Head down.

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Every time I walk through Durham (so, at least once a week on a Friday) I think of something someone told me more than ten years ago.

As you walk over Framwellgate Bridge, heading down from North Road, you are greeted by lots of lovely cobbles, which are one of the many features that make the historic town so charming and appealing.

The imposing buildings to the right of the bridge may have something to do with the feel of the place too…

Dividing the mass of cobbles are two narrow walkways made of paving stones. Concrete slabs. Not as pretty as the cobbles but a whole lot easier to walk on.

If everyone followed these narrow paths the city (? – more of a city than Sunderland but not exactly Newcastle) would quickly come to a standstill as people filed in single formation. So, people generally crisscross from cobbles to path and vice versa as they wind their way up to the market square or make their way back to their student accommodation from University.

This all works well and doubtless has for a canny long time.

Back to my memory from a decade ago.

A colleague of mine who has since moved elsewhere in the country was recalling a tale about her family and the personalities of her sons (she had two as I recall).

She told us (it was break time and there were 4 or 5 of us) that one of her sons had a particular approach to the aforementioned walking routes in Durham.

He stepped onto the easier to tread smooth runway when he was walking along with his family. Fair enough – we would all agree you can move more freely and with ease if you opt for this route.

In my experience though you would quickly encounter other pedestrians who were either walking toward you are stepping in front of you. My immediate and natural reaction is to step aside and wind and weave my way onwards. Probably throwing in the occasional ‘sorry’ for good measure.

Not for this woman’s son however. Oh no. She went on to tell us with an evident sense of pride that her boy ‘puts his head down and keeps walking’.

This seemingly innocuous statement has haunted me ever since. Every single time I walk that route I think of this woman and her son. To manage to walk from the bridge to the square or the same journey reversed and stay on this narrow strip you would have to blindly ignore dozens of other people. The elderly, infirm, able bodied, children, dogs and all would be invisible to this blinkered child.

It alarmed me then and still does that his Mother thought this was something she could confess to others. She didn’t see it as a confession of course – she saw it as a badge of honour.

Her son put his head down and charged ahead. Not for him the cobbles you trip over and the need to continually watch your step. Why would you when you can wipe out innocent bystanders and charge up that clear strait?

I have often wondered what sort of young man this child became. He would be in his early twenties now I reckon. I wonder if he has managed to find like minded individuals who share his joy of being single-minded and determined and immune from the consideration of all around him. Let’s face it, we are surrounded by these people. I can just see his Mam’s smile of satisfaction and pride as he hurtles through his life getting to where he wants to be.

In the meantime, I will get nowhere in particular with little speed or aim. Still, I know which surface I would rather tread.

Last few days

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Although I claim to be quiet and unassuming when I get an idea in my head I will go for it right enough! I have developed a more precocious element to my personality hitherto unseen. An example being when I invited myself along to sing backing vocals on the recently produced ‘This is Stanley’ CD. I have never been ‘headhunted’ (hideous concept) for anything. No-one else recognises my worth and I have reached a time in my life where I just let them know instead. I have always valued modesty and humility in people but think I need to redefine my definition of what that actually means. How will people know if you don’t put yourself out there?!

That is certainly what I did back in April when I performed in the contemporary dance piece COAL at Newcastle’s Dance City. Re-reading that it is still hilarious to think I was associated with anything like that. BUT I WAS! Anyone who knows me or follows me on Facebook will know all about that experience as I did witter on about it lots and lots. I do believe it will be an experience I will always look back on as a major one in my life. I remain proud and privileged to have been given an opportunity to play a Pit Woman during the Miner’s Strike in this incredible piece of work. All of the dancers – but the main female dancer in particular had a huge impact on me. There are a handful of women in my life who I will never forget and TC Howard is one of them.

(A play therapist who worked with children with social and emotional needs in an inner city school in London and was my tutor during an intensive ‘Listening Matters’ course is another woman I similarly admire. It was in 2006 and I can still recall the words she said to me and the room we sat in the day she gave me the feedback on the assignments and work I had done.)

Anyhow, back to me being a pushy woman…the COAL team were recruiting women for Durham’s show (Nov 10th and 11th at the Gala). We have a FB group where all of the women share the love of COAL and support each other as the show tours and picks up more of us. Obviously I knew I would be going to see the show when it came to Durham but kept ‘joking’ about the fact that there would be no-one suitable to play the wives up here and if pushed I would reprise my role and so on (I know – a laugh a minute me…) Naturally I couldn’t be a wife AGAIN – I mean how would they have explained that away! (Yes, I have a two paragraph statement in my documents stating why Jaene Davies was chosen to be a Pit Wife for the second time ‘just in case’ it should be required but sadly it was not)

So, you could view the next part of the story in one of two ways.

Either a) they all love me and respect and value my input and opinion

or b) they thought it might finally quieten me and make me realise that they have all all moved on and that I am but one woman in a cast of many

Because I said I could be in Durham in 20 mins (an outrageous untruth on the number 16) and they said ‘come along!’. I was changed and on the bus passing Daisy Hill before I sent the text saying ‘Oh…are you sure?’ and then my phone ran out of battery (I think) because I never did look at the reply.

I attended the taster session along with 8 other women and got to pretend that I was trying out to be a performer in COAL. It’s only a ‘taster session’ before it happens. Afterwards it’s an audition. Being a part of the process again took me back to how I felt in Dance City in April – excited/thrilled/emotional/inspired/proud as well as exhausted after the bit boogie they do.

People have asked me since if I am going to act/be/perform in anything else but I genuinely believe nothing like COAL will ever come along again so the answer would probably be ‘No’. But then again, you never can tell. There may be something just around the corner (or the bend as in Pocahontas) that will see me pushing my way to the front…

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Midweek mutterings.

 

Most Wednesdays I travel into Newcastle to sing with the wonderful North East Socialist Singers. This evening there was no practice and I had the opportunity instead to go to a gig in town. Like lots of things I plan to do it sounded like a great idea in theory. A friend’s band and a couple of other really exciting sounding groups were playing. Long story short, I didn’t go. Because I would have missed the last express it would have meant 7o minute journeys there and back. This would have meant possibly longer on the godforsaken bus than in the actual venue. Pretty much anyway.

The bus takes the longest route possible to get from Stanley to Newcastle. On the way home you can almost reach St Andrew’s spire when the bus does a U-turn and heads back to Tyneside*. I have never been so pleased to pass through Catchgate on the return journey and when I see the green lights of The Ox Inn I feel like kissing the driver. (Although that would never happen as there is not an ounce of joy in the whole workforce combined).

Naturally, the mod cons offered on other services aren’t available to the Newcastle to Stanley punters. No WIFI or free Metro newspapers for us. You have to go to Sunderland for that pleasure and let’s face it, those travellers need all the help they can get so it’s not to be begrudged.

So, a night in front of the TV with fish and chips and chocolate was in order. This has given me the chance to listen to music for Friday (we are learning a fab arrangement of ‘Love Will Keep us Together’ which is fun to learn) and also to read Kevin’s blog and catch up on Facebook. Kevin was observed teaching today and battled his way through flooding with an umbrella in hand. I found the fact his height was an advantage in this mission hilarious. I have a lovely visual image. He also speaks about his brother who would have been celebrating his 50th birthday today which makes me wish we weren’t so far apart x

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On a different note, I read another favourite story this week. It’s by Dick King Smith (of ‘Babe’ fame) and is called ‘The Whistling Piglet’. Henry is one of ten piglets and the only one to concern his Mam by whistling. She doesn’t like it but all of his siblings do. One endearing part is that the youngsters in the story all say that when they hear Henry whistle it ‘makes my feet itchy’ which I think is a delightful concept. None of the grown ups understand but all of the young animals admire Henry and follow his tune! They dance around the farm yard to Henry’s whistle.

The fateful day arrives when the van comes to take the piggies to market. They ask their Mother why they are going and she brushes their question aside. But Henry knows. That piglet isn’t going to be led off to any market…

He whistles his tune and of course the younger farm animals all follow behind him – right out of the open farmyard gate. They gambol and leap their way into a forest. Now, there it might well end but it does not. The twist in the tale! Some of the animals aren’t cut out for freedom and are unable to survive outside the confines of their enclosure. The farmer and his workers capture the animals in dribs and drabs. There is the sense that some of them are relieved to be returned to their ‘home’ and whatever fate has in store for them.

Not Henry of course. The last illustration sees a deserted forest with only the musical notes of Henry’s whistle visible in the distance…

The listener is left with lots to think about. Even when you are four that’s a wonderful thing.

*some scenes may have been adapted slightly for dramatic purposes.

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Greetings from Stanley – words and music.

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Determined not to waffle. There are lots of things I do which I think I ought to include in this ‘blog’ but by the time I have chuntered on about cheese scones I never quite get there.

I have had another very busy week and a highlight was a lecture/gig at Redhills in Durham midweek. I was singing as one of the North East Socialist Singers who were lucky enough to be asked to sing with our uber talented Musical Director and all round wonderful woman Bethany Coyle. (I could write about Bethany ad infinitum. After Alex Polizzi aka Hotel Inspector she is the one woman I would like to be).

We were welcoming the audience into the magnificent historical building whilst they waited for the people they really wanted to see coming on. Said people being George Monbiot and Ewan McClennan. I knew nothing of either aside from the former is a Guardian journalist and the latter a musician. The project they worked on together is ‘Breaking the spell of loneliness’ and was inspired by an article by Monbiot which explored the themes of loneliness and isolation in contemporary society. It was a truly wonderful evening. The words of George were skilfully crafted into beautiful songs by Ewan and performed with great simplicity. I know, I know – it sounds utterly depressing…but, it really was not! I think I have alluded to my dislike of small talk and ‘polite conversation’; an example being when people ask me how I am I might just actually tell them. Lots of people think my taste in music is bleak. In a nutshell, Radiohead are my favourite band. I have heard them referred to as ‘music to slit your wrists to’ many times but I find the opposite to be true. I love anything that makes me actually ‘feel’ something. I like depths to be explored. No paddling about in the shallow end.

George Monbiot told a story about being in a rush at a checkout and being held up by an elderly person chatting to the checkout girl. (Hopefully not asking scripted questions – see later) He reflected on his impatience and realised this may be the only interaction this older person has with another human being in their day. Ewan Mc Clennan then sang the most beautiful song through the eyes of an old man walking down the street desperate for human interaction. One particular phrase I recall is where the man had the greetings he would use when he met the shopkeeper practised and on the tip of his tongue, only to be met by an electronic checkout. My daughter was there with me and we were both incredibly moved by the whole thing. I am perhaps making the whole thing sound mawkish and over sentimental but it’s actually not at all. That’s just my overly emotional interpretation – if you get the chance, listen to these songs and find out about this project.

On the subject of mawkishness, I have had several moments where I have cried these last few days. I am not hormonal or unhappy but touched by words and music at times. I was reading a book, a couple of days ago, that I had seen many times at work but which had never appealed to me before, when I was struck by one particular passage . It’s unexpectedness probably heightened my reaction to it. (I love childrens picture books and am hoping to talk about this passion with Simon Green as part of some filming he is doing). This book is about an owl who is afraid of the dark. He visits various people who explain to him all the positive things about darkness. The part that hit me in particular was his meeting with an old woman who tells him the dark is ‘forgiving’ and allows her time and space to think about her life and her memories. Just beautiful. I am unashamed to share these feelings and allow children to see that it’s okay to express emotions. I didn’t exactly WEEP but I didn’t hide my feelings either.

At this juncture I must say – I sing, dance, laugh and play in and out of work..honestly. It’s not ALL tears.

But then, I had the privilege of being an audience member at another astounding event the very next evening. It was the culmination of a project around Domestic Abuse. Three actresses played the part of three real women who had been involved in the project and the play was the resulting work. So impressive. The actual voices and words of real women were being played on a loop as we entered the auditorium as the three actresses sat close to the audiences seats knitting. They then told the stories of these three real life women with such honesty and emotion. The acting was top class. It reminded me of COAL (which I was involved with earlier this year – if only I had thought about writing about that at the time…!) in so far as the actors crossed ‘the line’ into the audience. (In COAL we gave out retro biscuits to involve our audience and make them feel like they were down the club with us on a Friday night and about to draw the raffle). In this play ‘Make do and Mend’ one of the cast came out and showed one of us how to knit and addressed us directly. The set, the actors, the stories were all incredibly moving and I am sure this work could reach out and support women facing similar scenarios in their own lives.

The only shame was there were only eight people in the audience. In Newcastle it was a sell out but This is Stanley. At the front desk, I was told repeatedly when purchasing my ticket that it was ‘not a problem’ for answers that simply didn’t demand that response. Miss Insincerity. Hospitality lessons from the school of robots. Like checkout staff when you can see their latest training guidance pinned in their workspace – ‘Did you find everything you wanted in store today?’. ‘What are you doing this evening?’. ‘Have you just finished work?’. Have their employers heard of privacy and personal space invasion? And you know they have to say it, the poor sods and you know they don’t care really and why would they…?

Finally, today I shared the most lovely tv programme with a group of canny little people. It’s a show that introduces pieces of classical music to children through stories in a cartoon. Today’s was Clair de Lune by De Bussy and the accompanying cartoon is all about the figures in a musical jewelry box and their love for one another. The male tries to capture the moon (which also reminded me of an Eric Carle story ‘Papa, please get the moon for me’ – a story for another day you will be relieved to hear) for the female and the conclusion of the tale is simply beautiful. The animation is poor which adds to it’s charm. Go watch it x

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/stories/melody-music-box

Sunday October 10th

img_20161007_185528Evening all,

Kevin has been away from Stanley for four weeks tomorrow. He walked me to work as he has done so many times on that Monday morning and we both knew we wouldn’t see each other for some time (Mind you, all the way through the planning period I didn’t ever think he would actually get there, so even after our potentially ‘final’ farewell it didn’t feel very final). One month later and it does …

Mostly, I am enjoying my time alone. I have lots to do and am occupied. Odd moments though and I miss him overwhelmingly. What I hadn’t anticipated was the whole time difference thing. He is getting up as I am going to bed (they are 7 hours ahead in China) and when I finish work for the day he is retiring for the night. The small windows of opportunity we have to talk in real time are blighted by internet issues at his end and then pressure on that time to get everything said. It can all be very frustrating.

So, it’s a case of communicating in a whole new way. No FB chat, no messenger, no ‘live’ conversation. We are using the rather archaic method of plain old email but it’s obviously not conversational and that’s what I miss. I am sure Kevin is thrilled as he can talk at length about himself without interruption. When he returns we may elect to carry on in a similar fashion. Him soliloquising over his day and life from another room and me replying ten minutes later ‘Wow, that sounds amazing!’.

It does help to read his blogs and know that he is coping well out there and actually enjoying it! I am very proud of him and admire him greatly but I still wish I could just talk to him from time to time. One month out of ten gone and I am sure we will develop ways and means to stay close and enjoy each others company. Luckily he can communicate very well in writing. He has no camera again now but his descriptions paint a vivid picture.

Anyway enough – this is the Stanley blog not the China one!

Friday’s cafe experience wasn’t much to write home about (unlike ‘Captain, my Captain’s’ teaching in China). I hadn’t slept on the Thursday night very much at all (another result of the communication/time difference thing) so was quite literally zombified on Friday. I did feel like I was in some kind of parallel existence and I quite liked the sensation. I knew my tiredness was extreme and felt like I should have my own advisory label not to ‘operate machinery’ as I felt slightly removed in body and soul. Luckily the only machine I needed to operate was a pencil sharpener.

Instead of leaving work at the earliest opportunity I held on. I knew the bus I regularly get to my choir has lovely people who share with me all their news from the Font to Daisy Hill which is usually welcomed at that juncture as the weekend starts. But I knew I needed to sleep. I was headed to the theatre straight after choir and wouldn’t have made it through the night if I couldn’t close my eyes for ten minutes. I am a pro at snoozing on buses. I even managed half an hour on the town bus on a match night the other week and it was chocka block of supporters buzzing about their team. This one was a gamble, I had to wait an extra hour for the bus in order to gain ten minutes sleep. It paid off. I was relieved to see no-one I knew and I am sure my general demeanour and sunglassed eyes gave clear signals I didn’t want to chew the fat with fellow travellers. Besides which, once you get out of Bloemfontein everyone has a mackem tinged accent (same as when you get past Noplace). I would love to locate the exact spot where a North West Durham/DH9 accent becomes pure Sunderland. It should be made clear by the markings on the road.

Since I was in this bubble like state I even threw the cafe rulebook away and went off piste for my coffee. As I was later in I had less time pre choir but needed a caffeine infusion in order to function during the complex scale vocal patterns our MD has us do. She can hear a pin drop in the Cathedral all the way from North Road so she will definitely know if you are a semitone awry. If you breathe in a phrase you almost wish it was your last as you incur her wrath which is just a LOOK. It’s all that’s required.

So I entered a cafe on the corner and spotted a fellow chorister who invited me over. Interesting woman she is too. She trained as a classical singer in her youth and sees this choir as her ‘turn up and sing’ one as she does more challenging singing also. It is my most challenging and I need to listen to the recordings she sends us and practice! The cafe looked like it was in mid ‘renovation’ although it is still very new. Perhaps it is going through a change of hands. It felt odd though. The menu board behind the counter appeared to have had most of it’s lettering removed. This meant there were just odd words like – ‘regular’ and  ‘latte’ disjointed and with no prices. The smiling man who served me also was wearing a neck brace like he had been in an accident. Now he really did look like he shouldn’t have been operating machinery but there he was, larger than life, operating a superwhizzy coffee machine. I had the driest scone I have ever tasted. It was my tea and I had paid for it so I ploughed on regardless and lied that everything was okay when Keep Your Head Still Geordie Hinny man asked if everything was okay.

Choir was as much fun as ever. We are learning ‘Til there was you’ which was covered by the Beatles. It is a lovely arrangement sung in four parts and our part is quite tricky. Once I get it, I get it ‘By George’ but I haven’t got it yet.

Afterwards I headed over to the Gala to see ‘Tony’s Last Tape’ – a play about Tony Benn. I thought about Kevin lots as we have seen a few things there, most notably Don Quixote which was wonderful (Is that right Kevin…?! Was that there?) This was a one man show and very good. However, I did keep zoning out momentarily but I could mostly hear all of the dialogue. It focused very much on his love for his wife and that was wonderful. I was roused from one bout of slumber to having the actor tell me (it definitely felt like it, as I was in the third row centre) that he (Tony Benn) loved Durham Big Meeting day and watching all the banners. I should find the exact transcript as it was very poignant and tears rolled down my cheeks.

This takes me up to Saturday – I never get my whole weekend written up as I witter on too much. Now you can see why Kevin prefers to email…!

Thank you for reading x

 

 

1st October 2016

This Friday was pre-planned and packed full of activity. As part of North East Socialist Singers we were invited to sing with our wonderful Musical Director Bethany at an event which was of particular interest to me and my second foray into the previously skirted around world of ‘folk’ in under a week. (I think it is the image of elbow patches and real ale that has kept me at an interested distance for so long).

I can’t remember how I came across Tommy Armstrong (Tanfield’s/Stanley’s Pitmen Poet) initially. It certainly was in my adulthood and in the days of tapes, as I had a cassette of TA songs which had been recorded in Delves Lane. Years later when I tried to find it on Spotify I could never find the exact recordings (isn’t that always the way?) In the 80’s/90’s the name of TA was known in Stanley as the local council offices were named after him in his honour. I have a vague memory of lyrics being written on walls but I may have landed well and truly in Fantasy Island with that one.

Over the years I have known it was important to keep the name of TA alive and have taught many children the fol-de-lol chorus of Stanley Market. I got to fol-de-lol along to Allen Crawford’s recording of two TA songs earlier in the summer. You could say fol-de-lols were my forte. So, last night was duly anticipated by me but was at the close of a long day which also saw me travel into Durham for my Friday choir. I stopped off at Wharton Park in Durham as it’s become a place I like to walk through when I am there. Since they took Wilkinsons away (boohoo) I have had to find somewhere other than the Sally Army (good 30 minute filler) to go to pre choir. Oxfam bookshop is a fave haunt of mine but it closes at 5 and if you go in after 4.35 you are almost willed out of the building before you step over the threshold. No one wants to be under pressure when browsing for books so I have knocked that one on the head at that time of day.

As an aside – there is a cafe in Stanley which shuts at 2pm. No way can you call by for a cappuccino after 1.15pm. It’s just not tolerated. If you are in there having food the door is locked from the inside at 1.30pm. You are left to shovel down the last slice of corned beef pie in silence with one or two other people who don’t know the establishment’s rule that dinner time (and yes, I mean dinner) is 11.30am – 1pm. You then have to get the attention of the owner to come and let you out.

So, aside from that imposing building by the riverside, which I do visit regularly also, I have discovered the little gem of a park high above Durham behind the train station. I once talked to some children about it and was telling them about the zip-wire in the park. I was obviously conveying my excitement in my expression and the way I was excitingly telling them about it. I said I hadn’t been on it but would one day and take a selfie of myself on it. I will too. I just have to wait until all those pesky kids stop hogging it and the Parky doesn’t follow me around with his walkie talkie…

Aside from that, I have been taking a photograph of the same scene every month since June. There is a large frame in the park that I intend to monitor the changing of the seasons through. Hence, dashing up there Friday as it was the last day of September and I needed to capture the scene. When I looked at them at home I realised Kevin was in the July frame and it was a lovely day in the summer. I had just been to a protest outside of County Hall and walked down to meet him. All my frame photos from now until next July will be minus Kevin…

I knew I would need to eat as I had a long evening ahead. As public loos are as difficult to locate in Durham as they are everywhere else I often end up calling into Wetherspoons when I am there. I have even stopped giving the menu a cursory glance and looking around for my ‘friends’ whilst looking at my watchless wrist, I just brazenly head to the toilets, use the facilities and then head out again looking the bar staff in the eye. Brass neck.

Yesterday, I thought I may actually eat there too as it’s cheap and close to where we practise. So, I genuinely did walk in and look at a menu on a table. The food didn’t put me off. The people all around me did. There seemed to be some kind of bald headed man convention in full swing and the snippets of conversation – odd words even (‘season’, ‘match’, men over 40 with nicknames) were enough to send me heading to the door.

Inevitably, I ended up back at the scene of last week’s scone shocker (they didn’t warm it through. Really). I wasn’t going to be stung by that trick two weeks running though so I ordered a jacket potato. Straightforward. No complex questions about sauces or bread types or anything else to terrify me. And then…the girl behind the counter gave me the THING pictured above next to my coffee cup.

I carried it to my table by its edges. It was some kind of electronic device and was intermittently flashing. In a cafe. I worked out it must be connected to my order somehow. I knew it wasn’t a potato. I realised somehow it would be replaced with said potato when the microwave pinged. What I feared of course was how this signalling would occur. Was I in a hospital? Is being paged for your food the thing now? Did I have to watch the damn thing looking for some kind of sign that my food was ready to collect. If so, from where? There didn’t appear to be any potato action occurring immediately behind the counter. There followed several long minutes, where I hardly dared take my eyes from the ‘thing’ and was fraught with the anxiety of how it would let me know ‘the jacket potato I didn’t really want but I couldn’t get a scone because last week they hadn’t warmed it through’ was ready. Would I need to speak through it???!!! At one point I was ready to slope off sans potato but realised that would be very silly so I held on, frozen with fear.

I had finished my coffee by the time the thing blipped/lit up/almost levitated off the table (by then I would have thought anything was possible) but luckily the waitress was heading over to the source of the racket and blustering diner. I may have shouted ‘How do you make it stop?!’ but I couldn’t be certain on that one. No recollection of how the potato tasted but they had done that obligatory side salad thing and lain atop it was a sachet of SALAD CREAM. Death knell. No going back now.

Jaene’s Stanley Blog

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AKA If you can’t beat ’em join ’em!

Friday Sept.2rd-Sunday Sept.25th

My first night at Pamela’s choir was as good as I thought it would be.It’s now my third year with this choir, and it’s the perfect way to finish the working week, and begin the weekend. I had a new folder and pencil, and was so excited all day on Friday. I went to the cafe I like beforehand, for a cheese scone and a cappuccino, as a little treat but was left a little disappointed as they didn’t warm the cheese scone up in the sandwich grill, like they normally do. It was nowhere near as nice as usual. There are heaps of cafes in Durham, but I am actually a creature of habit and don’t really like trying new places. When I find something I like I usually stick to it, but I think I may need to branch out after Sconegate.

Anyhow, Pamela was as posh as ever, and we had a wee conversation as I handed over my £102. Posh people do that. Deflect from the coarse act of transactions, by making smalltalk, in plummy accents.

We only looked at one song. She always begins the term with one she thinks will be accessible to all, as attendance is sometimes sporadic after the summer break, while people are still off jetting about and holidaying. I, of course, didn’t manage a day at the seaside this summer, and have been counting down the days until the return of the choir. So, we are learning a familiar sounding tune called ‘Blame it on the Bossa Nova’. No-one seemed to appreciate my Michael Jackson reference to sunshine and moonlight, but I found it amusing. There are 4 second sopranos this year. Because she classifies us as her ‘elite’ class she whizzes us through, and believes most of us can read music (most can/I can’t) so it is always a challenge. As I type this, I see that the recordings she makes (to help us learn our parts) are sitting in my inbox. The thrill I feel when I see a Pamela recording in my inbox really cannot be underestimated. I shall settle down to it later. Up until now I have no idea what other songs we will be learning this year. She teasingly mentioned ‘West Side Story’ towards the end of last ter which is one of my favourite things in the world. I am just curious to know whether we shall be Feeling Priiiitttyy or Officer Krumpkying our Friday nights away. One would be sublime the other ridiculous.

The event to showcase the CD I recorded backing vocals for, one very hot day during the summer, was on Sunday afternoon. I had been asked to go along, and perform with other musicians, who had also recorded for the album. Jack Burness said I could ‘sing a song’, too. As the CD was about Stanley, I thought it best to try and keep with the theme, so chose to sing the Tommy Armstrong song ‘Trimdon Grange Explosion’. I had a couple of other ideas up my sleeve, and decided to wait and gauge the atmosphere/audience on the afternoon.

It was held in the lovely White Room Gallery on Station Road, which is such a good space. I nearly bolted before anyone ever played a tune, as there was half an hour of generally sitting, and chatting, and eating, whilst waiting for the music to begin. Since my partner and companion is away teaching in China, I had attended on my own. I generally have no issue with going places by myself, but I always have an issue with chitchatting and small talk. Someone asks me how I am. and I actually tell them.( Poor souls – like they needed to know I find life at best tolerable in the main and at worst a constant torment…)

After Allen (who is the superb singer I backed with vocals) had been over and spoken to me, I felt more relaxed and less liable to exit left. We found it amusing that we had never met during the recording of the songs. It made me recall those performances on TOTP, where a duo were shown singing, but not from the same studio? I can’t think of an example, but I am sure there was something tres moderne about it all in the eighties.

The afternoon was wonderful once the music began. A lovely set of performers. I missed Kevin lots at that point, as we would have shared the joy of particular songs and moments. A man and woman played harps they had built themselves, from kits, and it was quite the loveliest thing ever. I must find out what the name of the lullaby they sang was as it was so beautiful. It was some Geordie expression which translated as ‘settle or snuggle down’? There were many, many lovely moments and I enjoyed singing with Allen, and Jack, and also singing a Tommy Armstrong song by myself. I have known the song for a very long time, and know the words by heart and I felt I gave it a good shot. I was especially pleased when some of the audience spoke to me afterwards, and said that they had enjoyed the song, as I know they were all experienced folky folk so their compliments meant a lot.

Aside from my singing over the weekend I shopped, and lunched, and cried a little, over my best buddy being on the other side of the world, and talked to my kids in Leeds, York and Stanley. There were no cyclones, or seaswimming, but many moments of excitement and adventure nonetheless.

Thank you for reading x