Thursday, September 24, 2009

That's entertainment.

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.

Monday, September 21, 2009


History's been preying on my mind a bit lately, what with the deadline for the village history book creeping ever closer, then closer and closer until suddenly it's been and gone.

History - it seems is stuff one knows, is sure of - but ha! perversely every known fact is like an island in a sea of uncertainty. For each bit we know there is something which remains a mystery. I wish we could just go back for the afternoon - to the c17th for example - just to find out what it really was like. No chance of that though - I'm stuck firmly in the here-and-now with a to-do list that appears to multiply like an evil bacteria.

Two years ago we put an exhibition together, D & I, and the inevitable question was - what to do with all the information we'd amassed? A book was the obvious answer and since then D has written thousands of words and I've chipped in with my two-penn'th of photos and maps. We've cajoled a friend into doing us some line drawings to illustrate those periods where only the imagination can now describe what life was like.

We've delivered, on time, to our publisher - giving him words and pictures on memory sticks, which somehow seem too small to hold the span of four millennia our book embraces.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A home for the little yellow tractor

The menfolk are building a field shelter - it's looking impressive already.

I may soon be able to reclaim my car space in the garage and all those ugly plastic wrapped stacks of timber that are dotted around my garden can be hidden from view.

Orders taken.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The word of the week....

...was 'scutter'.

Our Mancunian construction site son made good use of it last week while we were in Greece and it has sort of ear-wormed itself into my head. It's a good descriptive word. I like it.

I'd assumed it was Mancunian construction site argot for general detritus; the sort of stuff that gets littered on pavements and table tops, bits of tacky Car Boot tat - that sort of thing. My cryptic crossword brain would like to think it was an amalgam of scuzzy and clutter. It would make sense wouldn't it?

However, nowhere can I find it defined in that way; contributors to my favourite Urban Dictionary use it as a derogatory term to describe the unwashed, couch-potato low-life at the bottom of the social scale - and even to describe a part of the male anatomy which rarely sees the sun. The OED notes it as a variant of 'scurry', to run or move hurriedly often with short brisk steps. Bor - ring. I feel imperious today and declare it to mean 'bits of tat'.

I rolled the word around my tongue a number of times in Greece; we were on Paxos, an island so picture postcard pretty that one would think the word 'scutter' could never apply. It does, however, have a rough and ready, unsophisticated quality which is part of its charm. Up north they'd say 'there's no side to it' - meaning unpretentious. It's not a place to strut and swagger but a place to stroll and be one's comfortable self. I feel the luxurious yachts and floating gin palaces that occasionally tie up in the little harbour at Loggos are slumming it and that their natural habitat would be the more flashy moorings of somewhere like Puerto Banus or Marbella.

Paxos is slightly scruffy, so sometimes it is best to look at the bigger picture and ignore the small detail; take in the turquoise Ionian, the pretty fishing villages and the hills with their columnar Cypress trees and twisted Olives. Let's gloss over the defunct olive oil presses and the crumbling boats abandoned up in the olive groves, the unfinished building projects and the abandoned old houses disappearing back into the rocky soil. Sadly there is litter too - and litter is completely without charm. Why, I wondered as my eyes left a magical panorama and caught a glimpse of the rubbish heaved into a deep ravine, why lob your rubbish down here? A rusting moped. Builders' rubble. Cans and bottles. A shoe. A fridge door and an olive oil can. Sigh. Get that scutter shifted.

Anyway. Can't complain about much else. Our week away was just what the doctor ordered and hot, hot, hot. A couple of quick thunderstorms refreshed the air and provided a few moments of drama as people ran for cover and taverna owners lifted tables and chairs in out of the rain. Otherwise we could just bask in the sun or snorkel and swim. Look at that blue sea. Look at that blue sky.

We noticed few changes - Loggos has a new litter bin! A couple of the older folk and their antiquated 3-wheel vehicles were missing. Perhaps now they prefer to sit and sip their ouzo at home.
Good food and drink once again, but oh dear, things were expensive. I know the euro is almost on a par with the pound but prices seemed to have risen too. We bought the usual can of olive oil from the 'shop' in Gaios, which as well as the vast vats of oil sells cigarettes, wine and a few spirits from its gloomy cave-like interior. The oil has quite a distinctive flavour - too heavy for mayonnaise but a treat for a dressing to remind ourselves of summer's sunnier days. We find ourselves dipping wedges of the crusty, chewy local bread into it and savouring the heavy, almost smokey, taste - and feeling fairly guilt-free about this indulgence.
That's it now - we're home - glad to arrive back to a few days of sunshine which eased our passage from Ionian isle to Welsh hilltop. Today is cold and I have lit the Aga, a small task which seems to sign off summer for us.

We're back to our usual tasks. The Glamorous Assistant is making great progress with his field shelter. More of that later....

The biggest fungus in Trelystan

What a whopper - as my dainty Birkenstocked foot, included in the picture for scale, shows.

This monster and a number of lesser monsters have sprung up around the base of our beech trees. My Glam.Ass. reached for his big book of Mushrooms and Toadstools and is now fairly certain it is Trametes versicolor. This is not good news. Firstly it is in the section dedicated to extremely poisonous varieties and is accompanied by a natty skull and crossbones symbol. Secondly he has decided it may sound the death knell for our trees as it prefers to live on dead wood.

Here we have another example of our differing outlooks on life. G.A. sees the tree as dying while I continue to see it flourishing, ie Not Dead Yet for Heaven's Sake.