Monday, July 16, 2012

DSC_2704 [ps] - HauntedHas anyone lost a coat? It's black with a tweed cap in the pocket. We did return the walking stick we stole from a church.

And so the Germans came and have gone again. But they only came for three days and that included doing London in three hours.

And I still haven't finished writing up the German trip, have I? Oh look, up there, no other there, yes, there, oh look, it's a ceiling.

They arrived in the rain. We shunted them into their rooms, despite last minute panics (um, what do you mean you have two wheelchair users? Um, what do you mean you haven't?). They were overjoyed at the bare bricked university accommodation, complete with keys that didn't work, keys that did but which were for the wrong rooms, oh and the boisterous younglings also staying in the same blocks. That and because it was all catered self-catering there weren't any mugs.

I'm not sure these factors influenced each other, but some members of the orchestra complained the next morning about the noise, and some clearly had found ways round the nothing to drink from problem.

Next came a welcome by the mayor before she went to the cricket, a tour of the town and then of a nearby house, where I haven't been since I got a housepoint for writing up the visit on a word processor (as such things used to be called, back in the days before electricity when the Romans and dinosaurs lived). Oddly it was all a lot smaller than I remembered, the Grinling Gibbons bit is still just as dark and woody (and I still like the trompe l'oeil gained from Nonsuch).

Strange to notice other things, missed as a nine-year-old, like the Queen's bed, working to an inverse Hays code (just narrow enough to count as a single, but with scope for sharing).

Then out to the garden, for the German-speaking gardener to twinkle ruggedly (strategic mention of family, blast), and for the Germans to lament their lost box, and to remember the quarter moat (they never built the rest) and the suddenly shrunken mulberry tree.

Then having thanked Mr Inheritance (I remember him as being all charm and diffidence, yet the photographs show his face to be something quite other, but then it's his job to smooth and soothe), I found myself abandoned (good token display of concern when you've already pulled away).

And so we came to later, at a school, were we sang, they played, doughnocupcakes and fish and chips were had and we decided it was [not] going to be disastrous.

Then they went home to get up for their do-London-in-a-morning mission, and we didn't.

And suddenly we're in a church, with the Germans having alcohol withdrawn symptoms (they complained to one of the choir who was a translator, who being Czech, simply said it was these crazy people in this god-forsaken country [some of her earlier translations had, er, edited the content somewhat]; when someone else stepped in to point out that it was a Baptist church and that we'd much rather being selling things with a higher profit margin they realised that it's not the country that's crazy).

A rehearsal later (a fair bit of pretending things didn't happen) and suddenly we're having seconds from the soup dragons (I've never actually used that name to their faces, but the they'd been delegated soup and bread responsibility).

Then the public come, including no one I know because they're all at weddings, stag dos, or Parisian concerts.

Then there's song and the tunes of a dance, but no dancing, unless you count the altos fussing round and creating a wave of instability that nearly sent some of the basses over the edge (may need a bigger a stage).

Then applause, more applause, totally spontaneous encore (we didn't even leave the stage before it), then people fleeing to catch... well, no Tubes round here, or public transport that late, anyway crowds vanish, we clean up, the Germans depart, someone finds one of their walking sticks, and being the most likely to be able to catch a coach meandering through urbanised lanes I get sent off to return it. I fail, despite maintaining visual contact the whole way to the one way system, always about one-and-a-half coach lengths behind.

And so to bed, then up early to herd Germans and their instruments through muddy fields and people. Except some of the group decided that that warnings to wear sensible shoes if not boots were a joke, because they are an orchestra and orchestras play in places that require evening dress, so suede high heels really ought be expected.

We stood. And waited standing. And stood yet further. And perched on the fence. And pestered security guards. And argued amongst ourselves, between languages. And reported the ticket tout. And mocked the organiser. And milled. And gave up waiting for the promised site transport, despite being given the word of the biggest boss in the whole place, because, well, the thing is organised on intimate knowledge and glib reassurance, so coerced some poor volunteer into radioing for permission to drive my mother's car onto the site (well, for my mother to do so, I was giving the vital job of standing in the same place).

Of course having worked it out for ourselves the site transport did turn up. The minibus turns out to be a battered Transit pick-up, which the frailer members of the orchestra decline to clamber into and the frailer instruments seek alternatives too.

Heading into the breached double fence the car whinnies in the mud, then pulls away again, super special never normally used lever having been engaged (it has high and low next to it but I've no idea which one it's normally on). The Transit squeals, with orchestra members huffing and puffing against its sides. They give up, claiming their instruments, as we help, guiding them into the tent (wow, it's got grass left in places).

We warm up and rehearse, largely unable to hear enough of each other thanks to the sound insulation properties of canvas and 20-feet of air being a bit lacking and this being a rock with other bits bunged in festival, oh, and the still shrieking engines outside, the Transit joined by a quadbike trying to tow it out but only creating literal shit-storm around itself. The orchestra really don't like it and break up mid tune several times. The rehearsal starts to blend into the performance, but the audience is basically choir hangers-on who were there from the start of rehearsals, and um, a few more people straggle in and some of them leave again, the tent simply being a route around the site avoiding the worst of the mud.

So we sing and they play, loudly, and slightly disjointedly because, well, we can't really hear, but then presumably neither can the audience.

And then that's it and we're clearing the stage for the cider swiggers lounging round the back. We wander off for lunch, leaving a couple to guard instruments, muscles individually calling in sick when faced with the mud, control and power duelling and dwindling.

We had lunch, the bulk of us each choosing the same Moroccan stall, huddling slightly against the wind, yet hot when the sun fired forth, all locked in haphazard stable positions. We wandered, scaring off the arch-nemeses (there's another choir, a franchise choir, who had the main stage repeatedly throughout the weekend, when we, with an entire orchestra in tow, get the tent that isn't even listed as a venue. And their not even very good but their foundress clearly knows the festival founder [for some values of 'know']. It's just odd that a dull choir—we keep gaining their disillusioned members—can trump one that has a whole sodding orchestra at its disposal), finding little to entertain us, the music too loud or bad or both, the rest too anaemic, and went home early (the only person I wanted to see played the night before when we were performing elsewhere, so technically he played support for us [albeit on a different stage and different day]).

And so to mass producing small fiddly things because my mother thought that was a good idea (what was wrong with flapjack?), which we then took to a borrowed barn thick with scent, cascading garlands of flowers sloughing buckling ribbons of perfume (the Germans were very impressed. I don't think they quite grasped that it was from the wedding the day before).

Then we danced. The Germans were a little hesitant, as were some of the choir, but the aplomb subsumed them all (well, nearly, the curmudgeonly smokers spent the whole evening at a table outside). Apparently dancing folk dances in a barn is a ceilidh not a barn dance because a 'barn dance' suggests line-dancing, rather than interleaving lines dancing.

Then food, Germans amazed that we can run to more than a thousand-and-one potato salads (cue comments that they didn't know British food was so nice. I think we largely managed to not say "well, duh", instead commenting that the different season let us use more fresh vegetables [you know, those things you don't have at all except vampiric asparagus]).

Then presents presented, the only German I saw looking at one of my prints (they all got one, each different) frowned and chucked it to the side while he looked to see whether there was anything good in the bag, the committee, who no longer have committee meetings, get half a dozen bottles of wine to share between, well, a number that isn't 6 (but it's German red, so literally rotwein), and I get a special present to for warping the world (well, for documenting the last trip at my trademark angle) and for replying to an email (but then someone else got given one for using the TfL website).

Then more dancing-eating-drinking-chatting and suddenly it was time for the Germans to be sent away in chaos, despatched in different cars, hoping we've got them all, and then clearing up, happening to have some of the flowers fall into our hands (it's ok, there's a rumour they're getting thrown away tomorrow), and people fuss about left coats, and walking sticks, and CDs, and plates.

And suddenly once more I'm left alone, the others having fled, the lift not yet here, the walk carrying so much being probably impossible, while the man from the big house, the owner, inheritor, thereof, comes over to lock up and my mother reappears and does her best to shout through the man who has given us various things they normally charge many thousands for.

So to bed, and not getting up to wave them off at six.


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