Monday, 26 June 2017

Wuff Justice.

             En route with John Kearney to Brandon last night for a Sly Old Dogs and Friends Session, I peered at my watch. It had reverted to the year 2005 and showed the time as midday. A portent, perhaps. Maybe we should have turned back then.
          Last month the place was packed.(A Bank Holiday?). Cheese batches had been flowing off the counters then, like the River Avon still slurped lazily  beneath nearby Bretford Bridge. Last night John and I were there first,to find a virtually deserted building. We amused ourselves by setting the chairs out.
         It was a depleted Sly Old Dogs crew, with one or two notable absentees. Only Bob Brooker, Richard Ryder,John McIntosh,Pete Willow, Nigel Ward and Colin Squire were mustered  They all seemed pretty knackered on arrival, having already played at Monks Kirby that afternoon. We  thought at first they might just lie panting on the floor with their tongues hanging out. But a few bowls of Bass revived them.  
       It was  a depleted audience, too. And several other regular performers were missing. This just left the stalwarts to entertain. This had an advantage though as, we got to hear Liz Ryder. And Rob Halligan. We also got to hear Dave Sampson. I'm still mulling over the advantages, if any, of that one. 
          All went well for me personally, as I went for the safety of "Peggy Gordon" for my first number. I introduced it with a witty rejoinder about the mess I'd made of "Lakes of Ponchartain " in that same hall last month. I pointed out that I was taking no risks this time. I had my pitch pipes,I had an accompanying musician, I had the words on an adjacent table.  (Not needed but a useful crutch to lean on). I remarked on how Dave Grohl had furiously chewed gum throughout the Foo Fighters televised Glastonbury set on Saturday. Snickering childishly I then held aloft my Halls Extra Strong Mentolyptus mints-conjecturing whether I should suck on one as I sang. A visual gag which would later come back to haunt me. 
      I remembered all the words, pretty well in the right order. Having warmed up comprehensively beforehand, my voice did not go awol and I stayed pretty well in the same register. (Roughly in the key of Geoff). The band caught up with me eventually(bless them)  and I sat down to what I thought was generous applause. 
        Second half, flushed with success (and a pint of Bass) ,my second song came round rather more suddenly than I had anticipated. As I rose to my feet to introduce "Di Di The Ice Cream Man," a large and hitherto silent Chocolate Labrador, previously supine (that means asleep) leapt to all four feet and began barking. This was a new experience for me as I have often been heckled by humans, but never before by a dog. I usually get on well with dogs. But this was a real bitch. There was obviously a bone of contention. This animal was barking up the wrong tree. 
       " It's your shirt mate," the embarrassed owner apologetically explained. As my hilarious introduction continued to be interrupted by barking even more furious than Dave Grohl's,  I took the offending garment off. To gasps and a sprinkling of applause. A bit like The Full Monty for Senior Citizens. Eye Candy for the over-Nineties.  Luckily, I had a t-shirt on underneath. This seemed to placate the dog. (Good job it hadn't taken umbrage at my trousers). 
      However, flustered by this unexpected canine accompaniment,I had forgotten, before singing the actual song, to remove the  Halls Extra Strong Mentolyptus mint I had been carelessly sucking on beforehand. I launched confidently into the chorus, then began the first verse. As the Milkman's cart hove into view however, I drew in a fresh breath and the dissolving mint lodged in my windpipe. Seizing me up immediately. The audience roared appreciatively as I struggled for breath. This was a third visual gag and it was much appreciated. 
         John Kearney was damn near crying by this time. He was not alone. I was completely halted in my tracks.The bottles stayed on the cart. The horse remained unflatulent. ( Spell check really did not like that word!). I grabbed a gulp of Bass and looked round imploringly for anyone who might be proficient in the Heimlich manoeuvre. Deciding that there was no-one in the room I wanted to encircle me with their rugged arms,I took the lead, and struggled doggedly on. Coughing, between lines. I had been terrierified but few seemed to cur. 
        After this fiasco, John wisely chose to do his Bob Marley/Dubliners segue "Dont Worry." This calmed everything down a little and got everyone singing. It gave the audience some recovery time. Eventually the sweet dissolved. During the next interval, a pint of Butty Bach helped soothe those chafed vocal chords.
        Was this the only incident of mirth? Not quite. Earlier, and during a  hauntingly beautiful ballad from Colin Squire,John Kearney suddenly woke up, kicked his guitar stand and his beloved Martin crashed noisily, like a thing possessed, onto the dance floor. Doughty old stager Colin barely registered,recovered and continued. John gave Martin first aid, (JK fans will be thrilled to hear that no permanent damage to either of them was incurred). 
         The dog continued to glare at anyone who dared to go past it to the bar or to the toilets. Richard "should have gone to Specsavers" Ryder,exposed and centre stage, searched pitifully for a missing plectrum before Liz, (who must have excellent eyesight), left her place in the audience, retrieved it from beneath his chair and put it in his hand. A touching moment.
         John McIntosh had recently been to Greece, apparently. ( A good job he didn't mentioned it). His secondary career as a stand up comedian continued to wane as he told a series of unfathomable jokes,to the background of loudly drifting Tumbleweed. Some people laughed politely,but I, traumatised as I was by my near death experience, understood little of the build up or the punch lines. With their recurring images of willies, gonads and Thai girls,it is a world I know nothing of. Still,in fairness, he plays a mean bass line. So we'll let him off. Over France somewhere, from about 37,000 feet. 
         Rob Halligan, Cheryl, Liz Ryder,Jackie and JK raised the standards with some accomplished playing and singing. Liz with "Somewhere Along The Road" and Rob with two of his own compositions.  Awakening from their travel lag (its a good five miles from Monks Kirby to Brandon),The Sly Old Dogs got into their stride and gave us some rousing performances. We even had "The Bonny Black Hare" from Nigel Ward-a song I have done myself many times,solo and with Black Parrot Seaside. Excellent.
            More classic comedy came, from The Wurzel Bush of Dave Sampson. Some of which he intended. A song about dropping manure from a Sopwith Camel onto someone having a barbecue. In Bridgewater, I think. (Knowing that town as I do, that must have made it smell a whole lot better). And a second classic about all the things he'd like to do to those who have annoyed him. (It's a long list). Ventriloquists,dogs,publicans and the constabulary featured in the introduction. Those of you who know Dave can fill in the gaps. 
             With time (and most of the audience) running out, this left John Kearney and I to double up on a song which has come from nowhere to become part of Nunc's Set List. "Knocking On Heaven's door" by the Nobel Prizewinner himself. Now I know where Dylan's growly voice really came from. Must have swallowed a Spangle somewhere in the middle of " Maggie's Farm?" 
              The Dogs ( Choclab excepted) led us in a final, communal howl of "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? " Well indeed. Then we all climbed into our Range Rovers and Maseratis to drive home. To Barking, Kennelworth and The Isle of Dogs no doubt. 

Next time there, I'm singing "Bonio Romeo." (It's a real song). One of mine. Not by Les Barker.