The Year of the Shower Block
So with another whole and comparatively busy year behind us, and the promise of astonishing and unheard of luxury to come, your correspondent exuded a cloud of testosterone and climbed aboard the huge white van to head south for another Ashes. This year it was even more manly than usual, and with an enormous compilation CD of miscellaneous Heavy Metal to accompany us there was no room on the road for anyone else, and we made it all the way to Tamworth services before anybody needed a wee…
We’d been trying to hold it in because we were all so excited about the new toilet and shower block, which we had been assured was actually there this year. And so it was! Mixed feelings on the part of Mr Porter, who was accustomed to using it as an excuse to slope off when other more onerous duties required his attention. Several years of lounging round in a yellow vest with a bin bag stuck in his belt pretending to be fixing something have conditioned him to a weekend of idleness so it was to come as a rude shock to find himself redundant. His whole value to the weekend has now been queried and a question mark hangs over his future. What do you think? Should we get rid of the old fool in favour of an automaton of some sort? It might be better at cricket.
But we arrived and pitched camp. There was a mild interface issue between Ashes HQ and the new management, and this was to lead to a hiatus or two over the weekend but having now sat down and discussed fully all the issues that no one had advised them of then we are confident everything will run smoothly and without controversy next year. So hurrah for that.
The campsite has sprouted more hard standing and roads, but we are advised that the cricket field will remain grass. Thursday night saw a fair number of arrivals and come Friday morning we were pleased to find a growing community on hand, all filled with praise for the salubrious showers and toilets, and all fragrant and fresh as a result. There were eager staff on hand to distribute this year’s first edition of Tally Ho! as well and thus far all remained well.
After a balmy day of not worrying about the toilet running out of water the music kicked off at 6pm with the usual galaxy of stars for the predominantly acoustic evening that customarily starts the weekend’s revels. Compered by the illustrious as ever Silver Fox, Will Gosling, Jammie Sammy and Lying Scotsman opened proceedings with panache, followed by Jerry Hellfire, whose introduction by Hugo turned into a ‘Rick Roll’ much to the delight of all those closet 80’s teenies who still cherish memories of their big hair days and secretly wished they’d done Duran Duran as well. Next year girls.
Boy in the Cupboard and Project Adorno kept up the pace and a sticky climax was finally achieved at 11pm when Cracktown appeared wearing a full band complete with drums and all the other stuff you’d expect from a bunch of Judas Priest wannabees who aspire to make as much noise as the big boys. Next year, now there is convenient access to the back of the stage, we expect Fox to enter on a motorbike dressed in spandex flanked by fire juggling ladies and capering dwarves. Tall order we understand but if Cracktown are to top this year’s pyrotechnic display of rockness then the very least we expect are leather trousers.
Thus on to Saturday and the eagerly awaited second edition of Tally Ho! complete with scurrilous cartoon lampooning the artistic struggles of our own Mr Porter. Took a while to motivate the delivery staff away from the trampoline but we have a plan for next year – caltrops. That should make for an entertaining spectacle as well.
Music kicked off with Rosey, Tim Holehouse and Too Many Dragons, followed inexorably by a solo set from Wob, which led into the cricket. Oh dear. That time again…
Actually it was the most nail bitingly gripping game yet, as the umpire had wisely decided to limit each innings to one hour, to avoid the kind of crushing tedium that has occasionally ensued in previous year’s when Cracktown’s extended families and all their six fingered cousins turn up and take a crack in order to keep the churlish ones at the wicket longer. It’s availed them nought in the past but this year, despite some stunning performances from the Blyth team and the usual chicanery and skulduggery from Fox and his henchmen (including some remarkable testicular proximity that saw Mr Boatless fielding at extremely-silly-if-not-downright-ludicrous-mid-off) evil did indeed triumph over the forces of righteousness and the bastards won. It was a close call though, and we lost the treasured fag ends by a matter of half a dozen runs as our last batsperson fought down to the last second. Spiritually, morally, and by all that is right and true we won the match. Unfortunately they got more runs than us, so they took the Ashes. Buggerballs! Next year we will prevail…
Oh and a big hurrah to the streaker, who leaped the wicket and delighted onlookers with his Phil Collins mask. The kind of cameo oddity that makes the whole event the absolute joy it is to be a part of. Next year apparently he is going to write ‘Free George Davis’ in weed killer across the cricket field and engrave it in Silver Foxes back. We can’t wait.
Back on track with the music at 6pm The Lovely Brothers rocked, the Disinclined rolled, Combat Shock and Verbal Warning punked it up thoroughly and Pog, well they did what they always do and brought proceedings to another steaming crescendo in time for your hosts Blyth Power, whose Saturday night set included the line ‘We carried home the Ashes every year’, which many greeted with some irony. Bed time and no toilets to unblock. Hurrah!
Sunday it rained. Mostly a sort of persistent drizzle, and we are grateful to all those who put up with the cold, the damp, and the trench foot and continued to make it another great day out. Special thanks as usual to the choir, who had rehearsed on the Saturday morning and again on this soggy Sunday, and who joined in with a couple of songs on Blyth Power’s opening matinee show. They also did a spirited performance of ‘General Taylor’ with Hugo on drums, Joseph on lead vocal and side drum, and roared lustily throughout. We’re planning next year’s outrage even now. Just think – in another decade we’ll have enough of these off-beat interludes to release an album.
Thereafter the day proceeded with aplomb served by Henry Lawrence, the Eager Beauvoirs, Doctor Bongo, Paul Eccentric – one half of the Antipoet who entertained with some remarkable monologues – and Boatless Maniacs, whose opening broadside stunned and amazed the thrill seeking audience, and whose senior half’s hands still imperceptibly bore the sweaty imprint of Mr Porter’s scrotal sac like some ghastly Turin shroud.
Monkish and Fishwife’s Broadside were followed by Commie Faggots, whose accordion player George had previously delighted an over stressed bar manageress by asking if she had an airing cupboard he could dry his accordion in. Oh to have been a fly on the wall. Anyhow, they rocked and even the usually absent Porter (whose dislike of music in all its forms is widely known) was seen to tap his foot to ‘Theresa May’.
The night spun on to a rollicking climax with Ashes first The Metatrons, who are definitely coming back, Alcohol Licks, who just get better every year, and peaked with the very rude Antipoet, who did what they do best only with extra swearing. Possibly the best Sunday yet in spite of the weather. And everyone was so clean and shiny from the showers…
Finally on to Mr Porter’s favourite day of the year – Ashes Monday. This kicked off with a nail biting round of ‘Just a Minute’, in which Mr Porter got his revenge on Fox by trouncing him thoroughly, leaving him unmanned and stammering like Clavdivs with stage fright and unable to string more than three seconds of cohesive monologue together at any given point. A righteous and well-deserved victory, the more so in light of the shameful way he was wrongfully interrupted last year over that word he wishes he could remember. Anyhow. It was a great start to the day, and anyone not sticking around for Ashes Monday is missing out on more than they can imagine. Thanks to Scoggs for chairing, Emma for timekeeping, and Fiona and Paul for making up the panel. Next year Fox and Porter will do the show naked eating chips but only if someone bids a four figure sum on our impending Kickstarter to see it happen.
Ashes faves Paul & Wendy Warning were up next, followed by Trigger’s Broom and Refuse/All after which the amazing Blyth Power fete took place, with bits of sunshine happening here and there and the dog show taking place on the village green and charity auctions taking place for an assortment of splendid prizes – and some old crap. The dog show was another triumph of weirdness. Highlights were Ketchup wiping the floor with nearly all-comers, and the ‘best pet dressed as an Ashes personality’ which featured a tortoise covered by a curly wig, which had come as ‘the shower tray pubes’…
Oh we won the tug of war, by the way, but by the time the charity auctions and dog show were done attention spans had wandered away from the sports day events so Fox and Porter were spared further exertions and the sack race, egg & spoon, and assorted other indignities will be deferred until next year, when we’ll start them earlier if enough brats are on hand to insist.
Into the final furlong and the night crept on with Radio KWG, Rachel Pantechnicon and Michael James Parker. The Speechpainter did his thing, after which Mick Tyas and Nick Thompson performed a blinder. Mr Porter was getting all dewy-eyed through this, as tonight was the performance of Paradise Razed, most of which was written while touring Germany with the Whiskey Priests, including Mick and Nick, back in the mid 90s.
And so there it was. The Ashes Monday books were passed out, Blyth got up and performed Paradise Razed in its entirety, and that was it for another year. Mr Porter’s happiest memory of the whole weekend is coming out of the lengthy instrumental in Cry Carrion into the following chorus on a wave of guitar notes and nostalgia. It’s good for him to do this stuff once a year. Makes him feel like it has all been worthwhile. Keep humouring him.
So thanks to everyone for all their help and encouragement, for writing, performing, fetching and carrying – that bloody gazebo is well and truly gone cousins! – and for simply turning up and being a part of it. See you there again next year!
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