It’s not that I dislike one day events. The drama of the concentrated celebration always makes for memorable afternoons in the British summer. Some of my favourite gigs are one day wonders. There was a time when I’d do two single day events of a weekend and not even catch my breath. But time is taking its toll on my poor old frame and the knees particularly are complaining about all that work, travelling, setting up and striking. Not to mention the shows which of course are still and have to be a concentrated burst of energy. So it’s time now not to take more than a single one day booking of a weekend.
A catch up then since last time I wrote. Hollowell Steam Rally was its usual self. Yet another new location on the field this year as always swapped about by organiser Allen Eaton and this year finding myself next to my colleague and co-performer Greg Chapman who I meet up with a couple of times a year. It meant we could alternate shows and I could have a bit of a break while he did his escapology and juggling shows. It is always a gentle lead up to and get out of the Rally as I try to arrive with a day or so to set up and I’m always invited to the helpers’ meal in the beer tent after everyone has gone on the Sunday night. I feel a really strong part of the event and it is a traditional feature of my year. I’m pretty sure I’ve been going to it annually for thirty years. How times have changed and not at the same time. It wasn’t a memorable Hollowell but you have to have the background so the foreground detail stands out.
Then the following week the two one days at Witney followed by a new venue; Southwell Racecourse in Nottinghamshire. Witney Carnival always means a catch up with Pedro, alias Pete Dodd of Pedro’s Travelling Show. He does a flamboyant circus workshop and lives in his lorry too. The only other person I know who does. Every winter he drives through France and Spain and busks in Faroe on the Algarve. I envy him his freedom to do that. Anyway we spend a night over a meal catching up on some of our news and then say goodbye for another year. Maybe next year if I stick to my vow not to perform twice in two venues I can spend some more time with him. We have a great deal in common.
However this year I had to hurry a pack down and hit the road by 7.30pm. Three hours drive from Oxfordshire and arrive alongside a deserted racecourse in Nottinghamshire for a quick bit of shuteye before a 6.00am set up and shows all day. The manager of Southwell Racecourse was a lovely man and the Family Race Day event had his stamp on it. A real family occasion. Totally unlike Family Race Day at Chester Racecourse which I used to do where it was an excuse for people to get drunk and behave outrageously. At Southwell everyone was polite and looked as if they were having a good 1950s style day out with their families. My friend Colin arrived from Sheffield and it was lovely to have his moral and real help taking everything down as I was by then too tired to think straight. He earned his Level One Bunting Engineer qualification. I had to get back to Chester for two final days of Cat’s Paw. Hence by Tuesday I was like a piece of chewed string and an injured knee giving me some considerable pain.
If you detect a note of the blues then you’d be right. Perhaps it’s just the obvious fact that something has to change. I am 67 this year and still doing a young man’s show. I’m asking for trouble really so it has to change before trouble changes me. Currently I am contemplating a year off. How on earth I could afford it with all my financial demands I’ve no idea but I do think I need to regroup, rethink and realise my limitations. I’ve never been very good at that. Your advice as always will be welcome. I have quite few readers who also write to me and I welcome any constructive comments. I feel some of the joy has gone from what I do. It doesn’t show in the shows. Not yet anyway. But it has to change before it does. Pedro just does the gigs he loves doing, but I can’t afford to do that.
What with the madness of Brexit, the change of political leadership and some other major demands in my life, the winds of change are blowing not just through our pathetic excuse for a British summer. It’s so cold this morning I’ve had to light a fire. It’s July.
All the best from a strange road near you,