The evening opens with the singing of Jerusalem. It appears to be the honky-tonk version and set in a key which only the reediest of voices will ever reach. No matter, voices soar enthusiastically - only to be lost in the vastness of Churchstoke Community Hall. It's a crudely lit barn of a place, all hard surfaces - acoustically awkward - a public space suitable for nothing in particular but accommodating the undiscerning masses. And here we were. Some 100 members of the WI at our annual group meeting, just waiting to be entertained. We are seated at little tables, each with a neat tablecloth and flower in a vase. Our flower is a fluorescent pink dahlia. As late comers my little group are ushered to the last remaining table. At the front. (Note to self: endeavour to arrive early in future. Those speakers are too close for comfort.)
Enter Idris and Geraint stage right.
Idris is 'the man in black' and Geraint, his side-kick, fills to overflowing a large polo shirt - 'the 'man in white'. Idris, by way of warming up his expectant audience, tells us an 'amusing' anecdote before launching into an indistinguished song with an allegedly infectious chorus. The ice has not yet been broken and the audience sit, for the most part, stony faced. They press on regardless - the stories become slightly more risqué, the songs more familiar and the audience a little more responsive.
It is hard to imagine a venue less atmospheric, less condusive to 'a good night out' than here - these two have their work cut out. Slowly however as the old favourites roll out the audience warm up and sensibly shod WI feet can be seen tapping. We're talking Country and Western here - with full orchestral backing courtesy of Geraint's sound system - song after song after song after song.
I am reminded of the time we lived in Westbury, where our back door and garden faced the village pub, The Lion. Friday night was music night - and we could enjoy every last note from the comfort of our own home. Fine sometimes after a glass of wine or three when feeling mellow - otherwise we would just shut the door. Tonight, door shutting was not an option.
No strong drink available either - just the prospect of tea or coffee during the interval when supper was served - the usual generous WI spread. I had a bowl of sherry trifle too - it's called comfort eating.
And there is a second half. There is more of this to endure. Second only to compulsory hockey this is my notion of hell. I know. I know. I know I'm a po-faced party pooper - and why, you might ask, have I imposed this upon myself? Duty. Next year will be Marton's turn to organise a group meeting and we'll be hoping for some support in return. Quid pro quo and all that. I am now looking for an escape route - this organisation and I should part company - but that damned sense of duty and commitment keeps getting in the way. Humph.
Second half. Compose face into semblance of goodwill and interest even when Geraint treats us to 'Ole Man River' and 'Sonny Boy'. He's a mellifluous growler (I'm sure there is a musical term to describe the depth of his voice) who would give Al Johnson a run for his money.
Finally - there is a finally - they sing 'Delilah' - hugely popular with the audience. The irony of the song's closing line.....'I just couldn't take any more' - was for me at least most apt.
We leave. The night is cold and clear. And silent. For this I give thanks.