people in fancy dress, – the theme this year was Arthurian – and there were carved wooden animals, kids activities and stalls of all kinds. It was just a perfect setting for a weekend of relaxation.

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I regret to say that we missed the first couple of bands, due simply to the novelty of being able to sit in the sunshine, but by the time Ellen and the Escapades came onstage in the acoustic tent, we were certainly up for a bit of jigging about, and they didn’t disappoint. They delivered a lively, country flavoured set with some tasty harmonica playing.
The main stage was only to be in use on the Saturday night, so we had the full evening’s bill in the spacious marquee.
Up next was the silken voice of Kate McGill, the Welsh girl, adopted as a local (no mean feat, let me tell you) by the West Country since she moved here.

Now, we come to my only complaint about the whole wonderful, sun-drenched weekend. There was only one beer tent for 5000 people.
Ok, so we weren’t all in there at the same time, but it was a considerable effort to go and buy a drink. For this reason, I’m afraid I missed Ruarri Joseph, but I an reliably informed that he was superb.

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Exhibit A – the queue for the bar before KT Tunstall came on.

As I say, the single gripe about the whole weekend, and a small one at that. I believe most people, myself included, learnt to buy three pints at a time by the Saturday (to be drunk responsibly, obviously) necessitating fewer trips to the bar.

What we were all waiting for, of course, was KT Tunstall. And as it turned out, we were waiting a fair bit longer than we bargained for.
She took the stage to a predictably enthusiastic reception, from a pretty much full tent.
She started to play.

She stopped playing.

There was fiddling with cables, knobs, pedals, and other devices that we poor front-of-house mortals could only hope to grasp the complexities of.

She started playing again.

She stopped playing.

There was clearly a problem, so we waited, mainly good-naturedly, for a further ten minutes or so until, finally Miss Tunstall took the stage, apologized for the cock-up, and launched straight into an amazing set, which included much use of her trademark delay pedal vocals / beatbox / guitar riff that made her so instantly famous with her appearance on Later with Jules Holland. At one point, she even got the crowd beatboxing the chorus from “We Will Rock You” by prog-opera stalwarts Queen.

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KT Tunstall, pedal to the metal.

To be fair to the organizers, she was allowed to overrun her allotted time slot to make up for lost tunes, and we all went back to our tents happy.

Well, we went back to our cosy bed, but we were shivering in our tents in spirit.

Saturday promised to be another scorcher, and the music looked as though it would be pretty hot too, but for a first day, you really couldn’t top it for England’s first day of real summer.

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Continues in part two…

 

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