Plough Inn 2011

2011 - The Year We Needed A Fire Lane (Photos to follow. Honest. When I find them.)

This year’s event, well last year’s I suppose, as it’s taken this long to write it up, represented a kind of watershed in Ashes history. For the first time since we originally started throwing a frisbee about in the paddock behind the pub in Ufford, we have been obliged to pay some attention to the dogma of Health & Safety, and to begin considering the implications of getting bigger. Leaving Tallington was a blessing; even without the demented machinations of the grasping landladies we wouldn’t fit there anymore, and passing it on the train now it is impossible to imagine how we ever managed to fit not only a campsite, but a cricket pitch as well within its tiny precincts.
Enter, then, our latest host venue, an establishment larger and better appointed than any we have yet encountered, and one whose location in the vicinity of Peterborough makes it considerably more accessible than others we have tried, although The Goat in Skeyton was a blast, in spite of the water and the location somewhere East of Sudan…
The Plough in Farcet Fen turned out to be an ideal combination of location and facilities, with a campsite big enough to accommodate not only the enormous Blyth Power personal tent, but everyone else as well, and still leave space for a cricket pitch. That it also included a marquee bigger than some campsites we have encountered was a bonus, enabling us to set up the music at one end, and have undercover space at the entrance where it was still possible to talk, drink and, most importantly, colour pictures of fairies over the sound of the distant bands.
Blyth Power arrived on the Thursday afternoon, enabling us to get the enormo tent set up and to settle in ready for a busy day on the Friday. This year’s Ashes were spread over the bank holiday weekend, allowing music to continue late into Sunday night, with most people not needing to dash off and get home for Monday morning. We were aware that there was some risk involved in a potential clash with other events, holidays, and family commitments, but enough people were enthusiastic, and looking at the amount of people still around on the Monday morning after The Goat, it seemed like a good idea. Besides, what could possibly compete with a weekend in the countryside with all your favourite chums from The Ashes back catalogue?
Friday dawned and the cars and trucks began to roll up. We set up the stage, set up the kids’ gazebos (with the assistance as ever of the Flag Detail, as no one can coax a gazebo into being in a high wind like Nigel. Certainly not Mr Porter), and the bands began to play. See elsewhere for the running order as a. it’s been ages and it eludes me, and b. we were off minding the kids, straightening our hair or running around looking for the next band most of the time so missed most of the music. Friday brought other issues of concern for elements of Blyth HQ…
The fire lane! By the time it was dark, the field was filling up back from the line we’d marked off for the cricket pitch, and as is customary with The Ashes, no one had been wandering around with yellow vests and radios telling people what to do. This, as it turned out, was an oversight of some magnitude, as the size and layout of the campsite meant we needed to have left an access lane down the centre of the field to enable emergency vehicles passage the full length of the site. This was made clear to Mr Porter who proceeded, with a zeal that was tasteless to behold, to encourage people to clear a lane, which in some cases involved the moving of tents, trucks, camper vans, yurts, and structures of astonishing complexity. Music kicked off early Friday evening, and by close of play that night there were only a handful of tents needing shifting, and at first light the following morning the demented despot enlisted the aid of diverse children to hound and harry the remaining obstructions to one side, with the result that by an indecent hour of the morning a nice wide swathe ran the length of the campsite, marked out with canes, atop each of which were orange poly strips torn from Sainsburys carrier bags. This was patrolled zealously by the cast of Lord of the Flies, a troupe of belligerent children given permission to slash the tyres and eat the raw flesh of any who dared to park in the official Blyth Power Fire Lane. Thanks kids – same again next year. Look upon our works and tremble…
From late morning on the Saturday the music raged in the enormo tent, in which an atmosphere of profound good will and festivity prevailed throughout. Acts included a great many of the usual suspects, all of whom rocked utterly. The children’s gazebos were by now utterly despoiled, with paint, clay and glitter encrusting them, and packs of under-eights roamed at large playing hide and seek and generally being let off the leash, secure in the knowledge that no one was going to try and sell them heroin.
The cricket did its usual thing, and was an action packed event with the usual drama, injuries, thrilling catches, bumbling nincompoops, and hopeless incompetence, although this year Blyth Power lost, as a result of which the stinking jar of fag ends did not make it back to HQ with us. Hurrah! Or, oh well – you can’t have everything, is what we meant to say. Saturday ended with the usual cake shower, among which it was noted a couple of pieces of Battenberg made an unexpected, not to mention costly, appearance on stage. We can only assume it was by accident. Can we please ask, in future? NO Battenberg.
Sunday dawned, and with the fire lane still intact the despotic Mr Porter led a gang of little savages down to the marquee to sweep up the cake, and with the venue thus prepared, the music started off with Himself filling in for someone who hadn’t turned up with an impromptu solo set of new songs. Thereafter the day’s events unfolded in fine and dramatic style, with a galaxy of stars culminating in another Blyth set… and yet more cake.
So that was it. Monday morning saw a packed campsite slowly emptying itself in a relaxed and unhurried fashion. Mr Porter spent an hour on his knees sweeping up the cake from the stage, something that engendered a degree of humility in his breast for a fleeting moment, and is probably good for his soul, and by lunchtime there were barely a handful left on site. It was a fantastic weekend. The best one yet, with the best facilities, and pretty much everything just right. Next year, or later 2012 as we now call it, we’ll be back at the same venue on the bank holiday weekend again, but this year’s theme will be signage. Mr Porter intends the 2012 fire lane to be a sign-posted thing of beauty, that will stand straight and proud like an arrow through the heart of the event, and this he will raise on the Friday morning with the assistance of such little brutes and beasts as would like to be recruited into the official BPFL detail. We may even get t-shirts made.
So, the 2012 Ashes. We plan to make them better than ever. The tickets have gone up, inevitably, to £20, but this is unavoidable as everything costs more, and it’s the first time in years. Sorry, but there’s a lot to pay for. We’ll be negotiating for showers this year, and will also be hoping to make better use of the space we have now we know what’s there and what we can do with it.
See you in August…