Plough Inn 2012

2012 - All That Glitters... Victory at The Ashes

Bearing in mind this writer missed most of the event while pursuing a small boy in yellow wellingtons around a seemingly endless field shouting ‘Hugo!’ this account will, of necessity, reflect only those bits that he saw. Still, he can always make stuff up, and who will be any the wiser? Certainly not the people who didn’t come, so if you decided to stay at home and watch a sporting engagement, paid a fortune to watch bands in a field full of people you wouldn’t open the door to, or simply stayed in bed contemplating stuff you did thirty years ago then you will have to take my word for it when I say there was nowhere else I would rather have been over the bank holiday weekend, and no other people I would rather have been with. Could have done without the spiders though.

Blyth arrived on the Thursday afternoon after a frenetic morning of packing and sorting. Arrival at the events field revealed a bloated Mr Porter in the back of the van having stuffed himself full of German friendship cake on the way down to a point little short of vomiting. Despite this the old fool was so eager to get stuck into marking out the fire lane that Annie wisely decided to forgo his assistance setting up the über tent, and erected the thing in record time single-handed. Thus it was that by the time both fire lane and cricket pitch were marked out, the Blyth HQ hive was rippling proudly in the early evening sunshine. Neither were we alone, as by the time we headed down to the pub to feed the brats there were a dozen or so campsites setting up, including one containing a certain J. Adams ‘of that ilk’…

I gather there was some late carousel in the bar that night, but the real fun commenced next morning when people began to arrive in earnest and the fire lane came into its own – a thing of beauty to behold it was too. Lightly kinked at the upper end to swing arriving traffic in from the gateway in the corner, it cut a broad green swathe through the freshly mown grass the length of the field, eloquently marked by just the right amount of canes topped with red and white strips of tape. Perfectly calculated to inform and advise, you note, helpful but not obtrusive, yet unmistakably and irrefutably marking the border between the haphazard shambles we had been hitherto, and the peak of organized efficiency we are to become…
Did we mention the spiders? Billions of tiny little ones everywhere in the tent, possibly displaced by the freshly cut grass. Little eight-legged bastards.

Friday passed for your heroes in setting up the stage and equipment in anticipation of the opening night of music, and this all proved uneventful – especially as the brats were off gallivanting with grandparents. An eye was kept on the weather, reports of which had varied, and which promised to do almost anything from balmy summer day to raging hurricane. Friday let us off with just a couple of showers, and nothing too grim befell.
Oh yes – the music! Friday is traditionally a more acoustic-orientated evening, and so the programme unfolded with poetry and sets from Nicola Everill, Jammy Sammy, Flaming June, Boy in the Cupboard, Chris Butler and Cracktown. Jammy Sammy dressed as a unicorn, much to the delight of the Fruit Salad Gang (Ashes girls between 8 and 10 or thereabouts) who hoped aloud that she would continue to do so and allow them to ‘hunt’ her in some capacity. Not sure what their intentions were, but I believe they may have been benign up to a point. Everyone rocked utterly, and Cracktown’s customary outrageous rider this year included charcoal biscuits for some reason, possibly connected with a bowel disorder of a Kingly nature. The hair was splendid as always however.

So on to Saturday, which saw Mr Porter rubbing his hands in delight at the prospect of not having to put up the gazebos (or rather not having to watch Nigel the Flag Detail put them up), as someone had left an enormous spare tent on the camping field from a previous event. This was actually bigger in itself than the entire beer garden at the Ufford White Horse, where The Ashes had its Genesis, and was pressed into service for a number of purposes, first of which was the children’s mayhem and destruction centre, wherein enormous quantities of clay, glitter and paint were mixed up and thrown around by the bucket load. While the arrivals continued and the camping field filled up – apart of course from the fire lane – breakfast was served in the marquee and the management were pleased to note the conscientious job done of cleaning up done by the Events Field’s staff. The children’s tent got busier and messier, and it was while inadequately supervising this institution that Mr. Porter was asked about the possibility of Blyth playing a daytime set by a couple of parents who were unable to get to the marquee after hours due to childcare commitments. Missing a trick as usual the old fool agreed to have the band perform acoustically the following morning before acts commenced on what we shall one day come to refer to as ‘the main stage’. Anyone with have a brain would have charged them an extra tenner, and checked to see if all the babes in arms had wristbands while he was at it. That’s what you do in proper festivals.
Meanwhile the music unfolded in the marquee, kicking off with Lying Scotsman, Refuse/All and Verbal Warning, and by the time we broke for cricket not only was the children’s tent awash with clay effigies and simulated dung, but Mr Porter too had been given a faceful of glitter that suited him down to the ground and occasioned a number of witticisms, the finest of which went something along the lines of ‘You look like a stripper’s cleavage’.
The weather too was performing in a spectacular fashion. While the sun smiled down on a good two hours of some of the finest cricket yet seen at an Ashes weekend, huge mountains of cloud began to gather all around the horizon, giving the impression that we were all in the eye of some monstrous hurricane. When it finally did start down and our learned umpire was obliged to bring things to a close the score stood at something like Blyth all out for 145, and Eastfield at 36 for 14. The umpire has wisely ruled Blyth Power the winners, and thus we not only gained the Ashes, but broke tradition by being the first team ever both to open the batting and to win. Goody gumdrops…

Sporadic showers drove revelers into the various covered spaces, and music resumed at five with Tres Y El Ingles, who had forsaken the sunnier plains of their native Spain for what turned out to be an only temporarily waterlogged fen in England. It has to be said that the various downpours – including hailstones as large as Maltesers, thunder, lightning, and a gale that rocked the marquee even more than Ham Legion (I think not – Ed), who were playing at the time of the most impressive pass – seem to have done little damage, and the ground remained solid throughout the weekend, with everything drying out by mid morning on the Sunday. Even the spiders, who presumably knew what to expect, hence the relish with which they occupied our assorted tents, yurts and sundry erections.

So, Unicorn Power, Ham Legion, The Charlies, Anal Beard and Eastfield followed our Spanish chums, and Blyth rounded off the evening with another Ashes first – a cake-free performance. No cake was thrown during the set, thanks to the presence onstage of the Fruit Salad Gang, all armed with tennis rackets, and instructions to bat any cake back at its point of origin. The rackets were not needed. They simply gave the miscreants the evil eye and froze them like tiny rodents beneath the passing shadow of a hawk.

Sunday morning and Blyth Power foregathered at the children’s tent – henceforth to be referred to as the ‘Medical Tent’, which was its former purpose according to a sign by the door. A semi-acoustic rehearsal ensued, including new song ‘Going Down with Alice’, and a couple of older numbers in the process of being reintroduced. Pandora’s People made a comeback, and the whole genteel proceedings passed off very nicely.
Just to explain why we did this – basically we were asked. Very nicely. So we did. It does warrant a brief explanation as to why Blyth Power have headlined on successive nights for the last few years, and why we may not do so in 2013. Basically, when we restarted The Ashes at Tallington in 2001 we were being paid by the venue to play, so we started doing a lunchtime set on the Sunday to try and keep people around a little longer and sell some more beer for them. This remained the case until we left Tallington and started hiring the venues – Lumb Farm and The Goat, and now The Plough - and it is only now that the event is settled that we are able to reevaluate why people are there and what they might want or expect from the weekend. Fixing The Ashes on the bank holiday weekend now allows us more flexibility, and next year we will look at having the first Blyth set during the day, probably on the Saturday, and the second to round things off on the Sunday night. Hopefully this will allow everyone who had to mind the kids a chance to see a full set in the marquee, and someone else can wind up on the Saturday night. Any feedback regarding this would be welcome. Oh yes, and more malarkey on the Monday…

Back in the real world a very full Sunday programme saw a wide and eclectic mix of acts on the marquee stage, starting with AJ Brewster and rolling on with Alcohol Licks, Ekaria (from Finland, and very warmly received), New York Scumhaters, Cannibal Gymnastics, Bandana Collective, Project Adorno, Deacon, Robb Johnson, The Lovely Brothers, Pog, Scumbag Philosopher and Wob. Everything went beautifully, the weather was sensible and things dried out, the Fruit Salad Gang danced onstage with astonishing and boundless energy, and were frequently heard bellowing their anthem, to the tune of Pog’s ‘In Heaven’:
‘No more boring Eastfield
Or the Lovely Brothers…’
This was delivered with both enthusiasm and panache, and while we couldn’t possibly endorse the sentiments there is no denying they are a future Ashes mainspring in the making.
Blyth wrapped things up on the Sunday night, and the atmosphere in the marquee brought a tear to the Old Man’s Eye. It was a great night to be a member of Blyth Power. Particularly poignant was the vote of thanks offered up by our compère Dr Bongo, with the able assistance of the Silver Fox, which managed to sum up the weekend perfectly and saved Mr Porter doing it badly himself later. Thanks for that – and special thanks to Alice for compèring the whole event with aplomb, gusto, and a series of astonishing outfits. Jolly good show.

So Monday broke, and with it our hearts at the thought of leaving such a beautiful fire lane. Packing up went smoothly. The rain held off, and Mr Porter and the brats enjoyed themselves immensely playing dustbin men, ferrying garbage back to the skips from the Events Field, a task made easier firstly by the fact that everyone – absolutely everyone, with no exception – had bagged up their rubbish and left it by the bins provided, and secondly by the many people who willingly helped load it into the hire van. The Plough’s handyman had gone on holiday from 11.30, so we had said we’d handle it. It was just one more little happening in an amazing weekend that has made us realize what a unique thing we have here. Nothing was broken, nothing thrown, and as the Fox said, not a voice raised in anger on a campsite peopled by all walks of life.
2012 has made us love The Ashes just that little bit more. Next year we’ll make it even better.