Tony Penultimate

Sidmouth Folk Festival

Sorry Peeps about not writing anything for a while, but its been a tiring few days with not much time to put pen to paper, finger to macbook pro etc etc, so picking up where I left off on the last blog.....
I had a good nights sleep at our hotel near Snape Maltings and jumped in the car early (9AM) - back across the QE2 bridge to make my way back to Kent to pick up the girls (wife and daughter) and then turned around to drive to Sidmouth via West London. It was a good two hour drive up to London and then a further five hours down to Devon via the M3 and the A303. I hadn't been down the M3 in years and passed this rather nondescript sign which was the exact place where I realised I was in trouble with my food poisoning episode many years ago.
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I reckon I must have driven across seven English counties by the time we got to Sidmouth - very late at night, and we went straight to the hotel, which unfortunately turned out to be one of the worst places I've stayed in 20 years of showbiz travelling. I don't mind eccentric decor etc, but when we opened up the door at 11 o'clock our room was dirty and shabby. Not since the Ukes had stayed unknowingly in a former brothel (a house of the devil) in the early naughties have I ever been in a place where I didnt want to touch anything. This place was run by the Christian Guild (so a house of God) and in the battle between good and evil I'm more of a Hyatt Regency kind of guy - I just want a CLEAN room; but there was no chance of getting anywhere else, as the town was full and we resolved to get the hell out of there as soon as the show was finished.
The next day NOT suitably refreshed we skipped the disgusting breakfast and headed into town to eat. Its been a long time since we last played at the festival (2006?) and I remember we (family and me) stayed in a pub and were kept awake by people partying all night, playing bagpipes/guitars/pennywhistles at 3am etc. After our breakfast we headed for the beach to have a swim (to avoid having a shower back at the sh*thole). The water was warm and weirdly red - the sediment from the red cliffs gives it a peculiar hue and the reflection of the cliffs amplifies this. Me and daughter Poppy swam around a bit untill I vaguely remembered reading this article on the net and we got out
Folk festivals are always good fun with a chilled vibe and with performers from all over the world - here you can let your freak flag fly. I'm not really a folk music aficionado, but the Ukes started their career in folk clubs in Leeds and later at Cecil Sharpe House in London and several of the band, Hester in particular, have grown up in them, so I appreciate the tradition and like the people who go to them. I remember a famous writer (maybe Larry David?) talking about attending an awards show and watching all the famous actors and actresses with their celebrity teeth, going up to get their awards. It was only when the writers started being handed their awards, all ugly, hunched and bent over, did he think "Ah - Those are my people!".
The town is pretty and there were loads of stalls and people busking, we walked around a bit listening to the music.
Buskers
One of the earliest houses in Sidmouth - 1780 it said on the plaque.
This is Rick Thorpe who stopped me on the street and asked me to pose with his ukulele- he makes them out of tin cans so I said I'd flag up his website - they play very well!
What I haven't mentioned so far, is that in Britain - we are in the middle of a heatwave and we all knew it was going to be a hot one, as we headed back to the changing rooms.
A useful coathanger
This guy is steward Robin Tulloch, who I vaguely recognised, I think he goes to a lot of festivals - he told me that his hat is featured on Facebook as 'Robins hat on tour" but I haven't been able to find the page - another cool and crazy cat who made us feel extremely welcome.
The venue, a marquee held 1000 people and we had sold it out - low ceiling, boiling hot day what could possibly go wrong......
In the absence of Will (on holiday) who is always ruining my photos by gurning, Hester gallantly stepped into the breach....
I dont think I've every played a hotter or more humid gig, most of the audience were fanning themselves vigorously - after the first number the sweat was already streaming into my eyes and my shirt was soaked, I wondered if I'd be able to get through it. Since I'd just been away visiting my sister in Switzerland and had a sauna there - I rationalised that this was the same - I was just wearing a tux as well. Even Jonty, the ultimate professional, reckoned that it was hotter than the recent gig that the Ukes had played in China
In the second half someone produced towels which we took on like boxers ready to wipe ourselves down after each song.
This guy (John) took good care of us backstage - he told me his name is John Shorter which made me laugh and ask for a picture - he handed round beers at the end of the show and Poppy and I went straight down to the sea to plunge in. Since we'd had such a good day, we decided that it would be madness to drive back home and so we girded our loins for one more night in the terrible hotel. We were up at 6am the next morning and in the car heading home.
On the way home we passed Stonehenge, which you can see clearly from the road. Maybe I've been on the road too long, but for someone as alert to portents and omens as me - I couldn't help but think of this famous scene from Spinal Tap.
 

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