Friday, 24 August 2007

Tellytubby, or Recorded-Aftermath-of-Gig-a-Blog™ (Good Books in freeze-dried granules)

Updateoid 1: The Televisualization

GoodBooks' fine ICA performance of Passchendaele, marred only slightly by my playing, was on TV on Saturday 21st July.

This was on a Channel 4 show called T4 which featured an iTunes Festival segment in each of (I think) four weekly programmes. Obviously - given the maths - these were selections rather than entire concerts-worths of music: consequently GoodBooks were sandwiched in between Groove Armada with Mutya Buena, and Sir Paul McCartney (who he?), spanning several nights in one show.

We watched it under slightly unusual circumstances: the living room was full of sleepy Harry Potter fans, Becca having had a massive sleepover of friends. They had all been down at Waterstones in Piccadilly for the midnight launch of the latest (and indeed lastest) book and had not got back till some ungodly hour of the morning. There was not, I hope, too bad an interaction between their need for more kip and mine for a (relatively) early-morning dose of Popular Music.

When the programme reached the iTunes Festival bit, it was nice that the introductory music was from The Illness, another GoodBooks track. I don't know if they did this each time or just for this one, but it was good to hear it there anyway. Oh and this was over quite a clever, striking London-plus-Music black and white animation, with the London Eye turning into a bass drum and so on. Passchendaele came round after about twenty minutes - just long enough to start worrying that they'd left it out.

There was a short chunk of interview then the song. I was pretty pleased with how it sounded: in particular, I didn't suffer the, er, IntonationExcursion™ which had raised my blood pressure so very dangerously while I was listening to the Radio 4 recording, and I preferred the somewhat fatter trumpet sound they'd gone for on this one, so thank you Mr or Ms Engineering Persons. Yes yes: as noted elsewhere my views tend essentially to be a somewhat tunnel-visioned, single-issue take on the recorded performance and I'm aware that there's room to consider other aspects - or rather that there could be room if you weren't me. But, as they say, hey.

In the performance, with regard to the er er er er visual effect such as it was, I was pleased that I appeared neither to be struck motionless like a sack of King Edwards nor wibbling embarrassingly round like your old Dad trying out his fon-kay dance moves. Given my concerns surrounding this general area of life, I found this outcome quite satisfactory. (Yes Tamsin. That is correct: I was worried that I would look a pr*t. Indeed.)

Looking at it again, I do seem to be checking where we are quite a lot, glancing over at Max, nodding at Lottie at section breaks, etc, but you could perhaps interpret it (with kindness) as "taking an intelligent interest" rather than "being anxious". In any case any possible claim on coolness that I might ever have been tempted to make would have been abandoned at least thirty years ago. And, as discussed ad nauseam already, I would much rather risk looking uncool than risk being in the wrong place.

One thing that was a bit of a disappointment was the Vanishing Lottie Effect. That is, while I was quite well lit (only because I was very close to Christopher the bass player!), Lottie was essentially unlit and hence mostly invisible. You do get to see her occasionally and certainly she's lit by flashes - ready with those freeze frame fingers, viewers? - but it's less than I'd like, natch. The third player, James, being even further stage left, is correspondingly even less visible. None of this is of course an artistic disaster (well not a total one), and nor does it render the song incapable of communicating: it's just that if you were, say, a parent of one of the young persons concerned, you'd be a touch cheesed off. Gak!

On the other hand, while you can't see the middle von Neustadt child all that well, you do get to hear her rather splendidly doing her Groovy Improv Thang like a good 'un in the Big Noisy Ending™. She'd been so excellent on the BBC show that I was determined to make her job a little harder, or at least more interesting, by heading off in a different direction. Naturally, being me, I bottled out of this, initially at least, and despite my best intentions and the twelve billion choices available, managed to start with exactly the same phrase as last time. D*mn d*mn d*mn. Twit. Oh well.

I am beginning to feel that improvisation is like tennis, and that if you want to improve your performance you should always try to play with someone better than you. By this token I should do lots more gigs with Lottie in the vague hope that I might reverse-inherit something from her.

Anyway. That was the telly, that was, and I was very relieved and happy that it seemed to be OK, suitable for showing to relatives, friends, colleagues, etc without too much embarrassment. (Yes, of course I've got a DVD, what did you think?)

Updateoid 2: ... and now on iTunes

I suppose, given the name of the festival, I might have guessed that performances from the ICA would turn up sooner or later on iTunes. Well they did, and I bought the GoodBooks tracks, and went through the bizarre contortions necessary to get them onto my Wretched Young Persons' Portable Music Listening Device, and that's about it really. The iTunes Passchendaele performance may I suppose have been recorded and/or tweaked differently from the TV sound but as I hear it it's the same notes, and I really wouldn't know more without a Helpful Young Person talking me through. It's another nice memento to have, and it increases substantially - by a third I think - the number of pop songs on iTunes with me on. As noted elsewhere, the golden day of my great comeback can only be a few decades round the corner. Soon you will be able to get a snappily-titled album like "Great Trumpet Moments in Popular Musical History with Vogel von Neustadt, volume 1, the First Half-Century" and attractive people will demand my autograph in Woolworths and other classy cultural hotspots. An ting.

Anyway anyway. That's pretty much it. We had one other brief interaction with GoodBooks but that was in a trumpet-free environment, so I reckon that I can say that my Passchendaele- playing career is on a break at the moment. It has, however, been fun: lots and lots and lots of it. Thank you and goodnight.

Photo by courtesy of James at Mallinsons.

Gig-a-Blog™ (GoodBooks, iTunes Festival & Channel 4 TV)

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

A few days after the GoodBooks/Radio 4 thing, Anna the manager was in touch once more to ask us to come and play in Passchendaele again. Naturally we were pleased to be asked: I'm like yeah woo babay. (I'm like good show, top hole, pip pip.) This time it was part of the iTunes Festival at the ICA - the Institute for Contemporary Arts, rather splendidly situated on The Mall, between Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace.

The iTunes Festival ran for the whole of July with two acts most nights. Some of these were astonishingly eminent: people like Paul McCartney, Amy Winehouse and Stereophonics among many others: a total of more than sixty acts listed for the whole festival. The whole thing was run by and/or for iTunes and Channel 4 TV, so you could go to the gigs, or (eventually) see bits of it on TV or download performances from iTunes. The "going to the gigs" bit was interesting - tickets were free but had to be applied for in a ballot. I rather liked this neat idea, but I'm not sure what iTunes' message to the fans was meant to be in this: is it just the very obvious one, or what? Your guess, Tamsin.

GoodBooks' appearance on Wednesday 11th July was as support to Editors, whose work I didn't know but I'm told that they're well thought-of. (What I heard of them on the day sounded good and I probably ought to be less lazy about music and find out more things I like. But then I'm also told that Old Gits trying to be hip about music is faintly disgusting. Ah, conflicts, conflicts innit Colin?)

Lottie and I met at the ICA quite early so we had time for a cup of tea. It's all very pleasant and trendy there and I'm ashamed to admit that this was my first visit. I must try to assuage my CultureGuilt™ by going there for a proper look some time.

We ran into or were introduced to the band, Anna, various technical and admin people and James, another trumpet player, who I think was at school with some or all of GoodBooks: so today we were a section of three.

The soundchecks, astonishingly enough, ran a bit late so there wasn't too much time for the trumpets, as the venue were champing at the bit to get the front of house clear. We did, nevertheless, get checked and it was immediately clear that it was going to be a bit easier than last time to hear what was going on. We still didn't have our own monitor (which is fair enough in the circumstances) but I could hear a lot more from the FOH and if you wellied it a little you could hear it smacking back at you from the rear of the venue, not loudly but definitely there, which is helpful.

The venue, by the way, was not large: I seem to recall that the ICA calls it the Studio or something. Bigness is not its thing - I think a capacity of over 300 was mentioned but I'd be surprised, nay alarmed, to see that many fitted in there unless this were students being sponsored, possibly by Lurpak. It looked especially tiny before the gig in the get-in/soundcheck period when the auditorium floor was pretty full of musical and technical kit and you couldn't really see how you'd easily get even twenty people in. But yes, they did tidy all this up nicely, and make a fair space for the small, but undoubtedly high-quality, audience.

During this pre-gig technical phase I was really intrigued by the boom-mounted TV camera. It's mounted on a sort of big trolley, and the long arm bearing the camera is massively counterbalanced so that the operator's end of it, with the monitor and controls, is quite compact. I was impressed by the subtlety and artistry with which the operator could move this camera: despite the obvious, major constraints on its movement it was so cleverly done that it almost looked like it could fly. This looked like a nice job!

Having soundchecked we had a little time to kill, and a meal voucher for the rather nice caff: hence our encounter with The Best Sticky Toffee Pudding in the Entire Universe. Ah yes. <long sigh>

That little moment of bliss over, it was time to go and Do Our Thang. Well actually it was time to go and hang around backstage for some time, in an area so tiny that it makes the front of house look like the Royal Albert Hall. The ICA's site is not huge and, believe me, they are using every inch back there.

I must mention that I was impressed by the guy tour-managing for GoodBooks at the ICA. He seemed busy and hardworking and did a couple of attention-to-detail things which were useful, and was at pains to keep us trumpets informed about the progress of the gig. This is handy when you're in that kind of situation and don't want to feel a bit semi-detached. So well done Mr Bloke.

After a couple of songs - which were now quite familiar due to the near-obsessive amounts of GoodBooks listening I'd been doing - we were on. I'd have felt a bit cooler not carrying on a music stand, but as discussed ad nauseam elsewhere there's no contest if the choice is between cool and correct and the band, bless'em, agreed. If they ask me a third time, tell you what, I'll try and learn it. But safety first, I reckon.

In any case we were not exactly centre stage and it was therefore possible to kind of snurgle our way on in a low-impact way, music stand and all; and in line with the 6Ps weltanschauung I'd gaffer-taped the music onto the stand so that was one potential disaster nipped in the bud.

It all seemed to go well. We were a bit surprised by the not-overfulness of the studio but it was early in the evening and who they did have there seemed enthusiastic enough.

Max almost threw me a little by announcing me, or rather a "Mr Louis Armstrong", just before the solo. It's not that I was put out at being mentioned in the same month or year as one of the greatest musicians ever, far from it. It's just that I didn't quite grasp immediately what he'd said so for a second it could've been anything from We're skipping straight to the hitherto unknown Verse Three to The building is on fire, please panic calmly to Ian Dury's famous Cut out the f*cking spitting on the Live Stiffs tour album. (My word, how lovely touring must have been In Them Days.) Thus just briefly I was slightly baffled, thinking "does this affect what I am about to do?" but then instinct reasserted itself (Fight or Flight in F minor) and I switched modes out of WTF?? and into Better-Just-Play-It-Anyway with only the mildest hint of crashing gears, stripped cogs, shattering crockery, squealing brakes an ting, such is the hem hem incredible flexibility of my rusty demicentenarian brain. Memo to self: be more flexible; nothing is set in stone. (Except things that are actually set in stone, yes Tamsin, thank you.)

gb_MAL_0160-bigger The other thing that happened is that - according to Lottie - when I started playing, camera persons dashed over from all points of the compass. (Erm. Erm. I guess you don't see a physique like mine on stage every day of the week, no?) Lot was not unreasonably concerned that had I noticed I'd have freaked out. Haha, she doesn't know the half of it. It's quite hard to play the trumpet while gibbering, screaming, babbling and trying to get your head (and indeed torso) into a Krispy Kreme Donut bag. Fortunately I had by then reached a semi-eyes-shut state of either Musical Ecstasy or Catatonic Fear (reader, you decide) and so did not notice the Sons of Satan and their thrusting, ah, equipment.

In a trice it was all over and all that remained was to leave the stage without falling over the music stand then fight our way through hordes of screaming trumpet-groupies, or not, and homewards. In some ways I'd have quite liked to stay and listen to Editors but in some other ways I was quite to keen to keep a date with such hip'n'cool appurtenances as The Comfy Armchair and The Nice'n'Large Glass-o-Red, so I did.

Another seriously enjoyable gig; another massive lurch forward in my Popular Music Career. Skilled statistical analysis based on my performance so far reveals that the next phase should begin in around 2032. Book your seats now.

Note: a later blogological entity discusses the appearance of recordings of this performance on the televisual apparatus and on a "music webby downloader website internet network thing" frequented by young persons with too much pocket money.


Stage photo by great kindness of James at Mallinsons.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Friday (mostly) in Oxford: a sort of Missed-the-Gig-a-Blog™

Friday, 17 August 2007

This was the day of Martha's first course concert, a lunchtime at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. If you don't know about this interesting place it's probably worth reading up on it: as its site says, "Christ Church is a unique institution, one of the largest colleges in the University of Oxford and, at the same time, the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Oxford", so there you go.

The day got off to a surprising start with the field behind the house getting filled with sheep early in the morning. Daisy found this a bit bemusing but was pretty good generally, with one or two naughty runs at the fence when they came a bit close.

We took the car in only as far as the Pear Tree Park and Ride then we parked and, well, rode. This is all very good. A bit of fiddling around with shops and so on then we went to the very beautiful Christ Church. Daisy was naturally not welcome there so Deb went in for the concert while the dog and I went for a lovely walk through Christ Church Meadow then round the Cherwell to the Thames or indeed Isis if you prefer. On the way there were fantastic views, especially back towards Christ Church, which rather shook my loyalty to Cambridge and its, ah, collegescape(?) We ended up quite a way downstream at a nice pub, the Isis Tavern, where Daisy acquired a fan club of little boys.

In the meantime Deb was at Martha's concert. Martha was continuo cello for "Summer" from the Four Seasons and acquitted herself very well: she was apparently praised to Deb by various luminaries, which is always nice. I wish I could write more about this but I couldn't hear much from the pub.

I was toying with the idea of getting a boat back to Folly Bridge but didn't have quite enough cash having bought a beer and crisps for Daisy and me. In fact, it didn't matter - it was a pleasant walk back and no slower than the boat, indeed I was seated at the next pub before they'd all got off the boat. This latter was being driven largely by Daisy's collection of little boys, who called and waved constantly as we walked along. It was all very convivial.

After the concert Deb said goodbye to Martha and we met for lunch at another fantastic riverside pub, the Head of the River, right by Folly Bridge. This was an exceedingly nice spot to sit and they serve very fine salt beef.

Eventually - after checking on the venue for the Saturday concert, and looking at parking, and wandering a little bit, and so on, we set off back. It was very slow getting out of Oxford on the bus and I wondered if they shouldn't somehow try harder to prioritize the buses in order to keep up people's faith in the (otherwise very good) Park & Ride system. Then we picked up the car (Deb, exhausted by concert and lunch, briefly woke up for this bit) and set off back to Guiting Power. I had seen horrendous traffic queues on the A40 out of Oxford so in avoiding them we took a massive but very pretty detour round via Woodstock (where you pass Blenheim Palace) and Chipping Norton. I can report that this route was really enjoyed by everyone in the car who was awake.

On our return to the lovely Guiting Power we had a walk round to the church. It has some amazingly-old-looking graves, two excellent Norman doorways with fantastic carving, and a rather weird layout so that the transepts, built in the 1800s when the population was burgeoning, are as long as the nave and chancel. It must give odd sightlines for services if/when it's full; likewise, if you did concerts there - and John advises me that there is a rather good music festival in the village - then you'd have to think hard about where things are placed. A lovely and interesting building - and getting to it you pass many others equally good.

After that we walked over to Kineton for a quick pint, which was very nice, then home to dinner. A busy but excellent day.


Cotswold-o-dex™:

  1. The Power of Guiting

  2. A Wednesday walk

  3. Strawberry Yoghurt - Daylesford Creamery organic yoghurt with strawberry compote

  4. A Thursday of Longwalkness

  5. Incidental moments of deliciousness

  6. Friday (mostly) in Oxford: a sort of Missed-the-Gig-a-Blog™

  7. A Cotswolds Saturday, another concert, and the road homeward

Incidental moments of deliciousness

A quick mention of two excellent things we bought at the very nice farm shop at Hayles Fruit Farm.

September organic blackberry and apple crumble dairy ice cream is very very delicious indeed. It's got a gorgeous, delicate flavour and a brilliant, slightly crunchy (well, crumbly I suppose) texture. At £4.20 for 500ml it is not cheap but it is unbelievably good.

Zaramama's Roasted Nutty Seeds are also seriously pleasant. We had the Hot Smoked Paprika and Cheese and Chives flavours but sadly they didn't have the Sea Salt and Black Pepper one in stock. Strongly recommended. I'm a complete sucker for these sorts of things and these ones do not disappoint. More please!




Cotswold-o-dex™:

  1. The Power of Guiting

  2. A Wednesday walk

  3. Strawberry Yoghurt - Daylesford Creamery organic yoghurt with strawberry compote

  4. A Thursday of Longwalkness

  5. Incidental moments of deliciousness

  6. Friday (mostly) in Oxford: a sort of Missed-the-Gig-a-Blog™

  7. A Cotswolds Saturday, another concert, and the road homeward

A Thursday of Longwalkness

Thursday, 16 August 2007

On Thursday we did a really fantastic walk – “Cotswold Challenge” (ID 2576), also from the Country Walking website, is (as you might guess) classed as “challenging” though I am not sure it really was, other than being a bit longer than the “moderate” ones we’ve already done. It is listed as 18.5km/11½ miles - though I must say that I am having some trouble understanding why km have one type of half and miles have another, but hey.

It all felt terribly enterprising and grown-up: we parked in Broadway then took the bus through to Blockley to start the walk, which unusually is not circular. This made it feel, in some difficult-to-define way, like a proper expedition.

Before leaving Broadway, however, we had a bit of spare time (the bus only runs a couple of times a day and we didn’t know how easy or hard it would be to park so on this occasion perhaps even my paranoid timing was justified). We spent this – I use the word advisedly – in a lovely, lovely outdoor shop called Landmark which is the sort of place in which I could seriously jeopardize the investment future of my lottery winnings, basically because I want one of everything they sell, possibly plus a spare. And some batteries. And a lanyard. And a carrying case. And a book about it … you get the picture.

Anyway anyway, what we were after was (initially) another rucksack as the blue one from New Zealand was overfull and too heavy and is ageing badly now. This was quite easily accomplished and we got a quite nice Lowe Alpine 20-litre day bag thing “without technical features” (tsk!) which does the job nicely. Next – and this is the exciting bit – Deb replaced her walking boots which were Karrimore fabric ones. She has had them for yonks and they have given sterling service but had reached a state of collapse. She bought some Brasher ones, also fabric, which seem very nice and in which she perhaps rashly decided to do the whole long walk. Oh and finally we bought a mapcase to compensate for my dimness in not having brought one with us. It was such a relief to put the OS map and the walk leaflet in this that I cannot understand how we did the first four walks without one. It’s one of those so-obvious-it-hurts moments – the right place for the map is round your neck in a waterproof pouch, not flapping in the rain. Tsk and tsk again.

With this exciting shopping trip done, we had just a short wait till the bus was due but I was able to get a truly delicious coffee from a nice place nearby. Broadway is so pretty that it’s really extremely nice to just sit in the main street and admire it. We were due to board the bus just outside the Lygon Arms Hotel, a very beautiful and impressive building which I’d like to see from the inside one day. While we were still in Broadway the weather was initially lovely and sunny but after a while started deteriorating slowly. Indeed it then got bored with that and started deteriorating quickly, just to demonstrate its versatility.

The bus ride was very nice, featuring an excitingly steep curvy bit at Fish Hill on the A424 a mile or two out of Broadway. This being the date it was, a girl in the seat in front of us was sitting opening and closing a brown envelope and looking repeatedly at her AS or A-level results. We felt for her, poor thing: hope they were good.

The bus got us safely to the gorgeous village of Blockley and off we went. The walk out of Blockley was on a long street flanked by some exceptionally pretty houses, with the road eventually giving up and becoming a very nice bridleway up through woods. The weather was pretty atrocious as we left Blockley but, in the Words Of Python, we were "getting used to it by now"; indeed it continued on-and-off horrible for about two-thirds of the walk before finally settling on sunny.

The woods were followed by a footpath with a short climb then a long descent across fields into a really nice, lush meadow low down by a stream with a cottage nearby. The climb out of this valley was superb - open and grassy - and led us to a nice spot for lunch, accompanied by a monster downpour. This was followed by two long stretches, a fast upland bit with good views then an interesting mixed pasture along the side of a long wood. This latter bit was an SSI because, I think, of its unusual vegetation. Oh, and it had interesting-looking cattle, solid black with a white middle. Crossing over the wood and coming down the fields we found a spot for another break and were there overtaken by three horseriders, which interested Daisy though not in a bad way.

From there it was just a short walk along quiet roads and down into Snowshill, yet another very pretty village. After this there should have been a fair bit more road but we cheated a little and used parallel tracks in a wood, never more than 20m from the official line. The road was quiet and would've certainly not been horrible, but this was nicer. I was a bit nervous about being yelled at by the forces of landownership but we hadn't passed any signs and it was actually very peaceful in there, and the track quite encouragingly neglected. I should add that all the roads on this walk had much less traffic than those on the Adlestrop one - especially that walk's last big chunk which seemed to be trying out as an understudy for the M40 - and in any case the total distance on road was much smaller. Going back onto the road for the last quarter mile after the wood was no great hardship.

After this the footpath left the road and nipped across a corner of the Broadway Tower Country Park to join National Trust land. It was getting late and the country park was closed, which meant you couldn't go up the tower, but you could - and we did - sit at its base and admire pretty much the same view but without the thrill of paying for it. It is quite, quite superb there. The tower itself is rather good (an attractive Georgian building with interesting artistic connections) and is positioned right on the edge of the high bit - the wold l guess - with the most staggering view down to Broadway in the valley and across to various other hilly bits.

The walk down was quick and very painless - it is clearly a greatly-used track and has very smart new stiles with special doggie-gates and stuff. In a very few minutes we were back down in the middle of Broadway, outside the very fine Broadway Hotel, enjoying a pint.

I'm terribly pleased with how well this walk went. The distance maybe isn't that heroic but it's more than we usually do and most things continued to work as intended. Deb's seemingly rash decision to walk in her new boots was vindicated as she had little trouble, and certainly less than I did in my rather well-established boots bought in Alnwick some years ago. The walk itself was a good, interesting and well-balanced one in which we really appreciated the author's thoughtfulness.

Some other more-or-less-random features of this walk:

  • Excellent view of a huge dog fox
  • Lots of frogs
  • Sheep with its head stuck in a fence, rescued by your blogologist. I am not sure what it was shouting as it ran away but it didn't sound a whole lot like "thanks mate".
  • Herd of deer next to the Broadway Tower
  • Plenty of rabbits and a hare or two

We celebrated today being another good walk with our second dinner at the Hollow Bottom. This too was excellent and also entertaining as a nice young man at a neighbouring table had a rather soulful-looking Jack Russell on his lap most of the time. This dog made (big) eyes at Daisy quite a lot, only occasionally pushing his luck a little. The pub was quite a lot less sweary and noisy than on our last visit, and the food was still delicious, and the beer just perfectly beeroidal, so actually it was a pretty acceptable end to a pretty acceptable day, thank you very much indeed.

I could get used to this, but (deep sigh) it is perhaps wiser not to.


Cotswold-o-dex™:

  1. The Power of Guiting

  2. A Wednesday walk

  3. Strawberry Yoghurt - Daylesford Creamery organic yoghurt with strawberry compote

  4. A Thursday of Longwalkness

  5. Incidental moments of deliciousness

  6. Friday (mostly) in Oxford: a sort of Missed-the-Gig-a-Blog™

  7. A Cotswolds Saturday, another concert, and the road homeward

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Strawberry Yoghurt - Daylesford Creamery organic yoghurt with strawberry compote

This is a truly fabulous strawberry yoghurt. I had a good old bitchy bitch of bitchinosity yesterday about the somewhat Sloanoidal environment from which it came but, fair enough, they do know how to make strawberry yoghurt.

The Daylesford Creamery yoghurt is, as the title suggests, one with separate yoghurt and fruit compote. This always disarms me somewhat as I have never really figured out how to appreciate and write about these: I view them as non-standard. Go figure.

Anyway, the great loveliness of this yoghurt is that it is not too sweet. Hurrah! Obviously the compote will have been made with the usual nine tons of sugar, but it is not, nevertheless, outrageously sweet. And the yoghurt is very natural and live and unsweetened and everything, and the combination is simply delicious. It’s also one of the more costly, at £1.50 for a splendid 250ml, but well worth it.

Ratings:

Megadelicious and not too sweet, hurrah.

Oversugaredness: 0

Range Roverism: 10

Grelltt: 3

OK yahness: 8

Sploorn: 8.5

Overall: 9

Obsessives corner:

We’ve chucked the packaging, sorry!

Maybe I can get something from the photos …


Cotswold-o-dex™:

  1. The Power of Guiting

  2. A Wednesday walk

  3. Strawberry Yoghurt - Daylesford Creamery organic yoghurt with strawberry compote

  4. A Thursday of Longwalkness

  5. Incidental moments of deliciousness

  6. Friday (mostly) in Oxford: a sort of Missed-the-Gig-a-Blog™

  7. A Cotswolds Saturday, another concert, and the road homeward

A Wednesday walk

Well the weather has been pretty appalling most of today. It said “heavy showers” and it turns out they were not kidding, though it would be interesting to see the definition of “shower” that they used.

We were determined not to be daunted by this so we set off to do another walk downloaded from the Country Walking site. This one, “Cleeve Hill” (or 2636 to its friends) was classed as moderate, 9.6km/6 miles, 3½ hours. This is a very very good walk! It knocks spots off the curate’s egg (oops, danger, mixed metaphor) that was Monday’s walk.

Why’s it so good, do I hear you enquire? No? Well shame on you, and I am going to tell you anyway, so do put the kettle on or something.

  • It’s got hardly any road
  • It’s got good erm ah USPs, to whit:
    • A fabulous long barrow
    • A stunning view from a high(ish) hill
  • Lots of variety
  • Lots of up and down
  • Generally splendiferous
  • Not over easy, but the navigation works!
  • The GPS stuff even sort-of works.

We parked in a layby provided for visitors to the long barrow, Belas Knap. A quick blast up through a wood and along a lovely upland pastureish thing and we were at the barrow. It’s really a very very good one, in a fantastic state of preservation. (That is, I hope it is a fantastic state of “preservation” rather than a fantastic state of “Restored by Enthusiastic Victorians”. No doubt Uncle Google will know.) It’s got a grand entrance which is a fake, a couple of other ways in, standing stones – the works. It’s huge. They found 38 burials in it. You have to see it – it’s mind-blowing.

People had lit a fire on top of it, leaving a big burnt circle – a move of which I strongly disapprove, but they or others had also lit candles in some of the alcoves, and left flowers on what you might, with the Eye of Faith, see as a kind of altar or maybe memorial stone in one of the large openings. These activities would probably not endear them to archaeologists either but do not seem to dramatically damage the fabric (some soot and candle wax was evident) and I cannot bring myself to condemn them as strongly. It’s maybe just confused hippies but there is something quite touching about the thought that someone has used it for something more than just a tourist visit: more of a real use or something? It’s a tricky one – English Heritage would hate me for even thinking this, I fear; they might be right to do so. Hmmm.

Leaving Belas Knap we set off up a field, gaining height the whole time. Half way up this, when we were at pretty much the most exposed point, the heavens opened. I will not bore you (assuming you’re still awake now anyway) with the whole saga but I merely wish to note the following.

  • If you are ever with me on a walk, and it starts raining, and I go off into some macho fantasy of being all big and tough and managing without waterproofs, because I will be, like, OK, then you are to SLAP me smartly round the head a couple of times and say in a clear and firm voice: “Remember Belas Knap!”. That should do it nicely, thank you.

So following some serious rain and some very annoying sorting out of wet clothes by a very stupid bloke, we were ready to press on. In another kilometre or so we hit the derelict Wontley Farm and were disconcerted to see yet more rain very threateningly sweeping in, so we invited ourselves into the remains of a barn and sat out the worst of it, for about half an hour. We gave serious consideration to turning back at this point, but I am so glad we didn’t. It really was torrential – the tracks outside turning into rivers etc. Poor Daisy does not like this very heavy rain a bit and always adopts a rather mooey, put-upon expression. Odd really given the breed’s heroic outdoor image: she’d make a very strange sheepdog if every time it started raining she remembered an urgent appointment with her favourite sofa. Oh well.

Meanwhile, the rain eased off a bit so we left the farm and pressed on up in only light rain. Unfortunately as we got higher this became light cloud and then closed down to very limited visibility. We were supposed to be aiming for some comms masts and they’d vanished, of course. In the end I gave up with the map and used the GPS, which I’d programmed with the downloaded data from the CW website. This is not a flawless process and there are important safety caveats. I should write this all up sometime but the executive summary is – don’t be clueless with your GPS and let it navigate you into trouble: know where you are. But we were careful and fairly clueful and – also importantly – the ground favoured this approach, so I was quite happy to let it guide us with bearings between its waypoints, which were many and pretty well-plotted. As if by magic we suddenly found the comms towers looming out of the mist and there we were in the right place – the first time I have used a GPS quite that much on a walk. Like I say, it is far from perfect, but I was still quite impressed. Dealing with the same situation just with map and compass would have been quite difficult since there were no landmarks and pretty much nothing to check your position with – one path junction looks pretty much like another, and you never know what they have and have not mapped.

Then came the good bit. Just like in a CW article, after all this gloom and wetness and nil-visibility the cloud suddenly lifted, the sun came out, and there we were right on top of this lovely hill. A classic moment. We’d navigated right onto a lovely bench-and-isolated tree place mentioned in the walk so stopped there for lunch, with a truly amazing 360° view including Cheltenham and much round it. We immediately lowered the tone (though fortunately we had the place to ourselves) by draping it with wet clothes, people, dog, walk leaflet etc. (Memo to self: investigate waterproof inkjet paper. Map := papier maché, not good.)

We could see horrible weather all over the place, much of it tanking around at our eye-level, but mercifully it left us alone till we’d had lunch, visited the trig point, and were starting down, when it got going again a little bit. I should explain that the “high place” USP of this walk is the eponymous Cleeve Hill, whose proud boast is that as well as the highest point in the Cotswolds it is the seventh highest peak in southern England. Ah bless! This strikes me as one of those Department of Modest Claims things like “Best Baritone in Sheffield” (of which more some time) but believe me, as a trueblooded Englishman (well actually erm oh never mind) I stood a little taller, my back straight with pride, at having scaled southern England’s seventh highest peak, and gave the Sherpas a shilling, a Coronation mug and a half-holiday. But, non-grandiose claims apart, it is very very nice up there and the views, given the incredible luck of finding them clear for half an hour, were just fantastic.

I don’t want to start a class war item again but I’d have liked this hill even more had it not had a golf course all over it. I mean, sure, you don’t have to look at it while appreciating the view, but even so – or is it just me? Fore!

With the weather closing in again and my mashie-niblick threatening to get caught in my caddie’s plus fours (you know how it is) it was time to leave the summit, or “tee” as it is perhaps better known. Oh alright I will stop it now <goes off making Muttley noises: vassle sassle frassle etc>.

On the way down we encountered yet more sheep. (I have not mentioned their ubiquity. They are ubiquitous. Ubiquity is, like, their thing, this being the Cotswolds, and them being ovine. Also they have refused to pay me a small fee for an occasional favourable mention. But please assume that every paragraph has several sheep in it, perhaps a flock or two in certain cases.) Anyway, yet more sheep were indeed encountered and I was very pleased that it was possible to walk Daisy through them off the lead without incident. It does require a massive effort on the part of person and dog, and I do not counsel trying this at home. But it worked this time for us, and I truly felt that she was a Good Dog.

The descent from the summit into what the leaflet calls a “chalk gorge” was incredibly nice – it was such a pretty little valley to be in. From there it was all harmless, pleasant and pretty straightforward walking, with one nice wooded bit and a stream for Daisy to lie in. There was a pretty strenuous (by my standards) ascent out of this which was also interesting and rather beautiful and where we saw some amazing fungus. We had one tricky bit where the footpath, passing through a farmyard, was occupied by about a billion sheep, sealed in with gates and blocking the way entirely. I had visions of us having to turn back or wait two hours or something. I went ahead to talk to the farmer while Deb and Daisy were inspected closely by four tough-looking working collies, whom Daisy kept at bay with a stream of sophisticated city abuse learnt in the meze bars and pizza houses of Muswell Hill. The farmer was incredibly nice, admired Daisy (sort of) and advised us, to my astonishment, just to plough right through the sheep letting ourselves in and out of the gates at the ends. I’ve never done anything like this before and it was quite scary but the sheep were pretty cool about it, just moving out of the way, and Daisy was very good – but no, we did not have her off the lead for this bit!

Just as we got back to the car (after a really quite short bit of road) it started to tip it down again. We went for tea and some shopping to the Hayles Fruit Farm, and had our faith greatly restored after yesterday’s OTT Sloaniness in Daylesford. Hayles Fruit Farm is the real deal and I would not swap one visit there for a hundred to the Daylesford place – no sensible comparison is possible. So we had a nice cream tea overlooking a fantastic bird table which attracted more species than I usually see in six months. There were three or four varieties of tits, a dunnock, robin, chaffinch, nuthatch (yes really!) two little warbler type things with smart black hats on, various unidentifiable little brown things and, later, a rather stately pheasant tidying up at ground level. This was wonderful. And so was the down-to-earth and excellent farm shop where we bought loads of nice stuff.

And that’s pretty much it. It rained ludicrously much again on the way home but it’s a bit easier to tolerate when you’ve got a tin roof over your head and dry shorts on the other end, believe me.

After we got home it faired up again, as it does. I wrote most of this sitting at the kitchen table, glancing up from time to time at the view across the valley, the whole place looking fresh and lovely after the rain. Pretty unbeatable stuff.


Cotswold-o-dex™:

  1. The Power of Guiting

  2. A Wednesday walk

  3. Strawberry Yoghurt - Daylesford Creamery organic yoghurt with strawberry compote

  4. A Thursday of Longwalkness

  5. Incidental moments of deliciousness

  6. Friday (mostly) in Oxford: a sort of Missed-the-Gig-a-Blog™

  7. A Cotswolds Saturday, another concert, and the road homeward

The Power of Guiting

Mrs von Neustadt and I and our collie dog Gänseblümchen von Neustadt are in the Gloucestershire village of Guiting Power where to our great good fortune our neighbours and dear friends RA and JF (not to mention their kiddywinks F and L) have a cottage of such exquisiteness that it, like, does my head in, man.

I cannot even attempt to describe my feelings on arriving at this place for fear of embarrassing myself and my more sensitive readers. We arrived, gaped at the beauty of the front of the cottage, then entered and walked right through and into the back garden and stood looking down across the fields to the little valley below. It is really very, very nice indeed here, and I had better leave it at that for now.

We're here because - well, we're here because we need a break, and because we've not been exactly organized about booking expensive holidays in the sun, and because the Fordhams, bless 'em, could let us use it this week, and their co-owner, bless 'er too, has decided to not be here this week. And so on. It dovetails well with the fact that our youngest daughter is in Oxford on what sounds like a very nice chamber music course: we dropped her off on Sunday along with a couple of friends from the schools symphony orchestra of our great capital city, and we will return on Saturday night for the end-of-course concert and to collect some or all of the same young persons. Our other daughters are in other places doing other things so, bizarrely and unusually, it is (in the words of the song) just the two of us.

It’s fantastic. It is not, I hasten to add, that I do not love my many children, merely that I also love the woman to whom I am married and the concept of Quality Time for the two of us has become a bit of a joke, to be met with a groan or cynical twitch of my cruel, sardonic lips, oops sorry wrong novel. So this situation makes a change.

On Sunday having arrived teatime-ish we unpacked from the car a few clothes and three tons of information technology (what is wrong with me?!) and then zoomed off up the valley for a short but excellent charge round Guiting Wood. There is a pretty path, much of it is inordinately pleasant, the dog was blissful, there’s a pretty manor house, sheep, trees – I’m good at this rural rustic country writing thing aren’t I – streams, a little bridge. Et cetera. You know. No one element is incredibly spectacular, it’s just that the whole thing is so lovely altogether.

On Monday we went off and did a walk I’d bought from the rather good Country Walking website. I love the mag and get it every month, and the Routes part of their site lets you track down walks by area, difficulty, yoghurt retailer proximity etc and buy them. You can, having coughed up, also download GPS data though the last time I tried to use this it was a farce. The jury’s still out on whether this was merely my incompetence or something a bit duff in their data plus my incompetence, or what. Another time Colin. (Oh yes, and the site has some free sample walks too.)

Anyway we did their walk ID 1991, aka “Poet’s Corner”, this being a reference to Adlestrop. The walk (starting at Kingham Station) goes through there and so did Edward Thomas on a not-meant-to-stop train in 1914, resulting in a rather well-known poem. This is a nine-mile (14.4km) walk classed as “moderate” and was quite good.

I’m saying “quite good” rather than “utterly wonderful” because it did have a couple of problems. One was too much road walking, which I hate and which is just no fun with the dog. On one stretch a succession of grim-faced car drivers passed us too close and too fast. I tried smiling and waving at a couple but it’s difficult for them, poor lambs, as you should simply not be walking there on a public road and delaying their journey by 0.24s and anyway they are many of them Thatcher’s Children and have been taught that no-one else matters, so they can’t really help it, and are unable to suppress their anger at your intrusive presence. The few people – mostly in less smart cars – who did wave and smile back receive my benediction, or would do if I had my hands free right now. The others – well, gosh, I hope no-one scratches their bodywork or anything.

The walk also spent too much time either on slightly boring very straight bridleway that kept threatening to become farm-track-with-traffic, or on very very smart land belonging to horsey places, where signs say things like “keep off the grass” (honestly!) in case you bruise it with your great clodhopping feet and you feel about as welcome as … something not very welcome.

On the other hand, he wrote hastily, not wanting to turn it too much into Moan-a-Blog™, other parts of the walk were simply lovely. Adlestrop was nice, and has very sweetly preserved the station sign and a GWR seat in a little shelter where a plaque also quotes the poem. A wooded part of the walk coming into Adlestrop was superb if over too fast; best of all, the last part of the walk was mostly “proper” footpath and bridleway walking, some of it right by the River Evenlode where we stopped for a lovely picnic and Daisy made eyes at the cheese sandwiches which squealed coyly in return. This was followed by a really nice, very muddy bridleway leaving the river and going through woods and fields, crossing an ex-railway which used to join the main line near Kingham, and a lovely little stream, a tributary of the Evenlode, in which Daisy spent a long time playing, drinking, and just lying down to cool off. Have I mentioned the weather was mostly pretty good? Well it was. So it was still a pretty good walk, and its clever author/designer had saved the best till last.

On the way home we stopped at Daylesford Farm Shop and its café. We had an exquisite cuppa and a ditto rhubarb tart, served by a lovely man once the languid blondes who mostly staff it had not bothered to serve us for a quite surprising length of time. (The web site says they are "delighted to serve you" so I guess they were just having an off-day.) I’d like to love this place, and in some ways I do recognize that it is truly beautiful, both shop and café, but it also made me feel a bit of a class warrior in a rather unwelcome way. Mrs von Neustadt with her usual economy of expression says that it is somewhat “up itself”. I have no idea what this coarse-sounding expression could possibly mean, but, yeah. Check out where they have other outlets – is it just me or … ? I will not be hurrying back, but I enjoyed my visit albeit in a slightly masochistic way. Good tea and tart though. Really.

On the other hand they do stock very nice stuff. We picked up truly delicious pork (oops, crack of thunder) sausages and a very very nice strawberry yoghurt, of which more elsewhere. Dinner that night was frankly a superior event. Ok yah. Yuh yuh. Super.

On Tuesday it tipped down with rain all day, which was a bit sad but not really something it’s realistic to moan about if you live in this country and not, say, Bermuda. We togged up and went across fields to Kineton where a nice local pint in a nice local pub acted as a salve to my (weather-induced?) depressive tendency. On the way there was something annoying and weird about the public footpath at/around Castlett Farm. I do tend to get over-tense about these issues (Mrs von Neustadt is somewhat more inclined to Go With The Flow, thank G*d) so I am not going to rabbit on about it here. It is probably fair to say, though, that rich landowners would mostly probably not like or trust me, with particular regard to public footpaths on their land, and that it may be mutual. Also before Kineton we met a nice lady with two lovely black labs called (ho ho) Widgeon and Quail. Widgeon was an older bitch, as it were, and disinclined to put up with nonsense from Daisy, who went somewhat quiet and thoughtful as a result.

We looped round out of Kineton to the northwest and got on a fantastic bridleway which led back to Guiting Wood. Again, yes, but from a different angle. We picked up a track we knew and came back home the already-familiar way. Wet, but very much better than staying cooped up.

Following that, last night we went out and had a very nice bar meal at the Hollow Bottom (I am not making this up) where Daisy was allowed to lurk under our table. It was still wet, indeed it really rained like mad while we were eating, but faired up a bit before we walked the short distance home.

It’s nice here!


Cotswold-o-dex™:

  1. The Power of Guiting

  2. A Wednesday walk

  3. Strawberry Yoghurt - Daylesford Creamery organic yoghurt with strawberry compote

  4. A Thursday of Longwalkness

  5. Incidental moments of deliciousness

  6. Friday (mostly) in Oxford: a sort of Missed-the-Gig-a-Blog™

  7. A Cotswolds Saturday, another concert, and the road homeward

GoodBooks: GoodBookDex™

MAL_0209 Here's an index of my various ramblings about this splendid Wretched Young Persons' Popular Music Ensemble and one or two things I wrote around the same time that may have some, ah, tangential relevance. It’s also a timeline, containing a couple of relevant dates about which I did not separately write. Innit.

Photo by courtesy of James at Mallinsons.

Gig-a-Blog™ (GoodBooks , Loose Ends, BBC Radio 4)

Saturday, 30 June 2007

The central module of my Vast Grouping of Daughtorial Persons has an old friend - a very old friend, going back to their first year of life - in the person of the entirely wonderful Anna G. Anna manages a band called GoodBooks who seem to be on the road to success. Not having crystal balls I can't say much more than that but they do seem to have done very well on the indie circuit (whatever that is), are loved by their fans, and are now signed to a big record label, Columbia, which is part of Sony BMG. Given that such organizations are not, as I understand it, generally driven by sentiment, one has to assume that someone somewhere thinks they are a worthwhile investment. I mean, I think they're great but strangely enough Columbia didn't check with me, the fools, the rash fools.

Anna contacted me in late June. GoodBooks were about to be on Radio 4's "Loose Ends" performing their soon-to-be-released single Passchendaele, from the album Control, coming out a fortnight later. The song has a trumpet part; their regular trumpet is unavailable; would Lottie and I like to do it? Well yes please, actually, we would.

So I looked it up on YouTube (thank you, o spirits of the internet) and spent some time with piano and laptop writing some notes, of both types. I felt very mindful of David Alberman's 6 Ps - Proper Preparation Prevents P*ss-Poor Performance. I don't wish to sound too smug and I hope you realize that I am usually the first to admit it if, as usual, I am involved in (or have caused!) some horrible shambolic mess, but on this occasion I was really pleased I'd taken the time to do some work on it. I am really quite rubbish at transcribing music, so by the time I felt safe to stop I must have heard Passchendaele maybe 30 times. Fortunately, it is a good song.

What I ended up with was a transcription of the little twelve-bar trumpet solo, and half a page of lyrics plus notes on the structure. I should explain that the trumpets do not play throughout - far from it: the song is textually pretty much over (two verses, two choruses) before the trumpet enters. It does its bit in a verse slot, there's a final (sung) chorus, then the chorus harmony goes round one more time for a Big Noisy Ending. The said BNE is fun: for the first eight bars the trumpets just play stabs, straight crotchets, same note, right through (yes Tamsin, it's probably an inverted dominant pedal or something) then for the remaining eight bars it's Groovy Freakout Time, yeah woo babay. In my many listenings to the track I thought I'd perhaps detected a touch of Penny Laneoid pseudo-Baroqueness in this soloing but I tried it in the studio on a run-through and they wanted it wilder, less structured and more random than I was aiming for. For someone of my, er, jazz playing skills (hem hem) this is a comforting thing to be asked for. But I am jumping ahead of myself: it's mostly still Thursday night.

So, I had the lyrics, music and structure notes and I practised the solo 8000 times. On Friday I went on practising and also received the solo part in an email from Anna. I was more than relieved to see that I'd got it right - for it to be further evidence of my frequent cloth-earedness would not have been comforting at this point. In the middle of all this Lottie came home from Belgium where she'd been with the Cardiff University big band.

Nice PD image of BH is by Wikipedia user BriantistOn the Saturday we were up with the lark - very broadly speaking - and Lottie and I chugged round to pick up Anna, who lives not far away, and thence on down to Broadcasting House. Parking, security, loading and coffee all followed and somewhere along the line we got to meet the band, who are an inordinately nice group of young persons. It's a bit of a disappointment actually - no-one spat on my shoes or called me Granddad or ate rodents or anything, and they all say stuff like please and thank-you and hello and goodbye. I really don't know what the world's coming to.

While the band were setting up, Lottie and I couldn't contribute much so we got to loll around in a sort of lolling-around room. This was nice enough, and the band and Anna and various people popped in from time to time to say hello. What made it even better, though, was the chatty and very pleasant presence of a fiddle player and a hurdy-gurdy player from the other band, the Ian McMillan Orchestra: more of this excellent ensemble later.

Eventually all was ready and we could soundcheck. This was fundamentally slightly weird, in that I felt like I knew the song quite well (having been through it another, oo, what, 963 times on Friday) but it was the first time I'd heard it performed by real live people. So this was rather fun. I was also very pleased that I had bothered to prepare properly, in terms both of practice and the bits of paper: I felt that both of these earned their keep. (A slightly rambling digression, about those rare occasions on which I am Properly Prepared, has been rehomed in its own articlette.)

Anyway, we soundchecked and went through it a few times and things were adjusted and shifted and so on. They wanted the trumpets incredibly tight onto the microphones, which always troubles me a little, perhaps illogically. I know that it's what works best for the engineer in terms of control and separation but my perhaps-illogical bit is that it doesn't feel as if the sound has had anywhere to develop before it's captured. I know that what's going into the mic is the driest and least colourful version of the sound: I wouldn't choose to listen to the trumpet with my head right by the bell, and that's not just because of the volume. If I listen to it from further away, even in a dry room, I feel that the sound will develop some additional width, warmth and maturity before it reaches me. This may well be unscientific balderdash. And I do understand that in a rock music environment they can't afford to have too much of the room in the mic with me. It means that how you sound ultimately is going to be down to the engineer's concept of how a trumpet sounds in this context, but then that's normal in this situation, and, come to think of it, in plenty of others. Obviously if a symphony orchestra is recorded with one stereo pair then there really is a limit, but I've seen plenty of multi-mic classical setups which do separate the instruments to almost this extent. In any case I liked the engineer who, as well as being very nice and extremely entertaining, came over as very experienced and competent.

Anyway, once we'd soundchecked and everyone was happy we went out again while the Ian McMillan Orchestra did theirs. At this point bacon sandwiches, which I am told are famously good, were produced but sadly I didn't get to try one, having reached the pre-playing point where I really don't want to eat.

More time passed quite pleasantly then we trooped back in to do the show. In its current form Loose Ends is recorded as-if-live in the morning and broadcast in the evening. So it's basically pretty much as you hear it, and everything is set up and ready to go throughout. This means that it's a bit like playing in the living room at home. (If the living room boasted lots of mics and soundproof glass.) Clive Anderson and his guests were seated round a long oval table near one corner of the studio. GoodBooks were all the way along the wall to Anderson's left, and Ian McMillan's group were along the other wall, coming down to meet GoodBooks in the corner where Lottie and I were more or less rubbing shoulders with Luke Carver Goss, who is their excellent composer and accordionist. It's not a huge room and was quite full: it was pretty intimate and also slightly odd in being a live performance with no room for the audience. I know this is more than a little obvious (duh, indeed, thank you Tamsin) but it underlined for me that as a gig it inhabited a rather odd space somewhere between a recording session and a live show with an audience you can see.

Maybe for the sake of completeness, or my fading memory, or something, I should explain a little about Loose Ends, though you can probably learn more about it on Wikipedia - as long as it's not recently been vandalized by Year 9 or ''corrected" by conspiracy theorists or flat-earthers. (Oops, takes out aerosol labelled RantAway™, sprays self and room liberally)

This is all "as far as I understand it" but please feel free to put me right: Loose Ends is an arts magazine programme, and in its usual form is a live show presented on Saturday mornings by Ned Sherrin. Unfortunately Sherrin is off with throat trouble, surely a particularly horrid thing for a broadcaster, and the BBC website just says he'll be back but doesn't expand on it. For the time being the show is in the hands of a small team of guest presenters who alternate or rotate or something, and Clive Anderson is one of these. I think that's about it except to note that it's odd (to me) that the BBC has it categorized as a comedy show. Maybe this is a reference to a previous incarnation or something - I wouldn't say that what we participated in was comedy per se. It certainly had a light and relaxed atmosphere and bits of the conversation were undoubtedly very furry, but I'd still say that it was essentially an arts magazine programme.

So off we went. Each guest or group had something to promote and each got a slot in which to talk or perform. First was Rupert Everett to talk about his new autobiography. In this bit it was interesting to see the slight tension between Anderson wanting to emphasize the drugs'n'orgies aspect of it and Everett wanting to point out that there's some other stuff in there too.

Next was the poet and genius Ian McMillan and his orchestra doing "Song of the Quarryman" from his new album "Sharp Stories". This blew my socks off. Ian McMillan does not sing but recites rhythmically - remember those old Betjeman/Jim Parker albums? Ian calls what he does a "Barnsley Mumble" though he did mention that it's also been dubbed "Flat Cap Rap". The band was fantastic, with this wonderful, lively medieval-folk (or something) sound. Huge amounts of commitment and energy - I just wanted to join in immediately. I can already hear roughly what I want the trumpets to do! I recommend that you hear this, except please be warned that if you're embarrassed about poetry, words and speech you will have some hurdles to get over - this work doesn't apologize for not being conventional sung songs - it just is, take it or leave it. I took it and I love it. Sing me the deep pools of blue. Sing me the refraction. Writing about it now, weeks later, I can still feel the buzz of that performance.

After Ian's poem/song with his orchestra he was interrogated by “guest interviewer” Jon Holmes which was great. I mean, he makes his living from words and from his cleverness, and has his own radio programme (The Verb, R3) so you might expect he'd be good. But blimey, he's good. A thoroughly enjoyable chunk of programme, thanks Beeb. (Come to think of it, I must write a CultureGuilt-o-Blog about Radio 4 some day.)

The third artist to speak was Lynda La Plante, mega-famous TV writer who's written - well, everything. As a guest she was not shy, and not short of a word or two. Poor Clive Anderson stumbled into a bit of a minefield by asking her about her relationship with Anne Robinson: he seemed to be expecting to hear that they'd patched it up after some public row. In fact, as La Plante made clear at great and vitriolic length, this was not the case. I know that one or two choice phrases were edited out but even so, what was broadcast was pretty strong stuff. Such was the impact that I am afraid I'll remember her views on Anne Robinson long after I've forgotten about the TV series she was there to promote - possibly not quite what the programme was aiming for. But hey.

Then it was GoodBooks. Clive Anderson did a good introduction and I thought it was terribly sweet that they'd name-checked the trumpets. Bonky-clicky bonky-clicky (that's a drum synth by the way) and off we went.

We had a false start because of a technical problem, and had to go again. Anderson got in some quip in about the trumpets being too quiet (ho ho, we hadn't started yet) but of course it was later edited back to a more ideal almost-live state. (As noted before the approach doesn't mean that there are no edits at all. Clive Anderson had a couple of minor fluffs which he redid and later there was some issue of time-specific language like "this afternoon" that he went back over. All very cool.)

Anyway, off we went again. Intro, verse, chorus, round again, and we're in. Trumpet, chorus, stabs, busking, trumpets out. A huge feeling of relief: it went OK. Lottie nudged me to show me her shaking hand (I was surprised, I thought she had ice-cold nerves of steel) so I responded by showing her mine, which was, well, more of a blur really. Nerves of mandarin jelly, basically. Oh well.

Anyway, that was us done and we were able to sit in a warm glow of relaxation and accomplishment while David Suchet was interviewed about his new play. A few more comments and witticisms and a couple of retakes to correct textual errors and we were done: congratulations and glad-handing all round.

I feel a bit naughty and perhaps selfish viewing the success or otherwise of the performance through the rather - er - narrowband filter of "how the trumpets did". A nicer and better-balanced person might take a broader view. In my defence, though, it's a slightly odd situation in that we're just in there for those 28 bars: we're not members of the group but extras there to deliver a specific service, and it pays to focus on what counts. In a sense it's not my worry how the general performance is, as long as the trumpets do OK, because the rest of it is someone else's thing. So while of course I do care that the overall ensemble is good and that the band are pleased with it, there's not a whole lot the trumpets can really concern themselves with other than just to try and look after our own little corner. In fact I can't think of anything more annoying than having the hired help doing unsolicited furrowed-brows-and-strokey-chins over stuff that's not theirs to worry about. Plus I couldn't, to be honest, hear what the h*ll was going on anyway: I was fine on bass and drums but there was no monitor for us so I couldn't hear much trumpet other than that very local "ringing" you get (bone conduction maybe?). Similarly but more worryingly I couldn't hear the vocals so, although I thought I was probably OK on the counting, I actually had to crane round and look at Max to check that verses and choruses were where I thought.

(Aside: checking on Max?? You might feel that any bl**dy idiot can count some 12- or 16-bar groups and get it right, and you'd be correct 99.99% of the time. Even with me playing, yes. But the whole point of belt-and-braces is to make sure that your trousers stay up even in the 0.01% of cases where some catastrophic failure would otherwise send them plummeting floorwards. So, even if it seems like overkill, I will go on looking for confirmation that that really was bar 33 we just hit. Doors to manual and crosscheck - geddit?)

The next good thing to happen was that Ian McMillan came over to say hello and was incredibly nice and knowledgeable. He impressed us with his trumpet-in-pop awareness (a highly specialized, somewhat elitist field of knowledge indeedy) by relating the Passchendaele trumpet sound to Alone Again Or by Love. Lottie included this song in an excellent trumpet/pop compilation she made for me, so it's on my Young People's Portable Music Device as I write, and I can confirm that it is indeed fully trumpeted-up and nicer than bunny-wunnies.

Like a star-struck teenager I was babbling at Ian McMillan about how much I'd loved the song and was going to have to dash out and buy the album and (I swear I wasn't fishing for this), he pulled a CD out of his pocket and pressed it into my little trembling fan's hand. Ah bless. What a nice man.

So that was the good bit. However the post-recording smugness which I was enjoying evaporated pretty golly-gosh-darned rapidly when technical persons came over and said sorry; there'd been a problem on Passchendaele and we'd need to record it again. Aaargh. This is presumably no problem if you're GoodBooks and you've just spent goodness knows how many months recording Passchendaele eight million times and arguing over every note about the compression on the hi-hat (er...) but it is a different matter if you are me and you're having to suddenly switch modes between "Relief At A Job Well Done" to "Ready To Start Work Again". I must confess that I was doing some pretty sweaty-palmed calculations about how many good shots at the solo I had had available at 9.30, and how many I had now used up. I mean, yes, I'd done some work on this but I am not Derek Watkins, nor Malcolm McNab: indeed, I'm not quite a lot of trumpet players. And no, it's not that hard, but that's not the point. Easy but wrong is still wrong.

Sprengel, the Imp of the Left Shoulder, was having a field day with all this - I didn't catch it all but I think the terms "hubris", "doomed", and "public disgrace and humiliation on national tea-time radio" may have been mentioned in passing. I didn't have any holy water but suppressed him temporarily with valve oil and Rescue Remedy, a potent combination, and off we went again.

I am pleased to report that this next go went OK, both trumpetistically and, er, record-o-phonically. The feeling of relief on having this latter confirmed by the technical angels is not to be understated!

It would have been very nice to go on the heralded pub trip and attempt (probably embarrassingly) to schmooze the celebrities. Though to be honest I am not entirely clear whether this invitation was meant to extend to passing trumpetizers, and it would have been mortifying to find out, the hard way, that it wasn't. Paranoid, you may feel, but I've encountered one or two situations, in my long and gloriously successful Life As An Artist, that would give you pause for thought in this respect.

On the other hand there was no problem about sticking my head round the control room door and saying Traditional Things like "Good Show Chaps" and "Thanks Awfully For The Light Music Playing Engagement". (Note the language: I have always prided myself on getting on with the youngsters.) I remember that the last time I did that was probably in 1982 and the band concerned were a fair bit less than polite or charming. Turns out they were in the middle of a huge row with the fixer, accusing her inter alia of not being a real fixer. They were probably right, given that I was playing, but the song still got to number two and I still get royalties from their success so frankly who cares about their manners? Haha, fate innit, what a comedian.

The other reason to not hang around was that Lottie and Jake were about to fly out that very afternoon for a week's holiday at Dan and Michael's flat in Puglia, and the timing was very tight so we needed to get moving. Eventually they were safely dropped - in the very nick of time - at the bus station.

After approximately a year 6.15 came round and the show, all tidied up and exquisite, was broadcast. I got a good recording of it due to Deb having last year got me an entirely wonderful Pure DAB radio with clever recording tricks. It was fun to hear it all again and try to spot the joins or fluffs. GoodBooks came on and I thought sounded pretty good. I was generally not wildly unhappy with the trumpets with the exception of two things.

Firstly I had a moment of truly nasty intonation about which I was very upset at the time. I've regained a bit of balance about this but it still sets my teeth on edge a bit when I hear it. So maybe, you ask, would it be better if I hadn't then listened to it ninety-three more times, getting more depressed each time round? Yes, you're right, but we'd be talking about a full personality transplant here... ho hum.

Secondly I was, as I'd feared, a bit cheesed off with the trumpet sound, which seemed to me to be quite tight and small and tinny where I'd have preferred it broader. However, as noted, this is really about the engineer's concept of that sound, it's perfectly legitimate, and I don't have to like it. I'd have been happier if we'd been more like the CD (where I really like Ollie Beer's trumpet sound) but then the solo there, it turns out, was recorded in a stairwell! And in any case the BBC engineer may well have felt that his job has more to it than just copying the CD, so I shouldn't really moan. Not to excess, anyway.

One nice thing that became clear as I listened to the track a few more times was that something good was going on in the busking bit in the Big Noisy Ending. Little bits of imitation and interweaving were happening so that the trumpets sounded as if they were really collaborating. All very cool and professional. I thought wow! but then huh? because I knew perfectly well that I'd spent those last eight bars in a sweaty panic, just trying to keep going and not make an idiot of myself. I'd no more had spare brain-power for tasteful collaboration than I could have baked you a Victoria sponge at the same time. So as it wasn't me making us sound good? ... Step forward Lottie, fearless jazzer and (like her many sisters) fortunate inheritor of some better musical genes than mine. I know it's almost always nauseating when parents rant on about their children's great wonderfulness so I won't (too much) but gosh chaps.

And that, really, was more or less that. We'd had a fantastic, interesting and musically rewarding time. It was brilliant to be back in a recording studio for the first time in about twenty-five years. I know that I shouldn't kid myself that I'm a Big-Time Session Player (man) but it was fun pretending for a few hours.

It was also nice to be involved, in however minor a way, with what I hope will be a huge success for this nice, skilled and intelligent band and their new album. Of course it's practically impossible to be purely objective when you've been enjoying playing but, trying my best to be, and having listened recently to their - er - oeuvre, more than a little, I honestly do feel it's superb music. Not just Passchendaele (though obviously I've a soft spot for that one) but the whole thing is clever, interesting and performed very well. This was all a bit of a bizarre experience for a Sad Old Git of advancing years, but incredible fun. Thanks Anna and GoodBooks and Lottie and the Beeb and Clive Anderson and Ian McMillan and Luke Carver Goss and everyone.

PPPPPP - a note

[Originally written as part of the GoodBooks/Loose Ends piece but transplanted here for editblogatorial reasons then fiddled with out of sheer idleness.]

PPPPPP, the Six Ps, is a David Albermanism for Proper Preparation Prevents P*ss-Poor Performance. While writing about the GoodBooks Radio 4 recording I was reflecting on the facts that:

  • I was reasonably well-prepared for that one - I'd really put the time in.
  • It paid off
  • I don't do it often enough

Now read on:

So then maybe it's a touch silly or self-deceiving or something to profess surprise when I prepare well and it then goes well, or at least better than "normal".

Really I suppose that in an attempt to be honest I should add that, actually, gigs always go better if I've prepared well. I know this is a bit of a "well, duh!" remark but the fact is I don't often enough do it; that I am sometimes guilty of thinking it's cool to be cool, and just turn up and, like, blow, man, except for me it's not because I am not a good enough player to be that casual about it. Or else I'm not even thinking that - I am just ill-prepared, too busy at work, or whatever - Bridge to Engineering, please engage the Excuse Generator.

On those rare occasions, for example, when I show up at Salomon and I've really worked at it and I've had parts and scores and recordings and done a lot of practice, it's really a different planet in terms of my confidence, competence ... erm ... yes.

So maybe I need to, ahem, refactor my paradigm or something and be a bit less wide-eyed, innocent and astonished when the 6 Ps works, and just accept that that's what you do. It's possibly time I started trying to take this a bit more seriously. Hmph.

Is there actually any point in this Blog Entry or Diarism or Emuārs Moment? I am not really sure, I just wanted to try to write it down.

Gig-a-Blog™ (Cambridge Early Music Summer School, Emmanuel URC, Trumpington St)

Also featuring moments of Weekend-a-Blog™, Punt-a-Blog™, Birthday-o-Blog™, Dyke-a-Blog™ (no, not like that Tamsin), an ting.

Re: Friday 3rd August.

Almost a fortnight ago we had a nice, interesting, and hot weekend in Cambridge, or Fulbourn, or both. My eldest daughter was doing the very excellent Cambridge Early Music Summer School and also becoming 22. So we went through in dribs and drabs (four journeys to get five people and a dog there - ouch - but at least three of those trips were by train so it's ouch financially but less so, er, carbonistically), and eventually we all ended up in Fulbourn having Becca's birthday dinner, cake etc chez David, Amelia and family. This was exceedingly pleasant.

With an eye on the clock and when the back gate to Sidney Sussex would or wouldn't be open we set off to take Becca back to her somewhat swish accommodation there. A GPS or map would've been jolly useful but we had neither - Bec's GPS was very usefully at the college and I hadn't thought of bringing mine (train tracks can give you a false sense of security you see) and we got spectacularly and lavishly lost. Passing the station for the second time was a particular low point. In the end we realized that more nerve was required to get us through some "Access Only" bits, access being a thing we could really do with. After a brief Pietra Ligure Moment or two we arrived at the College's back gate (cheer) which was open (two cheers). I am slowly getting used to Becca's power chair and the process of fettling and unfettling it and we got it sorted on this occasion with magnificent grace and skill hem hem. And hardly any swearing. In the college bar we met various nice people (three cheers) many of whom I'd met at the Richmond LBO gig. Sadly it was getting a bit late to stop for a drink, plus someone had to drive back. So we saw Becca to her rather fine room and headed off back, mercifully guided by Bec's GPS, which knew a whole lot more about finding Fulbourn from there than I did. Which is good.

On Saturday Deb and Amelia took the dog out early for a walk but I'm afraid the rest of us were a little less energetic, and it was quite late before we set off to go punting. This wasn't a disaster, but meant it was a bit busier (this being a really beautiful sunny day) and that we had some time constraints - Martha needed to get back to London and Paul to his job at the station M&S.

We split into two punts and set off - or rather we tried to. I had forgotten how completely useless I am at this and there was a point where I was despairing of ever getting the thing away from the boatyard area. It was really quite horrible - I seemed to have no control at all over the punt. Eventually I started to get the hang of it a bit more and we made some progress. With me punting it was never fast had I was envious of some of the skilled and rapid punters (puntists? puntizers?) that we saw but at least we got somewhere.

We were on the Granchester side, above the weir. You don't get to see the backs but apparently it's a bit quieter and there are slightly fewer clueless tourists (like me); and it's certainly more suitable for a picnic.

So we made our, er, stately way upriver a while then found a pleasant place to stop for lunch. I think the dog - though she had been very good - was relieved to get out of the boat and have a wander round, both in and out of the water. After some nice sandwiches had been eaten and some nice cava drunk, we needed to get moving again. Amelia very heroically took one boat back with the station party, so the rest of us went on up a bit further before turning.

Clare and Deb both had a go at driving, enabling me to explore just how little help it is possible to give with the paddle, especially in the matter of steering. I believe I'm right in saying that I actually accomplished a true 99% uselessness in this regard. How is this possible? You'd think, there being hydrodynamics and such, that sticking a paddle in the water and waggling it around should have some effect, wouldn't you? I developed a very very slight belief that paddling backwards on one side had an incredibly minor effect of turning the boat away from that side a bit. But that also annoys the punter by slowing the boat, and the steering effect is tiny (if it really exists at all) and nothing else I did with the paddle made the slightest bit of difference to our course. Go figure.

After a while we turned to go back. On the way down we met an interesting puntload of young people trying to do a sort of trick at a bridge. This involves (when it works) someone climbing out of the boat onto a bridge, then getting back into the boat on the other side of the bridge. This particular bridge was apparently a notoriously difficult one and indeed the attempt ended with a big splash, but great cheerfulness.

A little further on we met Amelia who was walking upstream having dropped the kids at the station. She joined us in the boat. Daisy hopped out and was tricky to coax back in, as she had entered Annoying Collie Mode. Once we had re-achieved the proper staffing levels we blasted on back down to Scudamore's, our huge bow wave no doubt causing massive environmental damage.

Back on dry land we enjoyed a brief farce over boat hire receipts and car park tickets, both of which categories were down to very roughly 50% of the numbers that we should have had. Mmmm. Fortunately sweet reasonableness abounded in both places, Dr Jobsworth was not in the house, and we were required neither to buy the punt nor to pay for the carpark to be resurfaced (in caviar), which were essential elements of the official Lost Paperwork Policies of both places, as I roughly recall them. Yay and woo.

Pausing only to tip Lottie out of the car at the station - a place we seem to have seen quite frequently this weekend - we returned to Fulbourn for urgent tea drinking and similar activities. I also had a highly necessary kip, having expended about a month's worth of energy on the punting (or "aquaplaning" as I like to think it might more accurately be termed).

The reason for needing a refreshing snooze was the really terrific concert to which we then went. This was the end-of-course show for the summer school, its theme ''Handel in Italy". This was better than just good, and yes I know I'm a biased/proud parent - even so. Becca was a bit of a star (I know I know), particularly in the Marin Marais piece where she kept being the only low voice in a little choir otherwise composed of high woodwinds, to stunning effect. Yeah babay. She was on "her" really gorgeously beautiful new Baroque viola made by Shem Mackey. The reason for the quote marks is that it is on appro so it is still currently Shem's, but I don't think there's much enthusiasm for it going back. I am the first to admit that I am just a thick trumpet player but this instrument's sheer loveliness communicates itself even to me.

Apart from the Marin Marais there were works by Biber, and of course Handel himself. This was a most enjoyable concert. The standard was amazingly high and, if there was the odd tiny moment or two to remind you that it's broadly inclusive and not auditioned, it just made the overall professionalism more impressive. Amelia came to the concert with us and was full of praise - and this is someone for whose musical opinions I have the highest respect. This was a seriously good gig to go to even if your daughter wasn’t playing and if she was, well, even better!

At the end it was a bit of a scramble - Becca was heading off-doon-the-boozer with the band and we were meeting Martha and Paul at the <sigh> station at 10.00. Martha had been at the NYO's Prom supporting inter alia Isobel, but had decided to come back to Fulbourn rather than stay at home. She'd timed her arrival back at Cambridge to coincide with the end of Paul's shift: however, that had changed so having collected her we had an hour to kill before Paul would be ready. This was spent very pleasantly in a nice pub, Brown's, with cocktails and coffee and stuff. It’s nearly opposite the Fitzwilliam, has a nice outdoor loggia-ish thing, trendy wooden furniture etc. Towards the end of this Becca rang to point out that, oops, we'd gone off with her room key (trapped in a bar, poor lamb!) so we nipped round there, dropped the key off, visited the station again to get Paul and off we went home.

That night or some time this weekend we got to watch a DVD of most of the two-families concert that we did last summer in Poujols, near Lodève. This was good in parts and funny in others, notably when pretty much the whole group corpsed quite badly while trying to sing the Mozart Bona Nox round. There was much discussion about the possibility of doing it again - the concert not, I hope, the corpsing - some other summer. Oh yes.

Somewhere along the way more wine was drunk and that was pretty much it for the evening.

On Sunday I foolishly got up too late to have breakfast with Deb: as a consequence she and Amelia and Daisy were off for a walk while I was still fairly much out of it. I thought at first that I didn't mind - and indeed it was exceedingly pleasant to have a chat and a coffee or two with David - but I suddenly came to my senses, realizing that I wasn't likely to get too much exercise that day only by eating and drinking. So l set off, half- intending to meet the others if possible.

The walk soon escalated, though, when I started to appreciate what a very nice morning it was and how very pleasant to be walking. I went into the nature reserve, this being nicer and easier without the dog, who would have had to stay on the lead. Once I'd crossed the first field (with grazing cattle and a superb, massive oak) I had the opportunity to wave at the other party who had just reached the track junction at what I think might be deemed the reserve's main entrance. They had already been out a while and were on their way home, so I kept going. The next bit to cross was a very nice, slightly marshy area were the path is up on planks, or perhaps sleepers; this leads to a small pool which was alive with dragonflies.

After another slightly soggy meadow (they're keeping the water table artificially high compared to the surroundings, to encourage a more fen-like environment) there's a gate, then a bridge over a ditch leads you out of the reserve and onto a public footpath round the edge of fields. I followed this for a few hundred metres till it met a farm track so I followed that too, arriving soon at a junction with an interesting public footpath sign. For the last couple of minutes before this my objective had been to get onto some slightly higher ground I could see just ahead: though very nice round Fulbourn it's quite flat so a slight rise becomes a mountain offering views, mystery and excitement - perhaps. The ground rises gently as you drive from Fulbourn towards the A11 and this was further along the same slope.

When I read the sign and wandered on a bit, though, things did indeed get more exciting. It turns out that what I was seeing as a small wooded hill steepening the general slope was actually not a point but the beginning of a line. This was the northwestern end of the Fleam Dyke, a Saxon earthwork from the 5th-7th centuries which runs about 5km from here to Balsham. You can read about it all over the web and if you go there you'll find that it has excellent information boards. Suffice it to say that they think it was a security and trade barrier, controlling traffic on the Icknield Way and limiting the possibility of other routes. The thing that astonished me is its size - it's massive. I don't just mean the length though that is very impressive: what gets me is the size of the cross-section. The rampart, along whose top you walk, is very substantial, never less than a few metres above the surroundings, and its ditch is amazingly deep and broad. It's not like some token border ditch - it's a very serious obstacle.

What this all adds up to, of course, is that it's irresistible to walk along. It's a bit like an old railway track, only more so, and I defy anyone to stand at the bottom of the first rise where it begins and not feel drawn to walk up, onto and along it. So I did. Oh, and you can't really get on or off it much - the earthwork plus the vegetation (can you say "wildlife corridor"?) combine to mean that there's no casual path-hopping. You can only turn round at some random point (which always feels slightly like a defeat) or you can keep going till you reach something significant - in my case the A11.

I don't want to rabbit on about it too much but this really was the most fantastic walk. It's a very good path, mostly: there's major but avoidable (as I realized too late) trouble with nettles at the Fulbourn end; and unavoidable but minor problems of the same kind up near the A11. In one spot the path is slipping downhill a bit and is slightly oddly overgrown, but this is only 10 metres' worth. Otherwise it is superb, a nice, narrowish path over springy turf dotted with flowers. To one side there's a shorter slope back to the normal ground level, and this is covered with trees and scrub becoming in effect a field hedge at the bottom. On your other side is the huge, imposing slope down into the ditch. This is mostly also covered in scrub although it's clearer in one or two places (I think they permit some grazing). The bottom of the ditch is impassable throughout, packed solid with small trees and undergrowth. Beyond the ditch is more scrub, the rise back to ground level and the hedge.

It was really just such a delightful environment to be in, like having your own private, high-level express path through the countryside. I went a couple of miles, passing an interesting place where a railway used to cross it. You can't get onto the railway at all now (it just looks like a very overgrown cousin to the ditch) but the path does an odd kink where they meet, perhaps on old spoil or repair work or something, so it's like you're going round part of a small and very neglected amphitheatre.

After a while the earthwork flattens out a bit, near a burial mound, then you start to become very aware of the traffic noise, and you suddenly lurch forward 1500 years to meet the A11. At this point the dyke path has its own footbridge over the road, and from it you can see the junction for Fulbourn and admire (or something) the fast-moving traffic.

I crossed the bridge and went a few more metres, just to get a feel for it and to take a couple of photos. It was very tempting to keep going, but the phone was starting to remind me of my responsibilities and I needed to get back. The reverse trip was just as good, perhaps better because I now had both sun and traffic behind me. It seemed to go pretty fast, too, though I suppose it does when you know where you are going. Ooh very philosophical Vogel.

In seemingly little time I was back in Fulbourn and then shortly after that I was setting out back to Sidney Sussex to have lunch with Becca and see her safely on her way back to London. Lunch was a rather superior affair, Sidney Sussex being a rather nice environment, with its beautiful garden courts, and Mr Marks and Mr Spencer’s emporium being a splendid place for the acquisition of al-fresco luncheon materials. Woo yeah. The mulberries were pretty goshdarned good too, though I must add that the interaction between (a) wheelchair wheels, (b) the ground under a mulberry tree, and (c) a hired room [and indeed (c.i) its hired carpet] can be an interesting source of, er, additional colour in your life. But my goodness it is soooo beautiful there. Cambridge always does this to me – I am knocked out by its beauty, history, charm etc and then also slightly prone to fits of bitterness and wanting to dash round abusing senior members of staff, music persons et al. But that’s really another story, or another eight thousand quid’s worth of psychotherapy, or another three gallons or strawberry yoghurt, or something. So hey. Yah. Yup.

Eventually lunch was lunched – we had met some very nice people, Selene and Nick Webb (thanks Bec for the names-reminder!) who are the course admin and her husband, also sitting in the garden and participating in the Great Messy Mulberry Massacre – then the Nissan was packed and the daughter was off in the direction of Londontown, Englandsville. I found my way back to Fulbourn but did not get quite as badly lost this time. After various diplomatic formalities we also packed and set off. When we all got back to London – in dribs and drabs again, natch – it was still beautiful weather and tea took place, quite delightfully, in the garden at Mrs von Neustadt’s parents’ humble abode in Highgate. The Famous Birthday Cake Made By Granny was deployed and it was all very very very pleasant indeed.

This was one of those mad weekends where I feel I have been several different people (I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, doctor) and we seem to have packed in forty-three activities where there was time for perhaps six. But, my word, what fun. More please.