Innsbruck, Ich Muss Dich Lassen, My Preamble For The Gresham Society Soirée, Barnards Inn Hall, 14 December 2017

There follows the preamble to my Innsbruck performance, explained in more detail in the piece linked below:

Gresham Society Soirée, Barnards Inn Hall, 14 December 2017

Did anyone by any chance come to this soiree primarily to hear me sing a silly song? Good, because on this occasion I’m going to perform a serious piece, for the first time since I was at school.

  • Heinrich Isaac was a Netherlandish (Flemish) Renaissance composer who died 500 years ago this year;
  • Prolific composer of beautiful sacred music, but by far his best-known work is a secular song, Innsbruck Ich Muss Dich Lassen – Innsbruck I must leave you.
  • If there had been Euro pop charts back in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, Innsbruck would probably have been number one in the charts for decades. Greensleeves probably originated more than 50 years later, but in mainland Europe, Innsbruck was probably still number one for decades even after Greensleeves turned up.  Many hymns, cantatas and songs are based on the Innsbruck tune, not least several Bach works;
  • the first document mentioning Isaac’s name dates back to September 1484, placing him in Innsbruck as a singer for Duke Sigismund of Austria;
  • documents show that by July 1485 Isaac had relocated to Florence, employed as a singer at the church Santa Maria del Fiore…
  • so it is likely that Isaac wrote his Innsbruck song c1485;
  • c1485 is an interesting year. Not least, c1485 is the exact circa year of Sir Richard Gresham’s birth;
  • 1485 is also the year when Richard III failed to trade his kingdom for a horse, ending up interred in a Leicester car park, marking the start of Tudor England;
  • so it seems right to perform Innsbruck for The Gresham Society in this lovely Tudor Hall;
  • To try and give the song an authentic early Tudor sound, I found a delightful expert on early music Ian Pittaway, who wrote the tablature arrangement I’m going to play you and has coached me to play my instrument better, not least the Tudor-stylee I shall try today;
  • The difference between messing about with comedy music (my usual thing) and having a genuine go at performing in a Renaissance style, in German, is enormous. I have learnt a lot about early music and also about myself by attempting this;
  • You’ll hear three verses. The first laments having to leave Innsbruck. The second laments having to leave a true love behind.  The third verse professes faithfulness and virtue ahead of an intended return to Innsbruck;
  • It is a beautiful song and I hope I can do it justice for you tonight.

 

Additional Notes

  • Much of his working life in Florence; a close associate of Lorenzo de’ Medici. A contemporary of Josquin des Prez – agent’s letter to the court of Este comparing Josquin with Isaac – “[Isaac] is of a better disposition among his companions, and he will compose new works more often. It is true that Josquin composes better, but he composes when he wants to and not when one wants him to.” Isaac got the job;
  • Lutheran chorale, “O Welt, ich muß dich lassen”, the 17th century hymn “In allen meinen Taten” by Paul Fleming and later still Bach’s chorale cantata In allen meinen Taten, BWV 97 and also elements of the St Matthew’s Passion.

A Ponder On Dystopian Comedy Songs, 17 November 2016

Ahead of seeing Brexit The Musical and NewsRevue today – click here for my write up of those – I had arranged to meet neighbour, writer and old NewsRevue pal Jasmine Birtles on my way back from the gym, to hand over some of our corporate gimcrack as giveaways for some charity do of hers.

On the way to the gym, the superb Randy Newman song “Political Science” popped into my head and wouldn’t leave.

Here and below is a link to a YouTube vid of Randy Newman performing the song – the lyrics are there too.

I have subsequently worked out how to play this song on my baritone ukulele. It seems to me that the song summarises Donald Trump’s foreign policy as we currently understand it in November 2016.

I mentioned this song to Jasmine as we walked around the block together. She said she vaguely remembered the Randy Newman song but wasn’t there a Tom Lehrer one with a similarly dystopian/armageddon quality.

The Lehrer one didn’t pop into my head immediately, but while walking to the Canal Café that evening it did pop into my head. So Long Mom (A Song For World War III). I remembered not only the Tom Lehrer song itself but my 1993 parody of the same – all linked and shown if you click here.

Now I can’t get either tune out of my head. Happy days.

On a slightly less dystopian note, I also now recall that I used a Randy Newman song, Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear, to parody Tony Blair in NewsRevue surprisingly early in his political career – April 1993 – here is a link through to my materials on that.

South London Nah Nah Nah by Rohan Candappa, Alleyn’s School, 12 November 2016

The following piece, South London Nah Nah Nah, was written and delivered by Rohan Candappa at the Edward Alleyn Club Annual Dinner 2016, in honour of Chris Grant’s Presidency coming to an end. I Ogblog reviewed the event here.

Chris Grant. This image was liberated from the Sport England web site with grateful thanks - we're SO South London.
Chris Grant. This image was liberated from the Sport England web site with grateful thanks – we’re SO South London.

Rohan has kindly permitted the circulation of the piece. If you quote from it, please give Rohan Candappa the credit – he deserves it.

Thank you Mavis.

Recent events have proved to me that the two most important things in this world are ‘words’ and ‘geography’. I’ve always known this as I’m a writer, and I studied ‘geography’ at university.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking ‘what on earth is this fool on about?’ I mean, you’ll probably give me words, but ‘geography’?

Okay, let me prove my point, consider this sentence ‘2016 will always be remembered as the year in which a popular black president stood down, and was replaced by an idiot’.

Oh. Maybe I should have said ‘2016 will always be remembered as the year in which, IN AMERICA, a popular black president stood down and was replaced by an idiot.’

Words and geography. Make all the difference.

Anyway, I’m a writer, and what I’m going to do is read some stuff out to you. And the way I’m rationalising the kind of performance that I’m developing  – is that I’m having a thought, and then taking it for a walk.

And I’d like to invite you all on that walk. To see where we end up.

But before I do ….David, you didn’t tell the joke. I thought you were going to tell the joke….

That’s a shame. It was a good joke.

Okay, a slight aside. When we first got together to discuss this evening David told a particular joke, and we all laughed, and then Chris said we can’t use it.

Probably because it was in poor taste. Or politically incorrect. Or both.

Now, obviously I can’t tell the joke because I am too sensitive and well mannered – but it was good joke…

So here’s what I suggest you do, over the course of the evening, go up to David when he’s on his own and say ‘What do we want?’, he’ll say something, then you come back with ‘When do we want it?’ and he’ll deliver the punch line.

That’s alright isn’t it David?

Anyway moving, on.

I’ve got a piece to read, take about 15…hours. No, minutes, minutes. I know you’re hungry.

So let’s have a thought, and take it for a walk, and see where we end up.

 

——————

 

It’s funny what we remember.  It’s not always what other people remember.

Take this evening.

When Chris first started talking about it he brought up the following incident.

When we were at school the football team made it to a final. The final was held at the ground of Dulwich Hamlet. And during the match, there was a point, or there were several points where we, as supporters of that well known Sarf Lunnun football firm of ‘Alleyns’ started chanting ‘South London, Nah, Nah, Nah!’

Then, apparently, when we got back to school, our behaviour in chanting this chant was berated by Mr Fenner, the Head Master, in no uncertain terms.

And, in part, this incident is what Chris has based his theme for his year as President.

Now the thing is, I was at that match. I was in that crowd. And I have no recollection of the ‘South London, Nah, Nah, Nah’ chant happening.

So it’s funny what we remember, because what we remember, isn’t always what other people remember.

But that’s the glory of being alive. We are individuals. We see the world and interpret the world individually. But we live collectively. And part of our challenge as individuals is to find a way to live collectively.

That’s one of the thing school does for us. In part, in this place, within this school, I learned how to be an individual, but also to function as part of a society. And that played a big part in forging my identity. And I guess I’m not alone in that, or why else would we all be here?

So if a school is a key factor in defining personal identity, which it is, – then what defines the identity of a school.

And does the fact that this school, my school, our school, is in South London have any bearing on that identity?

But before we get to a decision on that, let’s consider the whole concept of ‘South’.

For a start what does it even mean?

Well, that’s fairly obvious – it’s a direction. It’s one part of that set of directions that helps us navigate the world, helps us locate ourselves in the places we live. North, South, East, West. The John, Paul, George and Ringo of directions.

Or, and who else remembers this – Naughty, Elephants, Squirted ….. Water.

South was ‘Squirted’.

Look at a map of the world. Look at a globe, and ‘south’ is, the bit at the bottom. Everyone can agree upon that.

Everyone that is, except me.

Thanks to the power of independent thought that this school encouraged in me, I have stumbled upon this, quite literally world changing, revelation:

The world is a sphere. It floats in space.

There is no right way up for it to be. Given that, then what’s to stop ‘South’ being located at the top?

The only thing to stop it is convention.

Or picture a map of Britain. Well, why don’t we ever draw it, or imagine it, upside down? After all, it exists on the surface of a globe, and a globe is a sphere, and a sphere doesn’t have a top or a bottom.

So ‘south’ is a convention that we have invented, that we all agree upon, because if we didn’t agree on it how would we ever know where we truly are.

But let’s go further in this dissection of the concept of south. Let’s go further because one of the glories of the English language is that words don’t only have ‘meanings’ they also have associations.

So ‘south’ isn’t just a direction.

Things ‘go south’. Meaning they go off the boil, they fall apart.

Or there’s the concept of ‘The South’ in America – the Southern states, all confederate flags, slave owners mansions, and fried chicken.

Or that divide between Europe’s northern states, and its southern ones. That’s a concept wrapped up in all kinds of sub-concepts of power, economic development, even life-style.

Or what about Cockney rhyming slang. North and South. Mouth.

Or, let’s get even more granular – how do you even pronounce the word. Is it ‘South’? Is it ‘Souf’ as in S O U F? Or is it ‘Sarf’ as in S A R F?

I guess the answer to that depends on where you’ve come from.

Or, where you’ve ended up.

For me, as a kid, growing up just off Peckham Rye Park. I lived in S A R F, Sarf Lunnun. Lunnun, as in L U N N U N.

Now I’m older, and wiser, and much stupider, I will say that I grew up, and went to school, this school, in South London.

Clearly the school is still in the same place that it was. So equally clearly it must be me that has moved. In some way.

Anyway, delving deeper into the whole concept of South London, I discovered something really quite surprising. For most of the time South London did not exist.

London, was London, and that was north of the river. The bit to the south was an afterthought, an overspill, a poor relation.

I mean, just look at the buildings in north London. The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, The Tower Of London, The Natural History Museum, St Paul’s, even the City Of London itself. It’s all north of the river.

What do we get? The short lived County Hall. Southwark Cathedral – which is just a very big church. And Dave Wellbrook’s house in Beckenham.

This isn’t the stuff of a major Metropolis.

South London wasn’t London.

So the pre-Uber, cab drivers legend of ‘ Sarf of the river, this time of night, you ‘avin’ a larf mate…’ isn’t an aberration. It’s how the world was. How the world was perceived.

South London was the wrong side of the river, south London was the Badlands, south London was ‘Here be Monsters’.

And you know what, South London Doesn’t Care. If it is the outsider, the underdog, the unacknowledged that’s just fine. Because that gives South London character. Strength. Maybe even ambition.

And it meant things could happen here.

Take Vauxhall, for instance. From about 1650 for 200 years it was one of the leading venues for public entertainment in the capital. 1785 the Vauxhall Gardens opened with attractions like tightrope walkers, concerts, fireworks, hot air balloon ascents and wooded walkways noted for… ‘romantic assignations’. Apparently, for 150 years, references to Vauxhall were as ubiquitous as, and have the same context as,  references to ‘Broadway’ would later be. That was it’s cultural significance.

Or what about something with closer link to this school – The Globe. Shakespeare’s theatre, built in  1599 – closed by the Puritans in 1642. The Globe was at Bankside. The south side of the river.

The south, the outsider, the renegade, the challenger to the old order.

Or what about the founder of this school – Edward Alleyn. Yes, he was established, yes he was successful, yes he was wealthy. But he was an actor.

And acting, I would argue, is the South London of all the professions.

The outsider, the renegade, the risk-taker.

And isn’t that a perfect description of arguably the most creative person this country has produced in the last 100 years.

David Bowie was born in Brixton. He moved to Bromley. He is an individual born, and bred, and buttered, in South London.

So how does all this relate to this school? This institution?

I mean, look at it. It is a place of privilege. How on earth could it be the outsider, the other, the renegade?

Well, in my opinion, it can. Or at least in a sense it can.

Because we did come late to the party. God’s Gift had been given to many, many people before the first brick of this school had been laid.

We always were the outsider, the other, the renegade because we were not Dulwich College. So guess that what I’m arguing is that in this particular small universe, with its own particular laws of physics, and gravitational fields, I’m arguing that Dulwich College is North London, and we, we being Alleyn’s – is South London.

We are the outsider, the upstart, the challenger.

And that might sound like an irrelevant, contrived, spurious notion, but I think that it’s an important one. And one that isn’t just about looking backwards, but also about looking forwards. And here’s why.

I’ve said that this is a place of privilege – and it is. I’ve seen how much the school has developed since I was an inmate. I look at the academic results and have an absurd, totally unjustified sense of pride.  I mean what’s it got to do with me?

I know that anyone would be lucky to come here. In so many ways it bestows advantages on its pupils. Or confirms the advantages those pupils already have.  And I don’t mean that as a political judgement, I mean it as an observation.

But I think, embrace the concept of Alleyn’s as a South London school – with south being a construct that contains within in it ideas of being the outsider, the other, the renegade – then there is something else that comes into the mix for the school’s pupils.

Yes, advantage is an advantage for young people trying to find their way in an increasingly, and insanely, competitive world.  But I believe that if you want to get on, if you want to really push the boundaries of what you have it in you to become, then what you need is not advantage, but edge.

North London doesn’t give you edge. South London gives you edge.

And that’s why I would argue that the fundamentally South London nature of this school is worth recognising, understanding, and celebrating. It’s a part of its heritage as much as the phrase ‘God’s Gift’, or the cornflower, or that time Mr Jenkins got pushed in the swimming pool on the last day of term.

——————

Now, I mentioned at the start that I would be having a thought, and taking it for a walk, and what I’ve discovered is that when you do that you sometimes spot something off the path you’re on that’s worth checking out.

And what I spotted, on this occasion, was the phrase ‘God’s Gift’.

Now ‘God’s Gift’ is the motto of the school, the foundation. The first time I was really aware of it as a pupil, and thought about it, it felt slightly uncomfortable. That’s because it sounded, to me, arrogant. It sounded like we, the pupils, were saying we were ‘God’s Gift’.

There was also the fact that, at the time, the only other awareness I had of those words was in the disparaging phrase ‘He thinks he’s God’s Gift, to women’.

It was a put down.

But, I also knew that the phrase in the motto was actually referring to ‘education’ – education was God’s Gift.

Anyway, writing this piece I was thinking about the phrase and I have come to the conclusion that it needs redefining. Re-imagining.  So I want to give it a context that makes sense to me. And maybe it’ll make sense to you.

I’m here tonight because Chris asked me to speak. This is not an event I have ever been to before. It never really appealed. But Chris asked me to come. And Chris is my friend.

And I thought about that.

And I realised that gift I received from this school wasn’t education. I would have got an education somewhere else. We all would.

The gift I received from this school was the friends I made while I was here. So John, Steve, Nigel, Ian, Olly, Chris, David. I’ve known all of you for the best part of forty years – you’re the gift. Thank you.

And I would imagine for others of you in this audience, who had the good fortune to go to this school, and also for those who have the good fortune to work here, the same holds true. This school has been, this school is, a crucible of friendships. And we forge bonds here that are hard to break.

I know that for a fact, because I’ve known these people for 40 years – and I’ve been trying to shake them off for at least 35. But they’re persistent…

We forge bonds here that are hard to break. And I would say to the headmaster, nurture that, cherish that, celebrate that. There is no exam results table that it features on, but to my way of thinking it paints a picture on a far bigger canvas. And it’s a beautiful picture.

Now I’ve wandered off the path for too long and need to find a way to get back to my central thesis and wind things up.

The central thesis being that Alleyn’s is a South London school, and that gives it, and its pupils, an edge.

Well if the concept of ‘South’ is all about being the outsider, the other, the renegade – if it’s all about not only about having an edge, but also, occasionally, going to the edge and jumping off. Doing the thing you’re not supposed to do, just to see what happens next, then there is only one logical place for me to finish this talk.

So here’s the joke Chris didn’t want us to tell…

 

In Search of a Lost Hell Hole, Edgbaston, 1 September 2016

Beechwood Hotel Latterly Renamed But Seemingly neither Refurbished nor Reopened
Beechwood Hotel Latterly Renamed but Seemingly neither Refurbished nor Reopened

I returned to Edgbaston on 31 August for the Warwickshire v Middlesex county match, quite soon after our 2016 Heavy Rollers test match visit earlier in the month – reported here.

On that visit, we reminisced about the worst place we had ever stayed for our Heavy Rollers trips, the Beechwood Hotel on the Bristol Road in 2006 – which I wrote up and Ogblogged here – well worth a read if you want a laugh.  

When reminiscing on that subject recently along the Bristol Road, Nigel identified a dilapidated, disused looking place, The Lakeside Hotel, as the likely location. I said no, because the name did not ring any bells with me. But since my research for the above piece on The Beechwood Hotel, I realised that Nigel was right, that’s the address, so it is the same place, renamed.

So, after stumps on 1 September I took a slight detour along the Bristol Road on my way back to the charms and delights of The Eaton Hotel.

I discovered the place, hiding behind the untamed greenery of its garden:

IMG_0224

Trust me, dear reader, I have put the above picture through the photo software’s “fix it” filters twice to brighten up the picture.

Why the name “Lakeside” I cannot imagine; there was no lake anywhere near, other than the hootch lake the “manager” chap was presumably dipping into regularly. As for the expansive leisure activities promise on the sign on the right-hand side…oh dear.

Sadly, although I managed to uncover hilarious on-line reviews of The Beechwood online, such as…

“hell-hole”

and

“DO NOT GO THERE, you’d be better off in a cardboard box”…

…again return to the feature on that place if you want to see more of that…the Lakeside fails to come up with anything other than name and address listings on searches. I don’t suppose it got any business other than the “half-way house” type residents we met in 2006.

My trusty iPhone (Ivan) found me a delightful walking route back to the Eaton Hotel, walking further up Sir Harry’s Road on the other side of the Priory Club from our regular route; just subtly different from (though similarly lovely to) our regular walk. It occurred to me that the route might even be the tiniest bit quicker when heading for the Pershore Road entrance to the Ground, as we do. So my stroll might have some benefits for the future, as well as being a stroll down one of memory lane’s hell-holes.

Thoroughly Post-Modern Millie, An Aside, 20 August 2016

With thanks to Claudia Lesley for this picture
With thanks to Claudia Lesley for this picture of Janie

One of several conversations over our lengthy dinner at The Stables, ahead of the Never The Bride concert – for more about that outing click here. For some reason, the film Thoroughly Modern Millie came up. One of the youngsters asked, “who starred in that movie?”  “Shirley MacLaine”, replied Kim and I, pretty much straight away and more or less in unison. “No, it was Julie Andrews,” said Janie.

A short debate ensued, with most people siding with me and Kim. Janie was pretty sure it was Julie Andrews. Kim was absolutely sure it was Shirley MacLaine. Kim and Janie wagered a future meal on the outcome.

Out came Mr Google for the answer: Thoroughly Modern Millie, 1967, starred Julie Andrews.

Kim and I were surprised. I was pretty sure I could visualise Shirley MacLaine in the movie, whereas I just couldn’t envisage Julie Andrews in the part. Kim similarly. I suggested that, in our subjective realities, it really was Shirley MacLaine. So at the very least MacLaine, not Andrews, was the star of our movie, Thoroughly Post-Modern Millie.

With the 2016 Olympic Games drawing to a close that evening, the conversation reminded me of a little thought experiment I put to some friends at the end of the London 2012 Olympics. An event named the modern pentathlon (fencing, show-jumping, swimming, running and shooting) was pretty much the last thing playing out. Loads of people (me and Janie included) watched it for the first time ever; we didn’t want the 2012 olympics to end.

My thought experiment was the post-modern pentathlon. I quote myself:

The post-modern pentathlon is all about subjective reality, so you may choose your own events. MY post-modern pentathlon events are pinball, table football, playing tennis with the wrong hand and payroll giving.

I know what you are thinking. That’s only four events; a pentathlon has five events. But in the subjective reality of MY post-modern pentathlon, four events is plenty.

In the post-modern pentathlon, of course, the scoring is down to oneself (subjective reality again). I am pleased to inform you that I won the bronze medal. You might have expected me to award myself gold, but I am surely not competitive enough to get the very highest score. I would naturally aspire to best-of-the-rest; silver, but my record in competitive sports has always been to disappoint myself to some extent, so at best I think I would achieve bronze. A little disappointing, but I gave my all for Team GB, did my best and left it all out there on the fields of play. That was all I could ask of myself.

On reflection, I think Janie would make an excellent Thoroughly Post-Modern Millie – see photo above – even more than Shirley MacLaine.

And with subjective hindsight, perhaps I should have a fifth event in my post-modern pentathlon after all; marathon ogblogging.

Nicaragua, Eco Logical? – An Aside, 16 February 2016

Before continuing the tale of our travels, a brief aside on eco lodges and our experiences.

We’ve now stayed in two this holiday, Jicaro and Morgan’s Rock. We’ve stayed in a few over the years, though none recently until this holiday.

We’ve always been a bit cynical and sceptical about eco-tourism. After all; there’s nothing very eco-friendly about tourism and something a bit cheesy about hectoring notices in hotels imploring the traveller to help save the planet by accepting fewer bedding and towel changes. as much as anything else, such requests seem to us to do more for hotel’s profits than for the planet.

Indeed, our previous experience of eco lodges; often with a do-goody vibe and everyone eat around the table together like scouts, had for years put us off the idea of staying anywhere boasting that term.

The term “barefoot luxury” is a  similar turn off for us; too often an excuse for ludicrously high prices and ludicrously little to show for the money – more like barefaced larceny. But I digress.

The two Nicaraguan eco lodges we tried, Jicaro and Morgan’s Rock, were both way ahead of our eco lodge experiences of the past. Both have been designed to have a minimally invasive impact on their natural environments and maximum positive impact on local communities, all of which we applaud. In particular, Jicaro struck the right notes for us in almost every respect.

The Morgan’s Rock blurb was a little more old-school eco-preachy. Are you really setting standards of pre-emminence in eco-tourism by feeding all the hotel’s food waste to the animals on your massive hacienda? I seem to recall staying on a farm when I was a nipper (before ecology had even been invented) and learning that such behaviour is simply what all sensible farmers do.

Morgan’s Rock does get one huge tick in the box from me for its superb-sounding extensive programme of slow-growth hardwood forest farming and stewardship. This is very hard to achieve both sustainably and commercially, yet the owners seem to be finding a way, which is laudable and I hope replicable elsewhere.

Both properties fall down in my view on their approach to drinking water. The idea is to avoid lots of plastic bottles – good idea. The Jicaro approach was to invest in a treatment works for the local water and to assure visitors it is safe to drink. It probably was “safe” in a clinical sense, but it tasted funny and my tummy was not quite right during our stay there. I drink a lot of water and it reminded me of the way my tummy used to be in the old “water purification tablets” days of my travelling youth.

The Morgan’s Rock blurb suggseted that their drinking water approach was the same as that at Jicaro, but when I asked about it soon after arrival (I really didn’t fancy another icky three days) was assured that the water in the room was actually Fuente Pura mineral water poured into large serving flagons from giant bottles. I’m not sure how much better that approach is than smaller bottles, especially as, presumably, large quantities of that water are wasted when the flagons are emptied. Either that or unsealed mineral water is sitting around in flagons for an unhealthy period of time before being topped up and drunk.

I realise that all of these hygiene, comfort, convenience and ecology issues make it difficult to get the balance right, but I’m not sure about either approach we encountered this time.

But the big thumbs down award for ecological correctness gone mad goes to Morgan’s Rock, for the following sign placed beside the toilet:

image

In case you cannot read it, the sign asks the user of the tolet to place their used toilet paper in the bin rather than in the toilet, as the water is treated for reuse. We find it hard to imagine a much more unhygenic suggestion. Perhaps “share intravenous drug needles to reduce depletion of earth metals and thus help save the planet?”

Daisy and I went into civil disobedience mode immediately at the toilet paper suggestion and did what we considered to be the right thing. (No we did not smear anything on the walls. We simply flushed our used toliet paper.)

When I raised the delicate toilet paper matter on departure, the front desk manager nodded sagely, assured me that a bit of paper down the toilet would not mess up their treatment works and confessed that many of the staff don’t like those signs as so many guests remark about them adversely. You don’t say?

 

Ireland With Dumbo – 7 May to 19 May 2015 – Post Script

You are welcome to read about this trip to Ireland in reverse order, blog-stylee, but you might prefer to start with this preamble and work forwards.

Photographs from the whole of our trip to Ireland are gathered in an album on Flickr, click here.

 

 

Ireland With Dumbo – 7 May to 19 May 2015 – Preamble

With my mother’s condition worsening over the autumn of 2014, we made no plans for a holiday proper but did plan at least to go walking in Ireland.  After mum’s passing in early 2015, we briefly considered more ambitious plans but then thought better of it; I/we had been through enough and had lots still to sort out.  The plan to walk in Ireland come springtime was still a sensible one.

Glossary for less-informed readers: Ged and Daisy are long-standing nicknames for me and Janie.  Dumbo is my little Suzuki Jimny.  He joined the family in September 2014; this trip to Ireland was his first serious journey with us.

IMG_0159

Dumbo even embarked on his own writing career on this Ireland trip, guest writing for King Cricket, click here.

Photographs from the whole of our trip to Ireland are gathered in an album on Flickr, click here.

Malawi, 27 September to 15 October 2013, placeholder/links

We had a wonderful trip to Malawi in the early autumn of 2013.

Just outside Balaka we see Chewa Gulu Wamkulu folk on their way to a funeral
Just outside Balaka we see Chewa Gulu Wamkulu folk on their way to a funeral

As usual, we took loads of pictures and my log runs to 28 pages of notes.

The best of the pictures, about 250 of them, are gathered into two Flickr albums:

In the fullness of time I shall turn the notes into legible, structured blog stories and postings.

Meanwhile, if anyone is really so interested they want to try and decipher my scrawl and then work out what I might really be trying to say, here are scans of the hand-written logs; Part One covers the period of the first photo album, Part Two…:

Malawi Write Up Part One of Two pp1-15 at 200dpib&w

Malawi Write Up Part Two of Two pp15-28 at 200dpib&w

…or perhaps a more legible source; the itinerary from our agent, Ultimate Travel, which describes the planned trip, rather than the actuality of it:

Harris and Wormleighton – Malawi Final Itinerary

I did review also the places we stayed on Trip Advisor:

Malawi FactsHuntington To Tea TastingHuntington Walk RouteLikoma Island Map

Long To Rain Over Us – Heavy Rollers Edgbaston Trip 2012 – Nigel Hinks’s Take, 6 to 8 June 2012

Nigel in full flow
Nigel in full flow, the following season, at Chester-le- Street

I am very grateful to Nigel for this wonderful, redolent submission in response to my piece, Long To Rain Over Us, about our most heavily rain-affected Edgbaston trip of all.

“The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened’ by Don Robertson is an evocative journey back to the early 1950s. Readers are introduced to a teenage Morris Bird III, considered by some to be one of the most endearing characters in contemporary American literature.

Our Edgbaston trip in 2012 was so lacking in memory that it is now, well, not memorable. Very little that was meant to take place actually did so.

It was as if we had been enticed to this sodden part of the UK to be teased with the promise of things that almost happened. Morris Bird may well have speculated?

Perhaps we were being tested on our resolve as real Heavy Rollers. Could we cut it when things were bad?

I recall my solitary mission to the nearby cricket ground in advance of the others. They were perhaps still somewhere on the M6 arguing about the relative merits of Delta and Detroit Blues genres, while a dozing Nick yearned for some early Metallica.

Knowing Charles’ detailed preparations before any pre match knockabout, the ‘cricket kit’ would have been checked (several times before being unpacked and repacked) in readiness for our long-awaited net. This was scheduled to take place at Harborne CC. To grace this attractive little ground, in leafy suburban Birmingham, was to be a privilege indeed. All a direct consequence of some emotional story- telling from Charles to some unaware individual who was to forever regret their selfless move to the ‘phone with, “I’ll get it”. Charles had become a master of spin. This had little to do with his ability to pick a ‘Doosra’.  Detailed and distressing tales would be discharged to whomever got the job of dealing with random emotive requests, mostly for tickets. Much was at stake this time. A chance to display limited abilities for a donation. It would be a wonderful prelude to the main course.

The scene, however, was a precursor to the forthcoming event. The said ground was deserted. The outfield resembled a small lake. If anything had been planned for this evening it had long been called off. Phone calls from office to office relaying the unhappy, but inevitable, news. I couldn’t avoid observing that the early season volunteers, allocated to small working groups tendering the ground, had failed miserably to:

  1. Clean around the area you want to repair with a wire brush to remove loose paint or rust.
  2. Use an old screwdriver to dig out any old jointing material.
  3. Put the nozzle of the sealant gun into the joint, and run a bead of roof and gutter sealant around the pipe.

One side of the pavilion’s guttering resembled a waterfall. Safe to say the kit wouldn’t be making an appearance this year.

I returned to Harborne Hall with heavy heart, but gratified by the familiarity of our accommodation, and its proximity to some decent restaurants on Harborne High Street for later. High quality Chinese food surely? At least we would be reunited and sustained by our past recollections of basic, but friendly, home-from-home accommodation. It was soon to be revealed that this just was a futile memory, unless your home was a Category C prison.

The corridors still echoed with the long past anticipation and apprehension of eager volunteers, about to make their way to various VSO outposts around the world. The evocative black and white photographs of some wiry young men with mullets, and women in cheesecloth skirts, dancing self-consciously with grateful African children, or in makeshift classrooms, adorned the stairways to our rooms. Such warm recollections were soon to be illusions, as the march of commercialism that had begun to engulf this little haven took shape. It was becoming transformed into something neither here, nor anywhere really. VSO were still present somehow, but surrounded by an impression of a low budget boarding house with an identity crisis.

The futile negotiations over extra breakfast toast rather summed up the whole affair. Jokes about when parole became due and “are you in Block H?” were tinged with reality. As Ian has described, we didn’t see any cricket either. Given that was the whole purpose it could be argued things were not going too well.

I recall walking back from the equally uninviting and playless Edgbaston in time for a planned tour of the local graveyard. This was advertised on a display outside the adjacent church amidst notices, it transpired, unchanged for many a decade. I should have twigged on reading the one with rusty drawing pins, congratulating the Mother’s Union for raising £7 19s 11d for Church upkeep. My children have often reiterated their displeasure when on holiday, mostly in France, when I would enthusiastically jump from the car and excitedly head off (alone) towards a remote cemetery or graveyard. This would make up a little for earlier non-events.

Wet through from my walk back, I just made the appointed time only to be met with a resounding silence, where I imagined the throng would now be congregating.

Just me then. The church was securely locked and, without a guide, any chance of an educational tour of the graves was out of the question. So, given I was staying one further night, I returned to the honesty bar at Harborne Hall before lock down and lights out. I left rather early the next morning, not stopping for toast.

This was to be the final ‘non-event’ of the 2012 gathering, so dominated by things that almost happened….