2015 - Once Upon A Time In The West
And so it was that The Ashes went West – all the way to the very borders in fact and took up residence at The Hunters Inn, near Tewkesbury, wherein we found a green and pleasant land a little less bleak and windswept than our previous home, and considerably more compact. It was with mixed feelings that we left The Plough as it has been good to us and we were comfortable there but all good things come to an end, and as long as their passing spells the start of something at the very least as good then there is no reason why they should not.
We took to the new venue immediately. Yes it is smaller in terms of the marquee and the camping field, but at the same time it is all a lot closer together and we fitted onto the space perfectly. Rolling on to the field late on the Thursday afternoon we were welcomed by a fair smattering of campers already setting up. The sun was shining. The enormous blue HQ tent went up without any hiccups and by the time the twilight fell – unleashing an astonishing quantity of bats – a designated cricket field had been cordoned off, more arrivals were arriving and unfolding, and divers children had settled in for the weekend-long session on the trampoline, which was to keep them occupied come wind, weather, and the black of night.
Enter Friday morning, and a beautiful day saw all manner of exciting things begin to unfold. Firstly the traditional fire lane, which was a matter of some import considering the shape and size of the campsite. Getting everyone in needed just a little bit of common sense and co-operation, but as no one was befuddled by either cider or glue it all passed off without incident, and even the small intestine at the top of the field filled up as everyone acted with astonishing common sense. Better still, the portable toilets rolled up mid-morning and soon everyone was able to enjoy their chintzy delights. This rather luxurious establishment had been booked on the understanding that it would suffice for some 200 persons from Friday to Tuesday morning without needing a service call. As it turned out the suppliers had clearly not allowed for the capacity of our collective bowels, and it needed seeing to on the Sunday morning, but at this early stage we were simply amazed by the supply of moisturising cream it came with and regarded it with some respect.
Thanks to our various helpers and volunteers who lent a hand with setting up gear in the marquee. The somewhat eccentric electricity supply was overcome and with a minimum of fuss the first evening’s entertainment was up and running as the field continued to fill up and the Ashes kicked off in style with Teq leading the way, and an assortment of poets and acoustic acts right up until Cracktown did their usual thing and sent everyone to bed feeling slightly soiled. Thanks to James Bar Bowen, Michael James Parker and Boy in the Cupboard, who with some flair performed an almost off the cuff set with a borrowed band. I think Ben is actually in them, but everyone else was standing in… A flying start and, and by the time this one had managed to crawl into bed it was as if we had been at the Hunters for years. It already felt like home.
Of note as well this year was the first edition of Tally Ho, The Ashes own newspaper sheet, which was distributed free to one and all and offered a pleasant read to all those choosing to enjoy a longer visit to the ‘facilities’ than might otherwise have been desirable.
This year despite winning the toss, Blyth Power demonstrated that they really didn’t give one by electing to bat first, a sure fire way to throw the match as the second team in usually benefits from a couple of dozen latecomers wanting a go. Highlights of what turned out to be a three hour match, eventually forced to a draw when we ran out of time, were Joseph Porter failing to actually hit the ball this year, Annie batting for both sides, and the usual assortment of stunning catches, flukes, bad luck, bad judgement and bad sportsmanship that is the hall mark of this most inelegant of duels. Best of all was when Silver Fox’s dog shat on the wicket, a stool of such size and consistency that despite its owners best efforts at removing it a traffic cone had to be placed over the spot to warn over-enthusiastic fielders from rolling through its aftermath. The game drew to a hard fought close and was declared a draw by our long-serving and revered umpire. The blackcap barons tossed a coin to settle the score. Blyth won. We could all have saved ourselves a lot of time…
On to the evening session. A gripping childrens’ storytime from our resident deviants preceded performances from Peaky Blinders, The Antipoet and Pog, and The Hunters provided an alfresco dining experience, which seemed to keep everybody happy. Blyth Power took the stage at an unreasonably early hour, so thanks to the fine planning and stage management, which this year once again ensured that everybody got to do a full set and no one fucked about. We like that. Thanks to Mr Mick Tyas who joined us for lead vocals on Paradise Sold. Awesome! We hope he’ll bring his band next year...
I gather there was the usual bonfires and drinking going on all night, and many thanks to our friendly woodsman for the enormous supply of, well, wood. Sadly Sunday dawned wet, and with it the unwelcome news that the toilets were misbehaving. Our janitorial staff had already had an interesting time refilling the water supply for the sinks the previous day, but 7am Sunday greeted our yellow-clad heroes with the news that the Ladies was not flushing. Bugger. Luckily a swift call to the hire company sorted the matter and the contraption was emptied and order restored. Clearly the ‘facilities’ would have benefitted from a booked service call on the Saturday afternoon, and this is something we shall bear in mind next year, assuming we still need to hire them. Which the plan is we won’t.
Wonderful things continued all day with Paul and Wendy Warning, Johnny Campbell, Rachel Pantechnicon, Wob and Doctor Bongo followed by Radio KWG, Project Adorno, Monkish, Verbal Warning and Alcohol Licks, with Anal Beard wrapping up the evening in some style. Richard improved his crowd surfing of last year by maintaining levitation for the entire duration of I Bet You Look Good in the Dole Queue. The rain drizzled throughout. Wet children bounced on the trampoline, and the carpet in the marquee got messier but nobody minded. It was another marvellous day of Ashes warmth and camaraderie and if you weren’t there then tough titticles. You missed out.
Monday is now morphing into an essential experience. Originally starting as an ‘ok we’ll sell your beer for another day if you want us to’ sort of thing to keep the rent down at the previous venue, thanks to the sterling efforts of our Fete committee it is becoming something special. Damp and grey although the day may have been, the day started beautifully with Mr Henry Lawrence, Curly & Co. and Lying Scotsmen, while the soggy trampolining continued and assorted childrens activities wound up. The Fete was set up in record time and what a blinder it was this year! The amazing Blyth Power museum, ‘What’s Inside the Horse’, not to mention the return of Ixion’s Wheel of Misfortune. This year we had a number of bring and buys, a book stall and the astonishing ‘Mystic Sisters’ who confounded and amazed an assortment of rubes and suckers into parting with hard cash by some fiendish means known only to themselves. Brilliant work everybody. This was the third time the Fete has run and it gets better every year. Special thanks as well for the ‘Bust a Brick’ sideshow, where gleeful punters got to shoot stones at an assortment of mobile telephones and break them for real…
The sports activities unfolded with further dishonesty, incompetence, and a lot of rattling and clanking of annoying childrens musical percussive devices. Egg and Spoon, three-legged and sack races saw various people old enough to know better make idiots of themselves, and it will come as no surprise to learn that when it comes to this sort of buffoonery Cracktown excel, and walked away with the sports trophy. They even won the tug of war, no doubt on account of being burlier and more determined – or it may have been that we were pulling uphill. Next year we shall see…