This is a great little festival at a bowling green not far from Birmingham. I think we all have a slight sense of dread anytime we approach that city. It is a big one and traffic, especially on the perpetually under-construction motorway, is invariably snarled and slow. This day though, we were not held up at all on the roads and so we were on-site with lots of time to spare. Gate security directed us to a driveway which led right to the main stage marquee and, in fact, right behind the stage itself. This made for a short carry. Huzzah!

When the gear was in, we discovered that all was prepared for us so set-up was pretty easy. The 220-volt electricity in the UK requires us to make some adjustments and we have done so, but here we thought that we were going to have 110-volt AC power (just like at home) since that is what they were using for the stage lighting. It is remarkable how excited I could get over the availability of 110. Maybe it’s because it feels more like home; maybe it’s because the step-down transformer we use can create circuit breaker problems... whatever the reason, my delight was short-lived as, unfortunately, their 110 plugs had the right voltage but the wrong shape and so were not compatible with ours. No big deal: we used our transformer as usual.

Our tech support guy had a classic car that he apparently drives regularly - not just a ‘Sunday’ car. It was a beautifully maintained, small, slightly pudgy, 1961 Rover (in non-traditional Rover colours, I learned) and he was using it to pull a trailer so clearly, it is not a pampered car. It was parked back of stage right so I spent a bit of my spare time gawking at it. Cool.

Once we were set up we went for dinner and coffee at the club’s pub. We hung around and visited a bit with some folks who were in for the festival and some others who were regular club members attending regular club activities (e.g. lawn bowling). After we had eaten, we were walking around the grounds when a nice couple in the festival hospitality trailer offered us tea. We thought that would be nice and took them up on it. Terry felt like something cold and asked if they had any juices. They said that they did and brought some orange juice. We chatted a bit and after a while realised that... this was not the hospitality trailer. It was the weekend caravan of some fans who had come to camp out at the festival. Oops. We all laughed and they continued to be very generous.

Just outside the hospitality trailer that wasn’t, Wendy caught Robert on video working his way over/under a very small fence. You really had to be there but it was quite hilarious. It was the sort of thing that one might have seen on a 60s television comedy show: Laugh-In, Python, Benny Hill... Robert can be really unfettered and carefree in the way that many artists are. He makes serious use of his art/craft/worktime and he really enjoys his downtime.

It was the middle of a slightly muggy summer’s evening when we were scheduled to mount the stage under the main marquee. Those tents are great at keeping rain out. This is a good thing in the UK, but they also create a feeling akin to working inside a plastic bag, especially when it is warm and humid outside. Our set that evening was well received by a steaming-hot, capacity crowd. A lot of these folks were new to us so there was a fair bit of explaining going on after the show about just why it was that we were splitting up when clearly we had just been discovered.

Next day we left fairly early so that we would have lots of time up in Birdsedge before we had to play at the festival. Making our way across the M42 to the M1, we needed fuel so we pulled into a services and gassed up. I use the term advisedly. Not ‘fuelled’ up, but ‘gassed’ up. Unfortunately, the van takes diesel, not gas (petrol). There was some diesel left in the fuel line so that we got a couple of miles down the road before the van balked at the unfamiliar stuff in the tank.

It was a real “D’OH!!” moment; the van began hesitating and then gave up completely and before we had rolled to a stop, Steve said, “It’s the fuel.” None of us knew enough about what gas would do to a diesel engine to be sure if this was just a problem or whether it was a bona fide disaster. In spite of the looming potential for calamity, Steve who, when under stress, has been known to throw things, did not. He gave himself a bit of a talking-to but then, instead of getting angry, he joined the rest of us in the important business of speculating on the outcome of this faux pas. It was purest speculation since none of us had ever had a diesel vehicle, but Steve recalled that his mom had once put diesel into her car’s gasoline tank; apparently they had a tank of each fuel side-by-side at the farm. His dad took the car and ran it up and down the road at fairly high speeds to work this stuff through and out the other end in billows of smoke. The car came out the other end of the experience none the worse for wear. But this was a mistake in the opposite direction.

We have since discovered that every person we know who has a diesel vehicle has filled the tank with gasoline instead of diesel at least once and, apparently as long as you stop soon, the tank can be drained and all will likely be okay. We did not have this comforting knowledge as we all stood beside the motorway taking pictures of one another and watching the traffic pass – all except Terry who was doing super-extra-hyper-killer Sudokus, as he does.

“Terry, we’re at the gig”... “Let’s see, that’s a 6 so this must be a 5”.

“Terry, we’re home”... “3, 7 and... 9”.

“Terry your pants are on fire”... “and 8! I did it!”

We waited for the RAC which, before too long, recovered us and took us to a nearby garage. We sat in the waiting area of the shop admiring the photos of the many famous people (Sophia Loren, David Beckham, Roger Moore...) who had had cars repaired here. One picture was of Kenneth Williams; I listened to him for years on a Canadian re-broadcast of a BBC programme called Just a Minute. I began to wonder if someone was actually out ‘creating’ business – you know: tacks on the road; sugar in gas tanks; distracting traveling musicians at the pumps so they’d put in the wrong fuel... seems a bit of a stretch but maybe a hare-brained scheme worthy of a Carry On movie (speaking of Kenneth Williams).

The good folks at this service centre, who actually showed no signs of insidious plotting, acted quickly (but carefully) and in a matter of a couple of hours had pumped out the tank and the lines, replaced the gas with enough diesel to get us back to the services. Once there we filled up quickly (but very carefully) with diesel this time, and we were back on our way to Birdedge. We arrived later than planned but still in time for the gig.

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Come on over to Cafe Pyrus on Thursday, January 29. I am playing a show with Shawna Caspi.

I was honoured to play January 8, at "VOICES CARRY". It was a great success. About 300 people turned out to hear several speakers and a lot of music. The event raised about $10,000 for women's shelters in Kitchener, at this alternative to Bill Cosby's show, that same night.

Check out Ritchie-Parrish-Ritchie's debut CD "Trans Atlantic" on the Store page of this site or on RPR's site.

We'll be back... February 7 in Lowville, NY, as well as Bethlehem PA, Williamsburg, and Fall Creek, VA, and Rockville, MD later in the month



See you next year


Songs from Stan Rogers Tribute on the Sounds page.


Up Next...

  • Jan 29
    Cafe Pyrus,  Kitchener
  • Feb 7
    ,  Lowville
  • Feb 13
    Godfrey Daniels,  Bethlehem

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