On Roasted Bones, Hen Parties, and Gravy Wrestling

Welcome back to the 2012 UK Tour! Let’s get caught up. Shall we?

Two days after my last installment, we boarded the train at London’s Liverpool Street Station and headed 100 miles east to the village of Easton in Suffolk to play the Maverick Festival. The festival features the best in Americana and Roots music “from both sides of the Atlantic.” Ned was featured as a solo artist on Saturday afternoon and was enthusiastically received by the crowd gathered in the Moonshine Barn. After the demanded encore, we had time to walk the festival grounds and, among other sights, were as fascinated by Brits wearing country western styled clothing as they are with country music from across the pond. A special treat was brushing shoulders with master song writer and guitarist Alejandro Escovedo in the artists tent. The problem was I had no idea who Alejandro was until so informed by Ned during the taxi ride back to the train station.

Ned and the shootin' guy at the Maverick Festival

Upon arrival back in London, we were able to catch the last minutes of the laser light show emanating from the Shard, London’s newest skyscraper and Europe’s tallest at just over 1,000 feet. For readers familiar with the Lord of the Rings, the Shard’s resemblance to the Tower of Mordor has not been overlooked by Londoners.

The Shard... Or is it the Tower of Mordor?

On July 3, we celebrated Sandra’s birthday at St. John Bread and Wine. St. John’s is noted as specializing in “nose to tail” dining. Our experience was no exception in which Ned and I both enjoyed roasted bone marrow and rabbit saddle (a.k.a. the back) while Sandra dined on sea creatures. Now here’s the thing about roasted bone marrow: It’s a rich, gelatinous substance that’s spread on toast and topped with fresh parsley and onion. The marrow itself is somewhat tasteless but is clearly a gateway food to roasted brain and other animal parts. After dinner, we stopped by the Craft Beer Company Pub where, among our samplings, we tried the 17.5% alcoholic fluid that can only be described as the port of beers with a coffee overtone. This beer is best avoided.

Ummm... Gelatious Bone Marrow! Scoop it out and spread it!

Late last week we embarked on a run of gigs commencing with an evening at Jagz Café at Ascot located near the famous horse track. The following day we headed northwest to play the Festival of Firsts in Wirral (near Liverpool). For this trip Sandra drove us in a rented car on the M1, M5 and M6. The 230 miles took SEVEN hours to negotiate. Imagine seven hours of rush hour traffic in the rain. That was the drive… Bravo Sandra! We arrived just in time to set up and play our duo set at the Hoylake Chapel. A great crowd and great acoustics made the evening memorable. Saturday afternoon started with Ned performing a solo set at the Vanilla Lounge after which we took in an entertaining performance of the Wirral Ukulele Orchestra. That evening we had the headliner slot at Jack Rabbit Slims and proceeded through our set with Malcolm joining Ned and I despite the, shall we say “challenged,” sound system.

The Wirral Ukulele Orchestra in Action

Packed up and in the car, we drive the hour to Burnley for a rest at the Keirby Park Hotel. On the "dive" scale where 1=total dive and 10=just below a room at a Comfort Inn, the Keirby rates a 4 due to there being no toilet paper, no TV, no phone, and no soap. The rooms DO have a sign advising that the water is not suitable for drinking... we thought that was a nice touch. Oh well, it’s a place to sleep. BUT NOT, not until the hen party has passed by on the street below.  A hen party you ask? Well it’s a bachelorette party. In this case, literally hundreds of young women pass by on the sidewalk five floors below for an hour. I have been known to exaggerate; this is not such an occasion.  A Nyquil capsule is administered to encourage sleep on the surface masquerading as a mattress.

The Hen Party in the Street Below

Having survived the hotel and hen party, we make the short drive to small town of Bacup, Lancashire. We’ve played the football club in Bacup in the past and Ned has a loyal following. Unlike past visits, we have hours to spare before we play so we stop at the Rose-n-Bowl pub. Unassuming from the outside, the Rose is bustling with activity inside and out back where there’s a lawn bowling green in use by multiple teams. It was fun to watch. However, what would have been more fun to watch had our timing been better is the annual gravy wrestling contest. Our waitress was kind enough to bring us photos of this sloppy event.

Ummm... Gravy Wrestling!

The gig at the football club went over really well with an attentive audience and was a fine cap on our weekend outing. With Malcolm at the wheel and little traffic at night, we arrive London at 4:00 a.m. Luckily, there are no hen parties taking place outside Sandra’s flat.

Late at Night on the M1
More to come! Cheers! ~ Todd

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