The Trip Out
Our day started with an email that said;
Cancellation - BA0294 ORD to LHR on 24 Jan 2019
I didn’t say a word to Lizzie until I could get the email open. Panic was about to set in. The phone was fumbled with. It was ok, we were booked on a later flight. Maybe they should lead with “Your flight has been re-booked” rather than CANCELLATION !!!
We got to DSM, the flight left on time. We had plenty of time to change terminals, get food … and wait … and wait. And then panic set in again. I didn’t have my wallet. Oh, that worked out as well, I had left it at the security checkpoint, and they gave it back to me.
The flight over was pleasant, mostly. I don’t fit into airplane seats well, so I would get up and stand occasionally, which led to a couple of the Flight Attendants getting me into story mode. Yeah, cute young Brummie women going all “that’s so romantic” over the story of Lizzie and I. So I had a good flight.
We landed at Heathrow, getting through customs was simple (theme of the trip) and we took the Tube in.
Through London and the hotel, eventually …
I have to admit to getting a bit teary the first time we pulled into an underground station, and I saw the Tube graphics going by. I have missed London for more than 4 decades.
There were a couple of transfers, something we got better at through the weekend, and a detour to the wrong Travelodge. We relaxed, had a nice dinner at Nando’s, and were in bed around 8. Now for the real adventure!
Hobgoblin, and no purchases … really …
We got up and had a proper British Breakfast at the restaurant next door. Something we did several times through the weekend. And then it was off to part one of our day. Hobgoblin Music!
I have been mocked mercilessly about this. By cruel people. Cruel I tell you. Accurate, but cruel.
I went in with every intention of not buying a thing. I may have failed at this. To be fair, they did put a really expensive instrument in my hands, a Nordic Mandola. I will own one of those someday. So, realistically, I saved quite a bit of money by not buying that one. And I ended up with a lovely Cittern. So it’s a win.
We wandered into Forbidden Planet … on a Saturday. We wandered right back out, WAY too crowded for my ability to cope at that moment. But, that led to one of my list of things to do. We went down the block a bit and I had sausage and chips! For the first time in decades, proper sausage and chips. It happened twice while I was there, so I am a happy camper. You can’t get proper British sausage in the US.
Taking A Tour
We got back, had some food, and collapsed for a bit. I got ambitious and said we should hop back on the Tube and take a bus tour. Lizzie was against it at first, until she saw where it would go … so off we went. Basically, all the big sights of London in an hour and a half. We weren’t going to have time for all of that otherwise.
But the next day was the really important day for me. Time to revisit some very important things from my past.
The Speakers Corner
Our first day in London in 1974, we went to the Speakers Corner. I was hooked. All sorts of people getting up and talking about all sorts of things. Communists, poets, philosophers, street people, hecklers. I went there every Sunday I was in London. Even the cold and rainy days, I would go see if there was anything going on.
I was this shy, stuttering boy. But, for the first time I was away from the folks who had known me for so long. My reshaping of who I was began in London, and especially at the Speakers Corner. I followed the hecklers around, learned their rhythms, many of which still are part of my delivery. I stole their best jokes, at least one of which I have used in the last few years. The beginning of Eric the performer started there.
There wasn’t much going on, just a couple of speakers, and a few people arguing with them. It was lovely.
And then I got to go home for a few moments. Just glimpses of places that meant so much to me, but it was home. The block of flats I lived in had barely changed. The school I went to had changed a lot. My girlfriends flat had new paint, but looked the same. Lizzie took some video that I will post soon, in which I talk more. We took a bus back south to catch the Tube at Kings Cross, and went back to the hotel. I had walked more than I had in years. And it was wonderful.
The British Museum
We wandered for an hour or so, then I lost Lizzie for an hour or so. I kinda gave out and sat in one of the Egyptian rooms and looked at statues and people watched and she went off on her own adventure. She came back vibrating, the museum is a trifle overwhelming.
Meeting A Poodle
Back when I had my own website, I ran a fan site in it for one of my favorite 70s bands, Fabulous Poodles. I ended up getting pictures and write ups from everyone in the band, and when Facebook came around, I ended up friends with them there. And now I have had the pleasure of buying a beer and having a chat with one of my favorite songwriters, Tony De Meur. They say that you should never meet your heroes, but sometimes it’s pretty darn good.
The Train North
We made our way to Kings Cross Station for the trip north. Lizzie went in search of a certain platform, but there was an hour and a half wait for a photo op, so she opted out. I spent the entire train ride looking out the window, a theme for the week for me. Gorgeous landscapes with the occasional train station. And one major sun farm!
And so we found ourselves locked in a house for several days with crazy people. Crazy people with wonderful cats and an awful lot of instruments. It was glorious. They took us to a Kathy Mattea concert Tuesday evening, and I found that she and I were born in the same hospital, kinda cool.
I had sent a bunch of CDs a few weeks before. They ended up finally arriving at the Whitakers the Wednesday after the con, after much gnashing of teeth. So if you are in England, and you want our CDs, they will quite happily sell you one … or more. And whatever is left will be at the next con.
And we worked on songs. Their songs. Our songs. Everyone in the family can play! I want James and Jared to be in the same place, so they can get out instruments and see what happens. The rehearsals were wonderful. We found really interesting things in each others music.
Travel To The Con
Mike, James and gear traveled in one car, Anne, Lizzie and myself in the other. This meant I was able to spend a couple of hours just chatting with Anne, as Lizzie spent much of the drive dozing. It’s great making new friends.
Con And Mockery
I hadn’t met most of these people, but it was like they knew me. I talked about going to Hobgoblin with no intention of buying anything, and the entire room mocked me for it. All of them. Yeah … these are my people. I am always a bit nervous at any gathering of people, even cons. I felt right at home here.
New Voices, New Songs
There was so much, I can’t possibly comment on everything, so I will just say that I heard amazing music all weekend. So many great voices, so many great songs, such a strong feeling of community. I will say that Chantelle Smith is really one of our best. US Filk Con organizers … BRING HER OVER! She was breathtaking … very nice and funny too.
We played two shows, one just the two of us, the other with the Whitakers. The Cheshire Moon show went so well. The audience was there for us, giving back as much as we gave out. I’m a firm believer that our shows are best when they are a conversation, between us and the audience. This was like hanging with old friends. The show with the Whitakers was chaotic, silly, powerful and a lot of fun. Being behind the PA, I had no real idea of how good it sounded until I got the video. Yeah, we sounded pretty darn good.
We were in the Friday circle for an hour or two, only listened Saturday night and were only up to one song Sunday night. The problem with jet lag and multiple shows. Blind Lemming Chiffon got to be the first person to play my new cittern in front of an audience. As we were packing up our gear and giving hugs Piers Cawley led the room in Dave Webber’s The Parting Song. It left us both in tears, we so did not want to go. Did not want to get to bed, and up at 5:30 and off to our flight. We have to get back to England. I have missed it so much for so long, and this little bit of it has made me miss it even more.
Up Early, And A Day Is Indeed 24 Hours
The trip home was tricky. Jackie was lovely and took us to the coach. The coach trip ended up taking way over an hour more than it should have. The driver dumped us at the wrong terminal. We still made it to our flight, since it left almost three hours late. Food was had, chocolate was bought. I still have one Galaxy bar in my desk.
We came late into Chicago, and still made it to our flight with time to spare. We got to the DSM airport right on time. We got home about 24 hours after we had gotten up in England that morning. Time zones are an interesting thing.
Kitties were snuggled. Luggage was dumped in the living room. Sleep was had. The next day was spent at home.
It’s a week later now, and it almost doesn’t feel real. Like it was a story told, or a dream had. We’re both still recovering. We pushed ourselves so hard, and we managed it.
Thank you to all the Whitakers for being so much fun. It’s always good making new friends. We will be there again, and skritch your kitties, and play your instruments, and swap terrible jokes, and all the rest. Thank you everyone at the con for being so much fun and being so welcoming.
And especially thank you to the Concom for making this amazing trip possible. We will get there again.