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