A night in the doghouse

Having previously noted that my attempts to post in a more original (or at least unusual or unexpected) way on Facebook were diverting some of my creative energies away from the blog and into more live, if shorter-form content, there has come a cri de coeur from those readers (OK, reader) who miss regular hits of GofaDM.  Truly, there is no accounting for taste and we can only lament the under-funding of mental health services in modern Britain.  However, I do not have a heart of stone – though recent news on pumping molten tin suggests a one of ceramic might be a possibility in the future – and I cannot deny my public!  There is in fact a small queue of blog posts awaiting my attention, though for now they must be considered as existing deep in the Argand plane.  These should emerge, blinking and still bearing traces of caul, into the world in the next week or two.  However, this post has jumped the queue and driven by the juxtaposition of events from the weekend and last night (though, in the interests of transparency, I should make clear that these events are not fully independent).

The preamble now safely over, we can start on the walk proper (and textual).  The title does not refer to the author having sunk into some form of disgrace – or at least no more than usual.  The Doghouse in question is the back(?) room of the Guide Dog pub – which I think is (or is very nearly) the nearest pub to my home as the corvid travels.  These is something rather glorious about this room, especially on these dark, dreich evenings when our most proximate pole has turned its face from the sun.  The warmth of its orange walls and the intimacy of the space just seem to be an open invitation to conviviality and community.  The former is certainly aided by the quality and range of ales, both well-chosen and well-kept, on offer from the pub.  Last night I found myself partaking of several servings of Wallops Wood from Bowman Ales (based in nearby Droxford).

My visit last night was to enjoy the monthly festival of music-making which, slightly prosaically, goes under the banner of the Doghouse Acoustic Sessions.  On these occasions the room fills (and overflows) with musicians and their instruments.  This does present a degree of physical risk to the observer: I could easily have taken a bow to the eye (in a low cost, close-range, re-enactment of a pivotal scene from the Battle of Hastings) or as the image below might suggest, a cellist’s elbow to my very vitals!

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Cello peril!

I have the fear that cellists, like swans, seek to redress some past wrong by shattering any human limb that comes within range with one blow from their mighty wings!  Still enough of my bravery in the face of terrible peril, we should return to the music…

I would say, in my state of genre ignorance, that most of the music would fit broadly under the umbrella of folk though with excursions into gypsy jazz and even a glorious rendition of Summertime.  However, my personal highlights were a song in Welsh – following, I like to think, in the footsteps of Taliesin – and a small clutch of songs from the Iberian peninsular.  These also led to the making of the two resolutions during the course of the evening (while any fool can attempt to be resolute at the turn of the year, it takes a real maverick to do it on the fourth Monday in October) – of which more is to come…

Ooh!  Look at me using images to create some dramatic tension in a narrative.  The SO: To Speak Festival has not striven in vain!

Having a Catalan friend on Facebook, some of my posts are read and (apparently) enjoyed by those for whom English is not their mother tongue.  In a fit of hubris last night, I decided to attempt to make a post in Spanish (my knowledge of Catalan was way too limited for even my overweening arrogance).  This attempt made it all too obvious the parlous state to which my ability in Spanish has descended.  After listening to the Spanish songs I found myself, like Viktor Frankenstein, igor [sic] to raise the cadaver of my Spanish language skills from their marble slab of neglect.  The monster may turn on its creator, but the attempt must be made.  The first step will be to read ¿Qué me quieres, amor? a collection of short stories by Manuel Rivas which I already own in Spanish (not, as I have just discovered their original language, but learning Gallego will have to wait).  Well, I didn’t really have enough hobbies to fill my time…

Talking of hobbies, yesterday was my second Doghouse Acoustic Session.  On both occasions I feel a mild sense shame that I don’t contribute to the musical forces present (though, everyone should be grateful that I hold back).  The piano is never going to be an option – it is not that portable – and I think guitar-based participation is still some way off.  So, over the weekend I fished my descant recorder from a drawer to see if my childhood skills would return.  In fact, the instrument was actually acquired in the mid 90s and taken to the Greek island of Lesbos.  I cycled into the wilderness – away from all human ears – and at that time discovered that any historic abaility had been lost.  As with so much in the 90s, the project was shelved for a couple of decades.

Over the weekend, I raced through School Recorder Book 1 (the same instructional guide I used with Mrs Spicer – no relation – in the mid 1970s) which, frankly, has a very dull selection of tunes with which to improve one’s playing.  This seemed relatively straightforward so on Sunday afternoon, finding Hobgoblin music unexpectedly open, I splashed out on a copy of English Pub Session Tunes (so they made me buy it).  I feel this may provide my entrée to musical society by the time of the next session – and I can even take the recorder away to practice when I cross the Irish Sea!  Watch this space, as the value of property in my vicinty collapses!

Plan B – should the recorder prove too challenging, even for the selection of tunes falling under the title of “Absolute Doddle” – is to try and learn a shanty or two – a song-form which Gilbert and Sullivan have lead me to believe positively embraces the bass voice!  And the doyens of late Victorian light opera wouldn’t lie to me, would they?

Listening, at very close range, to song in the tongue of my ancestors has led me to my seond resolution to go to an Eisteddfod.  It is way past time to more fully embrace my Welsh heritage – and not just the willingness to spend time outside in the rain.  It may be time for a second trip to Llangollen: a town which has very fond memories because my father, sister and I ate chips from the bag in the street (an activity make much more enjoyable by my mother’s disapproval – I don’t ever remember us doing it at any other time!).

I feel that this post, in many ways, returns to the themes of Music in the city with the importance of going out, drinking beer and listening to live music once again front-and-centre.  Despite my remarks about their propensity to violence, I have acquired two cellists as Facebook friends from last night.  One is also high up in light opera, as part of a shadowy organisation which goes by the telescopic moniker of LOpSoc.  This collection of phonemes my brain is unable not to link to the phrase “and two smoking barrels” – which would certainly lead to a grittier take on The Gondoliers than is traditional…  Over to LOpSoc to bring the long-awaited cockney gangster vibe to the standards of the Savoy Opera!

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