27-May-2012 Over The Top

This week has passed by in a blur of action and satisfaction.

We’re very fortunate in being able to go out and perform our songs so often – early retirement and redundancy mean that we don’t need to worry about the prospect of getting up at unearthly hours to join the soul-destroying commute to the 9 to 5 to earn a wage/salary and contribute to an ever shrinking pension pot. It also means that we can either plan ahead (we do a lot of that) or be spontaneous (we should probably do more of that) and we can do things that others might think are somewhat foolish or over the top.

Saturday was one of those ‘over the top’ days – quite literally. It seems ages ago (at least a few months, possibly even last year) that we heard that Phil Beer was playing a solo gig in the Browfoot Room in Ulpha. Finally, the day arrived – and, phew, what a scorcher… so we set off following directions from Emily, our trusty Garmin SatNav. A very pleasant drive ensued, heading west past Hexham and then up through Alston and over Hartside Pass giving us glorious views of the northern landscape. Then it was over the M6 into Lake District country, and soon we were winding our way across Wrynose Pass which turned into a single track road with some sharp bends and steep climbs (10% to 15%) – by now temperatures were soaring to 25 degrees. And then… and then… a right angle turn cunningly disguised as the main road took us up and over the top, Austhwaite Brow to be precise. 30% gradients, even narrower road, 180 degree severe turns all at the same time – imagine if you will, gunning the engine in 1st gear in order to climb, pedal to the floor, inability to see whether any traffic was curving downhill towards us, sweating profusely, sun in the eyes, and Emily bleating “Recalculating, please drive to highlighted route…”.

But, with more than enough hairy and scary moments we eventually made it down again only to be directed up the other side to pick up the route we had somehow veered from. At last, we found the venue – and with a few hours to kill we headed off through Broughton to Barrow… lots of windmills in the estuary, a purple painted pub and fish and chips…the delights of a coastal town.

Then we headed back to the gig – and Phil did not disappoint… phenominal multi-instrumentalist (two 6-string guitars, 4-string tenor guitar, fiddle and mandolin), great singer (traditional, contemporary blues, Americana, rock classics – the lot) and a very engaging and fun personality too. It was made extra special for us as he sang “Tommy” which Jimmy requested at half time for Val, and then to our delight he followed it with “Mary From Dungloe” (another firm favourite of ours) especially for Rosie who was celebrating her 8th birthday at the event – thanks for the cake, Rosie, it was lovely!

Needless to say, we ignored Emily and followed our own instincts and map reading on the return journey, reaching Blyth at around 2:20 am.

The rest of the week has passed by in a haze of practice, rehearsal (yes, there is a difference!), performances and some long walks in the sunshine including trips down town to deposit some recording and performing earnings into the much-depleted bank account as well as ambling around the local golf course (no, we weren’t playing golf, just enjoying a stroll in the fresh air). And we also managed to line up a super gig for 2013, but we’re not supposed to say too much about it yet.

Ah, life is good… no, life is great.

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